In view of the upcoming presidential elections the Ukrainian Canadian Congress continues to offer weekly updates on the presidential race in Ukraine.
Screenshot from RFLRE websit
This week’s top three running candidates are the same as last week – the current President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelensky.
Below please find the assortment of this week’s articles:
Ukraine Office: 2019 elections in Ukraine and the EU: through common challenges to common future
JMTG – Ukraine training. Photo courtesy of @Canadian Forces
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that during the week of March 15-21, four Ukrainian service members were killed in action and eight service members were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 46 times including 35 times using heavy weapons on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation headquarters reported that while returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 20 and wounded at least 17 enemy troops in the last week.
2. Canada Renews Ukraine Military Training Mission for Another 3 Years
Minister Freeland and Minister Sajjan at the press conference announcing renewal of operation UNIFIER. Photo – UCC
Ukraine can count on Canada’s continued support assured Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland during her opening statement at the press conference on March 18. Minister Freeland together with Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan announced that Canada will continue its military training mission to Ukraine also known as operation UNIFIER for another three years through March 2022.
Approximately 200 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel will continue to be deployed in Ukraine to provide higher flexibility training through Operation UNIFIER in eight locations throughout Ukraine. “Besides training efforts, Canada takes an active part in Ukraine’s military capacity building through Defence Cooperation Agreement and assists reforms in the military sector,” said Minister Sajjan.
During her speech Minister Freeland highlighted that the announcement comes at a very important time in Ukraine’s history – the fifth anniversary since Crimea’s illegal annexation by the Russian Federation.
Since the start of the mission in September 2015 more than 10,300 Security Forces of Ukraine (SFU) candidates have participated in the training provided via 230 course serials.
3. Canada to allocate over $100 million for military support to Ukraine
Photo courtesy of _Canadian Forces JMTG Operation UNIFIER
This week, the Canadian government submitted the 2019 budget to Parliament with a $105.6 million allocation for training Ukrainian military personnel and other security assistance.
“The Government remains fully committed to providing this assistance to Ukraine. To that end, Budget 2019 confirms the Government’s plan to invest up to $105.6 million over three years, starting in 2019-20, to renew Operation UNIFIER,” reads the budget.
As noted, these funds will be used to provide training for the Ukrainian military and to implement the strategic goals of reforming the Ukrainian defense sector.
The amount “includes $99.6 million over three years in incremental funding for Canada’s military contribution, and up to $6 million to support broader efforts on defence and security sector reforms in Ukraine allocated by Global Affairs Canada from existing International Assistance Envelope resources,” the document says.
Remaining a reliable partner Canada is one of the largest international supporters of the country’s efforts to defend itself and implement democratic and economic reforms,” the draft budget stresses.
As reported, Canada extended the Operation UNIFIER to train Ukrainian service members until the end of March 2022.
4. Canadian Armed Forces Transfer 56 Vehicles to Ukrainian Military Police
Canadian Forces transfer 56 vehicles to Ukrainian Military Police training program. Photo – Tyzhden.ua
On March 18 the Military Police (MP) units of Ukrainian Armed Forces received 56 vehicles from the Canadian Armed Forces as part of operation UNIFIER.
Canada has purchased 56 Ford vehicles of various modifications allowing Ukrainian counterparts to perform a wide range of tasks – from transportation of personnel to patrolling, as reported by the Military Police officer of Canadian Forces, Bernie Caron, MMM, CD. The list includes: 13 4×4 Ford Rangers; 9 Ford Transit 15-seater Minibuses; 9 Ford Transit 9-seater Minivans; 12 Ford Kugas, 1 Ford Transit Van; 12 Ford Focuses.
“This is much more than transferring cars worth $1.2 million. This is the completion of a comprehensive two-year program to fully restart the Military Police training system,” commented the Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk on his Twitter.
Notably, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced yesterday that the Government of Canada was extending Operation UNIFIER, the Canadian Armed Forces military training mission in Ukraine, for another three years until the end of March 2022.
Approximately 200 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel will continue to be deployed in Ukraine to provide higher flexibility training through Operation UNIFIER in multiple locations throughout Ukraine.
5. ReliefWeb: After Aghanistan and Syria, Ukraine is Third Globally for Overall Casualties and First in Anti-Vehicle Mine Incidents
A member of the Danish Demining Group clears an abandoned farm field near the frontline in Myrna Dolyna Ukraine. Pierre Crom_Getty Images
On March 18, ReliefWeb, humanitarian information source on global crises and disasters, reported that approximately 7,000 sq. km. in the government controlled areas (GCA) of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine are contaminated with mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs). This area is so big that if the minefield were to measure only 1 meter wide it could extend longer than Canada-US border if to exclude the border with Alaska.
There is a map that has been put together by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with humanitarian organizations showing surveyed areas where mine contamination has been confirmed. “However, vast areas of land have not yet been surveyed so it is difficult to know the full extent of mine contamination. It is also difficult to assess the scale of contamination in non-government controlled areas (NGCA) as no coordinated mine action has been taken there, whilst the situation is understood to be acute,” reads the report.
The civilian death toll because of landmines and ERWs goes beyond 1,000 people. “In 2018, 43% of civilian casualties were attributed to mine and ERW-related incidents. Mine related incidents remained the leading cause of child casualties in 2018,” reads the background note of the Protection Cluster bulletin of the UNHCR.
