Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – November 11-17,2017

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
November 11-17,2017
Lt. Gen. Wynnyk, Commander of the Canadian Army, visits and speaks to troops participating in Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine. Photo – Joint Task Force-Ukraine

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of November 10-16, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. One Ukrainian National Police Officer was killed and two were wounded when their police car struck an anti-tank mine on the Mariupol sector of the front on November 15. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 178 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 61 times with heavy weapons – Grad rockets, artillery, tanks and mortars.
2. Human Rights Watch: Persecution of Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea intensifies
A report from Human Rights Watch, published on November 14, stated, “Russian authorities in Crimea have intensified persecution of Crimean Tatars, under various pretexts and with the apparent goal of completely silencing dissent on the peninsula. […] Crimean Tatars are a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula. Many openly oppose Russia’s occupation, which began in 2014.
          ‘Russian authorities in Crimea have relentlessly persecuted Crimean Tatars for their vocal opposition to Russia’s occupation since it began in 2014,’ said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘They have portrayed politically active Crimean Tatars as extremists and terrorists, forced many into exile, and ensured that those who choose to stay never feel safe to speak their mind.’
          Since Russia’s occupation began, Russian authorities and their proxies have subjected members of Crimean Tatar community and their supporters, including journalists, bloggers, activists, and others to harassment, intimidation, threats, intrusive and unlawful searches of their homes, physical attacks, and enforced disappearances.  Complaints lodged with authorities are not investigated effectively. Russia has banned Crimean Tatar media and organizations that criticized Russia’s actions in Crimea, including disbanding and proscribing the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar self-governing highest executive body.

In October 2017, Human Rights Watch researchers in Crimea documented criminal prosecutions for separatism against Crimean Tatars who had criticized Russia’s actions in Crimea, as well as new and ongoing baseless terrorism-related prosecutions. Researchers also documented detention and fines for Crimean Tatars who peacefully staged single-person pickets to protest the arrest and prosecution of other Tatars. Under Russian law people who want to picket individually are not required to seek official permission.” The full report from Human Rights Watch is available here:Crimea: Persecution of Crimean Tatars intensifies

3. Interview with Commanding Officer of Operation UNIFIER
Lt. Col. Kristopher Reeves, Commanding Officer of Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, was interviewed recently by UATV. The interview can be viewed here:
Lt. Col. Reeves: Canada is learning Ukraine's tactics on battling hybrid threats
Lt. Col. Reeves: Canada is learning Ukraine’s tactics on battling hybrid threats
4. 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.”
5. Ukraine’s Parliament approves 2018 budget in first reading
On November 14, Ukraine’s Parliament approved the 2018 budget at first reading. Reuters reported, “The budget will likely undergo a series of amendments before it is voted on a second time in Parliament. The Government prepared the budget on the expectation of a deficit of 2.4 percent and economic growth of 3 percent.”
6. 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.”
7. EU Report: Evaluation of Ukrainian reforms shows considerable progress but need to accelerate implementation to reap full benefits
The European Union stated on November 15, “A report produced by the European External Action Service and the European Commission highlights that Ukraine has pursued the implementation of a number of reforms identified in its Association Agenda in 2017, with several significant successes. […]
           The report outlines that Ukraine has pursued the implementation of structural reforms, generating positive trends in the economic and social spheres despite internal and external challenges. The year 2017 also witnessed important legislative developments in areas such as the electricity market, energy efficiency, environment, education and decentralisation.
           Furthermore, key reforms such as pensions, healthcare and food safety were initiated. Justice sector reform continued with the adoption of a new law on the Constitutional Court and the setting up of the new Supreme Court. The implementation of the Strategy on Public Administration Reform has advanced and the reforming of law enforcement bodies continues.
           The report emphasises that Ukraine has continued to advance measures to tackle corruption, but that further steps need to be taken in order for these measures to have tangible benefits. […]
           The report acknowledges the continued, resolute policy actions taken by the Ukrainian authorities, supported by international partners, which resulted in a consolidated stabilisation of the economy.”

The full report is available here: Association Implementation Report on Ukraine – Joint Staff Working Document 

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