Ukraine Live Day 624: Captured ‘Spetsnaz Soldiers’ Seek Recognition As Prisoners Of War

November 3, 2015
Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov in court. Photo: Zuma/TASS

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After Russia Rejects Debt Restructuring IMF May Change Rules So Ukraine Won’t Have To Pay Russian Debt

Ukraine is scheduled to pay Russia $3 billion on December 20, a repayment for a Eurobond which was purchased by Russia in a deal between now-ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But now that Russia has rejected a deal to restructure the debt, the bill may not get paid on time, if at all.

While the current Ukrainian government has been able to restructure the majority of its debt deals with private debt owners, Russia has refused to accept those same terms and is instead demanding that Ukraine repay its debt by December 20.

Voice of America reports:

Ukraine had agreed the debt exchange with a group of its largest creditors in August in order to plug a $15-billion funding gap under an International Monetary Fund-led $40-billion bailout program, but bondholders still needed to approve the plan by vote on Wednesday.

“More than 75 percent of creditors on each bond voted for the restructuring,” Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said. “As expected, the only country that didn’t take part in the voting was the Russian Federation.”

A $3-billion Eurobond held entirely by Russia is included in the 14 sovereign and sovereign-guaranteed bonds earmarked for restructuring, but the Kremlin has repeatedly said it will not participate in the process, arguing the debt has the status of an official loan as opposed to a commercial one.

If Ukraine defaults on its loan repayment to Russia it could be seen as a direct violation of Ukraine’s deal with the International Monetary Fund, which is not allowed to lend money to any country which is in default of its payments to another government.

The IMF which pressed Ukraine to restructure its debt and encouraged creditors to accept the new conditions, on the other hand, is working to change the above policy in order to continue to aid Ukraine even if it defaults on its payments to its one hold out — Russia. AFP reports:

The IMF is working on a reform of its lending policies to ease the rule in “carefully circumscribed circumstances,” said Fund spokesman Gerry Rice.

“This has been part of a broader program of work related to the reform of our lending framework governing sovereign debt restructuring,” Rice said.

The final decision on the ongoing work will come from the IMF’s executive board, which should take up the matter in the near future, he said, without providing further details.

Under pressure from the IMF, Ukraine has reached an agreement with private creditors that wipes out $3.6 billion in debt and reschedules repayment on $8.5 billion.

In a statement Thursday, the Ukrainian finance ministry said that creditors involved in the debt restructuring should expect to receive new Ukrainian sovereign securities on November 12.

Russia, of course, has raised concern over the possible IMF rule change.

Anders Aslund of the Atlantic Council argues that the debt Ukraine owes to Russia is “odious debt” and Ukraine, therefore, has no legal obligation to repay it, especially since russia has refused the restructuring deal. In fact, his article goes even further — Ukraine Must Not Pay Russia Back:

In February 2014, the Kremlin launched military aggression against Ukraine, first annexing Crimea and later pursuing military subversion in southern and eastern Ukraine. For more than a year, Russian-commanded troops with a mixture of volunteers and regular Russian soldiers have occupied 3 percent of Ukraine’s easternmost territories.

Moscow’s war has caused major damage to Ukraine. Russia has not only usurped the territory of Crimea but also many enterprises, goods in storage, cash, and other bank assets. In eastern Ukraine, Russian troops have devastated buildings, factories, and bridges. The war has cost Ukraine at least 7 percent of GDP in lost production, and foreign investors have been scared off. Russia has also pursued a trade war against Ukraine, eliminating 18 percent of the country’s prior exports. Ukraine has no reason to pay such an aggressor; in fact, Russia ought to pay reparations to Ukraine.

Putin negotiated this deal personally with former President Viktor Yanukovych to provide him with a lifeline. It was never meant to benefit the Ukrainian nation.

Read it here:

Ukraine Must Not Pay Russia

The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic Community in meeting global challenges. Founded in 1961, the Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic shifts in economic and political influence that are shaping the twenty-first century by educating and galvanizing its uniquely influential, nonpartisan network of international political, business, and intellectual leaders.

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Nov 03, 2015 23:07 (GMT)

James Miller
What Do Russian OSCE Monitors Say When Drunk?

