This week, the armed hostilities in Donbas did not involve any major artillery attacks by either of the sides of the conflict; however, the skirmishes continued – even though the number of attacks has also decreased.
On March 12, Russian mercenaries used mortars of various calibers to shell Pavlopol, Donetsk region.
On Wednesday, the capital city of Belarus hosted the session of subdivisions of the Minsk contact group, which seeks a peaceful solution to Donbas conflict. Belarusian foreign ministry tweeted this on Wednesday morning.
On the same day, a dead body was found between Ivano-Dariivka and Spirne in Bakhmut district of Donetsk region, a disputed area in Donbas where fights continue. The press center of the anti-terrorism operation reported that on Facebook.
The deceased had a military uniform on him; he carried no IDs. There has been no word so far from the National Police of Ukraine and the military police, who were supposed to have his identity checked.
On March 14, Ukraine marked the Volunteer Day, honouring the warriors who joined the Ukrainian military on will and defended the country in conditions of the ongoing Russian military aggression. The Parliament passed the respective document in January 2017; under the decree, the Volunteer Day is marked annually on March 14. In January 2017, Ukraine's Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak stated that 40 thousand volunteers were fighting for Ukraine in the Donbas conflict.
Mark Hudzovsky, the sniper of Azov volunteer regiment passed away at a hospital in Dnipro on Thursday, March 15.The 20-year-old serviceman was critically wounded in combat near Vodyane, Donetsk region, last Saturday. Hudzovsky was severely shot in the head by an enemy sniper. Later, he was taken to the hospital in Dnipro, where neurosurgeons fought for his life. 'When they brought him here, he appeared to be in the deep coma. We spent four days with Mark, trying to revive him, but unfortunately, our saddest forecast came true', said Ihor Yovenko, the Chief Officer of Intensive Care Unit of Mechnykov Dnipro Hospital.
On March 12, Nadiya Savchenko, the non-affiliated MP of Ukraine was called for a questioning on March 13 on the case against Volodymyr Ruban, the leader of Center of POW Release, however, she left the territory of Ukraine. Later the spokeswoman of Savchenko claimed that she did not get any notice or invitation for the questioning in the SBU and pays the official visit to the PACE. However, Volodymyr Ariev, the Chairman of Ukrainian delegation in PACE claimed that Savchenko was not present at the session of the assembly.
Due to this, the notice for Savchenko questioning in SBU was passed over to the Apparatus of the Verkhovna Rada. In her turn, Savchenko demanded to hand her notice for questioning personally.
On March 14, Yuriy Lutsenko, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, said that he intends to make a submission to Verkhovna Rada concerning non-affiliated MP Nadiya Savchenko, if she is absent at the questioning at SBU. Savchenko returned to Ukraine only on March 15.
Anton Herashchenko, the MP and adviser of Interior Ministry claimed that Savchenko is suspected of the complicity and organization of the preparation of the coup d’état in Ukraine in the case of Volodymyr Ruban, the Leader of Center of POW release.
The same day, Lutsenko claimed that Savchenko personally planned, recruited and ordered how to make the terrorist attack in the Verkhovna Rada, destroying two lodges, governmental and post, by the combat grenades, bringing down the dome of the Verkhovna Rada by the mortar launchers and killing the survived with the assault rifles. Also, he made three submissions to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine asking the MPs to hold Savchenko accountable, detain and arrest the MP.
Moreover, Savchenko was excluded from the membership of the National Security and Defense Committee by the Ukrainian parliament.
Later, she was added to the database of Myrotvorets, particularly she was placed in 'Purgatory' section.
Also, Verkhovna Rada approved lifting of parliamentary immunity, detention, arrest of Bakulin. 274 MPs supported the decision to bring Bakulin to responsibility; 252 MPs supported the detention and 240 parliamentarians agreed for the arrest of Bakulin. Bakulin is suspected in the embezzlement of Naftogaz-Ukraine funds through the malpractice; composing and issuance of the knowingly false official documents, financial operations with the funds gotten in the result of the violations preceded by the money laundering.
Last week brought about new developments in the murder case of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, who was killed in Salisbury, United Kingdom on 4 March 2018. Reuters, citing UK interior minister Amber Rudd, reported that the police investigating the case have found more than 200 witnesses and over 240 pieces of evidence. Traces of the nerve agent have been found at a restaurant where Skripal and his daughter had lunch before they were found unconscious.
