UCC Weekly Bulletin on Ukraine – June 1-7, 2019

UCC Weekly Bulletin on Ukraine
June 1-7, 2019
UAF training exercises. Photo – US Army Europe


1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that during the week of May 31-June 6, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seventeen Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. In the last week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk and Luhansk sectors of the front 87 times in total, including at least 28 times with heavy weapons. Returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 5 and wounded 13 enemy combatants in the last week.
2. Five-year-old boy dies after allegedly being shot by drunken police officers. Demonstrators demand resignation of Interior Minister Avakov
 
Demonstrators outside the Interior Ministry, Kyiv, June 4. 
Photo – Kyiv Post


On June 3, the Kyiv Post reported, “A five-year-old boy has died in a Kyiv hospital on June 3 after allegedly being shot by drunken police officers. The boy, who was identified as Kyrylo Tliavov, suffered fatal wounds to the head on May 31 in the city of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, a town roughly 85 kilometers southeast of Kyiv. At the time of the incident, the officers were off duty and shooting at tin cans for target practice.
           Serhiy Knyazev, chief of the National Police, confirmed in a May 31 post on Facebook that the police officers were drunk. He also wrote that the guns used by the officers were not their service weapons. The National Police stayed in contact with Tliavov’s parents after he was shot, Knyazev said.
          The two suspects were taken into custody by the police and the State Investigations Bureau, Knyazev wrote.  The incident has provoked outrage across the country as a clear sign of failure to reform Ukrainian law enforcement.
          Initially, local police claimed that the Tliavov had fallen and hit his head on the asphalt, likely an attempt at a cover-up. However, in the hospital, it quickly became clear that he had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. […]
         The police officers now face charges of ‘intentional homicide of a young child, committed in conspiracy with a group of individuals’ and ‘hooliganism’ involving firearms. […]
         The Interior Ministry announced that the heads of the local police had been suspended from fulfilling their duties while a decision was made on their future in law enforcement. The next day on June 4, Dmytro Tsenov, chief of the Kyiv Oblast police, submitted his resignation in connection with Tliavov’s killing.”
         The Kyiv Post reported on June 5, “Nearly 200 people gathered outside the Interior Ministry in Kyiv on June 4, 2019 to protest the killing of Kyrylo Tliavov, a five-year-old boy who was allegedly shot by drunken police officers and died in a hospital on June 3.
         Demonstrators carried signs, left toys at the doors of the Interior Ministry headquarters, and lit candles in memory of Tliavov. Some activists also demanded that Interior Minister Arsen Avakov resign from his post.
        Ukraine has a long history of citizens protesting in response to violence and crimes committed by police officers. Tliavov’s death was perceived by many as a clear sign of the country’s failure to reform law enforcement.”
3. Perpetrators of attack on activist Kateryna Handziuk sentenced to 3 to 6.5 years in prison
Ukrinform reported on June 6, “The Pokrovske District Court of Dnipropetrovsk Region has announced verdicts against the perpetrators of an attack on Kherson activist Kateryna Handziuk. Judge Olena Chorna read out the sentences at a court session on Thursday, according to an Ukrinform correspondent.
           The instigator and accomplice of the attack, Serhiy Torbin, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison, the direct executor of the attack, Mykyta Hrabchuk, to six years in prison, accomplices Volodymyr Vasianovych and Viacheslav Vyshnevsky to four years in prison each, and Viktor Horbunov to three years in prison. […]
          The person who organized the crime, according to the verdict, is a Kherson politician involved in the illegal trade in woods under the cover of arson whose activities were exposed by Handziuk. The mediator is an assistant to Kherson Regional Council deputy Mykola Stavytsky. They are not named in the verdict, because the investigation materials regarding their actions were merged in separate criminal proceedings.
         On July 31, 2018, an acid attack was committed on activist Kateryna Handziuk near the entrance to her house in Kherson. She underwent several operations but died on November 4, 2018.”
4. Lithuania recognizes 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatar People by Soviet regime as an act of genocide
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on June 6, “Lithuania’s parliament has recognized the deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944 by the government of the Soviet Union as an act of genocide.
 A resolution on the issue, approved by Lithuanian lawmakers on June 6, calls the deportation ‘crimes committed by the Soviet Union against Crimean Tatars’ and calls on the world community ‘to express solidarity with the Crimean Tatars and continue’ the policy of nonrecognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea’ by Russia in 2014. Seventy-seven lawmakers voted for the resolution, while one abstained.
         A similar resolution was adopted by another Baltic nation, Latvia, last month. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, recognized the Crimean Tatars’ deportation as an act of genocide in November 2015.”
5. US lawmakers introduce bipartisan legislation to combat Russian aggression in Ukraine
On May 31 the Chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the US-Ukraine Security Cooperation Enhancement Act.
The bill “Amends previous NDAA statute by increasing specific lethal military assistance to Ukraine; Provides anti-tank, anti-ship, and anti-aircraft defense systems to the Ukrainians, as well as other necessary defense articles to defend its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity against Russian aggression; Requests the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress that reviews U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, including areas of need for Ukraine to effectively deter Russian aggression; Advises the President to determine, if appropriate, whether Ukraine should be designated a Major Non-NATO Ally until it achieves accession as a NATO member state.”
           Chairman Engel stated, “In the face of unrelenting Russian aggression, the Ukrainian people have shown extraordinary resolve and commitment to democracy. The U.S. must continue to support them with effective security assistance and tougher sanctions on Russia, Putin, and his oligarchs as long as these assaults against Ukraine continue. I’m pleased to join with Ranking Member McCaul on this legislation to enhance the U.S.-Ukraine security partnership.”
           Ranking Member McCaul stated, “The United States must maintain a decisive and forceful approach to confront Putin’s belligerent behavior and send a strong message that we will not stand by while Russia threatens our allies. By continuing to provide security assistance to Ukraine that furthers its implementation of defense reforms and achievement of NATO interoperability, we can better equip our ally with sophisticated lethal weapons to defend itself and deter Russian aggression. As the world’s lead defender of freedom, the United States must employ all tools necessary to protect our shared values. I look forward to working with Chairman Engel and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation to support our ally Ukraine.”
The draft of the bill is available here: US-Ukraine Security Cooperation Enhancement Act
6. NABU: Constitutional Court of Ukraine eliminated an effective tool for liquidation of corruption schemes at state enterprises
 
