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Developments in the combat zone in Eastern Ukraine, Winter Olympics 2018, new complications in Ukrainian-Polish relations and other diplomatic events, measles and diphtheria - the whole week on one page
22:48, 9 February 2018

Developments in the combat zone in Eastern Ukraine

Winter Olympics 2018

New complications in Ukrainian-Polish relations

Other diplomatic events

Measles and diphtheria


112 Agency

Developments in the combat zone in Eastern Ukraine

This week, the combat situation in Donbas is best described by OSCE reports and an attack on Ukrainian border guards from the territory of the Russian Federation.

Over the week, the OSCE have reported hundreds of explosions and presence of military vehicles in the combat area. An OSCE drone spotted seven Strela-10 anti-aircraft missile launchers near Makiivka. Observers also reported that Russian mercenaries deployed four Grad multiple missile launchers not far from Novoamrvosiivske (both in Donetsk region).

In the view of the OSCE’s role in peacemaking process in Donbas, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry sent the OSCE a request for the extension of the monitoring mission's mandate in Donbas for another year. Ihor Prokopchuk, Ukraine's representative at international organizations in Vienna tweeted this on Twitter on Thursday. 'OSCE SMM's mandate covers the entire territory of Ukraine, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where the political repressions and persecutions demand proper monitoring and reaction from the OSCE',  the official said.

On Wednesday, twenty former hostages were released from the captivity of militants. This was reported by the press service of Ukrainian Ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska.“20 prisoners who were serving sentences in the penitentiary facilities in the so-called “DNR” and expressed their wish to continue serving the sentence on Ukraine-controlled territory,” the message says.

On February 5, the Ukrainian side of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) stated that the authorities of the occupied Donbas could leave its residents without water, "because of the emergency condition of facilities of the pumping station of the South Donetsk water pipeline". This was reported by the press center Ukraine’s Army headquarters on Facebook.

The Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei said that the country is ready to send its peacekeepers to Donbas to settle the situation in the region. “Additional way to help the conflict sides could be an introduction of the peacekeepers to Donbas, of course, Belarusian as well. Our president talked about this in 2014 and we are not refusing our words. Because Belarus in today’s circumstances continues to develop relations with both Russia and the West, we often hear questions like “Whose side are you on – with them or with us?” This way, we are being pushed to the false and unacceptable choice for us. After all, there is nothing strange that we want to be partners of both, our eastern and western partners,” the minister said.

Austria followed Belarus in this regard. The Austrian government also said it considers the option to send the peacekeepers to Donbas if the UN deploys its peacekeeping mission there. Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor, reported that during the joint press conference with Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko. 'The government will support this idea. I understand a lot needs to be done for that to happen. If the Ukrainian side asks Austria to join or render any assistance, we'll be ready to discuss it with the Defense Ministry,' the Chancellor said.


Winter Olympics 2018

The 2018 Olympic Games officially began in South Korea’s Pyeongchang today with an opening ceremony. The tournament is expected to be the coldest in around 20 years with temperatures projected to plunge to -15. This made the organizers install heating stations across the Olympic stadium and provide fans with packages that include a seat-warmer, a blanket, a windbreaker and a knitted hat.

Related: United Korea, warmers stadiums and modest opening ceremony: All about Olympics in Pyeongchang

The opening ceremony featured over 2,500 athletes from 92 nations of the world in a traditional walkout around the Olympic stadium. The Ukrainian delegation of 33 athletes was led by the Olympic biathlon champion Olena Pidhrushna. Other memorable moments of the opening ceremony included the athletes from Russia walking out in the absence of the country’s national flag.

Related: Winter Olympics 2018: Who will represent Ukraine and what to expect from our athletes

Also, fan favorite Pita Taufatofua from Tonga upstaged his sensational entrance at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with another shirtless walk at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on Friday night. Fans worldwide also loved the single delegation consisting of both South Korean and North Korean athletes walking out under one flag of the unified Korean peninsula.