The OSCE has removed one of the Russian members for the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine after video surfaced showing the man, identified as Maksim Udovichenko, drunk and bragging about his former role as a member of Russian Special Forces (Spetsnaz), while making disparaging remarks about Ukraine. RFE/RL reports:

In one video, he is seen speaking to an elderly woman in a city identified as Severodonetsk, a government-controlled city in eastern Ukraine. “This is all rubbish, you know, your Ukraine is rubbish,” he says. “There is the great Russia, you know. It stands near.”

In another, an apparently drunk and secretly recorded Udovichenko is shown telling unseen individuals inside a hotel room that he is a retired lieutenant colonel with the Special Purpose Forces, known as Spetsnaz, and served as a commander of a military unit in Chechnya in 1994.

Read about it here:

That Time A Russian OSCE Monitor In Ukraine Got Drunk, Said Too Much

A Russian member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine has lost his job after revealing his bias. The Ukrainian-language TSN new channel, a partner of Ukraine Today, on October 27 aired video footage of a man identified as Maksim Udovichenko revealing his past as a Russian military officer and giving locals his opinion on the situation in Ukraine.

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Nov 03, 2015 21:45 (GMT)

James Miller
Former State Emergency Service Officials Face New Charges Of Extortion And Bribery

The Interior Ministry has announced that it is bringing charges against Serhii Bochkovskyi, former head of the State Service for Emergency Situations, and his former deputy, Vasyl Stoietskyi.

Censor.NET reports:

The ministry reported that its Main Investigation Directorate has completed the pre-trial investigation of criminal proceedings into Bochkovskyi and Stoietskyi suspected of abuse of office, extortion of bribes and a land plot from subordinated heads of departments, as well as forging of the official documents.

“The indictment of Serhii Bochkovskyi and Vasyl Stoietskyi suspected of committing the mentioned criminal offenses has been submitted to the court Nov. 2,” the report reads.

Both men were arrested during a public meeting on March 25 and charged with embezzlement:

However only two days later, it was revealed that both were being released due to insufficient evidence. The two paid 1.82 million hryvnia bail and were released on March 28.

The two officials had allegedly purchased fuel from two firms without accepting tenders from other suppliers. 15% of the money for the fuel purchases was then, the investigator said, passed on to accounts outside Ukraine, and from those accounts, back to the State Emergency Serivce managers, making use of an offshore firm in Jersey and accounts at the Bank of Cyprus.

Censor.NET reports that the more severe charges announced today are being processed separately to the prior charges of embezzlement and money laundering. 

— Pierre Vaux

Korban Now Being Investigated In Connection With New Set Of Allegations

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Gennadiy Korban, leader of the UKROP party and former deputy governor of Dnipropetrovsk, will remain in detention and that the Prosecutor General’s office is now investigating a new set of charges against him.

This morning, having returned to court in Chernihiv after falling ill, Korban was escorted away and taken to an Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) detention centre in Kiev.

The announcement by Stepan Bozhilo, head of investigating cases of special importance at the Prosecutor General’s office, that Korban is now investigated in connection with a new set of charges, allows his detention to continue.

Bozhilo would not specify what the new accusations against Korban were.

So far, Korban has been charged with running a criminal organisation and misappropriating funds intended for Ukrainian soldiers.

However yesterday, Mikhail Koshlyak, an aide to MP Borys Filatov, another UKROP member, was arrested on charges of having been involved in the killing of Viktor Mandzyk, an SBU officer who was shot in Volnovakha on March 21 this year. 

That month, Andriy Denysenko, MP and associate of Korban and then-governor of Dnipropetrovsk Ihor Kolomoisky, admitted that his assistant Denys Hordeyev had killed Mandzyk, but claimed it was in self-defence.

Denysenko was the leader of the Sich paramilitary organisation, which the SBU claimed was in fact a criminal gang operating under the pretence of being a volunteer group supporting the war effort. 

Hordeyev was detained on March 27 while attempting, President Poroshenko said, to flee the country. At least 30 people were detained in the initial investigation into the case.

