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Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.
Ukraine has a lot of problems with Russia, but those problems are hard to navigate when Russia holds such a massive trump card in its relations with both Kiev and Europe — natural gas.
Today Russia’s Energy Minister stressed that Ukraine needs to pay for at least part of its debt before Russia will sell any more natural gas to Ukraine. World Bulletin reports:
Alexandr Novak said on Monday that a downpayment and some repayments from Kiev were necessary before Ukraine could purchase natural gas that it was requesting.
Novak said: “Ukraine demanded four billion cubic meters of natural gas – the provisions for its transportation are a downpayment and the repayment of the debt.”
He said that Kiev was seeking to pay its gas debt on March next year, with $1.45 billion in advance and the rest through equal installments.
Russia expects Ukraine to pay $3.1 billion, which it said was agreed with Ukraine and the EU in a meeting on September 26.
Kiev has been in negotiations of Ukraine’s debt — and Russia’s price — for the last year.
Ukraine is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. To make matters worse, Reuters reports that Europe is not prepared for winter, and will thus be heavily reliant on Russian natural gas, which makes it pretty hard for Europe to hold Russia accountable:
Ukraine’s gas reserves are just over half full, and a half-dozen other countries are reliant on Russian gas exports for at least 50 percent of their consumption. While Norway’s Statoil recently struck a deal to sell Ukraine gas, a Statoil spokesman called the deal “a short-term and relatively low-volume agreement.” Russia is also trying to resolve the dispute by offering Ukraine a more flexible payment schedule for overdue natural-gas supplies.
There have been several polls which show that prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea there was never a strong separatist sentiment among Ukrainians in any region. Another poll by IRI confirms this result:
Strong Majority in Every Region Opposes Russia’s Military Aggression
Despite continued claims to the contrary from Moscow and pro-Russian separatists, 89 percent of respondents oppose Russia sending troops to protect Russian-speaking citizens.
The opposition to Russia’s actions is seen across all regions – 78 percent in the east, 89 percent in the south, 93 percent in central Ukraine and 99 percent in the west. It also transcends language. Seventy-nine percent of Russian speakers and 95 percent of Ukrainian speakers oppose the Russian actions. IRI noted that this was the first national poll in some time to include respondents from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (states).
According to the poll, only two percent of Ukrainians would like to see a divided country.
The poll also shows that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has support from 59% of Ukrainians, up from 53 percent in April, and support for the outgoing parliament, recently dissolved by the President, is at only 15%.
New parliamentary elections will be held in just a few weeks.
Independent journalist Oliver Carroll reports that there has been an escalation in the rate of shelling directed at the government-held airport in Donetsk today, which has been under constant attack throughout the ceasefire.
The report from the DNR of the dispatch of “special divisions” echoes a claim made by Boris Gumenyuk, the commander of the Ukrainian OUN volunteer battalion, who told Ukraine’s TSN that elite Russian forces will attempt to storm the airport tonight.
According to Gumenyuk, the Russian 45th Kubinka airborne (VDV) regiment from the Moscow region, and the 137th paratrooper-assault regiment from Ryazan have crossed the border and are in Donetsk.
He says that the intelligence comes from his units own sources in Russia, the ‘DNR’ and from Ukrainian state intelligence services.
The OUN battalion itself is currently defending the flank of the airport, around 7 kilometres away, near Peski. Gumenyuk fears that the Russians will try to take advantage of the change in the leadership of the defence ministry. He calls for the military to mobilise in order to counter the threat.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has released the following YouTube video.
The footage appears to be shot from within a Grad rocket launch team. A Russian flag is visible on the right early on in the video. The commander orders them over the radio to shell a Ukrainian village, adding “let’s destroy the faggots.”
Mariupol news site 0629 reports that the death toll following the shelling of a funeral procession in the village of Sartana, just outside Mariupol, has, according to the head of the village council, Stepan Makhsma, risen to 7. 15 people were wounded.
The site has several graphic images from the scene.
OSCE monitors have arrived at the scene.
Freelance reporter Petr Shelomovskiy reports anti-aircraft fire to the west of the city:
As we’ve been reporting below, earlier there were protests which turned violent outside of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. Ultra-nationalists in the crowd appeared to be demanding that the Rada recognize a controversial group, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), as “heroes of Ukraine.” However, journalists like Christopher Miller and photographer Stefan Huijboom say that some in the crowds have admitted that they were paid to be there and do not belong to a political party, despite waving Praviy Sektor (Right Sector) and Svoboda flags. At the same time, Right Sector earlier denied that they were behind the protests, though they called for their own rally later in the day.
