Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on July 23: ‘I instruct the committee to propose for the government’s consideration a list of individual and sector sanctions on Russian citizens and legal entities supporting and financing terrorism in Ukraine in 10 days.’
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on July 23 Kyiv would impose sanctions on Russian individuals and companies who directly or indirectly support “terrorists” fighting against government troops in the country’s east.
Yatseniuk told a meeting of his ministers that he had set up a special committee to work on the punitive measures.
“I instruct the committee to propose for the government’s consideration a list of individual and sector sanctions on Russian citizens and legal entities supporting and financing terrorism in Ukraine in 10 days,” he said.
He did not give any details of what form the sanctions could take.
Kiev and the West accuse Russia of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow denies. The United States and the European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russian individuals and companies over Ukraine.
Some in the West have called for tougher sanctions on Russia after a Malaysian airliner was downed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine last Thursday killing all 298 on board.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, writing by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Some of the victims’ begin the “long journey home”
The first planes carrying victims’ bodies from crashed flight MH17 have left Ukraine for the Netherlands, where experts will begin identifying them.
The Dutch prime minister will meet the planes in Eindhoven, amid a national day of mourning for the victims.
A total of 200 bodies have so far been accounted for from the 298 victims, 193 of whom were Dutch nationals.
The US says it believes pro-Russian rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane on 17 July by mistake.
The rebels, who control the area around the crash site, have also been accused of stalling the release of the bodies and tampering with evidence.
A refrigerated train carriage carrying about 200 bodies arrived at the government-held city of Kharkiv on Tuesday, four days after the crash.
Experts said they would continue to search the crash site.
Honour guards carried the coffins on to two planes at Kharkiv airport
Teams of investigators from several countries are still at the crash site.
On Wednesday morning, 40 coffins were slowly loaded on to two military planes at Kharkiv airport.
The BBC’s Daniel Sandford in Kharkiv says ambassadors, officials and soldiers gathered to see off the planes.
Australian government envoy Angus Houston said the ceremony was intended to give the victims the “respect and dignity they deserve” after a “tragedy of unspeakable proportions”.
Dutch government representative Hans Docter said the victims had begun their “long journey” home.
The first flight is due to arrive in Eindhoven at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) and will be met by members of the Dutch royal family and the Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The bodies are then due to be taken to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks south of Hilversum for identification.
Mr Rutte said that process could take months.
In a separate process, the “black box” flight-data recorders from MH17 have arrived in the UK, where they will be examined at the headquarters of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Farnborough.
In Washington, officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence presented evidence they had gathered on the involvement of the rebels.
“It’s a solid case that it’s an SA-11 [missile] that was fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create,” said the officials, who requested that their names not be reported.
They said the “most plausible explanation” for the shooting down of the plane was that rebels mistook it for another aircraft.
The evidence they presented included:
- Satellite images of a facility allegedly used to train rebels near the Russian city of Rostov, which were later tweeted by Geoffrey Pyatt, US ambassador to Ukraine
- Other images purportedly showing a surface-to-air missile launcher in the area
- Analysis of voice recordings of pro-Russian rebels apparently admitting bringing the airliner down
- Photos and messages from social-media sites pointing to rebel involvement
Experts have expressed concern that forensic evidence at the crash site could be lost.
Separately, a rebel militiaman told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had been ordered to the crash site minutes after the plane had gone down.
He said his commanders had told him: “We’ve just shot down one of the Kiev fascists’ planes.”
The militiaman said: “We thought we were looking for baled-out Ukrainian pilots but instead we found dead civilians.”
The US and other nations have accused rebels of blocking access to the crash site, putting valuable evidence at risk.
In Australia, former American President Bill Clinton paid tribute to six HIV/Aids campaigners who were on board MH17.
He said their lives had been “overpowering in their contribution to a shared future”.
Meanwhile, the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and rebels has continued, with reports of fighting near Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday the army had captured the town of Severodonetsk, 140km (90 miles) from the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.
Journalists working in Ukraine are being intimidated by pro-Russian separatists on a daily basis, and not only in the country’s eastern region. It’s also tough for Ukrainian journalists who try to work inside Russia.
Here is a catalogue of incidents so far this month involving the media, courtesy of a summary compiled by the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, and reports on the website of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
On 20 July, pro-Russian separatists detained 10 journalists outside the morgue in Donetsk while reporting on the aftermath of the MH17 tragedy.
They included Kevin Bishop, a BBC reporter, Anna Nemtsova, a Russian reporter for the Daily Beast, Simon Shuster, a US reporter for Time magazine, Italian journalist Lucia Sgueglia, and two reporters for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, Paul Hansen and Jan Lewenhagen.
They were released after questioning by the security service of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk. A Russian TV crew with Russia Today, who arrested the day before, were held overnight before their release. (See also CPJ report)
On 18 July, Ukrainian reporter Yevgeny Agarkov, who works for channel 2+2, was convicted of “working illegally as a journalist” in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia. He was sentenced to spend 10 days in solitary confinement and ordered to pay a small fine (£30). He will then be expelled from Russia and banned from the entering country for five years.
