Situation in eastern Ukraine
The situation in the combat zone in eastern Ukraine escalated over the past week. A total of 361 attacks by Russia-backed militant groups were registered. Four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 35 were wounded in action. On October 29 militants fired upon the special anti-smuggling unit, three staff members of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service were wounded.
For the second week in a row most tense situation in the combat zone is observed in the Mariupol sector. According to the antiterrorist operation press center, in the Mariupol sector Russia-backed militants fired from small arms, machine guns and grenade launchers in the area of Maryinka and Novomykhailivka, from 82-mm mortars near Pavlopil, from antitank missile systems, grenade launchers, machine guns and 120-mm mortars near Starohnativka, Krasnohorivka, Hnutove, Talakivka and Shyrokyne, from 152-mm artillery near Vodyane.
In the Donetsk sector attacks were registered near Zaitseve, Luhanske, Novhorodske,Verkhnyotoretske, Troyitske and Adviivka. Heavy weapons were in the use in the sector as well. In the Luhansk sector ceasefire was violated near Lopaskyne, Krymske, Kalynvo-Popasna (news in English).
Elections in Donbas. Trilateral Contact Group met in Minsk on October 26. According to the Ukrainian side, in the areas not controlled by the Ukrainian government, where 40 thousand foreign troops are deployed and large number of weapons is present, holding elections is not possible. Another issue Ukraine is also bringing into the agenda is to have the results of pseudo-elections of November 2, 2014, cancelled.
“Roadmap”: Ukrainian vision. According to the Head of Presidential Administration Kostyantyn Yeliseyev, the so-called “roadmap” for implementation of the Minsk agreements needs to clearly define the conditions under which the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine will consider the draft law on local elections in the defined areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
It needs to be stated in the roadmap that the firsthand requirement to have the draft law submitted for consideration to the Ukrainian Parliament is to achieve a series of security conditions. After the law is adopted 90 days are provided for preparation to the elections. Ukrainian parties need to take part in them, while Ukrainian media need to restart their work in this area.
Amount of the regular Russian troops and of militants in Donbas. According to the Ukrainian intelligence, six thousand regular Russian troops and 35 thousand militants that make part of the so-called 1st and the 2nd army corps are deployed to the uncontrolled areas in Donbas.
OSCE registers sending in servicemen from Russia. OSCE Special Monitoring Mission registered the cases of deployment of troops and weapons from the territory of Russia, stated Daniel Baer, the U.S. Representative to the OSCE at the organization’s council session.
Threat of ecological and humanitarian catastrophe. Required repair works are not being conducted at the phenol plant near Novhorodske, at the gas distribution station near Krasnohorivka as well as at the Avdiivka coke and chemical plant for quite a while. Ukrainian side at the Joint Coordination and Control Center (JCCC) blames it on the Russian representation to the JCCC that refuses to guarantee adherence to ceasefire by Russia-backed militants for the time of repair works, reports ATO press center. The Ukrainian side received a written refusal to provide the guarantees in question. Not holding the repair works may lead to ecological and humanitarian catastrophe that in its turn may result in hundreds thousands of civilians affected.
Another seized factory in the uncontrolled area is to be dismantled. Leader of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) Aleksandr Zakharchenko ordered to dismantle production equipment of one of the biggest plants of the Donetsk region – Stirol chemical plant in Horlivka. According to the source, 90 percent of the plant’s equipment is planned to be transferred to the Russian Federation for scrap metal. Before the war started Horlivka-based Stirol group of companies owned by businessman Dmytro Firtash numbered 14 thousand workers. According to local media, the plant accounted for four thousand workers in July 2016, the number went down to two thousand in September 2016.
Electronic asset declarations of Ukrainian civil servants
As of 00:00 on October 30, 2016 – the deadline, 103,046 annual assets declarations of civil servants were submitted to the state registry of declarations. All declarations are publicly accessible on the web site of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention. To remind, the system of e-declaration of assets was launched in Ukraine on September 1, 2016. Civil servants had 60 days to fill out the documents. Refusal to declare or untimely submission of documents is a criminal offense.
Submission of e-declarations is an important step in combatting corruption, noted former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The EU Delegation to Ukraine agrees with this statement. E-declaration system for civil servants is a digitalized version of declarations that are in place since 1994. It is expected that public availability of e-declarations will bring Ukraine closer to the EU standards of assets declaration.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has declared five land plots, a house and three apartments. He has UAH 540 thousand, USD 26,3 million, EUR 14,4 thousand on banking accounts as well as UAH 900 thousand in cash. President also noted that he owns shares and has ownership rights for over 100 companies in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, and Cyprus as well as on the British Virgin Islands. Head of the state also owns several cars. The Prime Minister has declared a car, two land plots and two houses as well as USD 870 thousand in cash, EUR 460 thousand and UAH 2,28 million. Together with his wife they own a set of luxurious watches and have several banking accounts.
