Tag Archives: Donbass

Lithuania: letter “Z” ban

Brussels 20.04.2022 The Parliament of Lithuania voted to ban public displays of the letter “Z”, the black and orange ribbon of St George, and other symbols seen as expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The vote took place on Tuesday, April 19.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are prominently marked with the letter “Z”, and it has started appearing on social media and on garments elsewhere in support of the Russian army.

Meanwhile the ribbon of St.George, first introduced as an honour by Catherine the Great, has gained significance in the Russian-speaking sphere since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the troops into Ukraine on what he calls a “special military operation” to “de-militarise and de-nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

The Lithuanian decision occurs after similar bans in Latvia and Moldova. Germany was also considering such a ban. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has previously called for a universal ban of the political use of the letter “Z,” saying it signified “Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians.”

MEPs unequivocally support Ukraine

Strasbourg 06.05.2022 Debating last week’s EU Summit with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen and EU Foreign Policy Chief Borrell, MEPs united in showing solidarity and giving more help to Ukraine.

On Wednesday morning, MEPs discussed the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 24-25 March 2022, including the latest developments in the war against Ukraine. They called for further sanctions against Russia, additional support for Ukraine and for reducing the EU’s energy dependency.

European Council President Charles Michel sent a direct message to the Russian soldiers involved in war crimes, saying, “If you don’t want to be a criminal, stop fighting. Leave the battlefield”. He also mentioned the need for more sanctions: “Measures on oil and even gas will also be needed sooner or later.” On China, President Michel said, “we need to raise the awareness amongst the Chinese authorities not to support the war and not to help Russia avoid sanctions.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “humanity itself was killed in Bucha”, that the perpetrators must pay, and that they will be held accountable. With regard to the new package of sanctions against Russia, she said that the pressure on Putin must be further increased, to limit the Kremlin’s political and economic options. “Those sanctions will not be our last sanctions”, President von der Leyen said, stressing that “we must look into oil” and that Russia’s fossil fuel revenue stream must end.

However there were also recalcitrant remarks made by vice-President of the European Parliament Giuseppina “Pina” Picierno (Italy, S&D) rejecting the other Italian MEP the freedom of thought:
“Today the Vice-President of the #European Parliament denied my right of expression in the Chamber, attacking me for asking for an independent investigation in Ukraine in light of the UN’s denunciation of violence against civilians by the Ukrainian army. Listen to yourself” wrote an independent MEP Fransesca Dontato.

“We have to have fewer rounds of applause but more arms for Ukraine” so they can defend themselves against Russia, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said, urging Europe to step up. Connecting energy policy with defence, he said Europe has so far spent roughly one billion euros on supporting Ukraine, the same amount the EU pays to Russia every day for its energy. “We have to reduce our energy dependence: for once, climate change and geopolitics go hand in hand,” he said.

MEPs expressed shock at the images of the massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, with several calling Vladimir Putin a war criminal and demanding he be tried at an international criminal court. In parallel, many MEPs argued for more support for Ukraine, including both money and weapons.

MEPs welcomed the fifth EU sanctions package presented on 5 April, but all speakers demanded the EU go further, with several proposing an immediate oil embargo. MEPs called for a complete ban on the use by Russian banks of the SWIFT system and bringing a wider group of oligarchs under the EU’s sanctions regime.

Several speakers warned that the surge in energy prices is affecting each member state differently and some of them dramatically so. They called for assistance for member states to ease their burden.

Borrell: Europe at “critical juncture”

Brussels 22.02.2022 The reunion of the EU top diplomat in Foreign Affairs Council has been called “the longest and most intense” among remembered by Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative, who shared with Brussels press the conclusions.

“Obviously, the main topic was the situation in Ukraine. In Ukraine, Russia has created the biggest threat to peace and stability in Europe since the Second World War. In Europe – the biggest threat to peace and stability. We are at a critical juncture. Everything we believe in and has been framing our lives – international rules, principles and progress achieved since the end of the Cold War – all that is being challenged.

“We have condemned the Russian military build-up close to Ukraine, the increased ceasefire violations and provocations from the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“We have also condemned actions, staged events and information manipulations that are clearly aimed at creating a pretext for military escalation against Ukraine. It is a classical way of behaving. You create a pretext for a military escalation.
We commend Ukraine for its restraint in face of this intimidation and violations of Minsk agreements and international law.

“In the meantime, while we were discussing inside the Council meeting, we were following the discussions of the Russian Security Council with strong concern. We understand that the final decision has not been taken yet. We call upon President [of Russia, Vladimir] Putin to respect international law and the Minsk agreements and expect him not to recognise the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. We are ready to react with a strong, united front in case he should decide to do so. We expect that he will not, but if he does, we will react with a strong and united front.

“Today we have had Foreign Minister [of Ukraine Dmytro] Kuleba and we have reaffirmed our unity, our resolve and solidarity with Ukraine. Because the Ukrainian security is our security.
We will continue supporting Ukraine on all fronts. Today we have adopted formally the Decision proposed by the Commission to provide 1.2 billion euros in macro-financial assistance to Ukraine.

