Situation in the combat zone
Situation on the ground. Combat actions in eastern Ukraine do not stop. Russia-backed militants keep escalating the situation in the area of Avdiivka. They continuously use artillery and tanks.
Damaged infrastructure and humanitarian situation. Attacks on February 24, that involved the use of heavy weapons, damaged the power line between Makiyivka and Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant. Work of the Donetsk water filtration station was suspended after the chlorine pipe and the station’s other crucial elements were damaged in a militant attack. The station feeds over 600 thousand people in Avdiivka, Yasynuvata and Donetsk with potable water.
OSCE. On February 23 in Yasynuvata (“DPR”-controlled) armed people pointed weapons at OSCE monitors when the OSCE patrol was about to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Then they came close to the OSCE representatives and took the UAV away. One of the armed men opened fire in proximity to the OSCE patrol.
Russian KIA in Donbas. Russian civic initiative “Gruz-200 (killed in action) from Ukraine to Russia” claims 3,000 Russian regular troops and mercenaries were killed in Donbas.
Life in “DPR and “LPR”
Demand to stop the blockade. Militants of the “DPR” and “LPR” demand stopping the transportation blockade in Donbas before March 1. Otherwise they threaten to introduce “external management in all companies of Ukrainian jurisdiction that operate in the ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’” and “stop supplying coal to Ukraine,” militant group leaders claim in a joint statement shared on separatist web sites.
Financing “LPR”. Ukraine’s Security Service claims to have discovered a scheme used by the Russian government to finance the “LPR” group. One of the ways to send the money to the group was through the artificially created charitable foundation “Fund for support of international humanitarian projects”. The organization was founded by the Moscow-based International Commercial Bank (Mezhdunarodny raschetny bank) registered in late 2015.
Who is MP Artemenko and why does he suggest giving up Crimea to Russia?
What happened. Last week Ukrainian MP, Andriy Artemenko from the Radical Party, passed the plan for normalization of relations between Ukraine and Russia to Trump’s former advisor Michael Flynn. The plan also aims to have the sanctions against Russia lifted. Artemenko claims to have also passed the proof of President Poroshenko’s corrupt actions to the Trump’s team.
What the Artemenko plan suggests. According to the suggested plan, Russian troops should be withdrawn from eastern Ukraine. A nationwide referendum should be held, where Ukraine citizens will decide if Crimea should be leased to Russia for 50 or 100 years.
Who’s behind the plan. Head of the Radical Party parliamentary faction Oleh Lyashko said that the plan reflects Artemenko’s personal position. Subsequently, the MP was expelled from the faction. Artemenko himself claims that the plan was initiated by the Radical Party. “I was authorized by Lyashko to travel to the US and conclude the ‘peace plan’,” Artemenko said at a press-briefing in the Parliament last week. The MP was also saying that the plan was pre-approved by the aides of the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Who is Mr. Artemenko? Andriy Artemenko was little-known by the wide public. In the 90s he started several businesses. He was involved in provision of legal assistance to Ukrainian sportsmen who worked and performed abroad.
In 2002, he was charged with frauds as to the sports transfers and misuse of public money disbursed for the TsSKA football club. He was detained before the trial. In 2004 he was released. In 2006 he was campaigning at the elections to the Kyiv City Council as part of Yuliya Tymoshenko’s list. He was not largely seen in the Ukrainian politics until 2013.
During Euromaidan, Artemenko was taking part in the protests against then-president Viktor Yanukovych. He later joined the Right Sector movement. In spring 2014, he became part of the Right Sector party leadership team together with Dmytro Yarosh and Sashko Bily.
At the 2014 parliamentary elections Artemenko got a seat at the Rada as part of the Radical Party’s list. He was 16th in the party list. He later created an NGO “Solidarity of right forces” that has not become a party yet. According to his declaration, he has got four children, three of them are citizens of the US or Canada.
Crimea: three years under occupation
On February 26 Ukraine marks the Day of Resistance to the Russian occupation in Crimea. On this day in 2014, several thousands of activists gathered by the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Crimea to rally in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russian supporters were their opponents on the square in front of the parliament.