“Experts say it costs around €2.5 to lay a mine but around €900 to clear it. After the end of the conflict, Ukraine will need at least 15 years to clear anti-personnel, anti-tank mines, unexploded missiles and other explosive remnants of war. This is only a prediction: the security situation does not allow any of the three NGOs to operate either directly on the line of contact, nor in territories occupied by the separatists. And that’s where the situation might be worst,” wrote Natalia Liubchenkova for the Euronews in January 2019.
“We have now established that there are 200 minefields across the Luhansk and Donetsk region, and there are obviously much more than that. The security situation prevents us from accessing the densest contaminated areas along the line of contact,” noted Nick Smart, HALO Trust regional director for Europe in his interview.
According to the latest report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees “on 23 February, 2 people died and 1 was severely injured when a minivan exploded on a landmine at Olenivka checkpoint (Donetsk region). On 26 February, 3 people were wounded by a landmine when collecting firewood in the forest near Hrodivka (Donetsk region).”
6. Australia Slams Russia with Additional Sanctions, and Joins NATO and UK in Condemning Illegal Annexation of Crimea
This week was the fifth anniversary since Crimea has been invaded and illegally annexed by the Russian Federation in one of the most audacious land grabs in recent history.
The North Atlantic Council of NATO has issued a statement in which it called on the Russian Federation to return Crimea to Ukraine, stop all violations and abuses, free Ukrainian political prisoners and hostages including the 24 newly illegally detained Ukrainian sailors (who were recognized as prisoners of war by the UN), and give international organizations access to Crimea.
The British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt urged Russia to put an end to illegal control over Crimean Peninsula and attempts to redraw European borders saying that the UK will never recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Minister Hunt reminded that it was Russia who initiated a conflict in eastern Ukraine and then provided weapons and personnel to keep it going, who illegally built a bridge between Russia and Crimea, monopolized the Kerch Strait and continues to violate human rights.
“We join NATO and the EU in condemning Russia’s unjustified use of force on Ukrainian vessels in November last year. The UK, along with our EU and G7 partners, remains unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Crimea is Ukraine,” concluded the statement
Australia released a statement condemning the Russian aggression, announced additional sanctions and called on Russia to release the detained Ukrainian sailors and seized vessels without delay.
“Today I announce targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against seven Russian individuals for their role in the interception and seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels that were attempting to pass through the Kerch Strait,” noted Minister Payne. She also called on the Russian Federation to allow free passage of Ukrainian and international ships through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.
7. Ukraine Imposes Sanctions on Russians Over Kerch Bridge, Seizure of Naval Vessels
On March 20 Ukraine has imposed economic and other sanctions against 294 legal entities and 848 individuals for their involvement in the illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. Some of the sanctions target people and entities associated with the construction of the Kerch Strait bridge between Ukraine’s annexed Crimea and Russia. Others are applied against people and entities who played a role in the detention in November 2018 of two Ukrainian naval vessels and their 24 crew members by Russia near the Kerch Strait.
Notably, the 24 Ukrainian sailors are still being held by Moscow despite the fact that the OHCHR clearly stated that 24 detained crew members may be considered prisoners of war protected by the Third Geneva Convention.
The list also contains people and entities who helped organize and held unauthorized and unrecognized “elections” within the temporarily occupied territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine in November 2018. The rest of the people on the list have been accused of “violating Ukrainian travel legislation by visiting Crimea or of playing a role in the relocation or use of museum collections belonging to Ukraine. The full list of the persons and entities [in Ukrainian] may be found here
8. Russian Court Sentences Ukrainian Political Prisoner Pavlo Hryb To Six Years In Prison
Pavlo Hryb. Photo – UNIAN
On March 22, Pavlo Hryb, 20-year-old Ukrainian citizen, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian court. To protest the ruling and the fact that he was denied medical treatment or visits from Ukrainian Ombudswoman [Denisova] while in custody Pavlo announced a hunger strike after the verdict was announced.
Hryb went missing in August 2017 after traveling to Belarus to meet a woman he met online. Later, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) informed that Hryb was held in a detention center in Russia, as reported by the Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
Hryb’s relatives argue that the case against Pavlo is a fabrication and retaliation for his Internet posts that were openly critical of Russia’s interference in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry protested the ruling and demanded an immediate reversal of the unlawful sentence, medical support, release and unimpeded return to Ukraine.
According to Pavlo’s doctor and relatives in Ukraine he suffers from portal hypertension, a kind of high blood pressure. Denisova said in January that Hryb’s medical condition had worsened in Russian custody and that he needed heart surgery.
9. Global News: UCC Executive Director Ihor Michalchyshyn Speaks on Ukraine election, Canada’s military assistance, Russian invasion and more
Ihor Michalchyshyn. Photo – courtesy of Global News
Canada’s recent extension of its military training mission to Ukraine, the sanctions against the Russian Federation, the call to release the political prisoners and anvavering support of Ukraine were the major topics discussed in March 22 interview with Ihor Michalchyshyn, the Executive Director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) on Global News.
“All Canadians should be proud of what Operation UNIFIER is doing in Ukraine, we’ve been there for many years, this is the second renewal of the mission,” said Michalchyshyn to Mercedes Stephenson, host of the West Block on Global News.
Russia has been using Ukraine as a testing ground both for its disinformation and military hardware, noted the UCC CEO. There are lots of signs of Russia spreading fake news and information to try and influence the upcoming Ukraine election but he is hopeful the hundreds of international monitors will uphold the integrity of the election.