Ukraine: Daily Briefing – January 3, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 3, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time
Image – AndriyYermolenko

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 5 times in total.
2. Crimean Tatar activist attacked, viciously beaten in Russian-occupied Crimea
Photo – Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Crimean Tatar activist Risa Asanov is in yellow sweater

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “Risa Asanov, one of the Crimean Tatar activists who recently carried aid to Moscow for the 24 Ukrainian POWs seized by Russia, was viciously attacked on 2 January.  The two assailants waited for him to regain consciousness to say that this was his ‘last warning’ and that he would not live through the next attack.
            Asanov has played a major role in supporting political prisoners and their families since returning to Crimea from Poland in 2017, and he is certain that the attack was linked with his strong civil stand against rights violations in occupied Crimea.
          He posted information about the attack on his Facebook page, explaining that he had been filming a video about the Tavrida Motorway near Belogorsk when hit from behind with what he thinks was a baton.  When he regained consciousness, he was lying close to his car, with one of the assailants telling him, with an accent indicating he was from Russia, that this was his last warning.  The other was more blunt: ‘Next time you’ll die.’
          He managed to drive to the district hospital where doctors diagnosed concussion and other injuries.  He reported the attack to the police, but says that he received no confirmation of his report.  What is more, he says, a person whom he first saw at the hospital appeared at the station and, on leaving, smiled at him.  He assumes that this was no mere passer-by.
          Asanov’s firm commitment to defending the rights of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in occupied Crimea means that it is unlikely that this will stop him, however that was clearly the intention of this attack.  […]
         Aside from attending court hearings, and similar, in political cases, Asanov is working together with lawyers in holding seminars in different parts of Crimea on what to do in the case of searches and arrests.  You can see the results, he says, with people learning how to defend themselves before lawyers get there and not let the FSB plant things [‘prohibited’ books, for example, or ammunition as was the case with Ukrainian activist Volodymyr Balukh]. […]
          After Russia secretly, and very illegally, transferred the 24 naval seamen, who are all prisoners of war, to Moscow, Asanov joined Dzhelyal and other Crimean Tatar activists in transporting the huge load of clothes, food and essential items, as well as money, collected for their fellow Ukrainians whom Russia is still now holding prisoner.”
The full report from KHPG is available here
3. Washington Post Editorial Board: US and NATO allies should be acting to deter Russian escalation
The Washington Post Editorial Board wrote on December 30, “It has been five weeks since Russia assaulted Ukrainian Navy ships that were passing through international waters near the occupied Crimean Peninsula. Though the world’s attention has moved on, Russian forces have not: On the contrary, they are massed near Crimea’s border with eastern Ukraine, prompting warnings from the Ukrainian government as well as independent observers that the regime of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin may be planning a new attack on the country. Rather than await the Russians’ next move, the Trump administration should be working with allies to actively deter further aggression. […]
            Ukrainians and independent observers are warning that Mr. Putin may be planning a ground offensive. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War reported on Dec. 23   that Russian military convoys had been moving toward the border between Crimea and Ukrainian-held territory, and that fighter jets had been redeployed to Crimean airfields. Though the purpose of the military movements is unclear, the ISW said, ‘The data suggests that Putin is preparing to attack.’ […]
           It could well be that Mr. Putin can accomplish his aims simply by raising the level of tension and by showing he can strangle Ukrainian ports with impunity. But whatever his intentions, the United States and its NATO allies should be acting to punish Mr. Putin for his coast guard’s actions in the Kerch Strait and to deter an escalation. There are a number of steps that could be taken, ranging from dispatching warships to the Black Sea, with a stop in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, to stationing NATO or European Union observers in eastern Ukraine. There have, as yet, been no sanctions against Russia specifically linked to its seizure of the Kerch Strait; there should be.”
4. Two million Ukrainian citizens have benefited from visa-free travel to EU
Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers stated, “Two million Ukrainian citizens have already benefited from the visa-free regime with the EU and the visa-free regime is working. […]

The most active movement of Ukrainians is registered at the border checkpoints with Poland (694 thousand crossings), as well as through the air conveyance (674 thousand crossings).”

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