Situation in the combat zone
Situation on the ground. Tense situation stands in eastern Ukraine. Over the last week adversary made 414 attacks upon Ukrainian troops. Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 21 more were wounded in action.
At the meeting with the Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, Alexander Hug, the Head of Ukraine’s General Staff, Viktor Muzhenko, emphasized the increase of attacks to the international monitors. He said about 60 percent of attacks upon Ukrainian positions are made in the evening and at night when OSCE patrols are not monitoring the situation. Militants keep using heavy weapons including 82-mm and 120-mm mortars and 152 mm artillery.
Political statements: liberation of Donbas. Deputy Minister on the affairs of the temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons Heorhiy Tuka who also served as former head of the Luhansk regional state administration forecast that the liberation of Donbas will start in autumn 2017. He assumed that it would happen not because Ukraine will agree to hold elections in Donbas but because Russia will stop to economically support these territories due to the pressure. According to earlier reports residents of the occupied Donetsk region areas say payment of their salaries presumably delivered by Russia have been suspended or stopped.
The only control checkpoint across the contact line in Luhansk region “Stanytsia Luhanska” can be closed due to the attacks. Local authorities are considering such an option due to the conflict escalation – militant sniper shut down a Ukrainian serviceman at this control point. Stanytsia Luhanska is one of the three sites for disengagement of troops as stipulated by the agreement of September 21, 2016 signed by the Trilateral Contact Group. The agreement was supposed to be implemented within 30 days after it was concluded. Three months after no actual disengagement was achieved.
Savchenko lists. Member of Ukrainian parliament Nadiya Savchenko released the lists of Ukrainian prisoners (129 captives and 494 missing) who are being held in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk. She also released the lists of those who representatives of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) want to get swapped instead (525 persons from the “DPR” and 283 persons from the “LPR”). The names were received from unofficial sources, the MP emphasized. Experts pointed at the mistakes in the list, while the Security Service of Ukraine condemned the publication of prisoners’ personal data saying that the lists differ from the ones that the official center for liberation of captives is using. Following the claims Savchenko corrected the lists. Some of the persons listed in the above documents have no link to the conflict in Donbas (and instead are on trial in Euromaidan killing cases, the May 2 case in Odesa as well as in Kharkiv terrorist acts).
Life in “DPR” and “LPR”
Donetsk blogger Stanyslav Vasin published a material on how militants train children for fighting on the frontline. They are trained at military colleges and lyceums: namely at the “Interior Ministry Academy” of the “DPR” group, Donetsk high all-military command college (“DonVOKU”) and the Beregovoy boarding school for military training.
Cadets undergo combat and ideological training that aims at preparing new staff for intelligence, tank units, infantry as well as chiefs of staff.
No rain: Russian TV channel “Dozhd” stops broadcasting in Ukraine
On January 12 Ukraine’s National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting excluded the Russian TV channel “Dozhd” from the program list approved for transmitting via cable television in Ukraine. The decision stems from the fact that the TV channel presented Crimea as part of the Russian Federation as well as was broadcasting Russian ads in Ukraine over 2016.
A series of international organizations spoke out against this decision. Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media condemned Ukraine’s actions. Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House called upon Ukrainian authorities to cancel the decision. Reporters Without Borders are of the opinion that Ukrainian authorities “need to demonstrate common sense and understanding”.
Ban of “Dozhd” broadcasting was also condemned by Russian officials. Spokesman of the Russian President Dmitriy Peskov called it “yet another destructive measure” by Ukrainian authorities. Representative of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that Kyiv’s actions as to the TV channel “is a paradoxical act of censorship” and promised to inform the OSCE accordingly. In Russia “Dozhd” was dropped off the main providers in 2014.
Ukrainian society supported the decision of the national regulator. Vice speaker of the parliament, Iryna Gerashchenko, expressed herself indignant at the fact that the biggest Ukrainian diaspora resides in Russia however not a single Ukrainian TV channel is broadcasting there. This aspect never got in the spotlight of attention by the international community, neither did jamming of Ukrainian TV channels in Crimea, in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Foreign TV channels in Ukraine are obliged to comply with the Ukrainian legislation. Parliamentarian Mustafa Nayyem regrets that “Dozhd” transmitting was restricted in Ukraine but reminds that the channel has to respect the Constitution of Ukraine.
