Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin – January 26 – February 1, 2019

Ukraine: Weekly Bulletin
January 26 – February 1, 2019
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence reported that during the week of January 25-31, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one Ukrainian soldier was wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 45 times on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front. Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation headquarters reported that returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 11 and wounded 14 of the enemy in the last week.
2. New Orthodox church officially registered in Ukraine
Image: Ukrainian Orthodox Church
“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,” reported Ukrinform.
            “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. […]
            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,” noted the agency.
3. US Ukraine Envoy: US, EU looking at additional measures in response to Russia’s Kerch strait attack
Image: Reuters

US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations held a press briefing on January 31. Volker stated, “In November we saw further escalation of the conflict as Russia claimed unilaterally to control the Kerch Strait, blocked Ukrainian naval vessels from entering the Sea of Azov, attacked those vessels, boarded them, and arrested the sailors.
           Russia continues illegally to hold these Ukrainian sailors and illegally is charging them with crimes under a civilian code, seeking to illegally enter Russian territory, which is not the case. So Russia has just continued to sustain its aggression against Ukraine.
           The reports that we see are that Russia intends to continue to hold these sailors at least until April, which puts it on the upside of the Ukrainian presidential election. That just gives the impression that again, it’s more of an act of policy, a political act by Russia to hold these sailors and use them as a pressure point on Ukraine, rather than there being any actual legal basis for their detention. […]
Both the United States and Europe are looking at what additional measures we should be taking if Russia fails to return the sailors and continues to make these assertions of control of the Kerch Strait as it is.
            The U.S. in the natural course of business will be reviewing the Crimea sanctions in February. That comes up on an anniversary. The EU is looking at additional sanctions as well. Nothing has been agreed yet, and they have a minister’s meeting coming up, also in February. […]
            As for sanctions, what you are suggesting, sanctions that apply either to Russian ships that are serving the Russian ports on the Sea of Azov or otherwise addressing Russian ports on the Sea of Azov are things that I know have been brought up in the European Union. We’ve had some recent consultations with some of our EU partners just in the past few days where the topic was discussed. I know this is among the basket of options that is being reviewed in the United States as well. We don’t have any decisions on these things yet, but it is exactly in that space that I think we need to be thinking.”
            The full transcript of the briefing is available here: Telephonic Press Briefing with Kurt Volker Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
4. Ukraine sees surge in cyber attacks targeting election
Reuters reported on January 25, “Hackers likely controlled by Russia are stepping up efforts to disrupt Ukraine’s presidential election in March with cyber attacks on electoral servers and personal computers of election staff, the head of Ukraine’s cyber police said on Friday.
            Serhiy Demedyuk told Reuters the attackers were using virus-infected greeting cards, shopping invitations, offers for software updates and other malicious ‘phishing’ material intended to steal passwords and personal information.
Ten weeks before the elections, hackers were also buying personal details of election officials, Demedyuk said, paying in cryptocurrency on the dark web, part of the internet accessible only through certain software and typically used anonymously.
            ‘There are constant attacks – they go from simple (software) to applications that one or another employee uses,’ he said, adding they were reminiscent of cyber attacks on the country’s energy, transport and banking systems seen since 2014.
‘Payment occurs in cryptocurrency in most cases … and from the same wallets that were used to finance the previous attacks. This indicates that the same hacker organizations that are under the control of Russian special agencies are engaged in this,’ Demedyuk said. […]
            According to the cyber police, no infiltration into the electoral system has been recorded yet, but they expect even larger attacks a month before the elections when the commission’s regional offices will start working.
The hackers buying personal details of election officials were concentrating on civil servants and employees who keep the commission’s equipment running, he said. On phishing attacks, Demedyuk said ‘virus-laden New Year’s greetings on behalf of government bodies or the governments have become so widespread that they are just overwhelming.’
            ‘Such mailing lists, spam letters are sent to them and their relatives, which contains malware to control their computer equipment. This is the easiest way, but it is effective.’ The cyber police worry that critical infrastructure in sectors such as energy and banking may again become the object of cyber attacks during or before the elections using malware to create so-called ‘back doors’ for a large coordinated attack.”
5. G7 Ambassadors to Ukraine identify key reforms they will support in 2019
Ukrinform reported on January 29, “The ambassadors of the Group of Seven (G7) identified the key reforms in Ukraine that they will support during the French Presidency of the G7.
            ‘The G7 Ambassadors’ Support Group recognizes the reform progress that has been made in Ukraine since 2015, and will continue its efforts to make further progress. It has identified the key reforms it will support in 2019 during the French Presidency of the G7,’ the ambassadors’ group informed on Twitter.
            The key reforms, in particular, includes the creation of an anti-corruption court, the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the implementation of the Law On National Security of Ukraine, the modernization of the Security Service of Ukraine, decentralization, and education reform.
            As known, the G7 Ambassadors’ Support Group for Ukraine was established as a result of the G7 Summit which took place in June 2015 in Elmau, Germany, to ensure progress in the process of economic reforms in Ukraine by providing coordinated pieces of advice and assistance to the Ukrainian authorities. In 2018, Canada held the G7 Presidency.”
6. German newspaper exposes the sale of German parts for Russian military drones, violating EU sanctions
The German newspaper Bild published a report on the sale of German-manufactured propellers to Russia being used in Russian military drones, in violation of EU sanctions on the export of dual-use goods to Russia. The report can be read in English here: German Propellers on Putin’s Drones
7. Ukraine cuts gas imports by 25%
Ukraine Business News reported on January 29, “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.”
8. Democratic Committee leaders respond to Trump Administration’s lifting of sanctions on Russian businesses tied to Oleg Deripaska
On January 29, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) released the following statement after the Treasury Department lifted sanctions against companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska on January 27:
“We are deeply troubled by the decision of the Department of the Treasury to move forward with lifting sanctions against En+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo (ESE) – businesses tied to sanctioned Russian oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska – before Congress had the opportunity to review the terms of this deal thoroughly, and despite a reasonable request for a brief delay.
            Mr. Deripaska has a history of involvement with Moscow for malign purposes, and we have serious questions about whether the agreement reached between Treasury and Mr. Deripaska sufficiently divests him of resources for this ability.
As we informed Secretary Mnuchin in a January 8 letter, Treasury’s notification of the lifting of sanctions was delivered to Congress just before an extended recess and a government shutdown. These factors prevented us from completing our review under the 30-day period provided under CAATSA. […]
We are considering additional legislative actions to ensure that Treasury and these companies comply with the agreement in letter and in spirit, and to prevent something like this from happening again in the future. More importantly, we will continue our oversight of Treasury’s decision by examining the terms of this deal and its implementation to safeguard against harmful actors like Mr. Deripaska benefitting from the Treasury’s delisting decisions. We do not believe termination of the sanctions has relieved Treasury of its obligation to explain fully this deal to Members.”

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