Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
February 9-15, 2019
Ukraine’s SpecOps join 16 nations at Combined Resolve XI. Photo – 1LT Benjamin Haulenbeek
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that during the week of February 8-14, one Ukrainian service member was killed in action and 11 service members were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 67 times including 20 times using heavy weapons on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front which marks the 10% increase compared to the previous week. Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation headquarters reported that returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 5 and wounded at least 5 enemy troops in the last week.
2. Swedish Defense Ministry: Russia Prepares its Armed Forces for War
|Photo – foi.se|
The Swedish Ministry of Defense has released a report “Preparing for a War – Russia’s Military Training at the Strategic Level of 2009-2017”. 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.
3. Globe & Mail: Bill Browder hoped Ottawa would lead on sanctions. He’s now disappointed
|Bill Browder. Photo – Reuters_Yuri Gripas|
Doug Sanders of Globe and Mail has published an opinion piece based on a recent interview with Bill Browder, expressing concern on Canada’s implementation of human rights sanctions.
“Canada, which most people consider to be sort of the moral leader in the world, right now is actually behind the Trump administration, as far as the Magnitsky Act goes.” said Browder
According to Mr. Browder, Canada is missing an opportunity to be a leader in this field. While being initially impressed with Canada, when Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, (subtitled the Sergei Magnitsky Law) which was passed unanimously in the House of Commons and subsequent adoption of the list of officials to be sanctioned, Mr. Browder now expresses serious concern on Canada’s approach.
“Every time that we have tried to engage with the government, it seems that there is a bit of chaos over there – it’s not even clear what the process is for getting people added to the list,” he said. “I would argue that the implementation of the Magnitsky Act in Canada has been disappointing,” Browder noted.
4. UN Security Council Holds the Meeting on Ukraine
|Photo – news.un.org|
On February 12, the UN Security Council held a meeting about the situation on Ukraine. One of the highlights include the statement by Ambassador Jonathan Allen, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, who boldly addressed the Russian Ambassador asking to explain Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine. He emphasized that Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine was not limited to the Donbas and Crimea but that Russia was trying to undermine Ukraine at every opportunity including the agreement on ceasefire; supplying weapons and personnel to eastern Ukraine, calling illegitimate elections, etc. He spoke of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) being unable to carry out its mandate because of Russia’s repeated refusal to support the SMM, of the deployment of Russian electronic jamming system ‘ZHITEL’ in the Donbas, of the downing of SMM UAV near Ukraine-Russia border.
Ambassador Allen reminded everyone of the upcoming fifth anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea and how the Security Council on the 15th March 2014 voted on a draft resolution that reaffirmed the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine and how on 27th March 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 68262 supported by one hundred member states which affirmed the General Assembly’s commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and underscored the invalidity of the referendum. After mentioning the human rights violations by the Russian government in Crimea and the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels injuring three Ukrainian servicemen he called for Russia to release all political prisoners and allow urgent, unrestricted access for human rights monitoring organizations immediately. In the end he reiterated the United Kingdom’s full support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed readiness to hear what Russia was doing to meet its obligations and bring an end to the suffering of the people of Ukraine.
During the same meeting Miroslav Jenca, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas for the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations told the Council that “negotiations appear to have lost momentum, … The conflict in Ukraine is first and foremost tragically affecting the Ukrainian people” he said, but it also “continues to test the credibility of international and regional organizations”.
The five current European Union members on the Security Council issued a joint statement accusing Russia of continuing to fuel the conflict. “We call on Russia to immediately stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support to armed foundations,” the statement said.
