Ukraine: Daily Briefing – December 14, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
December 14, 2018, 5 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian Armed Forces training exercises, Operation UNIFIER. 
Photo – CAF Operations
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front 22 times in total, including at least 7 times with heavy weapons. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 3 and wounded 4 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. Illegally imprisoned Ukrainian sailors tell Russia: We won’t testify
Image: Andriy Yermolenko

Reuters reported, “Two Ukrainian navy captains being held in a Russian jail have refused to provide testimony because they consider themselves prisoners of war, their lawyers said on Wednesday.
            Russia seized three Ukrainian navy vessels and their combined crew of 24 last month off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea and accused them of illegally entering Russian waters. […]
            The United States and the European Union have called for the release of the sailors, who are in pretrial detention in Moscow.
            Roman Mokryak, the commander of one of the gunboats, told Russian investigators he would not provide any information until his crew was released, his lawyer, Ilya Novikov, said on Wednesday.
           ‘He believes he alone answers for what happens on board, that his crew carried out his orders and that they cannot be held to account,’ Novikov wrote on Facebook.
           Oleh Melnychuk, the captain of the tugboat, has also refused to testify, denying Moscow’s accusations and calling himself a prisoner of war, his lawyer Edem Semedlyayev wrote in a separate Facebook post on Wednesday. No date has been set for the sailors’ trial.
          Ukraine has said it fears Russia is preparing to attack it, citing an alleged military buildup along its border. […]
          In Washington, the Pentagon said Ukraine Navy Commander Admiral Ihor Voronchenko would be meeting with officials, including Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, on Thursday and Friday.
          ‘(Pentagon) leaders will reiterate the U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, as well as the right of its vessels to traverse international waters,’ Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Reuters on Thursday.”
3. EU leaders prolong economic sanctions on Russia, call for immediate release of Ukrainian sailors
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on December 13 said economic sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine will be prolonged for another six months with the official rollover expected next week. The sanctions, which mainly target the Russian banking and energy sectors, were first imposed in the summer of 2014 and have been extended every six months since then.”
             In the summit’s conclusions, the EU leaders stated, “The European Council expresses its utmost concern regarding the escalation at the Kerch Straits and the Azov Sea and Russia’s violations of international law. It reconfirms its commitment to international law, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and the EU’s policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea.              There is no justification for the use of military force by Russia. The European Council requests the immediate release of all detained Ukrainian seamen as well as the return of the seized vessels and free passage of all ships through the Kerch Straits. The EU stands ready to adopt measures to strengthen further its support, in particular in favour of the affected areas of Ukraine.”
4. Ukraine’s President: It is time for EU to recognize developments in Kerch strait as an open act of aggression
Ukraine’s President visited Brussels December 12-13. The Presidential Administration reported on December 13, “The Head of State stressed that Ukraine was attacked by the Russian aggressor once again when two weeks ago Ukrainian ships were attacked by the Russian fleet.
            ‘I am very grateful for your statement and for the EU’s position in support of my country. Yesterday, we had an opportunity to hear the statement of the European Parliament, which was supported by 433 members of the EP and demonstrated that it was an act of aggression against Ukraine. This is not a provocation, this is not a crisis. This is an act of aggression that falls entirely under UN General Assembly resolution 3314 adopted in 1974,” the President said.
           ‘In this situation, we need an adequate response from the whole world: the G7, NATO, the EU, the European Parliament. Support of the European Parliament for the additional sanctions against Russia for the aggression in the Azov and Black Seas helps us begin negotiations in this area,’ Petro Poroshenko added. He also noted the resolution of the US Congress.

‘The decision of the EU Council on extending the EU sanctions against Russia for the non-fulfillment of the Minsk agreements, illegal construction of the Kerch Bridge, holding of illegal so-called elections in the occupied territories of Donbas is also very important. This is unacceptable and we very much appreciate a strong and single position of the EU. If there were doubts earlier, yesterday, after our meeting, we heard a strong position of the whole EU […] What happened in the Kerch Strait was an open act of aggression. It’s time for the EU to acknowledge that,’ he said.”

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