Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
17 April 2015, 8 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that Kremlin-backed terrorists continue to fire on Ukrainian positions, including with mortars and artillery. The areas of most intense confrontation in the last 24 hours were Shyrokyne and Talakivka (towards Mariupol), the area around the Donetsk airport and the suburbs of Horlivka, and near Popasne and the Bakhmutivska highway in Luhansk oblast. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one was wounded. The press-center of the anti-terrorism operation (ATO) reported on 17 April, that Kremlin-backed terrorists fired on Ukrainian positions 24 times, mostly with mortars. Kremlin-backed terrorists fired on residential areas in Hranitne with mortars and Pisky with small arms.
2. Ukrainian Minister of Defense: The number of Russian troops in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts hasn’t changed
Ukrainian Minister of Defense S. Poltorak stated, “The number of Russian troops in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts has not changed; they perform rotation, undergo training along with terrorists groups. We observe their movement, and we know where they are.”
3. US State Department: Russian military forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine
On 16 April, responding to a question whether the US State Department believes Russian President V. Putin was telling the truth when he said there are no Russian troops in Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson M. Harf stated, “No. As Secretary Kerry has said multiple times, no amount of propaganda can make true what is not. I think we know as of early April that Russian military forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine. This isn’t just our word for it; there are pictures, there is evidence out there for everyone to see about this. Despite public pronouncements about the complete withdrawal of heavy weapons, pro-Russian separatists maintain heavy weapons near the frontlines in violation of Minsk. Russia has command and control elements in eastern Ukraine to coordinate military operations there. Russia has established training areas in eastern Ukraine to train separatist fighters in gunnery and artillery firing. So all of the evidence points to the contrary and that’s, of course, what we’ve said for many, many months now.”
4. Ukrainian Foreign Minister: Ukraine wants ICC to investigate all alleged war crimes in Crimea and eastern Ukraine
Ukrainian Foreign Minister P. Klimkin stated that Ukraine wants the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “investigate all alleged war crimes in Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” Reuters reported. The ICC has already been given the authority by Ukraine to investigate crimes committed between 21 November 2013 and 22 February, 2014, when former President Yanukovych fled Kyiv. “The investigation so far excludes any crimes that might have been committed by Russian-backed troops. A wider probe, including the annexation of Crimea to the present, could for the first time consider allegations of direct Russian involvement,” Reuters reported. “We are quite optimistic about more, definitely more, engagement of the ICC,” Klimkin told Reuters. An ICC referral would cover “everything under the (ICC) mandate, including crimes against humanity,” Klimkin stated.
5. US Mission to OSCE: US again calls on Russia to release all Ukrainian hostages
On 16 April, US Permanent Representative to the OSCE D. Baer stated, “Russia and the separatists it backs continue to illegally hold Ukrainian hostages in defiance of the commitments they made in the September 2014 Minsk Protocol and Memorandum and in the Package of Measures signed this year. Among those held is Nadiya Savchenko, a member of the Verkhovna Rada and a helicopter pilot in the Ukrainian military, who was seized by Russia-backed separatists in 2014 before being illegally transferred to Russian custody. She languishes in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison on blatantly ridiculous charges. She has suffered greatly during her unjust imprisonment. Another hostage, Oleg Sentsov, has been held in pre-trial detention for nearly a year since his arrest in Crimea on May 11, 2014, on trumped-up terrorism charges. Mr. Sentsov’s arrest is a part of Russia’s concerted efforts to quash any dissent against its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. Ms. Savchenko and Mr. Sentsov are only two of the many Ukrainians that Russia and the separatists it backs are holding hostage. We once again reiterate our call for Russia and the separatists it backs to honor the commitments they have made, including by releasing all Ukrainian hostages.”