Head of NABU Artem Sytnyk's statement on June 5 Constitutional Court ruling
Head of NABU Artem Sytnyk’s statement on June 5 Constitutional Court ruling
On June 5, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled unconstitutional provisions in the Law “On the National-Anti Corruption Bureau of Ukraine” that grant authority to the Bureau to file civil claims for the invalidation of transactions of persons under investigation for high-level corruption.
           The ruling satisfied a complaint to the Constitutional Court by Joint Stock Company Zaporizhia Ferroalloy Plant, an enterprise controlled by Ihor Kolomoisky’s and Hennadiy Boholyubov’s Privat Group, reported Ukrainian media.
           The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) stated, “The decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to deprive the National Bureau of the authority to invalidate illegal agreements in court protects the organizers of corruption schemes and actually legitimizes the embezzlement of funds of state enterprises during the procurement of goods, works and services at inflated prices. The Constitutional Court ruled on June 5, 2019, based on the lawsuit of the ‘Zaporizhia Ferroalloy Plant.’
           The NABU authority to file claims for invalidation of agreements, envisaged by the Law from the beginning of its foundation and it has become an effective tool for the liquidation of corruption schemes at state enterprises. During four years of the NABUs work, the courts satisfied 35 claims of the National Bureau, canceling 97 illegal agreements. The relevant decisions came into force and became the basis for the return of more than 6 billion UAH to the state. […]
           In all these cases, the NABU proved in court that the relevant agreements signed by the state-owned companies caused damage or shortfall in income. Due to the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the most of these enslaving agreements can be restored in court.
           In addition, the court decisions on the illegality of agreements and their invalidation are the elements of the evidence base on criminal proceedings as of the facts of corruption at state enterprises, investigated by the NABU Detectives. Due to the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, this evidence may be declared inadmissible in the criminal process.
          Therefore, in its consequences, the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine can be fatal for the entire anti-corruption reform of the country. It significantly strengthens the position of the organizers of corruption schemes and in fact deprives state enterprises of the opportunity to return stolen resources.”
7. Human Rights Group: Ukraine’s Supreme Court claims illegal Zelensky appointment is not its business
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported on June 3, “Andriy Bohdan, the newly-appointed head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Administration is a man prohibited from holding public office, but Ukraine’s Supreme Court has refused to examine a complaint over the illegality of the appointment.  The Court claims that the only people entitled to appeal the decision are either Bohdan himself, or persons whose rights are directly affected by the appointment.  The right of citizens to expect that elected representatives will comply with the law does not appear to count.
           As reported, Bohdan twice held the post of government representative on ‘anti-corruption policy’ under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych.  He was first appointed, by close Yanukovych associate Mykola Azarov shortly after the latter became Prime Minister in an extremely dubious change of government following Yanukovych’s victory.
          Bohdan was also appointed Deputy Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers and continued to represent the government with respect to its cosmetic anti-corruption policy until 14 February 2011.  He was reappointed to the same post on 11 July 2013 and only lost it after Yanukovych, together with Azarov and others, fled to Russia at the end of the Euromaidan protests.  Following his dismissal in March 2014, Bohdan became an adviser to Ihor Kolomoisky who was then Governor of the Dnipropetrovsk oblast.  He has since been Kolomoisky’s lawyer and was informally in charge of the Zelensky presidential campaign and his adviser on legal issues.
           The Law on Cleaning up Government (or simply the lustration law) was adopted on 16 September 2014 in part to ensure that the people Yanukovych had installed and who had helped in the systemic degradation of most areas of government were prevented from holding office. […]
           An application was made to the Supreme Court against Zelensky’s decree appointing Bohdan.  Although the Supreme Court does not name the plaintiff, this appears to have been the Public Lustration Committee, an NGO.  The application pointed out that Zelensky’s appointment was in breach of the lustration law, and that infringement of legislation ‘violates the public-legal rules of procedure for the function of bodies authorized to carry out the functions of the state, and infringes the latter’s legitimate interest in compliance with current legislation on cleaning up government…’
           The Supreme Court reported on 29 May that it has refused to initiate proceedings in this case for the above-mentioned reason, i.e. that an appeal must be from a person ‘whose rights, freedoms and interests it [the decree] directly concerns.'”
8. European Council President meets with Ukraine’s President
 
