Ukraine Day 1184: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. Two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded, and 5 separatist fighters were killed in battles today.
Yesterday’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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On May 15, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed an edict passed in April by the Ukrainian National Council on Defense and Security, banning 468 Russian legal persons and 1228 physical persons as part of sanctions in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Among the companies were Russian social media and other web sites, causing a wave of criticism at home and abroad.
Among these were the popular social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki where many Ukrainians have accounts, as well as Kaspersky Laboratory, Yandex, the search engine, and others.
The bans were met with sharp denunciation by human rights groups and media in Ukraine and by the Russian opposition and international human rights organizations.
Alfred Kokh, a former official in the Yeltsin era and now an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin said the Ukrainian ban made it harder for people to expose Putin’s crimes on social media, Gordonua.com reported.
Gordonua.com also reported that Konstantin Borovoy, a member of the Russian opposition, said that Roskomnadzor, the Russian state cesor, was now busy quietly shutting down access to numerous Ukrainian web sites in Russia.
There was some discussion of the national security aspects invoked to justify the bans:
As Holmov wrote:
That VK is used to infiltrate, propagandise, disinform et al is well known within Ukrainian society. That VK also requires email addresses, telephone numbers etc when joining the social media platform also provides the FSB the opportunity to harvest direct contact details of every member – thus it has millions and millions of contact details for Ukrainians. There is then the issue of whatever personal details are also added – Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn links, as well as whatever anybody writes or photographs/videos they upload, and groups (open or closed) that they may join which regardless of any privacy settings are obviously not private with regard FSB accessibility.
However, banning VK access in Ukraine does nothing to alter the details already on and harvested from the VK system.
Neither does it prevent access to the website for Ukrainians outside of Ukraine.
NATO appears to be the only international organization that expressed understanding for Ukraine’s sanctions. According to a TASS report, the NATO press service responded to a query with this comment (translation by The Interpreter):
“The Ukrainian government made it clear that this decision is a question of security and not freedom of speech. NATO is working with Ukraine to strengthen its reforms, including issues of democracy, the rule of law and observation of human rights. Freedom of the press is included in the topics of this dialogue. We believe in Ukraine’s adherence to its internationa obligations and the system of checks and balances operating in Ukraine.”
The statement did not appear on NATO’s on web site.
Some Ukrainian civic figures supported the president’s action, including the head of Stop Fake:
The extent of the fall-out from these bans — and the capacity for users to get around them through VPNs — is not known yet, but likely there will be a lot of disruption detrimental to whatever forms of communications, personal relations and business between Russians and Ukrainians that have survived the war.
One aspect of the measure is that it will make it more difficult to cover the actions of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, who often upload posts and pictures of themselves and even geotags that prove the existence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
Many Ukrainians are already on Facebook, including many government and military officials and institutions such as the Anti-Terrorist Operation and National Police.
The Ukrainian parliament also banned the St. George ribbon, the orange-and-black-striped ribbon originally worn in the Soviet era in connection with commemoration of World War II, and which today is is more continuously by both separatists in the Donbass and Russian nationalists.
The National Police of Donetsk Region said that Russia-backed fighters had landed a shell in a yard of a private home in the old section of Avdeyevka on Sobornaya St., Gordonua.com reported, citing the police web site. The house windows were broken and shards damaged the walls and roof.
Gordonua.com reported that in a post on his Facebook page, Yuriy Butusov, a journalist who frequently reports on military issues, said that Ukrainian forces from the 72nd Mechanized Brigade launched an attack on separatist positions near Yasinovataya in retaliation for the killing of 4 civilians and severe wounding of another civilian. According to a blog post from separatist commander Aleksandr Khodakovsky, 5 separatist fighters were killed in battle from the Berkut 1st Army Corps of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic”.
In its May 14 report, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission said it had visited the home where the 4 people were killed and 1 wounded and examined the shell craters. The monitors said the mortars were fired from the south. This would make it likely that the mortars were fired from separatist-held Spartak, which is directly south of Avdeyevka.
On 14 May the SMM followed up on a report by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) about civilian casualties in Avdiivka. At Sapronova Street 53 the SMM saw a fresh impact on the roof, a hole in the south-facing wall, broken windows and door. The SMM assessed the damage as caused by an artillery (122mm) round fired from a southerly direction. The SMM spoke with the police, who told the SMM that out of the five people who had been situated near the impact site on 13 May four had died. At the Avdiivka hospital medical staff told the SMM that four people had died and their bodies were in the morgue of the hospital. Medical staff told the SMM that one person had survived the impact and had been transferred to a hospital in Dnipro.
In this same report, the OSCE SMM visited separatist-held Yasinovataya, where they found a 78-year-old woman who had been hsopitalized with a bullet wound and in Dokuchayevks, saw a man, age about 30, who suffered an injury to his head from a projectile fragment that had been fired from a southwest direction, which could indicate it was fired from Ukrainian-held territory.