Ukraine: Daily Briefing – January 31, 2019, 6 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
January 31, 2019, 6 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM 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 7 times in total. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 2 and wounded 3 enemy combatants in the last 24 hours.
2. New Orthodox church officially registered in Ukraine
Image – Orthodox Church of Ukraine

Ukrinform reported, “The Kyiv metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) has been officially registered in Ukraine. Respective information has been included in the single state register of legal entities, individual entrepreneurs and public associations.
            According to the register, the OCU is registered as a legal entity under the title ‘Kyiv Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine)’ on January 30, 2019. […]
           As reported, Metropolitan of Pereyaslav and Bila Tserkva Epiphanius was elected the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine at a unification council on December 15, 2018. On January 6, he received a Tomos (decree) of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The enthronement ceremony for the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius, will be held at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on February 3.”
3. EU again urges Moscow to release Ukrainian sailors
Image – Andriy Yermolenko
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “The European Union has again called on Russia to immediately and unconditionally release the 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors seized along with their three naval vessels last year near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
             The message was delivered on January 30 by EU envoy to Moscow Markus Ederer to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko, according to spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
‘The Ambassador reiterated the EU’s well-known position as regards the continued illegal detention of Ukrainian servicemen by Russia, as elaborated in the      Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU, as well as several public statements, including on 17 January,’ Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.
            The Ukrainian servicemen have been held since 25 November 2018, when Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews and fired shots at them, wounding several Ukrainian sailors near the Kerch Strait.
           ‘The European Union expects Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage through the Kerch Strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law,’ the statement said, adding that Russia’s use of force was ‘unacceptable.’
           ‘We expect Russia to immediately and unconditionally release the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors, to respect their right to legal representation and unhindered access by consular authorities, and to ensure that the injured crewmen receive appropriate medical treatment,’ it said.
4. Bellingcat report on validating SBU’s allegation that Wagner Mercenaries issued GRU passports
International investigative group Bellingcat reported on January 30, “At a Monday press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, the Ukrainian Security Agency (SBU) announced that it had intercepted passenger manifests from Russian MoD-chartered airliners transporting mercenaries working for Wagner, a Russian private military company (PMC). The manifests, involving flights from Russia to several African and Middle-East destinations in the latter half of 2018, allegedly transported a total of 1012 mercenaries to Sudan, CAR and other African destinations.
           The most explosive allegation made at the press conference by the SBU was that PMC Wagner’s mercenaries were issued Russian international travel passports in sequential batches by – and this is crucial – a single Moscow-based passport desk that had issued fake identity papers to undercover GRU officers Mishkin/Petrov and Chepiga/Boshirov.
           Bellingcat first reported in September 2018 that this passport desk, known as Central Migration Office Unit 770-001 (“Unit 770001”), is routinely used to issue domestic passports to GRU undercover officers, such as the Salisbury poisoning suspects and two unrelated GRU undercover officers indicted by Montenegro over the alleged 2016 coup attempt in that country. Bellingcat and other organizations later established that this passport desk also issued Russian passports to a handful of foreign VIPs freshly bestowed with Russian citizenship, people such as French actor Gerard Depardieu.
          Bellingcat has subsequently discovered that this same office had also issued passports to Russian civilians with links to the Russian Ministry of Defense – either through direct employment or via a close family member.
          The SBU’s allegations are significant in that, if proven true, they would implicate the Russian government in not simply tolerating Wagner’s overseas military operations (which are actually illegal under Russian law), but in being actively involved in the facilitation of such black ops. […] Given the high stakes raised by the SBU’s allegations, Bellingcat set out to independently verify these explosive claims. […]
          While we cannot unequivocally endorse SBU’s assertion that the issuance of the sequential international passports to these mercenaries proves their linkage to GRU, it is certain that no such mass issuance of passports from the central passport issuance agency at the federal level (which is not routinely used for issuance of civilian passports) could take place without the active endorsement of the state apparatus, if not necessarily the GRU. However, the rest of the available evidence, including the audio intercepts and the multiple travel of a senior GRU officer known to be in a commanding position to Wagner’s commander and the location of the PMC’s training camp, strongly supports the hypothesis that PMC Wagner is indeed a proxy and serves at the command of the Ministry of Defense, and in particular the GRU.”
5. Ukraine Central Bank to issue $2 billion in Eurobonds this year
Reuters reported, “Ukraine’s finance ministry will issue eurobonds worth $2 billion this year, Deputy Central Bank Chief Dmitry Sologub told a press briefing on Thursday.
           Sologub was speaking after the central bank kept its key interest rate at 18 percent as it seeks to bring inflation down to a target level of 5 percent next year.”

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