Some of the declarations are striking. For instance, MP Serhiy Melnychuk of “Volya Narodu” (people’s will – eng.) faction has declared UAH one trillion in cash. Later the MP’s press office explained that the MP had allegedly made a joke. Deputy Head of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, Anatoliy Matviyenko, declared that he owns an entire church. However, MP Andriy Lozovy of Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party faction outperformed Matviyenko as he has declared a collection of wines and paintings, several watches, 19th century furniture and remains of a saint. MP of the “Opposition Bloc” faction, Nestor Shufrych, has revealed a collection of firearms that numbers 156 items, and a collection of bladed weapons of 568 items. Co-chair of the “Opposition Bloc” faction, Yuriy Boyko, is one of a few who keeps part of his savings in Russian rubles. Dnipro mayor, Borys Filatov, apart from the hackneyed luxurious items indicated in his declaration own helicopter and a ticket to sub-orbital spaceflight.
According to preliminary calculations all together the parliamentarians declared almost UAH 10 billion. Almost 70 percent of this sum is cash. In the view of a large number of cash in the declarations of civil servants, an online calculator was designed to count the weight and define how much space is needed to physically store particularly big sums of cash outside banks.
Human rights: Savchenko’s visit to the Russian Federation. Ranking of imprisonment terms of Kremlin’s prisoners
Nadia Savchenko in Russia. Appeal in the case of Kremlin’s Ukrainian political prisoners Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh was considered in Moscow on October 26.
Regardless of the proof missing and a clear political nature of the case, the court left the sentence unchanged – 22,5 and 20 years respectively. In the previous edition of the weekly media digest UCMC reported about the mental health problems Stanislav Karpyuk started having in prison of Grozny, Russia, as a result of torture.
Court hearing of Karpyuk’s and Klykh’s cases was attended by an MP, ex-prisoner of Kremlin Nadiya Savchenko. She claims she wanted to support Ukrainian prisoners, while Klykh delivering the speech after announcement of the court sentence called her actions “self-PR”.
Savchenko said until the last moment she did not know if she would be allowed to enter Russia and intended demonstrating that it is safe for Ukrainians to travel to Russia. The latter statement is quite doubtful in the view of detention of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko in Moscow on September 30, he was charged with spying.
Kremlin’s prisoners: who has been in prison the longest? At the time Nadiya Savchenko spent 680 days in Russian prison. However, her prison term is not the record-breaking one among other Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. On top of this ranking is Mykola Karpyuk who has been 960 days (as of October 31, 2016) in Russian prison, Stanislav Klykh prosecuted in the same case has been in prison for 811 days. Other Kremlin’s prisoners who have spent inside the longest include Oleksiy Chyrniy (906), Oleh Sentsov (904), Oleksandr Kolchenko (899), Valentyn Vyhivsky (683), Serhiy Lytvynov (710), one of the Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chyihoz (549) as well as the detained in the case of Crimean Muslims Ruslan Zeitullayev, Rustem Vaitov, Nuri primov and Ferat Sayfullayev (647 days each).
Crimea: Putin’s visit on the peninsula, electric power in 2018
On October 26, President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, visited the annexed Crimean peninsula for the second time in the last two months. Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a note of protest yet again as to the illegal visit of the Russian President to the Ukrainian territory. Putin’s administration traditionally ignored the Ukrainian note.
Speaking at the regional “Action Forum” of the all-Russian people’s front, Putin did not omit the theme of last year’s peninsula civic blockade by Ukrainian activists: in September 2015 at the initiative of the Crimean Tatar leaders, activists started continuous blockade of cargo vehicles entering the peninsula, later energy blockade followed. Putin called participants of the action “unbelievable idiots” and complained that human rights organizations kept silence on that.
Moreover, the Russian leader admitted the inability of the mainland Russia to supply the peninsula with power and promised that the problem will be resolved, but not earlier than in 2018. To remind, 2018 is the year when campaigning for presidential elections in Russia will start.
Economy: investment, cooperation with French companies, increase of the minimum wage
Ukrainian operator of the gas transportation system Ukrtransgaz PJSC, Engie company (France) and its subsidiary in Ukraine, Engie Energy Management Ukraine, signed contracts on transportation and storage of natural gas. Signing these framework agreements will allow Engie to independently supply gas in Ukraine with an opportunity to further directly sell it to Ukrainian traders and consumers.
Commercial turnover between Ukraine and France over the eight months of 2016 increased by 38,75 per cent in comparison to 2015, it constitutes USD 1,183 billion, reports Ukraine’s Ministry for Economic Development and Trade.
Kromberg & Schubert Ukraine – a company with foreign investment producing electrical and optical equipment starts operation in Zhytomyr region (northern Ukraine). EUR 30 million was invested into it. The company supplies cars producers including Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche etc. About two thousand people work at the plant (photo).
