Banned entry to Belarus, Constitutional crisis and more – Weekly Update on Ukraine #38, 26 October – 01 November

Situation in the combat zone

Last week, the situation in the combat zone in Donbas escalated. As reported by the Joint Forces Operation command, on October 30 at 00:28, Russia-backed militants fired upon Vodyane from Pikuzy. Two Ukrainian troops were killed in action.  

Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Serhiy Nayev said that Russia-backed militants are deliberately jeopardizing the agreements made by the Trilateral Contact Group. His statement posted on the Joint Forces Operation Facebook page reads: “The adversary’s audacity shows that the troops of the Russian Federation are deliberately derailing the agreements reached by the Trilateral Contact Group on July 22, 2020. The attack today proves that the adversary does not seek to achieve peace.”  

Nayev added that the Joint Forces adequately responded to the hostile provocations, making Russia’s proxies return to a ceasefire.

Belarus bans entry from Ukraine, Latvia, and Lithuania at land ports 

Effective November 1, Belarus temporarily suspended travel at land ports of entry. According to the State Border Committee of Belarus, the restrictions that concern “the entry of foreign nationals and stateless persons into the Republic of Belarus at land border crossing points, fast-track border crossing points, border crossing points at railway stations, and river ports, are called to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.” 

Travelers arriving at the Minsk international airport are exempt from the restrictions. A travel exemption is also in place for travelers, citizens of the Russian Federation headed to Russia in transit through Belarus.  

The entry was not banned for in-transit travelers under the bilateral Belarus-Ukraine governmental agreement on simplified movement at the part of the road Slavutych-Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Belarus. There are other exemptions as well.   

First reports on partial closure of the Belarus border appeared on October 29.

Thus, the country’s independent media reported that Belarusians re-entering from Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania encountered problems when crossing the border. The news spread across web forums warning the drivers and passengers that they might be unable to cross back if they leave now. Later, a representative of the Belarus border committee Anton Bychkovskyi, said that Belarus inbound travel from Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania at land ports of entry was indeed temporarily banned for some groups of travelers.      

Constitutional crisis: latest developments around the Constitutional Court’s ruling

The constitutional crisis in Ukraine caused by the ruling of the Constitutional Court is gaining pace. (Read also: “Ukraine’s judiciary on the brink of arbitrariness: what went wrong with the Constitutional Court’s ruling”). On the morning of October 30, a protest was staged outside the Constitutional Court’s premises. The protesters brought tires and lit flares. A criminal proceeding was started, opening investigation into “the seizure of state power by the judges of the Constitutional Court.” 

President makes a counterattack. Following the extraordinary meeting of the National Security and Defense Council on October 30, President Zelenskyi introduced a draft law to the Parliament suggesting to dismiss the judges of the Constitutional Court, deem the ruling null and void, and cancel respective amendments to the law “On corruption prevention”. The bill is to be voted on Tuesday, November 3.

Head of the faction “Servant of the People” (Sluha Narodu) Davyd Arakhamia said Zelenskyi’s idea to renew the composition of the Constitutional Court had gained the approval of the European Parliament and the Ambassadors of the G7 member states. “The decision to renew the composition of the Constitutional Court was supported by the European Parliament. At the meeting with the G7 Ambassadors, it was agreed that the new composition will be formed with maximum transparency, engaging civil society and international partners. There is no alternative to the suggested renewal of the Constitutional Court,” Arakhamia wrote in his column for “Ukrainska Pravda”. 

In his article for the Financial Times, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said the forces behind the scandalous ruling made by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine and other attacks on anticorruption system are “a coalition of Russian proxies and some prominent Ukrainian oligarchs.”

Warning of the Venice Commission. President of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio and President of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) Marin Mrčela, warned Ukraine against the possible violation of the Constitution that will take place if the presidential bill on disbanding the Constitutional Court is passed. A respective joint letter signed by Buquicchio and Mrčela was published on the Council of Europe’s web site on October 31. 

“Terminating  the  mandate  of  the  judges  is  in  blatant  breach  of  the  Constitution  and  of  the fundamental  principle  of  separation  of  powers,” the letter reads. 

How Ukraine is fighting COVID-19

On November 1, Ukraine recorded 6,754 new coronavirus cases. On the same day, 2,327 patients recovered and 69 died of COVID-19 complications.

The total number of infections in Ukraine reached 402,194. Total recoveries and deaths are 163,768 and 7,375 respectively. There are over 231,000 active cases in the country.  

In autumn, the pandemic began to gain momentum. Ukraine is recording 6,000-8,000 new daily cases. The Kyiv School of Economics forecasts a daily tally of 10,000 in November. So far, Ukraine has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases – 8,752 on October 30.  

In Europe, France, Italy, the UK, and Poland are recording highest daily case numbers, Ukraine ranks 9th. On the global scale, Ukraine is 17th by daily reported cases. 

France, Italy, and the UK report highest total number of coronavirus cases in Europe. Ukraine has Europe’s eighth-highest number of infections and ranks 21st globally.