Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (Audio)

16.12.2017 р., 23:30

Over the past week, the situation in the war-torn Eastern Ukrainian regions has been tense. Russian-backed militants kept on violating the ceasefire and using heavy weapons banned by the Minsk agreements. Ukrainian forces have been using weapons not prohibited by Minsk in order to suppress the enemy activity, according to the Defense Ministry press service. One of the hottest spots over the past week was the industrial town of Avdiivka, 10 miles north of Donetsk. Ukrainian Army positions near Avdiivka have been targeted throughout the week. To that, the enemy has shelled residential areas in its outskirts, using Grad-P portable rocket system. The missiles hit the southwestern suburbs the frontline town. Fortunately there were no casualties among civilians, yet the local railway contact line and high voltage electricity supply line were damaged. The nearby Butivka coalmine, where militants have repeatedly used mortars, grenade launchers and heavy machineguns, has also been one of the hot spots this week, as well as the villages of Vodiane, Talakivka, and other spots. In Luhansk region, the enemy activity was recorded mostly in the frontline areas west and northwest of Luhansk. On Wednesday the village of Vrubivka has undergone heavy artillery shelling.

Reporting from the village of Travneve in Donetsk region on Friday, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM emphasized on the hardships the war is causing for the civilian population of the region, expressing disappointment in the recent escalations, and calling for peace. “ Winter has come, the sides are no closer to opening additional entry-exit checkpoints to allow people more easily cross the contact line. They are no closer to resolving differences that have resulted in thousands of people without electricity, water and gas. It is time to put people first, it is time to implement Minsk, it is time for peace,” said Alexander Hug.

In the meantime, the Foreign Ministry has issued a statement on the occasion of the 43th anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution on the “Definition of aggression”. Commenting on the statement, the Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Mariana Betsa said: “For the fourth year in a row, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is drawing attention to this resolution, which had enshrined the principles of international law forbiding any type of aggression. The actions by the Russian Federation make a full-scale act of aggression towards Ukraine, army-wise, economy-wise, and information-wise. We call on Russia to comply with the UN General Assembly’s resolution and withdraw troops and deoccupy Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula.”

Strategic partnership between Ukraine and Poland remains a priority in the foreign policies of both of our countries, said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a press conference with President of Poland Andrzej Duda in Kharkiv (Eastern Ukraine). “The issue of strategic partnership between Ukraine and Poland remains a foreign policy priority for both Kyiv and Warsaw. I want to express my gratitude to Mr. Andrzej Duda for clear assurance of continued support for Ukraine in terms of countering the Russian aggression, carrying out reforms and the European integration,” - said Petro Poroshenko. The Polish president in turn said his country would support Ukraine’s initiative to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas, and stressed that such a mission should take control of the whole area of the self-proclaimed separatists’ republics, including the stretch of the Ukraine–Russia border that is temporarily controlled by separatists.

Summing up his tête-à-tête negotiations with the Polish president, Petro Poroshenko stressed that the Ukrainian-Polish relations should not be influenced by historical events, and the future should be built without mutual enmity and hatred.
“We must remember the heroes of the past, honor the memory of the innocent victims, but we should firmly move forward. We cannot change history, but we can and we must change the present day and create better conditions for the future so that no one could plant the seed of hatred and hostility in the hearts of Ukrainians or Poles,” the Ukrainian president said.
The official reason for Duda’s visit with his Ukrainian counterpart in Kharkiv was to discuss the security situation in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, but soothing strained bilateral relations was the subtext. Longstanding differences over massacres of Ukrainian and Polish civilians during World War II have risen to the surface in the past year, compounded by several incidents of vandalism at Polish war cemeteries and memorials in Ukraine. The Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski recently accused Kyiv of ramping up tension by blocking the work of a Polish team searching for the remains of Polish war crime victims. The permission for such teams, as well as for searching, exhumation and reburial of remains of Poles, who died in Ukraine, and Ukrainians, who perished in Poland during the 20th century, should be renewed, said Polish President Andrzej Duda during the joint press conference with Petro Posroshenko.

“Armed hostilities in Ukraine are on the rise again.” Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Fiona Frazer said this on Tuesday, presenting the latest UN report on human rights situation in this country. 15 conflict-related civilian deaths and 72 injuries were recorded from 16 August to 15 November 2017. Among the main causes of civilian casualties are mines, unexploded ordnance, booby traps and improvised explosive devices, which accounted for 59.8% of the total number of deaths and injuries. The return to increased fighting has resulted in more deaths and new damages to critical water infrastructure storing dangerous chemicals which pose a grave threat to human life and the environment.
“We are now entering the fourth year of the conflict, which has an impact on the entire population of Ukraine. During the reporting period, the human rights mission continued to observe the presence of military armed groups in densely populated areas increasing the risk to civilian lives and property. Use of heavy weapons with indiscriminate effects, such as multiple launch rocked systems, also continues,” said Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Fiona Frazer. The hostilities had never really stopped, affecting, in one way or another, the daily lives of millions in the conflict zone and in the country as a whole, with the heaviest burden falling on those living in the immediate vicinity to the contact line, according to her. Based on 290 in-depth interviews with witnesses and victims of human rights violations and abuses, the report provides details of 20 individual cases of killings, deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances, torture, and conflict-related sexual violence committed on both sides of the contact line. This caseload and the lack of justice illustrate the prevailing atmosphere of impunity for grave violations in the conflict zone.

Despite continued lack of access to Crimea, OHCHR has been able to document certain aspects of the human rights situation on the peninsula through interviews with witnesses and victims of human rights violations. The report describes cases of arbitrary searches and arrests, torture, and infringements on fundamental freedoms which affected Crimean Tatars. Further, the UN Human Rights Office underlines that the Russian Federation, as an Occupying Power, fails to respect the Ukrainian laws, which were in place in Crimea, in violation of international humanitarian law.

“Ukraine expresses protest over new searches and detentions in the Crimean Peninsula.” Speaker of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Mariana Betsa said this on Tuesday, commenting on the latest search in the house of Crimean Tatar activist, Chairman of the Urozhayne Mejlis, and member of the regional Mejlis Ibrahim Osmanov. According to Osmanov's wife, the security operatives did not present a search warrant. After the search, Osmanov’s son Rustem was arrested, and taken to the Bakhchysaray district police department.

Recently 70 people at least have been jailed in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula on the basis of politically motivated criminal cases, and thus qualify as political prisoners. The number of political prisoners under the Russian occupation has grown from five in 2014 to 70 in 2017. Russia is actively blocking efforts to monitor human rights abuse in Crimea, is increasingly targeting civic activists and has now turned to concocted criminal charges, clearly aimed at discrediting the respected Crimean Tatars and the Mejlis assembly. It is also imprisoning Ukrainians thousands of kilometres from their homes, in breach of the European Convention.

In the meantime Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko announced on Tuesday that Russian occupiers seized over 4,000 Ukrainian enterprises on the Crimean peninsula.“During the investigation, the Crimean prosecutor's office received information on the seizure of more than 4,000 Ukrainian enterprises on the peninsula. An overall estimate of the damage to the state of Ukraine is more than a trillion hryvnias. At this point, we have carried out all the necessary procedures in order to announce that according to our legislation, this property was seized, and, therefore, any change in its legal status will be prosecuted in accordance with Ukrainian and international laws”, commented Yuriy Lutsenko.



Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (Audio)