US Announces New Sanctions on Russia-Backed Separatists and Mercenaries as Trump Meets with Poroshenko; Gunmen Attack OSCE Monitors

June 20, 2017
President Petro Poroshenko and President Donald Trump at the White House, June 20, 2017. Photo by Sean Spicer

Ukraine Day 1219: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. President Petro Poroshenko met with President Donald Trump at the White House as the US Treasury announced additions to the sanctions list. Gunmen attacked the OSCE monitoring mission in Donbass.

Yesterday’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


US Announces New Sanctions on Russia-Backed Separatists and Mercenaries as Trump Meets with Poroshenko; Gunmen Attack OSCE Monitors; 4 Ukrainian Soldiers WIA

Two gunmen attacked the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) team of the OSCE today, June 20, OSCE reported. The attack came as the principal deputy chief monitor was visiting towns on the front line.

OSCE said the masked men tried to break their car windows with the butt of their weapons and shot in the air. They were able to pull away.

Later, the separatist news service DAN-Info claimed forces of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) had detained two men in camouflage who they claimed had mounted a “planned provocation” or false flag operation made to appear to be from the DNR, but actually the gunmen were “Ukrainian provocateurs”. The DNR said none of its soldiers were involved in the attack.

The OSCE has repeatedly been attacked by DNR fighters or not allowed access to some areas. In April, an OSCE SMM vehicle ran over a mine, killing US monitor Joseph Stone and injuring several EU members.

DNR fighters say they have instructions not to allow the OSCE monitors through to some areas.

President Petro Poroshenko met with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today in previously unannounced meetings as we reported.

Poroshenko’s meeting with Trump was a “drop-in” after his meeting with Vice President Michael Pence and did not appear to involve any substantive discussion. Trump asked if the Ukrainian delegation’s photographer, Nikolai Lazarenko, looked like “a real Cossack”. Lazarenko has a mustache, but it wasn’t clear if he also had a classic tuft of hair as traditional Cossacks do.

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Trump featured the meeting on his prolific Twitter feed.

But he also caused many Americans and Ukrainians to wince by referring to Ukraine as “the Ukraine” during the meeting, a locution that was common in the Soviet era when Ukraine was viewed as merely a territory compared to Russia (although it had its own vote at the UN). The “the” was dropped after Ukraine gained its independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Even so, Poroshenko portrayed the meeting as highly significant because it meant that he got to meet with Trump before President Vladimir Putin at the forthcoming G-20 meeting. 

Poroshenko discussed the issue of the release of Ukrainian POWs with Tillerson, Iryna Gerashchenko, deputy speaker of parliament and representative on humanitarian affairs in the Trilaterial Group said in a Facebook post. The number of POWs has risen to 131.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said plans for a meeting between Trump and Putin at the G-20 summit had not been confirmed, however.

Poroshenko also felt the US might make a contribution to breaking the cycle of ineffective “cease-fires” and failure of progress on the Minsk agreement, comparing him to President Ronald Reagan (translation by The Interpreter)

“I am absolutely certain that President Trump is a real leader, a very charismatic person. He can help bring peace to our land in the way that Reagan brought victory in the Cold War without a single shot. I believe in this.” 

The Ukrainian delegation also visited the Pentagon and  Poroshenko met with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. She said there was a discussion about the security situation in the Donbass, military and technical cooperation and Ukraine’s meeting of NATO standards, as well as programs to provide medical and psychiatric rehabilitation to Ukrainian soldiers.

Poroshenko provided details on the presence of Russian troops and arms in the Donbass, violation of the ceasefires, and attacks on the OSCE monitors. Occupied Crimea was also discussed. The US pledged to keep the sanctions against Russia in place due to the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  The Pentagon was “well informed” about Ukrainian military reforms and “highly valued the professionalism and courage of our soldiers,” said Gerashchenko.

The US Treasury released today new additions to the list of persons and companies sanction for the annexation of Crimea and the war on Ukraine in the Donbass. The additions are officials and companies related to the self-proclaimed separatist entities of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic”. Also added was the Russian mercenary company Wagner, whose fighters have taken part in the wars in Syria and Ukraine, and Concord Management and Concord Catering, the companies of Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as both Putin’s personal chef, a supporter of Wagner and backer of “the Kremlin troll army”.

On the front line, an officer of the National Guard went missing.

Four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in battle today, reported, citing the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) dispatch.

The Bakhmut Highway on the Lugansk line was the area that most came under fire. 

The DNR now owes Kiev 39 million hryvnia ($1.4 million) for electricity.

Gas service has still not been turned back on for Avdeyevka as repairs can’t be made with constant shelling.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Note: The Interpreter has lost its funding!

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