Ukraine Day 843: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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The Ukrainian military reports a deteriorating situation in the Donbass, claiming 43 attacks by Russian-backed fighters yesteday.
Colonel Oleksandr Motyzyanyk, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters that one Ukrainian serviceman had been killed and five wounded.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters used 152 mm artillery to shell Ukrainian positions to the north of Donetsk city.
To the west, Maryinka was reportedly shelled with 82 mm mortars, while on the highway to the south, positions near Novotroitskoye were shelled with 122 mm self-propelled artillery.
Mortars were also used against positions near Pavlopol, northeast of Mariupol, and Mayorsk and Zaytsevo, north of Gorlovka.
The Donetsk regional police reports that Russian-backed fighters last night shelled a residential area near government-controlled Toretsk, northeast of Gorlovka.
According to the report, shells, fired from the direction of Gorlovka, fell around housing near the Yuzhnaya mine.
Fortunately residents were reported to have been in their cellars at the time of the attack and were not harmed.
Less than half an hour ago, the Ukrainian military reported a further 20 attacks between midnight and 18:00 today.
According to this latest report, Russian-backed fighters used mortars to shell positions near Avdeyevka and Nevelskoye, and 152 mm artillery against those near Novotroitskoye.
Meanwhile the deputy commander of the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), Eduard Basurin, claimed that Ukrainian forces were themselves using heavy artillery and mortars, intensifying their attacks near Donetsk and Gorlovka.
According to Basurin, Ukrainian forces shelled a kindergarten in the western Donetsk suburb of Trudovskiye today.
Basurin claimed that children were on the site at the time but that no one was injured. The veracity of this claim is yet to be established. As we have reported before, the Russian-backed separatists have a history of falsifying such claims, which makes picking the real incidents of civilian casualties from Ukrainian attacks from the false a difficult task.
The French Senate has passed a non-binding resolution calling for the government to restore relations with Russia and work on lifting sanctions imposed following the annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbass.
RFE/RL reports that the resolution was passed yesterday afternoon by a majority of 302 votes, with 16 against, despite opposition from the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande.
The resolution was authored by two senators: Simon Sutour of the Socialist Party and Yves Pozzo di Borgo of the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI).
Pozzo di Borgo was one of several MPs who travelled to occupied Crimea last summer, angering both the French and Ukrainian governments.
Yesterday’s resolution is somewhat more nuanced than Mariani’s, with explicit reaffirmations of France’s commitment to Ukrainian territorial integrity and the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
“At the same time,” the text of the resolution notes that “the European Union’s sanctions against the the Russian Federation and the Russian [retaliatory] sanctions have had negative consequences, economic and political, for all parties, and on relations between the EU and Russia.”
Expresses its hopes for the gradual and partial lifting of the sanctions regime of the European Union against Russia, in particular, the economic sanctions, linking this lifting with significant and focused progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements…
Invites the government, under the same conditions, to re-evaluate its diplomatic and political sanctions and to urge in particular for the resumption of discussions with a view to holding, as a first step, high-level bilateral meetings between member states of the Union and Russia;
Invites the government to call on its European partners to lift, without delay, the sanctions targeting individual Russian parliamentarians, which constitute an obstacle to parliamentary and political dialogue;
This is particularly noteworthy, as while the lifting of economic sanctions is to be tied to the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements, the Senate resolution calls for the targeted individual sanctions to be lifted immediately.
Several members of both the State Duma and the Federation Council, in addition to ministers military officials and businessmen, are on the EU sanctions list. This includes the chairs of both parliamentary houses – Sergei Naryshkin and Valentina Matviyenko.
Meanwhile the Senate resolution calls for the government to ensure that Russia reciprocally lifts trade sanctions imposed on the EU in retaliation.
Lobbying from business and agricultural groups appears to have played a major role in convincing so many French politicians to back the resolution. Indeed, the text even makes specific reference to the “significant losses” suffered by the French pork sector as a result of the counter-sanctions.
The resolution was opposed by only 16 senators.
Socialist senator Jean-Yves Leconte spoke ahead of the vote, criticizing the fact that the fact that neither the resolution nor the Minsk agreements acknowledge the direct involvement of Russia in the war in the Donbass.
Leconte argued that the implementation of the Minsk agreements was a far-off probability given that fighting still rages in the region and that Ukraine cannot make progress towards implementing the constitutional reforms demanded of it by Minsk when it does not even have control of the border or access to Donetsk and Lugansk.
“This resolution seems less to defend values than it does interests. I believe that European security is not built on such basis, but on solidarity between states. We can not make the independence of a European people dependent on the interest that one could collect from an agreement with another European country. This is the whole Ukrainian situation. Do we want to sign the return to the Europe of Yalta where the future of certain European countries is discussed between blocs? I don’t believe so.”
Meanwhile André Gattolin, a member of the Greens, said that he approved of the reduction of economic sanctions as he believed they had little effect on the Russian government, especially when compared to that of oil prices, and because they helped the Kremlin reinforce a siege mentality on the population.
However Gattolin argued, in contradiction to one part of the resolution, that the EU should introduce even more targeted sanctions on high ranking Russian officials and associates, giving the US Magnitsky act as an example to follow.
Nevertheless, he voted in favour of the resolution.
The Ukrainian embassy quoted one of the dissenting senators, Claude Malhuret, on Twitter:
Translation: Senator Malhuret on the Senate vote in favour of lifting santions: “It’s the white flag that Putin has been waiting for 2 years for.”
The resolution itself has, of course, no legal power. The French government has made it clear that they support the continuation of sanctions against Russia.
However it is worth noting that one of the authors of the bill, Simon Sutour, said that both the serving economy and agriculture ministers had expressed their reservations about the sanctions.
The government, which has been under intense pressure from even its traditional support base due to recent labor reforms, will not welcome this vote.
— Pierre Vaux