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

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

1. Western states supporting Ukraine have made statements condemning the opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea

A number of international partners have condemned the opening of the Kerch Strait bridge to Crimea: in support of Ukraine and against the illegal annexation of the peninsula. The controversial bridge makes Russia's first road link to Crimea aimed to reduce the annexed peninsula's isolation, and to play a symboilc role for the Russian president in asserting his authority over the illegally annexed territory.

In the UK, Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan said the opening of the bridge was “another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and an example of Russia’s reckless behaviour”. The statement by the Foreign Office also highlighted the UK’s concerns about human rights in Crimea: “we have seen the systematic persecution of minority groups and of those who voice their opposition to Russia’s illegal annexation of the territory. We call again for Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners held in Crimea and in Russia, and to allow unrestrained access for international human rights monitoring bodies to the peninsula.”

The European Union has expressed its support in a statement made by the European External Action Service Spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic. “The construction of the bridge aims at the further forced integration of the illegally-annexed peninsula with Russia and its isolation from Ukraine of which it remains a part. The bridge limits the passage of vessels via the Kerch Strait to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea. The European Union continues to condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia and will not recognise this violation of international law,” reads the statement.

The US State Department has called on Russia not to impede the shipping in the Kerch Strait, the only path to reach Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Sea of Azov. At a press conference on Tuesday, Heather Nauert, US State Department spokeswoman, commented on that: “We saw the construction and the partial opening of that bridge over the strait. One thing that I want to mention is that the construction of that bridge certainly limits the ability to bring goods via ship. So it’s affected people, Crimea and Ukraine in that way.  1.02 The bridge represents not just an attempt by Russia to solidify its unlawful seizure and its occupation of Crimea but it also impedes that navigation that I just mentioned. So that’s something we’re watching carefully and it’s a concern of ours.” In a written statement, Nauert has also referred to numerous individuals and entities that had been sanstioned by the US for involvement in this project.

“These and our other Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” her statement reads.

President Petro Poroshenko has informed about a legal request on protecting Ukraine's sovereign interest, submitted to the arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, addressing the illegal construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge. “Despite Moscow's futile attempts to legitimize the temporary occupation of the Crimean peninsula, consistent decisions of a number of international courts are confirming that the burden will only increase for Russia’s international crime,” Poroshenko said in a statement on Tuesday. He also noted that the Russian authorities were “trying to engage individual representatives of the European business in their infrastructural gamble in an attempt to pay off their international legal responsibility.”

The construction which employed 15,000 workers was finished ahead of schedule. The Kerch Strait Bridge is almost 12 miles long and is now the longest in Europe. At the opening ceremony, Vladimir Putin referred to the times of the Russian tsar, when people allegedly “dreamed about building this bridge”, writes The Telegraph.


2. U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker was visiting the Donbas

U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, who was visiting the Donbas this week, met on Tuesday with Joint Forces Commander, Lt.-Gen. Serhiy Nayev. “We thank our partners for supporting us in our fight against the Russian aggressors,” Nayev told the U.S. envoy during the meeting in a frontline area where Volker came “to see the situation on the ground and assess the scale of the humanitarian crisis.”
Volker and Nayev discussed the situation and possible ways of a peaceful settlement. During his visit he also met with local residents affected by the conflict, members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and representatives of international humanitarian organizations. According to him, the activities of Russia-backed militants pose a real risk of humanitarian and environmental disasters.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development has announced plans to provide Ukraine with additional technical assistance in the amount of 125 million dollars for the restoration of the Donbas and adjacent territories. “This additional technical assistance will be aimed at ensuring further stabilization and consolidation of Ukrainian communities in the region, increasing the stability of the local economy and accelerating its development,” the Agency said in an official announcement on Monday during a joint press conference of Assistant Administrator for the USAID Bureau for Europe and Eurasia Brock Bierman, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, and U.S.  Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.