During the investigation into the killing, SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko accused Korban and Svyatoslav Oleynik, another Dnipropetrovsk regional administration official, of threatening violence against law enforcement officers working to combat smuggling along the frontier in the Donbass. According to the SBU, Mandzyk was killed by smugglers from the Sich organisation.

The affair coincided with a stand-off between the government and Kolomoiskiy after he deployed armed men to guard the Ukrtransnafta office in Dnipropetrovsk.

The situation was seemingly resolved when Kolomoiskiy and Korban resigned on March 24

For the Mandzyk case to re-emerge at the same time as Korban is accused of operating a criminal organisation appears unlikely to be a coincidence. 

To add to the intrigue, there was an apparent assassination attempt made on Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin last night:

Meanwhile UKROP is protesting in Kiev today:

Translation: People are gathering outside the Arsenal metro station for a UKROP demonstration

— Pierre Vaux

With Reports Of Fighting Last Night And This Morning, Situation In Donetsk Area Deteriorating

The Ukrainian military says that Russian-backed fighters attacked their positions near Peski and Avdeyevka, outside Donetsk, last night.

According to the ATO Press Centre, Ukrainian troops near Peski were fired on with small arms while those in the Avdeyevka area were bombarded with automatic grenade launchers.

The Press Centre claims that Ukrainian troops “complying with the Minsk agreements, did not return fire.”

An hour ago, the ATO Press Centre posted another update, reporting that Ukrainian troops near Avdeyevka had come under sniper fire at 6:07 this morning, followed by automatic grenade launcher attacks. 

Overall, the military claims, Russian-backed fighters fired on Ukrainian positions four times and conducted “provocative” fire six times between 6 am and 10:50. 

The language of the post, which begins with “ATTENTION!!! The terrorists are continuing to fire on our positions,” marks a significant change in the tone of Ukrainian military briefings compared to recent weeks.

At the same time, the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed that Ukrainian forces had violated the ceasefire 14 times over the past 24 hours, shelling areas on the outskirts of Donetsk with 120 and 82 mm mortars, as well as automatic grenade launchers.

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN), reported that Ukrainian troops had fired on the Donetsk suburb of Spartak “all night long,” continuing into the morning.

Reports on Twitter also indicated fighting this morning to the north and west of the separatist-held city: 

Translation: Avdeyevka. From the south we can hear occasional, single bangs.

Translation: Just now another bang…(((

Translation: It’s not all quiet here in Marinka. Occasional bangs (every 15 minutes) but powerful ones.

Translation: Staromikhailovka, what can you hear? – Bangs and blasts somewhere from time to time.

This unconfirmed report would suggest an even more dramatic escalation:

Translation: Attention! 30 armoured vehicles observed in Donetsk moving towards PESKI




In another worrying sign of the possible breakdown of the current peace process, Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the DNR, said today that the Russian-backed separatists would not exclude postponing the date of the withdrawal of their heavy mortars from the front line due to “more frequent provocations by the Ukrainian side.”

According to Basurin, the DNR currently plans to begin withdrawing 120 mm mortars on November 5, completing the process by the 10th. 


— Pierre Vaux

Captured ‘Spetsnaz Soldiers’ Seek Recognition As Prisoners Of War

A court in Kiev has extended the detention of two Russians, captured after a skirmish near Schastye this summer and accused of being GRU Spetsnaz soldiers, by two months, RFE/RL reports.

Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov attended a hearing at the Goloseyevsky district court today, where their lawyers requested that they be granted the status of prisoners of war.

Both men are currently on trial for terrorism. While they had earlier told reporters that they were active members of the Russian Armed Forces, Yeryofeyev has since rescinded these claims, saying that they were made under duress.

Last month, Konstantin Kravchuk, a lawyer who initially represented both men in their criminal prosecution and is now presenting a case to the European Court on their behalf, told Novaya Gazeta‘s Pavel Kanygin that he believed that Aleksandrov would also change his account.

The court today postponed further deliberation of the case while the detainees’ claims for recognition as POWs are processed. The court did not regard the suit for recognition as POWs as an impediment to the judicial review of the case and the court is due to reconvene on November 10.

A request by defence lawyers for the men to be transferred to house arrest while awaiting trial was rejected by the court.

Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov will remain in pre-trial detention until January 2, 2016.

— Pierre Vaux