After the annexation of the peninsula, Russian law enforcement started persecuting the activists, who support Ukraine’s unity and those of Crimean Tatar origin. The persecutions continue until now. Seventeen persons have gone missing, 12 were killed, there are 39 political prisoners, 10 of whom were already sentenced.
Rallies were held in several Ukrainian cities (Kyiv, Lviv and Kherson) as well as in France and Jordan. Kyiv rally had the Russian Embassy as the final stop, where activists held a performance “how the occupation of Crimea impacts Ukraine’s cultural and language space.”
Human rights: Russian activist Ildar Dadin released from prison
Russian citizen and Euromaidan participant Ildar Dadin was released from Russian prison on February 26. He was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2015 for having violated public protest rules. He also rallied to support Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia as well as against the war in Donbas. UCMC published Dadin’s letter from prison to his wife in which he was describing torture he was subject to in prison.
Opinion polling: Ukrainians are not ready to build a wall with occupied areas
Ilko Kucheriv, Democratic Initiatives Foundation, held the opinion poll in December 2016 on the attitude that Ukrainians have towards the temporarily occupies areas. The research also sought to envisage their expectations from the authorities as to the blockade of the occupied areas in eastern Ukraine.
Currently there is no consensus in the Ukrainian society as to the state policy on temporarily occupied territories. Thirty per cent of respondents are of the opinion that the pre-war state of play should be restored, 70 per cent have different opinions that vary.
Seventeen per cent of respondents support the toughest option – they think that the territories should be recognized occupied and ties with them should be limited to the maximum. Softest one – to accept the areas’ special status, grant them preferences to get them back into Ukraine’s political jurisdiction, is supported by approximately equal number of pollees: 14-15 per cent. Fourteen more percent believe that the state needs to preserve its current policy, while each fourth respondent does not have the answer to the question.
Fourteen more percent are of the opinion that Ukraine needs to preserve its current policy: accept the fact of existence of the contact line, certain travel restrictions and problematic payment of social benefits. They are convinced that the situation needs to be preserved as it is until a certain point. Other 25 per cent of respondents remained undecided.
Sport: Ukrainian sportswoman triumphs at the tennis tournament in Dubai
On February 25, Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina won a prestigious tennis tournament in Dubai. She won over the Danish sportswoman Caroline Wozniacki in the final.
The prize comes as Svitolina’s second one in February, earlier this month she triumphed at the tournament in Taipei. The Dubai victory became her 12th one in a row, so that she entered the top-10 of the world’s best tennis players.
Culture: film about the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine, Canadian take
Feature film about Holodomor of 1932-1933 was released in Ukrainian cinemas. Canadian movie “Bitter Harvest” became the first cinematographic attempt in the last twenty five years to depict the tragic events of the artificial famine instigated by Stalin’s regime in Ukraine. Film director George Mendeluk as well as the script writer and producer are of the Ukrainian origin.
The plot is centered around the love story of young artist Yuri and his fiancée Natalka. British actors Max Irons and Samantha Barks are featured as the main characters. The spectators follow the complex historic background through the storyline of the protagonist. Yuri heads to Kyiv, lives through the arrest, escapes from prison and takes part in the uprising. Some international film critics mark the film’s topicality, however note that its artistic value leaves much to be desired. “At least Bitter Harvest’s release date is relatively timely, given the recent focus in the news on Russia’s brutally aggressive, expansive ambitions,” writes The Guardian. “And while ‘Bitter Harvest’ will undoubtedly serve to raise awareness, there can be no doubt that the events deserve a more compelling and responsible treatment than this,” says Variety.
Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media
”Crimea: history of resistance” – The Day
First interview with a former Berkut policeman charged with Maidan killings – Hromadske International
“Ukraine has own plan for Donbas with no concessions to Putin regime – UNIAN’s interview with Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov
”Maybe, Trump is right?” – column of UNIAN’s Roman Tsymbaliuk
”Annexation of Crimea. Three years on” – Hromadske International
“Who is Artemenko who suggests leasing Crimea to Russia?” – Hromadske International
”Ukraine on arms market: reality and myths” – Livy Bereh
“Ukrainian interest. Requiem for Churkin, intriguing Firtash, and Dutch breakthrough” – UNIAN’s weekly analytical digest