Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
31 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, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one was wounded. The press-center of the anti-terrorism operation (ATO) reported at 7 PM Kyiv time that from midnight to 6 PM Kyiv time, Kremlin-backed terrorists violated the terms of the ceasefire 26 times. Kremlin-backed terrorists shelled Avdiyivka with tanks and 122-mm artillery. Towards Mariupol, Kremlin-backed terrorists shelled a Ukrainian positions at Pionerske with 120-mm mortars and shelled Shyrokyne with mortars and 122-mm artillery. At 4:30 PM Kyiv time Kremlin-backed terrorists began an attack on Ukrainian forces at Shyrokyne.
2. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Clark: Ukraine needs immediate military assistance in 7 critical areas
On 30 March, US General (ret’d) W. Clark, Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, who recently returned from Ukraine where he met with Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko and Ukrainian military leaders held a briefing at the Atlantic Council and issued a report on his findings. Clark’s report states that “According to estimates, some nine thousand Russian Federation personnel and thirty to thirty-five thousand separatist fighters are in eastern Ukraine. These forces include some four hundred tanks and seven hundred pieces of artillery, including rocket launchers. Another approximately fifty thousand Russian military personnel are located along or near Russia’s border with Ukraine. A further fifty thousand Russian personnel are located in Crimea. Russian forces use very advanced weapons systems—tanks, artillery and mortars, air defense systems, helicopters, secure communications, electronic countermeasures, communications intelligence, imagery systems, satellite-borne systems, and other tactical and operational capabilities. […]Ukrainian forces expect attack within the next sixty days. This assessment is based on geographic imperatives, the ongoing pattern of Russian activity, and an analysis of Russian actions, statements, and Putin’s psychology to date. […] By itself, Ukraine will not be able to stop the aggression. Ukraine needs immediate military assistance in seven critical areas: 1) strategic imagery and other electronic/communications intelligence detailed and timely enough to be able to provide warning of an impending attack; 2) long-range, mobile anti-armor systems, as well as the shorter ranger Javelin system, both equipped with thermal imagery; 3) secure tactical communications down to vehicle level; 4) long-range, modern counter battery radars able to detect firing positions for long range rockets; 5) sniper rifles with thermal or night vision sights for counter sniper teams; 6) modern intelligence collection and EW systems effective against Russian digital communications; and 7) whatever counter UAV systems can be made available on a near-term basis. The urgency here is driven by the pending Russian spring offensive.” Clark’s report can be found at http://www.atlanticcouncil.
3. KHPG: Crimean Tatar media likely to be silenced by Russia in Crimea on 1 April
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported that “With less than one day remaining before TV channel ATR and other Crimean Tatar media are likely to be silenced in Russian-occupied Crimea, two Crimean Tatar leaders have been warned of the consequences of ‘unauthorized’ demonstrations in defence of the channel.” Nariman Dzhelyal, First Deputy Head of the Mejlis (Representative Assembly of the Crimean Tatar People) and Deputy Head Ilmi Umerov were visited by Russian occupying authorities who read them a warning “against any organization or participation in unauthorized protests linked with the possible silencing the TV channel ATR.” KHPG stated,“It is unfortunately very likely that this will be the last day that this unique Crimean Tatar television channel – the only such channel in the world, and one of immense significance for Crimean Tatars – will be able to broadcast while Crimea is under Russian occupation. All Crimean media must have re-registered according to Russian legislation before April 1. They will be in breach of the law after that and would face immediate fines, confiscation of property, and likely criminal charges against the management and journalists. As feared, this requirement has been used as a means of silencing the last remaining independent media in Crimea. […] Since most Ukrainian media were cut off and are now blocked in Crimea, it is quite clear that it is freedom of speech and independent views that the Russian occupation regime will not tolerate.”
4. NATO Secretary General: Every sovereign nation has right to decide its own path
On 30 March at the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Subcommittee on Security and Defence, NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg stated, “On the open door in Ukraine [..] it is the right of every sovereign nation to decide its own path including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. […] And it’s quite obvious that part of being independent, part of being sovereign is also that you have the right to decide whether you would like to be part of an alliance or not, and we have to respect both decisions. We should never try to force anyone into any kind of alliance or organizations, but if they want then this is a question between that applicant nation, and the organization. So if anyone wants to become a member of NATO, that’s a question which has to be decided by the 28 NATO allies and the country that applies for membership. No one else has any right to intervene or to try to veto, and that also of course goes for Russia.”
5. BBC Interview: “How Ukraine rebels rely on Russians”
The BBC’s Olga Ivhsina obtained an interview with Russian special forces soldier Dmitry Sapozhnikov, who joined the Donetsk “Peoples’ Republic” forces in October 2014, and was wounded at Debalsteve in late February 2015. Sapozhnikov stated “all operations, especially large-scale ones, are led by Russian officers, by Russian generals. They develop plans together with our commanders. And then we fulfill the orders.” Saposhnikov was fighting at Debaltseve in February, 2015. The BBC states, “On 9 February his unit managed to take control of a main road, cutting Ukrainian forces off from their hinterland. The rebels were unable to hold the road for long, Dmitry explained. ‘But then Russian tanks arrived. This was a tank unit from Buryatia [a region in far-off Siberia]. Thanks to their help and their armour we managed to take Debaltseve.’ […]Russian regular units have been crucial at difficult moments for the rebels, when operations required disciplined and well-trained troops, Dmitry explained.”