Weekly Ukrainian media digest, August 23 – 29, 2016

Situation in the zone of military operations in eastern Ukraine 
The situation in the zone of military operations is still strained. Yesterday pro-Russian militants continued to use heavy weapons against Ukrainian servicemen. In Donetsk sector  they used 152 mm artillery near village of Arkhangelske and 122mm artillery at Avdiyivka and Pisky. In Mariupol sector 122mm artillery was used at Shyrokyne. The adversary fired from mortars, grenade launchers and machine-guns at Maryinka, Taramchuk, Krasnohorivka and Talakivka. Grenade launchers of various systems and heavy machine guns were used to fire at Shyrokyne, Vodiane, Novotroitske and Hnutove. In Luhansk sector militants used 82 mm mortars.

The Ukrainian party of JCCC (Joint Center for Ceasefire Control and Coordination) reports that Russia-supported militants attacked residential areas of Krasnohorivka, Donetsk region. According to JCCC representative Vadym Bakay, it happened on the night of August 28. The shelling was conducted from the direction of “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) militants-controlled Staromykhailivka. Militants used 82 mm mortars, 122 mm rocket launchers “Grad-P”. According to him, the shelling had damaged several buildings (photos of the damage).

Over the past week 4 Ukrainian servicemen were killed, 35 wounded. In total, 459 pro-Russian militants’ attacks were recorded.

Humanitarian situation. On August 27, a series of powerful attacks was carried out  at Stanytsia Luhanska, Luhansk sector, with the use of mortars and armored vehicles. It resulted in damaging electricity transmission lines, 12.000 people were left without electricity and water supply.
Political statements. Trilateral contact group on settlement of the situation in Donbas involving representatives of some regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions declare the necessity of complete continuous ceasefire in the zone of military operations from September 1. This was reported by Darka Olifer, spokesperson of Ukrainian representative in the group, former President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, after the meeting in Minsk. A new school year starts on this day. Over 150.000 children will go to schools and kindergartens only in government-controlled part of Donbas.

Hostages. Following the meeting in Minsk, Ukraine demands to release 107 Ukrainian hostages who are held captive in the self-proclaimed republics. The Ukrainian party claims that it is ready to compromise for the sake of reaching agreement on the release of hostages.

Russia’s role in the conflict. Since the beginning of 2016 Russian military trains and military equipment convoys have illegally crossed the state border of Ukraine 260 times. This informationwas disclosed by a negotiating team member Yevhen Marchuk who referred to the preparatory documents used in Minsk negotiations. In particular, in January there were 19 cases of illegal border crossing, in February – 36, in March – 32, in April – 33, in May – 41, in June – 25, in July – 37 and in August – 37.

Ukraine’s lawsuits against Russia
Public institutions of Ukraine filed five lawsuits against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. Among them Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula, events in eastern Ukraine and numerous violations of human rights, unlawful displacement of orphans from Luhansk region (the occupied town of Snizhne) to Russia and the proceedings on the fact of violation of human rights of the leader of the Crimean Tatar people Mustafa Dzhemilev and his son Hayser Dzhemilev.

Ukraine filed a lawsuit to the International Criminal Court concerning the events on the Maidan, and the events in Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as Crimea.

Ukrainian victims of occupation of certain territories in Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea filed over 2.000 individual lawsuits in the European Court (of Human Rights). Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko declared  that Ukraine had prepared another interstate lawsuit against Russia because of the aggression in Donbas and Crimea annexation to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Ukrainian state bank “Oschadbank” filed a lawsuit against Russia to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague for damages caused to the bank as a result of Crimea annexation. The amount of the claim is USD 1 billion, reports “Oschadbank” press service. The bank noted that Permanent Court of Arbitration had confirmed the establishment of the arbitral tribunal in the lawsuit of “Oschadbank” against the Russian Federation.

Human rights
The “SBU Secret Prisons”. The Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch activists informed about the release of 13 persons from a “SBU secret prison” (SBU – Security Service of Ukraine) in Kharkiv and published details of their detention. This release is a response to the Amnesty International report ”You Don’t Exist” published in late July. The human rights organization Amnesty International stated about this release in its news report. It is reported that six persons were released on July 25, seven more, including one woman – on August 2. According to human rights activists, currently at least five people are still in the “SBU secret prisons.”

The Ilmi Umerov case. International human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls on Russian authorities to immediately release Ilmi Umerov from a psychiatric clinic in Simferopol because of the state of his health. “Compulsory detention of Umerov in a psychiatric institution is a flagrant violation of his rights. It is also a shameful attempt to use psychiatry to stifle him and tarnish his reputation. This practice has long been in use in the Soviet Union. The Russian authorities must stop persecuting people who challenge the actions of Russia in Crimea. Umerov should not be punished for having expressed his views on Crimea and its future,” emphasized Tanya Cooper, Human Rights Watch expert (statement in English).

Ukrainian library in Russia. The Moscow court extended house arrest for Natalia Sharina, the director of Moscow’s Library of Ukrainian Literature, to October 28.The judge agreed with the arguments of the investigation that while at large, Sharina “may abscond or impede the investigation.” Natalia Sharina has being kept under house arrest since October 2015. She was charged with inciting ethnic hatred and enmity as well as embezzlement of funds.

