Ukraine: Daily Briefing – December 1, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
December 1, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian forces sniper training. 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 opened fire on Ukrainian positions 25 times in total on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front.
2. European Commission ready to consider further Macro-Financial Assistance to Ukraine, provided reform momentum is stepped up
The European Commission stated, “Ukraine is – and will remain – one of the EU’s key partners. As such, the EU will continue to stand by Ukraine and its citizens as the country further progresses with its reforms and economic adjustment.
           A primary instrument in the EU’s overall strategy vis-a-vis Ukraine was to provide €1.8 billion in MFA via the programme approved in April 2015, from which €1.2 billion have already been disbursed in two tranches. […]The availability of this current MFA programme expires at the beginning of January 2018.
          As regards the third and final tranche of MFA, Ukraine has fulfilled a large share of the policy commitments agreed with the EU. This includes important measures to increase transparency in public finance management; to launch public administration, judicial and governance reform; to advance ongoing reforms of the energy sectors, improve the business environment and reinforce social safety nets. These structural reforms will benefit Ukraine’s citizens, which is the ultimate objective of the EU’s assistance.
           Four of the measures linked to the third and final tranche of this MFA currently remain outstanding. Against this background, the Commission is not in a position to disburse the last tranche of the current MFA programme. We encourage Ukraine to maintain the reform momentum in the many areas that have progressed well, and complete the measures outstanding under the current programme, with the support of all stakeholders. […]
           At a meeting between European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit, which took place in Brussels on 24 November 2017, President Poroshenko expressed an interest in further MFA from the EU. President Juncker expressed his openness in this regard. From Ukraine’s side, reinforcing the reform momentum and resisting internal pressures for policy reversals on important reforms will be crucial, particularly over the coming months.
          The Commission stands ready to assess the relevance of a successor MFA operation and, if judged warranted, to present a proposal for a new MFA operation in early 2018. An economic assessment, including of external financing needs, will have to be conducted and the details of this proposal would have to be worked out.”
3. US Mission to the OSCE: Sanctions on Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain until Russia fully implements Minsk agreement commitments
The US Mission to the OSCE stated on November 30, “the United States continues to believe that the Minsk agreements are the best path to peace in eastern Ukraine. We remain firm supporters of the TCG, as well as of the Normandy Quartet, as the mechanisms established to achieve the objectives set out in the Minsk agreements. We wait for Russia to deliver on its commitments to build, not subvert, a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. […]
          The United States is deeply saddened by the news that Vedzhie Kashka, an 83-year old Crimean Tatar activist, died on November 23 when FSB officers tried to detain her […] On November 24, media reported new charges against Crimean Tatar protesters, with three new administrative cases initiated against the alleged organizers of a peaceful protest in early October. […]
          The United States again calls upon Russia to end its campaign of repression in occupied Crimea, and return control of Crimea to Ukraine. The United States is resolute in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. 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 restating that our sanctions against Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.”
4. Denmark passes law that could ban Russian pipeline from going through its waters
Reuters reported on November 30, “Denmark passed a law on Thursday that could allow it to ban Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from going through its waters on grounds of security or foreign policy.
           The measure amends Denmark’s regulatory framework to allow the authorities to cite security or foreign policy as reasons to block a pipeline. Previously these were not valid grounds for objection.
           Denmark has been caught in a geopolitical conflict as Russia’s Gazprom and its European partners have sought to build Nord Stream 2, a giant pipeline to pump natural gas to Germany through the Baltic Sea, bypassing existing land routes over Ukraine, Poland and Belarus.
           The proposed route goes through Danish waters, but the pipeline consortium is investigating an alternative route north of the Danish island Bornholm which would run in international waters and therefore not be impacted by a potential Danish ban.
Nord Stream 2 has already applied for permission in Denmark and its application is being assessed at the Danish Energy Agency. The change to the law will take effect from Jan. 1 but apply to applications that have already been submitted.”
5. US State Department: Nord Stream 2 pipeline would pose security risks
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert stated on November 30, “we know that Europe is working to diversify its energy sector overall. It’s also assessing projects that would undermine some of these efforts.
           We agree with many of our European partners that Nord Stream 2 and a multi-line Turkish Stream would reinforce Russian dominance in Europe’s gas markets. It would reduce opportunities for diversification of energy sources.
           It would pose security risks in an already tense Baltic Sea region and it would advance Russia’s goal of undermining Ukraine – that’s a particular concern of ours – by ending Ukraine’s role as a transit country for Russian gas exports to get to Europe.
          Construction of Nord Stream 2 would concentrate about 75 percent of Russian gas imports to the EU through a single route, creating a potential checkpoint that would significantly increase Europe’s vulnerability to a supply disruption. So we believe that these two projects would enable Gazprom to cut off transit via Ukraine and still meet demand in Western Europe, which would economically undermine Ukraine by depriving it of about $2 billion in annual transit revenue.”

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