Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
April 29-May 5, 2017
Ukrainian Army tactical training, PHOTO – Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of April 28-May 4, nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 47 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 406 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 135 times with heavy weapons – mortars, artillery and tanks.
2. Trial in absentia for treason of ex-President Yanukovych begins
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is being tried in absentia on high treason charges in Kyiv. The trial began on May 4 at the Obolon District Court in the capital, with two lawyers representing Yanukovych. Yanukovych abandoned office in late February 2014 and fled to Russia in the face of massive protests triggered by his decision to scrap plans for a landmark deal with the European Union and improve trade ties with Moscow. Dozens of people were killed in attempts to clamp down on the protests. Yanukovych, who remains in Russia, is accused of treason, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and abetting Russian aggression. […] After a debate between the state prosecutor and defense lawyers at the court session on May 4, Judge Vladyslav Devyatko ruled that Yanukovych should be given the opportunity to take part in the trial by video-link. The judge then adjourned the proceedings until May 18. […] Yanukovych could be sentenced to 15 years in prison if convicted, but he is protected by Russia and would be unlikely to travel to Ukraine and serve the time. At least seven other probes have been launched by Ukrainian authorities against Yanukovych […] The charges against him range from corruption to involvement in the mass shooting of unarmed protesters in Kyiv in February 2014 as the standoff between his government and the Euromaidan demonstrators came to a head.”
3. US Mission to OSCE: We do not and will not accept Russia’s efforts to change the borders of Ukraine
Speaking at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on May 4, US charge d’affaires Kate Byrnes stated, “Abuses perpetrated by Russia against those opposed to its purported annexation of Crimea continue. We call on Russia to drop charges against independent journalist Mykola Semena. Mr. Semena’s sham trial resumed on May 3 – World Press Freedom Day – after a five-week hiatus. Neither independent observers nor media have been allowed to observe the trial. Mr. Semena faces up to five years in prison if convicted on spurious charges of “undermining Russian territorial integrity via mass media” – in other words, for exercising his right to freedom of expression by criticizing Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shaken the very foundations of security and stability in Europe, and is antithetical to a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. The United States affirms its staunch support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. We do not, and will not, accept Russia’s efforts to change the borders of Ukraine. We join our European partners in affirming that our sanctions on Russia will remain until it fully implements the Minsk agreements, and Crimea-related sanctions will remain until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
4. World Bank boosts support for Ukraine export development
On May 2, the World Bank approved a $150 million loan for the Access to Long Term Finance project, which will support export-oriented small and medium enterprises in Ukraine. The World Bank stated, “The Joint Stock Company Ukreximbank is expected to implement this project by providing sub-loans to participating banks which, in turn, will pass on the financing to various SMEs in Ukraine. The SMEs will be selected on the basis of their financial health and capacity to develop a sound business export model.”
5. US spending bill includes several measures targeting Russia
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on May 4, “Congress has authorized a new $100 million effort to counter ‘Russian influence and aggression’ and to support civil society organizations in Europe and Eurasia. U.S. lawmakers on May 4 also backed a measure imposing new restrictions and oversight on Russian diplomats in the United States — a measure that Moscow had angrily warned Washington against. Both efforts were included in the $1.1 trillion budget to fund the federal government for 2017 that was given final backing by the Senate. It now goes to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature. The $100 million fund is the product of several proposals that have circulated in the House and Senate in recent months as lawmakers looked to push back against Russia’s perceived interference in Europe and elsewhere. A growing number of Democrats and Republicans have pointed to the spread of fake news, foreign funding of political parties, outright propaganda, and other covert activities as indications of an aggressive Russian effort to meddle in or subvert governments seen as hostile to Moscow. […] The $100 million allocation, called the Countering Russian Influence Fund, is aimed specifically at Europe, earmarked for ‘civil society groups involved in rule of law, media, cyber, and other programs that strengthen democratic institutions and processes, and counter Russian influence and aggression,’ according to the legislation. The money will go to ‘support democracy programs in the Russian Federation, including to promote Internet freedom, and shall also be made available to support the democracy and rule of law strategy’ under State Department policies. The legislation also directs the money be made available to so-called Eastern Partnership countries — a European Union program with the ex-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The funds will help ‘advance the implementation of Association Agreements and trade agreements with the European Union, and to reduce their vulnerability to external economic and political pressure from the Russian Federation.’ Also tacked onto the budget legislation passed by the Senate was an intelligence authorization measure that tightens oversight of Russian diplomats in the United States. This section requires the State Department, the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence to set up a procedure that would essentially obligate Russian diplomats to give the FBI advance warning about travels beyond the embassy and consulates’ immediate geographic territory. […] The intelligence measure also calls for the creation of a new interagency committee to counter what it calls Russian efforts to manipulate foreign opinion. That is a reflection of the growing bipartisan consensus that emerged in the wake of the U.S. presidential election, when the intelligence community concluded that Moscow actively meddled in the election campaign in support of Trump.”
