NEWS FROM UKRAINE - TERRORISM IN KYIV, THEN CYBER-TERRORISM, AND MORE KILLING IN EASTERN UKRAINE, AND THE GOOD NEWS?, AND FINALLY…

01.07.17


UD. 1 July 2017.  

By Iryna Terlecky.

Attacks on Ukraine from all sides.

Terrorism in Kyiv

In what is being described as a terror attack, Maksym Shapoval, a colonel in the chief intelligence directorate of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, was killed in a car-bomb explosion at 8:14 a.m. on 27 June  in Kyiv.

The explosive device detonated in the Mercedes that Shapoval was driving. 

The car’s bonnet was blown open and its roof and driver side door almost completely destroyed. 

Police said a female passerby with shrapnel wounds to her legs received medical treatment after the explosion, as did an elderly man who suffered shrapnel wounds to his neck.

“The picture of the crime looks like it was a planned act of terrorism,” interior ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko told local media. 

He told RFE/RL that Shapoval had recently returned from the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine and that the authorities believe the motive for what he called a “targeted assassination” was his “professional service.”

For three years, Col. Shapoval led special operations forces in combat missions as commander of the 10th Special Detachment of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence. 

Shapoval was the commander of a group which in May 2014 retook Donetsk airport from separatists. 

At the time of his death, Shapoval was investigating Russian involvement in Eastern Ukraine, collecting intelligence on their locations and weapons, which was used to substantiate Ukraine’s position in The Hague on Russia’s armed aggression.

This is only the latest in a string of assassinations in Ukraine, of which there have been at least 13 since 2014 – all of which have been linked to Russia. The majority of the 13 victims have either been blown up, shot, or tortured. 

Lieutenant Colonel Oleksandr Kharaberiush, deputy chief of the Donetsk region counterintelligence department for the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), was killed in a car explosion in the eastern port city of Mariupol on 31 March, while 

Denis Voronenkov - a former Russian MP and vocal critic of Kremlin policy toward Ukraine, was gunned down in broad daylight in Kyiv, in what President Poroshenko called “an act of state terrorism by Russia.”

Pavel Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian journalist who was often critical of top political leaders and other government officials in his reporting, was killed in July 2016 in Kyiv when the car he was driving to work was blown up.

In his last blog post before his assassination, Sheremet wrote that Ukrainian politicians who were former members of volunteer battalions that had fought separatists in Ukraine’s east could carry out a coup in Kyiv. 

A pretrial investigation by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry into Sheremet’s death “led to the conclusion that this crime was carefully prepared by a group of people.”

Many believe that this latest killing is a continuation of Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukraine. 

“The enemy eliminated [Shapoval] for everyone to see, including as an element of intimidation and as an element of information warfare against the most devoted sons of Ukraine,” a Ukrainian law enforcement source told LB.ua.

Then cyber-terrorism

Hours after the murder of Shapoval, Ukraine was the first victim of a massive cyber attack, described as the biggest in Ukraine’s history. 

The virus, which researchers are calling GoldenEye or Petya, infected the machines of visitors to a local news site and downloaded tainted updates of the tax accounting package used for electronic tax declarations, according to national police and cyber experts. 

The virus then spread to other countries, but with Ukraine hardest hit. 

At one point, the monitoring systems at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant were down, but were quickly recovered.

80 percent of the infections detected were in Ukraine, followed by Italy with about 10 percent. 

The attack shut down a cargo booking system at Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, and spread into some Russian banking systems, Rosneft and as far as India, South America and Australia. 

The malicious code encrypted data on machines and demanded $300 ransom in bitcoin for recovery, similar to the extortion tactic used in the global WannaCry ransomware attack in May. 

However, security experts said they believed that the goal was to disrupt computer systems across Ukraine, not extortion, saying the attack used powerful wiping software that made it impossible to recover lost data.

