Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 29, 2018, 6 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian army 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 4 times in total, including 3 times with mortars.
2. Canadian Armed Forces to Train Battalion-sized Unit for first time in Ukraine
Photo – CAF Operations
Canada’s Department of National Defence reported on January 26, “As part of Canada’s ongoing commitment to support Ukraine, the Canadian Armed Forces will temporarily increase the number of trainers in the country in order to assist in the training of a Battalion Tactical Group of Ukrainian troops.
Today, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members are arriving at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine. This represents the largest Canadian contingent since the start of Operation UNIFIER to help train and mentor the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Under Operation UNIFIER, the CAF is working with our US allies in providing military training and capacity building to the Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel to support Ukraine in its efforts to maintain sovereignty, security, and stability.”
Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan stated, “This increase of CAF trainers demonstrates Canada’s enduring commitment to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. This training assistance builds on previous support by our Government and will bolster Ukraine’s efforts to maintain its sovereignty, security, and stability.”
3. US imposes new sanctions on Russian individuals, entities
On January 26, the US Treasury Department imposed economic sanctions on a further 21 people and nine companies linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “The sanctions also target several Russian officials, including deputy energy minister Andrei Cherezov, who had been hit earlier by European Union measures for his role in a scheme to ship power turbines to Crimea.
Those turbines were built by German engineering giant Siemens for Russia but instead ended up in Crimea. Siemens itself has not been targeted by the United States, and the company has said it was suing a Russian state-owned energy company. […]
The announcement came just days before the release of another set of economic restrictions that is expected to target Kremlin insiders and a wider array of Russia companies. Those sanctions were mandated under a law passed last year by Congress that sought to punish Russia for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other matters.
Anticipation over the wider Russian sanctions has been building for weeks now, with influential businessmen and Kremlin-connected insiders worried about being included in what is being known in Washington as the ‘oligarchs list.'”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated, “The U.S. government is committed to maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to targeting those who attempt to undermine the Minsk agreements. Those who provide goods, services, or material support to individuals and entities sanctioned by the United States for their activities in Ukraine are engaging in behavior that could expose them to U.S. sanctions.”
The full list of the new sanctions is available here
4. Pope visits Ukrainian Basilica in Rome, prays for end to conflict
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “Pope Francis has visited a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic basilica in Rome, paying tribute to Catholics who perished in Ukraine because of their faith during the time of Soviet rule.
During the visit to the Basilica of Santa Sofia on January 28, the Pope told the faithful that he understands their anguish for a country ‘scourged by war and economic difficulties.’He also prayed for an end to the deadly armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. […]
‘I understand that, while you are here, the heart throbs for your country, and not only palpitates with affection, but also with anguish, especially for the scourge of war and economic difficulties,” the Pope said. ‘I am here to tell you that I am close to you: close with the heart, close with prayer, close when I celebrate the Eucharist. I pray that hope may never be extinguished in the hearts of each person, but that the courage to go forward, to always start again, is renewed.’ [..]
Bishop Borys Gudziak, who heads the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris, said the Pope was ‘sending a signal to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin…that violence and aggression are unacceptable.'”
5. US says planned Russian pipeline would threaten European energy security
On January 27, Reuters reported, “The United States sees the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany as a threat to Europe’s energy security, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday.
Poland, Ukraine and Baltic states fear the pipeline would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and provide the Kremlin with billions of dollars of additional revenue to finance a further military build-up on EU’s borders.
‘Like Poland, the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We see it as undermining Europe’s overall energy security and stability,’ Tillerson said at a joint press conference with the Polish foreign minister in Warsaw. ‘Our opposition is driven by our mutual strategic interests,’ he said.
The United States has already sanctioned Russian companies over Moscow’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, and foreign companies investing in or helping Russian energy exploration. […]
Nordic nations have already voiced security concerns over the pipeline being laid near their shores under the Baltic. But Germany and Austria have focused more on the commercial benefits of having more cheap gas from Russia.”
6. Ukraine makes big leap in key World Bank tax ranking
The Kyiv Post reported, “Ukraine took a huge leap in ease of paying taxes, vaulting 41 positions in the World Bank’s tax payment index, part of the Doing Business Ranking 2018. It now ranks 43rd among 190 countries, up from 84th a year earlier.
Ukraine managed to improve its position because of several major changes to improve transparency and ease of payments. Among them are an automated and online value-added tax refund system, replacing a secretive and corrupt VAT system.
Ukraine has also moved more tax payments online, making transactions easier and more transparent.
All these changes ‘had a positive impact on our place in the taxpaying part of the ranking,’ llya Neskhodovskiy, a tax expert at the Reanimation Package of Reforms think tank, told the Kyiv Post.”