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Friday, 05 January 2018 12:25

PUTIN'S WAR AGAINST UKRAINE: INVASION, OCCUPATION, AND HOSTAGES

Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 05.01.2018 
 
 
Russia has been violating all the terms of the second set of Minsk Agreements since they were signed 2 years, 10 months, 25 days ago. From 11 February 2015 to today, Russia has not withdrawn its armed forces from the territory of Ukraine, not returned control of the Ukraine-Russia international border to Ukraine, not respected the terms of any ceasefires, nor returned every prisoner of war and civilian hostage in an “all-for-all” prisoner exchange. France and Germany, who are guarantors of the Minsk Agreements, have done absolutely nothing to compel compliance by Russia.
 
Expanding its invasion of Europe in Ukraine, Russia has done the opposite of what it agreed to do in the Minsk Agreements. Russia has supplied its occupation armies in Crimea and Donbas with unlimited weapons, and has used them against Ukrainian defenders and civilians in Donbas without any reprieve. Russia has barred access to over 400 kilometres of the Ukraine-Russia border to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (the ICRC), and to the United Nations. Russia has abducted more Ukrainian citizens, tortured them, put them up for show trials in kangaroo courts, and imprisoned them. When Russia grabs hostages from Ukraine’s occupied territory of Crimea it often steals from them their Ukrainian citizenship and forces on them foreign Russian citizenship; Russia then moves political prisoners out of Ukraine (Crimea or Donbas) into the Russian Federation, where it pretends they have been convicted of criminal offences. Russia’s war against the West and its abuse of the human rights of captive Europeans has gotten much, much worse since the Minsk Agreements were signed.
 
On 27 December 2017 there was a partial swap of prisoners. Ukraine agreed to exchange 306 terrorists and criminals it was holding for 74 Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilian hostages Russia was holding in occupied Donbas.
 
Russia is holding back Ukrainian hostages it seized from outside Donbas for the “all-for-all” prisoner swap. Political prisoners Russia grabbed from Ukrainian Crimea and rendered to the Russian Federation, like Oleg Sentsov, have not been released. Ukrainian patriots abducted from third countries, like University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy student Pavel Hryb abducted by the FSB from Belarus, have not been released. Journalists unjustly imprisoned, like hostage Roman Sushchenko, have not been released. At least 60 Ukrainian political prisoners are known to have been seized by the Russian invader-occupiers of Crimea and Donbas. That number is slowly increasing every week.
 
An even greater number of prisoners of war and civilian hostages are still being held in dungeons in the Russia-occupied parts of Luhansk region and Donetsk region, who were not among the 74 offered up for release on 27 December 2017. Member of the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Gerashchenko, knows of at least 103 Ukrainians who are still captive in Donbas. They are being held by Putin’s terrorist groups, the so-called “LPR” and the so-called “DPR,” that are led, armed, and financed by Russia’s special services, notably the Federal Security Service (the FSB).
 
There are hundreds of missing persons in Donbas. The Security Service of Ukraine knows about 402 missing persons. There are an unknown number of dead in unmarked graves – thousands of the graves belong to Russian soldiers and dozens belong to Ukrainian soldiers missing in action. Ms Gerashchenko proposes a neutral commission, that will include the involvement of the ICRC, to search the prisons of occupied Donbas for prisoners of war and hostages, search for missing persons, and exhume the bodies of deceased soldiers. Accounting for every person, living and dead, would be the noble purpose of such a commission. Russia may wish for Putin’s War to become a “forgotten war” but that is impossible. A light will be shone on the crimes committed against the Ukrainian people by the foreign Muscovy invaders.
 
The pressure is on for the next prisoner swap to happen soon. Putin delayed a true “all-for-all” exchange of detainees with the partial swap last month, but he is losing his ability to stall further. Look for Russia to push for a smaller swap at the same ratio, where four Russians are exchanged for one Ukrainian. Also, look for Russia to pretend that political prisoners from occupied Ukrainian Crimea and who have been kidnapped to the Russian Federation have nothing to do with the “all-for-all” exchange.
 
For humanitarian reasons, Ukraine will free as many of its soldiers and civilians as it can. The lives of fellow citizens are precious to a democracy like Ukraine. For mercenary reasons, Putin will keep holding as many hostages as he can. The lives of other human beings mean nothing to the Russian dictator.
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