Exercise Sea Breeze, multinational land, sea and air exercise, co-hosted by Ukraine and US. Photo US Navy
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that during the week of July 5-11, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and thirty-four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. In the last week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk and Luhansk sectors of the front 180 times in total, including at least 86 times with heavy weapons. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 10 and wounded 19 enemy combatants in the last week.
2. Mass arrests as Russian ‘court’ confirms horrific sentences against 4 Crimean Tatar political prisoners
Find Out How Russia Tries to Silence Crimean Tatars, report from Human Rights Watch. To view video please click on image above
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported on July 11, “In yet another eerie echo from the Soviet past, around 50 Crimean Tatar activists were detained on 11 July in Moscow. They were standing outside Russia’s Supreme Court, peacefully demonstrating their support for four Crimean Tatar political prisoners sentenced to huge terms of imprisonment, yet all were taken to police stations and are now facing administrative charges, as are seven men detained on Red Square on 10 July.
As, unfortunately, anticipated, the Supreme Court ‘judges’ refused to quash manifestly unjust sentences, and only knocked three months off both the 17-year sentence passed on Enver Mamutov and the 9-year sentences received by Rustem Abiltarov; Zevri Abseitov and Remzi Memetov. This is despite the fact that the question some of the activists were wearing on their T-shirts, reading ’17 years – for what???’ highlighted what the judges doubtless understood very well, namely the total lack of grounds for the sentences against four men who had committed no crime. […]
All four men were declared political prisoners by the Memorial Human Rights Centre back on 18 September 2018. Memorial has long pointed to the flaws in Russia’s Hizb ut-Tahrir cases, and the lack of any grounds at all for supposed ‘terrorism’ charges. In the case of all Crimean Muslims, it also notes that Russia is violating international law by prosecuting men according to Russian law on occupying territory, with the situation particularly shocking since Hizb ut-Tahrir is perfectly legal in Ukraine.
Russia is now holding 55 Ukrainian Muslims on Hizb ut-Tahrir charges. Since October 2017, it has been using such arrests as a weapon against activists and civic journalists from the Crimean Solidarity initiative. In the course of a major operation against civic activists on 27 March 2019, 24 men were taken prisoner and are now facing horrifically long sentences for their civic activism and, in many cases, for seeking to ensure that people hear about what is happening in Crimea.
A large number of the men now imprisoned were themselves active, either through Crimean Solidarity or in any ways, in supporting political prisoners. It is almost certainly the case that each of the men detained in Moscow on 10 and 11 July is aware that he could be next.”
3. Statement by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on mass detentions of Crimean Tatars in Moscow
On July 11, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine expresses its strong protest in connection with the illegal detention by the Russian security forces of 45 Crimean Tatars, who gathered today near the building of the Supreme Court of Russia in Moscow for a peaceful action to support compatriots convicted on fabricated allegations of involvement in the activities of the so-called ‘Terrorist organization.’
Together with yesterday’s dispersal of the protest of the Crimean Tatars near the Kremlin, today’s unjustified detention once again demonstrated the immutability of the Russian repressive policy towards the Crimean Tatars, aimed at crowding out the Crimean Tatar people from the temporarily occupied peninsula.
The very decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation regarding the appeal against the decision of the North Caucasus District Military Court in the “Hizb ut-Tahrir” case, which reduces multi-year jail terms of the illegally detained citizens of Ukraine by several months, is a cynical abuse of the Ukrainian political prisoners. It also reaffirms the fact that there is no fair and independent judiciary in the Russian Federation.
We call on the international community to condemn these illegal actions of the Russian Federation and to intensify political, diplomatic and sanctions pressure on the aggressor state in order to stop the violations of human rights and the persecution of the Crimean Tatar people, and demand that the Russian Federation releases immediately the illegally detained citizens of Ukraine.”
4. EU-Ukraine Summit: EU provides additional support to decentralisation, fight against corruption, empowerment of civil society and accountable and efficient governance in Ukraine
The European Union stated on July 8, “During the 21st EU-Ukraine Summit, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, signed with his Ukrainian government counterparts 4 programmes, worth €109 million from the Commission’s 2019 annual support package to Ukraine. The new EU support package will focus on decentralisation, the fight against corruption, supporting civil society and technical cooperation for the facilitation of key reforms and the implementation of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
5. President says he wants lustration to apply to post-Maidan government officials
The Office of Ukraine’s President stated on July 11, “The team of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy worked out a bill aimed at enhancing lustration. It was stated by the President in his video address on July 11.
According to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, lustration should be related to the persons holding office of President of Ukraine, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Prosecutor General, Head of the Security Service, Chairmen of the Antimonopoly Committee and the State Property Fund, Heads of the State Fiscal Service and the Customs Service, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council and heads of the defense enterprises from February 23, 2014 to May 19, 2019. Lustration should also cover people’s deputies of Ukraine and government members of this period.”
