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Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (audio)

20.01.2018 р., 23:30

Situation in Donbas – Weekly Review.


The level of violence in Donbas has lessened during the past week, with the number of separatists’ attacks dropping up to two or three a day. However, pro-Russian hirelings keep shelling the Ukrainian positions in Donbas wounding and killing Ukrainian soldiers. Sometimes, the number of attacks and skirmishes rises, but the general situation at the front remained relatively calm. This was also marked by the OSCE representatives in Ukraine. According to them, the number of ceasefire breaches in the crisis area is falling. This was reiterated by Martin Sajdik, OSCE  Special Envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine. Sajdik said in Minsk on January 18 following the CG meeting that the observers had highlighted the substantial decline in the number of ceasefire violations in recent time. Sajdik said that ensuring security and conditions required for civilians in the crisis area will also be a priority for TCG and its working subgroups this year.

Meanwhile, the international organization Human Rights Watch recorded significant violations of human rights in the east of Ukraine and in Crimea. Presenting the “Human Rights Watch 2018 World Report” at a briefing in Kyiv on Thursaay, director and researcher of this organization in Ukraine, Tanya Cooper, noted that military actions in the east continue posing a threat to the civilian population and infrastructure. According to her, international organizations continue registering losses among civilian population, torture and arbitrary detention continue to be practiced. Among the positive steps taken by the Ukrainian authorities in this context, the head of Human Rights Watch in Ukraine called the simplification of the contact line passage for civilians.
   
The international community keeps supporting Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian aggression in Donbas. Canadian military instructors are preparing a new stage of training for another unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. As reported, Canada in March 2017 decided to extend the UNIFIER training mission of the Ukrainian military for two years – until March 2019. The mission involves about 200 military instructors from Canada. Operation UNIFIER is the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) mission to support Ukrainian armed forces in Ukraine. The operation’s focus is to assist them with military training. This will help them improve and build their military capacity. Maksym Prauta, military speaker of the CTO HS said, “The Yavoriv Tactical Training Center, Lviv region, western Ukraine, hosts Ukrainian – Canadian drills aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s defense capacity and improving the coordination between military units. Canada’s decision to prolong the UNIFIER mission till 2019 allows to hold more professional trainings for the Ukrainian military”.

    
Parliament Passed a Donbass Bill which Recognises Russia as Agressor.

 
A contentious bill on reintegrating the occupied territories of the Donbas region has been adopted by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on Thursday. The law on Donbas reintegration outlines the peculiarities of the state policy in the temporarily occupied parts of Donbas and is destined to secure Ukraine's state sovereignty. By vote of 280 out of 450 MPs it passed the parliament in the 2nd reading, after over 700 hundred of amendments had been considered by the parliament before it passed.
   
The bill has provoked tensions and demonstrations in the country in its 4th year of war. In it, Russia is stated to be the aggressor state and the occupation force that is to bear liability for the moral and material damage caused to the Ukrainian state on these territories. It states Russia has deployed its military personnel, instructors, advisors, and granted support for the armed formations and mercenaries on the occupied territory. Considering the bill to be a necessary political and diplomatic step in the ongoing reintegration of the occupied lands, President Poroshenko has commented on its adoption. He said, “My presidential strategy for liberating Donbas has been supported, and I’m very grateful to all members of parliament for that. The importance of this event is also in the fact that it demonstrates our parliament is capable of being united. And despite the storm of criticism in the last few days from the opposition factions’ side their votes were cast in favor of the bill.”
   
Among the critical comments regarding the bill, experts have mentioned it being more an ideological move that potentially would not provide for essential change in the situation. Donbas SOS human rights NGO had stated that being a norm of domestic legislation, the bill had no legal consequence for the aggressor state. Representatives of the opposition parties insisted on a set of amendments, such as including Crimea in those occupied territories, and stating the exact date of the beginning of the occupation, as well as banning the trade with the occupied territory, and the necessity of the parliament’s consent for the president’s decision to launch a military operation, which eventually were not included in the final version of the text.
   
After the president’s proposal in early October the bill passed shortly in the 1st reading. Major human rights NGOs had also warned about serious dangers it posed in terms of human rights situation for the local population in the Donbas region.


Ukraine and World Community Condemned Sentencing of Another Pro-Ukrainian Activist in Crimea.
   

Pro-Ukrainian activists in the occupied Crimea and lots of people in mainland Ukraine joined efforts in collecting money to support the family of Volodymyr Balukh, illegally sentenced by the pro-Russian court for his patriotic position. As it was informed earlier, on Tuesday, Jan.16, a so-called court in the annexed Crimea region sentenced pro-Kyiv activist Volodymyr Balukh to three years and seven months in a high-profile retrial on a weapons- and explosives-possession charge. The Rozdolne district court on January also ordered Balukh to pay a fine of 10,000-ruble ($175). In his final statement in court, Balukh reiterated that he was innocent and that the case against him will "never make me love my so-called new motherland," a reference to Russia that occupied the peninsula in 2014. He suggested the accusations against him were politically motivated and part of what Kyiv and rights groups say is a campaign of pressure on Crimeans who opposed Russia's takeover of the Black Sea peninsula. "The tears of the mothers of those who today are fighting for their right to be free will [haunt] those who are persecuting people in Crimea," Balukh said. "But no matter what, victory will be ours. Glory to Ukraine!" Ukraine has condemned the decision of the pro-Russian court, the President of Ukraine called the trial to be rigged and unfair. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry’s speaker Mariana Betsa said the court's decision was "illegal", adding that "the occupational authorities use our citizens as hostages of their aggression." She said, “Presently, Balukh is a prisoner of conscience, sentenced for his pro-Ukrainian position, for his opposition to the Crimea occupation, fir raising a Ukrainian flag over his house. In his final speech in court before he was sentenced, he reaffirmed his position saying his greatest desire is to see Ukraine winning in this struggle for freedom and independence. The other thing he’s anxious about is his family – his mother that is now left without his support, Volodymyr is very much worried about her.”

