Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – April 15-21, 2017

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
April 15-21, 2017
 
CAF combat engineer instructs Ukrainian soldiers on identifying Improvised Explosive Devices, #OpUNIFIER. Photo – CF Operations
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of April 14-20, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 18 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 230 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 43 times with heavy weapons.
 
 
International Court of Justice. Photo AFP

2. UN Court at the Hague orders Russia to stop persecuting Crimean Tatar Mejlis
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “The International Court of Justice’s decision on April 19 concerning Ukraine’s suit against Russia may have rejected one request for provisional measures, but its intercession on behalf of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians facing persecution in occupied Crimea and its recognition of jurisdiction on both claims made this an important victory for Ukraine.  As one Ukrainian official put it, this was 3:1 in Ukraine’s favour.  Optimism is not high among victims of discrimination under Russian occupation regarding practical implementation of the provisional measures, but it is undoubtedly important that the Court recognized the repression and the urgent need for preventive measures now. Russia had hoped to persuade the UN Court to throw the case out as being outside its jurisdiction.  Over both issues, however, the Court found prima facie jurisdiction.  The Court agreed to impose provisional measures over the banning in occupied Crimea of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or self-governing body, and restrictions on education in the Ukrainian language.  It rejected Ukraine’s request for provisional measures to stop Russia financing militants in Donbas, stating that Ukraine had not as yet provided sufficient proof. The Court instead stressed the importance of full implementation of the Minsk Accords. […]Ukraine initially lodged its suit against Russia in January, with preliminary hearings held from March 6-9.  In order to fall within the Court’s jurisdiction, Ukraine needed to find violations of UN conventions binding on both countries.  In a 45-page document, Ukraine accused Russia of violating the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.   The first hurdle, as mentioned, was jurisdiction, and it was clear from the outset that Russia was hoping to persuade the Court, as it had in 2011 over the war between Georgia and Russia that it could not examine the case at all.   For the moment, it has failed in this. […] There were several reasons why Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Representative at the Council of Europe, was not alone in fearing that the Court would say it had no jurisdiction over the claim that Russia is financing terrorism through its arming, manning and funding of the militants in Donbas.  Kuleba had suspected that the Court might not want to open a Pandora’s Box.  In addition, while Russia’s claim that the weapons in Donbas had been ‘found’ in mines was manifestly absurd, proving the direct financing of the armed fighters and provision of weapons is more difficult.  There is also the issue of the definition of terrorism and financing of terrorism in the relevant Convention.  Ukraine needed to provide sufficient evidence of intention and knowledge, as well as the element of purpose (to kill or terrorize civilians). The Court found that it had not yet done so, and refused to impose provisional measures, but did not reject the claim itself. […] Court hearings on the merits of this case could continue for a few years.  They will be taking place which is already something of a victory.  If Russia continues its ban on the Mejlis and persecution of its members, it will be in direct breach of the UN International Court of Justice whose jurisdiction it recognizes.”  The full report from KHPG is available at http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1492636628 
 
