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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK: JUNE 11 - JUNE 15

Source : 112 Ukraine

Read about Donbas conflict, Ukrainian political prisoners Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh and other main news of the week in Ukraine
22:30, 15 June 2018

Donbas conflict in Ukraine

Supreme Anti-Corruption Court

Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia

Boycott of World Cup 2018 in Russia

Crimea

European Union and Ukraine

112 Agency

Donbas conflict in Ukraine

Another week of hostilities in Donbas is almost over, with the conflict itself being obviously too far from its ending. Ukraine’s government has been persistently searching ways for solution of the conflict, but so far there is nothing one could call a breakthrough in the official negotiation process with Russia.

Russian militants continue to attack Ukrainian positions in Donbas; according to the Ukrainian Army’s Colonel Maksym Prauta, the enemy troops may have received the permission to shoot positions of the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation from small arms without the consent of their commanders.

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin claimed that the positions of the countries on UN peacekeepers in the Donbas are completely different. "We discussed the possible format of our peacekeeping mission. The parties understand the agreements and mission in a different way. Russian side proposes a totally fake mission, with fake protection of the SMM," Klimkin said. He described Russia's position as "worse" than it seemed at first: now, Russia insists that peacekeepers can only "escort" OSCE observers along the conflict line and in the occupied territory, but will not be able to do anything else.

The Normandy Four meeting took place in Berlin – for the first time in 18 months. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the ministers of the Normandy Four paid special attention to the issue of deploying the UN mission in the east of Ukraine; this was actually the key topic during their meeting in Berlin. According to him, the necessary conditions are the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and better humanitarian conditions. However, the very fact of this resume after 16 months-long break, he said, is already a success.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that certain views of the Ukrainian government ‘destroy’ Minsk agreements. On the other hand, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Lavrov recognized that exchanging hostages and prisoners of war does not lie within the political area of negotiations.

On Tuesday, Ukraine sent the UN International Court a memorandum on Russia’s funding of terrorism. According to Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, the document consists of more than 17,000 pages in 29 volumes. The total weight made almost 90 kilograms. According to Olena Zerkal, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, it will take the UN International Court several years to consider the document. After the memorandum is submitted, Russia would have the right to appeal against the court's jurisdiction to consider this case. Just like it happened with Georgia vs Russia case, the latter will use this right, and there will be denials from Russia three months later. Given the current practice, the consideration will take about one and a half years... In total, it will take another few years,' she said.

The Dutch Parliament has approved the agreement with Ukraine, which foresees that sentences regarding the MH17 disaster in Donbas may be executed in Ukraine. According to Deutsche Welle, the guilty verdicts may be executed in Ukraine unless the judged individuals are handed over to the Netherlands. 'The approval of the agreement is an important step towards the search of the truth and brining the suspects to the court, which meets the requirements of the victims' families', Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said. The agreement is also supposed to make the prosecution of the suspects easier, as it allows the use of video conference mode. The document also stipulates that the trial will be held in the Dutch court - most likely, in the Hague.

Related: Russia may go for another offensive in Donbas despite holding FIFA World Cup, - Poltorak

Supreme Anti-Corruption Court

At the beginning of the week, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko signed law “On Supreme Anti-Corruption court’ adopted on June 7 by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

In two days it was published in the official parliamentarian newspaper “Holos Ukrayiny” and came into force the next day.  The law obliges to form the Anti-corruption court within a year that should consist of at least 35 judges, 10 of which are representatives of the Appeal Chamber. The document offers the president to submit the draft law on the creation of the new court to the Verkhovna Rada.

Also, Poroshenko asked the international partners to provide the nominees to the expert council for the selection of the anti-corruption judges.

Related: What risk does the new amendment to Anti-Corruption Court law pose

Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia

On Monday, the jury of Kinotavr film festival demands that the Russian government release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is hunger strike in the Russian custody for a month now. However, their statements in support of Sentsov at Kinotavr film festival were cut out from YouTube video.

On June 14, the EU Parliament voted for the resolution on the release of Oleg Sentsov and other Ukrainian political prisoners. The MPs emphasized that the evidence upon which Sentsov was convicted were received in the result if the tortures.

Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denysova insists on the early visit of Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov due to the critical state of his health.

In the meantime, Oleg Sentsov's supporters gathered in Kyiv near the EU embassy building and held a rally, expressing solidarity with Sentsov and other political prisoners in Russia. On June 15, she set off to the Labytnangi penal colony (northern Russia) in order to visit Sentsov. But the administration of Labytnangi penal colony did not let Lyudmyla Denysova visit the prisoner.

