Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
September 30-October 6, 2017
|CAF personnel training Ukrainian soldiers, Operation UNIFIER.
Photo – Canadian Armed Forces
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of September 29-October 5, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and ten Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 133 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 27 times with heavy weapons.
2. Canada’s House of Commons unanimously adopts Magnitsky Act
On October 4, Bill S-226 “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law)” was unanimously adopted by Canada’s House of Commons in a 277-0 vote.
The Magnitsky Law, tabled in the House by James Bezan (MP, Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman), provides “for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. It also proposes related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.” In the Senate, the bill was introduced by Senator Raynell Andreychuk. The Senate passed the bill on April 11.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland stated that the Magnitsky Act “will enable Canada to sanction, impose travel bans on and hold accountable those responsible for gross human rights violations and significant corruption. This will ensure that Canada’s foreign policy tool box is effective and fit for purpose in today’s international environment. It will also provide a valuable complement to our existing human rights and anti-corruption tools.”
3. Political prisoner Oleg Sentsov faces reprisals and transfer to notorious prison at hands of Russian authorities
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported on October 3, “Prevented by international scrutiny from using physical force against Ukrainian filmmaker and Kremlin hostage, Oleg Sentsov, Russia is resorting to other forms of reprisals. It seems likely that the long and arduous transfer to a notorious prison in Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is one such method, as is the failure to hand Sentsov the very many letters he is sent from all over the world.
Russian human rights defender Zoya Svetova has published a letter Sentsov wrote to her on September 17, from the Tyumen SIZO [remand prison]. As reported, Sentsov was first taken, without any explanation, from the Yakutia prison where he had been held, at the beginning of September. The process of transfer is always gruelling and dangerous, since family and lawyers have no information about the person’s whereabouts and cannot intervene if ill-treatment is suspected. […]
[Sentsov wrote,] ‘Nobody touches me physically, of course, but you understand very well that this system can punish in perverted fashion and torture, without using brute force. But never mind, it will all be good!’
He has long not written, he explains, because of his mood. He is not succumbing to depression or gloom, he stresses, but he is not a sociable person […] He has held on to all old letters, which he has to take with him on this cruelly arduous series of transfers. […]
The punishment for international attention and consequences is evident. After Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tried to telephone Sentsov, the latter was placed in a punishment cell. […] This is not, [Sentsov] stresses, a reason to do nothing. [Sentsov wrote,] ‘You at liberty can do whatever you consider necessary in my defence or that of other prisoners. Just be aware that local law enforcers have their own logic in their heads, and they often react like this.’
He acknowledges that the journey is threatening his health but insists that this is no reason for any public hysteria. [Sentsov wrote,] ‘I am not the only person imprisoned, there are a lot of us, and my circumstances are far from the worst.'”
4. European Parliament adopts resolution on serious violations of human rights in Russian-occupied Crimea
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on The cases of Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz, Ilmi Umerov and the journalist Mykola Semena. Members of European Parliament (MEPs) “denounce the sentences against Ilmi Umerov, Crimean Tatar Leader and Deputy Chair of Mejlis, Akhtem Chyigoz, Deputy Chair of the Mejlis, and journalist Mykola Semena.
These convictions are serious violations of their human rights and should be reversed, they urge. Mr Umerov and Mr Chyigoz should be immediately and unconditionally released while all charges against Mr Semena should be immediately and unconditionally dropped, MEPs add.
The ‘reality of repression and the application of legislation on extremism, terrorism and separatism has led to a severe deterioration in the human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula and to the widespread violation of freedom of speech and association; (…) forced imposition of Russian citizenship has become systematic and fundamental freedoms are not guaranteed’ there, say MEPs.
The ‘annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation is illegal and in violation of international law and European agreements signed by both the Russian Federation and Ukraine.'” The full resolution is available here: The cases of Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz, Ilmi Umerov and the journalist Mykola Semena
5. Ukraine’s President addresses nation following Parliament’s vote on legislation on Russia’s aggression
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko addressed the nation following the adoption by Parliament of two bills on October 6. The first of the bills defines areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast as temporarily occupied as a result of Russian aggression.