Once again there are crowds in the streets in Kiev this evening. At least some of the crowds are peaceful, according to US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt:
Mariupol news site 0629 reported earlier today that the Ukrainian Dnepr-1 volunteer battalion engaged and destroyed a Russian special operations group last night in Telmanovo, to the north along the road to Donetsk.
The story has been picked up and repeated by many Ukrainian news outlets including Censor.NET and UNIAN. What is most intriguing about this story, and makes us less than sure of its veracity, given the lack of follow-up elsewhere (other outlets have merely excerpted the 0629 report), is that it claims that a Russian general was amongst those killed by Dnepr-1.
The main prize of the operation appears to have been the well-known separatist militant Andrei Borisov, known as ‘Chechen’. He was reportedly killed along with 3 Russian soldiers. One of them is named as General Sergei Andreichenko.
0629 writes that, according to a source in law enforcement, Andreichenko coordinated Russian special forces operations in the Azov coast area.
The other Russian servicemen are named as Vladimir Lysyakov and Vasiliy Protasov.
0629 is a valuable source and usually relies on either their own direct reportage or cites social media reports on local events. The quality of their source in the law enforcement services is unknown as they are anonymous.
If this story is true we would expect further confirmation and details shortly.
The Tatars are a small minority group which has faced many hardships throughout history. The Muslim group calls Crimea home, and many of the Tatars protested the Russian annexation of the peninsula out of fear because they believe Russia has historically discriminated against both Tatars and Muslims and they worry those trends will continue.
Those worries appear to have been well-founded. The Tatars have had their leadership dissolved, some of their property confiscated, and local authorities backed by Moscow have banned many forms of protest.
More recently, many young Tatar men have gone missing, some of whom have been found dead. As we reported earlier, one Crimean Tatar student who went missing was found dead yesterday and another is in critical condition. Last week a 25 year old man was found dead in an abandoned sanatorium.
Of course not all Tatars are in Crimea. Earlier in the month the president of the Volga Tatar Milli Mejlis was convicted and sentenced to a one-year sentence in Russia for supporting Crimea’s Tatars.
Today, the Russian-backed leadership in Crimea is warning that authorities will be confiscating “banned Islamic literature,” going back on promises that no literature would be confiscated. RFE/RL reports:
The pro-Russia leadership in Crimea is urging Muslim residents of the annexed territory to get rid of “banned Islamic literature” by January 1, 2015.
The Moscow-backed leader of the region, Sergei Aksyonov, told reporters in Simferopol today that the authorities “will not confiscate for three months Islamic literature that was allowed by Ukrainian authorities and is banned by Russian legislation.”
Aksyonov added that the list of Islamic literature banned by Russian law will be made public by local media.
Aksyonov initially said authorities would stop confiscating banned printed materials from Muslims at his meeting with Crimean Muslims on October 13.
A series of reforms are being passed by the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, despite the protests outside. The highest-profile bill is the establishment of an independent anti-corruption bureau, and a bill which will require offshore businesses to disclose their actual owners, but several other laws were also passed, including a series of voting reforms. David Ackles reports:
As we’ve been reporting below, journalists outside the Rada to cover the protests outside found that some in the crowd said that they were paid provocateurs and were not members of any political party.
Since the violence outside the Rada could easily eclipse the historic reforms going on inside the Rada, it’s important to note that at least one anti-corruption politician was in the crowd, however it appears she was there despite the violence, not as part of it.
Ukrinform reports that Belyal Bilyalov, a Crimean Tatar student who disappeared yesterday, has been found dead near Simferopol in Russian-occupied Crimea. Another young man, Artem Dairabekov, who also disappeared on Monday, is reportedly in a critical condition in intensive care.
Ukrinform spoke to Riza Asanov, the chairman of the Crimea Fund, a Tatar charity that shared its premises until recently with the now-evicted Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Simferopol.
The Interpreter translates:
“Today one boy was found dead with lacerations. The other has the same injuries and is in critical condition in intensive care. The doctors say that he is unlikely to survive,” said Asanov.
According to him, the young Tatars were found with signs of violent torture.
As the chairman of the Crimea Fund noted, the Crimean Tatars have no doubts that the abductions, beatings and killings of Crimean Tatars are part of the consistent policy of intimidation of the Crimean Tatar people, who have spoken out against the Russian occupation of Crimea.
