Ukraine: Daily Briefing – January 29, 2019, 6 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 29, 2019, 6 PM Kyiv time
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. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 2 and wounded 1 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. Denmark foreign minister calls for EU-wide sanctions on Russia over Azov Sea
Foreign Ministers Klimkin and Samuelsen, photo – Ukraine MFA

Reuters reported, “Denmark’s foreign minister called on Tuesday for European Union-wide sanctions on Russia over a stand-off with Ukraine in the Azov Sea.
Anders Samuelsen will meet Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, on Tuesday and Wednesday and visit the city of Mariupol by the Azov sea, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
            ‘I believe the EU needs to react to Russia’s aggressive behavior,’ Samuelsen said in the statement. The EU will issue a demarche – a formal diplomatic protest note – to Moscow as early as this week over Russia’s continued detention of 24 Ukrainian sailors captured during the incident in November, diplomat sources told Reuters last week. European foreign ministers meet on Thursday this week to discuss Ukraine and other issues.”
3. Facebook vows to curb outside electoral ads ahead of Ukraine vote
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “The social-media giant Facebook has announced that it will prohibit electoral ads bought outside Ukraine from appearing there in the run-up to the country’s presidential election this spring.
           The move is part of the social network’s global response to the outcry over false or misleading stories disseminated via its 2 billion users and is certain to be welcomed by officials in Kyiv. Ukraine has warned Facebook for years about alleged Moscow-backed disinformation campaigns on its platform, including “fake news” to foment distrust. […]
           Facebook made the announcement in a January 28 post outlining its efforts to protect elections this year in India, Israel, Nigeria, and Ukraine. It said the measures would be introduced globally before the end of June. […]
          As part of the new measure, advertisers will need to be authorized to purchase political ads, and the company will give people additional information about advertisements related to politics and issues. […]
          The government in Kyiv has for years complained of account takedowns and ‘fake news’ as part of what Poroshenko calls ‘hybrid aggression against our nation.’ […]
          Western intelligence agencies and disinformation experts have blamed their Russian counterparts for alleged cybermeddling in the U.K. Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential election in 2016, as well as in a French presidential election and national elections in Germany.
         Those efforts have purportedly included phishing scams, hacks or attempted hacks, and social-media components such as deploying fictitious individuals and organizations to fuel divisive debates.
          Experts have welcomed Facebook’s most recent move but cautioned that it is unlikely to completely stamp out Russian disinformation.
          ‘Introducing regulations around political advertising is a good first step in fighting election-related disinformation, but especially in a country like Ukraine, which for years has been Russia’s laboratory for testing and honing disinformation tactics, it is not nearly enough,’ Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Washington-based Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute focused on Russian disinformation, told RFE/RL. […]
          ‘It would be easy for a layman, let alone a member of the Russian security services, to exploit the loopholes in the geographic requirements and still purchase ads,’ Jankowicz added.”
4. Czech national charged with terrorism after fighting for Russian-backed militants in Ukraine
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “While Russia imprisons its citizens only if they support Ukraine in the military conflict in Donbas, a number of EU countries are unanimous in prosecuting citizens who fight for the Russian-backed militants as terrorists.
           A second Czech national is now facing terrorism charges over his part in the fighting in Donbas, almost certainly as a mercenary.  According to the newspaper Denik N, the young man, identified only as Pavel K, was in Donbas from the summer of 2015 until May 2016.  As is most often, if not always, the case, the then 22-year-old arrived in the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ from Russia, via the part of the border which is not under Ukrainian government control. […]
          Whether or not he acted as a mercenary does not in any way influence the actual charges against him, though might, of course, have impact on the sentence if he is convicted. Adam Basny, Deputy Prosectuor in Prague, has confirmed that a Czech national was charged in February 2018 wiith carrying out a crime, recognized as an act of terrorism, under Article 311 (1)(a) and (2) (a) of the Criminal Code.  This is in connection with his alleged ‘armed activities as part of an illegal separatist structure, calling itself the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ (whose aim is to violate the fundamental political and economic structure of sovereign independent Ukraine by gaining control over its territory) against Ukraine’s Armed Forces and Security Service.’
          If convicted, he faces a sentence of from 5 to 15 years, or up to 20, if the prosecution can prove that was acting as part of an organized group. […]
          The first EU citizen actually convicted was Ben Stimson from Britain.  He was jailed for five years and four months under the UK Terrorism Act for taking part in the fighting in Donbas on the side of the Russian and Russian-backed militants.            He pleaded guilty on July 14 to assisting others to commit acts of terrorism under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006  (Preparation of terrorist acts).”
5. Ukraine cuts gas imports by 25%
Ukraine Business News reported, “Ukraine cut its gas imports by one quarter last year, Naftogaz reports. Imports fell from 14.1 billion cubic meters in 2017 to 10.6 bcm. Domestic production – overwhelmingly in the hands of state-owned Naftogaz – increased last year by only 2.5%, to 21 bcm. At the same time, Ukraine’s GDP grew last year by an estimated 3.4%. In this context, the most likely causes for the import drop were increased energy efficiency and shifts to other energy sources.”

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