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Russo-Ukraine War - 2018

In 2014 Russia began its intervention into the affairs of a sovereign state, Ukraine, just as it did in Georgia during 2008. The result of Russia’s aggression was the ongoing conflict that had cost the lives of over 10,000 Ukrainians. And while there existed an agreed upon path to peace, progress on that path seems scant, as the weekly ceasefire violations recorded in Donetsk and Luhansk remain at unacceptable levels.

The Russian Federation claims that this conflict is tantamount to a so-called Ukrainian “civil war.” But the brutal war in Donbas is fomented and perpetuated by Russia. If Russia truly wanted a peaceful resolution of this conflict, it will stop undercutting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Only Russia’s actions – not its rhetoric – will demonstrate its commitment to a peaceful resolution based on the Minsk agreements.

The United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. Ths US seeks the safety and security of all Ukrainians, regardless of language, religion or ethnicity. The does not, nor will it ever, recognize Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea. Crimea-related sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine. And European sanctions against Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.

On 26 January 2018, shelling at a pumping station at the South Donbas Water Pipeline near Yasynuvata damaged a transformer, spilling 1.5 tons of specialized oil. This facility, a critical component in a system that supplies water to over one million people, had suffered other damage in the conflict, and cannot be repaired without a window of silence. This seemed unlikely since Russia abandoned its role in the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC), the body that works with the parties to establish such a window. In a region where the lack of water often means no heat, further damage results in significant human suffering. Russia unilaterally withdrew its contingent from the JCCC in December 2017, leaving the sides without an effective mechanism to establish temporary ceasefires. The so-called “DPR” authorities had approved just one out of 44 requests for security guarantees for repair works in the month since Russia left the JCCC.

Both sides continued to stall on agreed upon mine clearance action. More troubling are the ongoing, unexplained SMM movement restrictions. In its 25 January 2018 weekly report, the SMM noted that its access was blocked seven times – six times in areas outside of government control. As aid organizations reported here in Vienna during the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2017, people near the line of contact were suffering during the winter.

The so-called “LPR” and “DPR” were deliberately impeding the delivery of legitimate aid. Russia had not contributed to the UN’s efforts for several years, leaving it to others to help the people Russia claims to care about.

Crimean Tatar activists, many of whom were transferred to Russia for incarceration, suffer in poor conditions. A lawyer speaking on behalf of Crimean Tatar activist Emir-Hussein Kuku, who was imprisoned in Rostov-on-Don, said that there are 17 prisoners sharing eight beds, who must sleep in shifts. Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Oleksandr Kostenko, Ruslan Zeytullayev, and other Crimeans serving sentences in Russian prisons in retaliation for their opposition to Russia’s occupation.

Russian occupation authorities? continued to harass and persecute Crimean Tatar activists with impunity, in what Human Rights Watch terms a “black hole for human rights.” The ongoing raids on Tatar homes and villages this week resulted in several more activists arrested on trumped-up charges. On 25 January 2018, police raided the homes of activists Enver Krosh and Ebazer Islyamov. Authorities charged and summarily convicted both men of “public demonstrations of extremist symbols” in connection with social media posts they made in 2013 and 2012, respectively. While Islyamov was only fined, Krosh, a victim of torture at the hands of the FSB in 2015, was given a ten day jail sentence. Another Crimean Tatar activist, Ismail Ramazanov was detained in Simferopol on 23 January 2018 on charges of “inciting hatred against Russians” for comments he allegedly made on the internet app Zello; as well as for possessing bullets, which he maintains were planted in his home by Russian security agents. During his hearing, Ramazanov said he had been beaten and held for two days without food or water.

The OSCE warned the conflict had escalated in the first weeks of 2018, with up to 1,000 cease-fire violations on a single day. The 700 unarmed civilian monitors are often blocked from doing their job on the frontlines. That is done through passive obstacles, minefields, other physical obstacles that are put in their way that are not removed and represent at the same time a violation of the Minsk agreements. But then there is also active interference with the patrols; they are stopped at checkpoints and not let further, they are threatened at checkpoints, and the most serious cases - they are also intimidated by the use of gunfire.

Foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met but failed to agree on the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force. “Ideas over what such a mandate should look like, how it would be formed and what territory it would have authority over are still very far apart,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters after the meeting 12 June 2018.

OSCE monitors said both sides were breaking the cease-fire, although most violations were carried out by the Russian-backed forces. On 15 June 2018, the Russian-backed forces fired two surface-to-air missiles at a drone used by the OSCE to monitor the front lines, not far from where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in 2014. The missiles failed to hit their target, and the incident was captured by the drone’s cameras.

“Last week for instance we have seen over 7,400 cease-fire violations in total. It was an uptick by 20 percent compared to the week before. And this included many times the use of heavy weapons,” the Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission Alexander Hug told VOA 22 June 2018.

The so-called back-to-school ceasefire came into force in Donbass from midnight August 29. It was agreed by the Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine on August 22, ahead of a new academic year. The ceasefire was violated three hours after it came into effect as Ukrainian troops shelled Gorlovka’s suburbs. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Donbass, the parties had agreed on more than 20 ceasefires. The longest one was reported in 2016 when the ceasefire was upheld for six weeks in a row. However, all the efforts to establish lasting ceasefire had failed.

By late 2018 more than 10,300 people had been killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces and the separatists since April 2014.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2019 16:36:02 ZULU