Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – March 25-31 2017

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
March 25-31 2017
Ukrainian paratroopers training. Photo – Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of March 24-30, 11 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 41 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 519 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 195 times with heavy weapons – Grad rockets, mortars, artillery and tanks.
Image- Euromaidan press
2. Oleg Senstov, Ukrainian filmmaker illegally imprisoned in Russia, wins Freedom to Write Award
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was awarded the Barbey Freedom to Write Award by PEN America on March 28. Sentsov is illegally imprisoned in Russia for his opposition against Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Russia has ignored repeated calls from the international community for his immediate release. The Washington Post reported, “Sentsov is currently serving his sentence in a Siberian penal colony. In a letter smuggled out of prison, he said his spirit has not been broken. He has declined visits from his wife and children (12 and 13) and allegedly refused any special treatment. In his letter, he wrote: ‘For three years I’ve been sitting in a Russian prison. For those three years a war has been conducted against my country. Here, in captivity, we are limited: and not even by freedom – this can no longer be taken – but by being of little help to our country while we’re in here. To be more precise, we can do one thing: hold on. There is no need to pull us out of here at all costs. This wouldn’t bring victory any closer. Yet using us as a weapon against the enemy will. You must know: we are not your weak point. If we’re supposed to become the nails in the coffin of a tyrant, I’d like to become one of those nails. Just know that this particular one will not bend.'”
3. Supreme Allied Commander Europe: We need to consider lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine
US General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe testified at the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on March 28. General Scaparrotti stated, “The Ukrainian Forces are learning. And they’re getting better. […] In terms of weaponry, I personally believe that we need to consider lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine. They’re fighting a very lethal, tough enemy, it’s a Russian proxy, really, and the Russians provide some of their newest equipment there. […] So we need to continue to support [Ukraine], in my view, to have the appropriate weapons to defend Ukraine.”
Senators McCain and Johnson. Photo – German Marshall Fund
4. US Senators call for provision of lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine
Speaking at a press conference at the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum on March 25, US Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) called for the US to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. Senator McCain stated, “I would say our first priority for Ukraine and United States is to give Ukraine lethal defensive weapons with which to defend themselves, such as javelin, such as counter battery radar, and other capabilities.  […][T]he Ukrainian military has improved dramatically in their capabilities.  They just need the equipment to fight with.” Senator Johnson stated, “Unanimously, the United States Congress voted for lethal defense of weaponry for Ukraine.  We reaffirmed that in the last Congress with resolution. So there’s strong support, bipartisan support, unanimous support in Congress to provide the courageous people in Ukraine trying to protect their territory and integrity, trying to protect their democracy, the help that they actually need to push back Vladimir Putin’s aggression.  So, you know, hopefully we’ve got new administration that will listen to what Congress voted for and provide that help.”
5. United States – on ongoing violations of international law and defiance of OSCE principles and commitments by Russia
At a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on March 30, US charge d’affaires Kate Byrnes stated, “The surge in violence in eastern Ukraine provides yet another stark reminder of Russia’s ongoing aggression against its neighbor, a conflict Russia initiated and sustains. […] Russia and the separatists it backs continue to disregard the welfare of civilians by blocking the delivery of humanitarian assistance and deliberately shelling civilian infrastructure, creating dire consequences for those living in the conflict area. […] Russia’s actions – not its rhetoric – will show whether it is truly committed to implementing the Minsk agreements, which requires restoring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor. […] Russia continues its campaign to silence voices speaking out against its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. On March 20, a Crimea court once again postponed the trial of journalist Mykola Semena, on trial simply for stating that Crimea remains a part of Ukraine. Russian authorities have also extended the term of the politically motivated incarceration of Crimean Tatar Mejlis deputy chairman Akhtem Chiygoz for a further three months. […] Russia must immediately release Ilmi Umerov, Akhtem Chiygoz, Emir-Ussein Kuku, and other Crimeans now on trial for opposing the occupation, as well as those already convicted on baseless charges – including Oleh Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko, Oleksander Kostenko, and many others. The United States affirms its staunch support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. 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 in the Minsk agreements. We again call on Russia to observe the Helsinki Final Act, in which all participating States acknowledged that one another’s frontiers are inviolable and committed to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each participating State.”
6. NATO-Ukraine Commission meets at NATO Foreign Ministers meeting
The NATO-Ukraine Commission met at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels on March 31. Opening the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “We are meeting today to reaffirm NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine. As the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity continue to be violated by Russia’s aggressive actions. NATO Allies speak with one voice:  we do not – and we will not – recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. And we are concerned about the limited progress in implementing the Minsk agreements, to achieve a peaceful settlement in eastern Ukraine. In fact, since our last meeting in December, the security situation has worsened. We will discuss the way forward. We will also assess Ukraine’s reform process and we will restate NATO’s political and practical support.”

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