At the same time, a famous American writer Stephen King urged to support Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Earlier the American PEN-center has appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a demand to release Oleg Sentsov. The letter is also addressed to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. 48 people, including writers Herta Müller, J. M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, singer Patti Smith, composer Stephen Sondheim, actor Patrick Stewart and others signed the letter.

Also, UN Secretary-General António Guterres received a letter from 38 countries in which they asked to aid liberate Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov illegally detained in Russia. Apart from Ukraine, the address was supported by the EU countries, The United States, Georgia, Moldova, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

It was also reported that another Ukrainian political prisoner Volodymyr Balukh is facing more pressure in jail.

Related: U.S. Senate blames Russia for violation of religious freedoms in Crimea, Donbas

Boycott of World Cup 2018 in Russia

FIFA World Cup 2018 kicked off in Russia, amidst quite controversial international society’s response to the great football event. This week, the negative reactions piled up in Europe, and especially Ukraine; as is known, about 6,000 Ukrainians went to Russia to watch the World Cup games.

On Wednesday, the political leadership of Finland refused to visit Russia. Andriy Olefirov, the ambassador of Ukraine in Finland, tweeted this on late Tuesday. The UK and Iceland also announced the boycott of the competition. Then, Australia joined the boycott, too. Thus, some of the officials expressed their solidarity with Ukraine, as the Ukrainian government urged them to avoid supporting the ongoing fuss around the championship.

The members of the European Commission also confirmed they would not visit Russia during the holding of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

However, there are influential leaders who still chose to watch football in Russia. Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Antonio Guterres confirmed they would go to Russia – and for political reasons as well. Ukraine’s permanent envoy to the UN Volodymyr Yelchenko expressed hope that during his trip to Russia, Guterres would discuss the release of Ukraine’s political prisoners with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Upon the arrival to Russia, the British players refused to taste the round loaf that the hosting delegation gave them for a gift. It is noted that the players brought their products and their own cooks out of fear of poisoning.

In the view of the great football event of Russia, the Dutch national mail operator PostNL issued a number of post stamps, with the pictures clearly showing Russia’s relation to MH17 disaster. The pictures, created by Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko, quickly gained popularity among social networks users – both in Ukraine and abroad. Later, PostNL apologized for the incident.

Related: Filmmaker, actor, politician: all we know about Stanislav Govorukhin

Crimea

The beginning of the week starts with news from Crimea. Tatiana Moskalkova, Russian ombudswoman checked the conditions of the detention and provision of the necessary medical service to Ukrainian political prisoners

Along with the visits of political prisoners, dozens of Crimean Tatars suffer tortures from the hands of the Russian Special Services. Since the February of 2014, there were at least 181 cases of inhumane treatments. The Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea underlines that about 140 criminal cases were opened against those behind the inhumane treatment and tortures of those living in the temporarily occupied territory.

Later in the week, Crimea left without power supply due to the voltage jumps. The voltage jumps are caused by the launch of the third line of the Russian power bridge. It was reported that the power supply on the peninsula was restored.

On Thursday, the Serbian Radical Party, which is in opposition to the acting government and the second largest party in the parliament, is planning to put for voting the recognition of the occupied Crimean Peninsula Russian territory.  At that day, the U.S. leader Donald Trump called Crimea 'part of Russia', because 'everyone speaks Russian there'. President Donald Trump's administration is unaware of his recent expression on Crimea being 'part of Russia'. The Ukrainian side will not be responding to Donald Trump's statement about Crimea being 'part of Russia', which he voiced out during the G7 summit. 

Also, A group of U.S. senators presented the resolution, which claims Russia to be responsible for violations of religious freedoms in Crimea and militant-held areas of eastern Ukraine.

European Union and Ukraine

On June 11, Ukraine marked one year since the EU-Ukraine visa-free regime was introduced. This canceled the necessity of visas during the border crossing procedure - for Ukrainians who own the biometric passports. Also, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service reported that the EU has no intentions to re-consider the visa free regime with Ukraine.

Moreover, the European Parliament voted in the affirmative for the allocation of the macro-financial aid to Ukraine in the sum of one billion euro. 527 MPs voted in the affirmative, 124 voted against the decision and 29 abstained.

Furthermore, the European Federation of Journalists will appeal to the EU Council in case of the political decision on the 112 Ukraine license and will argue such decision. The Federation has urged the Ukrainian leadership to put an end to the oppression of the freedom of speech in the country. This statement was made at the annual gathering of the international organization in Lisbon.

Related: If Putin were present at G7 summit, we could discuss situation in Ukraine, - Trump

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