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But there is another story brewing in Maidan Square — the heckling of the new president, Petro Poroshenko. Relatives of those killed during the protests are angry at Poroshenko for failing to bring the killers to justice. Reuters reports:
The relatives, frustrated by Poroshenko’s failure to bring officials of the previous government to justice, shouted, “Who is a hero for you, Poroshenko?”, “Where are their killers?” and “Down with Poroshenko!”
They also attacked him for failing to keep a promise to confer the title of national hero on the victims, which would bring financial benefits to their families.
The president reportedly tried to quiet the crowds:
He was scarcely able to be heard as he tried to speak to the hostile crowd afterward, but said: “If shouting like this continues, everything we did on the Maidan will have been in vain.”
He later returned to pledge that he would sign a decree to officially designate the victims, known as the “Heaven’s Hundred”, as national heroes as promised.
US Vice President Joe Biden was on his way to the memorial where Poroshenko was speaking, but the New York Times reports:
When his motorcade arrived, he found an angry crowd protesting the new pro-Western government of President Petro O. Poroshenko.
According to a pool report, many in the crowd were chanting “shame” at Mr. Poroshenko for failing to hunt down those whom they held responsible for the deaths of their children in some of the fighting that has racked the country. The Secret Service concluded that it was too volatile a situation for the vice president to wade into, and the motorcade turned around to leave.
But Biden did visit a memorial to those killed earlier in the day.
An excerpt from the statement which also includes a list of examples of US aid to Ukraine:
The United States remains firmly committed to supporting Ukraine as it works to establish security, restore economic stability, strengthen the rule of law, advance the fight against corruption, and carry out democratic and constitutional reforms. The United States stands with the Ukrainian people and their choice of democracy, reform, and European integration.
In pursuit of these objectives, Vice President Joe Biden announced today in Kyiv, Ukraine that, pending approval from Congress, the White House will commit $20 million to support comprehensive reform in the Ukrainian law enforcement and justice sectors, including prosecutorial and anti-corruption reforms. The Vice President also announced that the U.S. will be directing an additional $3 million to the UN World Food Program emergency operation in Ukraine for food rations and assistance to people displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine and other vulnerable populations.
Including these announcements, the U.S. government has now committed nearly $320 million in assistance to Ukraine this year, in addition to the $1 billion sovereign loan guarantee issued in May 2014. The United States stands ready to continue to work with our partners to provide Ukraine with sufficient financing as it stabilizes its economy and carries out urgently needed reforms.
The United States will continue to work with Congress to identify additional opportunities for U.S. assistance to Ukraine. For example, the Administration has requested from Congress an additional $45 million as part of the President’s European Reassurance Initiative that would help build Ukraine’s capacity to provide for its own defense and increase interoperability with U.S. and Western forces.
Beyond the various programs to assist Ukraine establish civil society and carry out economic and political reforms, the United States is committed to providing training and (non-lethal) equipment to Ukraine. Included in the US assistance is ” body armor, helmets, vehicles, night and thermal vision devices, heavy engineering equipment, advanced radios, patrol boats, rations, tents, counter-mortar radars, uniforms, first aid equipment and supplies, and other related items.”
Noticeably missing — drones to better target artillery and rocket strikes, and obviously any lethal aid.
Biden also criticized Russia and insisted that it honor and implement the Minsk agreement:
Many are questioning Biden’s logic here. If the path forward is to have Russia and its “proxies” abide by the Minsk agreement, and Russia and it’s proxies are not doing that, then what about this aid package will change Russia’s thinking? In fact, an article tweeted by the US Embassy in Kiev today, written by the BBC, quotes US officials who recognize that this new aid package is “an expansion of American support for Ukraine’s armed forces, but not something that was likely to significantly alter the outcome of the conflict.”
And as another commenter on Ukraine points out, the US is spending nearly $10 million a day to fight ISIS, and about $212 million a day to wage war in Afghanistan. This $20 million package, or even the total $320 million the US has committed to Ukraine, is hardly sending a clear message to Moscow — nor to Kiev.
The Dutch government has announced that yet more human remains and wreckage were recovered yesterday from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
“Parts of the wreckage were transported to Torez railway station and loaded onto goods trains, ready to be transported to Kharkiv at a later date. The operation will continue tomorrow if circumstances allow, the security situation remains fragile,” said a report posted on the government’s website on Thursday.
Besides, the members of the Dutch repatriation mission have secured the remains found during the salvage operation. They will be taken to Kharkiv for initial forensic checks before being flown to the Netherlands at a time to be determined.
Interfax-Ukraine reports that the Ukrainian military has announced the deaths of one Ukrainian soldier and two civilians over the last 24 hours. Four civilians and eighteen soldiers have also been wounded.
According to the military’s press centre, Ukrainian army positions have come under fire 39 times.
“The adversary is using mines and landmines against our forces near the city of Mariupol,” it said. Ukrainian military hardware has been damaged by mine explosions twice over the past 24 hours.
Strikes using Grad multiple-launch rocket systems continue in the vicinity of Donetsk. Ukrainian soldiers managed to repel armed units’ attacks near Donetsk airport, the press center said.
The Ukrainian army has launched 18 artillery strikes against militia-held positions over the past 24 hours, it said.
