Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
31 July 2015, 7 PM Kyiv time
- Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions over 100 times, which the largest number of violations of the ceasefire in a 24-hour period in over one month. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Stanytsia Luhanska with mortars. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Svitlodarsk with mortars for nearly 12 hours. West of occupied Horlivka, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions at the Mykolaivka Druha-Novhorodsk line. West of Donetsk, more than half of the violations of the ceasefire by the Russian-terrorist forces took place on the Avdiyivka-Maryinka line, where the Russian-terrorist forces’ heavy weaponry is concentrated. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Starohnativka with artillery, and clashes with Russian-terrorist forces took place at Shyrokyne. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven were wounded.
- Witness in Sentsov/Kolchenko trial recants testimony obtained under duress
Today in a Russian military court, H. Afanasyev, a witness for the prosecution in Russia’s fabricated case against Ukrainian filmmaker O. Sentsov and Ukrainian activist O. Kolchenko, recanted testimony he had previously given against Sentsov and Kolchenko, Radio Svoboda reported. Afanasyev stated that the testimony he had previously given was extracted under “pressure and duress.” Further, Afanasyev stated that he does not even know Kalchenko, Radio Svoboda reported. Afanasyev was arrested by Russian occupation authorities in May 2014 in Crimea. In exchange for a “confession” and testimony against Sentsov and Kolchenko, he was given a lighter sentence – 7 years in prison. Sentsov and Kolchenko face fabricated “terrorism” charges, carrying possible life sentences. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously stated that witnesses in the case were tortured by Russian authorities in order to extract testimony. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) stated that Afanasyev’s statement “took a great deal of courage given that he is now totally under the control of the Russian authorities.” A report by KHPG on today’s hearing is available athttp://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1438348634
- Constitutional Court approves draft bill on changes to Constitution on decentralization
Ukraine’s Constitutional Court ruled that proposed draft changes to Ukraine’s Constitution on decentralization do not violate the Constitution. Ukraine’s Parliament must approve changes to the Constitution with a 2/3 majority (300 MPs). A vote on the draft changes is expected in the fall.
- US imposes sanctions on individuals, entities involved in evasion of sanctions related to Russia, Ukraine
On 30 July, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on individuals and entities “designed to counter attempts to circumvent our sanctions, to further align U.S. measures with those of our international partners, and to provide additional information to assist the private sector with sanctions compliance,” the Treasury stated. Those sanctioned include 13 individuals and entities linked to sanctions evasions by previously sanctioned Russian billionaires Gennady Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, as well as Kalashnikov Concern. Four former Yanukovych regime officials and associates (already on the EU sanction list) – Andriy Klyuyev; Serhiy Kurchenko; Eduard Stavytsky; Oleksandr Yanukovych. “Today’s action supports the Ukrainian government’s efforts to target the misappropriation of state assets and demonstrates that the United States will continue to coordinate with the EU on its sanctions lists to the extent possible,” Treasury stated. Mako Holding was also sanctioned “because it is owned or controlled by, or has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Oleksandr Yanukovych.” Additionally, five Crimean port operators and one see ferry operator were sanctioned, and OFAC identified several subsidiaries owned 50 percent or more by previously sanctioned entities Vnesheconombank and Rosneft.“Today’s action underscores our resolve to maintain pressure on Russia for violating international law and fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine,” stated Acting OFAC Director John E. Smith. “Our message is clear: we will continue to act to ensure the effectiveness of our sanctions, which will not be rolled back until the Minsk Agreements are fully implemented.” The full list of sanctioned individuals and entities is available at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20150730.aspx
- IMF Managing Director: Ukraine an “incredibly encouraging situation”
In a press briefing on 29 July, IMF Managing Director C. Lagarde stated, “I think Ukraine has been in an incredibly encouraging situation. From a poor track record over the last 20 years or so where we had many aborted attempts to help the country, we have been now in partnership with Ukraine for more than a year and we have seen political determination to change the face of Ukraine notwithstanding the very difficult security and military situation on the eastern border of that country. […] The Ukrainian authorities have actually delivered. Now is it to say that it’s fine and everything is okay? No. There are forces that are trying to destabilize, but I think that we are seeing a very strong political determination. […] Now, clearly the private debt is under negotiations and the Ukrainian authorities are in a dialogue with the bondholders, a difficult dialogue. We are encouraged that that negotiation is making progress, and we very much hope that it continues to make progress and that the bondholders are sensible as to what can be achieved rather than expected in the medium to long term. Having said that, if it didn’t work despite the encouraging progress recently made, then there is a possibility to go into a legislative process that institutes a debt moratorium. We hope that it’s not a required step in the process, but we have a policy at the Fund as you know that is about lending into arrears and we will apply that policy, which allows us to continue to support Ukraine despite that situation.” IMF staff have given approval for the next tranche of IMF funding to Ukraine; according to several reports, the Executive Board of the IMF is expected to give final approval in a meeting scheduled for today.