Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
16 January 2015, 9 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The press-center of the anti-terrorism operation (ATO) reported at 6 PM Kyiv time that intense battles at the Donetsk airport are continuing. At 5:15 PM Kyiv time Kremlin-backed terrorists shelled Ukrainian positions at the airport with Grads (truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers) and mortars. Ukrainian forces continue to control the airport. Between 6 AM and 6 PM Kyiv time Kremlin-backed terrorists fired on Ukrainian positions 37 times, and shelled Pisky, Opytne and Tonenke, near the Donetsk airport. Kremlin-backed terrorists also shelled Shchastya, Troyikhizbenka and Krymske in Luhansk oblast. The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) stated at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that outside Horlivka, Donetsk oblast, a 3-km long column of Kremlin-backed terrorist tanks was identified. The RNBO reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, 6 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 18 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded. At a meeting with the heads of parliamentary factions, Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko stated that additional trained units are being sent to the most dangerous conflict areas.
2. Parliament votes to include removal of parliamentary immunity onto parliamentary agenda
Ukraine’s Parliament voted to include into the parliamentary agenda a draft law on changes to the Constitution of Ukraine (regarding the immunity of members of parliament and judges). The draft law removes immunity from prosecution from MPs and judges. 297 MPs voted for. Amending the Constitution requires the support of 2/3 of parliament.
3. Ukrainian President speaks with German Chancellor – agrees on need to hold session of Trilateral Contact Group
Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko spoke with German Chancellor A. Merkel. According to Poroshenko’s press service, the two leaders agreed on the need to urgently hold a session of the Trilateral Contact Group and a meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers” of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia “in order to continue negotiations at the highest levels.”
4. Ukrainian PM: Ukraine has frozen 1.3 Billion USD in assets of former regime
Speaking in Parliament, Ukrainian PM A. Yatsenyuk stated that the Ukrainian government has arrested 1.3 billion USD in assets of the former regime. “And due to the law approved yesterday on proceedings in absentia we are following the path of arrests of additional assets in possession of the former regime,” Yatsenyuk said.
5. US General: Russia working to develop capability to threaten several neighbors at once
Reuters reported that US Lieutenant General B. Hodges, commander of US Army forces in Europe, stated that “Right now, without mobilizing, I don’t think they [Russia] have the capacity to do three major things at one time. They can do one thing, I think, in a big way without mobilizing. But in four to five years, I think that will change. Certainly within the next four to five years they will have the ability to conduct operations in eastern Ukraine and pressure the Baltics and pressure Georgia and do other things, without having to do a full mobilization. […] I think their focus is on Ukraine. I do think some of the other countries that are around the perimeter of Russia are watching that and they are thinking they have got two or three years to get ready before they may become the target.”
6. US Mission to OSCE: Russia must withdraw all weapons and fighters
Speaking at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, US Representative to the OSCE D. Baer stated, “Unfortunately, we have yet to see any evidence that the Russian Federation or the separatists that it supports have decided to use the new year to work toward peace. Rather, we have seen a significant and worrying increase in violence. […] These events confirm what we have seen since January 3 – an increased push by Russia and the separatists it supports to not only consolidate the territory it currently controls, but to push far past the ceasefire line agreed to on September 19. […] We again call on Russia to finally take steps now to implement the Minsk agreements in letter and spirit and not attempt to renegotiate what was agreed on September 5 and 19. Russia must end its support for violence in eastern Ukraine and withdraw all Russian weapons and fighters. Russia must use its influence on the separatists to release all hostages and it must release the hostages that it is holding inside of Russia, including Nadiya Savchenko and Oleg Sentsov. If Russia is interested in peace, why is it holding Ukrainian hostages within its borders?”