Ukraine: Daily Briefing – April 13, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
April 13, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian soldiers participate in battalion field training exercise,Yavoriv. 
Photo – US Army Europe

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, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and one Ukrainian soldier was wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front 66 times in total, including at least 17 times with heavy weapons.
2. Ukraine’s President: To change Russia’s behavior, one has to ensure the maximum effect of sanctions
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko speaks at Kyiv Security Forum. Photo – Ukraine’s Presidential Administration

Speaking at the Kyiv Security Forum on April 12, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko stated, “Being united, we remain strong. This was confirmed by the policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea in the world. This was proved by our agreed approach to a thorough and independent investigation of the MH17 tragedy – a terrorist attack carried out by the Russian Federation and its militants. Finally, this was demonstrated by our solidarity response to the attempt of poisoning Skripal in Salisbury. Of course, the Kremlin never expected this answer.”
            The President praised the powerful and resolute step of the United States against the Russian leadership and its entourage. “In just a few days, the Kremlin entourage has lost tens of billions and the price continues to grow every day. Why is this so important? Because this money will never be spent on deadly missiles, bullets or even poisonous Russian propaganda against the civilized world. Not only against Ukraine.”
            According to the President, to change the behavior of Russia, it is necessary to ensure the maximum effect of sanctions. “This is only possible if the European Union follows the example of the United States and the whole world synchronizes sanctions with them, especially in the financial sphere.”
3. Human rights group: Russia tries to drive Ukrainian Church out of occupied Crimea
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “While it is Crimean Muslims who are in ever-increasing numbers facing imprisonment for their faith in Russian-occupied Crimea, it was the Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate that first came under fire following annexation, and that remains under relentless pressure. […]
             After four years of occupation, it is increasingly clear that only those who show political loyalty to Moscow can hope to enjoy religious freedom.  […] By October 2014, Ukrainian religious leaders and human rights groups were warning of a witch hunt in occupied Crimea against all but one faith, the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate.   Most faiths reported intimidation, attempts to discredit them, to destroy their property, etc.  […]
            Already in 2014, Russia had demanded that all religious organizations and communities in Crimea re-register under Russian legislation.  […]  One of the requirements is that the religious organization adds words to its association papers that Crimea is part of Russia which many are not prepared to do.  The lack of such registration means that the communities lose the right to use and dispose of their churches, mosques, places of worship or other buildings, and face numerous other restrictions.
          Russia is using these restrictions as a form of pressure on religious groups, but also as a method of brazen robbery, especially directed against the Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate.
          The latter has refused to re-register, seeing this as effectively suggesting legitimacy of Russia’s occupation.  Priests from the Church have rejected Russian citizenship.  All of this makes it impossible for the Church to pay for communal charges, with this then being used to enable confiscation of the property.
          According to Archbiship Kliment, the Head of the Church in Crimea, the number of parishes has fallen sharply over the last four years.  There are now only eight, and a mere four priests.  Even those priests who remained back in 2014 felt compelled to move their families to mainland Ukraine through well-founded fears for their safety.”
The full report from KHPG is available here
4. US Mission to the OSCE on Russia’s ongoing violations in Ukraine
The US Mission to the OSCE stated on April 12, “violence in the Donbas – Russia-manufactured and Russia-perpetuated violence – continues despite the supposed ‘Easter ceasefire.’ […] Russia remains isolated within the international community for igniting and sustaining this conflict. Russia – and its proxies in eastern Ukraine – must enforce a true ceasefire, disengage from the line of contact, withdraw proscribed weapons, and begin to implement the commitments of the Minsk agreements.
            Russia-led forces continue to inflict considerable harm on the civilian population of the Donbas. Although Russia portrays itself as the protector of the Russian-speaking minority of eastern Ukraine, these very people are the ones shouldering the burden of Russia’s aggression, and the death, destruction and isolation it has brought, even though Russia cynically claims to be acting in their interests. The only place where Ukraine’s Russian speaking people are suffering is in the areas where Russian soldiers and their proxies have instigated a conflict. […]
Russian occupation authorities continues to harass Tatars and Ukrainian activists.                 We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of Volodymyr Balukh, who has been on a hunger strike in a Simferopol prison since March 19. He is serving a three year and seven month sentence on bogus terrorism charges in retaliation for flying the Ukrainian flag. We call on Russia to release him immediately. […]
          The United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, 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. And 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.”

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