6. Atlantic Council on Russian disinformation: It’s time we fight to win
Jeffrey Gedmin, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, wrote on May 2, “RT aims to discredit the United States in a straightforward way. The Kremlin-funded television network-established in 2005, operating in English, Arabic, and Spanish-doesn’t report on America and the West warts and all, but rather focuses single-mindedly on warts alone. […] In a post-fact, post-truth world, Vladimir Putin’s Russia revels in exploiting western vulnerability. […] It’s time to push back-with full force. And to get this right, the context must be clear. First, we must recognize that Putin’s only real strength is our weakness. The West’s structural problems-from declining social mobility and extreme income inequality in the United States to issues of employment, migration, and identity across Europe-create immense possibilities for a Russian regime bent on doing us harm. Democracy has shown itself capable of self-correction and renewal. We’ll get through our current malaise. In the meantime, we mustn’t waiver in defense of liberal democracy. It’s a central fact: the opportunity seekers, the homeless, and displaced still want to come to America and the West. No one dreams of living in Putin’s mafia state. Let’s never fail to remind that the democratic West, with all its ailments, remains by miles morally and economically superior to the dark and corrupt ways of Putinism. Second, let’s be clear; this is war and Putin is determined to win. At first it seemed his regime might be content with a continent divided into spheres of influence. Over time, though, Putin’s gaze shifted to a bigger prize: an EU rendered weak and dependent, a NATO emasculated, the transatlantic link perhaps even severed. Putin is fond of America First nationalism because he believes it will make Russia great again, by pushing America to the side. He has his vision. We must reestablish ours. We need a well-resourced, strategically-minded foreign policy aimed at putting Putin back on his heels. Only when this is in place will our own information warfare have a chance to succeed. Finally, we must respond to the growing range of Russian efforts to divide and conquer. But playing defense alone creates a whack a mole problem. Putin’s cyber armies and proxies spew out as much as conceivably possible to see what sticks. […] We urgently need a robust offensive. This doesn’t mean emulating Kremlin techniques of disinformation. Nor can any of this become the business of slick ‘messaging’ and clever ‘counter-narratives.’ If the West is to rebound, we must never stray from facts. Therefore, let’s flood Russia with accurate, reliable information and serious investigative reporting on Putin’s kleptocracy, a self-dealing system that loots a magnificent Russian civilization-financially, intellectually, spiritually, and culturally. […] Americans and Europeans allow the likes of RT into our markets-we actually do cherish freedom of speech. It’s time we demand full reciprocity, as our media remain subject to draconian regulations and restrictions in Russia. We must be allowed access to television licenses. Intimidating and harassment of affiliates-through politically motivated use of tax auditors and anticorruption police, for example-must end. It’s dangerous to report inside Russia in any case. Killings, poisonings, and mysterious deaths come with the territory. Let RT editor Simonyan, in the name of free speech, persuade her bosses in the Kremlin to take a first small step: open the Russian market and level the playing field. Allow us the same rights as we afford RT. If Moscow refuses, boot from the US Kremlin pawns masquerading as journalists. This is the new kind of war. It’s time we fight to win.” The full article is available at http://www.atlanticcouncil.
org/blogs/ukrainealert/does- rt-really-believe-in-free- speech-prove-it