Ukraine: Daily Briefing
March 24, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time
Photo: Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions 94 times in total, including at least 42 times with heavy weapons. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars and tanks. Near the Donetsk airport, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. At Zaytseve, Russian-terrorist forces carried out heavy shelling of Ukrainian positions with mortars and artillery, firing over 100 artillery shells. At Svitlodarsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. Towards Mariuopul, Russian-terrorist forces sshelled Ukrainian positions at Shyrokyne with Grad rockets, mortars and tanks. At Hnutove, Vodyane and Krasnohorivka, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terroirst forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Popanse with mortars.
2. McCain: Assassination of Voronenkov was brazen act of Russian state terrorism
On March 23, US Senator John McCain stated, “”Today, in yet another brazen act of Russian state terrorism, former Russia parliamentarian Denis Voronenkov was assassinated in broad daylight on the streets of Kyiv. This horrific crime marks the continuation of a campaign of KGB-style brutality designed to intimidate anyone who dares to oppose the tyranny of Vladimir Putin. Denis Voronenkov spoke out against Putin’s reign of terror and his illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. He was also assisting Ukrainian prosecutors with the treason case against former Ukrainian president and Putin stooge, Viktor Yanukovych. Sadly, Denis Voronenkov has joined others like Sergei Magnitsky and Boris Nemtsov who have paid with their lives for speaking the truth, for in Putin’s Russia, there is no greater crime.”
3. NATO Supreme Commander: Russia seeking to undermine international system
On March 23, US General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander, US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe testified at the US Senate Armed Services Committee. General Scaparotti stated, “In the East, a resurgent Russia has turned from partner to antagonist. Countries along Russia’s periphery, especially Ukraine and Georgia, are under threat from Moscow’s malign influence and military aggression. […] Russia’s malign actions are supported by its diplomatic, information, economic, and military initiatives. Moscow intends to reemerge as a global power, and views international norms such as the rule of law, democracy, and human rights as components of a system designed to suppress it. Therefore, Russia seeks to undermine this international system and discredit those in the West who have created it. For example, Russia is taking steps to influence the internal politics of European countries just as it tried to do in the United States in an attempt to create disunity. […]Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, including occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, and actions in Syria underscore its willingness to use military force to exert its influence in Europe and the Middle East. In Ukraine, Russia’s willingness to foment a bloody conflict into its third year through the use of proxy forces in the Donbas, and elsewhere, is deeply troubling to our allies and partners, particularly Russia’s closest neighbors […] Recently in eastern Ukraine, Russia controls the battle tempo, again ratcheting up the number of daily violations of the cease fire and — even more concerning — directing combined Russian-separatist forces to target civilian infrastructure and threaten and intimidate OSCE monitors in order to turn up the pressure on Ukraine.[…] Ukraine seeks a permanent and verifiable ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and Russian forces, full and unfettered access for OSCE monitors, and control over its internationally-recognized border with Russia. […] Together with forces from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the UK, and Canada using State Department-provided Foreign Military Financing and Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds, EUCOM trains, advises, and equips Ukraine security forces, helping them build the capacity to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our team, working through the Multinational Joint Commission, has developed Ukraine’s institutional training capability so that Ukraine can create a NATO-interoperable armed force. Our efforts include the training of both conventional and special operations units, as well as advising Ukraine on defense reform priorities. […] This is a pivotal time for EUCOM as we transition to meet the demands of a dynamic security environment. I remain confident that through the strength of our Alliance and partnerships, and with the professionalism of our service members, we will adapt and ensure that Europe remains whole, free and at peace.” The full testimony is available at https://www.armed-services.
4. Atlantic Council: How Vulnerable is Putin? The Answer Rests on Oil
On March 22, Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Diane Francis wrote, “The Kremlin’s dirty tricks are dominating the headlines and have plunged the United States into political disarray. Behind these attacks, however, is a Russia that is increasingly weak and vulnerable. What this means for the stability of Vladimir Putin’s regime, however, is anyone’s guess. Russia’s future depends on the price of oil and gas. This sector provides 52 percent of Russia’s federal budget and 70 percent of its exports. These prices make or break Russia, as is the case with other petro-states where economic development is nonexistent. Put bluntly, as Senator John McCain has said, ‘Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.’ The oil outlook is grim for a number of reasons. American know-how and technologies continue to enhance oil production and create a plethora of alternative energy sources. This creates oversupply, lower demand, and weak prices. In addition, Iran and Iraq are producing oil flat out and by 2022 are forecasted to produce more barrels per day than either Russia or Saudi Arabia, at a time when Europe and fossil fuel-challenged nations are rapidly developing solar, wind, and biomass energy. […] Such trends have lowered oil prices in the past few months to a $45-$47 per barrel level, down from $50-$55 a barrel. Continuation of this price weakness is ruinous for petro nations like Russia and their currencies. Russia’s current GDP at $1.2 trillion is smaller than South Korea’s. In 2013, Russia’s GDP was $2.2 trillion and oil was priced at $104 per barrel. […] A recent forecast by Russia’s fiscal authority, the Accounting Chamber, predicts that 20.5 million Russians will be living below the poverty line by the year 2019, an increase of 1.4 million over 2015. According to US billionaire philanthropist George Soros, this will result in major political instability. He predicted last week that Putin’s regime will face bankruptcy in 2017 and that an electoral backlash among Russians will follow. […]Soros believes that a crisis is imminent: Russia’s social security programs are running out of money and the nation’s budget deficit stands at 7 percent of GDP. […] The only solution to this dilemma can be higher oil prices, because the “gas station” doesn’t produce goods and services for export or generate jobs at home. […] While Putin may strut his stuff on the geopolitical stage as he drops bombs and wreaks violence in Ukraine and Syria, his stature and tenure domestically diminish along with sagging oil prices. As for a revolution, it’s a safe bet that in Putin’s Russia, the rich will get richer and the poor will get vodka-until there’s a Russian Maidan.” The full article is available at http://www.atlanticcouncil.
org/blogs/ukrainealert/how- vulnerable-is-putin-the- answer-rests-on-oil
5. Fire at arms depot extinguished
Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense Ihor Pavlovsky stated that the fire at the arms depot in Balaklalya, Kharkiv oblast has been extinguished, Radio Svoboda reported. The fire started yesterday as a result of an explosion; a 10-km radius around the depot was evacuated. Ukrainian authorities are investigating possible sabotage.