Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (Audio)

Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (Audio)

Situation in Donbas – Weekly Review

The Donetsk sector remains the epicenter of hostilities in the conflict zone in the east of Ukraine. The sharp rise of violence in Donbas was observed in mid-week with the Donetsk airport and the Svitlodarska Bulge being in the midst of separatists’ attacks. While summing up the current of events in Donbas in the past week Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine said, “There was a continued violence in the eats of Ukraine last week. We did observe, in fact, a 30% increase in the number of ceasefire violations recorded by the OSCE SMM. Approximately half of those violations were recorded in the Yasinuvata, Avdiivka, Donetsk airport triangle. Over 3200 ceasefire violations were recorded in that area last wee, a level of violence not seen since the New Year commitment to the ceasefire.”

On Tuesday, Feb.06, it was informed that an ammunition mishandling incident took place in Krasnohorivka, Donetsk region. Three children aged 14, 9 and 3 suffered injuries of various degrees of severity. The older girl suffered minor injuries to the chest, the bottom, and the leg. The younger children took grave damage - the boy had three fingers ripped off, and the girl also had one of her fingers ripped off. All three were taken to a hospital, to undergo the urgent treatment. All in all, 49 civilians have died in Donetsk region during the last two years (2016-2017) of Donbas conflict. This was reported by the head of Donetsk region police Mykola Semenyshyn in the interview for Ukrainian media. According to him, 35 civilians have died due to the shelling in 2016, another 14 – in 2017. According to him, the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk refion took the greatest hits. 42 people have died and were injured there, and more that 400 424 infrastructure were damaged.

Ukrainian Team at the 23rd Olympic Games.

  The 23rd Winter Olympic Games are set to officially kick off with the opening ceremony at the South Korean city of Pyeongchang on Friday, Feb. 09. This year, 33 Ukrainian athletes have qualified for the games. They will compete in nine out of the 15 featured sports. This is the sixth time Ukraine has participated in the Winter Olympics since it first began in 1994 to attend top international sporting events as an independent country. Although Ukraine hasn’t had much luck at the Winter Games in the past, having won only seven medals, the country is pinning hopes on what is traditionally its strongest event – the biathlon. Volodymyr Brynzak, the head of the Biathlon Federation of Ukraine, who accompanies the Ukrainian national teams in Pyeongchang said, “We pin our major hope to biathlon competitions, our female team, which usually wins most of the medals in this sport, are in good form. It’s very frosty and windy here, and this might influence the competition results. Nevertheless, our mood is combative.” The competition will be held in Pyeongchang, a county in the north of South Korea, on Feb. 9-25. While it was the host of the Summer Games in 1988, the country has never held a Winter Olympics before. The program includes alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding and speed skating. Four new disciplines in existing sports have been added, including big air snowboarding, mass start speed skating, mixed doubles curling, and mixed team alpine skiing.
This year’s competition is in many ways unique in the history of the sporting event. Among the 93 participating countries, there are six newbies making a debut at this year’s Winter Olympics: Eritrea, Nigeria, Ecuador, Malaysia, and Singapore. One of the most unexpected participants this time is North Korea. Having been in conflict with South Korea since 1945, the country boycotted the Summer Games held in Seoul 30 years ago. These Olympic Games will also be the first that Russia has not attended since its independence. After conducting an investigation, the International Olympic Committee’s commission discovered Russia had systematically manipulated the doping control process, and that Russian athletes had benefited from the cheating for years. The organization stripped Russia of 13 medals, and 43 Russian athletes were disqualified from competition in 2018. The Russian Olympic Committee was also suspended from the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Ukraine Will Apply Every Effort to Free Roman Suchenko

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko assured that everything will be done so that journalist Roman Sushchenko, who is illegally detained in a Russian detention center, can return to Ukraine and to his family as soon as possible. "Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko celebrates his second birthday in a Russian prison, where he is being held by the Kremlin regime for false accusations. However, we will do our best to let Roman return to Ukraine as soon as possible", said Poroshenko. Moreover, the Head of State assured that all possible measures will be taken for the return of other Ukrainian prisoners in the territory of the Russian Federation, in the occupied Crimea and the Donbas. Diplomats from the Embassy of Ukraine in the Russian Federation congratulated illegaly sentenced Roman Sushchenko by organizing a flash mob, which was held on the territory of the embassy. Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Charge d'Affaires of Ukraine in the Russian Federation, said, “We hope and do our best that Roman celebrates his next birthday in the circle of friends and relatives.”   
Ukrinform speacial correspondent in France, Roman Sushchenko, was detained in violation of international rules on the 30th of September, 2016 in Moscow, where he arrived on a private trip. On the 7th October, he was accused of "espionage." Currently, Suschenko is in custody, in the end of January 2018, the Moscow City Court extended the detention of Sushchenko for two more months - until the 30th of March. His lawyer, Mark Feigin, said that litigation in his client's case could begin at best, in the second half of February.

Roman Sushchenko worked at the Ukrainian National Information Agency "Ukrinform" since 2002, and was a special correspondent in France since 2010. On Thursday, Roman’s colleagues from Ukrinform congratulated their colleague on his birthday. Similar video greetings were recorded by correspondents from Poland, Canada, the Baltic States, Belgium, France. Foreign politicians remember about Roman Sushchenko and wish him a quick release. In particular, the member of the lower house of the Polish parliament, deputy of the "Civil Platform" party Robert Tishkevych congratulated Suschenko as well. «Congratulations to Roman Sushchenko from the Polish Sejm! At the 49th anniversary I wish all the best and quick return to freedom. We remember about you and will not leave you!” he said.

