Situation in the combat zone
Situation in the combat zone. Situation in the combat zone is deteriorating. The highest number of attacks was registered in the Mariupol sector. Russia-backed militants were firing at the positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces from heavy weapons in all sectors; 120-mm mortars, 122-mm artillery and large-caliber machine guns were used (in English).
Russia deploys modern tanks close to the Ukrainian border. Dozens of Russian tanks were spotted in proximity of the Ukrainian border, in Russia’s Rostov region. Reuters published respective video on its You-tube channel. The video description mentions that a witness saw dozens of modern tanks arriving to the railway station in Pokrovskoye located in the south of Rostov region.
Additional restrictions for civilians in the ATO zone. Temporary restrictions in the ATO zone were introduced on March 23 due to the escalation in the region. The new security measures foresee restrictions on movement of persons without IDs from 10 pm to 5 am. The use of walkie-talkies inside the vehicles as well as taking photos and making videos of the military is now prohibited. Six interagency mobile groups were established with representatives of the National Police, National Guard and the State Fiscal Service in them. They have taken control over all the roads in Donetsk and Luhansk regions from Stanytsia Luhanska to Mariupol. Ten additional checkpoints were set. The measures were introduced to ensure the official decision to stop the movement of goods to the occupied area.
Fire at the ammunition depot in Balaklia: negligence, sabotage, or embezzlement? Massive fire started at the military ammunition depot located in Balaklia, Kharkiv region, on March 23. According to the regional authorities twenty thousand civilians were evacuated from nearby areas (video). There are several versions as to what caused the fire. Among them is the sabotage act made with a hostile unmanned aerial vehicle or by Ukrainian servicemen who were recruited as agents; negligence or an attempt to hide ammunition embezzlement. The arsenal of Balaklia is considered to be one of the biggest in Europe, besides it is located 150km away from the frontline in Donbas.
Life in “DPR” and “LPR”
“DPR” “regional office” in Athens. “DPR” group opened what it calls a regional office in Greece. This was stated by the so-called “acting foreign affairs minister of DPR” Natalia Nikonorova. Militant-controlled DAN web site published the photos allegedly made at the opening of the event. However, it is not possible to check whether they indeed were made in Athens. Representative of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Greece stated that “Greece has never recognized the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’”.
E-declaration of assets for anticorruption activists: authorities fight back?
Ukraine’s Parliamentary Committee on corruption prevention and counteraction approved amendments to the law on e-declarations of assets. The amendments bind the members of anticorruption NGOs as well as all contractors of the anticorruption organizations that are funded from international assistance programs to declare their assets through the e-system.
The above suggestions have already been considered by the Parliament and were met with sharp criticism on the part of the international community, and the EU in particular. The amendments in question make work of the anticorruption activists more complicated encouraging thus the organizations to refuse cooperation with them. On March 27, the Head of the Parliament Andriy Parubiy signed the law.
Freedom Day protests in Belarus: about 1,000 people detained
Rallies to mark the Freedom Day (Dzen Voli) were scheduled in Belarus for March 25. They coincided with the protests against the so-called “social parasites” tax on the under-employed that have been on for over one month now.
The attempt to hold a rally in Minsk resulted in mass arrests. About one thousand people were taken to police stations as the Minsk authorities did not authorize the street rallies in the capital. Among those detained there were not only the representatives of the opposition movement but also journalists, human rights defenders as well as occasional passers-by.
Activists successfully held rallies in other cities of Belarus, however arrests still took place. According to the human rights defenders detentions of activists, opposition politicians and journalists started several days ahead of the rally.
Anticorruption rallies in Russia: over 800 persons detained
Massive anticorruption rallies took place in the Russian Federation on March 26. The formal pretext for them became the investigation by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny regarding alleged involvement of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in the corrupt schemes.
Thousands took part in the protests. According to the authorities, the Moscow protest was attended by eight to nine thousand people. Authorities say the rallies were unauthorized. After the manifestation started police began detaining the people “for violation of the public order”.
As of 8 pm on March 26 about 800 participants of the rally were detained in Moscow only, many of them were youngsters and minors. Navalny himself was arrested. Several representatives of the Anti-corruption Foundation were detained in Moscow.
Pulse of Europe in Kyiv: movement for the unity of Europe
On March 26, 2017 Ukraine hosted an event in support of the unity of Europe – Pulse of Europe. This civil movement has already spread to over 60 European cities.
The first-ever Ukrainian edition of the event was held on the Sofiyska square in Kyiv. About 80 people attended it including not only the activists but also government representatives (deputy ministers on European integration) and diplomats. Thus, the event was attended by the Belgian Ambassador to Ukraine, the press officer of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Ukraine as well as by other representatives of local diplomatic representations.
Unfortunately, there was also a place for provocations. In the beginning of the rally, three youngsters with their faces covered burnt the EU flag and left in 10 minutes.
Economics: IMF financial assistance postponed
IMF Executive Board postponed the third review of the arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility for Ukraine earlier scheduled for March 20. The Ministry of Finance stated that the meeting was rescheduled due to the need to calculate precisely the economic consequences of the blockade of the occupied part of Donbas as well as of the seizure of Ukrainian companies in the uncontrolled areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The National Bank confirmed that the recent developments need to be studied in a more thorough way to define their possible impact on the economy as well as on the macroeconomic forecasts to affect the cooperation between Ukraine and the IMF.
Culture: Ukrainian premier of the film on Sentsov, new documentaries
Kyiv-based Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival has been on during the last week of March. The Ukrainian premier of the documentary “The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov” by the Russian film director Askold Kurov premiered earlier this year at the Berlinale took place on March 25 within the framework of the festival. The audience became participants of the #FreeSentsov flashmob calling to release the illegally arrested Ukrainian film director from the Russian prison.
This year’s festival presents about two dozens of Ukrainian films in the competition and non-competition program. Majority of them are short films. As a separate trend, there’s a group of films that focus on rethinking of the Soviet past. Among them is “Grey Horses” by Mykola Ridny: the story of the director’s great-grand father anarchist Ivan Krupsky who was fighting against the Soviet authorities; “The Fall of Lenin” by Svitlana Shymko on the fate of Lenin’s monuments from construction to toppling; “Alive and Undefeated” by Daria Hirna on the tensions between the choir of Ukrainian nationalists OUN-UPA and the choir of the Russian community somewhere in Lviv region. Another part of documentaries at Docudays UA is based on human stories. Thus, “See you later” by Yulia Kochetova-Nabozhniak narrates the story of a young couple the life of which is changed by the war. At the festival, Roman Bondarchuk, the film director of the award-winning documentary “Ukrainian Sheriffs” will present his new full-length film “Dixieland”.
Sports: Ukrainian Paralympic team defeats French and German athletes at the World Cup
Ukraine’s National Paralympic team came first in cross-country skiing and biathlon at the World Cup in Japan. Ukrainian athletes won a total of 33 medals including 11 gold, nine silver and 13 bronze ones. The French team that took the second place won four gold medals, the German team that was ranked third has got three gold medals, five silver and seven bronze ones.
Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media
“Kremlin attacks” – column of Tetyana Urbanska re assassination of the former State Duma MP Denis Voronenkov, UNIAN
”From sympathy to support” – The Day’s interview with Ukraine’s Ambassador to Finland
”Seven facts about Russian lawmaker killed in Ukraine” – Hromadske International
”Week’s balance: blockade consequences, IMF return, and billions for Ukrainian roads” – UNIAN’s weekly analytical news digest
”Things to know about Belarus demonstrations” – Hromadske International