3. Ukraine’s Security Service has recently searched the information agency RIA Novosti Ukraine.

Recently, Ukraine’s Security Service conducted searches in the information agency RIA Novosti Ukraine. In the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers received evidence that the information posted on the agency’s website contains calls to the detriment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and immunity of Ukraine, its national and information security. Kyryl Vyshynskyi, head of the agency, was arrested. According to the Ukrainian Security Service, Kyryl Vyshynskyi held informational events in the country, for which he received money from Russia. He also had 2 passports - Russian and Ukrainian, as Deputy Head of the Security Service Viktor Kononenko said at a briefing. “It was established and documented that in spring of 2014 Vyshynskyi received a task to go to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to conduct subversive information actions. It was him and the journalists under his control that produced materials that justify the annexation of Crimea, as well as the accession of Crimea to Russia. It is for this activity that Vyshynskyi was given the state award of the Russian Federation, and I draw your attention, by the Russian President's closed decree - a medal for the return of Crimea. After returning to Kyiv, Mr Vyshynskyi with some more journalists started actively supporting the terrorist organizations Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics,” - said Viktor Kononenko.

The detained chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine, Kyryl Vyshynskyi, who is suspected of treason, has recently been taken from Kyiv to Kherson, where a preventive measure for him if to be chosen. It is now the Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea that is conducting the case of Vyshynskyi’s treason. This is according to Andriy Domanskyi, lawyer of the detainee. He also described how Vyshynskyi evaluated the searches and his detention. “Vyshinskyconsidersitasaprovocationagainsthim. After he was given a suspicion he was sent to Kherson, where in the morning he was informed about a preventive measure. And I understand that the choosing a preventive measure will be considered. Given that the legal defender did not make it on time, he was given a free defense counsel,” - said Andriy Domanskyi.

According to the SBU, it was established that this media structure was used by the aggressor state for conductig the hybrid information war against Ukraine. In turn, the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will use "reciprocal measures" in response to the SBU's actions against RIA Novosti Ukraine. RIA Novosti Ukraine is a branch of the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, has been working in Ukraine for at least six years. At the same time, as the SBU stated, the agency is not registered in Ukraine and operates illegally.


4. Chantal Mouffe speaks on The Affects of Democracy in Kyiv

“The Affects of Democracy” is the title of a lecture by world renowned political philosopher Chantal Mouffe. The event has taken place in Kyiv on Friday and was held in the framework of 68NOW project by the Visual Culture Research Center dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the revolt and the struggle of 1968. Part of The Kyiv International series conducted by the VCRC in Kyiv, the project is commemorating simultaneously the events of May ’68 student uprising in Paris, and the Prague Spring with the Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In a philosophical perspective, Belgian scholar Chantal Mouffe adresses the role of passions or common affects played in politics and in the construction of collective identities. Also Mouffe suggests to consider how artistic practices take part in creating the affects, which could potentially envigorate a new democratic ideal, according to the organizers.

In a similar lecture that took place in Vienna, Chantal Mouffe explained her research focus, underlining the role of passion in the political process:

“From the perspective that I advocate it is essential to distinguish between passion and emotion. In the field of politics, we are always dealing with collective identities, something which I think the term emotion does not adequately convey. Because emotion I usually attached to idividuals. To be sure, passion can be of an individual nature. But I’ve chosen to use that term because it allows me to underline the dimension of conflict, and to suggest a confrontation between collective political identities to aspect that I take to be constitutive of politics. We don’t understand the crucial role played by common affects, that’s what I understand by passion: common affects. In the constitution of a political form of identification it is not possible to envisage what is at stake in democratic politics.”

Currently Professor of Political Theory at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London, Chantal Mouffe is visiting Kyiv for the first time. The famous books issued from her pen are The Return of the Political, and The Democratic Paradox among others.

The events dedicated to rethinking the legacy of May 1968 in Paris, and the events of the same year during the Prague Spring are taking place in Kyiv from May 11 to May 25. The series of events is supported by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education, Goethe-Institut in Ukraine, and the Dutch Prince Claus Fund.