New complications in Ukrainian-Polish relations

A recently promulgated in Poland law has caused indignation in many countries, and Ukraine wasn’t an exception.

On Feb. 7, President of Poland Andrzej Duda signed the previously accepted by the Polish Sejm and Senate amendments to the law on the Institute of National Remembrance.

The new version of the law envisages criminal penalty for publicly accusing Poland of crimes committed during Holocaust, of helping Nazi Germany, of military crimes or crimes against humanity. The bill forbids to use the phrase “Polish death camp” when describing concentration camps that were on the territory of Poland. Any citizen of the country, including foreigners that breached the law will have to pay a fine or imprisoned for up to three years.

Amendments to the bill also provide for criminal liability for the denial of the Volyn tragedy and propaganda of "Bandera ideology". The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the adoption of this document. The international community criticized it as "denying the Holocaust and depicting Ukrainians in an unattractive light." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was categorically against the adoption of this law.

Related: Bloomberg: How Elon Musk beat Russia's Space Program

This amendment was proposed by Kukiz’15 over a year ago but was frozen for a while. The MPs were supposed to hear it on Nov. 2017, but it was taken off the agenda at the last moment. Then, the country didn’t want to increase the tension in Ukrainian-Polish relations.
Speaker of Ukrainian Parliament Andriy Parubiy called this decision a stab in the back.

Ukrainian Parliament had called on Poland not to sign the law.
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel, Israeli Parliament, and the OSCE also phrased their dissatisfaction with the law that “denies the Holocaust and depicts Ukrainians in an unattractive light”.

Other diplomatic events

On February 8, Petro Poroshenko the President of Ukraine visited Austria and was invited to the Vienna Opera Ball as the honored guest of Alexander Van der Bellen, the Federal President of Austria. Ukrainian president announced that the president of Austria accepted the invitation and will pay a working visit to Ukraine in March.

Poroshenko reported during a joint press conference with Van der Bellen that the volume of trade between Ukraine and Austria in 2017 increased by 17%.

Also, the President of Ukraine held the meeting with Wolfgang Sobotka, the Chairman of the Austrian Parliament and urged the Austrian parliament to recognize the Holodomor of 1932-1933 as the genocide of the Ukrainian nation.

The next day, Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor claimed after meeting with Poroshenko that Austria considers the option to send the peacekeepers to Donbas if the UN deploys its peacekeeping mission there. 

However, the conflict with Hungary on the Ukraine education law continues. Hungarian Foreign Ministry denied reaching any agreement regarding the education law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament last autumn. Hungary's Tamas Mentzer and Ukraine's Vasyl Bodnar met in Uzhgorod, western Ukraine for bilateral consultations. While the Ukrainian side described the situation as 'having reached the consensus on major positions of settling the situation,' the Hungarian representative refuted this.

Moreover, Hungary blocked the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO commission that should take place on February 14-15.

Related: New testimony against Yanukovych: Russians on Maidan and FSB on Kyiv’s anti-terrorist base

Measles and diphtheria

The week began with the report that 13 citizens of Kyiv fell ill with measles; ten of them are children. Totally, 3,554 people were infected with measles in Ukraine since the beginning of 2018. 198 of them were infected with measles in Lviv, as Mayor of the city Andriy Sadovyi said. 

Moreover, a 25-year-old woman died in Ivano-Frankivsk district isolation hospital on the night of February 3.

On February 9, Ulyana Suprun, the acting Healthcare Minister of Ukraine reported that about half of Ukrainians are inoculated against diphtheria. Suprun added that the Ukrainian government currently negotiates with the U.S. to get the anti-measles vaccine; currently, Ukraine needs about 900,000 doses for scheduled inoculation.

#CloseEast112 is presenting a new film in the series Close East about people adjusting to the life after war in Donbas - A Fresh Start: IDP from Horlivka creates wonderland for kids from Slovyansk.

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