Weekly Update on Ukraine
Issue 7 – 2017
14 – 19 February , 2017
Situation in the combat zone
Situation in the combat zone. At the end of the last week the situation in eastern Ukraine escalated again. Russia-backed militants attacked Avdiivka again damaging power and water supply in the city.
Munich: another weapons withdrawal effort. On February 15 Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the situation in Donbas reached agreement to have all the Minsk-banned weapons withdrawn from the contact line by February 20. Despite the agreement, attacks upon Ukrainian positions continued on Monday. It was reported by Martin Sajdik, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office to the Trilateral Contact Group. Foreign Affairs Ministers – Normandy Four members confirmed the agreements. Sigmar Gabriel, Foreign Affairs Minister of Germany, said that the sides agreed to grant access to the International Committee of the Red Cross to the territories in eastern Ukraine not controlled by the Ukrainian government. The Minister also said that a new meeting on political settlement had been scheduled. “We cannot start the political process until the ceasefire is achieved and heavy weapons are withdrawn,” he added.
Life in “DPR” and “LPR”
Russian Federation recognized “IDs” issued by “DPR” and “LPR”. On February 18 President of Russia Putin, signed the decree that acknowledges some of the “IDs” issued by “DPR” and “LPR” valid. According to the decree Russia acknowledges “the IDs, education, professional qualification and marriage certificates as well as documents attesting the name change, death, vehicle and car plate registration” valid.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko dubbed Putin’s decision as another proof of the Russian occupation in Donbas and a violation of international law. “It comes as a symbolic and cynical act given that it occurred during the Munich Security Conference,” he added.
“Export to the EU”. “DPR” claims that it exports goods to China, Italy, France and Spain. There are no independent reports available to support or disprove these claims.
Maidan, killings on Instytutska: 45 protesters and two law enforcement staff in one video
Comprehensive video reconstruction of the events on Instytutska street of February 20, 2014, was created to the third anniversary of killings of the Maidan protesters. The video is called “Vysota Zhovtnevy” (Zhovtnevy height).
The video was produced by the “Jus Talionis” volunteer lab. It recreates the episodes between 08:53am and 11:00am on February 20, 2014 capturing each second and sometimes each frame. It is in this period of time that 45 protesters and two law enforcement staff were killed. On February 20, 2014 a total of 48 protesters and four law enforcement staff were killed on Instytutska street.
Prosecutions following Maidan events: facts and numbers
On February 18-20 Ukraine commemorates the victims of the Maidan killings – deadliest events of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Over these three days in 2014 91 persons were killed (including 78 protesters and 13 law enforcement staff). Currently 89 cases are investigated including proceedings on the February events in Kyiv. The overall number of victims is 1,973 persons, 9,500 are listed as witnesses. There are 193 suspects in the 89 cases, search warrants have been issued for 77 persons. Here are the updates on the loudest cases:
– On November 2013 protesters were beaten, 86 were wounded, 15 officials are suspects in this case, all are still on the wanted list (including former president Viktor Yanukovych);
– The only person who is currently serving his term in a Maidan case is Azis Tagirov, member of the pro-Russian organization “Oplot” sentenced to three years for beating the protesters on January 21, 2014. Five other “Oplot” members – suspects in the case are still on the wanted list;
– Pre-trial investigation continues in the death cases of protesters Serhiy Nigoyan, Roman Senyk and Mykhailo Zhyznevsky as well as in abduction cases of Ihor Lutsenko and Yuriy Verbytsky (died after being tortured) of January 22, 2014. No suspects have been identified;
– On February 18, the attack by Berkut special police unit caused 10 deaths of protesters, 500 were wounded. One Berkut staff member of the Kharkiv-based unit got a suspended sentence, his commander is on a pre-trial detention term, six Berkut officers are suspects in the case (two of them are commanders of the Kharkiv- and Lviv-based Berkut departments);
– At night between February 18 and 19 resulting from the Berkut attacks and from the fire at the Trade Unions House 10 protesters were killed. Among those charged is the former head of Ukraine’s Security Service department for Kyiv region as well as three “titushky” (thugs);
– On February 20, 48 protesters were killed and 157 were wounded on Instytutska street. Apart from the Berkut staff (18 of whom are still on the wanted list) are former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaliy Zakharchenko and fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych were charged in the case.
– 13 policemen and internal troops were killed during the Maidan events. Nine hundred more were wounded and 200 law enforcement staff got firearm wounds. There are no suspects in this case;
– 35 detectives of the Office of the Prosecutor’s General are investigating into the Maidan cases.
Blockade of coal supplies: troubled energy reform and a threat to the country’s energy safety
What’s going on. Blockade of coal supplies from the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions not controlled by the government caused hot discussions over the past week. Activists and some politicians have been blocking several railway lines in Donetsk and Luhansk regions since January. It has already created obstacles for transportation of anthracite coal from the non-controlled areas. This particular type of coal is used to feed power plants in other areas of Ukraine. The Cabinet of Ministers presented the action plan, designed to address the emergency situation in energy sector. It includes rolling blackouts, that can be potentially applied in seven regions. Government has also established the Anti-crisis energy HQ.
Blockade organizers give their reasons. Blockade activists say that trading with the occupied areas is equal to trading on the blood. To officially cease commercial activities, a respective law needs to be adopted, it will stop the flows of money to “DPR” and “LPR”. In their opinion, militants are getting their profits from commerce with Ukrainian companies.
