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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Live Day 583

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Will The Middle Eastern Refugee Crisis Impact Ukraine?

Europe's biggest story in the last two months has been the massive influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, most of whom are fleeing war in Syria or Afghanistan. The crisis has even gotten to the point that upon return to the United States last week after a trip to Ukraine, the American Customs agent processing my re-entry mostly wanted to know if Ukraine was also being impacted by the wave of refugees.

The short answer is no -- Ukraine is far away from the route that most of these new refugees are taking through Central European countries like Croatia, Austria, and Hungary. And while the Black Sea may look relatively small on a globe, it's nearly 300 miles of open water between Turkey and mainland Ukraine (and over 170 miles between Turkey and Russian-controlled Crimea). Besides this, Ukraine has been exporting its own refugees to Europe. According to the latest assessment by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, released February 2015, 731,422 people had been internally displaced by the conflict in the Donbass and the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. There are newer estimates that 1.2 million Ukrainians are internally displaced, and on September 14 the Ukrainian Social Policy Ministry reported that more than 1.4 million IDPs, more than 1.1 million families, were at least temporarily displaced by violence in Donbass and Crimea. It's not clear how many refugees have fled Ukraine entirely, either to Europe or to Russia. Clearly, however, Ukraine is already struggling to house and employee internally-displaced persons, so it's no surprise that it's not a central hub for foreign refugees.

Such is the magnitude of the refugee crisis in the Middle East, however, that this could be changing. Kyiv Post reports that Ukraine has actually already settled more than 300 Syrian refugees in the last year:

Nevertheless, "an influx of migrants from abroad is not expected in Ukraine due to the unstable economic situation and the huge number of internal displaced people from Crimea and Donbas,” Serhiy Gunyak, a spokesman for the State Migration Service, told the Kyiv Post.

Those Syrians who chose to seek refuge in Ukraine faced similar problems to their compatriots who travelled west and north.

“Migrants aren’t rushing here, because it’s difficult to get in Ukraine,” Ali Ashura, a member of the Syrian community in Odesa, told the Kyiv Post.

“There is no instant access to Ukrainian borders, like in Turkey or Greece for example. What is more, it’s rather difficult for Syrians even to get a tourist visa here,” Ashura said.

More than 300 Syrians get refugee status in Ukraine in 2014-2015

In recent weeks a flood of refugees from Syria has threatened to swamp the European Union and wreck the Schengen Zone system of free movement among EU countries. While most of the refugees head for wealthy northern European countries like Germany and Sweden, Ukraine has been taking in a small number as well - a little more than 300 in the last year.

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Sep 23, 2015 19:11 (GMT)
There have even been suggestions that Syrian refugees who have been hitting geographical or political roadblocks in Central Europe could pass from Bulgaria to Romania, on to western Ukraine and from there into Poland:

But it's probably still too early to expect Ukraine to become a major hub for these refugees. Just last month Polish president Andrzej Duda warned that his country could be overwhelmed by a possible wave of Ukrainian refugees if the conflict in the east were to escalate or the winter was particularly harsh. Those fears may be alleviated by the ongoing ceasefire which is at least somewhat holding, but the current dynamics in Ukraine are unlikely to make it a permanent home for large numbers of refugees.

Furthermore, at least for now, there is no evidence that large numbers of refugees are using Ukraine to move into wealthier European countries. But if the last month has taught us anything it's that the situations in places like Syria are so horrendous that refugees are willing to go great lengths to find a better life.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Authorities Arrest Former Sevastopol Councillor Who Supported Russian Annexation

The Sevastopol Gazette reports that Vladimir Galichy, a former member of the Sevastopol city council who voted in favour of unification with Russia after the takeover of Crimea last year, has been arrested by the Ukrainian authorities.


According to the report, Galichy was heading back into Crimea from mainland Ukraine when he was stopped yesterday afternoon by Ukrainian border guards at the Kalanchak checkpoint on the frontier between Ukrainian and Russian-controlled territory.

Galichy's wife, Nina, told the newspaper that she was unable to reach her husband until midnight, after he was led away by armed border guards at 15:00.

She was told that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) had sent on an order from the Pechersky district court, dated August 27, for her husband's arrest on suspicion of treason. Nina told the Sevastopol Gazette that she had been able to give him medication he requires for his diabetes.

At 3 am today, Galichy managed to report that he was being taken to Kiev. 

