23rd Oct 2016

EU blacklists Ukraine rebels, as fighting escalates

  • Pro-Russia protest camp in Donetsk, east Ukraine (Photo: dasjo)

The EU on Saturday (12 July) named 11 rebel leaders in east Ukraine who are to face a visa ban and asset freeze.

Four of them are top people in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

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They include: Aleksandr Borodai (a Russian citizen who calls himself the DPR prime minister); Alexander Khodakovsky (a defector who used to run an elite counter-terrorism squad, the Alpha unit, in the Ukrainian security service, the SBU); Alexandr Kalyussky (the DPR’s deputy PM), and Alexandr Khryakov (“responsible for … pro-separatist propaganda”).

Another five men are linked to the so-called People’s Republic of Luhansk (PRL).

The Luhansk group includes: Marat Bashirov (a Russian-born, former energy sector executive who calls himself the PRL’s prime minister); Vasyl Nikitin (“vice prime minister”); Aleksey Karyakin (“Supreme Council Chair”); Yurij Ivakin (“minister of internal affairs”); and Igor Plotinsky (“defence minister”).

The EU also blacklisted Nikolay Kozitsyn, the “Commander of Cossak forces”, a caste of irregular Russian fighters who flocked across the border to east Ukraine to fight government soldiers.

The 11th name is Oleksiy Mozgovy, said to be “responsible for training separatists to fight against the Ukrainian government forces”.

A report out last week by UK-based NGO Amnesty International said the rebel groups are guilty of hundreds of kidnappings of pro-Ukrainian activists in east Ukraine.

Amnesty’s Denis Krivosheev said Ukraine government forces have also abducted people, but he noted “the bulk of the abductions are being perpetrated by armed separatists, with the victims often subjected to stomach-turning beatings and torture.”

Saturday’s EU listing brings to 72 the number of Ukrainian separatists, Russian military chiefs, and Russian politicians put on the EU sanctions register since March.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the Interfax news agency that “blacklisting opponents isn't helping to build a dialogue with them”.

The additional names come amid talks between France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, a European multilateral club, on reviving a Contact Group on the conflict.

The group is to see Ukrainian authorities talk directly to local leaders in east Ukraine, with the OSCE tasked to identify the right interlocutors.

But prospects of a ceasefire diminished on Friday, when separatists killed 19 Ukrainian soldiers.

Fighting claimed “at least” 12 civilian lives over the weekend, the BBC reports, while Russia, on Sunday, said a Ukrainian-fired shell killed a Russian citizen in a small town on the Russian side of the border.

“This represents a qualitative escalation of the danger to our citizens, now even on our own territory. Of course this naturally cannot pass without a response," Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin said on Russian TV.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said EU sanctions have hurt the Russian economy by scaring off foreign investors.

He noted that President Vladimir Putin "has made Russia an unpredictable country. And if there's anything that a businessman wants to have it's predictability".

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