This week marked a further escalation in the combat zone in eastern Ukraine. On Tuesday, Russian officers left the joint group for control and coordination; the Ukrainian military considered this decision an act against the implementation of Minsk agreement and thus Moscow’s will to continue the hostilities in Donbas. Soon after that, Ukrainian officers left the group, too, as they had no safety guarantees while staying on the militant-held territory.
There were reports of pro-Kremlin militants deliberately extending working hours of checkpoints on their side, which, according to the Ukrainian military, put lives of civilians in danger.
Russian mercenaries opened fire from Minsk-banned multiple missile launchers; 122 mm rockets hit Novoluhanske, Donetsk region. Thanks to the efforts of local public utilities, the gas and electricity supply was partially restored.
UNICEF warned that the heavily mined areas of the conflict area may threaten lives of roughly 200,000 children in Donbas.
On Friday, Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine’s defense minister turned public attention to the lack of underground ammunition storages in the country.
According to him, the state budget of Ukraine foresees almost USD 18 billion on the construction of the underground ammunition storages across the country. ‘We plan to get to work in 2018. Thanks to the budget that we approved, there are roughly 18 billion dollars to build these depots for storing missiles and ammunition,’ he said.
The minister added this would help prevent sabotages and terrorist acts, as well as accidents that result in casualties.
The week began with the statement of Russia that it will withdraw its representatives from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination in Donbas on December 19. This decision was made in connection with the new order of entry to Ukraine and the introduction of a duty to inform of the intention to visit the country in advance in electronic form for Russian citizens scheduled for January 1, 2018.
Later it was reported that the Russia officers left the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). However, they did not succeed to pass through the Mayorsk checkpoint in Donetsk region because of the militants’ shelling in Novoluhansk.
The number of the Ukrainian politicians such as Georgy Tuka, the Deputy Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and IDPs, Stepan Poltorak, the Defense Minister of Ukraine, and Oleksandr Turchynov, the Secretary of the Security and Defence Council of Ukraine expressed their attitude to the withdrawal of the Russian officers from the JCCC.
Moreover, the US State Department of State emphasized on December 20 that The Russian policy in Donbas is the source of the ongoing violance there; furthermore, the withdrawal of the Russian officers from the Joint Control and Coordination Centre is directly related to the latest escalation.
However, it was later reported that Russia is ready to return its officers to Donbas under the number of the conditions. Moreover, this issue was discussed by Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin on December 22.
Also, this week the group of the mercenaries from Serbia arrived in occupied Donbas and joined the joins the militants of the DPR. However, Ukraine responded on this incident and claimed that it will appeal to the NATO PA and it is expected that the actions of the Serbian will call the proper reaction of the international community.
Additionally, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament of the British Parliament published its annual report on December 21, which based on MI6 intelligence data claims that the missile system from which Boeing 777 was shot down in the sky over the Donbas, is of Russian origin.
On December 20, Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) counter-intelligence officers uncovered an official of the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers who was working in the interests of the intelligence of the aggressor country.
Later it was reported that the detained official is an employee of the Cabinet of Ministers who is an assistant to the Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman, Stanislav Yezhov. A criminal case was opened against him on the suspicion of high treason.
According to media, Yezhov accompanied Groysman in all international meetings and in all trips. Earlier Yezhov worked in Ukrainian embassy in the U.S., and in the Presidential office. Yezhov, worked at the meetings with the world leaders, particularly at the meetings with Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister and Joe Biden, the former US Vice President.
Groysman said that Yezhov had no access to state secrets and his presence in the Cabinet did not cause serious data leakage. He added that for more than one month he had known he was working for foreign special services. Thanks to the SBU, his activity was being monitored for a long time. When necessary materials were gathered, he was immediately detained.
There was another case of espionage in Ukraine. Security Service detained a lieutenant colonel of this service on suspicion of the work in favor of the Russian special services. Later the SBU specified that the detained is the senior expert adviser in one of the central SBU departments. He passed the official information to the representatives of Russia and helped them to hold the reconnaissance and subversive activities in Ukraine.
‘The officers of the SBU found laptops and tablets with the evidence of texting and sharing the information with Russian special services during the search of the permanent and temporary residence place of the malefactor. Also, the TT pistol, two F-1 grenades and more than 700 cartridges of different calibers were confiscated’, the message said.
A powerful snowstorm hit the Ukrainian capital on December 18. About 30% of the monthly rainfall rate fell in Kyiv over the day.
The snowfall began in the early hours of Monday; weather forecasters also reported wind gusts up to 20 meters per second. Due to that, Kyiv city state administration decided to limit the entrance of large-size vehicles - to avoid gridlocks and road accident hazards on the city's roadways.
Poor weather conditions have forced airports to rescheduled their flights, caused numerous traffic jams in Kyiv, and changed the usual pre-Christmas routine of the capital.
International airport "Kyiv" cancelled 16 flights due to bad weather, high clouds, low-adhesion, side wind and icy rain.
About 30% of the monthly rainfall rate has already fallen in the city only on Monday.
450 units of snow-removing equipment were involved to eliminate the effects of bad weather on the streets of the capital, however on Monday noon traffic jams embraced the whole city. Public utility services removed over 12,000 tons of snow from Kyiv within 2 days of bad weather.
Outside Kyiv, the harsh weather conditions resulted in a traffic jam on the Kyiv-Odesa highway. According to the State Emergency Service press department, the 7.5 kilometers-long jam occurred between Bila Tserkva (Kyiv region) and Zhashkiv (Cherkasy region, central Ukraine).
The State Emergency Service deployed 49 vehicles and 111 servicemen to drag the cars out of the snow drifts – as well as two warming centers for those in need.