Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
1 June 2015, 8 PM Kyiv time
- Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that at Shyrokyne (near Mariupol), Kremlin-backed terrorists shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars and artillery. Towards Donetsk, Kremlin-backed terrorists carried out a series of intense mortar and artillery shelling of Ukrainian positions at Pisky and Opytne. South of Donetsk, two battles with Kremlin-backed terrorists took place at Slavne and Mykolaivka. Towards Luhansk, Kremlin-backed terrorists fired on Ukrainian positions at Shchastya and Zolote. The RNBO reported that on 31 May, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and four were wounded.
- Former President of Georgia appointed Governor of Odesa Oblast
On 30 May, Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko appointed M. Saakashvili, former President of Georgia, the Head of the Odesa Oblast State Administration (Governor). President Poroshenko stated that during Saakashvili’s presidency, Georgia became more transparent, effective, and as a result of anti-corruption reforms – more attractive to foreign investment. Poroshenko thanked outgoing Governor I. Palytsia for his role in stabilizing the situation in Odesa oblast.
- IMF concludes mission to Ukraine
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to Ukraine on the first review under the Extended Fund Facility was held 12-29 May. N. Gueorguiev, mission chief for Ukraine, stated, “Understandings were reached on most issues, and discussions will continue in the comings days to finalize a staff-level agreement than can be taken for approval to the IMF management and the Executive Board. The authorities’ commitment to the reform program remains strong. All performance criteria for end-March were met and all structural benchmarks due in the Spring are on course to be met, albeit some with a delay. This good program implementation has been achieved notwithstanding an exceptionally difficult environment, in part related to the unresolved conflict in the East, which took a heavier than expected toll on the economy in the first quarter of 2015. Accordingly, the mission has revised down growth projections for 2015 to -9 percent and projects end-year inflation at 46 percent. […] In recent months, signs that economic stability is gradually taking hold are steadily emerging. The foreign exchange market has remained broadly stable. Gross international reserves, although still very low, have increased to US$9.6 billion at end-April. Banks’ deposits in domestic currency have been recovering. The budget outturn in the first months of 2015 was stronger than expected, partly due to temporary factors.[…] The authorities are also determined to complete the ongoing debt operation in line with program objectives.”
- Ukraine Ministry of Finance: Talks on restructuring Ukraine’s debt “accelerating”
On 29 May, Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance stated that the Ministry “is pleased that engagement between both parties on restructuring Ukraine’s sovereign debt is accelerating. Next week will see intensified talks take place between advisors in London with a follow up call with the principals to assess progress onFriday 5 June.”
- Bellingcat report: Russian Ministry of Defense doctored satellite photos to fabricate MH-17 claims
A team of investigators from the British group Bellingcat published an independent report Forensic Analysis of Satellite Images Released by the Russian Ministry of Defense, analyzing photos released by Russia’s Ministry of Defense following the downing of Flight MH-17 on 17 July, 2014. The report concludes, “The Russian MoD stated at the press conference that the satellite photos show the activities of Ukraine’s air defenses on the day that MH17 was shot down. In particular, Picture 5 purported to show the presence of two Ukrainian Buk missile launchers south of the village Zaroschinskoe that were within firing range of MH17. And Picture 4, according to the MoD, revealed the absence of a Buk missile launcher at military unit A-1428, north of Donetsk. Our forensic analysis of all three images clearly and unequivocally shows that these images have been altered. In each of the pictures, significant image content has been digitally modified with a high level of probability. Pictures 4 and 5 were shown to have been digitally modified using Adobe Photoshop CS5 software. In addition, all three satellite images were shown to have been photographed before 17 July 2014. The MoD’s Picture 4 was taken sometime between 1 June 2014 and 18 June 2014, and the MoD’s Picture 5 and Picture 5-analytics were taken prior to 15 July 2014. That the MoD inadvertently ascribed incorrect dates to the photographs it released can be excluded. On 21 July 2014, the Russian Ministry of Defense presented digitally modified and falsely dated satellite images to the international public in order to implicate the Ukrainian army in the downing of MH17. Later, on 1 August 2014, the MoD again published digitally altered and falsely dated satellite imagery with the release of Picture 5-analytics.” The report is available athttps://www.bellingcat.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Forensic_analysis_of_satellite_images_EN.pdf
- US Senator: Time for US, NATO to stand up and help Ukraine
In a 31 May article, US Senator R. Portman (R-OH) wrote, “The United States and NATO must do more to strengthen Ukrainian military capabilities. In the short-term, Ukraine needs anti-tank weapons, secure communications, night vision and thermal optics, UAVs, and air defense systems. Equally important is effective monitoring of U.S. assistance to ensure it reaches the front-line troops. […] Congress has voted repeatedly to increase military assistance to Ukraine, most notably through the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which was signed by President Obama. However, the president hasn’t used the authorities granted to him by this legislation. The debate in Congress is over. We are simply waiting for President Obama to demonstrate leadership. […] Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and recent winter offensive all happened despite Western attempts to force a negotiated settlement. Each temporary cease-fire has merely legitimized Putin’s actions by essentially accepting Russia’s gains on the ground. Russian aggression in Ukraine won’t go away or resolve itself simply because we wish it to be so. […] Confidence in America and our European allies’ commitment to uphold these norms deters bad actors and incentivizes other countries to play by the rules. If our credibility is in doubt, the chance for violence and instability increases. Nearly every Ukrainian official I met with understood this. It’s time the White House did as well.”