Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – May 6-12, 2017

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
May 6-12, 2017
 
Ukrainian tank crews participate in Strong Europe Tank Challenge,  Germany,  May 7-12. Ukraine is one of six NATO and partner countries participating. 
PHOTO – US 7th Army


1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of May 5-11, five Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 30 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 383 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol sectors of the front, including at least 123 times with heavy weapons – mortars, artillery and tanks.
 
2. EU endorses visa liberalization for Ukraine
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “European Union member states endorsed visa liberalization for Ukraine on May 11, clearing the final hurdle for Ukrainian citizens to travel to the EU’s Schengen Area without a visa. Representatives of the European Council and the European Parliament are now expected to rubber-stamp the decision in Strasbourg on May 17, with the visa-free regime due to enter into force onJune 11. The decision will apply to all Ukrainian citizens who have biometric passports. They will be able to enter all EU member states apart from Ireland and the United Kingdom for up to 90 days during any 180-day period. It also applies to the four Schengen-area countries that are not in the EU: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.” EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos stated, “Today’s decision is an acknowledgment of the successful and far-reaching reforms carried out by Ukraine, often in very challenging circumstances. From the very beginning, the Ukrainian authorities have demonstrated their full commitment to address the fight against corruption as a matter of priority and have carried out important reforms in the fields of border management and anti-discrimination. Ukraine has come a long way and today this is recognised and rewarded. Now it is important to sustain this progress. The European Union stands ready to continue providing support and assistance to the Ukrainian authorities in this endeavour.  Visa-free travel will bring important benefits for citizens on both sides. It will reinforce social, cultural and economic ties between the EU and Ukraine as well as strengthen people-to-people contacts. Visa-free travel to the Schengen area will soon become a reality – it is an important and well-deserved moment for Ukraine and its citizens that will make our already close relations even stronger.”
3. PEN America Launches Campaign to Free Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, illegally imprisoned by Russia
Click image for video by PEN America about Oleg Sentsov


PEN America stated on May 10, “Authors Chimamanda Adichie, Jonathan Franzen, and Masha Gessen, film giants Wim Wenders and Agnieszka Holland, television hosts Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee, and other creative allies joined PEN America today in a letter calling on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to press for the immediate release of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian writer and filmmaker imprisoned in Siberia on terrorism charges widely considered to be a groundless attempt to silence his criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Sentsov […] was active in protesting Russian incursions in Crimea and Ukraine more broadly. Sentsov’s ‘voice of opposition in Ukraine made him a ripe target for Russian stifling of dissent,’ the letter reads. ‘Given President Putin’s brazen willingness to flout human rights norms and the rule of law, and his relentless targeting of dissenting writers, artists, activists, and politicians, it would be irresponsible to ignore Sentsov’s plight.’ PEN America’s letter comes on the third anniversary of Oleg Sentsov’s arrest and disappearance from Crimea on May 10, 2014. Sentsov surfaced in Moscow and later said he had been tortured in an unsuccessful effort to extract a confession. His trial was riddled with irregularities, and the lead prosecution witness later recanted his testimony, saying it had been made under duress. Sentsov is currently serving a 20-year sentence in a Siberian penal colony. The charges against him have been decried by human rights groups worldwide as fabrications intended to shut down and intimidate opponents of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Sentsov is the father of two young children. […]Sentsov was honored with the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at the annual PEN America Literary Gala on April 25.” The letter sent to Secretary Tillerson is available here: https://pen.org/urge-secretary-of-state-rex-tillerson-to-fight-for-oleg-sentsov/
 
 4. Former NATO Secretary General calls on US to provide lethal weapons, Major Non-NATO Ally status for Ukraine
Secretary Mattis with former NATO Secretary General Rasmussen
Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (2009-2014) met with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Copenhagen on May 9. Rasmussen reported on the meeting, “Ahead of the NATO leaders’ mini-summit on May 25th, we discussed the role NATO can play in fighting terrorism and I set out some thoughts on how the alliance could be more active in training forces in Iraq to build local capacity in the fight against Daesh. We also talked about Russia, where it is clear the United States continues to take a firm stance towards Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, and its ongoing efforts to destabilise western institutions – including NATO. I asked for Washington to step up its support for Ukraine through the delivery of lethal weapons to act as a deterrent, and the granting of a Major Non NATO Ally (MNNA) status for Ukraine to underline Washington’s commitment to the US-Ukraine security partnership.”
5. Bipartisan group of US Senators call on President Trump to engage with Ukraine and other longstanding allies before engaging with Russian President
US Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), John McCain (R-AZ), Bob Casey (D-PA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) wrote to President Trump on May 8 “encouraging him to prioritize meeting with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 conference in July.  Identifying the importance of engaging longstanding American allies as a priority for the foreign policy agenda of the new Administration, the letter also recommends increased support for institutions and European governments that help preserve the international order.” In the letter, the Senators stated, “As your Administration continues to formulate policies to promote American national security and foreign policy interests, we are writing to strongly encourage you to engage our traditional allies and prioritize meeting foreign leaders representing countries with whom we share historical ties, democratic values, and mutual interests.  […] Many of our allies in Europe are anxiously awaiting policy direction from your Administration about our commitments to NATO and other institutions that preserve the international order that has served as the framework for international stability and security since the end of the Second World War. Specifically, along with our most stalwart allies in Europe, we remain concerned about Russia’s continued military aggression in Eastern Ukraine and ongoing occupation of Crimea. Because of Russia’s destabilizing influence, approximately 10,000 people have been killed, over 20,000 wounded, and nearly 2 million internally displaced since 2014. This kind of instability can have far-reaching consequences for our allies and our interests in the region. In this vein, we strongly encourage you to meet with senior leaders from Ukraine, including President Petro Poroshenko, in advance of any official meetings with senior Russian officials including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meeting with democratically elected representatives from Ukraine would send a strong signal that the United States continues to prioritize our relationship with longstanding allies, and will continue our commitments to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing aggression.” The full text of the letter is available at https://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=F7B0D478-CE14-4349-B159-DE7EB4CF1B70
 

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