Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
18 March 2016, 6 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported that yesterday towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Luhanske village and Zaytseve with mortars. Near the Donetsk airport, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Novotroitske, Vodyane and Shyrokyne with mortars. There was no combat on the Luhansk sector of the front. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that yesterday Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions a total of 42 times. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours one Ukrainian soldier was killed and three were wounded in action.
2. EU reiterates non-recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy F. Mogherini stated, “Two years on from the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, the European Union remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The European Union reiterates that it does not recognise and continues to condemn this violation of international law. It remains a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states. The European Union remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures. The EU calls again on UN Member States to consider similar non-recognition measures in line with the UNGA Resolution 68/262. The EU reaffirms its deep concern at the military build-up and the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Crimean peninsula, including the denial of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of religion and belief, and the persecution of persons belonging to minorities, in particular the Crimean Tatars. The filing of a request to ban the activities of the Mejlis, a self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars, as an extremist organisation, is a particularly worrying development. The EU calls for full compliance with international human rights standards and other obligations under international law. All pending cases of human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, torture and killings should be thoroughly investigated. Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, detained and sentenced in breach of international law, should be immediately released and guaranteed a safe return to Ukraine. Full, free and unrestricted access for international human rights actors to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol, continues to be paramount.”
3. Ukraine, UK sign new Defence Agreement
Ukraine’s Minister of Defense S. Poltorak and UK Armed Forces Minister P. Mordaunt signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The UK’s Ministry of Defence reported, “The agreement will last for 15 years. Areas it covers include sharing of information on potential threats, participation in joint exercises, training of Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) personnel and cooperation in the field of military equipment. Separately the UK will look to expand the reach of its training support through the ‘train the trainer’ activities. This will enable Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel to pass on techniques taught by UK Armed Forces.”
4. Human Rights Group: Russia to criminalize Crimean Tatar Mejlis for refusing to collaborate
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “The Mejlis, or representative assembly of the Crimean Tatar people is likely to be criminalized on the basis of unwarranted warnings about supposed ‘extremism’ or criminal charges brought for opposing Russian occupation of Crimea. A court in Russian-occupied Crimea has thus far rejected most objections brought by the Mejlis, against plans to prohibit it as ‘extremist’. Despite international calls on Russia to desist from such a hostile action against the entire Crimean Tatar people, the ban seems imminent. […] The consequences of such an act of aggression against the main indigenous people of Crimea are still unclear. Over 2, 300 people involved in the Mejlis would effectively be criminalized, and any number of Crimean Tatars could be targeted simply for supporting the Mejlis. If the magnitude of the likely repressions is still unknown, nobody is in any doubt as to why the Mejlis and, in fact, the Crimean Tatars, are being targeted. The assessment given by Eskender Bariev, Coordinator of the Crimean Tatar Rights Committee and Mejlis member, is that the Mejlis is facing reprisals for their refusal to collaborate with the occupation regime.” The full report from KHPG is available at http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.
5. Bipartisan bill to help counter Russian propaganda introduced in US Congress
US Senators R. Portman (R-Ohio) and C. Murphy (D-Conn) introduced the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act on 16 March. The legislation is aimed at helping American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China and other nations. Speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Portman stated that the bill will “establish the Center for Information Analysis and Response […]The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests. […] Our legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. […] Finally, our legislation works to empower local communities to resist foreign manipulation through increased cultural and educational exchanges. The bill provides for special consideration to students and community leaders applying to State Department exchange programs from populations and countries heavily targeted by foreign disinformation and propaganda campaigns.”