Ukraine: Daily Briefing – May 11, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time

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Ukraine: Daily Briefing
May 11, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time
 
Ukrainian T-64BM tank crews conduct defensive operations during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge in Germany. Ukraine is one of six NATO and partner states participating in the Challenge, May 7-12. Photo – US 7th Army
 
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one Ukrainian soldier was wounded in action. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Zaytseve and Avdiivka with mortars. At Troitske, Pisky and Novhorodsk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Shyrokyne and Krasnohorivka. At Pavlopil, Hnutove and Vodyane, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Novooleksandrivka with mortars. Russian-terrorist force fired on Ukrainina positions near Krymske.
2. EU endorses visa liberalization for Ukraine
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “European Union member states endorsed visa liberalization for Ukraine on May 11, clearing the final hurdle for Ukrainian citizens to travel to the EU’s Schengen Area without a visa. Representatives of the European Council and the European Parliament are now expected to rubber-stamp the decision in Strasbourg on May 17, with the visa-free regime due to enter into force on June 11. The decision will apply to all Ukrainian citizens who have biometric passports. They will be able to enter all EU member states apart from Ireland and the United Kingdom for up to 90 days during any 180-day period. It also applies to the four Schengen-area countries that are not in the EU: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.” EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos stated, “Today’s decision is an acknowledgment of the successful and far-reaching reforms carried out by Ukraine, often in very challenging circumstances. From the very beginning, the Ukrainian authorities have demonstrated their full commitment to address the fight against corruption as a matter of priority and have carried out important reforms in the fields of border management and anti-discrimination. Ukraine has come a long way and today this is recognised and rewarded. Now it is important to sustain this progress. The European Union stands ready to continue providing support and assistance to the Ukrainian authorities in this endeavour.  Visa-free travel will bring important benefits for citizens on both sides. It will reinforce social, cultural and economic ties between the EU and Ukraine as well as strengthen people-to-people contacts. Visa-free travel to the Schengen area will soon become a reality – it is an important and well-deserved moment for Ukraine and its citizens that will make our already close relations even stronger.”
 
Click on Image to View PEN America Video about Oleg Sentsov
 
3. PEN America Launches Campaign to Free Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, illegally imprisoned by Russia
PEN America stated on May 10, “Authors Chimamanda Adichie, Jonathan Franzen, and Masha Gessen, film giants Wim Wenders and Agnieszka Holland, television hosts Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee, and other creative allies joined PEN America today in a letter calling on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to press for the immediate release of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian writer and filmmaker imprisoned in Siberia on terrorism charges widely considered to be a groundless attempt to silence his criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Sentsov […] was active in protesting Russian incursions in Crimea and Ukraine more broadly. Sentsov’s ‘voice of opposition in Ukraine made him a ripe target for Russian stifling of dissent,’ the letter reads. ‘Given President Putin’s brazen willingness to flout human rights norms and the rule of law, and his relentless targeting of dissenting writers, artists, activists, and politicians, it would be irresponsible to ignore Sentsov’s plight.’ PEN America’s letter comes on the third anniversary of Oleg Sentsov’s arrest and disappearance from Crimea on May 10, 2014. Sentsov surfaced in Moscow and later said he had been tortured in an unsuccessful effort to extract a confession. His trial was riddled with irregularities, and the lead prosecution witness later recanted his testimony, saying it had been made under duress. Sentsov is currently serving a 20-year sentence in a Siberian penal colony. The charges against him have been decried by human rights groups worldwide as fabrications intended to shut down and intimidate opponents of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Sentsov is the father of two young children. […]Sentsov was honored with the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at the annual PEN America Literary Gala on April 25.” The letter sent to Secretary Tillerson is available here: https://pen.org/urge-secretary-of-state-rex-tillerson-to-fight-for-oleg-sentsov/.
 
4. Ukraine’s President addresses nation on EU visa liberalization decision
Following the EU’s decision on visa liberalization for Ukrainian citizens, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko stated, “Fellow Ukrainians! The EU Council of Ministers has just adopted a final decision to grant us, Ukrainian citizens, the right to visa-free travel. On May 17 in Strasbourg, in the premises of the European Parliament, respective legislative act will be solemnly signed pursuant to our agreement with our European friends. Probably, this will be one of my most important visits in three yearsof service at the post of President of Ukraine. The decision will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and it will enter into force 20 days after. Approximately on June 11, 34 European countries will turn on the green light for the owners of Ukrainian biometric passports – for visa-free short-term trips. There will be no more queues in embassies and visa centers. There will be no more exhausting rigamarole with paper collection. People will save money spent for consular fees and services of intermediaries. However, ‘visa-free regime’ is much more than just a simplified way to travel abroad. It is a giant step towards Europe, towards assertion of human freedom and independence of our state. We get rid of the post-Soviet past and increasingly become part of the common European civilization. ‘Visa-free regime’ is an evidence of strategic correctness of our European choice, irreversibility of the course of integration into Europe. This is also a recognition of positive transformations on the track of reforms: visa liberalization action plan consisted of almost 150 items that ensured real changes in many spheres. Were those tasks simple? Of course not. Many opposed, both outside and inside. But we have passed together this long and difficult path. We have made it! Politicians who made a responsible decision, as in the case of electronic declaration. Civil society that supported the movement towards Europe. Our friends in the EU who opposed numerous attempts of Russian lobby to block our ‘visa-free regime’. And first of all, Ukrainian soldiers who defend Ukraine and the whole continent in the east. Low bow to you dear brothers in arms for that. I am eternally grateful to all of you who helped me fulfill one of my main election promises. Congratulations, fellow Ukrainians, on this historic decision of the Council of the European Union. This is like returning home after a long and exhausting trip… Returning to our common European home. Appreciate your Ukrainian passport. And love Ukraine!”

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