Writing in the Wall Street Journal on 27 January, Lithuanian Foreign Minister L. Linkevicius stated, “The Minsk agreements, negotiated over two rounds in September 2014 and February 2015, were supposed to signal the way out of the ‘Ukrainian crisis,’ in which Russia-backed separatists sought to overrun eastern Ukraine and bring it under Russian sovereignty. The problem is that what’s happening isn’t a crisis of Ukraine’s making but the result of military, economic and political aggression against it from Moscow. […] The Minsk agreements contain requirements for both the Ukrainian side and the separatists and Russia. These encompass matters of security such as the truce, the withdrawal of heavy armor, and open access to members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). There is also a political dimension, which calls for decentralization and the holding of local elections. But how can we push for political reforms and decentralization when Russian military equipment is still in the streets of Donetsk and Lugansk, and when international monitors have no access to these territories? How can we ensure that commitments will be kept when the aggressor isn’t even acknowledged as a party to the conflict? In a word, how can we guarantee the conditions to implement the Minsk agreements? The first step must be to ensure security through a true cease-fire. […] It is unrealistic to demand elections when the only ones enjoying freedom of movement and access aren’t Ukrainian political parties, Ukrainian media or the Ukrainian people, but Russia-supplied tanks. […]Military equipment must be withdrawn from the region, and control of Ukraine’s border with Russia must be returned to Kyiv. The continued supply of equipment and support to the separatists from Russia must be stopped. Moscow’s formula of ‘borders mean nothing, people do’ may initially sound very European, but in reality it undermines international law. The occupation of Crimea is a proof of that. Only after security conditions are in place can we focus on constitutional reforms and decentralization.”
Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
29 January 2016, 6PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported that yesterday towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions near Slovyanoserbske. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions along the entire front. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Krasnohorivka and Maryinka with mortars. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported that in the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions 71 times in total. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two were wounded in action.
2. Savchenko defense believes verdict in Russia’s illegal trial to be announced before end of February
Nadiya Savchenko’s attorney I. Novikov stated that he believes that a verdict will be announced in Russia’s illegal trial of Savchenko by the end of February. Novikov stated Savchenko’s defense will likely complete presenting its case next week, the BBC’s Ukraine service reported. Savchenko was serving in eastern Ukraine, when abducted by Kremlin-backed terrorists in June 2014 and taken to Russia, where she has been illegally detained and imprisoned since that time. Russia has ignored repeated calls from the international community for her immediate release.
3. Human Rights Group: Ukrainian Orthodox Church under attack in Russian-occupied Crimea
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate is, as feared, being forced out of the Cathedral of Vladimir and Olga in Simferopol. At a press conference in Kyiv on Jan 28, Archbishop Kliment of Crimea and Simferopol warned that the Church is facing dissolution and destruction as the second anniversary approaches of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. According to Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) from the Kyiv Patriarchate, it is only the fear of international scandal that prevents Russia from totally driving the Church out of Crimea. He stresses that the Church does not recognize Russia’s annexation, and will not re-register under Russian legislation. The question of registration has, as warned back in October 2014, become one of the means by which the occupation regime is bringing all faiths, except the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, under serious pressure. Up till the end of 2015, religious communities were still able to use documents under Ukrainian law to sign agreements with the electricity and water authorities. This will now be impossible, and it is likely that the new restrictions will force a lot of remaining churches to close. […] The situation with re-registration is also likely to be critical for many religious communities. Russian legislation is more restrictive than Ukrainian with respect to believers, imposing far more onerous demands on bodies wishing to function as a legal entity. 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 will lose the right to use and dispose of their churches, mosques, places of worship or other buildings, and will face numerous other restrictions.” The full report is available at http://khpg.org/en/index.
4. US Mission to OSCE: Russia continues to deny that its aggression against Ukraine violates international commitments
Speaking at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, US Charge d’Affaires K. Byrnes stated, “A full ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, complete access for the OSCE SMM all the way to Ukraine’s international border, free and fair local elections in the Donbas, and the reinstatement of Ukraine’s control over its international border are all indispensable elements of Minsk implementation. Sanctions must remain in place until Russia fulfills the commitments it made when it signed the Minsk Agreements. […] It is unfortunate that the Russian Federation continues to deny that its aggression against Ukraine is in violation of its international commitments. On January 26, Foreign Minister Lavrov claimed Russia had not violated the Budapest Memorandum, because the agreement only obligates Russia not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. In fact, in signing the Budapest Memorandum, the Russian Federation reaffirmed its obligation to ‘refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.’ This statement is a confession of the violation. International law, as confirmed by the UN General Assembly as well as the Helsinki Final Act, obligate and commit Russia to reverse its actions in Crimea.”
5. Lithuanian Foreign Minister: Security before Politics in Eastern Ukraine