Rada resolution on Russia’s aggression

KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament on April 21 adopted a resolution “On Repelling the Armed Aggression of the Russian Federation and Overcoming its Consequences.” The aim of the resolution is to establish the legal foundation for consolidated claims against the Russian Federation in connection with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The statement demands that the Russian Federation: immediately withdraw all units of its armed forces from Ukraine and cease any support for terrorist organizations in eastern Ukraine; immediately release all hostages, POWs and illegally detained citizens of Ukraine; return the Ukraine-Russia border to joint control; immediately return annexed Crimea and Sevastopol to Ukrainian control; fully compensate Ukraine for all damages as a result of armed aggression; prosecute and punish all those guilty of planning, preparing and implementing aggression against Ukraine and those guilty of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the event of refusal by Russia, Ukraine asserts its right to appeal to the International Criminal Court to investigate the events from the onset of Russian aggression on February 20, 2014. The resolution reads, “In the event of refusal by the Russian Federation to stop its armed aggression against Ukraine, Ukraine’s Parliament calls upon the international community to strengthen sanctions against the Russian Federation as an aggressor state and accelerate the provision of financial aid and the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, based on the fact that, in opposing Russian armed aggression, Ukraine has stood in defense of a united, democratic Europe and the entire free world.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress, censor.net)

Lukashenka declines parade invitation

MINSK – Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he will travel to Moscow to participate in events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on May 7 and 8, but he will not attend a Victory Day military parade in the Russian capital on May 9. In an interview with Russia’s ITAR-TASS, Mr. Lukashenka said he will preside over a Victory Day parade in Minsk on May 9 instead. Belarus has traditionally been one of Russia’s closest allies, but Mr. Lukashenka has been critical of Moscow’s policies regarding Ukraine. The Belarusian president, however, criticized politicians who have refused to travel to Moscow because of the conflict in Ukraine, saying that it is “an incorrect move” against “the Soviet people and the people of Eastern Europe, who we at that time liberated.” Representatives of about 25 countries – including India, China, Serbia and North Korea – have confirmed they will attend the May 9 parade in Moscow. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by TASS and Sputnik News)

Dutch shift priority in MH17 crash

AMSTERDAM – The Netherlands says that, with nearly all of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) identified, efforts has shifted to finding those responsible for shooting the plane down over Ukraine last year. Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders said on April 16, “Now that we’re very far with repatriation [of the victims’ remains], investigation and prosecution are becoming more central.” The passenger jet was shot down on July 17, killing all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch. Last month, Dutch media reported that a metal fragment from the crash site matches a Russian-made rocket. Russia has suggested that the airliner was downed by the Ukrainian military. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

More remains found at crash site

AMSTERDAM – Dutch investigators say they have recovered “many” more body parts and pieces of wreckage after returning to the site of the MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. According to April 22 news reports, the Dutch Justice Ministry said in a statement that along with human remains investigators also found passengers’ jewelry, passports and photographs. The latest recovery operation began last week in Petropavlivka, about 10 kilometers west of Hrabove, where most debris from the Boeing 777 passenger jet fell. Ukrainian officials and many in the West believe the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists – who have been fighting Ukrainian forces for the past year – with a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. Moscow rejects that explanation and says Ukraine is ultimately responsible.

Pro-Russian journalist killed in Kyiv

KYIV – A prominent Ukrainian journalist known for his pro-Russian views was gunned down in Kyiv, a day after a former lawmaker loyal to ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was found dead in the city. The Ukrainian Internal Affairs Ministry said Oles Buzina was killed near his apartment block on April 16 by two masked gunmen. Mr. Buzina, 45, published opinion pieces in Ukraine’s Segodnya daily newspaper supportive of Russia’s policy toward Ukraine. He ran in last year’s elections for a parliamentary seat for the Russian Bloc party, but was not elected. The killing followed the death of Oleh Kalashnikov, a former member of Parliament for the Party of Regions, who was found dead at his home overnight with gunshot wounds.

