Weekly Ukrainian media digest, April 26 – May 3, 2016

Situation in the antiterrorist operation zone
ATO forces were fired upon 197 times over the last week. Four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 25 were wounded in action. Two civilians hit trip wires (near Hranitne and Novobakhmutivka). Four civilians were killed in shelling near militant-controlled Olenivka.

Over May 1 (Orthodox Easter) combined Russian-and-militant troops considerably decreased the number of attacks – made a total of six attacks along the entire contact line, reported ATO Staff. Russia-backed militants fired upon the ATO forces near Shyrokyne, outskirts of Donetsk (non-precision fire) and Hranitne (using grenade-launchers and antiaircraft mounts).

On April 29 Trilateral Contact Group agreed in Minsk complete ceasefire in Donbas during Easter and May holidays. Participants of the Group called on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to name responsible for ceasefire violations in their reports in case such violations take place (news in English).

Hostile unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that were carrying and throwing explosives were registered in Donetsk region on April 29, reports ATO press center. The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were seen above Lozuvatske. The UAVs threw over ten explosive devices above the positions of one of Ukrainian Armed Forces unit. Eight devices exploded as they hit the ground (news in English).

Militants were using Minsk-banned weapons over the last week including 82-mm and 122-mm mortars. Despite the agreement on complete ceasefire militants were intensely firing in the evening of April 30 in the Donetsk sector. They used grenade launchers of various types and large-caliber machine guns to fire upon Vodyane, Avdiivka, Zaitseve, Mayorsk and Luhanske (news in English).

Humanitarian subgroup within the Trilateral Contact Group failed to reach agreement on exchange of captives at their last meeting, said Martin Sajdik, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine. According to Ukrainian representative to the subgroup Iryna Gerashchenko, it was militants who derailed the exchange. They neither responded to questions nor provided the tentative list of captives whom Ukraine was ready to exchange. Militants demanded liberating “the terrorists detained in relation to the terror acts in Odesa and Kharkiv” (news in English).

Four civilians were killed and eight were wounded as a result of a shell-burst at the checkpoint across the contact line in “DPR”-controlled Olenivka on April 27. These people were spending the night in their cars waiting for the checkpoint to open and pass to Ukraine-controlled territory. OSCE monitors visited the site afterwards (report).

The checkpoint in question located near Olenivka was fired upon from the area of the filtration plant near Yasne town located on area controlled by the self proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”). The information is presented in the statement of the National Security and Defense Council Head Oleksandr Turchynov (statement in English). ATO press center said the checkpoint near Olenivka was fired upon with the use of “Vasilyok” and “Podnos” mortars. Maximum fire range of “Podnos” is 3000 m, of “Vasilyok” 4200 m. Technical characteristics of the above weapons would not have allowed this attack to be conducted from the nearest positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that are 6,6 km away (statement in English).

International volunteer group InfromNapalm conducted an OSINT analysis of video footage from the tragedy site and concluded that Olenivka was attacked from militant-controlled areas.

Total number of casualties since the war in Donbas started constitutes 9 333 persons, around 21.400 have been wounded. UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun quoted the numbers at the meeting of UN Security Council.

Militants in occupied territories of Donbas were supplied military equipment, ammunition as well as fuel and lubricants from the Russian Federation. Twenty four repaired tanks arrived in Luhansk, eight cars with ammunition (320 tons) arrived in Izvaryne, 1000 tons of diesel fuel arrived in Rovenky.

Elections in Donbas
Representative of the Ukrainian delegation who has recently quit the political subgroup within the Trilateral Contact Group Roman Bezsmertny is of the opinion that safe local elections in occupied territories of Donbas are possible not earlier than in three-five years. To ensure safe elections public opinion needs to be prepared, security issues resolved, demilitarization and demobilization need to be conducted.

Human Rights
The governing body of the Crimean Tatar people, Mejlis, activity of which was banned on April 26 by a “court” in Russian-occupied Crimea, declared a state of emergency. This was stated by Chairman of Mejlis Refat Chubarov. According to him, any actions to hold an extraordinary session of Kurultai, its dissolution or the election of members of Kurultay, Mejlis or other governing bodies under conditions of temporary occupation of Crimea will be considered illegitimate. According to his decree, the Mejlis will be headquartered in Kyiv (news in English).

