Ukraine: Daily Briefing – January 16, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 16, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian armor units training exercises. Photo – Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front 3 times in total.
2. Crimean activist gets almost 4-year prison sentence for a Ukrainian flag after farcical ‘retrial’
Volodymyr Balukh, photo – RFE/RL

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “A second ‘judge’ in Russian-occupied Crimea has sentenced 46-year-old Volodymyr Balukh to three years and seven months’ imprisonment on overtly falsified charges after an identical sentence had to be revoked. The second ‘trial’ was just as flawed as the first, leaving no doubt that Balukh is being persecuted for the Ukrainian flag he continued to fly over his home after Russia’s invasion and for his unwavering opposition to Russian occupation.
           The supposed retrial had taken place in the same Razdolne District Court, but under ‘judge’ Yelena Tedeyeva.  She proved just as willing as her colleague Maria Bedritskaya to ignore the evidence that the charges of possessing ammunition and an explosive substance were rigged.  In fact, the trial was marginally more farcical than the first, with Tedeyeva showing no interest in even ensuring that the supposed ‘witnesses’ even appeared in court.   As with Bedritskaya, it was clear that orders had been issued which the ‘judges’ found no problem with obeying. […]
           Balukh was arrested on Dec 8, 2016 after an unexplained search which allegedly found 90 bullets and several trotyl explosive devices in his attic.  He had no record of violence and the constant searches and harassment he had faced since Russia’s invasion of Crimea for his openly pro-Ukrainian position made it inconceivable that he could have held anything illegal in his home.  This was one of the reasons why the Memorial Human Rights Centre almost immediately declared him a political prisoner. […]
          In his final address to the court on Jan 15, Volodymyr Balukh refused to speak about the case itself as ‘it is absolutely clear that this is political persecution for my beliefs.  Nothing more.'” The full report from KHPG is available at Crimean activist gets almost 4-year prison sentence for a Ukrainian flag after farcical ‘retrial’ 
3. “Large scale and coordinated fraud” identified at PrivatBank before nationalization
The National Bank of Ukraine reported, “The results of an independent investigation by the company Kroll have been presented to the National Bank of Ukraine. The investigation has identified that PrivatBank was subjected to a large scale and coordinated fraud over at least a ten-year period ending December 2016, which resulted in the Bank suffering a loss of at least USD 5.5 billion. […]
           The results of the Kroll investigation confirm previous conclusions of the National Bank. The National Bank confirms its readiness to share the results of investigations with law enforcement authorities.”
The full report from the National Bank is available here: Fraud identified in PJSC CB “PRIVATBANK” for the period before nationalization
4. U.S. Treasury’s List of Putin Oligarchs Jolts Russia’s Elite Class
Bloomberg reported on January 15, “The U.S. Treasury Department is finishing its first official list of ‘oligarchs’ close to President Vladimir Putin’s government, setting off a flurry of moves by wealthy Russians to shield their fortunes and reputations.
Some people who think they’re likely to land on the list have stress-tested the potential impact on their investments, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Others are liquidating holdings, according to their U.S. advisers.
           Russian businessmen have approached former Treasury and State Department officials with experience in sanctions for help staying off the list, said Dan Fried, who previously worked at the State Department and said he turned down such offers. Some Russians sent proxies to Washington in an attempt to avoid lobbying disclosures, according to one person that was contacted.
          The report is expected to amount to a blacklist of Russia’s elite. It was mandated by a law President Donald Trump reluctantly signed in August intended to penalize the Kremlin for its alleged meddling in the 2016 election. A rare piece of legislation passed with a bipartisan veto-proof margin, the law gave Treasury, the State Department and intelligence agencies 180 days to identify people by ‘their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth. ‘That deadline is Jan. 29. […]
         Congress has also requested that Treasury submit an impact analysis of potential sanctions on Russian sovereign bonds. A Treasury spokesman said its international affairs office is working on the analysis.

U.S. sanctions on the bonds would deal a major blow to Russia’s finances, raising   the prospect of a selloff in the bond market, posing a risk to the ruble and the potential for higher borrowing costs.”

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