Ukraine: Daily Briefing
June 27, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front 39 times in total, including at least 13 times with heavy weapons – mortars and artillery. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 2 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. 1000 days of Russia’s illegal imprisonment of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko
Ukrinform reported, “Today, June 27, 1,000 days have passed since the illegal detention of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, who is held in a penal colony in the Kirov region of Russia.
Ukrinform’s Paris-based correspondent Roman Sushchenko was illegally detained on September 30, 2016 in Moscow, where he arrived on a private trip. On October 7, 2016, he was charged with ‘espionage.’ […] During his detention, psychological pressure was put on Roman to confess guilt. However, he did not give up.
On June 4, 2018, the Moscow City Court sentenced Sushchenko to 12 years in a high-security penal colony. The Supreme Court of Russia upheld the verdict on September 12. On November 7, 2018, the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) informed Ukraine’s Embassy in Moscow that Sushchenko had been transferred to Penal Colony No. 11 of the FSIN directorate for the Kirov region (the town of Kirovo-Chepetsk, the village of Utrobino).
Sushchenko in the colony lives in a so-called ‘safe place,’ in a prison cell separated from other prisoners. During the seven months of his stay in the colony, his wife and daughter visited Sushchenko two times; the Ukrainian consul also came to him two times. Since the colony has a strict regime, there is a limit on parcels – one in three months.
Many high-ranking officials have called for the release of Sushchenko: representatives of the U.S. State Department, the EU, the European Parliament, the OSCE, the PACE, the UN committees, the Polish Sejm, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. At a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, the United States and the EU also called for the release of Sushchenko.
Statements in support of the Ukrainian journalist were made by such organizations as Reporters Without Borders, International Federation of Journalists, Committee to Protect Journalists, UNESCO, EANA, US Helsinki Commission, PEN International Writers’ Union. In addition, various rallies in support of Sushchenko, as well as other Ukrainian political prisoners have been held in different cities of the world.
Sushchenko was awarded with the Order for Courage of the 3rd degree. He became the laureate of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) for the protection of freedom of speech. In addition, the jury of the Sakharov Prize ‘For Journalism as a Deed’ awarded the Sakharov Order for Courage to him.
It should be noted that Roman Sushchenko is fond of drawing. During the period from 2016 to 2019, while being imprisoned in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail and colony in the Kirov region, he created more than 30 drawings.
Roman Sushchenko works with the Ukrainian National News Agency Ukrinform since 2002 and is agency’s own correspondent in France since 2010. His son, daughter, wife and elderly mother are waiting for him at home.”
3. Ukrainian reformers under fire as battle over PrivatBank heats up
Reuters reported, “The day after Ukraine elected a new president in April, former central bank chief Valeria Gontareva was summoned for questioning as a suspect in a corruption investigation. Days later, a Ukrainian journalist launched a Facebook campaign against Gontareva, accusing her of corruption. At his request, thousands of people sent emails to her new employer in London accusing her of pilfering state funds.
Gontareva, a liberal economic reformer who quit as the National Bank of Ukraine’s governor in April 2017, denies wrongdoing. She believes she is a victim of ‘political persecution’ and is afraid to set foot in Ukraine. Gontareva, 54, says she is being hounded as part of a long-running battle over her decision in December 2016 to nationalize PrivatBank, Ukraine’s biggest lender. In doing so, she took on Ihor Kolomoisky, the oligarch who was the bank’s main owner.
Gontareva says Kolomoisky’s allies have been emboldened by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s election victory on April 21 because the new president and the tycoon are business associates. The aim, she says, is to undermine her and other reformers’ credibility as Kolomoisky tries to regain control of PrivatBank.
‘This is not just a coincidence,’ Gontareva told Reuters by telephone from London, where she now works as a Senior Policy Fellow at the London School of Economics. ‘They have become more active, because they feel complete impunity, a lack of justice in the country.’ […]
Reuters has seen no evidence that Kolomoisky, or the new presidential administration, was behind the General Prosecutor’s request to question Gontareva or the Facebook campaign. Kolomoisky denies orchestrating a campaign against Gontareva. Zelenskyy has said he will not help Kolomoisky in the legal battle over PrivatBank.
How the battle unfolds could be crucial to Ukraine’s chances of continuing its recovery from the economic and political turmoil of 2014. […] The central bank said PrivatBank had been used for fraud and money-laundering. Kolomoisky has denied wrongdoing and is fighting the decision. A Kyiv court ruled on April 18 that the nationalization was illegal, and the central bank has appealed against the ruling.
The central bank says that reversing the nationalization would rock investor confidence and sour relations with the International Monetary Fund, which helps keep Ukraine’s economy on an even keel with a $3.9 billion aid-for-reforms program.
In a sign of investors’ nervousness about the April 18 court ruling, deposits worth more than $300 million were taken out of PrivatBank in the next few weeks.
As central bank chief from June 2014, Gontareva closed dozens of banks in a clean-up of the banking system, accusing some of being money-laundering vehicles or personal piggy banks for oligarchs.
Her reforms were praised by the IMF but made her unpopular with some Ukrainian lawmakers and business leaders. Opponents once left a coffin with a cutout of her face at the central bank’s entrance. […]
Alexander Dubinsky, who launched the Facebook campaign, says that under Gontareva, the central bank and Ukraine’s economy suffered ‘enormous damage.’ […] Dubinsky works for the 1+1 television channel, which is owned by Kolomoisky, but he denies the oligarch is behind the Facebook campaign.
‘As for your question regarding my relationship with Mr Kolomoisky, there is none,’ Dubinsky told Reuters.
It is not clear whether Dubinsky has any association with Zelenskyy but he is on a list of Zelenskyy’s top 20 candidates running for parliamentary seats in an election next month. […]
Zelenskyy has said he will maintain the central bank’s independence. Artem Shevalev, a member of PrivatBank’s supervisory board, told Reuters he had seen no interference at the bank by the new presidential team.
But Shevalev said PrivatBank, the central bank and the finance ministry were under attack from ‘certain media sources’ that were ‘targeting the nationalization’ of the bank. He suggested the next stage of the legal battle over PrivatBank would show whether this campaign was proving effective. ‘We are expecting the next court rulings (on PrivatBank’s nationalization) some time in July,’ he said. ‘That is your litmus test.'”
4. Delegations of Ukraine, six other countries leave the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia stated on June 26, “The unconditional restoration of the Russian delegation’s rights without the Russian Federation honouring any of the Assembly’s numerous demands runs counter to the core values of the Council of Europe and its Statute. This step sends a very wrong signal to the country that has resorted to armed aggression, poisoning of individuals, does not observe human rights of its citizens and does not promote but seeks to destabilise democracies throughout Europe.
Today, we as the delegates of our nations have no answer to our people how exactly the Council of Europe is protecting their rights if it comes across as more interested in protecting the well-being of an aggressor than the victims of aggression and repression.
The future of the Council of Europe is under threat as a whole because the Council of Europe is losing the trust of the people it stands to protect. We return home to consult our Parliaments and Governments about the joint actions in the Assembly in the next sessions.”