Ukraine: Daily Briefing – December 11, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
December 11, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time
US Army M1A1 Abrams tank crew pulls along side a column of armored vehicles from the Ukrainian Army during exercise Combined Resolve XI in Germany, December 10. Photo – US Army Europe
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed or 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 12 times in total, including at least 5 times with heavy weapons. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 1 and wounded 3 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. US State Department: Proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline presents broad geostrategic threats to European security
US Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Energy Resources, Francis R. Fannon spoke with the media on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and European energy Security. Fannon stated, “The energy security of our European partners and allies has been a longstanding strategic priority for the United States, and given Russia’s aggression in recent days, this is a good time to spotlight our diplomacy on transatlantic energy security.
           The United States has strongly condemned the recent Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov. We’ve called Russia’s closure of the Kerch Strait a clear violation of international laws. Russia’s actions only strengthen the international consensus that views the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a direct affront to Europe’s own energy and national security goals. It strengthens those dependencies that we’re speaking about.
           Many in Europe certainly recognize the centrality of energy diversity in achieving energy security. More European countries are recognizing this importance every day, and the European Union is doing a lot. The EU is opening its markets, is encouraging projects of common interest, key energy infrastructure projects. […]
          Nord Stream 2 and an expanded Turkish Stream pipeline take – seek to deepen dependence rather than strengthen security. They are not commercial projects; they are political tools. Unlike the United States, Russia’s energy companies are an extension of the state, and the Russian state uses energy for coercive political aims. […]
          U.S. opposition to Nord Stream 2 is rooted in our abiding concern that the pipeline presents broad geostrategic threats to Europe’s security, a point that we have consistently conveyed to leaders across the continent. The Secretary reminds us that, quote, ‘We do not want our European friends to fall prey to the kind of political and economic manipulation Russia has attempted in Ukraine since it cast off its Soviet shackles.’ […]
         We continue to speak to all of our friends in Europe through bilateral fora – bilaterally as well as through multilateral fora. We hear some increasing levels of concern about Nord Stream 2 in Germany but also more broadly certainly and expect – in terms of moving forward on other policies, we don’t comment on future actions that the U.S. government may take, but we’ve made quite clear where we stand on that […]
        We certainly are monitoring the level of interest that Congress has, and I would say that that level, that interest preceded the Sea of Azov’s hostilities. We anticipate that Congress’ resolve on this issue and going after the Russian energy exports sector will only increase subsequent to that. We’ve been monitoring the bill. I think there’s something like 10 bills out there, all of which include Russian energy as a key component.”
3. EU Security Commissioner: Russia ‘paved way for Ukraine ship seizures with fake news drive’
The Guardian reported, “The Kremlin launched a year-long disinformation campaign to soften up public opinion before its recent seizure of three Ukrainian ships and their crews in the Sea of Azov, the EU’s security commissioner has alleged.
           Julian King said Russia had paved the way for its decision to fire on and board two artillery ships and a tug boat through the dissemination of fake news.
The false claims, said to have been spread for ‘more than a year,’ included that Ukraine had infected the sea with cholera and that its secret services had been trying to transport a nuclear bomb to occupied Crimea, the British commissioner said.
           King said the European commission’s East StratCom unit, responsible for highlighting disinformation, had discovered a complicated web of untruths emanating from Russian sources.
           ‘If you thought that incident came out of nowhere, you would be wrong,’ King told an audience in Brussels. ‘The disinformation campaign began much earlier, more than a year ago, when Russian media started pushing claims that the authorities in Kyiv were dredging the seabed in the Sea of Azov in preparation for a Nato fleet to take up residence.’ […]
           Last month the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, proposed imposing martial law after Russian forces shot at and seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea, injuring six crew members. […]
           Last week the European commission announced it would set up a rapid alert system to help EU member states recognise disinformation campaigns and increase the budget set aside for the detection of disinformation from £1.69m to £4.4m (€5m). It will also press technology companies to play their part in cracking down on fake news.”
4. Ukraine’s President signs law on termination of 1997 “Treaty of Friendship” with Russia
On December 10, Ukraine’s Presidential Administration reported, “President Petro Poroshenko signed the Law of Ukraine ‘On the Termination of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.’
            ‘Non-prolongation of the treaty with Russia should be considered not as an episode, but as part of our strategy for the final break with the colonial past and reorientation towards Europe,’ the President emphasized.
           ‘Other components of this strategy are: visa-free regime, Association Agreement with the EU, Tomos on the creation of the Autocephalous Ukrainian church, withdrawal from the CIS, consolidation of the course of accession to NATO and the European Union, creation of a powerful, patriotic and professional Ukrainian army, support of the Ukrainian language, own history and strengthening of our national identity,’ Petro Poroshenko said.
           The Head of State also demands the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to complete the inventory of the legal framework with Russia. ‘We will continue to draw conclusions about the usefulness of certain agreements,’ Poroshenko said.”

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