Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
23 December 2016, 5PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported that yesterday towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces continued attacks on Ukrainian positions near Svitlodarsk. After shelling Ukrainian positions with artillery and mortars, Russian-terrorist forces attacked Ukrainian positions – the attacks were repelled by Ukrainian forces. Russian-terrorist forces shelled residential areas of Myronivka village, 5 km north of the attacks near Svitlodarsk, with artillery. Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Avdiyivka with artillery, mortars and grenade launchers. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions along the Zhovte-Krymske line and at Popasne. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Krasnohorivka, Starohnativka and Vodyane with mortars. At Vodyane, Russian-terrorist forces attacked Ukrainian positions – the attack was repelled by Ukrainian forces. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action.
2. Arbitral Tribunal constituted to hear case of Ukraine v. Russian Federation under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
On 22 December, an arbitral tribunal was constituted to hear the claim of Ukraine v. Russian Federation under the United Nations Law of the Sea. The tribunal will beginning hearing the case in early 2017. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, On September 14, 2016 Ukraine instituted arbitration proceedings against the Russian Federation under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). Ukraine announces and ready to present to the Arbitral Tribunal facts and evidences that Russia brutally violates its rights as the coastal state in maritime zones adjacent to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait. Ukraine asks the arbitral tribunal to enforce its maritime rights by ordering the Russian Federation to cease its internationally wrongful actions in the relevant waters, to provide Ukraine with appropriate guarantees that it will respect Ukraine’s rights under UNCLOS, and to make full reparation to Ukraine for the injuries the Russian Federation has caused.”
3. Human rights group: Political prisoners in Russian-occupied Crimea tortured on way to court
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “At least one of the Crimean Muslims facing fabricated ‘terrorism’ charges under Russian occupation has reported being tortured and threatened when brought to court hearings and a lawyer reports that FSB special force officers are present and used as a menacing threat when the men are taken to see the investigator. Useir Abdullaev told the court on Dec 21 that he and other prisoners are forced to lie on the bus floor with their hands in handcuffs behind their backs, and that he has been beaten in the stomach and legs. […] The Abdullaev brothers are both originally from Azerbaijan, but have lived in Ukraine since the early 1990s and Uzeir at least is married to a Crimean Tatar. They were arrested onOct 12, together with three other Crimean Muslims […] There are currently 15 men held in the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison], charged with involvement in an organization which is legal in Ukraine and most countries. They are treated like dangerous prisoners and held in filthy, overcrowded and ill-heated conditions. […] The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has already declared the four Sevastopol prisoners to be political prisoners, and it is only a question of time before the others are recognized as such. The reasons are simple. There is no evidence that the men are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamist organization in question. Even if they were, Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in Ukraine and in most other countries. There is no evidence of any ‘terrorist’ or violent activities committed by Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters anywhere in the world. Russia’s Supreme Court declared it ‘terrorist’ in 2003, without explaining why during a secretive session. The judgement was only made public long after it was too late to lodge an appeal. […] With respect to all Crimeans whom Russia is prosecuting on such charges, there is an additional reason. Russia is an occupying state, with this occupation being part of what the International Criminal Court has accepted is an international military conflict. An occupying state is subject to serious restrictions and cannot simply impose its own criminal legislation, deciding that what is legal in Ukraine should now be called ‘terrorism’. That is thuggery, not law.” The full report from KHPG is available athttp://khpg.org/en/index.php?
4. Russia lists 150th NGO under so-called “Foreign Agent Law”
On 22 December, US State Department spokesperson J. Kirby stated, “Russia reached an unfortunate milestone December 19 when it listed the 150th non-governmental organization (NGO) under its so-called ‘foreign agent law.’ The use of the term “foreign agent” is a deliberate choice suggesting that these organizations are traitors. In fact, under this legislation Russia has targeted organizations dedicated to pursuits such as fighting torture, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and even protecting migratory birds. The people of Russia deserve a strong, democratic government that respects the role that civil society plays in holding governments accountable and providing essential services, rather than stifling NGOs’ important work. We urge the Russian government to abolish this legislation today and uphold its international human rights commitments.”