Ukraine: Daily Briefing
May 22, 2018, 6 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 9 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. Ukrainian forces repelled an attack by Russian-terrorist forces near Pivdenne. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions 53 times in total, including at least 21 times with heavy weapons – mortars and artillery. Russian-terrorist forces shelled civilians areas of Toretsk and Zayteve with artillery, damaging several residential buildings.
2. Crimean Tatar activists arrested in new repression campaign in Russian-occupied Crimea
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “Russia has ignored even the Holy Month of Ramadan and carried out new armed searches and arrests in occupied Crimea, with one of the targets Server Mustafaev, a highly-respected civic activist and coordinator of the Crimea Solidarity movement.
This is the latest attack on men who are actively reporting on rights violations in occupied Crimea and helping the families of political prisoners. Reports about these arrests have coincided in the Russian media with claims of a bizarre ‘plot’, involving a Ukrainian recently abducted while entering Crimea and aimed at discrediting the Mejlis, or self-governing body, of the Crimean Tatar people.
Vans with masked men turned up early in the morning of 21 May at the Bakhchysarai homes of Server Mustafaev and Edem Smailov, who is also active in Crimea Solidarity. Mustafaev’s lawyer Emil Kurbedinov was prevented from being present, which is a flagrant violation of Mustafaev’s right to defence. There were elderly people in the Mustafaev home, as well as his four small children.
It is difficult to conceive the trauma inflicted on children when men with automatic rifles burst into their homes, force their fathers to the floor and take them away. Mustafaev’s third very small son Yusuf came out on to the street where people had come to show support, saying that they’d taken his Babashka (Daddy) away. He was shaking and crying hysterically.
Smailov’s three children were reportedly blocked off by the armed officers and their mother not admitted into her own home. Smailov’s lawyer Aider Azamatov was also kept out during the search, with his demand that the investigator came out and explained the reason for this ignored. Both men were then taken away, seemingly to the FSB headquarters in Simferopol.
Mustafaev was one of the first Crimean Tatars to begin streaming the constant searches and arrests online. He and other activists immediately pass on information about searches and come to peacefully show solidarity. This is clearly not to the Russian occupation regime’s liking. They first began rounding up men who were simply standing outside, with obedient ‘judges’ then jailing them for up to 10 or 15 days.
When this overt intimidation failed to deter activists, much more draconian forms of repression began. Since October 2017, several active members of Crimea Solidarity […] have been arrested and are facing huge sentences on concocted charges.”
The full report from KHPG is available here
3. US Mission to OSCE on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine
On May 17, the US Mission to the OSCE stated, “For the past four years, this Council has borne witness to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Four years into the fighting, Russia has failed to keep even the most basic of the agreements reached in Minsk. […] Russia’s aggression has cost over 10,300 lives, wounded an estimated 25,000 more, and displaced up to two million people. […]
The Russian Federation continues to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside forces in eastern Ukraine. We remind the Permanent Council that Russia has never accounted for the presence of uniformed Russian soldiers, as reported by the [OSCE Special Monitoring Mission – SMM]. Russia has never explained the presence of Russian weapon systems that are not, and have never been, a part of Ukraine’s arsenal. […]
The fact remains that this conflict will only be resolved if Russia makes the decision to remove its forces from the territory of Ukraine, and allows a genuine international security presence to enter. As U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker noted in a briefing with the U.S. Helsinki Commission last week, an internationally mandated peacekeeping force under a UN mandate would establish the conditions for the peaceful resolution of the conflict. […]
We again note our concern about the health of Volodymyr Balukh, who remains on hunger strike in prison while facing trial on politically-motivated charges. His plight is far from the only cause for concern. Yet, Russia tries to prevent the world from learning the extent of its repression in Crimea. This week, the Crimea Human Rights Group was notified that Russian censors plan to block access to its website, if it does not remove information documenting Russia’s illegal practice of conscripting Crimean residents into the Russian army. […]
The United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea. Crimea-related sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine. We join our European and other partners in restating that our sanctions against Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.”