Further afield, an attack near Slavnoye, to the east of Yenakievo, was repelled without any casualties, and fighting was reported near Novotroitskoye, a separatist-held town on the strategically important Donetsk-Mariupol highway.
Over the same time period, Russian-backed forces have reportedly conducted 25 artillery strikes against settlements in the Lugansk region.
The town of Schastye, to the north-west of the separatist held city of Lugansk, was shelled twice.
Ukrainska Pravda reports that the ATO Press Centre said (translated by The Interpreter):
“During one of these attacks, munitions, sent flying by the terrorists, exploded in a densely populated residential area of the town, near to schools and shops. Civilians were wounded as a result. Four of them have been hospitalised in the nearest district hospital.”
Hennadiy Moskal, the governor of the Lugansk region, announced that a total of 7 civilians had been wounded during the shelling of the Schastye.
Part of the town has been left without electricity after four power lines were cut off by the shelling.
— Pierre Vaux
Dalia Grybauskaitė, the Lithuanian president, has told LRT radio that Russian aggression will spread further in Europe if the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine are not countered.
“Today, Ukraine is fighting for peace in the whole of Europe, for all of us. If the terrorist state that is carrying out aggression against its neighbour is not stopped, that aggression might spread in Europe and beyond,” the president told the national radio LRT.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius told the Žinių Radijas news radio on Thursday that the situation in Ukraine is deteriorating.
“I see no optimism and I can say that the situation in eastern Ukraine continues to deteriorate sharply. By recognizing the results of the so-called elections, Russia is creating a new reality, i.e., “a new Transnistria”. We see Russian military convoys crossing the border and moving westwards to the area controlled by separatists. And I think this movement means Russia wants to expand territories controlled by separatists,” Butkevičius said.
According to Grybauskaitė, Ukraine needs comprehensive support.
“Political, humanitarian and military support is needed for this country, these people, who chose the democratic path, who chose to run their country themselves, who decided on the direction for their country. i.e., the European Union, for them to be able to do that without pressure, without military intervention and aggression,” the Lithuanian president said.
In her words, Ukraine is withstanding not only a military attack but also economic and informational aggression as well as anti-Ukrainian corruption.
“Lithuania, just like other European countries, realizes that peace must be fought for, peace must be defended, independence and sovereignty are untouchable, every nation has the right to have their own state and nobody can dictate them, be it a small or a big country. Nobody can dictate the way they should live. We must clearly state this to the Kremlin, the Russian leadership that such actions will never be tolerated,” Grybauskaitė said.
On November 21 last year, the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, suspended preparations for signing an association agreement with the EU.
His decision sparked the first protests on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev which, after the governments use of brutal riot police assaults, the abduction, torture and murder of a number of activists, and killings by snipers, acted as the focus of a huge groundswell of public anger at endemic corruption and authoritarianism that led to Yanukovych’s ouster in February this year.
Today Ukrainian politicians and the public have returned to the Maidan to commemorate the protests and the dead.
Translation: The President paid tribute to the Heavenly Hundred [those activists who were killed during the EuroMaidan protests]
Five parties in the newly-elected Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, formed a ruling coalition early this morning after a night of negotiations, Liga.net reported.
Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Popular Front, Samopomich [Self-Help], Radical Party and Batkivshchyna [Fatherland] signed the agreement this evening, according to a source in the parliament, Liga.net reported.
The Opposition Bloc, led by Yuriy Boyko, which took 9.43% of the vote and gained 29 seats out of 450 in parliament, is not joining the ruling coalition. The party contains some of the figures associated with the Yanukovych regime such as Mykola Dobkin, formerly in the Party of Regions faction and former governor of Kharkiv Region.
According to information from Ukrainska Pravda translated by The Interpreter, here’s the breakdown of the seats in parliament —
Thus there are 289 in the ruling coalition, 29 in the Opposition Bloc, 7 combined in ultranationalist parties Right Sector and Svoboda, 3 in other small parties, and 96 (21%) declared as independent.
The following is a summary and translation by The Interpreter of the main points provided by Liga.net’s source about the coalition agreement:
o Parliamentary immunity will be removed.
o A procedure for impeachment of the president will be drafted and approved.
o Integration with the European Union and fulfillment of all the points of the EU Association Agreement along the way.
o Ukraine’s non-bloc status will be abolished. Instead, according to the agreement, entry into NATO will henceforth be a goal of Ukraine.
o A new electoral system will be passed in which the majoritarian system will be removed and a proportional system with open lists will be incorporated.
o Decentralization of Ukraine will be undertaken.
o Ukraine will return control of Crimea and will file lawsuits against Russia.
o Ukraine will permanently locate troops in the east of Ukraine, and will devote at least 3% of the GDP to defense.
o An Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Agency to Combat Corruption will be created.
o Creation of a National Police within Interior Ministry reforms.
o De-communization and prohibition of Soviet and Nazi symbols and propaganda.
o Election of mayors in large cities will take place in two rounds, and there will be less deputies in local councils.
The presentation of the agreement will take place at 12:30 pm Kiev time.
TASS reported several additional points in the agreement:
o “protection of legal interests of Crimean Tatars, all Ukrainian citizens
living on a temporarily occupied territory of Crimea and Sevastopol,
parts of the Lugansk and Donetsk region, and liberation of these
o investigation of the killing of protesters on Kiev’s Independence Square in February 2014.