“We have also decided to provide support to Ukraine’s Army with Professional Military Education [reform] developed under the European Peace Facility. We will increase our support against cyber-attacks and in countering disinformation. We will send a mission of experts to help Ukraine to face cyber-attacks.
We have also been looking into the possibility of a joint session of the Foreign Affairs Council, with the Ukrainian partners in Kyiv.

“I want to confirm that our embassies and diplomatic missions remain open and fully operational. With the single exception of one country, all others remain in Kyiv. Their embassies are there, open and operational, plus the European Union Delegation.

“It will be soon 8 years since Russia invaded and illegally annexed Crimea. I want to repeat again that any further aggression against Ukraine would have a strong answer from the European Union. But I want to add that this will apply also to Belarus, should an attack be conducted from its territory or with its involvement”.

EU diplomacy focus on Russia

Brussels 24.01.2022 Anna van Densky “…On the Foreign Affairs Council today, we had important topics and we have been joined by two important guests. First, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, for our discussion on Syria, and the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, for the discussion on Russia and European Security” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell addressing Brussels press after the Foreign Affairs Council.

“Let me start with this last point right away, because certainly it has been the most important point on the agenda. The most important take-away is that we have reconfirmed our strong unity and our united approach on the challenges to European security. Our unity is our strength, and there is no doubt in the Council about this. In this regard, we agreed Council Conclusions that you have already seen – and they are, more or less, the ones we agreed on the informal meeting at Brest.

“The Russian military build-up in and around Ukraine and Russia’s attempts to re-create dividing lines on our continent, undermine the core foundations and principles on which European security is built and bring back dark memories of spheres of influence, which do not belong to the 21st century. We reaffirmed our full and unquestionable support to Ukraine and that any military aggression against Ukraine will have serious consequences and massive cost for the perpetrator.

“We have had a long exchange with Secretary Blinken and it was particularly useful to further assess the way ahead – jointly, the United States and the European Union – and we will continue our very strong and close coordination with our partners as we have been doing during this process. The European Union has not been absent in the talks with Russia, because before and after each meeting we have been coordinating, discussing, informing together the United States and the European Union. And I, personally, had phone calls and collective calls with the United States and NATO in order to be completely aware of what was going on.

There are three main elements that will guide our way ahead.

“First, our collective diplomatic efforts to convince Russia to take the path of dialogue will continue, even though the Russian rhetoric does not inspire a lot of confidence.

“From this point of view, Ministers have tasked me to continue coordinating the European Union position with all our key partners, notably the United States, NATO and the OSCE Chairmanship-in-office to ensure the effectiveness of our efforts. And we call on Russia to continue engaging constructively in established mechanisms, such as the OSCE and the NATO – Russia Council. We must also continue to support the efforts to reactivate the Normandy 4 process and the work of the Trilateral Contact Group on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

“We will also continue engaging with our international partners to explain what is happening in Europe and the Russian threats, and to try to clarify the disinformation that Russia is wide spreading about these facts. We need to step up our strategic communication and push back disinformation. I invite you to have a look at the EUvsDisinfo(link is external) publications in the network, where we debunk some dangerous narratives that are being spread. Today we have put on this webpage an explanation about the seven myths that Russia is wide spreading(link is external) about what is happening on the Eastern border of Europe.

“Secondly, should diplomacy fail – we are going to do our best for diplomacy to work – we are very well advanced in preparations of responses to a potential Russian aggression. And, certainly, it will be a quick and determined action with strong unity – not only within the European Union, but also internationally.

“Thirdly, we must step up our efforts to enhance Ukraine’s and other partners’ resilience. There are concrete actions that we can take and that we are taking. The President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] announced today a financial assistance package made of emergency loans and grants to support Ukraine in the medium and long term. Doubling our grants, our support and providing an emergency financial support of €1.2 billion. That is a very important amount of money that Vice-President [of the European Commission, Valdis] Dombrovskis and my colleague Commissioner [for Neighbourhood and Enlargement] Olivér [Várhelyi] will visit Ukraine to announce and to share this news with the Ukrainian authorities.

“We are also looking out to support Ukraine in another key areas”.

Donbass 1M residents receive Russian passport

Brussels 25.04.2021 The number of residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk self-proclaimed People’s Republics who have received Russian citizenship in a simplified manner may almost double by the end of 2021 – up to 1 mln people, according to Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Vodolatsky.

“Today, there are 538,000 citizens of Russia living in the territory of Donbass. According to the forecasts that exist today, and according to the statements that exist today, by the end of this year, up to 1 mln residents of Donbass will become citizens of the Russian Federation,” Vodolatsky said.

In two years it was possible to develop a system of clear interaction between the Main Directorate for Migration Issues of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the relevant services of the Lugansk and Donetsk for processing documents for obtaining Russian citizenship.

“At the beginning, there were certain difficulties, problems, people simply did not know and did not understand where to turn, which way to go. To date, all bureaucratic barriers have been removed, a very active process of obtaining Russian citizenship is in progress,” the State Duma deputy said.

