Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
23 June 2015, 9 PM Kyiv time
- Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that battles with Kremlin-backed terrorists near the Donetsk airport continue. Kremlin-backed terrorists also shelled residential areas of Yasnobrodivka and Pervomaiske with mortars. Towards Horlivka, Kremlin-backed terrorists shelled Ukrainian positions at Lozove with artillery. Towards Luhansk, Kremlin-backed terrorists shelled Nizhne (10 km from the line of contact) with Grads (truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers), and several other locations with artillery and mortars. Towards Mariupol, there was relative calm – the RNBO reported that the enemy is redeploying heavy weapons from the Mariupol sector to other areas of the front. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported at 8:30 AM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, Kremlin-backed terrorists violated the ceasefire 85 times, shelling Ukrainian positions and residential areas of towns. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and twelve were wounded.
- US House Armed Services Committee Chair: “We have to give those willing to defend their country against aggression the means to do so” Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, stated, “So far, the Administration and some of our European allies have refused to provide the Ukrainians with the lethal assistance they’ve asked for in order to defend themselves. […] We also, in my view, have to give those willing to defend their country against aggression the means to do so. Both the House and the Senate Defense Authorization bills provide such authorization to provide lethal defensive assistance for Ukraine. […] It’s disturbing to me to see that some people here and in Europe seem to want to sit on Mount Olympus and make judgement calls about who is worthy and who is not worthy to defend their country against invasion. It may be that if the Ukrainians receive additional lethal assistance that Putin will up the ante. But they still have a right to defend themselves. And Putin will pay a price in increasing casualties, one he is obviously very nervous about paying.” Thornberry’s remarks are available at http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/events/webcasts/a-strategy-for-america
- National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry condemns anti-Semitic statements by leader of the so-called Luhansk “Peoples’ Republic”
The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ) issued the following statement on 22 June: “NCSEJ condemns the deplorable statements made last week by pro-Russian rebel leader Igor Plotnitsky: that fascistic Jewish leadership controls Ukraine and was responsible for the ‘Euromaidan revolution.’ Plotnitsky heads the Luhansk People’s Republic, a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine. These statements and similar statements made by other pro-Russian rebel leaders in Ukraine are classic anti-Semitic rhetoric, aimed at inciting ethnic and religious hatred. NCSEJ strongly decries these statements. The singling out of Jewish citizens of Ukraine for participating in the civic and political life in their country is unacceptable and should be condemned by government leadership and society. The implication that the Ukrainian Jews have orchestrated or are benefiting from the events in the region ignores the real facts; that Jewish Ukrainians have stood alongside their fellow citizens in fighting for freedom and have suffered the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and their lives in fighting for their country.”
- Freedom House Releases Report critical of Kremlin
Freedom House released its annual report, Nations in Transit, which assesses the state of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Central Asia during 2014. The report states, “As the war in Ukraine makes clear, democratization in post-communist Europe and Eurasia is not simply slow or stalled. It is actively opposed by forces that are determined to see it fail. […] In 2014, Russia earned its largest ratings decline in a decade, reflecting the fact that Moscow’s aggression abroad is closely tied to the Putin regime’s domestic struggle for survival. As it sought to destabilize the new democratic government in Ukraine, the Kremlin stepped up its suppression of dissent at home, targeting online media, opposition figures, and civil society groups with legal bans on ‘extremism,’ trumped-up criminal charges, and other restrictions. […] [Yanukovych’s] flight from the country paved the way for fair and competitive elections that featured considerable turnover in the political class. The protest movement, known as Euromaidan, also generated a surge of civil society activism that continued throughout the year, with citizen groups collaborating in drafting government reforms and providing aid to those affected by the conflict in the east. In another positive trend, state pressure on media outlets eased markedly during 2014.” The report can be accessed at https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_NIT2015_06.06.15_FINAL.pdf
- Journalist who exposed presence of Russian troops in Ukraine denied entry to Russia Ostrovsky, the Vice News journalist whose investigative report Selfie Soldiers: Russia’s army checks into Ukraine, available at https://news.vice.com/video/selfie-soldiers-russia-checks-in-to-ukraine, confirmed the presence of regular Russian army soldiers in eastern Ukraine, was denied a press visa by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for “reasons that will be explained to you [Ostrovsky] later,” according to an email from the Russian MFA to Ostrovsky (released on 22 June).
- OSCE Chair appoints new special representative to Ukraine and Trilateral Contact Group
On 22 June, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Serbia’s Foreign Minister I. Dacic appointed Ambassador M. Sajdik (Austria) as his new Special Representative in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group. He replaces Ambassador H. Talgiavini (Switzerland).