She also said this is another proof of the fact that Russia is trying to eradicate the Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar population in Crimea. Balukh is one of dozens of Crimeans whom Russia has prosecuted in what rights groups say has been a persistent campaign to silence dissent since Moscow seized control over the Ukrainian region in March 2014. He was arrested in December 2016, after the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said explosives and 90 bullets were found in the attic of his home. Balukh himself and his advocated tried to prove the explosives and weapon were planted on Balukh, but their position was ignored by the court. The search was conducted shortly after Balukh rose a Ukrainian flag in his yard. After Yanukovych's ouster, Russia seized Crimea by sending in troops and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by Ukraine, the United States, and a total of 100 countries. Rights groups say Crimea residents who opposed Russia's takeover have faced discrimination and abuse at the hands of the Moscow-imposed authorities. In March 2017, the European Parliament called on Moscow to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who were in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.



Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada Attended Ukraine
 
     
On January 18, Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada paied an official visit to Ukraine. During her first foreign visit since the inauguration, Canada’s Governor General has met with high-ranking Ukrainian officials and discussed various issues of bilateral cooperation and priority areas of Canadian support for Ukraine. Meeting with president Petro Poroshenko at the Potocki Palace in Lviv Lviv in Western Ukraine, Governor General Julie Payette and president Poroshenko have recalled the fact of Canada being the first Western country who had recognized the Ukrainian independence in 1991, and talked about the current situation in bilateral relations. Petro Poroshenko thanked for the Canadian everlasting supportive stance toward Ukraine. In view of Canada’s chair in G7 this year, PP expressed hopes for Canada’s support within the group as well. Governor General Payette in turn said that Canada would provide assistance so that Ukraine could continue institutional reforms and achieve economic growth. When commenting on the results of the free trade area agreement between the countries which took force in September last year, the Ukrainian President said, “We are already observing the solid result, as our bilateral turnover gained a 60% increase, which is a clear illustration of both the activization of Ukrainian economy and the free trade area agreement appearing to be exactly what the Ukrainian and Canadian businesses had expected from it.”
 
Governor General of Canada has underlined that Canada intended to continue humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and provide support in the fight against corruption and ensuring human rights. The sides have also discussed how the special partnership between Ukraine and Canada could be enhanced particularly in the sphere of security and defense. Also in the framework of her meetings, Governor General visited the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre, where the Ukrainian military are being trained within the Canadian UNIFIER mission. Julie Payette has also discussed the development of a center for medical rehabilitation for war veterans with the mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovyi, according to a report by the City Council's press service.


Ukrainian Wikipedia merked its 17th Anniversary.
   

As Wikipedia marks its 17th anniversary the Ukrainian-language version of the encyclopedia turns 14. Moreover January 2018 also marks the 10th anniversary of the site being translated for the Ukrainian Muslim minority known as the Crimean Tatar. On January 15, 2001, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger founded the first free-for-all online encyclopaedia that was completely contributor-driven. The core idea behind the website was that knowledge and information must be available to anyone in the world, with no price tag. These days, Wikipedia has 299 different language versions and more than 32.5 million active editors. The Ukrainian Wikipedia lists more than 760 thousand articles and this number is growing by approximately 300 articles daily. It is one of the fastest growing information resources in the country. Executive Director of Wikimedia Ukraine Yuri Perohanych commented on the issue, “The Ukrainian Wikipedia is the 16th largest Wikipedia edition by the number of articles available. The Ukrainian-language version of the encyclopedia is the 19th most viewed. Over the last month the Ukrainian Wikipedia pages had 58 million page views and 2 million views each day. Overall, the Ukrainian Wikipedia comprises more than 757 thousand articles. The development of the website is closely linked with the development of our culture and our language. It is a very powerful tool to fill in the blank pages of our history, to tell about something that was kept secret before. Today this information is open to the public and it helps us to learn about our past and to shape our future.”
   
Ukrainians also actively participate in annual contests initiated by Wikimedia, among them is a photographic competition “Wiki loves monuments”. The aim of the contest is to encourage the public to rediscover the cultural, historical and scientific significance of their neighborhood, to take pictures of the most unique monuments and places and to share the true beauty of their land with the world.  This project is a perfect chance to tell more about Ukraine at no cost just using Wikipedia and showing what our country is all about and why it is worth visiting through pictures.

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Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (audio)