Ukraine: Daily Briefing – June 15, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
June 15, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian Army tank exercises. Photo – Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence

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 three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled residential areas of Sykha Balka village (near Horlivka) with artillery. A civilian man was killed as a result of the shelling by Russian-terrorist forces. At Avdiivka, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Pisky with artillery. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Shchastya, Tryokhizbenka and Novooleksandrivka with mortars. Near Krymske and several other locations, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrianian positions. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Krasnohorivka, Mykolaikva and Chermalyk. On the Pavlopil-Shyrokyne line, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions.
2. US Senate overwhelmingly adopts Russia sanctions amendment
On June 14, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to adopt an amendment to codify existing sanctions against Russia and implements new sanctions. In a 97-2 vote, the US Senate approved an amendment to a bill on Iran sanctions that “maintains and substantially expands sanctions” against Russia for violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, cyber-attacks, interference in elections and continuing aggression in Syria.
“The amendment will:
  • Provide for a mandated congressional review if sanctions are relaxed, suspended or terminated.
  • Codify and strengthen existing sanctions contained in executive orders on Russia, including the sanctions’ impact on certain Russian energy projects and on debt financing in key economic sectors.
  • Impose new sanctions on: corrupt Russian actors; those seeking to evade sanctions; those involved in serious human rights abuses; those supplying weapons to the Assad regime; those conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government;  those involved in corrupt privatization of state-owned assets; and those doing business with the Russian intelligence and defense sectors.
  • Allow broad new sanctions on key sectors of Russia’s economy, including mining, metals, shipping and railways.
  • Authorize robust assistance to strengthen democratic institutions and counter disinformation across Central and Eastern European countries that are vulnerable to Russian aggression and interference.
  • Require a study on the flow of illicit finance involving Russia and a formal assessment of U.S. economic exposure to Russian state-owned entities.”
US Senator John McCain, (R-AZ), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated, “For too long, the message to Vladimir Putin has been that Russia can invade its neighbors, threaten U.S. allies, intensify its cyberattacks, and interfere with foreign elections with very little repercussion. Unless and until Russia pays a price for its actions, these destabilizing activities will continue. This amendment incorporates some of the best ideas from different pieces of legislation already introduced in the Senate to impose new sanctions, strengthen existing sanctions, and require congressional oversight of any attempt to ease sanctions on Russia.”
3. Human rights group reports on Russian show trial of opponent of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea
Journalist Mykola Semena

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “The verdicts against Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena and Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Ilmi Umerov may be predetermined, but nothing else about Russia’s ‘trials’ is going to plan.  In both cases, these pretend trials are, on the contrary, highlighting the fact that it is Russia that is violating its own laws through its ongoing occupation of Crimea, and the level of hysterical surveillance and repression under Russian control.Both men are charged with ‘separatism’, and specifically with having made ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’.
The charges against Semena are over an article on the Crimean civic blockade which the journalist supported as a peaceful move towards ending Russia’s occupation of his homeland.  The article was written as part of a debate on the Blockade and was thus clearly presented as the author’s opinion.  […]
The hearing on June 14 was due to examine correspondence in Ukrainian, but that had to be adjourned since the Russian translator did not appear.  Semena’s lawyers are unclear what the prosecution is hoping to prove by presenting such correspondence as ‘evidence’, and assume it to be part of the general efforts to imitate court proceedings.
With the poring over Semena’s correspondence deferred, the defence seized the opportunity to read out an alternative expert assessment, produced by Mikhail Savva, a Russian political scientist and former Professor of the Kuban State University.
Professor Savva is clear that what Semena wrote in his article was his opinion. It cannot be considered as calls to violate Russia’s territorial integrity, since Crimea is not part of the Russian Federation in international law. […]
Russia has changed the domestic legislation it can since invading and annexing Crimea, but remains a signatory to international agreements according to which Crimea is unequivocally part of Ukraine.  These are unquestionably also part of Russian legislation and binding upon the country. […]
This is a political trial and the fact that the 67-year-old journalist has already been added to Russia’s so-called List of Extremists and Terrorists leaves no place for illusions about a real trial.[…] Semena’s ‘trial’ has been internationally condemned and recognized as an offensive against freedom of speech and independent journalism.  Both Ukrainian and international rights groups have called for maximum attention and a ‘strong and clear reaction’ from the international community.” The full report from KHPG is available at

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