Ukraine: Daily Briefing
February 12, 2019, 8 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that on February 11 one Ukrainian service member was wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 12 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors, including several times with heavy weapons.
2. Caught in a New Cold War: a Journey to Crimea
|Photo – The Globe and Mail|
Mark Mackinnon of The Globe and Mail has recently returned from Crimea and shares his insights about the peninsula five years after it had been annexed by the Russian Federation. The article offers his personal observations and the opinion of local residents who were willing to speak during his week-long trip.
“…to better understand such changes I had plotted my journey around the peninsula that Mr. Putin had captured, turning it, for the rest of the world, into something of a no-man’s land,” shares Mackinnon.
He starts with the interview of Sergey Legostov, one of Crimea’s most prominent defence lawyers who said that the biggest change he’d seen over the past five years had been the utter disappearance of fair trials.”
Mackinnon also talks with members of the Mejlis, an elected body that represented the interests of Crimean Tatars until it was outlawed by Russia in 2016, about human rights issues: “at least 30 Crimean Tatars have been arrested on charges of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir or for participating in that pro-Ukrainian rally in 2014. Human-rights groups say another 44 have disappeared from their homes following raids by masked men. Although some of those have since been allowed to return home, six were found dead, their badly beaten bodies dumped in shallow graves; 19 remain missing.” Mejlis representatives shared their concern as they witness a concerted effort to, once again, drive the Crimean Tatars from their land.
Ukraine is being portrayed not as pro-Western but as openly fascist, with Russian TV exaggerating the influence of far-right groups who supported the revolution in Kyiv. Famous brands are gone to avoid Western sanctions that “have turned the peninsula into an economic twilight zone largely disconnected from the global economy,” notes Mackinnon.
One of the interviewees, Natalia, shared that now she sees things in a different light. “Crimea is just a big military base now,” she says, sighing. “There was a euphoria back then,” she continues, referring to the referendum on joining Russia. “Now, many regret it, even if they are afraid to say it.”
3. The 69th Berlinale Features “Mr. Jones” Film about Holodomor by Agnieszka Holland
|Director Dieter Kosslick and crew members of “Mr. Jones” film called for the release of Oleg Sentsov at Berlinale red carpet. Photo – Variety|
This year’s Berlin Film Festival featured the premiere of a new film by Polish director Agnieszka Holland “Mr. Jones,” based on the true story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who struggled to bring to light the story of the Ukraine’s Holodomor wrought by the brutal policies of Joseph Stalin. The film stars James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard.
During the Sunday press conference Holland called it her “moral duty” to shine a spotlight on what she described as “one of the worst crimes of humanity in the 20th century,” saying she “felt like the ghosts of this crime are just calling for…some kind of justice.” The script of the film was written by Andrea Chalupa, who said that she found a historical drama that nevertheless felt relevant to the current political moment, insisting: “I believe that we cannot have democracy without free media.”
James Norton, British actor who played the lead character said he was inspired by the life of Jones, who was murdered under suspicious circumstances on the eve of his 30th birthday, saying he “paid the biggest sacrifice” in his pursuit of the truth.
“Right now, there’s so much conversation about fake news and media and the world of journalism. More than ever, we need to protect journalists,” he said.
The film is a co-production of Poland, Great Britain in Ukraine with the total budget of UAH 262 million [CAD 12.8 million].
4. Swedish Defense Ministry: Russia Prepares its Armed Forces for War
|Photo – foi.se|
The Swedish Ministry of Defense has just released the “Preparing for a War – Russia’s Military Training at the Strategic Level of 2009-2017” report. According to the Swedish analysts, the biggest concern comes from the findings that “before 2009, Russia handled armed conflicts and local wars. Military exercises since 2009 display an ambition and capabilities increasingly pertaining to regional wars.”
Based on open Russian sources, analysts emphasized that if in 2009-2012 Russia engaged 10,000-20,000 troops in the war games, in 2013-2017 the number of troops increased to 90,000-150,000. Notably, “East-2018” which took place last fall engaged more than 300,000 troops.
The reports says that the fighting power of Russia’s Armed Forces has clearly increased. “Russia’s war against Ukraine and its involvement in Syria demonstrate an increasing willingness to use military power. Russia’s political leadership in 2018 has a more credible and able military tool to influence other countries, either indirectly, by threatening or compelling them, or directly, by attacking them, than it did a decade earlier,” states the report.
According to analysts, the Kremlin is preparing to meet an opponent, commensurate with China or NATO.