Earlier, RFE/RL reported on the disappearance of the two young men.
Artem Dairabekov, a first year student at the Tavrida National University set off for the university from his home in Simferopol on Monday at around noon. He dropped his little sister off at school and was supposed to pick her up at 6 p.m. He did not arrive and his telephone is switched off. His parents say that Artem is extremely responsible and would never have simply not turned up. They are understandably worried.
Artem’s aunt, Lilya Belyalova, has told Krym. Realii that his mother is beside herself with worry. The family has reported his disappearance to the police, and are ringing friends, hospitals etc.
According to Artem’s family, the other young student with whom all contact has been lost – Belyal Bilyalov is Artem’s friend.
Not counting these two young men, there have been four abductions or disappearances since Sept 27.
Coynash notes that there have been ‘radically varying’ claims regarding the cause of death of Bilyalov, so we may see further developments shortly.
The site reports that residents say that shelling, presumed to be from Grad rockets, has been heard across the city.
0629 report (translated by The Interpreter):
Residents of the village of Talakovka told 0629 that today has been the loudest so far of the days of shelling. “It feels like the shells are flying right over our roofs,” they say in the village.
The shelling is reportedly coming from the east, near Novoazovsk, which was captured by Russian forces at the end of August.
Shells have also reportedly fallen on Ukrainian positions in the east of Mariupol itself and in the Ilichevsky district to the north.
Dmitry Godbunov, the press secretary for the ATO headquarters in Mariupol, told 0629 that Grad rockets had destroyed farm buildings on the outskirts of the village of Sartana, to the immediate west of Talakovka.
5 civilians were killed and 10 wounded when a shell fell on a funeral procession. This was confirmed by health officials and the city defence headquarters.
Journalists in Kiev are reporting that the violence at the protests outside the Verkhovna Rada earlier today was orchestrated and largely carried out by provocateurs rather than members of ultra-nationalist parties.
Christopher Miller, the former editor of the Kyiv Post and now writing for Mashable, reports that some in the crowd even admitted to being paid.
His comments were echoed by Stefan Huijboom, whose photos from the scene we posted earlier:
Ukrainian ultra-nationalists, many carrying the flags of the far-right Svoboda party and Praviy Sektor, have been protesting outside the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev today.
Translation: Rada security thing that they fired rubber bullets from a pump-action shotgun.
Smoke bombs were also hurled at the building.
The Svoboda party has denied their involvement in the protests despite the ubiquity of their flag.
There were also claims that the violent acts at the protest were initiated by provocateurs, namely Dmytro Korchynsky, who was a prominent figure in violent provocations back in December last year during anti-Yanukovych protests.
Another key anti-corruption measure was the passing of a bill obliging companies and public figures to disclose end beneficiaries of property or investments.
A total of 265 lawmakers voted for the law on Tuesday, October 14.
As reported, the Ukrainian parliament passed this bill at first reading on October 7.
Earlier Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said that if the law is passed any economic entities are obliged to disclose information on real owners.
“Today companies are registered in the offshore zones, and government employees or government members or employees of the presidential administration could be their actual owners. It is impossible to see this. The top-priority task is to disclose information on all real owners of Ukrainian companies so that officials do not hide behind relatives in offshore zones and any third parties who act as nominal owners, while officials are real owners,” he added.
Yatseniuk said that the adoption of the law will allow Ukrainian citizens to receive information on the owners of property in the country.
“We’ll see who has houses, apartments and other property and we’ll get the real access to all databases of Ukrainian property,” he said.
A law abolishing the prosecutor general’s right to supervise the enforcement and compliance of laws was also passed with an overwhelming majority, setting the scene for further reform of the prosecutor general’s office, which has previously been wide open to abuse of power.
News also came from the president, announcing the cancellation of the February 23 public holiday in commemoration of the Maidan protests and replacing it with an October ‘day of Ukraine’s defenders’.
Interfax-Ukraine notes that:
October 14 is the Day of Ukrainian Cossacks and anniversary of the establishment of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Various political forces have been demanding that this day be proclaimed a state holiday for years.
The role of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or UPA is also considered by some to have been critical to the ultra-nationalist protests today, as many among the protesters are reported to have demanded that the government recognise UPA fighters as ‘heroes of Ukraine,’ a move that would be controversial given the UPA’s role in mass killings of Jews and Poles during the Second World War.
Praviy Sektor also called the events outside the Rada today provocations. They appealed on Twitter: