Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
December 15-21, 2018
Ukraine’s President addresses nation after establishment of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, December 15. To view video, please click on image above
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence reported that during the week of December 14-20, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and six Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 73 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front, including at least 16 times with heavy weapons. Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation headquarters reported that returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 21 and wounded 22 enemy combatants in the last week.
2. Ukraine announces creation of new national Orthodox Church, elects leader
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on December 15, “Ukrainian Orthodox leaders have agreed on the creation of a new national Orthodox church and elected a leader to head that church, a move that Ukraine’s leaders say is vital to the country’s security and independence. […]
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said 39-year-old Metropolitan Epifaniy of the Kyiv Patriarchate church had been chosen as head of the church by a council, comparing the move to Ukraine’s referendum for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. […]
Epifaniy was chosen by a council at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv, built by the son of Prince Volodymyr, whose baptism in 988 led to the spread of Christianity in the region.
Addressing the crowd, Epifaniy said ‘God heard our appeals and gave us this anticipated unity.’ He stressed that the new church’s doors would be open to all and encouraged Ukrainians to rally behind it. […]
Ukraine won approval for the new church in October from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, the seat of the global spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians. […] Several thousand people rallied outside the ancient St. Sophia’s where the meeting had taken place behind closed doors.”
3. Ecumenical Patriarch to deliver Tomos to Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church on January 6
The Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate stated, “It is with praise to God, great joy and satisfaction that the Ecumenical Patriarchate announces the successful completion of the work of the Unifying Synod (Sobor)-foundational of the new Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Ukraine-which was convened in Kyiv today, December 15th, 2018. Metropolitan Epiphanios of Pereiaslav and Belotserkovsky was elected as its Primate.
His Beatitude, the newly-elected Primate, contacted His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, expressed his respect and asked the wishes and blessings of the Mother Church for fruition of his primatial ministry, which starts under good auspices.
In this context, it is announced that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew invited His Beatitude Epiphanios to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Phanar on the great feast of Theophany and to deliver to him the Tomos of establishment of the new sister Autocephalous Church.”
4. US Ukraine envoy: Idea of extra Russia sanctions “gaining traction”
US Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker. Photo – Reuters
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on December 18, “A drive to impose more sanctions on Russia seems to be “gaining some traction” following a naval confrontation in the Black Sea last month, according to the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine.
Kurt Volker made the comments during an online briefing in Brussels on December 17, after Russian seized three Ukrainian Navy ships and 24 crewmen in the Kerch Strait that links the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. The November 25 incident escalated tensions in the region and prompted international calls for the sailors’ release. […]
Volker told reporters that in Europe, ‘the notion that there needs to be a response and some additional sanctions and listing of names would occur seems to be one that’s gaining some traction.’
‘I would not be surprised at all to see that happen in the next month or two,’ he added.
Volker said the restrictions could have a ‘deterrent effect’ on Moscow because ‘it will be an indicator to Russia that future acts will also be met with sanctions.’ […]
NATO has pledged support for Ukraine’s navy to improve its naval capabilities and the alliance said it will also deliver secure communications equipment to Ukraine’s military by the end of this year.
Volker said a foreign military-financing package of around $250 million to sell additional military equipment to Ukraine was currently being reviewed by the U.S. Congress.”
5. IMF Executive Board approves 14-month US$3.9 Billion Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, US$1.4 Billion for immediate disbursement
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated on December 18, “The Executive Board of the IMF today approved a 14-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Ukraine. The arrangement amounts to the equivalent of SDR 2.8 billion (about US$3.9 billion, 139 percent of quota). […]
The authorities’ economic program supported by the SBA will build on the progress made under the EFF arrangement. The SBA will provide an anchor for the authorities’ economic policies during 2019 and focus on maintaining macro-economic and financial stability.
The program will focus on four priorities: (i) continuing the ongoing fiscal consolidation to keep public debt on a downward path; (ii) further reducing inflation, while maintaining a flexible exchange rate regime; (iii) strengthening the financial sector, promoting asset recovery, and reviving bank lending; and (iv) advancing a focused set of structural reforms, particularly to improve tax administration, privatization and governance.
The approval of the SBA enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 1 billion (about US$1.4 billion). The remainder will be available upon completion of semi-annual reviews.
Following the Executive Board’s discussion, Mr. David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, said: “The Ukrainian authorities have successfully restored macro-economic stability and growth, with support from the international community. Prudent fiscal and monetary policies and a flexible exchange rate regime have helped reduce fiscal and current account deficits. Reserves have been partly rebuilt and confidence has improved.
A new Stand-By Arrangement will provide an anchor for the authorities’ economic policies during the coming year, preserving recent economic gains and paving the way for higher sustainable growth. Together with support from the World Bank and the European Union, the arrangement will help Ukraine meet its financing needs.”
6. US Senators Johnson, Durbin, 39 colleagues introduce resolution urging stronger response to Russian aggression in Ukraine
On December 19, US Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis), Richard Durbin, (D-Ill) and 39 of their colleagues introduced a resolution “calling for a prompt multinational freedom of navigation operation in the Black Sea and the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to Russia’s recent aggressive actions in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.”
Sen. Johnson stated, “The United States and our allies need to rapidly counter Russia’s military aggression in the Kerch Strait with strong and resolute action. Assembling a multinational freedom of navigation operation in the Black Sea to help ensure safe passage into the Sea of Azov, combined with cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is exactly the kind of response Putin needs to see.”
Sen. Durbin stated, “The recent provocative military actions from Russia and revelations about its extensive cyber disinformation campaigns in the U.S. are warnings to the rest of the world that Vladimir Putin has no intention of stopping his aggressive campaign against Western democracies or Ukraine. The world must work together to stop this Russian assault on democracy and Ukraine sovereignty. I am proud to support this resolution and urge my colleagues to reaffirm this message of deterring further aggression from the Russian Federation.”
The full text of the Resolution introduced yesterday is available here:
Calling for a prompt multinational freedom of navigation operation in the Black Sea and urging the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline
7. UN General Assembly adopts Resolution urging Russia to withdraw its armed forces from occupied Crimea, expresses grave concern about rising military presence
The United Nations reported on December 17, “The General Assembly today adopted a resolution urging the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territory without delay. […]
In adopting the resolution “The problem of militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine), as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (document A/73/L.47), by a recorded vote of 66 in favour to 19 against, with 72 abstentions, the Assembly expressed concern about the use of force by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including seizing three Ukrainian vessels on 25 November. It also called for the release of Ukraine’s vessels and crew members it captured.
By terms of “L.47”, the Assembly called for the utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately. It also condemned the Russian Federation’s construction and opening of the Kerch Strait bridge between the Russian Federation and temporarily occupied Crimea, which facilitates the further militarization of Crimea.
The Assembly further condemned the increasing military presence of the Russian Federation in parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. It called on the Russian Federation to refrain from impeding the lawful exercise of navigational rights and freedoms and stressed that the presence of Russian troops in Crimea is contrary to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”