Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
3 January 2017, 5PM 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 Novozvanivka, Novooleksandrivka and Stanytsia Luhanska. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Svitlodarsk with mortars. Near Avdiyivka and Horlivka, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Vodyane and Shyrokyne with mortars. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded in action.
2. New Year’s Address from the President of Ukraine
On 31 December, Ukraine’s President P. Poroshenko, in his New Year’s Address, stated, “Not only children, but everyone, irrespective of age, believe in miracles. Especially in this festive time, which begins with St. Nicholas and ends with Epiphany. Especially this night, when New Year comes and fills our hearts with joy, faith and hope. There are more grounds for optimism than a year ago. It still will not be easy, but the worst in the economy is already behind.We have overcome the shock from the destruction of industrial capacity caused by military aggression. Just as from the hostile closing of the Russian market for our goods, from commercial and transport blockade. We have adapted our economy to new conditions. We have managed to restore economic growth. This allows holding a course on increasing the revenues of Ukrainians in the new year. We have reinforced our defense capability. We have coped with that task without mobilization. The army is now based on contractors and a defender of the Homeland is one of the noblest professions. For the first time in our history we have not purchased a single cubic meter of Russian gas – this is a huge step towards energy independence! […] I wish every one of you peace, victory, happiness and welfare. Let us recall our earthly guardian angels with special respect. Glorious Ukrainian warriors! The whole country is grateful to you for presenting this peaceful holiday night to us. For the guarantee of protection in the new year. On behalf of the entire Ukraine, I congratulate you, our fellow Ukrainians, brothers and sisters in Crimea, Sevastopol and certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russian occupation is temporary. We will be united for sure. […] Glory to Ukraine! Happy New Year!”
3. US Senator McCain to the people of Ukraine: Your fight is our fight
On 1 January, Reuters reported, “Republican Senator John McCain said on Sunday the United States could only improve its relations with Russia by taking a tough stance with President Putin, calling for stronger sanctions against Moscow. […] ‘We will strongly urge our colleagues toward more meaningful and stronger sanctions against Russia because of their attack on the United States of America,’ McCain told reporters in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. ‘I believe that we must continue to improve our relations and to understand that Vladimir Putin – unless we stand up to him – will continue his aggression and we must stand up to Vladimir Putin,’ McCain said. […] Earlier, in Kyiv, McCain vowed continued U.S. support to Ukraine. ‘I send the message from the American people – we are with you, your fight is our fight and we will win together,’ McCain was quoted as saying by Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s press service. ‘In 2017 we will defeat the invaders and send them back where they came from. To Vladimir Putin – you will never defeat the Ukrainian people and deprive them of their independence and freedom,’ McCain said.”
4. Crimean Tatar leader added to Russian list of “terrorists and extremists” for opposing Russian occupation of Crimea
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “Russia has added Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Ilmi Umerov to its notoriously long list of so-called ‘Terrorists and Extremists’ for saying, as do all democratic states, that Russia should be made to leave Crimea. With its customary contempt for presumption of innocence, it has also added all 19 Crimean Muslims whom it is holding in custody and charging with unproven involvement in an organization which is legal in Ukraine. They join many other Ukrainian victims of Russian political persecution, including Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko who were labelled ‘terrorists’ almost a year before their ‘trial’. Crimean journalist Mykola Semena who is, like Umerov, charged over comments indicating occupation to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, was added to the list many months ago.Like Semena, 59-year-old Ilmi Umerov first learned of this new development because of the practical ramifications. Umerov’s bank account is now blocked, and he is not even able to pay the fine illegally imposed for a meeting of the Mejlis. Since Russia has now banned as ‘extremist’ the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or representative assembly of the main indigenous people of Crimea, it is only a matter of time before new persecution of Mejlis members begins, with more people added to what is increasingly becoming a post-Soviet list of ‘dissidents’. In further breach of fundamental principles of international law, incidentally, Russia is also treating Ukrainians from Crimea as Russian. […] There are indications that the FSB are planning new charges against Umerov, also over statements indicating opposition to Russian occupation. It is worth seeing what Russia calls ‘extremism’ in occupied Crimea. […] Umerov was initially detained on May 12 and charged in connection with an interview given (in Crimean Tatar} to TV ATR on March 19, 2016 in Kyiv. In that interview he stated that Russia must be made to leave Crimea and Donbas, as do the UN General Assembly, the EU, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and most countries. Russia has, quite incredibly, claimed that the interview contained ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’. This is under Article 280.1, a new article introduced within months of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, carrying a sentence of up to 5 years’ imprisonment. It is possible that Russia delayed inclusion of Umerov on this preposterous list because of the international protest after his forced hospitalization for a supposed ‘psychiatric assessment’. Such use of punitive psychiatry was typical in Soviet times, and is now becoming common in Crimea under Russian occupation.” The full report from KHPG is available athttp://khpg.org/en/index.php?