The second bill extends the legal force of the law on peculiarities of local-self government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, passed following the Minsk Agreements.
Poroshenko stated, “The events in the Verkhovna Rada today and yesterday just boggle the mind. Former partners in the democratic coalition, people who call themselves patriots and even Ukrainian nationalists disrupt voting… And for what? For the legal recognition of Russia as aggressor and its troops as occupants! […]
The issue of sovereignty, territorial integrity and defense capabilities of Ukraine should unite all political forces, bring the narrow-party interests to the background.
In the end, the majority turned out to be responsible deputies. And they provided two very important votings that defend the national interests of Ukraine and the lives of citizens.
The law on de-occupation, the law on the return of Ukrainian sovereignty to Donbas brings the legal field in line with the real state of affairs. The territories are legally proclaimed temporarily occupied by the Russian occupation troops. Ukraine qualifies Russia as country-aggressor. And we secure the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
This further strengthens the legal framework for the use of the Armed Forces, expands their capabilities in the region. This strengthens the arguments in favor of providing Ukraine with defensive weapons. While regulating in detail the military aspect of our struggle, the law proclaims a peaceful, political and diplomatic way the key one. […]
Finally, a few words about the bill, which extended the earlier law on the peculiarities of local self-government in certain areas for one year. What horrors didn’t we hear three years ago, when it was adopted for the first time? By the way, the politicians who opposed yesterday and today had voted for it then.
And not a single negative forecast came true in these three years! Now and then, the ability to enforce the law is strictly conditioned by a number of demands on Russia as an aggressor and invader and on its puppet regimes. First of all – the demand for the withdrawal of Russian troops, illegal armed groups, military equipment from the territory of Ukraine, and the regulation on the conformity of political processes to the OSCE standards.
At the same time, our reputation as a country that has a responsible attitude to the Minsk agreements makes it possible to continue sanctions against Russia, the country-violator of the agreements, whensoever. And these sanctions largely restrain the aggressor. […]
The day before yesterday I had a long conversation with Iryna Gerashchenko, my special representative in the Minsk group, just after her return from the capital of Belarus. The Russians did not conceal their hopes for the failure of the voting in the Verkhovna Rada. They particularly relied on the rejection of the bill on the continuation of the peculiarities of local self-government.
Why? Because it would let them off the leash on the touch line and help get rid of the burden of sanctions. However, a responsible majority vote will help our army continue to hold the line with a minimum of casualties, and our diplomats – intensify international pressure on Russia. I am grateful to the people’s deputies for the demonstrated responsibility.”
6. Ukraine’s Parliament adopts pension reform legislation
The Financial Times reported on October 4, “Ukraine’s parliament has adopted legislation to overhaul the country’s dysfunctional pension system, marking a big and long-delayed step towards deepening reform efforts as part of a $17.5bn International Monetary Fund assistance programme.
Speaking ahead of the vote late on Tuesday, Ukraine’s prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, urged MPs to make a ‘historic decision’ that opens the door to ‘fair pensions’ for some 9 million retirees. Seconds later, 288 MPs, notably more than the 226-majority vote required, cast votes in favour.
Drafted by Ukraine’s government and supported by the country’s western backers, the new law is designed to boost contribution compliance by current workers and gradually increase meagre monthly pensions in the $60 range. At the same time it aims to reduce a $5bn pension fund deficit and expenditures that amount to 11 per cent of gross domestic product.
The law cuts back on early retirement packages and increases the number of years workers in the country’s vast shadow economy must contribute to the pension system in order to qualify for benefits upon retirement. It also plans to increase pensions as early as this autumn, as a political carrot to current retirees. But it was not immediately clear if the big pension reform move alone would be enough to unlock a long-delayed $1.9bn tranche from the IMF.”