European Council President Tusk and President Zelenskyy. Photo – European Council 


European Council President Donald Tusk met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on June 5. Following the meeting, Tusk stated, “The EU will always be determined to help Ukraine strengthen its democracy and the rule of law, fight corruption, stabilise its economy and pursue energy sector reforms. Because a strong and democratic Ukraine is in the best interest of the European Union.
          We are ready to continue our work on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association. This has already brought many positive results in trade and investments, which benefit our people, on both sides. And it can bring many more in the future. The EU will also maintain its financial support for economic stabilisation, despite Russian aggression and the war in Donbas.
          We also discussed the ongoing threats to the security of Ukraine. The EU will stay its course and remain committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We condemn the Russian decrees on granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians in Donbas or of Crimean origin. This goes against the Minsk agreements.
          And we continue to call for the immediate release of Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in Russia and Crimea, including the 24 Ukrainian sailors held in Moscow since November.
         President Zelenskyy and I discussed our next EU-Ukraine summit. This will set the priorities for our relations in the year ahead. Our joint decision is to hold the summit, as planned, and we have also agreed to remain in close contact with the President.
        Let me conclude by repeating what I said in the Rada in February: ‘There can be no just Europe without an independent Ukraine. There can be no safe Europe without a safe Ukraine. To put it simply: there can be no Europe without Ukraine!’ Mr President, Ukraine can count on the European Union, as always. We are and will remain your best friend and trusted ally.”

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