Radio Svoboda reported that should the President’s proposed bill be adopted, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO), Oleskandr Danyliuk, who was appointed by President Zelenskyy, would be subject to lustration, since he served as Minister of Finance from 2016-18.
As reported previously, Andriy Bohdan, appointed by President Zelenskyy as Head of the Office of the President, is apparently subject to the current lustration law. “Bohdan twice held the post of government representative on ‘anti-corruption policy’ under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. He was first appointed, by close Yanukovych associate Mykola Azarov shortly after the latter became Prime Minister in an extremely dubious change of government following Yanukovych’s victory. Bohdan was also appointed Deputy Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers and continued to represent the government with respect to its cosmetic anti-corruption policy until 14 February 2011. He was reappointed to the same post on 11 July 2013 and only lost it after Yanukovych, together with Azarov and others, fled to Russia at the end of the Euromaidan protests,” the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) stated on June 3. Andriy Bohdan continues to serve as Head of the Office of the President.
6. Ambassadors of G7 to Ukraine react to President Zelenskyy’s lustration bill
The Ambassadors of the G7 countries to Ukraine stated on July 12, “Electoral change and political rotation are the norm in democracy. Indiscriminate bans on all participants in executive and legislative governance are not. Since 2014, we have been appreciative of reform progress achieved in some important areas. While it is right to hold those guilty of abusing their office to account, the situation in Ukraine today is, in our conviction, not comparable to that after the Revolution of Dignity.”
7. Ukraine applies to purchase military equipment through US Foreign Military Sales program
William B. Taylor. Photo – US Embassy in Ukraine
Speaking at a press conference at Exercise Sea Breeze 2019 in Odesa on July 7, US Charge d’Affaires a.i. William B. Taylor stated, “I’m very pleased to announce today that Ukraine has requested for the first time the purchase of military equipment through a special U.S. Defense Department program, called the Foreign Military Sales program. So this is the Ukrainian government purchasing equipment – very important equipment from the United States that will have an effect on deterring Russian aggression. […] The United States stands with the people of Ukraine in support of a stable, prosperous, democratic and European, free Ukraine.”
Exercise Sea Breeze is a multinational exercise co-hosted by Ukraine and the US “designed to enhance interoperability among participating nations and strengthen regional security by focusing on a variety of security and stability scenarios in the areas of land, sea, and air.” 17 other countries, including Canada, are participating in Exercise Sea Breeze.
8. Ukraine authorities arrest man allegedly tied to shooting down MH17
Tsemakh. Photo – Kyiv Post
The Kyiv Post reported on July 7, “Ukrainian authorities arrested a militant who allegedly took part in covering up the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines passenger flight 17 (MH17) over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 that killed 298 people.
The arrested man is Volodymyr Tsemakh, 58, a Ukrainian citizen from Snizhne, a town in Donetsk Oblast close to the Russian border. The town has been controlled by the Russian-backed militants fighting against Ukraine since 2014. Tsemakh joined them in 2014.
Tsemakh disappeared from his home in Snizhne on June 27, his daughter told BBC Ukraine. It’s not clear how he was moved into the territory controlled by Ukrainian authorities, but on June 28 he was brought to Kyiv, where a court arrested him for two months. He is being accused of terrorism.
Ukrainian authorities have been refusing to comment on Tsemakh. His daughter told BBC Ukraine she thought he could have been detained in connection to the downing of MH17.
The flight MH17 was shot down by Russia-backed militants near Snizhne on July 17, 2014, on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala-Lumpur. All 298 people on board were killed. The majority of them were Dutch citizens.
The investigation of the attack is still on. The Joint Investigation Commission (JIT) led by the Netherlands Ministry of Justice, found that the plane was shot down by a missile from a Buk, a Russian service-to-air launcher system, that was brought from Russia. After the attack, the weaponry was transferred back to Russia to cover Russian involvement. Tsemakh may have helped transport the Buk launcher back to Russia.
In 2015, Tsemakh gave an interview to a local television channel where he hinted at his involvement in the coverup. The Current Time, a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, found the video after Tsemakh’s arrest.
In it, Tsemakh says that he oversaw the air defense of the region where the Malaysian flight was shot down. Tsemakh says that he helped hide something. The name of the object that he helped hide was bleeped in the video, but Tsemakh looks like he could be pronouncing ‘Buk.’ […] If found guilty for participating in a terrorist group, Tsemakh will spend between 8 and 15 years in prison.
On June 19, the Joint Investigation Commission revealed four suspects responsible for shooting down the plane. Three of them are Russian citizens fought against Ukraine in Donbas, with the fourth one being a Ukraine national fighting against Ukraine. Tsemakh wasn’t among the suspects named.”