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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 673

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.
Russian-Backed Fighters Reach Kominternovo, 10 km from Mariupol; Bar OSCE Observers from Area

The ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] reported today on its Facebook page that Russian-backed forces had reached the so-called "grey zone" near Maripol established by the OSCE, where armed units are banned under the Minsk agreement.

TCN also reported the incursion.

The Interpreter translates:

This morning militants from the pro-Russian unlawful formations numbering up to one reinforced company with armored vehicles entered Komenternove (Kominternovo). Besides firearms and grenade-launchers, the militants have in their arsenal armored vehicles, tanks, and possibly other heavy weapons, the use of which is banned under the Minsk agreement.

The ATO submitted a protest through the Joint Center for Control and Coordination and noted that the militants had not allowed OSCE represents to enter the area of Komenternove, and by evening, were shooting on Ukrainian positions with 82-mm mortars. A diversionary group was also caught attempting to penetrate Komenternove through Ukrainian-controlled territory.

The Russian-backed fighters also continued firing on Peski, Avdeyevka, and Krasnogorovka outside Donetsk. There were also "armed provocations north of Gorlovka on Nvogorodskoye, Mayorskaya and Zaitsevo, said the ATO, using grenade-launchers, large-caliber machine-guns and firearms. They also fired on Schastye, for a total of nearly 30 armed attacks.

As Lugansk News Today points out, Kominternovo is just 10 kilometers from the outskirts of Mariupol.

Meanwhile, the Trilateral Contact Group, made up of representatives from Ukraine and Russia as well as the OSCE, made an agreement for another "quiet regimen" to begin on the night of December 22-23, to enable residents of war-torn Donetsk and other areas to more peacefully spend the holidays.

But in an informal statement on her Facebook page, Darka Olifer, aide to Leonid Kuchma, former president of Ukraine who represents Kiev at the Trilateral group, had a number of concerns, in addition to acknowledging some accomplishments.

She said the agreement to withdraw heavy weapons of more than 100-mm caliber was an achievement, but "the key problem which to this day remains without resolution is the continuation of shelling on the line of contact."

We could note that time and again in recent weeks, we have reported that 82-mm weapons, which were supposed to have been withdrawn, are in fact still often used, mainly by Russian-backed forces but there are claims Ukrainian forces are using them as well.

Olifer said that in the last year more than 150 POWs were released, although many more remain still in captivity. Obtaining the release of POWs continues to be a problem, despite the pledges of the Minsk agreement, although there has been progress on work with the list of disappeared. The ICRC is assisting in the process.

There's also concern about the high water debt in some part of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions in the several millions of hryvnias.

She reiterated the requirements for elections in the Donbass: that they must take place under Ukrainian law, by OSCE standards, with participation by Ukrainian parties and journalists. As the "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Lugansk People's Republic" have banned the pro-Kiev parties and hindered independent journalists, the conditions do not yet apply.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
US Issues Sanctions On 34 New Individuals and Entities

It has been nearly two years since Russia first illegally annexed Crimea then sent its troops into eastern Ukraine, and the United States is imposing a new set of sanctions against 34 individuals and entities for their role in the Russian intervention.

The targets of the sanctions include:

- 14 individuals or entities that are linked to those previous sanctioned, including 8 individuals or entities that have assisted those previously sanctioned in avoiding sanctions.

- 6 Ukrainian separatists who are already on the EU sanctions list.

- 2 former members of the Yanukovych government in Ukraine,  Vitaliy Zakharchenko and Dmytro Tabachnyk.

- 12 entities or individuals operating in Crimea, illegally annexed and occupied by the Russian Federation.

An excerpt from today's Treasury Department announcement:

To maintain the efficacy of existing sanctions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated and identified dozens of individuals and entities under four executive orders (E.O.s) related to Russia and Ukraine.  Today’s action is part of OFAC’s continued effort to counter attempts to circumvent these sanctions, to further align U.S. measures with those of its international allies, and to provide additional information to assist the private sector with sanctions compliance.

“It is critical that Russia takes the steps necessary to comply with its obligations under the Minsk Agreements and to ensure a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine,” said John E. Smith, Acting OFAC Director.  “By more closely matching our designations with those of our international partners and thwarting attempts to evade sanctions¸ we are once again demonstrating the United States’ unwavering resolve to pressure Russia to respect the security and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

In today’s action, OFAC named 34 individuals and entities under Ukraine-related sanctions authorities.  This includes 14 individuals and entities linked to those that have engaged in serious and sustained evasion of existing sanctions or are 50 percent or more owned by a designated entity; six separatists designated for threatening the security or stability of Ukraine; two former Ukrainian government officials for being complicit in the misappropriation of public assets and/or threatening the security or stability of Ukraine; and 12 entities for operating in the Crimea region of Ukraine.  OFAC also identified a number of subsidiaries that are owned 50 percent or more by the previously-designated VTB Bank, Sberbank, and Rostec.

Today’s steps support the U.S. commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine by maintaining our sanctions on Russia.  Those sanctions will not begin to be rolled back until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk Agreements, including the return to Ukraine of control of its side of the international border with Russia.  These steps also demonstrate our sustained commitment to a policy of non-recognition with respect to Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea, and our intent to maintain Crimea-related sanctions until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.  A number of the individuals and entities designated today have also been previously designated by the European Union (EU), underscoring continued trans-Atlantic unity in responding to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The statement was met with scorn by the Kremlin. Reuters reports:

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the measures were a continuation of an "unfriendly stance" toward Russia. In such cases, he said, "a principle of reciprocity prevails."

This week, The European Union extended their own sanctions against Russia for another seven months:

-- James Miller