Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – March 3-9, 2018

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
March 3-9, 2018

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that during the week of March 2-8, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 35 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front, including at least 18 times with heavy weapons.
2. Russia’s gas blackmail against Ukraine fails and serves as EU alarm call
Naftogaz Ukrainy stated on March 3, “Ukraine’s gas transmission system (GTS) was fully functional on the morning of 3 March after emergency measures taken by Ukraine and the country’s European partners helped to cancel out the potentially disastrous effects of a Russian failure to supply prepaid gas.
           Additional gas imports from the EU have allowed Ukraine to compensate for the shortfall in trunk pipeline pressure caused by Gazprom’s sudden and unilateral violation of the gas supply and transit contracts with Naftogaz.
          Ukrainian society also played a key role in helping the country to avoid an energy crisis, with citizens responding to calls from the Ukrainian authorities to join the #coolitdown initiative and turn their residential heating down by one degree. Coupled with security of supply measures implemented in commercial segment this led to a reduction of demand in Ukraine’s major cities by 14% on 2 March compared to the previous day. […]
          The Naftogaz CEO singled out Ukrainian society for particular praise. ‘I would like to extend special thanks to Ukrainian society as a whole for the incredible levels of engagement displayed in support of our emergency initiative to turn down residential heating by one degree. This was an unprecedented national initiative made possible by popular participation and the support of the Ukrainian media. We now ask you to continue this initiative until 6 March. Each cubic meter of gas you save helps to defend Ukraine against the threat posed by Russia’s unpredictable behavior.’ […]
          Initial international reaction to the gas showdown suggests Russia’s actions and statements made by Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller have seriously undermined Gazprom’s image within the EU as a reliable partner. According to numerous Western commentaries, Gazprom’s position is not in line with the spirit and practice of civilized commercial relations between suppliers and customers. This apparently overt use of gas supplies as a political weapon will likely provoke renewed debate in Germany over the wisdom of Berlin’s support for the Kremlin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
         According to Naftogaz chief commercial officer Yuriy Vitrenko, Gazprom’s latest actions confirm that Naftogaz was correct to warn the European community over Russia’s use of gas supplies as a geopolitical weapon. ‘We hope that now it is more clear to the EU that it is a bad idea to build Nord Stream 2 or any other new streams with Gazprom,’ said Yuriy Vitrenko.”
3. Ukraine’s Justice Ministry begins seizing Gazprom assets in Ukraine
Ukraine Business Journal reported on March 9, “Ukraine’s Justice Ministry is seizing Gazprom assets in Ukraine, following the Russian gas company’s refusal to pay Naftogaz $2.6 billion, as ordered Feb. 28 by the Stockholm Arbitration court. According to Ukrinform, the state news service, officers of the ministry’s State Execution Service have seized shares and other property from: Gaztransit, Gazpromzbut Ukraine, Institute Southerngiprogaz and the International Consortium for the Management and Development of the Gas Transit System of Ukraine. The Gaztransit shares are valued at $23 million.
         Looking outside Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry is asking all embassies to conduct inventories of attachable Gazprom property. […] Justice Minister Pavel Petrenko told the Cabinet that Ukraine has bilateral treaties with 27 countries that would allow seizure of Gazprom assets to pay the bill. He estimated that the procedure could be completed by the end of this year.
         The ministries are moving on the order of President Poroshenko. On Thursday he tweeted: ‘On my instructions, the team of lawyers is already working on collecting the appropriate amounts, so if Gazprom does not pay compensation, we will arrest the property'”
4. European Commission proposes 1 billion Euros in new macro-financial assistance to Ukraine
The EU stated on March 9, “The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme for Ukraine worth up to €1 billion to support economic stabilisation and structural reforms.
          Today’s proposal follows a request from the Ukrainian authorities and direct discussions between Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. The new programme seeks to build on the progress made in supporting economic stabilisation and structural reforms under the three previous MFA operations.
          The EU has so far pledged €12.8 billion to support the reform process in Ukraine, including €2.8 billion through three MFA programmes, since the onset of the crisis in 2014.[…]
          All disbursements under the proposed programme, including the first, would be conditional on the implementation of reform measures designed to address vulnerabilities identified in the Ukrainian economy. Established in a Memorandum of Understanding, they would take into account measures that remain outstanding from the previous MFA programme and include steps to intensify the fight against corruption.”
5. Ukraine’s President speaks with US Vice President
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko held a phone conversation with US Vice President Mike Pence on March 6. Ukraine’s Presidential Administration reported, “The Head of State informed the U.S. Vice President of the current situation in the Donbas and the ongoing provocations on the part of Russia-controlled militants who do not stop violating the announced complete ceasefire regime.
          In this regard, Petro Poroshenko underlined the importance of further pressure on Russia for ensuring proper implementation of the security aspects of the Minsk agreements. He expressed gratitude for the recent decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to roll over respective sanctions against Russia for a year.
         Vice President Pence emphasized the importance of preserving sanctions against Russia until full implementation of the Minsk agreements and return of Crimea to Ukraine. […]
         The Head of State emphasized that the provision of U.S. defensive weapons to Ukraine was an important positive signal for other partners of our country and a clear warning for the Russian aggressor.
        Vice President Michael Pence stressed that USA would keep supporting Ukraine in its fight for territorial integrity and sovereignty. He also noted Ukraine’s progress in the implementation of reforms, particularly establishment of the Anticorruption Court.”
6. Ukraine is fighting a war for the right to make its own choices: Interview with Canada’s representative to Ukraine’s Defence Reform Advisory Board
Jill Sinclair, Canada’ s Representative to Ukraine’s Defence Reform Advisory Board. Photo – Ukrainian Week