Why it is problematic for Ukraine. Half of the power plants in Ukraine are fed by anthracite coal, another half by gas coal. The two types are not interchangeable. There has been anthracite coal deficit in Ukraine since 2014. Anthracite can be supplied either from the occupied Donbas or import it from the Republic of South Africa, Australia, the US and Vietnam. Attempts to set up imports based on competitive price have not been yet successful. On February 13, Ukraine’s deposits of anthracite reached 842 thousand tons, those of gas – 688 thousand tons. Heat power plants working on anthracite are burning 30 thousand tons of coal daily. Should the blockade spread to other railway lines and continue in time, the reserves will be enough for 20-40 days.
Why Ukraine should keep buying coal from the occupied areas – authorities present their motivation. Authorities are of the opinion that the blockade should be ceased as the country’s energy security is under a threat. Ukraine, indeed cannot generate heat and power it needs without domestic anthracite coal, that is extracted on the territories that the government currently does not control. Authorities also claim that they are not financing militants in such a way. The coal is purchased from the companies registered in the government-controlled area. Coal mines de-facto located in the occupied areas are paying taxes to Ukraine’s budget, miners in the occupied areas get payment in hryvnia to bank accounts of Ukrainian banks.
What the authorities keep silent about. The blockade is a reminder for the authorities to keep the energy reform going. For over one year now experts and civil society have been calling for transparency in pricing for coal and power generated by heat power plants. They have been also requesting the authorities to report on the steps undertaken, in order to gradually refuse anthracite coal. Respective program was adopted in 2015. Following adoption of this program, electricity bills have gone up. Part of the coal was planned to be imported in order not to depend on the supplies from the non-controlled areas. The government has yet to respond to accusations as to alleged excessive profits by Poroshenko’s team and Akhmetov’s companies.
“Blockade of Donbas” in downtown Kyiv on February 19
On February 19, Kyiv saw several protest events that grew into clashes with police. As a result, 10 persons were injured and five protesters were detained. Organizers submitted official notification on the mass event beforehand. Six thousand and five hundred law enforcement staff members were securing public order.
Representatives of the “Donbas Blockade” initiative together with members of the nationalist OUN movement walked from Kyiv’s central street Khreshatyk to the President’s Office. Protesters were demanding to stop trading with the occupied areas and liberate hostages held by “LPR” and “DPR”. They also criticized the authorities for back-pedaling the reforms. By the time protesters came to the Presidential Administration, police and the National Guard had formed a protection line. In the evening, clashes between the protesters and law enforcement started. Two MPs were among the protest organizers – Samopomich’s Yegor Sobolev and Semen Semenchenko. Check out the photo report here. In the morning on February 20 it was quiet on Maidan, there were no signs of mass protests or tents installed.
Opinion polling. Presidential rankings: who was the most trusted Ukrainian president?
Ukrainian think tank “Slovo i Dilo” systematized various opinion polls during the time of Ukraine’s independence to see which of the five Ukraine’s presidents Ukrainians have trusted the most. The first president of independent Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk voted in by 61,3 per cent of voters, reached only 16 per cent of trust over his three years in office. Second president Leonid Kuchma in the beginning of his first presidency term was trusted by 38 per cent of Ukrainians, by 21 per cent after two years and by 13 per cent only at the end of his term. Ukraine’s third president Viktor Yushchenko got 51,99 per cent at the elections and had 49 per cent trust figure in 2005. This figure went as low as nine per cent in 2009. Next president Viktor Yanukovych had 31 per cent of trust in 2010 that reached 10 per cent in 2014. Actual president Petro Poroshenko was trusted by 49 per cent of Ukrainians upon election, two years after this figure is twice lower – 24 per cent.
Ukrainian students took first place in the European Court of Human Rights law competition
The team of Ukrainian students from the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” took the first place in the European Court of Human Rights law competition – European Human Rights Moot Court Competition. Ukrainians were also awarded in the “Application from a plaintiff” category, and the team member Oleg Dykyy became best speaker in the final of the competition. Bulgarian team took the second place, the UK team – the third one.
Culture: change of managerial team not to affect Eurovision, Berlinale award
A new team of organizers was appointed to take care of the Kyiv-based “Eurovision-2017”. Previous managerial team that was dealing with the contest left the project last week. In an open letter producers – staff members of Ukraine’s national broadcaster – National public TV and radio company of Ukraine, Oleksandr Kharebin and Viktoria Romanova said their work was being continuously blocked by the newly appointed project manager. The person in question is Pavlo Hrytsak, Deputy General Director of Ukraine’s national broadcast. Producers also explained their decision with non-transparent work style and some of the first decisions he made. It is, in particular, the decision to increase the project’s expenses and overall budget, as well as moving some of the tenders to the simplified procurement procedure. Hrytsak, who was a member of the organizing team for the Eurovision 2005 in Kyiv, disproves the accusations. He also reassured that change of the team will not affect the quality and timeline of the contest in Ukraine.
“School no.3” film jointly produced by Ukraine and Germany and directed by Georg Genoux and Elizaveta Smith won the Grand-Prix in Berlinale’s “Generation 14plus” section for the young audience. The film narrates the stories of 13 school students in Mykolayivka, a near-front city in the Donetsk region.
Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media
”New attacks near Avdiivka” – UNIAN
”The Grey Zone” – Hromadske International
”Trumpt to putin: Return Crimea!” – The Day
”Love Story from Donbas” – Hromadske International
”Financial scheming is Ukraine’s National sport” – UNIAN’s interview with Ukraine’s Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk
”Decision to annex Crimea was made by one person” – Hromadske International’s interview with former deputy of the Russian Duma who asked for political asylum in Ukraine
”Munich Security Conference and the change of Trump’s politics towards Russia”– UNIAN’s weekly analytical digest
”Three years after the Maidan massacre: main figures” – Hromadske International