Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
5 March 2015, 8 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and one was wounded. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine stated at 9:40 AM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, Kremlin-backed terrorists fired on Ukrainian positions 40 times (17 times with artillery, mortars and grenade launchers and 23 times with small arms). Ukrainian forces continued the withdrawal of heavy weapons away from the line of contact, as per the Minsk agreements.
2. President proclaims 5 March Day of Mourning for victims of mine explosion in Donetsk
Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko issued a decree proclaiming 5 March a Day of Mourning for the victims of the methane gas explosion at the Zasaydko Mine in Donetsk. On 4 March at 9 PM Kyiv time the Donetsk oblast State Administration stated that 33 miners died as a result of the accident.
3. Parliament passes legislation increasing size of Ukrainian military
Ukraine’s Parliament passed a law submitted by the President, increasing the size of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to up to 250,000, including 204,000 soldiers. 270 of 314 present MPs supported the legislation.
4. Savchenko partially halts hunger strike
Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyer confirmed that she has partially halted her hunger strike, which was in its 83rd day. Savchenko, a Ukrainian air force pilot, who was serving in eastern Ukraine, was abducted by Kremlin-backed terrorists in mid-June and taken to Russia, where she has been illegally detained and imprisoned since that time. She was elected an MP of Ukraine’s parliament in October and appointed a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in January. In a handwritten letter posted on the website of the Batkivshchyna party, Savchenko wrote that she will drink bouillon, and thanked her supporters. On 2 March, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a resolution asking Savchenko to stop her hunger strike.
5. Freedom House, Atlantic Council issue report on Human Rights Abuses in Russian-Occupied Crimea
On 4 March, Freedom House and the Atlantic Council published a report, “Human Rights Abuses in Russian-Occupied Crimea.” The report states, “Since the onset of Russian occupation, Crimea’s residents have faced increasingly grave civic, political, and human rights violations. These include discriminatory policies against Crimea’s ethnic Tatar minority, infringement of property rights, and intimidation of independent voices through selective use of the law and physical force. The Kremlin has sought to suppress reporting of many such abuses by creating a so-called ‘information ghetto’ on the peninsula through a crackdown on local and foreign media. […] The Crimean Tatars, estimated at three hundred thousand, have endured especially harsh treatment since the annexation. For their refusal to recognize the authority of the de facto government, Tatar leaders have been exiled or banned from public life, their public commemorations prohibited, and their media muzzled. Activists and journalists who simply speak up for human rights have been subjected to torture, intimidated into emigration, and have had their property illegally confiscated. Some have gone missing, with authorities offering little to no evidence that they are investigating the disappearances. Today, holding a Ukrainian passport as a Crimean resident is tantamount to treason. Crimean residents who hold Ukrainian passports are de facto disenfranchised from exercising their political and civic rights. They are blocked from accessing social services, including public healthcare, owning property, or finding legal employment.” The full report is available at https://freedomhouse.org/
6. G7 Finance Ministers welcome Ukraine’s revised draft budget and economic reforms
On 4 March, the Finance Ministers of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, USA) and the Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs of the EU stated that they “welcome that the Ukrainian government has taken speedy and decisive action to bring to its Parliament both a revised draft budget and a comprehensive package of economic reforms. This legislative action underscores Ukraine’s strong determination to implement an ambitious reform agenda in line with the recent agreement in principle reached on the 12th of February by the IMF and the government of Ukraine. […]The G7 look forward to a positive consideration of the Ukrainian program by the IMF Executive Board in the coming days. The program will provide front loaded additional financing to swiftly help Ukraine with the ongoing ambitious economic reform process. This program is also backed by substantial financial assistance from G-7 and other partners, and it will catalyze support from the multilateral development banks. In our view Ukraine’s economic reform agenda includes all the necessary elements to support immediate economic stabilization in Ukraine as well as a set of bold policy reforms aimed at restoring robust growth over the medium term and improving the living standards of the Ukrainian people. We are confident that Ukraine will successfully implement its ambitious reform agenda.”
7. Former Finance Minister of Ukraine arrested in Spain
Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed on 4 March that Y. Kolobov, former finance minister of Ukraine, was arrested in Spain. Interpol issued a Red Notice for Kolobov in January. Kolobov is wanted in Ukraine on suspicion of embezzlement or misappropriation of property on a particularly large scale.
8. NATO Deputy Secretary General: Russian leaders are less and less able to conceal fact that Russian soldiers are fighting and dying in large numbers in Eastern Ukraine
In a speech at the Interparliamentary Conference on the Common Foreign and Security Policy/Common Security and Defense Policy of the EU in Riga, Latvia, NATO Deputy Secretary General A. Vershbow stated, “Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine reflect an evolving pattern of behaviour that has been emerging for several years – from Moldova, through Georgia. And it is justified by a false narrative alleging that Russia has been humiliated and encircled by the West ever since the end of the Cold War. This is a myth. The reality is that for over twenty years, NATO has tried to engage Russia, not to isolate it. We have also seen emerging a new form of ‘hybrid warfare,’ combining military intimidation, disguised intervention, the covert supply of weapons and weapon systems, economic blackmail, diplomatic duplicity and media manipulation, with outright disinformation. The terrain is not just the field of geopolitics, but Russian domestic politics as well. President Putin’s aim seems to be to turn Ukraine into a failed state and to suppress and discredit alternative voices in Russia, so as to prevent a Russian ‘Maidan’. We’ve seen that the victims are not just in Eastern Ukraine, with the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov last Friday. While we don’t know who pulled the trigger, we do know that Boris Nemtsov was a powerful voice for democracy and against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine who was among those vilified as ‘traitors’ and ‘fifth columnists’ in Russia’s official propaganda. […] Even before this tragic event, there was mounting evidence that the Russian incursion into Ukraine is becoming much less popular among the Russian public – especially as Russian leaders are less and less able to conceal the fact that Russian soldiers are fighting – and dying – in large numbers in Eastern Ukraine.”
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