The Ukrainian Week interviewed Jill Sinclair, Canada’s Representative to Ukraine’s Defence Reform Advisory Board, about Ukrainian military reforms, bilateral and Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
          Sinclair stated, “Our commitments to Ukraine remain unchanged. You can see that today the Ukrainian military is better trained, more ready and capable to defend its own country. And this is very impressive given the challenges facing Ukraine! I’ll give you an example of our contribution to these gains. In the last rotation alone, which began in September 2017, the Canadian Armed Forces have trained more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops in an advanced course on tactical medicine. You have more and more Ukrainian instructors now training army specialists on their own.
          As for areas of cooperation in the future. Taking into account the fact that training on the tactical level is going well and AFU personnel are properly trained and motivated, we can start working more closely on the institutional level. For example, we have a Canadian working as the deputy director of the Military Law Enforcement Service training centre and another as an advisor to the newly created medical directorate. Ukrainians can do much of the personnel training on their own, without our help.
          It’s worth mentioning the expansion of our bilateral partnership. Because there is a lot that Ukrainians can teach Canadians. If you talk to our military people working with Ukrainians who have experience in the ATO, they’ll tell that your officers are professionals from whom Canadians can learn some very important things. These contacts are becoming increasing less one-sided in terms of us teaching Ukrainian. It’s becoming a true partnership […]
          Our partnership and friendship with Ukraine is an outgrowth of the understanding that you are forging a new future for your country – a successful Euro-Atlantic state where there is freedom, dignity and security for the whole nation. You are fighting a war for the right to make your own choices, and this is a sign of a changing mindset. That is why you have partners such as Canada, that is why we found each other.”   The full interview is available here: Ukraine is fighting a war for the right to make its own choices
7. Atlantic Council Report: Democratic Defense Against Disinformation
On March 7, the Atlantic Council published a report, “Democratic Defense Against Disinformation,” by Ambassador Daniel Fried, former US State Department Coordinator for Sanctions Policy and Dr. Alina Polyakova, Brookings Institution Fellow.
           The report states, “Following Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign, ‘disinformation’ became a topic du jour. Revelations, detailed in multiple congressional testimonies, of how the Russian government and its proxies infiltrated social-media platforms to spread false narratives and manipulate public discourse jolted the American public and policy makers to attention. Amid important European elections in 2017, including those in France and Germany, European countries faced the same challenge of how to respond to and resist disinformation campaigns aimed against them.
           Since the US election, governments, multinational institutions, civil-society groups, and the private sector have launched various initiatives to expose, monitor, and get ahead of disinformation attacks. Through these efforts, the transatlantic community has gleaned three valuables lessons: The problem is broader than Russia or any single actor; a democratic response to malign influence must engage the whole of society; and we must work together to learn from each other’s mistakes and successes as we craft governmental and nongovernmental strategies and solutions.
          This paper is part of the broader transatlantic effort to identify democratic solutions for countering disinformation in the short term and building societal resistance to it in the long term. At this point, the transatlantic community has moved beyond acknowledging that it has a problem. Today, we need concrete solutions that can be readily implemented, tested, and refined. Rather than elaborating the details of the challenge, this paper presents a menu of options for key stakeholders: national governments, civil society, and tech companies. The full report can be accessed here: Democratic Defense Against Disinformation

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