Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – April 22-28, 2017

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
April 22-28, 2017
 
Situational Training Exercise, Yavoriv Training Centre 
PHOTO – US Army Europe


1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of April 21-27, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 21 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 308 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 70 times with heavy weapons.
 
 
Ruslan Zeytullaev in Russian court. Photo – KHPG
2. Political prisoner Ruslan Zeytullaev sentenced to 12 years in prison by Russia court
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported on April 26, “Russian judges have done what they’re told and sentenced Crimean Tatar political prisoner Ruslan Zeytullaev to 12 years’ maximum security.  The sentence was expected, not because there were any grounds to the charges against the 31-year-old father of three, but because Russia’s FSB needed an ‘organizer’ for its paperwork to seem ‘in order’.  The retrial and this sentence are especially chilling since there are three other men charged under the same type of quota, and they face even harsher sentences. […] Ruslan Zeytullaev is one of the first four men arrested in early 2015 and charged with unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization which is legal in Ukraine and in most countries.  Russia declared it ‘terrorist’ in 2003 without ever providing any grounds for the ruling. […] There are 15 other men now in custody facing charges over Hizb ut-Tahrir.  Muslim Aliev, Enver Mamutov and Teymur Abdullaev, for highly suspect reasons, have been accused of an organizational rule, with this carried the same type of sentence as in Zeytullaev’s case, with one ominous difference.  Possibly because of the lack of real protest from the West, Russia has now begun adding a new charge of ‘attempts at violent seizure of power’ which will add 8-12 years to all sentences. There is no evidence that any member of Hizb ut-Tahrir anywhere in the world has been guilty of acts of terrorism or violence. […] The situation in Russian-occupied Crimea is especially acute, and the renowned Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre rightly declared all four men political prisoners well before the trial ended.  There can be no chance of a ‘fair trial’, given that Russia has no right to apply its legislation on territory it is illegally occupying, and Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in Ukraine. Serious protest is needed now.  Almost all the men now indefinitely in custody have children whom they will not see for a decade or more if Russia is allowed to continue such repressive measures on territory it is illegally occupying.” The full report from KHPG is available at http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1493205732 
 
3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine statement on death of OSCE monitor in Russian-occupied Luhansk region
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “The news of the April 23 death of one and injury of several observers from the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in the territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions was met with deep pain and sadness in Ukraine. We express our sincere condolences to the family of the deceased and wish speedy recovery to the injured. We consider the serious incident, which occurred inside territory controlled and supported by Russia and illegally armed groups, a confirmation of Moscow’s and its puppets’ attempts to intimidate the OSCE and nullify the efforts of Ukraine and the SMM to stabilize the situation on the contact line. We call on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements, to take all urgent measures in order to immediately stop provocations against OSCE observers, and to ensure full security of the SMM and its unhindered access to all occupied territory, including to the temporarily uncontrolled sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Ukraine will do everything possible to ensure an immediate, full and impartial investigation of the crime in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
4. Ukrainian Filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, illegally imprisoned by Russia, honoured by PEN America
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported on April 26, “PEN America’s honouring of Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov at its 2017 PEN Literary Gala would have been a very special event under any circumstances.  It was made particularly poignant by the letter from Oleg that was heard for the first time, together with a powerful address from his cousin Natalya Kaplan who accepted the award on his behalf. The recognition from PEN America and calls for Oleg’s release from the many renowned guests at the Gala, including Meryl Streep, Salmon Rushdie and Stephen Sondheim, send an important message of support for the imprisoned artist and a clear statement to the Kremlin.  We hope, with PEN America’s vital help, to ensure that the calls for his release gain momentum over the following months.  They are urgently needed to help put pressure on the Kremlin to #FreeSentsov and all other Ukrainians held in Russian imprisonment, whether in occupied Crimea or, as in Oleg’s case, thousands of kilometres from family in Crimea. […] Oleg Sentsov has been in Russian custody since May 2014, just months after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea.  […] It was specifically because of his peaceful opposition to Russian occupation and his refusal to stay silent and passive, that he was arrested, together with three other opponents of annexation – Oleksandr Kolchenko; Gennady Afanasyev; and Oleksiy Chirniy. Sentsov faced vicious torture, with the Russian FSB ‘investigators’ openly threatening that if he didn’t ‘confess’ to insane charges that they would make him the ‘mastermind’ of their ‘terrorist plot’ and he would rot in prison.” In his letter, Sentsov wrote, “The last time I went to the Maidan, where people had already begun perishing, my mother said, ‘Why are you going there? You have two children!’ I answered that it was precisely because of that that I was going there-I don’t want them to live in a country of slaves. We won then, but it proved not to be the end. And the struggle continues, but now without me. I’m in prison and like any prisoner it is very difficult for me to answer a simple childish question: ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?'” The full report from KHPG and the full letter Sentsov sent is available athttp://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1493195762
President Poroshenko meets with RNBO Secretary Turchynov and Prosecutor General Lutsenko 
PHOTO – Presidential Administration of Ukraine
5. $1.5 billion from arrested Yanukovych accounts transferred to State Budget
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) reported on April 28, “Today, the court decision to transfer to the State Budget of Ukraine 1.5 billion US dollars, arrested on the accounts of the former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage, came into force. This was reported by Secretary of the RNBO Oleksandr Turchynov and Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko at a briefing in ‘Oschadbank’, where the bank’s management was being informed about this.” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko stated, “What does it mean? It means that justice is restored. For every kopeck of these 40 billion hryvnias has been stolen from every citizen of our state and this moment is an act of justice on the return of these funds to the people of Ukraine.”
6. Atlantic Council: Surkov email Leaks Show How Russia Funds and Manages Conflict in Ukraine
On April 24, the Atlantic Council reported, “Hacked emails show that the Kremlin directs and funds the ostensibly independent republics in eastern Ukraine and runs military operations there. In late 2016, Ukrainian hacker groups released emails purportedly taken from the office of Kremlin official Vladislav Surkov, who oversees Ukraine policy for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Surkov leaks confirm what many have long suspected: the Kremlin has orchestrated and funded the supposedly independent governments in the Donbas, and seeks to disrupt internal Ukrainian politics, making the task of rebuilding modern Ukraine impossible. Russia has consistently denied accusations from Kyiv and the West that it is providing the separatists with troops, weapons, and other material support or meddling in Ukrainian affairs. The emails from Surkov’s office betray the official Kremlin line, revealing the extent of Russian involvement in the seizure of Ukrainian territory, the creation of puppet “people’s republics,” and the funding to ensure their survival. […] In his own words, the Surkov leaks show that the Kremlin directs and funds the ostensibly independent republics in eastern Ukraine and runs military operations there. Yet nearly all media in the West speak about the war in the Donbas as being run by Kremlin-backed separatists, but this isn’t a true characterization. Moscow is actively guiding and managing this breakaway state, down to paying invoices for office equipment. The leaks provides clear, irrefutable evidence that the Donetsk People’s Republic is not an independent actor; it is a creature of the Kremlin and should be treated as such. It’s time for the media and foreign governments to catch up and call it what it is: a Russian hybrid war. The full report from the Atlantic Council is available at http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/russia-funds-and-manages-conflict-in-ukraine-leaks-show

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