Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – February 18-24, 2017

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
February 18-24, 2017

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of February 17-23, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 20 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 508 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sector of the front, including 79 times with heavy weapons – mortars, artillery and tanks.
2. Statement by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Third Anniversary of Russia’s Military Aggression Against Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “On February 20, 2014, the Russian Federation launched the military aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine. Three years have passed since the treacherous attack by the neighbouring state, despite its commitment to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, as well as its status of one of the guarantors of security and territorial integrity of Ukraine according to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Although the Revolution of Dignity clearly reconfirmed the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to build European, democratic and prosperous Ukraine, the Kremlin responded by attempting to deprive Ukrainians of the right to define their future by their own. Russia launched a well-planned military operation, which resulted in the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as in bloodshed in Donbas. […] The appalling number of victims highlights the immorality of Kremlin’s war against the Ukrainian people: over 9 800 Ukrainian people were killed, about 23 000 wounded and almost 1.8 million of internally displaced persons. […] Occupied Crimea, closed for any form of international control and monitoring, is now an area for systemic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, targeting, first of all, the Ukrainian activists and the indigenous people of Crimea – Crimean Tatars.[…] Russia continues to fuel the conflict in Donbas, sends regular troops and mercenaries to the territory, which is out of control by the Ukrainian Government, and keeps reinforcing its militants and terrorists with the sophisticated weaponry and military hardware. Russia remains unwilling to implement the Minsk Agreements thus undermining all efforts taken by Ukraine and the international community towards de-escalation and stabilization in the region. […] The aggressive policy of the Russian Federation pose a threat for the entire world order.  The only dignified response by the international community, which has no alternative, will be maintaining solidarity with Ukraine in countering the Russian aggression by strengthening political, diplomatic and economic pressure on the aggressor state. Russia must fully implement its own commitments on peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas as a signatory of the Minsk Agreements, put an immediate end to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied territories, release all hostages and political prisoners, de-occupy the Crimean peninsula. It is only Russia’s return to the tenets of international law that will ensure peace and stability on the European continent and will lift the threat of chaos and domination of force in the international relations.”
3. US at UN: Sanctions will remain in place until Russia fully honours Minsk and returns control of Crimea to Ukraine
Speaking at the UN Security Council on February 21, US Ambassador Nikki Haley stated, “It can be tempting to take Europe’s peace and security for granted. Europe is a continent of strong, stable democracies. And Europe is a continent of flourishing economies that benefit from close cooperation. But Europe faces serious challenges – most acutely, Russia’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine and infringe upon Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. […] More than three years ago, the Ukrainian people took to the streets to speak out against political oppression and corruption. These protesters demanded freedom, democracy, and respect for the rule of law, and they succeeded in creating a new Ukraine. The United States continues to stand with the Ukrainian people. But Russia has tried to prevent the change that the Ukrainian people demanded. Russia occupied Crimea and attempted to annex this piece of Ukrainian territory – an act the United States does not recognize. Russia then armed, financed, and organized separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, leading to a devastating and senseless conflict that has cost more than 10,000 lives. The scenes of destruction from the town of Avdiivka in recent weeks show the consequences of Russia’s ongoing interference in Ukraine. Russia’s recognition in recent days of purported passports and other illegitimate documents distributed by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions is another direct challenge to efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine. […] Greater cooperation with Russia cannot come at the expense of the security of our European friends and allies. That is why the United States calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is why we continue to urge Russia to show a commitment to peace – by fully implementing the commitments under the Minsk agreements and ending its occupation of Crimea. The United States and the EU remain united in this approach, keeping sanctions in place until Moscow fully honors its Minsk commitments. Our separate Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”
4. Bitter Harvest Film Premieres in Kyiv
The film Bitter Harvest, produced by Ukrainian Canadian philanthropist Ian Ihnatowycz, premiered in Kyiv on February 22. The film is the first English-language feature film about the Holodomor. Attending the premier, Ukraine’s First Lady Maryna Poroshenko thanked everyone who took part in making the film, and stated, “this film will become a revelation for millions of viewers around the world, because for many years this crime against humanity was concealed.” A trailer of the film as well as locations and dates from premiers across Canada is available at http://bitterharvestfilm.com/
Ukraine’s First Lady Maryna Poroshenko and Ian Ihnatowycz, 
Photo: Presidential Administration
5. Lower House of Dutch Parliament votes to ratify EU-Ukraine Association Agreement
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on February 23, “The Netherlands’ lower house of parliament has voted for the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, leaving a vote in the upper house — the Dutch Senate — as a final hurdle before the deal, which was signed in March 2014, finally can enter into force. It has been expected that the House of Representatives would vote in favor of the deal, as the governing coalition enjoys a majority there. The Senate vote is expected to take place only after the next month’s parliamentary elections in the Netherlands on March 15, despite the fact that the composition of the Senate isn’t affected by the general election.”
6. Canada is not immune to Kremlin manipulation and disinformation
On February 22 in the Toronto Star, Marcus Kolga, Canadian adviser to the Inter-Parliamentary Group on Russian Human Rights and Justice for Sergei Magnitsky, wrote, “As the United States continues to reel from an onslaught of revelations about Russian manipulation of its elections and members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, Canadians should be alert to the fact our media and political system are vulnerable to similar attacks by the Kremlin regime. Despite the worrying ongoing emergence of Kremlin proxies and targeted disinformation, Canada has done little to detect or respond to these attempts to undermine our democracy. While many Canadians were shocked by U.S. revelations of Russian election manipulation, we cannot dismiss the possibility that the Kremlin attempted to do the same in Canada during the last election.[…] Canadian TV content providers give the Kremlin’s notorious, state-run cable news channel, RT, a direct line into the living rooms of Canadians to confuse, deceive and misinform them. Unlike BBC, Deutche Welle and CNN, which require Canadian consumers to pay a premium fee for these news services, RT is available on basic Rogers and Bell TV services, spewing a constant stream of conspiracy theories and manufactured anti-Western propaganda in order to erode confidence in our own government and democratic institutions. […] To respond to these growing threats and to protect Canada’s democracy from the sort of assault that is occurring in the United States, Canada must consider developing and funding a strategic communications office to monitor and alert Canadians to manipulation, disinformation and fake news threats. Such a department, created within or jointly between Global Affairs, National Defence and Public Safety, must promote long term media literacy and awareness. Without a co-ordinated response, authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin, will take advantage of our democracy and freedoms to spread confusion and disinformation to undermine those same principles.” The full article is available at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/02/22/canada-is-not-immune-to-kremlin-manipulation-and-disinformation.html

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