Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.
For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT: An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlinâs Dirty War in Ukraine
This week, Russia moved two Black Sea oil rigs into Russian territorial waters. The move has increased tensions with (at least) two countries, Turkey and Ukraine.
Yesterday we reported that Russian escort ships and a Turkish vessel had some sort of interaction, the exact nature of which is in dispute, when the Turkish ship reportedly entered into the path of the convoy which included one of the oil rigs. Various Russian government information outlets responded by raising the alarm or by downplaying the incident, but since it came just a day after a Russian destroyer fired warning shots at another Turkish vessel, it’s not an incident which is likely to decrease tensions between Turkey and Russia:
Ukraine is also angry about the incident. The two oil rigs, worth approximately $357 million, belonged to Chornomornaftogaz, the Ukrainian state-owned energy company which was seized by the Russian government during its annexation of Crimea. RFE/RL reports:
It said the move was due to “the complicated international situation and risk of losing vital assets.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on December 16 described the move as “large-scale looting” by Russia.
It expressed “deep indignation in connection with the actions of Russia that violate international law, once again aimed at violating the sovereign rights of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s state-run energy firm Naftogaz, which owned 100 percent of Chornomornaftogaz before it was seized, says it will seek compensation from Russia in international courts for its annexed Crimean oil and gas assets — worth a total of $15.7 billion.
Reports on Russian state media suggested that the oil rigs were moved due to security considerations, but it’s not clear what those considerations could be since the rigs have been in place since Russia seized them in 2014.
— James Miller
President Vladimir Putin has signed an order suspending Russia’s free-trade zone agreement with Ukraine.
The order, signed today, was published on the Russian government’s official web portal:
According to the text, the free trade agreement between the two states, signed in 2011, will cease effect from January 1, 2016.
The text says that the decision has been taken to protect Russia’s interests and economic security.
The move is likely a response to Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the European Union, the free-trade component of which will come into effect at the beginning of next year.
— Pierre Vaux
RFE/RL’s Crimean Service reports that Nariman Dzhelyal, the deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, has said that two Tatar men have disappeared in the Russian-occupied city of Kerch.
Dzhelyal said that Ruslan Ganiev and his friend Arlen had last been seen on December 15.
The Interpreter translates:
“Both are practising Muslims. Ruslan left his home in the morning, having told his wife that he was going to visit his parents, after which there has been no information about him. While trying to find him amongst his friends it was discovered that his friend Arlen, who was last seen by his friends just yesterday in Kerch, had disappeared. Ruslan is described as a very humble and calm person.”
Ruslan’s family informed the local police, who told them that missing persons protocol would be initiated if neither of the men returned by 20:00 that evening.
The time has passed but Dzhelyal says that the occupying Russian authorities have issued no official statements with regards to the missing Tatars.
The disappearance of Crimean Tatars has become a grimly frequent occurrence since the Russian annexation of the peninsular last year. Several have been found dead, some with signs of torture, after their disappearances.
— Pierre Vaux
Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, has announced that a Ukrainian soldier was killed in action within the last 24 hours, while another was wounded by a landmine.
Ukrainska Pravda reports that Motuzyanyk said that Russian-backed forces have continued their attacks in the Donetsk and Gorlovka areas, however only one incident within the last 24 hours was a “targeted shelling,” as opposed to “un-targeted provocations.”
82 mm mortars were used in two attacks, the spokesman said, while the ATO Press Centre reported that several 120 mm mortars had fallen near Ukrainian positions in Peski during the day yesterday.
Today, the same military press centre claimed that 20 attacks had been recorded overnight.
The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claims meanwhile that Ukrainian forces opened fire on separatist-held territory seven times within the last 24 hours.
According to the DNR, more than 20 shells from 82 and 120 mm mortars were fired by the Ukrainian military, striking Spartak, Zhabunki, Staromikhailovka and the area around Donetsk Airport.
This afternoon, the Ukrainian military claimed that Russian-backed fighters had in fact shelled their own territory on the edge of Gorlovka.
According to a post by the ATO Press Centre, at around 11:40 today, Russian-backed fighters shelled a cemetery on the southwestern outskirts of the separatist-held town. The Ukrainian military claims that by doing so, the Russian-backed separatists are attempting to frame the Ukrainian military.
Kiev has made similar accusations on several previous occasions, most recently on November 25: