January 11, 2019



U.S. warship at Romanian port 

A U.S. naval warship has arrived at a Romanian port, a show of force by the United States in the Black Sea, which Russia is closely watching. The USS Fort McHenry is the first U.S. ship to enter the Black Sea since a naval standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces near the annexed Crimea Peninsula in November. Romanian and U.S. officials say the dock-landing ship arrived at the port of Constanta on January 7 and will remain there until January 10. It will then hold joint sea maneuvers with a Romanian frigate in territorial and international waters. It wasn’t immediately clear how many U.S. military personnel were involved. A U.S. Navy spokesperson told the TASS news agency that the warship was in the Black Sea in accordance with the international Montreux Convention, which governs naval access to this body of water. The trip comes about six weeks after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and their crews near the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The November 25 confrontation occurred as Ukrainian ships were trying to cross under the Russian-built Kerch Bridge to enter the Sea of Azov. Mariupol, a major Ukrainian port, is situated on the north coast of the Sea of Azov. (RFE/RL, with reporting by TASS and RIA-Novosti)

Ukrainian unit IDs captured soldier 

A Ukrainian military unit has identified a captured soldier in a video posted by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. In a Facebook posting on January 3, the 128th Mountain Brigade said the soldier in the video belongs to the unit. The Ukrainian military unit said statements by the soldier in the video were made under duress and that all efforts were being taken to secure his release. Few other confirmed details of the fate of the soldier, identified as Andriy Kachynskyy, were immediately available. Separatist-controlled media said he was seized while trying to enter a separatist-controlled area of the Donetsk region on December 29, 2018. News of the captured Ukrainian soldier came amid a new truce in eastern Ukraine. The ceasefire took effect on December 29, 2018, and was scheduled to last until January 7. (RFE/RL)

Four Ukrainians dead as ship sinks 

Four Ukrainian citizens have been killed after a cargo ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast, Kyiv’s envoy to Ankara said. The Panama-flagged vessel sent out a distress signal around 150 kilometers off Turkey’s Black Sea province of Samsun, the Turkish coast guard said on January 7. The crew of the Volgo Balt 214 vessel included 11 Ukrainians and two Azerbaijanis, Samsun Governor Osman Kaymak said. Mr. Kaymak said that a total of six crewmen died in the tragedy, while seven others were rescued and taken to hospital. Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Sybiha confirmed there were 11 Ukrainians on board and said that four of them were among the dead. There was no information about the nationalities of the other two dead crew members. The Turkish governor quoted one of the survivors as saying that the ship’s hull split in two after being hit by a powerful wave. Turkey’s coast guard said the search-and-rescue operation was carried out by a plane, three helicopters, and two boats. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, with reporting by AFP, Reuters and AP)

Bodies of three Ukrainians recovered 

Turkish rescue teams say they have recovered the bodies of three Ukrainians who were killed when a cargo ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Andriy Sybiha, wrote on Twitter on January 8 that the bodies of two Ukrainian citizens would be identified in the presence of an envoy from the Ukrainian Consulate in Turkey. Earlier on January 8, Mr. Sybiha said on Twitter that the body of another Ukrainian citizen who died in the incident had been recovered by the rescue teams. (RFE/RL, with reporting by Hurriyet, AP and Memurlar.net)

Ukraine sues Russia over human rights

Ukraine filed a lawsuit against the Russian Federation over the violation of the rights of captured Ukrainian sailors with the European Court of Human Rights. The government of Ukraine fulfilled the instructions of the court and filed a comprehensive application on case No. 55855/18 [over the violation of rights of captured Ukrainian sailors] on January 7, Deputy Justice Minister of Ukraine and Commissioner for the European Court of Human Rights Ivan Lishchyna posted on Facebook. He added that the government of Ukraine had called on the ECHR to recognize the fact that the rights of 24 Ukrainian sailors were violated during an illegal attack by the Russian Federation on Ukrainian ships, the Russian Federation’s wounding and capture of the sailors in the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2018, the illegal detention of the sailors in the penitentiary facilities of the Russian Federation and criminal prosecution. The government of Ukraine says that Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 38 of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated. As reported, on November 25, 2018, Russian border ships attacked three Ukrainian ships heading from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol. Russian special forces fired on and seized three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and 24 sailors aboard. In late December, three wounded sailors were delivered to the Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison. Another 21 sailors are currently held in Moscow’s Lefortovo remand prison. (Ukrinform)

Kyiv expects U.S., NATO assistance 

In 2019, Ukraine expects that NATO and the United States will provide assistance to it to strengthen its defense capabilities, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly has said. “We expect further assistance in strengthening our defense capabilities. In addition, we expect the development of specific projects in such areas as energy and energy security,” he said in an interview with the “Chastime” program of the Voice of America that was shared on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States on January 3. Ambassador Chaly said Russia poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to Europe and the United States. (Interfax Ukraine)

Pirates seize hostages off West Africa 

Pirates seized a cargo ship off the coast of the West African country of Benin, robbing crew members and sailors and abducting six hostages before fleeing, Russia’s Interfax and marine news websites report. Interfax said on January 5 that the assault took place in the early hours of January 2 and that Russian diplomats were informed of the incident by Benin’s Navy. “As we’ve been told by the chief of staff of Benin’s Navy, a ship was seized overnight on January 1-2 near Benin’s territorial waters,” the Russian state-run TASS news agency quoted an official from Moscow’s Embassy in the African country as saying. “There were 26 people on board: two Georgians, four Ukrainians and 20 Russians. Six people were kidnapped,” the official added. The Russian Embassy in Benin later said all six kidnapped sailors were Russian nationals, TASS reported. The ship is now in Nigerian territorial waters, TASS said. The Maritime Bulletin reported, without citing sources, that seven to nine pirates boarded the MSC Mandy cargo ship armed with AK-47 rifles and machetes. It said the ship was traveling from Lome, Togo, to Lagos when attacked. MarineTraffic.com lists the 37,000-ton ship as being Panama-flagged and says it was built in 1993. The website also reported the attack, citing Ambrey Intelligence, a marine security firm. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Interfax, TASS and The Maritime Bulletin)

2 M benefited from visa-free regime

As many as 2 million Ukrainians have been able to benefit from a visa-free regime with the European Union, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine has said. “Two million Ukrainians have already used a visa-free regime with the EU! The visa-free regime does work!” Mr. Poroshenko wrote on his Facebook page on January 3. The Ukrainian president said Ukraine enjoys a visa-free regime with more than 100 countries. “At present, we have a visa-free regime with more than 100 countries. And we continue to open the world for Ukraine and Ukraine for the world,” Mr. Poroshenko said. (Interfax Ukraine)