5. U.S. Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Russia Accountable
On February 13, 2019, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has introduced the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019. Reportedly, the comprehensive legislation authored by the U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) “seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. […]
This legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the U.S. government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the U.S. out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”
The sanctions and measures proposed in DASKA expand the previous set of sanctions and include two new elements: sanctions in response to Kremlin interference in democratic institutions abroad [aimed at banks, LNG projects, cyber sector, sovereign debt, political figures, oligarchs, etc.], and sanctions in response to Kremlin aggression in Ukraine [aimed at 24 FSB agents, shipbuilding sector, crude oil operations, Russian state-owned energy projects abroad]. Interestingly, the bill includes some key provisions in support of NATO, establishing Office of Cyberspace and Digital Economy within the Department of State as well as number of reports including the one on the net worth and assets of Vladimir Putin, on the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, etc.
“With this bill, Congress is demonstrating firm bipartisan resolve against Kremlin’s mendacity and I hope it will move quickly to be signed into law,” concluded Sen. Gardner
6. Canadian Election Observers Arrive in Ukraine
On February 15, 2019, CANADEM has officially launched Mission Canada 2019 to observe the Presidential election in Ukraine, scheduled for March 31, 2019. The election observation mission will observe all aspects of the presidential electoral process, and assess compliance with international standards for democratic elections and domestic laws.
“We are very pleased to be here to observe Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election,” – stated the Deputy Head of Mission, Olya Odynska-Grod. “Mission Canada is neutral and impartial in its assessment and we hope that our mission will contribute to Ukraine’s democratic process.”
A group of 50 Long-term Observers (LTOs) arrived in Ukraine at the beginning of February, 2019. Approximately 100 Short-Term Observers (STOs) are expected to arrive in Ukraine one week before Election Day to reinforce the work of the LTOs in the field.
The OSCE monitoring missions that are widely considered the gold standard in international election monitoring will be crucial to preserving Ukraine’s ability to conduct a democratically sound election in the face of Russian efforts designed to portray the country as poorly run and corrupt.
Election analysts and observers will assess the electoral campaign, voting and counting procedures, compilation of results and post-election activities, including complaints and appeals procedures. They will also evaluate the general political context, the work of the election administration, the media environment and the role of civil society, as well as the participation of women, internally displaced persons and minorities in the electoral process.
“Election observation is one of most transparent and accountable ways to support democracy,” Adam Austen, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, responded to media in an email. “That is why Canada is proud to support Ukraine’s upcoming elections through a range of actions, including a bilateral election observation mission and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission.”
Ukraine is hosting 100 long-term and 750 short-term observers from 13 countries serving on the OSCE mission. Interestingly, two proposed Russian observers were rejected by Ukraine and Moscow withdrew their request to serve on the mission, said Thomas Rymer, spokesman for the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
7. Globe& Mail profile: 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.”
8. Ukraine Maps Out $60 billion Infrastructure Plan to 2030
|Photo – atenecom.eu|
Ukraine and the EU have agreed on the ‘Drive Ukraine 2030 Strategy’ which is the part of the much larger trans-European transport network TEN-T plan. The strategy includes the implementation of 39 Ukrainian projects that are aimed at building, upgrading, modernizing and repairing the country’s transport infrastructure so that it would become an organic part of the European transport network in the future.
The strategy, dubbed “Drive Ukraine 2030,” envisions a budget of $60 billion – half of the nation’s annual gross domestic product – to be invested in a range of national projects in the next decade.
The ambitious objectives include breaking ground on the Go Highway corridor – 1,746 kilometers highway network stretching from Gdansk, Poland to Odesa in Ukraine linking the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, opening Ukrainian railroad system to private companies in 2019, [even though the rail network itself will remain state-owned], establishing high-speed international train services between Ukraine and Europe, increasing cargo handling capacity of Ukrainian airports and building several new regional ones, renovating docks in Ukrainian see ports, etc.
TEN-T consists of hundreds of projects which are to ensure the cohesion, interconnection and inter-operability of the trans-European transport network, as well as access to it. The European Commission and the World Bank have set in motion the new Indicative Investment Action Plan for the Trans-European Transport Network, in order to integrate EU transport networks with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. So far they have allocated investments of almost EUR 13 billion [CAD 19.5 billion], through 2030.