The hostilities in eastern Ukraine continue; this week, Russian mercenaries abstained from using any artillery – much like previous weeks. However, mortar strikes and sniper attacks were observed.
Militants of the so-called 'people's republics' attacked the UAVs of the OSCE monitoring mission. The press centre of the Joint Cooperation and Coordination Centre reported that on late Sunday. 'Leaders of the militants violate the ceasefire, actively using small arms to attack the emplacements of Ukrainian Armed Forces and OSCE drones', the JCCC reported.
Environmental issues continue keep on raising concerns; on Monday, Ukraine’s Environmental Security and Anti-Mine Activities Department reported that 9,000 square kilometers of the occupied Donbas is contaminated due to the explosive hazards. The same authority reported that 2,558 people, including 242 children died during the armed Donbas Conflict due to the explosionsю
The question of POW exchange remains essential. Iryna Gerashchenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian parliament and Ukraine's humanitarian representative in the Minsk talks group said that currently, 23 Russian citizens remain in Ukrainian prisons, serving time for tough crimes against this country's statehood and territorial integrity. The issue was one of the main topics for discussion during the regular meeting of the Minsk talks group on Wednesday.
On April 5, President Petro Poroshenko stated that the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Donbas (ATO) will end in May 2018 and it will be replaced by a different military format. ‘The ATO will end in May. We pass to another format of the defense of the country according to the adopted law, the parliament supported by draft law on Donbas reintegration. We implement absolutely new and more effective measures for the use of the armed forces, an extension of our defensive capabilities and it is done because we see the sharp increase of the threat’s level in the east of our country. It's good to keep your powder dry’, Poroshenko claimed.
The U.S. will consider sending Ukraine sniper weapon systems – so that government troops can adequately respond to the sniper attacks by Russian militants in Donbas. Robert Portman, the senator from the Republican Party said that at a press conference in Kyiv on April 5. 'Last month, most of the casualties were, most likely, caused by the enemy sniper fire. One of the recent decisions by the U.S. lawmakers is to provide the Ukrainian Army with sniper systems - so that there's an opportunity to respond to the sniper attacks that kill Ukrainian troops,' he said.
Another case of intimidation of OSCE SMM observers was reported on Thursday. According to the message, the armed militants of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) threated the OSCE SMM observers with AK-47 and did not allow them to launch the drone near Kremenets, Donetsk region (militant-held area).
Last week, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and the Prosecutor General's office submitted appeals against the Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, Nazar Kholodnytsky. Kholodnytsky's office has been wiretapped. Yuriy Lutsenko, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine initiated Kholodnytsky's resignation on 30 March.
On Monday, 2 April, the Prosecutor General's office initiated a criminal investigation into the actions of Mr. Kholodnytsky, whereas the latter requested to suspend him from performing his professional duties for the period of the investigation. Later that day, the position of the European Union on the matter was revealed. Particularly, Peter Wagner, who chairs the European Commission's Support Group for Ukraine, said that the European authorities are watching the events in Kyiv very closely.
Despite the fact that the controversy between Ukrainian anti-corruption agencies does not create a favorable image of the country in Europe, the official noted the obvious progress the Ukrainian government has made in the previous four years. The next day, on 3 April, Nazar Kholodnytsky claimed he would not provide a sample of his voice for it to be matched to the one in records.
On 4 April, the NABU published the records of Kholodnytsky's tapping, which, in their mind, reveal the grounds for disciplinary and criminal investigation of the SAPO head.
Meanwhile, floods are occurring all over Ukraine. As a result of intensive snow melting the households and roads were flooded in Poltava region on April 2. The rescuers were helping residents to leave the premises and they blocked some parts of the roads. The emergency unit of the fourth rescue service saved four people from the private households in Mykylka the day before. It was also reported, that the highway Kyiv – Kharkiv is in water, the wheels of the cars dip into the water entirely. The drivers are warned about the challenging conditions on the roads. The flood covered 177 km of road.
