Ukraine: Daily Briefing – October 15, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
October 15, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian Armed Forces training exercises. Photo – Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front 23 times in total, including at least 4 times with heavy weapons. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 2 and wounded 4 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. Ukraine’s President: Secular authorities will not interfere in church affairs
Prayer meeting for Ukraine, Kyiv October 14. 
Photo – Ukraine’s Presidential Administration
Ukraine’s Presidential Administration reported on October 14, “President Petro Poroshenko stressed that there was not, is not and will not be a state church in Ukraine.
           ‘No one will be forced to visit the church consecrated by the Tomos. Once again I emphasize that this is a free choice for every believer. I guarantee that the authorities will respect the choice of those who decide to stay in the church structure, which preserves unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. This is their choice and we must respect it,’ the President said during a prayer meeting for Ukraine.
           At the same time, the Head of State guarantees that the state will protect the rights of those priests and believers of the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate who voluntarily decide to leave Moscow in order to create, together with other Orthodox, a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church.
          In general, the state has its mission in the religious issue. And this mission has already been fulfilled. We received good news from Constantinople. Now, there are internal questions that the secular authorities cannot intervene in,’ the President stressed.
          The Head of State stressed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate made a decision on autocephaly and Tomos will be handed over to a primate of the church – a worthy, authoritative, experienced leader who will be chosen by the united Bishops’ Council. According to him, with the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Mother Church, the Council will convene all bishops of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate, the UAOC, as well as several bishops of the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate, ‘who have chosen the cross between the Kremlin star and the Orthodox cross, have chosen Ukraine between Ukraine and Russia.'”
3. Atlantic Council on Autocephaly for Ukraine’s Orthodox Church
For an analysis by the Atlantic Council of the recent decision on granting Autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, please click here
4. US Mission to OSCE on Russia’s ongoing violations in Ukraine
The US Mission to the OSCE stated, “The United States views the Minsk agreements, in their entirety, as the only path forward to a peaceful resolution of this conflict. The agreed upon formula for implementing Minsk remains easy to understand: security first, then political action. Countless times Russia has demonstrated the ability to ratchet up and down at will the level of violence in eastern Ukraine. Unfortunately, Russia never follows up on these demonstrations of sponsorship and control with disengagement and withdrawal. We are therefore left with stale Russian rhetoric and without a single, tangible sign of its commitment to the Minsk process. […]
           Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has again proved its goodwill towards Minsk implementation. On October 4, the Ukrainian Rada extended the so-called ‘Special Status Law.’ This is the second time Ukraine extended this law even though the Russian side has never responded with serious steps on its Minsk commitments. Instead, Russia continues to backslide on its obligations while actually stoking the embers of the conflict it created. […] Russia is the aggressor in the conflict and so we, along with the rest of the world, will continue to insist that Moscow must take the first steps to improve security conditions on the ground and to end the conflict. […]
          The United States joins others in urging the Russian Federation to allow Ukraine’s Ombudswoman and independent medical personnel access to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who, as others have noted, ended his 145-day hunger strike to avoid being forcibly fed by his Russian jailers. Sentsov, who is unjustly serving a 20-year prison sentence on bogus charges of terrorism for opposing Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, began a hunger strike on May 14 to protest the dozens of other Ukrainian political prisoners who are languishing in Russian or Crimean jails for supporting their homeland and for opposing Russian occupation.
          Mr. Chair, we follow with concern the case of Crimean farmer Volodymr Balukh, who also ended his lengthy hunger strike this week upon the tragic news that he is to be illegally transferred from Crimea to Russia, as so many political prisoners have been. The United States calls for the immediate release of Sentsov, Balukh, and all other Ukrainian political prisoners who are unjustly held in Russia or on the Crimean peninsula.”
5. UK pushes on chemical weapons and cyber sanctions
The Financial Times reported on October 14, “Britain is putting pressure on the EU to name the targets of new chemical weapons sanctions due to be agreed as part of the bloc’s escalating response to alleged malicious Russian activity in Europe.
           Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign secretary, will also call for talks on cyber-related EU countermeasures to be stepped up when the bloc’s foreign ministers gather in Luxembourg on Monday.
           Mr Hunt’s intervention comes as the EU grapples with internal divisions over how to deal with Vladimir Putin’s government and less than six months before Britain is due to leave the EU.  […]
           The EU foreign ministers are expected to sign off on the creation of a legal framework for a chemical weapons sanctions regime drafted after the nerve agent poisoning in March of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy living in the UK, and his daughter Yulia. Mr Hunt wants to ‘use the momentum’ of the agreement to press for the naming of people and entities allegedly responsible for the use and proliferation of chemical weapons internationally, the Foreign Office said.
           The UK has so far given no details of whom it wants to target with the chemical weapons sanctions, which would typically include travel bans and asset freezes. But it has not ruled out targeting more senior players than the two alleged Russian military intelligence officers named by British authorities last month as the suspected perpetrators of the Salisbury attack. […]

Mr Hunt will also push for bespoke EU sanctions against the alleged perpetrators of malicious cyber-activity. It has put forward a proposal along with the Netherlands and several other EU member states. The Dutch, UK and US governments this month accused Russia of a cyber crime spree that targeted multiple authorities investigating alleged Kremlin wrongdoing, including the international chemical weapons watchdog based in The Hague.”

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