Naturally, significant international tension between Russia and the West ensued. On Monday, 12 March, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May said that Russia is likely to be involved in the poisoning of Sergei and Yuliya Skripal. The next day, the then U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired by President Trump later that day, said he trusted the UK police investigation entirely and accused Russia of poisoning Sergei Skripal. The following day, Theresa May met with the French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the wide pattern of Russia’s aggressive behavior. On Wednesday, 14 March, the UK government decided to deport 23 Russian diplomats. An invitation to visit a country sent to Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, was withdrawn. The latter announced that Russia would reciprocate by expelling British diplomats from the country. Besides, Theresa May said that none of Cabinet members and none of the Royal Family will be visiting Russia during the football World Cup 2018 this summer.
Russian Foreign Ministry reacted by calling the claim made by Theresa May “a provocation”. At the meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the UK representative Julian Braithwaite accused Russia of violating the UN Charter and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Russian envoy to the UN Vasily Nebenzya replied with demands for proof of involvement in the murder and accused the UK of “blowing up hysteria” and “leading an information war”. When asked by a reporter about Russia’s behavior in the aftermath of Skripal’s murder, Gavin Williamson, the UK Defense Secretary said that Russia ‘should go away and shut up’.
Russian president Vladimir Putin visited the annexed Crimea on March 14. Before that, he said Crimea will 'never return to Ukraine' - as put it in his promotion video, released before the upcoming presidential election.
Ukraine’s President reacted to his visit to Crimea, saying it was a provocation. Also, the president claimed on the necessity to impose the sanctions against the organizers of the election in occupied Crimea. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also protested against Putin’s visit to the annexed peninsula. It was noted that Ukraine considers this visit a crude violation of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a negligence of international law, obligations of bilateral and multilateral agreements by the Russian side, including UN Charter, UN National General Assembly Resolution entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine” and “Human rights in Crimea and Sevastopol (Ukraine)”.
UN Security Council held the session on the situation in occupied Crimea on March 15. Oleh Nikolenko, the Speaker of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to UN noted that the holding of the session was initiated by Ukraine’s delegation. It was supported by the current members of the Security Council, particularly, Sweden, the UK, Poland, the Netherlands and the US.
At the UNSC Ukraine urged to extend the international sanctions against Russia due to the situation in annexed Crimea.
Dmitry Polyansky, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to UN claimed that the peninsula was the abandoned territory before the annexation by Russia during the session of the UN Security Council where the situation in occupied Crimea before Russia's presidential election was discussed.
François Delattre, French permanent representative in the UN said that international community should respond to the occupation of Crimea, violation of human rights in the occupied peninsula and other illegal actions committed by the Kremlin because it is about trust and respect of the international law.
Meanwhile, PACE prepares a report and the resolution about race discrimination of Crimean Tatars by Russia. Volodymyr Ariev, the head of Ukraine's permanent PACE delegation said. Ariev added that in April, the Assembly might discuss the illegal holding of the presidential election in Crimea, slated for March 18.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin on March 19 will discuss with the Foreign Ministers of the European Union countries the strengthening of anti-Russian sanctions due to the presidential elections in Russia which will also be held on the territory of the annexed Crimea.
Also, Crimea’s Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal proceeding on illegal Russian presidential elections on the territory of annexed peninsula. The pre-trial investigation team examines illegal activity of the chairman of a so-called Central Election Commission in Crimea in terms of illegal Russian presidential elections.
As Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang continue, Ukraine confidently collects the harvest in sports arena. Biathletes – both men and women – proved their worth to the entire world once again, winning award by award. Ihor Reptyukh, for one, claimed gold for his country's medal chest; he won the Men's 20 Km Free cross-country skiing event (standing).
On Friday, Ukrainian biathlete Vitaliy Lukyanenko claimed the sixth gold award for his team and country at the Winter Paralympic Games in South Korea's Pyeongchang. According to the National Paralympic Committee, the competitor finished first in the 15-km race among visually impaired athletes. His teammate Oleksandr Kazyk followed him, winning silver in the same event. Besides, Ukrainian Oksana Shyshkova won another silver in the 12.5-km long distance race.
Since March 14, Ukraine’s national teams are officially banned from the participation in the sport events held in Russia. Ihor Zhdanov, the Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine reported that after signing the respective order. Zhdanov explained that the order was signed due to the recent adoption of the law on Donbas reintegration. 'The current events demand that we take more decisive actions', he noted.
Biathlete Yulia Dzhyma, one of the leaders of Ukraine's national team came third in the sprint event at World Cup stage in Holmenkollen, Norway. Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina claimed victory in the event; Belarusian Daria Domracheva followed her, finishing second.
This week, Ukrainian football teams lost to their opponents in Europe’s most prestigious club tournaments, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Shakhtar Donetsk gave it up to AS Roma (1-0), and Dynamo Kyiv lost in the home game against Lazio S.S. In both cases, it was enough for the Italian squads to proceed, while for Ukrainian teams it meant the end of their performance in the European club competitions this season.