Immigration officials told the administrative court that Agarkov was not accredited by the Russian foreign ministry.
He went to Voronezh to cover the case of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot who is being held for alleged complicity in the deaths of Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, who were killed by mortar fire in eastern Ukraine on 17 June.
On 17 July, police in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, received anonymous hoax messages about bombs having been planted in the offices of two national TV stations.
Searches of Inter and 5 Kanal, which is owned by President Petro Poroshenko, proved fruitless. It was the third false bomb alert at 5 Kanal in July.
On 11 July, the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a Ukrainian organisation partnered with Reporters Without Borders, released figures for media freedom violations during the first half of 2014.
According to its tally, six journalists were killed in connection with their work; 249 were injured or attacked; and at least 55 were taken hostage or detained.
IMI’s director, Oksana Romanyuk, said: “Physical attacks against journalists and other media workers currently pose one of the main challenges for the media profession… Ending impunity and defending the public’s right to information should be one of the main items on the new president’s agenda.”
On 10 July, pro-Russian rebels seized all the computer equipment and video cameras from the offices of the Luhansk-based news website Politika 2.0.
Its editor, Serhiy Sakadynski, said the raid took place after a Politika 2.0 reporter was accused by separatists of spying because she took photos of Luhansk railway station.
Sakadynski was beaten up during the raid and detained by the gang. They released him the following day after “influential persons” intervened. The equipment was not returned.
On 10 July, a Luhansk-based TV station, Luhansk Cable Television (LKT), announced that it had suspended broadcasting because it could no longer guarantee the safety of employees.
The station’s owner told employees he was placing them all on leave until further notice. The wife of LKT’s legal adviser, Igor Zazimnik, was killed by a stray bullet on the balcony of her apartment the same day. Two other local TV broadcasters, IRTA and LOT, have also had to suspend operations.
On 8 July, a TV crew working for the Ukrainian national TV channel, Inter, came under mortar fire in a village near Luhansk.
Reporter Roman Bochkala was taken to hospital after breaking his arm while scrambling for shelter. His cameraman, Vasyl Menovshchikov, was unhurt.
They were covering operations by the Ukrainian army’s 30th regiment in which two soldiers were killed.
On 5 July, about 50 masked men attacked the Kiev headquarters of the Russian-language newspaper Vesti. They pelted it with stones and set off teargas.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Oles Vakhni, an ultra-nationalist who served a six-year jail term on charges of armed robbery and violence.
Vesti’s owner, Igor Guzhva, linked the incident to a demonstration staged outside the newspaper the week before with the aim of “ending the dissemination of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.”
On 4 July, armed separatists in combat fatigues representing the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Luhansk stormed the headquarters of the Luhansk region’s state radio and TV broadcaster.
After they had taken control of the premises, one of the rebels said the broadcaster’s various channels were now “closed” and would remain so until they resumed “under a different format.”
The previous week, local cable TV operators, LKT and Triolan, replaced most of their Ukrainian TV news channels with Russian alternatives.
On 2 July, two TV journalists working for Ukraine’s citizen channel, Hromadske, were released after being held for two days by separatists.
Reporter Anastasia Stanko and her cameraman, Ilya Beskorovayny, had paid money to a “security unit”, which promised to protect them. But they were detained by another unit. They were accused of spying and threatened with decapitation.
Their release was negotiated after the heads of Russia’s three leading pro-government broadcasters – Pervy Kanal, VGTRK and NTV – intervened. (see also CPJ report)
On 1 July, Denis Kulaga, a staff reporter with Russia’s REN-TV, and his cameraman, Vadim Yudin, were treated for shock in hospital after a mortar shell exploded close to them while they were reporting near the Russian border.
John F. Hall Jr. writes: The nearly 300 people killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were merely victims to Russia’s ruthless efforts to tear apart an independent, sovereign nation on its border that seemingly threatened Vladimir Putin’s twisted vision for a re-born Soviet Union.
We’re now nearly one week past the unconscionable execution of nearly 300 innocent souls aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH-17) by Russian-sponsored, Russian-trained, and Russian-armed criminals over the skies of Europe.
Many of those sacrificed to Russian-orchestrated aggression and expansionist goals in Ukraine on MH-17 were genuine humanitarians, selflessly dedicated to eradicating AIDS in the world. All of those lost were innocent men, women, children — even infants — who could have had no argument in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
They were merely victims to Russia’s ruthless efforts to tear apart an independent, sovereign nation on its border that seemingly threatened Vladimir Putin’s twisted vision for a re-born Soviet Union. We all know this to be true.
Most of those who were lost in this crime against MH-17 were Europeans, but European leaders have, collectively, collapsed, acquiesced, and done virtually nothing to punish Russia or to call it to account for its role in this heinous crime.
Instead, European leaders are proceeding with state-of-the-art arms sales from Paris to Russia, laundering Russian profits in London, and are forcefully tempering sanctions from Madrid, Rome, and Berlin.
Given the timidity and hypocrisy of the Free World’s response to this crime, Putin might soon reasonably expect a medal from the European Union for his leadership in this crime against humanity, which would be unprecedented, except for the fact that the Soviet Union did the very same thing itself — and behaved with the very same obstructionism and intransigence — 30 years ago, when it deliberately shot-down an unarmed civilian passenger aircraft on September 1, 1983.