Later, critical advance of melt-water was recorded in Okhtyrka, Sumy region. On weekend it got warm fast in many regions of the country, sometimes up to +19 degrees. In such periods, the danger of the groundwater level rise on many rivers is higher than normal, as well as the danger of water outflow to the floodplain. Therefore, residents of a number of regions often suffer from flooding of household plots, basements, and sometimes the entire villages or towns. The situation is most critical in Okhtyrka. Because of the outflow of melt-water from the dam, part of Okhtyrka in Sumy region turned into second Venice, but without its inherent romance: hundreds of homes had to be de-energized and disconnected from gas supply, and their residents were urgently evacuated.
Certain households in northern Ukraine are also still flooded due to the intense melting of snow. 27 people have been evacuated from a village in Chernihiv region. 21 household and five living houses in Chernihiv are waterlogged. The water level in the local river has been decreasing, coming back to normal. In Stary Bilous village, the water level in Bilous river grew up, which is why 90 households and several hundred summer cottages are submerged.
On April 2, the staff of the remand prison put pressure on Volodymyr Balukh, the citizen of Ukraine illegally judged in the occupied Crimea to make him end the hunger strike he began two weeks ago. A day later lawyer Olha Dinze reported that the convoy beat Volodymyr Balukh. In addition, according to her, the administration of the pre-trial detention center refused to give Ukrainian political prisoner water, saying he was on a hunger strike. Then Lyudmyla Denysova, the newly appointed Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to Tatiana Moskalkova, the Russian ombudswoman with a request to check the conditions of the Ukrainian activist. However, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry reported that the state of health of Balukh worsens. On April 6, the Crimea court refused to commute the penalty of Balukh who could barely stand in the court and leaned on the bars of the cell all the time.
Also, on April 3, the court of occupied Crimea controlled by Kremlin remanded Nariman Memedeminov in the custody until May 16, 2018. The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine condemned this decision and demands his release.
On April 4, the occupied courts of Crimea extended arrest for the figurants of ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’ case Volodymyr Dudka and Oleksiy Bessarabov for another 3 months and the arrest of Yevhen Panov, the citizen of Ukraine involved in 'the case of the Ukrainian saboteurs' for another six months.
In Russia, Roman Sushchenko, the Ukrainian illegally detained journalist passed new pictures to relatives as his daughter Yulia reported. At the same time, Redvan Suleymanov, the Crimean Tatar illegally judged in the annexed Crimea for 'sabotage' was released from the Russian jail.
The week also ended with bad news. Yuriy Soloshenko, the former political prisoner, illegally held in Russia in 2014-2016, passed away on April 4.
On April 3, Ukrainian law enforcers detained Ivan Bubenchyk, the participant of the Euromaidan movement who publicly claimed to have killed two Berkut fighters during the events of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Ivan Bubenchyk received the suspicion notice on Tuesday, in which he is charged with the two murders.
The activist currently walks free, as the prosecutors dismissed the petition to choose the pre-trial restriction measure. The judge granted the motion.
However he faces new charges. He is now accused of the attempt on the life of law enforcer and illegal storage of a weapon. Ivan Bubenchyk denies claiming murder of two officers of Berkut riot police during the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine in early 2014.
Bubenchyk had previously claimed that he used a machine gun to fire at the law enforcers at Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square in Kyiv on February 20, 2014. Bubenchyk said he killed two of the fighters during the violent street clashes. Later, he was detained, when Prosecutor General's Office announced that several persons are suspects in the case of the murders of Berkut fighters during the Euromaidan events in Kyiv.
February 20, 2014, earmarks the climax of the street violence during the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. That day, government-hired shooters gunned down dozens of unarmed civilians; about a dozen of law enforcers deceased as well. Prosecutor General's Office continues to look into the crimes related to the Euromaidan movement and the Revolution of Dignity, including these murders.
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