3. Ukrainian Human Rights Organizations appeal to international community on case of Ruslan Zeytullaev, illegally imprisoned by Russia
On April 18, several Ukrainian human rights NGOs, led by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, stated, “Ruslan Zeytullaev is a defendant within the so-called case of Crimean Muslims of ‘Hizb-ut Tahrir’. He was detained in occupied Crimea in January 2015 together with three other Crimean Tatars – Ferat Sayfullaev, Nuri Primov, and Rustem Vaitov. Ruslan was accused of organizing a terrorist organization […]. In violation of international humanitarian law, Russia forcibly transferred the four from the Crimea to Rostov-on-Don, where they were convicted by the North Caucasus district military court last year to 5 and 7 years in prison. To date, at least 19 Crimean Muslims are persecuted by the Russian Federation for political reasons within so-called ‘Hizb-ut Tahrir’ case. After the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014, the criminal prosecution of persons who neither engaged in nor plan to carry out any acts of violence on terrorism charges is used as an additional instrument of pressure on the indigenous population of Crimea, who are deprived of the right to freedom of religion. Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Ruslan Zeytullaev along with the other defendants of the case as political prisoners, as did Ukraine’s MFA. Ruslan was also mentioned among other illegally detained persons in the European Parliament resolution ‘Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and situation in Crimea’ 2017/2596 (RSP), adopted on 16 March 2017. According to the decision of the Appellate court, Ruslan’s case is now being reviewed by the North Caucasus district military court of Rostov-on-Don. Ruslan faces 15 years in prison. On 4 April 2017, at one of the court hearings Ruslan declared a hunger strike. He put forward three demands: 1) Crimea’s occupation authorities stop the persecution of Crimean Tatars, 2) Ukrainian consuls be allowed access to him, 3) he and other Crimean Muslims illegally held by Russia be transferred to Ukraine. The hunger strike continues for two weeks already. None of his requirements were met. Despite systematic requests of representatives of the Consulate General of Ukraine in Rostov-on-Don to visit Zeytullaev, Russia denies him the right to meet the Ukrainian consul. According to his lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, as of April 14, Ruslan has lost more than 6 kg of weight. During the trial lawyer even had to call an ambulance for his client. In addition, after Ruslan declared the hunger strike, the Russian Penitentiary Service’s attitude towards him significantly worsened. […]We appeal to the international community and the Ukrainian authorities with a number of requests and hope for your support. To the European Union and its delegation, and the representations of Western states in the Russian Federation: 1. Ensure trial monitoring of the case of Zeytullaev, as well as visit Ruslan when possible […] 2. Ensure the involvement of independent doctors to diagnose the state of health of Zeytullaev, and to possibly place him in an independent health facility; 3. Issue a statement requesting an independent medical examination and hospitalization of Ruslan Zeytullaev, as well as the satisfaction of the prisoner’s demands, especially concerning free access to the Ukrainian consuls and transfer of the political prisoners to Ukraine, and condemn the Russian Federation’s practice of illegal persecution of Crimean Tatars on religious grounds.” The full appeal is available athttps://helsinki.org.ua/en/appeals/appeal-of-ngos-with-regards-to-hunger-strike-of-the-prisoner-of-kremlin-ruslan-zeytullaev/ 
 
 
Photo – Office of UK PM
 
4.  Ukraine’s President meets with UK PM in London
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko met with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in London on April 19. A Downing Street spokesperson stated, “The Prime Minister hosted President Poroshenko of Ukraine at Downing Street this afternoon for their first bilateral meeting. They began by welcoming the strength of bilateral relations as we mark 25 years of diplomatic ties, and committed to working together to deepen our relationship in the years ahead. The Prime Minister was clear that the UK recognises the threat posed by Russia through the illegal annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and noted that the UK continues to offer support to counter this threat. They agreed on the importance of maintaining sanctions until the Minsk agreement is fully implemented, and of looking at how we work together to enhance our bilateral security and defence co-operation. They also discussed Ukraine’s reform agenda, and the Prime Minister welcomed the progress that has been made so far. She confirmed that the UK government looks forward to holding a reform conference on 6 July, to maintain momentum and galvanise international support for Ukraine’s efforts.”
5. Prominent Ukrainian politician detained in corruption investigation
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on April 21, “Ukrainian investigators are seeking a court order to place an influential former lawmaker who is suspected of embezzlement in pretrial custody. Mykola Martynenko was detained in Kyiv late on April 20 after the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) announced it was preparing to file charges against him. Special anticorruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskiy said on April 21 that prosecutors would seek a custody decision from a Kyiv court later in the day. Martynenko is the second prominent political figure to have been detained in less than three months in Ukraine, whose government has faced pressure from its own citizens, Western governments, and the IMF to crack down on corruption. An ally of former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former chairman of parliament’s fuel and energy committee, Martynenko is suspected of embezzling $17.3 million in a scheme involving a state company that provides uranium for nuclear power plants. […] Ukrainian tax and customs service chief, Roman Nasirov, was detained in early March in another case seen as a test of the government’s commitment to fighting corruption.”

 


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