Ukraine Day 1464: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. A Ukrainian medic was killed by Russia-backed shelling today.
Yesterday’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
Ukrainians carry a sign, “Remember the Heavenly Hundred”. Photo by Unian
Ukraine marked the fourth anniversary of the events of the Maidan protests February 18-20, 2014, Ukrinform reported.
Ukrainians remember the “Heavenly 100” — the people killed on Maidan Square by government forces and titushki, pro-government hired thugs.
“More than a hundred people died in the city center, several dozens of people were missing, more than a thousand were injured, and hundreds were arrested and tortured,” said Ukrinform.
Since that time, we have reached “Day 1463” – or four years since first the government forces’ crackdown on demonstrators, then the forcible annexation of Crimea, then the occupation of hundreds of towns in the Donbass by combined Russian and Russia-backed separatist troops.
A year ago, The Interpreter lost its funding, and since then we have not had funds to pay staff, despite having some media partnerships to exchange and promote content.
Due to the need of our bloggers to attend to their full-time jobs and families, as well as illness in the winter season, when we fell behind on posts, we gave some thought of ending our “count” on this day in 2018.
But the war isn’t over at all: every month, Ukrainian soldiers, medics, and civilians are killed each month by Russia-backed forces, and those pro-Russian fighters and civilians in their controlled territories are also killed by Ukrainian forces. Currently, the death toll maintained by international agencies for the war in Ukraine is well over 10,300, counting both combatants and civilians.
While there are sometimes lulls in fighting, ceasefires established by the Minsk accords or for certain holidays are honored in the breach. The OSCE monitors themselves have been hampered in their work and have come under fire; one was killed last year and others have been injured.
While there has been intensive discussion of a Russian proposal for peace-keepers, the sticking point remains the same: Russia has not pulled back its troops and armor under the Minsk agreement of 2015 and controls a significant part of the Ukrainian border to enable Moscow to keep sending in armor and forces — and humanitarian aid that is not inspected.
Ukrainian activists have rightly become concerned with the failure of the Ukrainian government to turn the corner on corruption, despite some progress. They have focused on issues like the formation of an anti-corruption court, and have opposed official moves to place more scrutiny and restrictions on the very activists who report independently on corruption. There has also been urgent concerns about government restrictions on the media and the failure to solve the murders of reporters.
Small but determined groups apparently rooted in some extreme nationalist and populist organizations have used violence at demonstrations in Kiev to get maximum media coverage and help fuel Russian disinformation — and also obscure the Ukrainian parties and civic groups who continue to do important work. They view criticism of their government as the best form of patriotism as in any country.
Political and social issues tend to get more coverage than the battlefield these days, as rumors of snap elections abound. But it is important to emphasize that the war goes on unchanged — and the main threat agent — Russia — is also part of what makes corruption in Ukraine possible and could be behind some assassinations of journalists and other public figures.
The spirit of the Euromaidan revolution, easily forgotten in the chaos that has followed, is an existential threat to Putin. His war against Ukraine is a war against the very idea of liberal democracy. Just like the democracy movements in Iran, and Egypt, and Libya, and Syria, liberal democracy is fragile. By its very definition it is a rejection of the power structures that give rise to leaders like Yanukovych and Putin. It is a soft target, and Putin believes that by crushing Ukraine’s military, and its economy, he can crush the very spirit of revolution. He and his allies are architects of similar strategies which have been employed in Iran and Syria.
It’s not clear yet whether the Maidan Revolution will ultimately succeed. It faces the legacy of corruption, an invading super power, and a government which is struggling to cope with both at once. Today, however, the people of Kiev once again occupied Maidan Square in a ceremony to remember those who have given their lives for a chance to change their country and realize the dreams of freedom and democracy. Ultimately, those who stand in the way of the desire for peace, prosperity, and liberty will always have reason to fear the will of the people. The Euromaidan protests last year survived the brutal onslaught from those who would crush it. The people who took to the streets then still believe that, though they are once again under attack, they will prevail.
Today, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and 3 were wounded in battle with Russia-backed forces, Liga.net reported.
President Petro Poroshenko signed a law on state policy regarding the protection of sovereignty on the temporarily-occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, known as the law on the integration of the Donbass.
President Poroshenko also spoke with German Chancelor Angela Merkel on the Minsk accords, the need to continue to release POWs and the work of the Join Center for Control and Coordination.
In a briefing, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Russia continues to supply armor for pro-Russian fighters.
Pavel Zhebrivskiy, head of the Donetsk Region Military and Civil Administration, said a Russia-backed attack of the village of Zhovanka in Donetsk Region resulted in the burning of a home, Liga.net reported.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Donate to this author to keep news and translations coming.
Kurt Volker. Photo by Evropeyskaya Pravda
Sabina Galitskaya, a 23-year-old sanitation instructor from the Ukrainian Army’s 10th Mountain Assault Brigade was killed in an attack on a frontline town as medics were attempting to assist the population.
Russia-backed forces made 20 attacks on Ukrainian positions, resulting in 3 Ukrainian soldiers suffering injury and one soldier a concussion, Liga.net recorded.
In an interview with Evropeyskaya Pravda on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, Kurt Volker, special representative to Ukraine, identified a recurring sticking point with Russia on the question of peace-keepers for Ukraine: the demand that Russia pull back its troops from the Donbass, and allow UN forces then to control security.
“And when that will happen, the it will be Ukraine’s turn to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements — such as local elections, special status and so on,” he said. (Translation from Russian of original English by The Interpreter)
He said his meeting with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov in January was “productive” and that Russia said it had “certain constructive ideas” that Volker said the US would be hearing in March.
“Russia wants to get a government favorable to itself in Ukraine, to improve the attitude toward it in Ukrainian society, and they want to see Ukraine as part of a ‘greater Slavic family,'” said Volker.
“But essentially everything is happening the opposite way: due to the Russian occupation of Ukraine, identity is only strengthening and pro-Western sentiments are growing,” he said.
Regarding US provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine, a decision made by the Trump Administration last December, Volker said:
“The task is to help Ukraine more effectively defend itself. Ukraine is attacked. A hot war is continuing here. Ukrainian soldiers are killed every week. Ukraine as an independent state has a right to defense, and we can help her capacity to defend herself.”