Russian authorities indict Sentsov

MOSCOW – Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who was arrested last year by Russian authorities controlling Crimea and accused of plotting terrorist attacks, has received the final version of his indictment. Mr. Sentsov’s lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, told reporters on April 16 that his client had been charged with terrorism and illegal weapons possession. Mr. Sentsov and three other Ukrainian citizens were arrested in May on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in the Crimean cities of Symferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol. Mr. Sentsov is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail. The European Film Academy has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to explain Mr. Sentsov’s arrest.

EU files antitrust case against Gazprom

BRUSSELS – European Union antitrust regulators have charged state-owned Russian gas giant Gazprom with abusing its dominant position in eight Central and Eastern European countries following more than two years of investigation. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement on April 22, “We find that it [Gazprom] may have built artificial barriers preventing gas from flowing from certain Central, Eastern European countries to others, hindering cross-border competition.” In a statement on April 22, Gazprom rejected the EU charges and called them “unfounded.” It added that it “strictly adheres to all the norms of international law and national legislation” in the countries where it operates. Brussels has been probing three main accusations against Gazprom and found that the company imposes territorial restrictions in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia that include export bans and clauses requiring the purchased gas to be used in a specific territory. Brussels has also found that Gazprom used other measures to prevent its gas from flowing cross-border, such as obliging wholesalers in these countries to obtain the company’s agreement to export gas. The second EU finding concerns unfair pricing policy in the three Baltic states – as well as in Poland and Bulgaria – by linking the price of gas to that of oil.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Rebel forces prepare spring offensive in Ukraine

All parties to the Minsk 2 agreement, which has resulted in a shaky ceasefire in southeastern Ukraine since February 12, express varying levels of concern about a possible full resumption of hostilities. On April 10, the pro-Russian Ukrainian rebel leader who heads the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR), Alexander Zakharchenko, warned that the conflict could resume, pointing to Kyiv’s reluctance to implement the Minsk 2 agreement. In fact, Mr. Zakharchenko implied that the possible targets of a fresh rebel offensive might by the key cities of Mariupol and Sloviansk – lost to the regular Ukrainian army last year. “The problem is that we must recover territories that were temporarily occupied, preferably by peaceful means,” he said on April 8 (PressTV, April 9). Mr. Zakharchenko’s warning and the wider fears concerning a fresh outbreak of violence in Donetsk are also reflected in recent statements from both Kyiv and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Faltering Russian economy makes a renewed Ukraine offensive more likely

“Boring” is perhaps the prevalent impression of President Vladimir Putin’s televised four-hour-long Q & A session that aired on April 16, which was meant to demonstrate his good health and relaxed attitude to the great many problems worrying his loyal subjects. The three key points he stressed were that everything is under control, the economy is set to improve from the low point of the crisis, and there will be no war (Slon.ru, April 17). Vladimir Putin persisted with denials about the presence of Russian troops in the Donbas, and gave an evasive answer as to Moscow’s intentions regarding possibly recognizing the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “republics.”
His command of facts and figures was far from convincing to support the first point, and the everyday reality of falling incomes disproves the second one; thus, the commitment to peace inevitably looks dubious. Triumphalism over the “spectacular” annexation of Crimea was gone, overtaken by a return to “mundane” issues such as degenerating health care and the credit crunch to small businesses, which have fueled domestic discontent. And under the Putinist system, such discontent can only be neutralized by a new patriotic mobilization (Moscow Echo, April 17).

“I expressed my strong belief that the European Council needs to continue the current sanctions that are in place until we’ve seen full implementation of the Minsk Agreement… And my expectation is not only Italy, but all countries in Europe will recognize that it would be a wrong message to send to reduce sanctions pressure on Russia when their key implementation steps don’t happen until the end of the year. At minimum, we have to maintain the existing sanction levels until we’ve seen that they’ve carried out the steps that they’re required to under the agreement.”

– U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on April 17 at the White House. “Until the Kremlin makes the decision that Russia should stop being an aggressor-state, which captures territories… and gets out of Donetsk and Luhansk and Crimea – until that moment, Russian terrorists will continue to try to escalate the situation and destabilize the overall situation in Ukraine. …What is my goal and the goal of the country?