The newspaper notes that Galichy was amongst 49 members of the City Council who voted for unification with Russia on March 16, 2014.

The occupying Russian authorities have been notified of the arrest.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Masked Men, Some Carrying Azov Flags, March On Dobkin's Home And Kharkiv City Council

In Kharkiv today, unidentified activists in balaclavas have attempted to storm the City Council building. 

Translation: Kharkiv activists in balaclavas have reached the City Council building. They're chanting: "Glory to Kiev Rus! Novorossiya - suck on it!"

Translation: Kharkiv. The entrance to the City Council is SEALED OFF BY POLICE

Translation: Kharkiv. A scuffle has broken out between activists and police

Translation: Kharkiv. A law enforcement officer attempted to prevent a Hromadske-Kharkiv journalist from taking pictures.

Translation: After the scuffle the activists have moved off from the City Council building

According to Ukrainski Novyny, the activists departed in five minibuses.

Earlier this morning, a group of young activists, most wearing balaclavas and some carrying the flag of the Azov Regiment, have stormed a compound belonging to MP and former governor of the Kharkiv region, Mikhail Dobkin. Some of those who took part in this action were also present later outside the City Council.

Translation: Kharkiv. Activists have now reached Dobkin's home and are blocking the exit

Translation: Kharkiv. Activists have covered a window from where a security guard was peering out with white paint

Translation: Activist from the Azov Civil Corps: we're having a peaceful protest.

Translation: On the grounds of the house (on the other side) there are armed men

Translation: Kharkiv. The activists have thrown fireworks over the fence and finished their protest

While activists were trying to get into the City Council building, a regular session of the Council, headed by mayor Hennadiy Kernes.

Both Kernes and Dobkin are controversial figures in Ukrainian politics. They were supporters of Viktor Yanukovych, and involved in the organisation of the 'Ukrainian Front,' a movement of pro-Russian, Yanukovych loyalists that rallied against the EuroMaidan revolution. 

While criminal charges of separatism against Dobkin were eventually dropped, he was replaced as governor. He remains an MP in the Opposition Bloc party, formed out of the remnants of Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Kernes, who survived an assassination attempt last year (in which he claims the interior minister, Arsen Avakov, was involved), is now facing the possibility of serious criminal charges after being named as a suspect in a torture and kidnapping case.

Today, Ukrainski Novyny reports, Kernes told reporters that the activists had asked for him to come to a meeting with them and Dobkin.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Military Reports Attacks Throughout Almost All Of Last Night Near Gorlovka

Vladislav Voloshin, press officer for Ukrainian military operations in what the General Staff dub 'Sector S,' has told the 112 television channel that Russian-backed forces fired on Ukrainian troops near Gorlovka throughout almost all of last night.

Voloshin said the situation in Sector S was deteriorating. Over the last 24 hours, there were eight attacks, most of them conducted with small arms, there was also sniper and automatic grenade launcher fire.

Furthermore, the press officer reported, there had been "provocative" small-arms fire towards Ukrainian positions near Luganskoye and Svetlodarsk throughout almost the whole evening. Voloshin said that the attacks could be connected to enemy training operations.

The Interpreter translates:

"They're trying to work out their tactics... Coupled with this, they're testing the Ukrainian soldiers' nerves, whether they will respond to the provocations staged by the militants."

The ATO Press Centre reported this morning that Ukrainian positions in or around the settlements of Mayorsk, Zaytsevo, Luganskoye and Lozovoye had come under attack.

At around 18:00 and 19:00, a Ukrainian defensive position in Mayorsk came under sniper, small-arms and grenade launcher fire. Small arms were used at 19:00 against positions in Zaytsevo. In Lozovoye, a Ukrainian defensive position was attacked at 18:55, 21:40 and 22:30.

At around 23:00, Russian-backed fighters fired on Ukrainian troops in Luganskoye. Earlier in the evening, 30 rounds from automatic grenade launchers had been fired towards the village, landing around 300 metres from Ukrainian positions.


Meanwhile Ruslan Tkachuk, spokesman for Ukrainian operations in the Lugansk region, reported that there had been one attack in the region last night.

Tkachuk said this morning that Russian-backed fighters fired on a Ukrainian defensive position to the south of separatist-held Sokolniki with an automatic grenade launcher for seven minutes, starting at 22:30. 

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency reports no attacks by Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk region last night.

-- Pierre Vaux