Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing
17 August 2016, 7 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported that yesterday towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions north of Popasne with artillery. Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions at Stanytsia Luhanska. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled several Ukrainian positions along the Donetsk sector of the front with mortars. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Maryinka, Rybynske, Chermalyk and Novoselivka with artillery. At Krasnohorivka, Slavne, Lebedynske and Shyrokyne, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. In total, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions 52 times yesterday – 23 times with heavy weapons. The RNBO reported that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed, and eight Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action.
2. European Council President: Russian version of events unreliable
European Council President D. Tusk spoke with Ukraine’s President P. Poroshenko. Following the conversation, Tusk stated on twitter, “Spoke to President Poroshenko. We have a similar assessment of the situation in Crimea and Donbas. Russian version of events unreliable.” During the conversation with Tusk, Poroshenko emphasized, “After the recent events in Crimea, there should not be any illusions about Russia’s intentions. Maintenance and strengthening of sanctions is an effective instrument of influence,” Poroshenko’s press service reported.
3. US Ambassador to OSCE: Russian fighters, funds, weapons, equipment keep conflict burning
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, US Ambassador to the OSCE D. Baer stated, “For the third year in a row, August is proving a particularly deadly month in eastern Ukraine. Russian fighters, funds, weapons and equipment have kept the conflict burning-a conflict that has devastated buildings, roads and public works, led to massive population displacement and widespread human-rights abuses, and claimed the lives of nearly 10,000 people, with tens of thousands more injured. New Russian military equipment has been spotted in recent weeks, and Ukrainian soldiers have now become accustomed to being on the receiving end of coordinated Russian and separatist artillery strikes, often fired from residential areas […] The latest effort is to secure disengagement-essentially a pullback of soldiers and weapons-in several hot spots along the line of contact. […] But cease-fire and weapons pullbacks need verification to build confidence. If they are to stick and be sustainable, actors on the ground need to know they are working. Which is why it’s especially worrying that the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is being blocked, threatened, shot at and harassed by Russian-separatist forces. […] Combined Russian-separatist forces have consistently used obstruction, threats and violence to stop the OSCE monitors from seeing what they don’t want them to see. […]Moscow’s failure to support unfettered and safe access for the OSCE while pouring sophisticated weapons and ammunition and other supplies into eastern Ukraine calls into question the sincerity of Moscow’s claims to support a cease-fire. […]The conflict in eastern Ukraine remains a chosen tragedy: an unnecessary war with horrific human costs inflicted by Russian intervention. The road map to end this tragedy-the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements-starts with a complete, sustainable cease-fire, followed by additional security and political steps. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission can do its job only if it has safe, unfettered access on the ground.” The full article is available athttp://www.wsj.com/articles/
4. NATO Deputy Secretary General: For the first time since 1945, a European power has sought to change international borders by force
In an oped published 16 August, NATO Deputy Secretary General A. Vershbow stated, “In close to forty years working on relations between Russia and the West – including as U.S. Ambassador to Moscow and as Deputy Secretary General of NATO – I’ve witnessed some tense times. But it’s hard to think of a period, at least since the end of the Cold War, when relations have been as strained as they are today. The fact is that Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and its ongoing support of separatists in eastern Ukraine have rocked the European security order we have all taken for granted for so long. For the first time since 1945, a European power has sought to change international borders by force. […] NATO’s response has been robust and transparent. At the recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, the Alliance announced the deployment, by rotation, of four multinational battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, totalling several thousand troops. This is a clear demonstration of Allied solidarity and determination to defend NATO territory against any possible aggression. Despite claims by the Kremlin, these steps are a proportionate, sober and measured response to Russia’s actions. […]NATO exists to keep the almost one billion citizens of the Alliance safe. It has done this for almost seventy years by acting in a defensive, proportionate and wholly responsible way. This is, and always will be, how NATO conducts itself. At the same time, Russia is NATO’s biggest neighbour and, historically, a country with which we have cooperated widely. The NATO-Russia Founding Act, agreed in more optimistic times, spoke of a ‘shared commitment to build a stable, peaceful and undivided Europe, whole and free, to the benefit of all its peoples.’ That is still NATO’s goal. But, for that to be possible, Russia’s behaviour must change – in Ukraine and beyond.” The full article is available at http://nato.int/cps/en/natohq/