|Overview of Events in Ukraine during 7-20 November, 2016
These two weeks have been very
eventful. The International Criminal Court equating the annexation of
Crimea to an international military conflict, and the Human Rights
Committee under the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN)
adopting a resolution regarding human rights in Crimea, which refers
to Russia as an occupying power and Crimea – a temporarily occupied
territory, are bound to have profound geopolitical consequences.
There has been no shortage of
resonant events in Ukraine either, which include the exposition of
Russia’s destabilisation plan, code-named Shatun;
new arrests of Ukrainian saboteurs in Crimea; and Mikheil
Saakashvili’s resignation as head of the Odessa regional
administration, claiming that President Poroshenko is involved in
On 8 November, President Petro
Poroshenko had visited Slovenia where he met with President Borut Pahor, Prime
Minister Miro Cerar, Speaker of the National Assembly Milan Brglez and heads of the largest Slovenian companies operating in the Ukrainian market.
On 14 November, P. Poroshenko visited Sweden, where he held official meetings with the country’s Prime
Minister Stefan Löfven, Speaker of the Riksdag Urban Ahlin and leader of the opposition’s Moderate Party Anna Kinberg Batra.
A report issued by the International Criminal Court on 14 November states that
at the beginning of 2014 Russia hadcarried out an annexation of Crimea, which began with its deployment
of troops in the peninsula and theblocking of Ukraine’s infrastructure and military objects, which
equates to an international military conflict.
On 15 November, members
of the UN’sHuman Rights Committee had adopted the Ukraine-initiated resolution regarding human rights violations in Crimea, with
73 voting for the resolution, 23 votingagainst and 76 abstaining. This
is the first official UN document which refers to Russia as an
occupying power and Crimea – a temporarily occupied territory. The resolution recognises Ukraine’s
territorial integrity and sovereignty, and Russia is urged to provide
conditions necessary for representatives of international human
rights organisations to reach Crimea.
On 15 November, P. Poroshenko had talked on the phone with the US President-elect Donald Trump. After
congratulating him on the victory, P. Poroshenko had assured him of
Ukraine’s readiness for continued active cooperation in the spirit
of strategic partnership.
On 7 November, Mikheil
announced his resignation as head of the
Odessa regional administration in frustration of President P.
Poroshenko backing corrupt officials. M.Saakashviliclaims he has no plans to leave politics
and will continue fighting as a Ukrainian citizen. In the past, M.Saakashvili was dissuaded from resigning by
the President himself.M. Saakashvili’s
request for resignation was
approved by the government a few days
and signed by the President the next day. The
President also discharged M.
Saakashvili as his freelance advisor. A
few weeks later, M. Saakashvili had
announced the inception of a new political
movement, called the Movement of New Forces, and said its first
meeting has been scheduled for 27 November.
Khatia Dekanoidze, Chief of
Ukrainian National Police for a year, had also announced her resignation. The submission of the request has been confirmed by the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov.
Leader of the Bativshchyna
Party Yulia Tymoshenko had
unmasking of the machinations of President P. Poroshenko’s business
partners with the assets of liquidated banks. The general sum of the
machinations is said to be 350 million hryvnia. This
had caused her to become a target of state information networks who
had called her, among other things, a Moscow
Y. Tymoshenko claims she had come across such information while
working with depositors of deceived banks. According to her, although
68 of the 83 closed banks had around 448 million hryvnia in
completely liquid assets, the business partners of P. Poroshenko in
charge of the Deposit Guarantee Fund evaluated them at only 99
The Kiev International
Institute of Sociology had carried out a routine public
survey, showing that 46 percent of respondents
support the country’s integration into the European Union (EU), 13
percent support joining the Customs Union
(CU), and 30 percent oppose both and think that Ukraine shouldn’t
The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU)
had banned 140 Russian cultural players from entering the country,
claiming their speech is hostile to Ukraine’s national interests.
The Federal Security Service of
the Russian Federation (FSB) had
announced its arrest
of a terrorist “sabotage group” of the Head Department of
Investigation under Ukraine’s Defence Ministry, which took place in
Sevastopol on 9 November. In a statement, the FSB had claimed the
three arrested saboteurs are Ukrainian citizens and spies for the
HDI, all of whom confessed of their diversionary activities. Allegedly,
the group had planned a number of attacks on military and other
important infrastructure in Crimea. During the arrest, the group was
to possess high-power explosives, weapons, ammunition, communications
equipment and maps containing outlines of the planned diversions. The names of the detainees were soon announced as well: Dmitry Shtyblikov, who
worked as an analyst at the Centre
for Assistance to the Geopolitical Problems and Euro-Atlantic
Cooperation of the Black Sea Region Studies “Nomos” until 2014,
Alexei Besarabov and Vladimir Dudko.