Vice-speaker of the Russia-controlled Crimean parliament Remzi Ilyasov asserts that the Crimean Tatars will replace the “Mejlis” with a new representative body to deal with the problems of Crimean Tatars.

In Russia-annexed Crimea the Kyiv District Court extended the arrest of Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis Ahtem Chyyhoz till May 22. Тhe court also extended the arrest of two other defendants in “February 26” case.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has assigned a status of the accused to Crimean journalistMykola Semena, who was served with charges of extremism due to his cooperation with Ukrainian media project “Krym.Realii” organized by the information agency Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

Due to the ban of the Mejlis in Russia-annexed Crimea, defendants in “February 26” case may be accused of new counts.

Besides, in Russia, the arrest of Natalia Sharina, Ukrainian literature library director, was extended for 3 months. Sharina is accused of extremism for distribution of the banned books and embezzlement of property (for details of detaining Sharina in English).

Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov believes that her extradition to the homeland will not happen before the end of summer. Extradition procedure takes at least half a year.

The vast majority of Ukrainian citizens – 56.4% – do not support granting the special status to Donbas, according to the Razumkov Center poll. About a quarter of respondents (23.8%) support this idea, another 19.8% of respondents could not decide on the question.
Granting special status to Donbas is not supported by the vast majority of residents of the Central and Western regions, and relative majority of residents of the Southern region and Donbas (the Ukraine-controlled part). In the Eastern region, the relative majority of respondents support granting special status to Donbas. The idea of ​​holding elections in the occupied territories of Donbas prior to taking them under the Ukrainian government’s control is not supported by the vast majority of Ukraine’s population (52.5%). Only 31.2% of respondents support it; the rest – could not decide on the question. The relative majority of Ukraine’s population (45.9%) supports the suspension of any economic relations between Ukraine and the self-proclaimed “DPR” and “LPR” (“Luhansk People’s Republic”). 35.9% take a negative view of the current results of the Minsk agreements on the situation in Donbas. 16.6% of respondents take a positive view of these results, and 24.3% – take a neutral view (study in Ukrainian).

Arts and culture
Cultural events and institutions in eastern Ukraine
Belgium used to be one of the biggest investors into the industry of eastern and southern Ukraine at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries. “Foreign investment in Ukraine at the end of XIX century – beginning of XX century. Part one: Belgium” – the exhibition that narrates this little-known fact was opened on April 29 in Lysychansk, Luhansk region. Back in 1892 Belgian Solvay soda plant was established in this town that is now located less than 60 km from the contact line. Posters with shares of Belgian companies, photos and archive documents are displayed at the exhibition. It will then travel to six more cities of Donetsk and Luhansk regions some of which used to be sites for Belgium-founded industrial facilities. Check out UCMC’s English-language material on the event soon onuacrisis.org

Symphonic orchestra of the Luhansk regional philharmonic performed in Austria’s Vienna and Semmering on April 22-24. The orchestra is currently based in Severodonetsk, administrative center of Luhansk region where it moved to from occupied Luhansk in 2015. Austrian Kurt Schmid has been the orchestra’s conductor for 15 years. Severodonetsk also hosts another “displaced” cultural institution: Luhansk regional Ukrainian musical-drama theatre. It stages plays based on classical Ukrainian literature and has recently had a round of successful shows in Kyiv.

Platform for initiatives “Teplytsia” (eng. – Greenhouse) in Sloviansk and “Vilna Khata” (eng. – Free House) in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, are the centers that host artistic, social and educational events for public. This format turned to be quite new for Donetsk region where both centers became hubs that consolidate active youngsters as well as both host and initiate social and artistic activities. The places were founded in summer 2015 and spring 2015 respectively with community efforts. “Teplytsia” and “Vilna Khata” also serve as cultural exchange point as they provide space for artistic and cultural actors from across Ukraine.