Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
10 March 2015, 7 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) stated at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that despite previous declarations about the withdrawal of heavy weapons, Kremlin-backed terrorists are concentrating forces towards Shchastya, Stanytsia Luhanska, Mariupol, Adviyivka, Pisky and Dokuchayevsk. Kremlin-backed terrorists are using the Debaltseve railway hub for the redeployment of weaponry and ammunition. On 9 March, Kremlin-backed terrorists fired on Ukrainian positions 31 times, including 5 times with artillery. The RNBO stated that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed though 9 were wounded.
2. US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair and Ranking Member ask US President to submit report on lethal assistance to Ukraine
In a 9 March letter to US President B. Obama, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Chairman B. Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member R. Menendez (D-NJ) wrote, “We write to ask that you immediately submit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a report on the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. The February 15, 2015, deadline found in the law, which was unanimously passed by Congress in December 2014 and subsequently signed into law, has now passed. The provision of lethal assistance attracts broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. We urge you to submit this report to Congress as soon as possible. Now is the time for the United States to provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself from continued Russian aggression. […]After countless broken promises by the Kremlin, it is clear that Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine can only be stopped if Putin realizes that the United States and Europe are unequivocally committed to helping Kyiv impose this military cost on Russia. We respectfully urge you to fulfill the provisions of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, recognize the strong bipartisan majority in Congress that favors U.S. lethal assistance to Ukraine, and move quickly to provide the Ukrainian government with the capabilities that will allow Kyiv to inflict serious military costs using defensive weapons against the Russian forces that are destabilizing its eastern regions.” The full letter is available at http://www.foreign.senate.gov/
3. UK Foreign Minister: Russia has potential to pose the greatest single threat to our security
At the Royal United Services Institute, UK Foreign Minister P. Hammond stated, “In the case of Russia, for two decades since the end of the Cold War, we and our allies sought to draw our old adversary into the rules-based international system. […] We now have to accept that those efforts have been rebuffed. We are now faced with a Russian leader bent not on joining the international rules-based system which keeps the peace between nations, but on subverting it. President Putin’s actions – illegally annexing Crimea and using Russian troops to destabilise eastern Ukraine – fundamentally undermine the security of the sovereign nations of Eastern Europe. The rapid pace with which Russia is seeking to modernise her military forces and weapons, combined with the increasingly aggressive stance of the Russian military, including Russian aircraft around the sovereign airspace of NATO members states, are all significant causes for concern. So we are in familiar territory for anyone over the age of about 50: with Russia’s aggressive behaviour a stark reminder that it has the potential to pose the greatest single threat to our security.”
4. 3,000 US troops head to Baltics for training mission
On 9 March, about 750 US army tanks, fighting vehicles and other military equipment arrived in Latvia as part of a training mission, and 3,000 members of an infantry brigade combat team will begin arriving next week as part of a 90-day deployment for multinational training missions with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Reuters reported. US Army Colonel S. Warren, “a Pentagon spokesman […] said the rotation was part of the U.S. military’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, aimed at demonstrating commitment to NATO allies in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.” Reuters reported.
5. US Assistant Secretary of State: We’ve begun negotiations with our allies on further sanctions should Russia continue fuelling the fire
Today, several high-ranking US officials and former US officials testified at a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “US Policy in Ukraine: Countering Russia and Driving Reform.” US Assistant Secretary of State V. Nuland stated, “In eastern Ukraine, Russia and its separatist puppets unleashed unspeakable violence and pillage. This manufactured conflict – controlled by the Kremlin; fueled by Russian tanks and heavy weapons; financed at Russian taxpayers’ expense—has cost the lives of more than 6000 Ukrainians, but also of hundreds of young Russians sent to fight and die there by the Kremlin, in a war their government denies. When they come home in zinc coffins — Cargo 200, the Russian euphemism for war dead — their mothers, wives and children are told not to ask too many questions or raise a fuss if they want to see any death benefits. Throughout this conflict, the United States and the EU have worked in lock-step to impose successive rounds of tough sanctions—including sectoral sanctions—on Russia and its separatist cronies as the costs for their actions. […] Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements are crystal clear and again the choice is Russia’s. As the President has said, we’ll judge Russia by its actions, not its words. The United States will start rolling back sanctions on Russia only when the Minsk agreements are fully implemented. But the reverse is also true. We have already begun consultations with our European partners on further sanctions pressure should Russia continue fueling the fire in the east or other parts of Ukraine, fail to implement Minsk or grab more land as we saw in Debaltseve.” Testimonies of the witnesses can be found at http://www.foreign.senate.gov/
6. US at UN Security Council: Over 500 bodies found after Russian-backed siege of Debaltseve
At a meeting of the UN Security Council on 6 March, US Permanent Representative to the UN S. Power stated, “The devastating consequences of this conflict are brought into sharp relief by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ most recent report. More than 1.7 million people displaced. More than 5,800 people killed – a casualty count that does not include the hundreds of bodies found once Russian-backed separatists finished their deadly siege of Debaltseve. An OCHA report from the end of last month said that 500 bodies had been found in houses and basements at the end of the siege – 500 bodies. Homes and basements where people took shelter from the endless barrage of Russian-made mortars and rockets as they rained down on the city’s residents – residents who could not escape. Weeks into the siege, at the end of January, the self-declared leader of the Russian-backed separatists had announced, ‘Anybody who leaves…will be in the interlocking field of fire of our artillery. From today, the road is under fire.’ And so those inside were left with a choice: risk your life by staying, or risk your life by leaving. Civilians were killed doing both, and again, 500 hundred bodies found in homes and basements where people took shelter.”