History has, regrettably, now repeated itself over the formerly safe skies of Europe.
European leaders, many of whom have just shrugged their shoulders and shamefully handed over the lives of their own citizens to Putin’s aggression, are apparently more intently focused upon gas deliveries, financial windfalls, and arms-sales profits than they are upon the truth or justice in the matter. At the same time, even the U.S. president is presently busying himself making campaign fundraising speeches, when he should be actively working with his European counterparts, demanding unified, crippling sanctions on Putin’s war-machine.
European and American leaders have apparently chosen not to lead in this crisis, in which Putin has taken the undisputed advantage. This happened before in 1938, too, with another dictator. It’s now up to the people of the Free World who put their purported leaders and “servants of the people” in-power to show them how to lead or to lead for them. In this case, a few truths must be acknowledged, and a few steps must be taken — together, as allies against evil.
First, we must all acknowledge that Vladimr Putin’s criminal stooges in Ukraine are nothing more than Russian mercenaries, societal backwash, and drunkards who are only skilled in smashing ballot boxes, looting local treasuries, and shaking-down the local populace. They’ve done it superbly. They have no acumen for governing, except as a mafia governs.
Second, the reprehensible act of shooting down a commercial civil aircraft over Ukraine was an act perpetrated by Russian-led terrorists in Ukraine. This is a fact, notwithstanding the wild — and largely absurd — propaganda of Putin’s own skilled disinformation machine in Moscow. The people of the world, and especially of Europe, must call upon Russia to account, and the ridiculous Russian propaganda must be corrected and challenged with truth.
Third, Putin has now invaded and annexed two lesser, non-threatening, sovereign neighbors in his reign, in Georgia and Ukraine, owing solely to those nations’ efforts to join more closely with European democracies. In both cases, Europe and the U.S. stood-by on the sidelines, watching Russia consume freedom-loving nations seeking to join with them. U.S. and European citizens must compel their leadership to acknowledge these facts and embolden their elected leadership to act with resolve to end Putin’s hegemonic ambitions.
Fourth, Russia must be excluded from the Group of 20, as well as any other gathering of civilized nations seeking peaceful and harmonious trade and international relations. Russia is actively seeking conquest in Europe, and it’s now apparently willing to execute hundreds of innocent civilians for this goal, either by its own hand or that of its intoxicated proxies. The Group of 20 is no place for Russia.
Fifth, an immediate arms and financial embargo from the EU is overdue. The European Union’s next “big move” is to punish further Russian aggression by an arms embargo, but they still can’t decide upon it. Why wasn’t that first on Europe’s list of sanctions? It’s not in-effect because too many countries in Europe profit from the sales of arms to Russia and the laundering of illicit profits that Putin is using to destabilize Europe itself. That’s why. European citizens must must demand an end to this. U.S. citizens must likewise demand greater, more meaningful sanctions against Russia. Both the U.S. and Europe must be united in this effort.
Sixth, until Russia returns Crimea and its people to Ukraine, and until all Russian forces and all Russian-sponsored terrorists that have murdered loyal Ukrainians combatting Russian-sponsored invasion and assaults against Ukrainian freedom and independence are either out of Ukraine or behind bars, tough sanctions that will ruin Russia’s ability to wage war upon its peaceful neighbors must remain in place.
Russia unlawfully invaded Ukraine’s Crimea, in clear violation of the guarantees of Ukrainian sovereignty embodied in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which Putin has already gleefully trampled. Putin has likewise happily supported the murder of Ukrainian, Tartar, and other civilian and military people in his imperial Ukrainian gambit.
Putin’s aggression must not be allowed to stand unreversed and unresolved.
When Russia’s people finally prevail upon their corrupt leadership to behave like a responsible member of the international community, then these things can be reconsidered, and Russia can perhaps be reintroduced to the community of responsible nations. Until then, Russia can simply enjoy the company of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, China, and North Korea — militaristic, brutal, dictatorships with no regard for law, rights, or peace in the modern world.
The blood of the defenders of Ukrainian freedom and democracy — and now the blood of the hundreds of innocents of MH-17 — stains Putin’s hands, yet Putin is laughing at the West’s shameful impotence as he works to dismember Ukraine, solidify his gains in Crimea, the Donbas and Georgia, and to move further westward. Putin has the initiative. The United States and the free democracies of the world are presently doing little more than playing the role of simpering, appeasing Neville Chamberlains. All of this while Putin dictates terms.
When will Europe, whose hundreds of sacrificed citizens on MH-17 are now crying-out for justice, finally stand up?
Does it require Putin’s further invasion of Moldova, Lithuania, or even Poland, on the timeworn Soviet pretext of “protecting Russian-speaking minorities,” before the West finally realizes that they’ve — once again — come to the Soviet game too late?
When will the international community finally call “bullshit” on Putin’s lies and his irrational pretexts for Soviet aggression, and finally demand justice from Putin’s Russia?
John F. Hall is an international lawyer practicing in Washington, D.C. who has traveled to Ukraine.