Ukraine: Daily Briefing – January 11, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 11, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time
Image – Andriy Yermolenko

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 3 times in total, including once with heavy weapons. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 1 and wounded 2 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. US Secretary of State: Autocephaly for independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine marks historic achievement
On January 10, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “The January 6th announcement of autocephaly for an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine marks a historic achievement as Ukraine seeks to chart its own future. On this momentous occasion, the United States reiterates its unwavering support for a sovereign, independent Ukraine.
          The United States maintains its strong support for religious freedom, including the freedom for members of religious groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs, without external interference. We welcome remarks by Metropolitan Epiphaniy that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is open to all Orthodox believers and encourage government and Church officials to promote tolerance and respect for the freedom of members of all religious affiliations to worship as they choose.”
3. Ukraine grain exports up 14% in last year
Ukraine Business News reported, “As of yesterday, Ukraine exported 25 million tons of grain, up 14% over the same date last year. Dragon Capital predicts this growth rate will hold up for the second half of the marketing year, with Ukraine selling a record 45-46 million tons by the end of June.
          With corn accounting for half of Ukraine’s record harvest last year, corn sales to the EU have quadrupled and to Libya and Turkey have doubled, reports Ukragroconsult. Of Ukraine’s record 70.1 million harvest, records were also hit by sunflower seeds – up 12% — and by soybeans – up 13%.
          Ukraine ties with Argentina as the EU’s fourth largest source of imported food. In the 12 months through October, each sold €5.1 billion to the EU, according to a new report by the European Commission. The top three food exporters to the EU are: Brazil – €12 billion; US – €11.5 billion; and China – €5.5 billion.”
4. Democrat lawmakers call for delay in easing sanctions on close ally of Russia’s Putin
The Washington Post reported on January 10, “House Democrats said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to convince them in a closed briefing Thursday that the United States should lift sanctions on a Russian aluminum company controlled by a Vladimir Putin ally, calling for more information and a delay.
         Treasury notified Congress last month that it planned to lift sanctions on Rusal, an aluminum company controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
        Treasury said the Russian business leader will remain under personal sanctions but that sanctions on Rusal and two other firms could be lifted because Deripaska had agreed to reduce his ownership in the companies below 50 percent.
        ‘This, with stiff competition, mind you, was one of the worst classified briefings we’ve received from the Trump administration,’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after the briefing. ‘The secretary barely testified. He answered some questions, but he didn’t give testimony.’
        Asked whether House Democrats were considering introducing a resolution of disapproval to try to stop Treasury from easing the sanctions, as Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer has done in the Senate,   Pelosi said: ‘We’ll see.’
       ‘I was somewhat surprised to see the speaker’s comment,’ Mnuchin said after the briefing. ‘ We gave them close to an hour and a half and answered all their questions.’
        Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) said he had requested during the briefing for Treasury to delay lifting the sanctions until it can answer further questions about the terms of Deripaska reducing his ownership in the companies.
       ‘I think there’s a real question about whether he’s effectively divested his stake, and we need more facts about that,’ Doggett said.
       In an emailed statement before the briefing, Mnuchin said the sanctions had met their goal. ‘One of the goals of sanctions is to change behavior, and the proposed delistings of companies that Deripaska will no longer control show that sanctions can result in positive change,’ Mnuchin said.”

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