Weekly Ukrainian media digest, January 24-30, 2017

Weekly Ukrainian media digest, January 24-30, 2017

Weekly Update on Ukraine
Issue 4 – 2017
January 23 – 30, 2017

Situation in the combat zone

Situation on the ground. Fierce combat actions continue in eastern Ukraine. Number of attacks has increased by 50 per cent. There’s also a sharp increase in the number of casualties among Ukrainian troops.

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Fierce fighting for Avdiivka industrial zone. At the end of the last week Russia-backed militants started another offensive on Avdiivka industrial zone. Militants keep using heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems BM-21 and Grad-P rocket system, 122-mm mortars, grenade launchers and tanks. Four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 14 were wounded in action in offensive on January 29. Ukrainian troops repelled the attack launched by two militant groups and managed to take new strategic positions in a counter-attack, reported Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak.

Blockade of trade with “L/DPR”. Combat veterans started blockade of the railway route Luhansk – Lysychansk – Popasna (near the towns of Hirne and Zolote located four km away from the contact line), reported MP Semen Semenchenko, former commander of the Donbas battalion. Head of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov said that no ad-hoc blockposts for the purpose of economic blockade will be set up in the combat zone without governmental permission. It was earlier reported that the blockade would be started to speed up liberation of Ukrainian prisoners of war.

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Checks of Russian territories bordering on Ukraine. On January 16-19 representatives of Ukraine, Canada and Denmark inspected areas in Russia’s Rostov region in proximity to the state border with Ukraine. The checks aimed to detect whether Russian military units are deployed in these areas. At first Russia limited the flight range of the inspection team to 25 km deep into the territory of Russia, then cancelled the flights so that the inspection team had to move in a vehicle. Inspection discovered that in violation of the Vienna Document (BD-2011) Russia started forming a motor-rifle division in proximity to the Ukrainian border, the unit numbers over 10 thousand troops. Inspectors confirmed considerable amassment of artillery systems of various types near Novocherkassk and on Kuzminsky training ground. The weapons could be potentially sent to militants.

Life in “DPR” and “LPR”

Advertisements in the occupied part of Donbas point at corruption in government-controlled areas. Advertisements and announcements in the occupied part of Donbas reveal corrupt practices in public services that regard issuing IDs, in courts, offices of notary public, service centers of Interior Ministry and Security Service in government-controlled areas. Advertisements promise issuing of passes across the contact line in one day (the practice usually takes 10 days and more), quick issuing of the Ukrainian passport and restoring of the lost one, issuing of the driving license as well as of other documents. Other services offered by the announcements include comfortable transportation to other Ukrainian cities, Crimea and Russia.       

Death of former “LPR” leader. Militant-controlled online media and social media accounts reported about the death of the former “LPR” leader Valeriy Bolotov. According to preliminary reports, he died of a heart attack. Bolotov was one of the militants to have seized the premises of the Luhansk Security Service office in April 2014. Following those events he became the “LPR” leader. In August 2014, Moscow appointed Igor Plotnitskiy, chief of Luhansk militants, instead of him.

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Trump and Putin phone call: what did the presidents talk about?

 On January 28th the US President Donald Trump spoke with the Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time after the inauguration.

According to The New York Times the tone of the conversation was reported to be warm, indicating a drastic shift after relations had broken down between Mr. Putin and former President Barack Obama. “The positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair,” the Trump administration said in a statement. “Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today’s call, the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern.”

“Restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between business communities of the two countries could additionally stimulate stable development of the bilateral relations,” agreed Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as reported by the press service of the Russian president.

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According to the Kremlin’s press service, Trump and Putin discussed main aspects of the Ukrainian issue. The Russian side reported that Ukraine was mentioned only once in the conversation – in the list of the topical international problems.

There is an assumption that Putin could have suggested to assist Trump in fighting against the Islamic State in exchange of softening the sanctions against Russia. Although a group of US senators is going to submit a draft law that will impede the US President to lift the sanctions against Russia without the Congress approval.

Crimea: manhunt on lawyers

On January 26, Russian security forces detained lawyer Emil Kuberdinov in Crimea. Later, the Simferopol court indicted the lawyer for the administrative violation. Kuberdinov is accused of publishing symbols of ISIS, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al-Nusra Front, which are banned in Russia, on his Facebook page in 2012-2013.

A day earlier , six FSB officers detained lawyer Nikolai Polozov in Simferopol. The day before, Polozov participated in the PACE session, where he stated about pressure from Russian law enforcement agencies.

Both lawyers have been defending the pro-Ukrainian citizens detained in Crimea, the majority of them are the Crimean Tatars.

