In view of the upcoming presidential elections the Ukrainian Canadian Congress continues to offer weekly updates on the presidential race in Ukraine.
This week’s top three running candidates are the same as last week – the current President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelensky.
Out of 44 registered candidates 38 continue to run for presidency. Today, Serhiy Taruta – Donetsk native and a former governor of Donetsk region – announced his support for Yulia Tymoshenko. Since his announcement came after the deadline his name will remain on the ballot.
Below are some of the latest articles for your review:
Rating Group: Evaluations Of The Electoral Process: Goals And Motives Of Voting, Trust And Sympathies [in Ukrainian]
RPR: How the Presidential Candidates Want to Reform Law Enforcement Agencies and Criminal Justice: Program Analysis – Yevhen Krapyvin
Euronews: Ukraine Presidential Election: All You Need to Know to Understand Key Poll
Reuters: Comedian Zelenskiy Extends Ukraine Presidential Poll Lead
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that during the week of March 8-14, two Ukrainian service members were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 14 times including 6 times using heavy weapons on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation headquarters reported that while returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 3 and wounded at least 8 enemy troops in the last week.
2. Lloyd Axworthy to Lead Canada’s Election Observation Mission to Ukraine
The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy. Photo – University of Winnipeg
The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Canada’s former minister of foreign affairs, has been selected to head Canadian delegation of short- and long-term observers of the presidential elections in Ukraine, reported CBC News.
“Together, they will observe all aspects of the presidential and legislative elections, including monitoring the participation of women, internally displaced persons and minorities in the electoral process,” noted Katie Simpson, senior reporter in the Parliamentary Bureau of CBC News.
Because of concerns about Russian interfere in the country’s democratic procedures, Canada will provide funding to counteract the “negative impact of disinformation” in the electoral process as well as supporting electoral reform and efforts to get more women to participate in the country’s elections.
Axworthy is an experienced politician, who served under former prime minister Jean Chretien and led the Organization of American States election observation mission to Peru in 2006.
Minister Freeland called Axworthy “an esteemed academic, eminent statesman… [who] has devoted his career to the cause of promoting and protecting human rights and democracy around the world… His nomination is a further reflection of Canada’s deep and abiding commitment to strengthening democracy in Ukraine.”
“Now with a pivotal Ukrainian presidential election campaign swinging into high gear, the Trudeau government is following in the footsteps of previous Conservative and Liberal governments in sending a Canadian-led observer mission, organized between Canada and Ukraine, while also contributing to a multinational mission led by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe,” emphasizes the CBC News.
3. US Officials Issue Sanctions Warnings to Europe Over Russian Gas
Nord Stream gas pipelines map Picture – DW
European companies which participate in building the Nord Stream II gas pipeline will face sanctions, warned the U.S. officials during the Energy Conference that took place in Brussels.
The Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which is supposed to be completed by the end of 2019 will run 1,200 km connecting Russian Vyborg with German Lubmin bypassing Ukraine and Poland that house an alternative gas pipeline which currently carries Russian gas to Europe.
The Central European governments fear that Russia builds Nord Stream II not for commercial but for political reasons, and once completed will have a great influence over the EU’s economic wellbeing. Ukraine, on the other hand is likely to lose up to 4% [gas transit fees] of its GDP if Russia decides to abandon Ukrainian pipeline.
4. House of Representatives Adopts Three Bills and One Resolution on Putin, Crimea, Kremlin and Nemtsov investigation
Logo – lpalkonin
On March 12, the lower chamber of the United States Congress adopted three Bills and one Resolution directed against the Russian government and personally by President Vladimir Putin.
The 1404 Bill – Vladimir Putin Transparency Act – is aimed at strengthening the United States response to Russian interference by providing transparency on the corruption of Russian President Vladimir Putin and obligates the Director of the National Intelligence Service look into and prepare a thorough report on Putin’s assets within the next six months.
The 596 Bill forbids the United States Government to recognize Crimea with its airspace and territorial waters as Russian territory.
The 1617 Bill – KREMLIN Act – obligates the Director of US National Intelligence to report within 90 days on possible military actions of the Russian Federation against NATO countries and Russia’s attempts to “use the weakness and disagreement between its western opponents.”
In addition, the House of Representatives passed a Resolution 156 condemning Putin for hiding the details of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov and calling on the Russian Federation to conduct an international crime investigation, and the White House to impose sanctions against its alleged organizers and executors. Boris Nemtsov was a Russian opposition leader who was shot in the back and killed near Kremlin, Moscow in 2015.
