Ukraine: Daily Briefing – January 10, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 10, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time
Operation UNIFIER training exercises. 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, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk sector of the front 2 times in total, including once with heavy weapons.
2. EU calls for immediate release of all Ukrainian citizens illegally detained by Russia
Image – Andriy Yermolenko

The European Union Foreign Affairs spokesperson stated, “Pavlo Hryb, a disabled, 20-year old citizen of Ukraine was abducted on 24 August 2017 in Belarus, and detained by the Russian authorities without any clear charges. The European Union expects him to be immediately released and granted access to the special medical treatment he needs. Ukrainian doctors must be allowed to see him while he remains in detention, as required by a recent injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.
          Crimean Tatar activist Edem Bekirov was detained on 12 December 2018 upon entry into the Crimean peninsula illegally annexed by Russia. Mr Bekirov also needs daily medical assistance given his health condition. We expect him to be released without delay and granted access to urgent and appropriate medical care.
         The European Union reiterates that all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in the Crimean peninsula and in Russia and the crew of the vessels captured by Russia on 25 November must be immediately released. International human rights observers must be granted full, free and unhindered access to the Crimean peninsula.
         The European Union remains committed to fully implementing its policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.”
3. Ukraine’s foreign trade grows by 12%; exports to Canada up 48.5%
Ukraine Business News reported, “Ukraine’s foreign trade grew by 12% last year, hitting $104 billion, reports the State Fiscal Service. Exports were up 9% to $47.3 billion. Imports were up 15% to $56.8 billion. Among exports, the leaders were: food – 39%; metals – 25%; and equipment -11.6%. Wage remittances from overseas labor – about $11 billion – was not counted as an export. […]
            Ukraine’s exports to Canada were up 48.5% yoy through September, Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, tells Ukrinform. Canada lifted 98% of customs duties on Ukrainian goods on Aug. 1, 2017, the start of the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement.”
4. US Congress summons Treasury Secretary to explain removal of Rusal sanctions
The New York Times reported on January 9, “House Democrats have summoned Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, to Congress on Thursday to deliver a classified briefing about the Trump administration’s plans to end sanctions on companies linked to the billionaire Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska.
         The briefing is an early instance of Democratic lawmakers flexing their new oversight muscles after taking control of the House last week. Such requests from Democrats were generally ignored or rebuffed during President Trump’s first two years in office, but cabinet officials are expected to face intense scrutiny over past decisions.
         Congress is reviewing the administration’s decision – announced in December by the Treasury Department – to lift sanctions against three companies that Mr. Deripaska controls, EN+, Rusal and JSC EuroSibEnergo. Rusal is the world’s second largest aluminum company and concerns about its fate roiled the industry after the Trump administration announced sanctions last year. […]
         Democratic lawmakers sent Mr. Mnuchin a letter on Tuesday seeking an explanation for why the termination of the sanctions was justified. They expressed concern that Mr. Deripaska still maintained ‘significant ownership’ of En+, the holding company that controls Rusal, while transferring shares to VTB, a sanctioned Russian bank. They also said that the government shutdown was hampering their ability to properly review the decision.
         The solution approved by the Treasury Department lifts the sanctions against Mr. Deripaska’s companies in exchange for reducing his stake in EN+ from approximately 70 percent to less than 45 percent and giving up control of that company and Rusal.
         Because Mr. Deripaska would remain on the sanctions list, personally, even if his companies were removed from it, Treasury has described the agreement as a way to punish the oligarch by separating him from his companies without creating broader economic problems.

Democrats remain doubtful. Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, laid the groundwork to try to block the lifting of the sanctions when he filed a congressional resolution disapproving of the move by the Treasury Department. But both chambers of Congress would have to pass the resolution, meaning that Senate Republicans would have to break ranks with Mr. Trump to pass the resolution and keep the sanctions in place.”

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