Ukraine Day 947: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the non-governmental Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Center, claims today in Ukrainska Pravda that a draft bill is being considered that would severely weaken the high-profile ProZorro electronic declaration system, designed to combat corruption in Ukrainian politics.
“The draft law is not yet on the agenda, however it is already going back and forth between ministries and international experts, who will have to assess the extent to which the whims of the authorities undercut their commitments made before the Europeans and the Americans.”
According to Shabunin, the draft bill would rescind public access to all information on the following:
1. All personal property worth more than 137,000 hrynia or around 5,000 dollars: jewelry, watches, antiques, furs, designer handbags, horses, dogs and the like, except for vehicles.
2. All received gifts worth 6,890 hrynia or more.
3. Cash funds and assets in the form of precious metals woth 68,900 hryvnia or more.
4. Credit, loans and expenses of more than 68,000 hryvnia.
In Shabunin’s words, this would “throw anti-corruption reform back to the time of Yanukovych.”
So far, there has been no comment on the claims from the Ukrainian government.
In an interview with Liga.net that was published today, veteran US diplomat Richard Haass warned that “it is very difficult to help a country economically and politically, if corruption is widespread.”
— Pierre Vaux
A new deal on reducing forces on the front line has been tentatively agreed upon by members of the Contact Group in Minsk.
Martin Sajdik, the OSCE’s special representative in Ukraine, told Interfax-Ukraine that the “framework document” had been signed today by representatives from Ukraine and Russia, and initialed by separatist representatives from the so-called People’s Republics in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The deal entails the partial withdrawal of troops and hardware from the front line and, Bloomberg reports, a ban on the use of light arms in three areas of the conflict zone.
Sajdik said that the three areas to be monitored will be Stanitsa Luganskaya, (government-controlled, northeast of Lugansk city), Petrovskoye (separatist-held, southeast of Donetsk) and Zolotoye (government-controlled, in the west of the Lugansk region).
Darka Olifer, press secretary to former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who is the Ukrainian representative at the Contact Group talks, wrote on Facebook that all artillery would be withdrawn from the contact line as defined in the second Minsk protocol of February 12, 2015.
If this sounds familiar to readers, it should.
The withdrawal of heavy weaponry was a key stipulation of the first Minsk agreement, signed back in September, 2014. Both sides flouted the agreement which was eventually rendered irrelevant when full-scale fighting re-erupted that winter.
The most recent concerted attempt at withdrawing heavy weaponry took place in the fall of last year, when the OSCE spent several weeks monitoring the removal of tanks and artillery from the front.
The process once again foundered, with Russian-backed forces making no moves to withdraw massed hardware in the south of the Donetsk region. Since the winter, the war has carried on at a relatively constant pace, with heavy weaponry in regular use.
And today, the Ukrainian military reports 13 attacks yesterday, including the use of 120 mm mortars.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed forces used the mortars to shell Ukrainian positions in Zaytsevo, north of Gorlovka.
Positions in both Zaytsevo and Luganskoye, to the southeast, reportedly came under fire from BMP infantry fighting vehicles.
A similar attack was reported near Starognatovka, east of Volnovakha in the south of the Donetsk region.
The remainder of the attacks were conducted with grenade launchers, machine guns or small arms.
This morning Ivan Arefyev, spokesman for the ATO Press Center, told the 112 news channel that there had been three more attacks since midnight, with Zaytsevo shelled again with 120 mortars and small-arms and grenade-launcher attacks near Maryinka, west of Donetsk.
But despite the continued use of heavy weaponry, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense was sanguine, highlighting several pieces of comparatively good news.
Firstly, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded yesterday. Secondly, the military reported no attacks on Ukrainian forces in Avdeyevka, scene of some of the worst fighting for the last year. Finally, defense ministry spokesman Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk claimed, there had been no attacks in the Lugansk region.
Correspondingly, the Russian-backed separatists in Lugansk reported no attacks by Ukrainian forces.
Meanwhile the Donetsk separatists (the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic or DNR) accused Ukrainian forces of violating the ceasefire 46 times over 24 hours, albeit without the use of heavy weaponry.
— Pierre Vaux