Ukraine: Daily Briefing – May 30, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
May 30, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time
A Canadian soldier teaches a class to Ukrainian Noncommissioned Officers during Junior Leader Advanced Training. Photo – US Army Europe

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions on the Kamyanka-Avdiivka line with mortars. Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Pisky, Zaytseve and other locations with mortars. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Krasnohorivka and Novotroitske with artillery and mortars. At Pavlopil and Shyrokyne, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions near Stanytsia Luhanska and Popasne. Near Krymske, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. At Troitske, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with artillery.
2. Dutch Senate Approves EU-Ukraine Association Agreement
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “The Dutch Senate has approved the European Union’s Association Agreement with Ukraine, paving the way for ratification of the pact strengthening ties between the EU and Kyiv. The 50-to-25 vote in the upper house of parliament in the Netherlands on May 30 marks one of the final stages in a long path to the landmark deal […] The Dutch lower house of parliament backed the agreement in a vote weeks before March 15 parliamentary elections, and King Willem-Alexander is expected to sign it into law in the coming days. European diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity have told RFE/RL it could be ratified during an EU-Ukraine summit in July and would enter into force in early autumn. The Netherlands is the only EU country that has yet to approve the agreement with Ukraine.”
            Responding to the vote, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, stated, “Today’s vote in the Dutch Senate sends an important signal from the Netherlands and the entire European Union to our Ukrainian friends: Ukraine’s place is in Europe. Ukraine’s future lies with Europe. […]I would like to see the process now being finalised swiftly, in time for the EU-Ukraine Summit in July. The European Union is fully committed to our partnership with the Ukrainian people, which has developed into one of our closest and most valued. The Association Agreement has already increased trade between us, has brought increased prosperity for entrepreneurs, has helped to initiate and consolidate a number of reforms in Ukraine, and has brought new opportunities to European Union and Ukrainian citizens alike. Let us harness the positive momentum generated by today’s vote to further strengthen our partnership.”
3. Judges double as prosecutors to jail Ukrainian activist in Russian-occupied Crimea
Volodymyr Balukh in court. PHOTO – KHPG
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported on May 29, “It has long been clear that Russian-controlled courts provide the sentences demanded in politically-motivated trials.  In Russian-occupied Crimea, if there are orders not to release a Ukrainian activist they also act as prosecutor.
46-year-old Volodymyr Balukh has been imprisoned for 6 months on charges so obviously falsified that human rights groups declared him a political prisoner almost immediately.
The list of gross infringements in his case is already huge, but increased on May 23 with the ‘judge’, Maria Alexandrovna Berditskaya  from the Razdolne District Court ignoring the failure by the prosecutor to provide even one reason for holding Balukh in custody, and remanding him in custody until September 4.
As Balukh’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze pointed out, this was not just a formal infringement of procedure.  The charges against Balukh are of medium severity, and detention for over 6 months is permitted only under exceptional circumstances. The prosecutor had failed to think up any ‘exceptional’ justification, so Berditskaya simply took over and extended his imprisonment anyway. […]
Balukh is facing a potential 4-year prison sentence […] on insultingly implausible charges. He was arrested on December 8, 2016, after the FSB [Russian security service] carried out searches of his home and his mother’s.  The FSB claimed to have found 90 bullets and several trotyl explosive devices in Balukh’s attic. There was nothing to link Balukh with any act of violence, and the Ukrainian activist had every reason to expect FSB searches.  These had taken place several times under Russian occupation and were especially to be expected then.
On Nov 29 Balukh had nailed a plaque renaming his home No. 18 ‘Heroes of Nebesna Sotnya St’ in memory of the over 100 Maidan activists who were killed during Euromaidan.  The FSB arrived just over a week after Balukh ignored demands from the head of the local council for the sign to be removed.   In recognizing Balukh a political prisoner, the Memorial Human Rights Centre pointed to both the total implausibility of the charges and a whole litany of procedural irregularities.” The full report from KHPG is available at

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