On April 24, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree simplifying the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for residents of the Lugansk and Donetsk self-proclaimed People’s Republics. The first passports were issued on July 14.

EU extends sanctions against Russia

The Council today decided that current sanctions in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine should be extended for a further six months until 15 September 2020.

https://twitter.com/eucouncilpress/status/1238490097240154113?s=21

These restrictive measures provide not only for a freezing of funds, but also a prohibition against making funds or other economic resources available to the listed persons. They currently apply to 175 persons and 44 entities, following the removal of two deceased persons from the list.

Other EU measures in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine include:

economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy, currently in place until 31 July 2020;
restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2020.
The legal acts were published in the Official Journal on 13 March 2020.

Image: Crimea bridge at night, source: social media

EU welcomes Ukraine exchange of prisoners

“A significant exchange of detainees took place following an agreement reached by the Trilateral Contact Group” reads the statement of the European External Action Service on exchange of detainees between Kiev and sefl-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Lughansk.

“This is a welcome example of implementation of one of the measures agreed at the Normandy 4 Summit of 9 December. The European Union expects all parties to further build on this momentum. Work to implement the measures agreed at the Summit must continue.

“We take note of the exchange of people related to the tragic events on Maidan in 2014. We expect all accusations will continue to be investigated and the parties concerned to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

“The European Union reaffirms its support to the work of the Normandy format, the OSCE and the Trilateral Contact Group. It stresses the importance of the implementation of the Minsk agreements in full, including a permanent ceasefire. It is the only way to reach a sustainable and peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The European Union remains in steadfast support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Kiev and Donbass exchange prisoners

Kiev is exchanging dozens of prisoners with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the first time in two years. The swap is a direct result of the recent Normandy Four talks in Paris, hosted by President Macron.

The Donetsk authorities has handed over 51 people to Kiev, while receiving 61. The Lugansk region returned 25 and took in 63 prisoners; nine people held by Kiev refused to take part in the exchange.

The office of Ukrainian President confirmed that Kiev had received a total of 76 people from Donetsk and Lugansk.
Donetsk’s responsible for the exchange said their list could be longer, as some people asked to be repatriated shortly before the exchange.

The swap, carried out under an “all for all” formula, was the first since a similar humanitarian effort in December 2017.

The prisoner exchange was overseen by officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). No ceasefire violations were recorded on the frontier during the exchange operation.

Macron hosts Normandy Summit

The meeting in “Normandy format” concerning Donbass conflict will take place in Paris on December 9 in Élysée Palace, hosted by President Macron, and will include Russian President Putin, Ukrainian President Zelensky, and German Chancellor Merkel. The name of the event is a reference to 2014 peace talks, initiated by President Hollande on the margin of ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Negotiations in Paris will focus on the implementation of the 2014-15 Minsk peace agreement, which provided for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and an effective truce, putting an end to casualties among military and civilians.

Since Zelensky’s election victory in April an exchange of 70 prisoners, the withdrawal of the troops from three small areas on the front line, and the return of Ukrainian warships seized by Russian coast guards.

Vladimir Putin had conceded “cautious optimism” on the issue of the break-away Russian-speaking regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, both proclaiming their independence in aftermath of the coup d’état in Kiev, when democratically elected Ukranian President Yanukouvych was overthrown and field the country.

Earlier in the week Zelensky indicated that he initially wanted the Paris talks to focus on three points: a new exchange of prisoners, the implementation of a durable ceasefire, and the dismantling of any armed group “illegally” in Ukrainian territory – implicitly referring to Russian-speaking militia in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Moscow’s priority, in contrast, is to create condition for the elections in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, moving to the point “8” of the Minsk Agreements, guaranteeing de-centralisation of power, and permanent Special status of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. People of Donbass been also insisting on their linguistic rights, peoples militia, and border trade with Russia.

Macron and Merkel share the goal of reviving peace process, which is the only active armed conflict in Europe, which has caused more than 13,000 deaths since it occurred in 2014. Tomorrow’s gathering will be the first meeting between Putin and Zelensky, who was elected upon promise to resolve the Donbass conflict, and establish lasting peace in East of Ukraine.

Putin to meet Zelensky bilaterally

Russian President Vladimir Putin schedules bilateral meetings with Ukrainian, French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and President Vladimir Zelensky at margins of the Normandy Four Summit in Paris on December 9, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced.

Peskov underlined that the Kremlin expected the Normandy Four summit will contribute to conflict resolution in southeastern Ukraine.

“[Putin’s] attitude is serious, the only expectation is to facilitate efforts to resolve the domestic conflict in southeastern Ukraine, ensure a common understanding that there is no alternative to implementing the Minsk Agreements and prevent attempts to dilute them,” spokesperson said.

Peskov expressed confidence in French authorities capabilities to succeed in creating necessary conditions for thec Summit despite the current protests in Paris.

We are not inclined to exaggerate the threats the Summit could face as we believe that the French authorities are capable of creating conditions for the meeting and will do it,” Peskov said.

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