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The Ukrainian front lines
 
  Overviewof Current Issues in Ukraine During April 26 to May 8, 2016

Algirdas Karijotas
2016 06 29

Foreign Policy

The US Assistant Secretary of State V. Nuland visited Kiev where she met with the highest government officials, deputies of the Rada, political party leaders, and public representatives. The main focus of the visit was Ukrainian reforms, especially those related to the socioeconomic system and energy policy, as well as efforts to reform courts and customs in order to fight back against corruption. Ms. Nuland claimed that elections in Donbass, which is no longer under Ukrainian rule, should take place in accordance with Ukrainian law, and meet all international standards, and that sanctions against Russia will remain in force until the Minsk agreements are implemented and Crimea is returned to Ukraine.

Domestic Policy

A new anti-corruption law related to professional state service took effect on May 1. President P. Poroshenko made many staffchanges, which resulted in the firing of the presidential advisors J. Biriukov, J. Onishchenko and A. Gorashchenkov, who were then rehired as freelance advisors. The former assistant to head of the president’s apparatus, A. Dniprov, was appointed the leader of the presidential administration, while the former minister of education S. Kvita was appointed a freelance presidential advisor. G. Tuka was fired from his post as head administrator of Luhansk, and appointed the deputy minister of the newly-formed Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons. In Kherson, the President personally introduced the new head administrator A. Gordeyev, and appointed Ukraine’s Security Service major general K. Brylia the governor of Zaporozhye. A few days ago, R. Bessmertny announced his resignation from the Minsk’s Trilateral Contact Group, where he was appointed to its political subgroup by the President.

National Security

The Supreme Court of the occupied Crimea had declared the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars (a parliamentary body) an extremist organization and banned its activities in the Russian territory. N. Poklonskaya, the attorney general of the Crimean “republic”, had called the members of the Mejlis “puppetsof the West”. The Crimean Tatars are currently experiencing the tactics of intimidation and persecution.

The President-appointed deputy of the Crimean Tatars informed that approximately 50 armed individuals had stormed a mosque in Simferopol’s Molodizhne settlement during Friday service. The plan was to get the 100-or-so Muslims attending the service into buses, but as they refused to go, they were ordered to get to the police station by themselves. The next day, O. Pashayev, the news editor of the Tatar TV channel ATR, currently persecuted by the Crimean administration, informed that 25 Crimean Tatars were arrested in Yevpatoria. They were interrogated and had their fingerprints taken.

M. Saakashvili, the head administrator of Odessa, expressed worry about security concerns in the city: if appropriate measures are not taken, the situation may turn into a threat to national integrity. In an open statement, he addressed the President, asking him to send additional troops of the National Guard to Odessa. Several days ago, the so-called “Titushky”, supported by the pro-Russian mayor G. Truchanov, beat up a number of citizens picketing outside the Mayor’s Office. During the same time, a grenade launcher was used to attack a bank in the city centre. M. Saakashvili emphasised that a memorial service will be held on May 2 to commemorate the second anniversary of the fire in Odessa’s Trade Unions House. The event will be honoured by individuals hostile to Ukraine. Despite resistance from the local administration, the court gave permission for mass actions. Currently, Odessa’s Prosecutor’s Office has no leader as the former General Prosecutor fired the city prosecutor D. Sakvarelidze, who was carrying out reforms in the Office, as he resigned. According to M. Saakashvili, Ukraine's Security Service is not carrying out the necessary functions related to national security, and that the city is replete with separatist sentiment. Although the Ministry of Internal Affairs claims there is no need to bring more troops to the city, President Poroshenko ordered up to 1,000 additional law enforcement officers to Odessa.

Kiev city’s Pecherskyi District court had announced the search of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral A. Vitko. He is accused of felonies against Ukraine.

Deputy Director of the Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament M. Samus predicts that during the NATO forum, which will take place in Warsaw this year in June, Western partners might offer Kiev to commission a new NATO centre to research Russia’s hybrid warfare against Ukraine. According to Samus, this will be discussed in bilateral military cooperation talks between Ukraine and the US during the forthcoming visit of the US Secretary of Defence A. Cater.

Economic News 

The Russian Finance Minister A. Siluanov announced that Russia accepted the new Ukrainian government’s request to postpone the legal proceedings for recovering the country’s $3 billion debt.

The Ukrainian government approved higher gas prices for users, which will be set in accordance with the market price. This was caused by the country’s obligations to the International Monetary Fund. Beginning May 1, the price of gas for everyday use will increase by almost twofold and cost 6,879 hryvnya (245 euros) for 1,000 cubic metres of gas. It should be noted that last year’s March had already seen a 3.3-fold increase in the price of gas used for heating purposes.

Responding to Moldova’s imposed limit on the import of Ukrainian goods, Ukraine’s first Deputy Prime Minister – the Minister of Economic Development and Trade S. Kubiv – admitted it might be related to Moldovian manufacturers’ demands, although he also said he can’t rule out Russian influence. Ukraine claims that by limiting the import of Ukrainian goods to its market Moldova has breached the norms of the WTO, and urges the country to initiate talks. If Moldova refuses, Ukraine will be forced to take identical measures against Moldovian goods.

During the period between January and April, Ukraine’s metal companies had increased the production of steel by 16 percent (to 8.2 tonnes), as compared to the same period last year. It should be noted, however, that the production of steel in 2015 was 16 percent lower than the year before.

According to the data supplied by Ukraine’s national bank, in April the country’s international reserves increased by 4,1 percent and were up to $13.24 billion by May 1.

Military-Defence News

President P. Poroshenko had fired the head of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service V. Hvozd, and appointed I. Vorochenko as the new commander of the Ukrainian Navy.

The Yavoriv International Centre for Peacemaking and Safety was visited by the US Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defence with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia M. Carpenter, where he observed Ukrainian troops being trained by NATO instructors.

President Poroshenko had signed a decree that will result in greater social guarantees for reserve troops who were harmed during an anti-terrorist operation. The new law will ensure a pension for the troops themselves or their families in case of disability or death.

Anti-terrorist Operation

During the period between April 26 and May 8, six Ukrainian troops were killed and 38 were injured. The number of breaches of truce ranged between five and 42 per day. Although there were also positive developments, the truce in the direction of Luhansk was breached near the settlements of Popasna, Triochizbenka, Stanychno-Luhansk, and Schastye. In the direction of Donetsk, the truce was breached near the settlements of Avdiivka, Zaitsev, and Luhanskoe. In the direction of Mariupol, the truce was ignored in Marinka, Krasnohorjivka, and near the settlements of Pavlopol, Hranitne, Vodianoe, Hnutov, and Shirokino. Notably, Russia-backed separatists used an UAV to throw flammable objects on Ukrainian troops stationed at a military object near Konstantinovka.

During a meeting of the UN Security Council, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs V. Pristaiko announced that Russia had stationed a group of 34,000 troops, 470 tanks, 670 armoured vehicles and 450 artillery units in the occupied Donetsk. He also mentioned that Russian aggression (destroyed social and economic infrastructures, factories taken away to Russia, etc.) reduced Ukraine’s GDP by 20 percent.

During talks of the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group’s Humanitarian Subgroup on April 29, parties failed to agree on exchanging captives before the Orthodox Easter. On the other hand, the parties claimed to have agreed on upholding the truce during Easter, which was verified by a low incidence of breached of truce. At the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, Assistant Minister of Defence (Public Affairs) Lieutenant-Colonel A. Chernobai announced that since the beginnings of the ATO, Ukraine’s military engineers-minesweepers had neutralized 111,480 mines and other explosive devices (789 explosive devices were neutralized just this last week).

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