Ukrainian Parliament Called on Polish Sejm to Hold Candid Dialogue oh Controversial Historical Issues

The Ukrainian parliament expressed its disappointment and concern over the adoption by the Polish parliament of amendments to the law on the Institute of National Remembrance. The controversial law provides criminal liability for the denial of crimes of Ukrainian nationalists against Polish citizens. Being approved in the Polish parlaiment after a continuous discussion, the document was signed into law by the Polish president Andrzej Duda on Tuesday, Feb.06.  This piece of legislature has immediately sparked tensions with Israel, the US and Ukraine. Earlier Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko stated that the law does not correspond to the proclaimed principles of strategic partnership between Ukraine and Poland and contains absolutely unacceptable assessments. The newly adopted statement of the Ukrainian parliament says that the new Polish law gives a biased and contradictory definition of this notion, paving the way to manipulations and a rise of anti-Ukrainian sentiments in Polish society. “'The candid dialog, free opinion exchange and academic freedom are under the threat of the criminal prosecution that is inconsistent with the democratic values. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine rejects the policy of the double standards and intrusion of the ides of the collective responsibility of the Ukrainian nation and attempt of Poland to equal the actions of all fighters for the independence of Ukraine to the crimes of two totalitarian regimes of 20 century: Nazi and communistic', the message said. The MPs also noted that the fact that the 'deployment of the anti-Ukrainian attitudes and creation of the aura of the pressure and intimidation can directly influence the rights and freedoms of mostly a million of the Ukrainian who are the labor migrants in Poland' raises the biggest concern. Also, the expressed the concern due to the dismantlement of the Ukrainian memorials in Poland, attacks of the members of the religious events, members of the Ukrainian community in Poland, ban of the holding of the cultural events and chauvinistic rhetoric. Ukrainian MP Borys Tarasyik commented on the parliamentarians’ appeal to their Polish counterparts, “Only objective, balanced and unbiased estimation of all historical circumstances, joint experience of the historical facts, use of the personal but not collective responsibility for the crimes against humanity, military crimes that took place during the first half of 20th century, proper respect and equal care of the honoring of the memory of all victims on the territory of both out states and sincere Christian justification as Pope Saint John Paul II urged us will allow us to avoid the mistakes of the past and build strong and reliable strategic partnership between Ukraine and Poland that is the basis for the peace and safety of the whole Europe and world.”
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine expressed the solidarity with the international community in the issues of the non-admission of the denial of the Holocaust crimes. The Ukrainian parliament urged Poland for the openness and constructiveness in the further development of the bilateral relations.

Documentary about Ukrainian Opera Singer and Volunteer Warrior Released in Ukraine
The film about Vasyl Slipak, the man who gained fame abroad, but returned to Ukraine and continued the fight at the front, is on big screens in Ukraine from the 8th of February. Vasyl Slipak is a world famous opera singer, he left everything in France - friends, family and career - and went to Ukraine to fight when Russia annexed Crimea and started its aggression in the Ukrainian Donbas. The movie "Myth", directed by Ukrainian directors Ivan Yasniy and Leonid Kanter, will be submitted to more than 150 cinematographic festivals around the world.
The title of the film "Myth" is the call sign of Vasyl Slipak in the Volunteer Ukrainian Corp "Right Sector". He chose this name "to honor" his favorite character from the opera Mephistopheles. This is a movie about Vasyl Slipak's life: from birth to death. The shooting took place in the counter-terrorism operation zone (at the same positions where Vasyl served, in the same trench shelter where he fought, lived and slept), in Paris, where he lived for 19 years, in Lviv, Kyiv. In 2014, Paris opera star Vasyl Slipak began to actively assist the Ukrainian army as a volunteer. Until then he visited EuroMaidan in Kyiv and organized anti-Putin protests with the Ukrainian diaspora in Paris, transferred the humanitarian aid to the front, and then he moved.

During a raid towards the side of the enemy, a group of Ukrainian soldiers got under the militant fire - Vasyl did not survive. Film Director Ivan Yasnyi said that they wanted to create the film as soon as possible -  the movie was timed to the anniversary of the death of Vasyl – the 20th of December. But since the creators of the film were receiving materials from all corners of the planet, the release of the film had to be delayed for objective reasons.
Furthermore, the film was designed to be clear not only for the Ukrainian view, but also for viewers from abroad. The film included short amateur videos recorded by friends and relatives of Vasyl. The film directors collected them from all over Ukraine, and referred to his friends abroad with a request to send photos and videos about him. One of these videos struck the director. Unfortunately, the video about one of Vasyl’s performances on the French stage was sent late and it was not included in the film. Ivan Yasniy said, in particular, “People already demand him for an encore, he comes in the outfit of his character and with the Ukrainian flag on his shoulders. I have never seen opera singers go out with the flag of their country, like athletes, as winners. Vasyl represented Ukraine in such a way.”
An important goal for directors is the distribution of this film at film festivals. They want to submit it to more than 150 cinematographic festivals. "Festivals are a great opportunity to promote our film to the world viewer and tell about what is happening in Ukraine. That it is not just a quarrel, but a serious war, to which Vasyl was not indifferent ", the film director said in one of the recent interviews. On the 10th of February, a documentary about Vasyl Slipak will be shown in Italian Milan.