The TV channel itself also regrets Ukraine’s decision in question, said General Director of “Dozhd” TV channel Natalia Syndeyeva. The channel’s broadcasting in Ukraine is delivered through IP-connection without direct commercial advertising, the General Director adds. The channel is guided by the Constitution of the Russian Federation according to which Crimea is part of the Russian Federation. At the same time “Dozhd” is being more actively advertised in the Ukrainian segment of Facebook and Instagram.
Crimea: Ukrainian TV tower for broadcasting to the peninsula
A TV tower was installed in proximity to the Chonhar control point between mainland Ukraine and the temporarily occupied Crimea. The tower is 108 meters high, it will broadcast to the peninsula, said Head of the district state administration Oleksandr Vorobyov.
According to the member of the national regulator Serhiy Kostynsky, the TV tower will start operating in a month.
Human rights: artist Pavlensky to ask for asylum in France
Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky left Russia claiming that the authorities attempted to “politically eliminate him through an operation by law enforcement”. Together with his common-law wife Oksana Shalygina and their two daughters he will ask for political asylum in France. According to Pavlensky a person who pretended to be a close friend accused Pavlensky and his wife of sexual harassment and refers to the article that does not require proof for detention of the suspect. Both of them reject the accusations calling it a libel.
These charges foresee imprisonment for 10 years and subsequent transfer of the children – aged nine and six, to the orphanage. According to Pavlensky and Shalygina, it was exactly the threat to their children that made them decide to emigrate.
Pyotr Pavlensky is a performance artist whose actions aim at criticizing the regime in Russia. During his recent “Threat” (Ugroza) performance the artist put on fire the doors of the FSB (Federal Security Service) in Saint Petersburg imitating the Maidan events. In one of his most famous performances “Fixation” (2013) Pavlensky nailed down his scrotum to the Red Square in Moscow.
The artist has been turning his court trials into performance acts.
Opinion polling: is the world afraid of Russia?
According to the results of the opinion poll conducted by the “Obshestvennoe mnenie” foundation (Public Opinion) and published by Interfax, 86 percent of Russian citizens think that other countries are afraid of Russia and 70 per cent think that Russia is a free country.
As per the published results 67% are convinced that the influence of the Russian Federation in the world over the past years has been growing. 48% of respondents think that the attitude of the international community towards Russia is negative, 42% think that it’s good. At the same 51% think that the attitude towards Russia abroad is not objective.
According to the opinion poll by Levada Center 68% of Russian citizens think that there are internal foes in the Russian Federation, 18% think that there are not.
Culture: folklore carnival in Bukovyna and ceramics in the near-front Slovyansk
Malanka-fest in Ukrainian Bukovyna. Over four dozens of folklore groups got together in Chernivtsi and towns of the region for the holiday of Malanka (January 13). The festival continues authentic traditions of winter celebrations in Bukovyna and resembles a carnival. Participants are wearing traditional costumes of the Ukrainian vertep (holiday theatrical performance) and are singing shedrivky (traditional holiday songs). Contemporary topics are being staged as well including the war in the east and visa-free regime.
Ceramics production of Slovyansk – a near-front town in the Donetsk region is in focus of the exhibition “Slavkeramprodukt. Working with the material” open in the local history museum. The exposition researches development of this traditional activity from a craft to full-scale industrial production as well as reflects on its future and artistic component. The exhibition is part of UCMC’s project “Under construction: Museum open”.
UCMC’s interview with Valeria Sochyvets – Ukrainian film director, producer and co-founder of CUC – Contemporary Ukrainian Cinema organization that unites young Ukrainian film makers. Over the recent years young Ukrainian cinema gained large audience inside the country and numerous awards internationally. UCMC speaks to Valeria on how young film directors are making films with zero budgets, where their stories come from and how CUC is hunting young talents.
UCMC Article: How to satisfy cultural hunger in the East?
Absurd of the week: Donetsk combat rabbits against the “Kyiv junta”
Militants of the so-called “DPR” terrorist organization filmed a New Year video called “Christmas Saved”. Armed militants wearing masking uniforms with rabbit ears repel the presumed attack of a Ukrainian serviceman whom they call a “grey wolf”. According to the story, the Ukrainian military command organized an operation to derail winter holidays. The New Year “tale” was published on the YouTube channel of the “’DPR’ Defense Ministry”.
Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media
“Christmas on the front lines” – The Day
”Woman at war. Medical Worker And Radio Operator” – Hromadske International
”Woman in the Ukrainian Armed Forces: Maria Berlinska” – Hromadske International
”Hope for Ukraine” – KyivPost editorial
”No appeasement” – KyivPost editorial
”Why asking for ‘painful concessions’ from Ukraine is wrong” – Hromadske International