Ukraine: Daily Briefing – November 17, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
November 17, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time
Lt. Gen. Wynnyk, Commander of the Canadian Army, visits and speaks to troops participating in Operation UNIFIER at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Ukraine. 
Photo – Joint Task Force Ukraine
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. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions 22 times, including at least 10 times with heavy weapons – mortars and artillery.
2. Ukraine’s Parliament passes bill to protect businesses from abuse by law enforcement
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on November 16, “The Ukrainian parliament has passed a bill that amends existing legislation to protect businesses against extortion, harassment, and illegal searches by law enforcement agencies.
           The bill, initiated by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and supported by Ukraine’s business community, envisages compulsory video recording of every search and the presence of a lawyer during all property seizures.
           Moreover, prosecutors must now justify the necessity of any seizure of original or copied documents during searches. Law enforcement agents will also be prohibited from seizing computer hardware and required to make copies of any data they gather under the supervision of relevant experts.
           A majority of 312 lawmakers voted in favor of the law, according to the press service for the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. […]
           Ukraine climbed slightly up the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, released this month, moving from 80th place last year to 76th place.”
3. Former US Ambassadors to Ukraine: Why Trump Should Arm Ukraine
In an article in the Washington Times on November 16, former US Ambassadors to Ukraine John Herbst and Steven Pifer stated, “Washington has energized its diplomatic effort to settle the conflict, as demonstrated by the appointment of Kurt Volker as special envoy. But that more robust diplomatic effort needs backing by other steps, such as sanctions, to encourage the Kremlin to change its approach. It is also time for Mr. Trump to end the Obama administration’s policy of denying lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine. […]
           The United States began assisting the Ukrainian military’s efforts to defend Donbas in 2014. Some of that assistance – counter-battery radars, drones and secure communications equipment – has proven crucially important to Kyiv’s soldiers.
           The Obama administration, however, maintained a policy of providing only non-lethal military assistance. That prevented the Pentagon from filling a key gap in the Ukrainian army’s inventory – its lack of working man-portable anti-armor weapons – as the Russian military poured tanks and other armored vehicles into Donbas. Russian armor was a critical factor in their successful offensives against Donetsk airport and Debaltseve. […]
           If Kyiv can deny Moscow easy military options, that will increase the prospect that the Kremlin will adopt a different course, one that could lead to a peaceful settlement. […]
           While looking for a way to help the Kremlin out of what increasingly appears to be a Donbas quagmire, the administration should also seek to raise the costs to Moscow of its current course. One way is to increase sanctions, building on the recent legislation enacted by Congress. Consistent with that legislation, the administration should specifically sanction the kleptocrats close to President Putin.
           Another way is to provide lethal military assistance. That would improve the Ukrainian army’s ability to deter and defend. It would also send a strong signal to Moscow that the United States will firmly back Ukraine against Russian aggression. […]
          Recognizing that the United States is seriously considering providing such assistance, the Kremlin in recent weeks has shown what may be a hint of flexibility in its approach to its conflict with Ukraine. By offering a proposal on peacekeepers, however flawed, Mr. Putin may be hoping to persuade Washington not to provide defensive weapons to Kyiv. This almost predictable ploy should not work on the president as he considers this issue.
          When the supply of lethal defensive weapons was last seriously considered in the White House in 2015, Mr. Obama took an overly cautious approach. U.S. restraint in that regard has achieved nothing. Mr. Trump, who has shown a readiness to take bold action in Syria, should now drop the failed policy of his predecessor and approve lethal military assistance for Ukraine.”
4. US Mission to OSCE on Russia’s ongoing violations in Ukraine
The US Mission to the OSCE stated on November 16, “The conflict in the Donbas seems to have returned to an established pattern as we enter the fourth winter since Russia-led forces violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. […]
           It is clear what Russia needs to do to adhere to the Minsk agreements – the agreed upon path to peace in this conflict; namely: cease hostilities, pull back or ‘disengage’ from the line of contact, remove proscribed weapon systems from the battlefield, and return control of the Donbas to Ukraine. Only when security is established is it appropriate to make further steps on the political measures of Minsk.
           As Special Representative on Ukraine Negotiations Ambassador Kurt Volker has said, elections in the Donbas would be ‘impossible to hold as long as Ukraine does not have the necessary access to its territory.’ […]
          Once again we must draw attention to the deplorable situation in Russia-occupied Crimea. Russian propagandists falsely portray Crimean Tatars, and anyone speaking out against Russian occupation, as terrorists or extremists. On November 8, Russian border services detained and questioned the wives of Crimean Tatar political prisoners about alleged association with ISIS as they tried to enter Russia-occupied Crimea. Russian security forces continue to search homes and detain Crimean Tatars throughout the Ukrainian peninsula.
           We are also concerned that Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Russia on bogus charges of terrorism, and was placed into two weeks of punitive solitary confinement at a penal colony in Yamal, Russia for unknown reasons. This abuse is unconscionable and must cease immediately. […]
           The United States again calls upon Russia to end its campaign of repression in occupied Crimea and to return control of Crimea to Ukraine. As the occupying power in Crimea, on a daily basis Russia demonstrates to all nations just how difficult and cruel life would be under Russian control. […]
           We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea. Crimea-related sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine. We join our European and other partners in reiterating that our sanctions against Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain until Russia withdraws its forces from the Donbas and fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.”

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