On October 26, at the Cabinet of Ministers session Prime Minister Groysman stated that the minimum wage in 2017 has to be equal to UAH 3,200 (approx. USD 125). In 2016 the minimum wage constitutes UAH 1,600. Reaction to this statement in the expert community was ambiguous. On the one hand, the increase that was not considered in the budget may result in inflation. On the other hand, it may bring part of the economy out of the shadow as in today’s Ukraine there is still the practice of paying “officially” the minimally set wage while the bigger part goes on top of it in the “unofficial” way. Many experts think the statement is populism.
Survey: Opinion of the Russians on Syria and visa regime with Ukraine
Syrian conflict. On October 21-24, 2016 Yuri Levada Analytical Center (Russia) conducted an opinion poll on the attitude of Russian citizens towards the Syrian conflict. The Center interviewed 1,600 people over 18 years of age in 137 cities of 48 regions.
Majority of Russian citizens (52%) support the bombing of Syria. Thus, answering the question: “What is your attitude towards the Russian air force making strikes in Syria?” 16 % of respondents said they are “fully positive”, 36% are “rather positive”, 20% are “rather negative” and 6% cent are “completely negative”.
A third of Russian citizens (32%) realize that it leads to worsening of relations with the West. Answering the question: “In which way do you think Russia’s bombing in Syria has affected the attitude towards Russia on the international arena?” 6% think “it has considerably improved”, 15% think “it has slightly improved”, 26% say it has not changed, 23% say “it has slightly worsened” and 9% think “it has considerably worsened”.
Almost a half of Russian citizens think their state has to carry on its actions in Syria. Answering the question: “Do you think Russia needs to keep interfering into what is happening now in Syria?” 14% said “definitely yes”; 35% – “rather yes”, 23% – “rather no” and 5% said “definitely no”.
Visa regime with Ukraine. Another question in the same opinion poll conducted among Russian citizens regarded introduction of the visa regime (which is currently not in place) between Ukraine and Russia. 39% of the respondents said they are in favor of introducing the visa regime with Ukraine, 48% expressed in favor of the open borders between the two states, 8% of Russian citizens said they wanted the two states to unite.
In August 2016 Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said Kyiv is ready to consider visa regime with Russia. Russian Prime Minister, Dmitrii Medvedev, assumed that President Putin in response to the above action may adopt a decision to break off the diplomatic ties with Ukraine.
Culture: new Ukrainian cinema, decentralization of visual arts
Works by young Ukrainian film directors that competed at the Kyiv international Molodist film festival demonstrated high professional level. Short films produced over 2015-2016, often at own expense of the directors and based on socially daunting themes, give grounds to speak about the rise of the new Ukrainian cinema. Thus, feature films “Nail” by Philip Sotnychenko, “Blood” by Valeria Sochyvets and “Without You” by Nariman Aliyev are some of the works that use modern film language. “Encounter” by Zhanna Ozirna and “Black Mountain” by Taras Dron are successful examples of decentralization in film production, they were produced with the support of Lviv-based Wiz-Art group. Documentaries “Lost” by Svitlana Shymko and “It’s Quiet Down Below” by Ksenia Marchenko as well as animation “Bike Portraits” by Sashko Danylenko add to the variety of genres in the competition.
Large-scale group exhibition of visual arts entitled “Kylym. Contemporary Ukrainian Artists” opened in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. Twenty Ukrainian artists participating in the project place traditional Ukrainian motives in the contemporary context. They use painting, sculpture, installation and video as tools for their research. The project was launched in Carpathians and then exhibited in Lviv. Exhibition in Kharkiv marks the final part of the cultural forum “PohranCult: GalitsiaCult” that aims to establish artistic dialogue between the regions of Ukraine.
Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media
”What is left in a village in Donbas grey zone?” – Ukraine Today
”E-declaration system is DDoS-ed” – Ukraine Today
”Russia not re-elected to UN Human Rights Council” – Ukraine Today
”Escalation in Donbas: militants double number of attacks” – Ukraine Today
“Motorols was killed on Putin’s order” – interview with Russian political scientist Andrey Piontkovsky, Ukraine Today
”Return of Ukraine’s stolen millions” – Hromadske International’s interview with Daria Kalenyuk, executive director of the Anticorruption Action Center
”Legal aspects of the war in Donbas” – Hromadske International’s interview with Mykola Hnatovsky, expert in humanitarian law
”Normandy four keeping the fiction of Minsk alive” – Hromadske International’s interview with the German historian Jan Claas Behrends
”Ukraine’s struggle for honest elections in the occupied areas” – Hromadske International’s interview with Olha Ayvazovska, Ukraine’s representative to the political subgroup at the Trilater Contact Group in Minsk
“Ihor Kolomoysky” – KyivPost, OligarchWatch project