Human rights: Ukraine in the European Court of Human Rights

The Ukrainian government became one of the leaders in violations of the European Convention on Human Rights officially recognized by the European Court of Human Rights in 2016. During the year, the Court passed 70 judgments recognizing that Ukraine is guilty of violating at least one of the articles of the Convention (222 such judgments were passed on Russia).

However, Ukraine admitted its guilt in a much greater number of cases and paid the amount requested by the applicant in accordance with the unilateral declaration mechanism (482 complaints). Italy’s indicator exceeds that of Ukraine – (811 complaints).

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Besides, Ukraine became the undisputed leader (456 complaints) in using the mechanism of amicable settlement of the dispute, under which Kyiv agrees the amount of compensation with the applicant and the applicant withdraws a claim to the state (the state knows that it has violated the Convention and will lose the case, but legally does not recognize this violation). Russia ranks second (354 complaints).

Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska awarded Salem Prize 2016 for an internationally important discovery

Ukrainian scientist Maryna Viazovska received the international Salem Prize 2016, Ukraine’s Ministry for Education and Science reports. This prestigious award is an equivalent to the Nobel Prize for mathematicians, with the Fields Medal as the only award more honorable than that. The Salem Prize is awarded annually to a young mathematician for outstanding research results and is named after the Greek mathematician Raphael Salem.

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Maryna Viazovska was awarded for her work on sphere packing in eight- and 24-dimensional spaces with the use of modular forms methods – the task that mathematicians from across the globe had not managed to resolve over several centuries. Earlier solution to the task was offered only for spaces with three or less dimensions. The solution to the three-dimensional case (Kepler conjecture) was presented on 300 pages of text with the use of 50,000 lines of the program code. Viazovska’s solution to the eight-dimensional case is just 23 pages long and is “strikingly simple” in her colleagues’ opinion. Viazovska is a researcher at the Berlin Mathematical School and the Humboldt University of Berlin where she was researching the case for two years.

The scientist graduated from the Mathematical Department of the Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University. In 2013 she got PhD in natural sciences at the University of Bonn, the thesis she presented was “Modular functions and special cycles.”

Figure of the day

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Sports: Ukrainian junior sportswoman wins prestigious tennis tournament

Fourteen-year-old tennis player Marta Kostyuk won the Australian Open 2017 junior girls title. In the final game Kostyuk won from the Swiss tennis player Rebeka Masarova. Kostyuk is the fourth junior Ukrainian to have got victory at the Grand Slam tournament and the first one to have conquered the Australian Open.

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Absurd of the week: police chief in the wardrobe

In Zakarpattya region (western Ukraine) activists tried to find out from the district-level police head where all his subordinates were. Instead they found the police chief coming out of the wardrobe in his office. Activists failed to get a clear answer from him what he was doing there (video).

 Culture: focus on the East

Ukrainian poet and writer Serhiy Zhadan established a charity fund to support humanitarian and cultural activities in eastern Ukraine. Starting from 2014, Zhadan together with fellow artists has been travelling to the East to perform for the military, he has also been collecting money to support educational, cultural and medical initiatives in the East. The Fund was set up to systematize and further enhance the existing activities as well as to make sure eastern Ukraine is an integral part of the country’s cultural space.

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The House of Free People (a group of NGOs assisting the internally displaced) hosts an exhibition dedicated to the launch of the online museum Luhansk’s ART & FACTs. The project (has a web page in English) documents artistic life of Luhansk between 2004 and 2013 through a series of photos, books and art works. The project is implemented by an IDP NGO Stan with the support of the German government. The Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum in Berlin provided consultancy for the project.

Our selection of materials in English by Ukrainian media

Reportage

”Militants launch assault on Avdiivka industrial zone” – UNIAN

”Fighting, instead of disengagement of forces: special report from eastern Ukraine” – Hromadske International

”Trump holds 40-min phone conversation with Putin” – UNIAN

”Trump is considering lifting Russia sanctions” – UNIAN

”Yevhen Marchuk: It is important that Trump has appointed seasoned politicians and not amateurs to key positions” – The Day

”Yanukovych’s case: Fugitive ex-president scared” – The Day

”President’s ally Kononenko said being treated for mercury poisoning” – Livy Bereh

”Russia starts campaign against lawyers of Crimean Tatars” – Hromadske International

 

Opinion

”Timothy Ash: Expectations for Trump’s presidency” – KyivPost editorial

 

Analytical materials

”Strength and weakness of Russian special services” – Livy Bereh

”Are sanctions on Russia taking their toll?” – Livy Bereh

”What will the reintegration of Donbas be like?” – Hromadske International

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