Brian Lord, a former official with Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who is now managing director at private security firm PGI Cyber, said he believed the campaign was an “experiment” in using ransomware to cause destruction. “This starts to look like a state operating through a proxy,” he said.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly accused Moscow of orchestrating cyber attacks on its computer networks and infrastructure since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The Kremlin, of course, denies all knowledge.

And more killing in Eastern Ukraine

We have perhaps become desensitised to Russia’s continuing war in Eastern Ukraine and the constant stream of casualty numbers. 

Every death and injury is a personal tragedy and, compared with the last two years, we are thankful for every day that goes by without a death. 

Sadly, over the last two weeks, five more Ukrainian soldiers have been killed defending Ukraine, and, even though the EU and the US have confirmed the continuation of sanctions against Russia, there continues to be no sign of any end to the violence.

Last week Ukraine received new evidence – as if more was needed - of Russian aggression against Ukraine, when 6 enemy soldiers were captured – of which three are Russian citizens. 

Documents have been seized which show that the detainees served within the ranks of Russian occupational troops and prove their Russian origin. 

During the same incident, Ukrainian troops eliminated the group’s commander. 

Later, it was determined that he had been also a Russian citizen, who came to fight against Ukrainian Army from Kirov.

And the good news?

In spite of everything, there are positives coming out of Ukraine. 

President Poroshenko has met President Emmanuel Macron in France for the first time, where both leaders underscored the long history of the relationship between Ukaine and France from the time of Anna Yaroslavna, and where Poroshenko visited the Anna Yaroslavna foundation in Senlis – funded and run by the Ukrainian community. 

Russia’s attempt to rewrite history by appropriating Anna Yaroslavna has now been comprehensively debunked.

Decentralisation of power away from the centre has been controversial, but hopeful results are emerging according to the Atlantic Council, which has highlighted some of the benefits that over 400 communities are now seeing. 

The Letychivska community in western Ukraine bought equipment for utilities and no longer needs to pay contractors. 

Residents of Hirsivska community in southeastern Ukraine finally have gas in their houses, as the new community administration found money to build a gas network. 

The Sokyrianska community in southwest Ukraine bought equipment to collect and press plastic bottles and now sells them to recycle. 

Western Ukraine’s Yakushynetska community has created a municipal police force to keep public places clean and safe. 

The Bilokurakynska community in Luhansk oblast, some twenty kilometers from the frontline in eastern Ukraine, bought new surgery equipment to improve local health care. And people in Cherkasy will soon be able to make an appointment with a doctor online; the city also introduced doctors’ electronic signatures and other practices that reduce corruption. 

Ruslan Minich concludes his report with optimism. 

“These new decentralized communities can bring hope to Ukrainian society, as they give an incentive to change at the lowest administrative level. And if decentralization succeeds, the country will too.”

And finally…

A short personal note. I started writing News from Ukraine in 2012 after the death of our longstanding contributor, Vera Rich, as a ‘temporary’ measure. Now, 140 pieces of copy later, this is the last that will appear in print – for now at least. 

The scale of change and the pace of news has changed radically over the last five years – from a relatively short third of a page, to the need for major pruning of news to fit onto just one page. 

Since the end of 2013, there have been weeks when News from Ukraine was so hot that it could have filled four or five pages – and still not encompassed everything that was going on. 

Although I have tried to highlight good news, it has often felt that the most important news coming out of Ukraine was unremittingly grim.

As for sources of news, they are almost too numerous to mention. Kyiv Post was a mainstay, but many others carry news and intelligent analysis: Unian, the Washington Post, Radio Free Europe, the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, Bloomberg, the Guardian and the Independent, the BBC, the Atlantic Council, Agence France Presse, Reuters, Al Jezeera, Euromaidan Press, amongst others. 

The main issue has been reliability, and I have included news only where I have been able to corroborate it from at least two reliable sources. 

I have also tried, but often without complete success, to provide just news – but given who we are and what we know – the kind of balance that we despair at in conventional media sources would have been an insult to the intelligence of our readers.

And finally, thank you to everyone who has provided feedback – both positive and negative – as News from Ukraine signs off.


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