Five-point plan on Donbas, Belarus steps up repression, Crimea and more – Weekly Update on Ukraine #39, 02 – 08 November

Situation in the combat zone

The situation in the combat zone is stable. Over the last day, November 8, in Donbas, Russia-backed militants violated the ceasefire once, reported the Joint Forces Operation command in a morning press statement on November 9. Shots were fired in the area of responsibility of the operational-tactical command “Skhid” (East) near Vodiane. A number of similar incidents were recorded throughout the past week.  

One hundred days of the ceasefire. In the 100 days of the ceasefire in Donbas, three Ukrainian troops were killed in action, and 11 were wounded, said Deputy Commander of Joint Forces Bohdan Bondar at a press briefing on November 4. He added that since the combat actions started in Donbas in 2014, there had been 21 attempts to establish a ceasefire, while the latest one (in force since July 2020) is “the most efficient”. Thus, “in a similar span of time, before the ceasefire took effect, the number of casualties was 197, including 17 combat deaths,” the Deputy Commander said. 

“As for the number of attacks – (we’ve recorded) 224 attacks in total against the 1.2 thousand within a similar time span before the ceasefire. We see an almost fivefold decrease. It makes us hopeful about a positive result, and motivates to keep moving in this direction more intensely,” Bondar added.  

Ukraine’s five-point plan on Donbas. The Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group presented a new plan to OSCE intermediaries and the Russian delegation. The key five points of the plan foresee:

(1) withdrawal of the foreign troops, militant groups, and mercenaries from Ukraine in early 2021;

(2) revocation of the Russian Federation government orders that directly interfere in the affairs of the occupied territory, for example, a simplified procedure for local residents to obtain the Russian passport;

(3) Ukraine regains control of the respective part of its state border with Russia, assisted by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM);   

(4) OSCE SMM is to increase four-fold (adding 1,500 mission members);

(5) only after the above four points are implemented, elections are to be organized and held, assisted by the OSCE, in the territory that is currently occupied. 

Next sitting of the Trilateral Contact Group is to take place on November 10, the Ukrainian delegation said. By then, the OSCE will have elaborated its position, and, possibly, will have come up with suggestions about the plan.

Belarus steps up repression: over one thousand protesters arrested in one day 

On Sunday, November 8, mass protests continued in Belarus. Riot police chased the protesters, shots were fired, witnesses said.  

As of late evening of November 8, the human rights center “Viasna” reported over 1,000 arrests and counting.

Most arrests took place in Minsk, protesters were also arrested in Viciebsk, Hrodna, Homyel, Byaroza, Pinsk, Zhlobin, Babruysk, Lyakhavichy, and Mahilyow.

According to TUT.BY, among the arrested are the “Miss Belarus 2008” titleholder and former press secretary of the FC Dynamo Brest Olga Khizhynkova, actor and puppeteer Alyaksandr Zhdanovich. A former Cirque du Soleil artist Semen Bukin was also arrested, other sources reported.

Ukraine ready to set up humanitarian response facilities at administrative border with Crimea

The Ukraine government is ready to set up humanitarian response facilities responding to a spike in coronavirus infections and shortage of medicines in the peninsula. 

Oleksiy Reznikov, Minister of the Affairs of the Temporarily Occupied Territories told Radio Liberty: “We are ready to set up humanitarian camps with pharmacies at the administrative border (with Crimea), near our crossing points.”

Reznikov also said that a simplified procedure is in place for relief supplies by humanitarian organizations.   

To remind, in a statement, the Representative Office of the President of Ukraine in Crimea said that the peninsula is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a breach of duties by occupying authorities (Russia) to ensure protection for civilians including healthcare. 

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, over the last day, 250 new coronavirus cases and two deaths were recorded in the occupied peninsula. The total number of infections reached 13,914, the total death number is 256. Human rights defenders say the occupation authorities are hiding the true number of COVID-19 deaths.

British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons visited the crossing points Kalanchak and Chaplynka at the administrative border with the occupied Crimea.

To remind, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the summit of the Crimean Platform will take place in Kyiv in May 2021.

The Crimean Platform will have a multi-level operation. At the highest political level, heads of states will join. Foreign affairs and defense chiefs will team up at the second level. The third level is inter-parliamentary, the fourth one foresees involvement of non-governmental experts. 

Representatives of civil society organizations, analysts at think-tanks and academia are also to engage in the Crimean Platform.

How Ukraine is fighting COVID-19

On November 9, Ukraine recorded 8,687 new coronavirus cases, 115 deaths, and 2,277 recoveries; 1,100 patients were admitted to hospital.

Ukraine reported daily 41,114 tests, including 34,393 PCR tests and 6,721 ELISA antibody tests. The total number of PCR tests is 3,648,292.

In Ukraine, the total number of cases is 469,018, recoveries are 209,143, while 8,565 patients died from coronavirus complications.

For the second day in a row, Ukraine ranks 10th in the world in the number of new daily cases, preceded by Brazil, Germany, Russia, the UK, Poland, Italy, France, India, and the US. Notably, among these countries, Ukraine made the lowest number of tests.

Ukraine’s Healthcare Minister said the government plans to reinforce restrictive measures introducing the “weekend quarantine” when only grocery shops, pharmacies and public transport will remain open.