Freedom of speech 
Murder of a journalist. On August 27, in Kyiv police recorded death of Russian journalist Alexander Shchetinin who had moved to Kyiv in 2005. After moving to Ukraine, Alexander, who is the founder of the New Region news agency, launched the Ukrainian version of the resource and in 2014 broke off relations with the Russia-based agency. Alexander Shchetinin positioned himself as a critic of the policy of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2014, he gave up his Russian citizenship, and later joined the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. In Ukraine, he filed a request for Ukrainian citizenship. Shchetinin was found dead in his apartment by his friends, who came to congratulate him on his birthday. Alexander Shchetinin’s case is being investigated as a suicide by the Kyiv police. His professional activity is considered as a basic version. Later on,Shchetinin’s suicide note was published. He sent it to the New Region chief editor. In his letter, he confirms his decision to commit suicide. Alexander suffered from a deep protracted depression caused by financial problems of the New Region, because it had to be independent of the oligarchs.

Russia bans Ukrainian website. ‘Roskomnadzor’ warns Ukraine Crisis Media Center of banning the website fully on the territory of the Russian Federation due to a press release dated September 8, 2015 “calling for extremist activities”.

In its statement dated August 27 the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People urged the international community to strengthen sanctions against Russia for the oppression of human rights in the occupied Crimea. “The only condition that will ensure human rights and freedoms, the rights of the Crimean Tatar people – the indigenous people of Crimea is de-occupation of Crimea and restoration of Ukraine sovereignty on the peninsula,” stressed the Mejlis representatives. They also state that “Russia as a country-occupier refuses to observe international humanitarian law in the occupied Crimea.” The authors of the statement reminded about the compulsory detention of deputy head of the Mejlis Іlmi Umerov in a psychiatric hospital and called it “a part of the systematic persecution and intentional repressions” of the Russian authorities on the peninsula. Since August 18, Ilmi Umerov, the Mejlis deputy head has been kept in Simferopol psychiatric hospital where he is forced to undergo forensic psychiatric examination; his health condition is getting worse. In May 2016, the Russian FSB (Federal Security Service) accused him of “separatism” and filed a criminal case against him.

According to preliminary data, large and medium-sized enterprises of Ukraine received pre-tax profit of UAH 62.950 billion for the first half of 2016. The last year result for the same period was unprofitable – minus UAH 224.451 billion. As reported on the website of the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, in the first half of 2016 the financial result of the profitable enterprises in Ukraine increased by 9.2 per cent – up to UAH 181.173 billion. At the same time the result of unprofitable enterprises decreased by 68.6 per cent to minus UAH 124.223 billion.

Arts and culture
State-owned Ukrainian House started dismantling Soviet-time bas reliefs from its façade referring to the “decommunization laws”. Bas reliefs were not included into the list of objects – subject to dismantling. Under pressure of the expert community and media attention dismantling was stopped. Drawing on the case experts discuss implementation of the decommunization laws, quote various public opinions as well as problems that arise in course of the laws’ implementation. Full text.

Young Ukrainian experimental films will be screened in cinemas across the country. Selection includes five short documentaries by young Ukrainian film directors. The films are focused on urbanism and feature Kyiv, Lisbon, Los Angeles as well as Ukrainian towns of Pisky and Brovary. The “Ukrainian experiment” program is compiled by Ukrainian distributor 86Prokat, the team behind the 86 Festival of Film and Urbanism that chose the town close to Chornobyl as its location.

Ukrainian product design and arts will be presented as part of the Paris Design Week. Exposition “Flying in dreams and reality” is open at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Paris (22 avenue de Messine) on September 2-10.

News in English

«Russian journalist found dead in Kyiv» – KyivPost
«Independence Day military parade held in Kyiv» – Ukraine Today
«Injured soldiers celebrate Ukraine’s independence in hospital» – KyivPost
«The history of Ilmi Umerov’s Persecution in Crimea» – Hromadske International
«Ukrainian convicts suffer harsh treatment in separatist-seized Donbas» – KyivPost’s interview with a prisoner in Bakhmut
«Ukrainian national anthem played in occupied Donetsk» – Ukraine Today
«Increased number of attacks reported in eastern Ukraine» – Ukraine Today
«Germany convenes OSCE foreign ministers to discuss Ukraine conflict» – Ukraine Today

The last interview given by Jan Tombinski, Head of EU Delegation to Ukraine before leaving his office
«The Extraordinary Four about perception of Ukraine abroad: Ambassadors representing Ukraine in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland» Hromadske International broadcast

Weekly business update by KyivPost
«Top 25 significant Ukrainian startups» – Ukraine Today on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Independence
«The five most important things, that Ukraine’s President said during his Independence Day speech» – Hromadske International
«Ilovaisk battle two years on: Ukrainian General Staff reveals new data and photos» – Ukraine Today
«In Minsk a lot could be achieved with political will» – Hromadske International’s interview with Toni Frisch, the OSCE representative in the Minsk talks
«Top 25 unique places in Ukraine» – Ukraine Today on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Independence

«Ukraine’s achievement of Independence. How it happened 25 years ago» – Hromadske International
«Top 25 most influential musicians of Ukraine» – Ukraine Today on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Independence
“25 surprising facts about Ukraine” – Ukraine Crisis Media Center