The Defence Ministry of Ukraine
and the HDI had called the FSB’s statement regarding the routine arrest of
Ukraine’s “saboteurs” a “fabrication”,
the purpose of which is to justify their own repressions against the
people of Crimea and discredit Ukraine in the eyes of the
international community. It should be noted that the FSB had
announced the arrest of an HDI sabotage group which was planning
attacks in Crimea. It was claimed that during 7-8 November a sabotage
group attempted to reach Crimea from
Ukraine, with the ensuing skirmish with Russian border guards
resulting in the death of one Russian soldier and one employee of the
Before that information could
be fully processed, the Russian media published new announcements,
claiming that on 15 November there was another arrest of an armed
Ukrainian citizen who was thought to be an HDI employee. This
time, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence called this event innovative and deceptive, because no Ukrainian soldier or
officer was in fact arrested. On the other hand, it should be noted
that Crimea is still home to thousands of retired soldiers who served
both in the Soviet and Ukrainian armies at different points in their
career, and this could serve as basis for speculations regarding
their status as Ukrainian saboteurs.
A week after the announcement, new
details came to light: apparently, two
saboteurs were actually arrested: Alexei Stogny who introduced
himself as a colonel of the 13thdivision of the HDI’s 1st Department, and Gleb Shably who claimed he
was a second-rank captain in the same department’s 13thdivision. A story broadcast during a show of the journalist Dmitry
Kiselyov on the Russian TV channel Rossiya
1 supposedly unmasked an entire network of Ukrainian spies in Crimea,
who’ve been collecting intelligence on Russia’s Black Sea navy
base even well before the Maidan events. The Russian FSB claimed the
detainees admitted to their criminal activities and their links to
the other three spies arrested on 9 November.
Anatoliy Dublik, Head of the
National Statehood Protection Department of Ukraine’s Security
Service (SBU) had published a joint statement with the Foreign Intelligence Service regarding Russia’s planned
destabilising actions in Ukraine. The
statement informs that hostile forces are planning to destabilise the
situation in the country with the purpose of forcingan early election and consolidating pro-Russian powers in the new
parliament, resulting in the revision of the country’s European
heading and foreign policy vector. This
move, allegedly planned by Russia, is code-named Shatun (a species of bear).
On 15 November, probably due to
the above mentioned information, the police forces of Kiev had been
waiting for mass protests regarding the unreturned bank deposits and
increased municipal taxes. Even though the Petro Poroshenko Blocurged people not to participate in the event, claiming it was
organised by hostile forces – the “fifth column”, the Opposition Blocand the new Baktivshchyna Party –and that the participants were paid off in advance, it was still
expected that the event will be attended by 5,000 – 50,000 people.However,
according to the police, the protest was
roughly 6,000 people who caused no disturbances.
The party Opposition
an announcement claiming it will give a rebuttal to the “war
coalition” (political forces currently in power) and will
early election to the Verkhovna Rada.The Opposition Bloc,
which currently holds the third place in ratings, is accusing the
government of destroying the economy and deceiving people whose
patience is waning. The Opposition
Bloc demands the revocation of the increased municipal tax tariffs, setting the
minimum wage at 4,500 hryvnia, compensating the depositors of the 82
bankrupt banks, prohibiting the selling of land to foreigners,
freezing the prices of socially beneficial goods, passing laws
supporting national manufacturers, implementing decentralisation,
ceasing military actions in the eastern part of the country, etc.
Furthermore, the Opposition
Bloc claims it plans to collect facts on the past and current repressions
implemented by the government. According to the party, since the
January of 2014, political persecution and repressions implemented by
the government affected
50,000 people, 100 of whom were incarcerated in accordance with
criminal law, and 59 people died.
Head of the National Bank of
Ukraine Valeriya Gontaryeva had
warned that delays on the part of the
Verkhovna Rada to pass laws necessary for implementing reforms
(budget balancing, pension and agriculture) could result in problems
with receiving the fourth part of the 1.3 million US dollar payment
by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), scheduled to arrive before
the end of the year.