5. Russia’s Withdrawal from INF Treaty Opens High-Precision Missile Option for Ukraine
Dismantling missile launcher. Photo – DTRA
Ukraine, a country with powerful rocket science background, will be raising the issue of creating high-precision extended-range missiles capable of hitting targets far behind enemy lines, said President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko during a meeting of the Regional Development Council in Zhytomyr. This became possible since the withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
Earlier, in her article to The Washington Post Mariana Budjeryn, research fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard, wrote that “Ukraine could gain some deterrent capability from a ballistic missile with a range of 300 to 740 miles (500 to 1,200 kilometers), carrying a high-precision warhead with a high-explosive conventional payload and targeted at Russian military command centers, bases or critical infrastructure nodes. […]
The risk of even a single missile successfully reaching a Russian target from Ukraine, the country Russian propaganda has been dismissing as a failure, might force the Russian leadership to think twice before escalating the conflict. […]
“The specter of a Ukrainian missile program might induce Russia to come to the negotiating table with the United States before Ukraine could be included as an equal party. Russia might also agree to a moratorium on deploying INF-range missiles to Kaliningrad or even on its European territory. Ukrainian missiles, then, might become a useful leverage for the United States against Russia.”
The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It bans the production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500km. Moscow’s decision to pull out came after Washington’s ultimatum that it would withdraw from the pact if Russia did not stop its alleged violations.
6. The UN Recognizes Ukrainian Sailors as Prisoners of War
“OHCHR notes that based on the provisions of international humanitarian law, the 24 detained crew members could be considered as prisoners of war and protected by the Third Geneva Convention. In any case, they shall enjoy the status of a prisoner of war until a competent tribunal determines otherwise,” reads the report
The Office of the of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights insists that prisoners of war must inter alia be humanely treated, protected against violence or intimidation, and provided with the medical assistance if needed. Thus, OHCHR became the first international organization to recognize captured Ukrainian sailors as prisoners of war.
On 25 November 2018, the Russian Federation naval forces attacked three Ukrainian naval vessels that were on their way to the Azov Sea through the Kerch Strait, which is the only passage between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea and lies between the Russian Federation and Russian Federation-occupied Crimea. Russian naval forces opened fire on the Ukrainian vessels, seized them, and captured 24 crew members injuring 6 of them.
For an overview of the OHCHR report by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group click here
7. State Department Report: Russia is Guilty of Massive Human Rights Abuses in Crimea
Resistance Day in Crimea. Photo – Said Ismagilov
People in Crimea are being kidnapped, tortured, killed, intimidated and illegally placed in psychiatric clinics, reports the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State.
“The Russian intelligence services consistently strengthened their control in Crimea and violated human rights,” the report said. The Russian occupation authorities failed to conduct adequate investigation into the incidents of kidnappings and murders of Crimean residents in 2014 and 2015.
According to the UN, from 2014 to 2018, 42 people were abducted in Crimea, 12 of them went missing, one was found dead, two were officially detained and 27 released. No one was punished.
Human rights activists reported that the Russian occupation forces use physical violence against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians. The examples include the case of the Crimean Tatar activist Akhtem Mustafayev, who was detained, beaten, and tortured by the Federal Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).
According to the Crimean human rights group, since the beginning of occupation, 17 Crimean Tatars were subjected to psychiatric examination and detention against their will, without apparent medical reason.
The report also notes that Russia restricts freedom of expression, media, peaceful assembly, association, religion, travel and travel, etc. in Crimea.
8. Canada Announces Comprehensive New Sanctions in Response to Russia’s Aggressive Actions
On March 15, Canada announced a large list of new sanctions in response to Russia’s aggressive actions in the Black Sea and Kerch Strait and Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Canada’s black list has been increased by 114 individuals and 15 entities under the Special Economic Measures Act according to the Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“Today’s sanctions demonstrate that Canada and the international community are ready to impose costs on Russia when it ignores international law and the rules-based international order,” noted the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The sanctions list is a coordinated effort with the European Union and the United States. It “underscores continued transatlantic unity in responding to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine and its violation of international law,” reads the release.
In addition, Canada, calls on Russia to immediately release the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and return the seized vessels as well as allow free and unhindered passage through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.
Read the full release here with the list of sanctioned individuals and entities.
9. Canada to Host 2019 Ukraine Reform Conference in July
On July 2-4, 2019, Canada will host the 2019 Ukraine Reforms Conference, bringing together foreign ministers from the European Union, the G7 and NATO countries to support Ukraine in ongoing democratic and economic reforms. The event will take place in Toronto, ON.
The decision to host the Conference was announced on June 27, 2018, during the last year’s Ukraine Reform Conference, hosted by Denmark, in Copenhagen. Minister Freeland, who made the announcement, stated, “I am delighted to announce that Canada will host the Ukraine Reform Conference next year. This is an unprecedented opportunity for Canada to convene international partners and advance our unwavering commitment to Ukraine. Together, we can build the future that the people of Ukraine deserve and desire.”