In a regular statement
presented in Washington, IMF representative Gerry Rice said the fund welcomes the implementation of electronic declaration in
Ukraine, and emphasised the necessity of taking decisive actions in
the fight against corruption. Once these actions are implemented, the
IMF will continue to support the Ukrainian government structures.
The international ratings
agency Fitch Ratings had
upgraded Ukraine’s senior unsecured local-currency debt rating from CCC to
B-. The rating forecast is “stable”.
President P. Poroshenko had
signed a law on the approval of the free-trade
zone agreement with Canada, which had ended the ratification of the
Agreement signed July of this year.
Head of the so-called Donetsk
People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko announced that his
renewed the supply of coal to Ukraine.
Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada
and member of the Petro Poroshenko Blocand
the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Irina Friz had
announced that next year the funding of the Special Forces of Ukraine (SOP)
will be increased five-fold. Moreover, commanders of SOP divisions
will be able to make acquisitions at their own discretion.
The international Maple
Arch 2016 military
exercise, attended by troops from Poland, Lithuania and Canada in
addition to Ukrainian soldiers, kicked
off in the
Yavoriv Polygon on 7 November and will last for two weeks.
visited by a Canadian military delegation
headed by the leader of ground forces General Lieutenant Paul Wynnyk.
The guests visited the International Peacekeeping Centre in Yavoriv
and met with Canadian instructors responsible for training Ukrainian
troops. They had also visited the National
Academy of the Army Ground Forces.
The ranking of countries by
military strength, developed by the independent international blogGlobal Firepower, put Ukraine down at number 30 (Sweden is number 29 and Mexico – number
31; by the way, this ranking of 126 countries has Lithuania at number
97, Latvia – number 103, and Estonia – number 109).
Discussing the results of this
year’s tasks in an official meeting, the Chief of the General Staff
and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko had
said the most important task of the armed
forces today is the coordination of strategic and tactical
capacities. The meeting also concerned the
necessity of improving the command system, the transition to the
J-structure, complementing the military division personnel and
equipment, and the improvement of means and forms of deploying force.
Situation in the Anti-Terrorist
Breaches of truce between 7 and 20
November fluctuated between 15 and 64. During that period, five
Ukrainian soldiers died and 37 were wounded.
On 8 November, the Trilateral
Contact group, established for the peaceful resolution of the
conflict in Donbass, met in Minsk to discuss the issues pertaining to
security and the observance of truce. The Group discussed the failed
pull back of forces from predetermined sections. The main obstacle to the pulling back of forces from Luhansk is still the unremitting
breaches of truce. Many political issues
were also considered, including the implementation of the mechanisms
of the Steinmeier Formula.
This political discourse was focused on the modality of the upcoming
elections – particularly the forms of implementation and other
details, rather than the essence. There was also an announcement that
a group action plan modelled after the Normandy
arrive in the
Four subgroups of the Contact
Group held meetings on specific topics. After changes in personnel,
subgroups resumed their activities at full capacity. This subgroup,
in tandem with representatives of the OSCE and the International Red
Cross, discussed the question of rebuilding the bridge near Luhansk and expressed the conviction that the Zolotoiy border checkpoint should
be open by 23 November. The Humanitarian Subgroup also discussed the question of hostage exchange. Ukraine had again demanded the separatist representatives to provide a full, comprehensive list
of hostages. There were also discussions about the previously
discussed hostage exchange option “618 for 47” as well as the
exchange of individual hostages.
About 400 convicted individuals
sentenced to prison in Donbass would
like to serve the remainder of their sentences
in Ukraine. It should be noted that over 130 prisoners had already
been transferred to Ukraine.
Speaking at the US Congress,
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he thinks that Russia and Ukraine will continue their confrontation over
influence in Donbass and the region, and that he sees no prospects
for implementing the agreements of the Minsk
The US Ambassador for the OSCE
Daniel Baer hadnoted the official OSCE monitoring data from the Russian-Ukrainian border
checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk. It should be noted that OSCE monitorsworking at these two checkpoints have extremely limited possibilities
for real control because of a three and a
half hour round-trip from Rostov. Monitoring
is only possible during daylight after coordination with Russian and
separatist representatives. Since Ukrainian
authorities have no control over this part of the border (stretching
over 100 km) where these checkpoints are located, no one can check
the individuals and vehicles that pass them. The time-limited
monitoring sessions cover only one-tenth of the potential entry/exit
territory. According to the Ambassador, if the mission, limited as it
is, had managed to identify around 30,000 uniformed individuals
passing the Russian-Ukrainian border, the real number of such persons
could be much larger.
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