Dear readers,

The last two weeks have been very intense in Ukraine. Awareness of Ukraine's partners in the situation is crucial for country's future. For your attention the analyzes of Russia's attack in the Sea of Azov and developments on the processes started in Ukraine in a result of the attack. 

The attack in the Azov Sea and martial law in Ukraine

Martial law is imposed in nearly half of Ukraine. Here is what will change. Following a Russian attack on three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian Parliament has greenlighted a decision to impose martial law in nearly half of the country. On 26 November, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted to impose martial law in 10 Oblasts of Ukraine for 30 days with a possibility of prolongation. 

How Ukrainians are living under martial law. Despite martial law having been introduced only now, some of the regions have already experienced a state of war, which after an intense battles of Russian and Russian-led separatist forces against the Ukrainian government in the summer of 2014 had is in a smoldering state of frozen conflict, and the establishment of Russian-controlled puppet states, the Luhansk and Donetsk “People’s Republics.”

Russia takes 24 prisoners of war after attacking Ukrainian ships in Azov, televises “confessions”. After the Russian attack on Ukrainian vessels near the Azov Sea on November 25, Ukraine introduced martial law in ten oblasts of the country. Russia’s actions were condemned by the international community. Still, Russia tries to score points by using the Ukrainian sailors it has taken captive for propaganda purposes. 

Russian attack on Ukrainian ships near Kerch Strait – full chronology On 25 November, the Russian FSB border guard ships attacked two Ukrainian artillery boats and a tugboat and, reportedly, wounded six Ukrainian sailors (Russia reported on three) and hijacked all three seacrafts. The Ukrainian National Defense and Security Council recognized the Russian attack as an act of aggression and President Petro Poroshenko supported the Council’s decision to urge the parliament, Verkhovna Rada, to impose the martial law. This is the first time since the beginning of the Russian aggression in February-March 2014 that Russia is engaging in an open act of aggression against Ukraine, not bothering to hide behind a veil of plausible deniability, like the “Donbas separatists” or “little green men without insignia” before.

More: Russia attacks Ukrainian ships near Kerch strait – video, audio intercepts

Russian attack on Ukrainian ships: who has a right to do what in the Azov Sea. Russia is preparing to put 24 Ukrainian sailors on trial after attacking and seizing their three Navy vessels near the Kerch Strait on 25 November. The vessels were heading to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol in a bid to strengthen the Ukrainian military presence in the Azov Sea, in response to Russia’s ongoing blockade in the area. The Ukrainian National Defense and Security Council recognized the Russian attack as an act of unprovoked aggression and Ukraine has imposed a state of martial law in nearly half of the country in response. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the whole incident a Ukrainian “provocation” and the FSB is claiming Ukraine trespassed on Russia’s territorial waters. We dug into the intricacies of maritime law to see whether Russia’s accusations have any ground. Note: this article has been updated to include the last section “In whose waters?” and to include the Russian law “On the internal seas, territorial waters, and contiguous zone of the Russian Federation,” and details on the absence of a duly published suspension. The map has been updated to reflect the fact that the Azov sea is considered to be the territorial waters of both Ukraine and Russia, according to a 2003 agreement, and the fact that the official border between Ukraine and Russia has never been demarcated.

FSB tries to explain attack on Ukrainian ships, proves Russia broke its own laws. After the Russian attack on Ukrainian ships aiming to enter the Kerch Strait to their ports on the Azov Sea coast, three Ukrainian vessels are seized and 24 Ukrainian sailors taken captive and transferred to Moscow to await a trial. Russia is accusing Ukraine of staging a provocation and the FSB has already obtained “confessions” from three sailors who repeated the needed propaganda “we have trespassed Russian territorial waters” message to be televised on state TV.

Russian fighter jet blasted Ukrainian ships with unguided missiles in Azov Sea, SBU claims. On its press briefing in Kyiv on November 29, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) made public the intercepted communications between Russian aircraft pilots which took part in the attack on Ukrainian Navy ships on 25 November, before they were seized and 24 sailors imprisoned. The intercepts appear to show that a Russian fighter jet and a military helicopter blasted the three ships with unguided missiles.

Russian military leadership ordered escalation in Black Sea, Ukrainian army intercepts show. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has shared an intercepted radio communication reportedly between the Russian operational officers from Russia’s Navy headquarters and Russian guard ships during the Russian attack on three Ukrainian ships near Kerch on 25 November. The record shows pieces of several conversations.

Putin will attempt to divert attention from Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Kerch Strait, Polyakov says. What happened on November 25 in the Kerch Strait is an obvious act of military aggression, and this fact is clear even to Russians. The international community’s response to Russia’s aggression has been unequivocal, and Putin has found himself unable to convince anyone outside of Russia otherwise. The Kremlin may resort, therefore, to new provocations in order to divert attention from the clash in the Sea of Azov. This was the opinion expressed in an interview with Krym.Realii of Leonid Polyakov, the former Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Chairman of the Expert Council of the Center for Army Research, Conversion and Disarmament (CIAKR).

Condemnation and “concerns”: world reaction to Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships. “Russia has crossed all theoretically possible red lines,” stated Pavlo Klimkin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, in his interview to European Pravda soon after the attack of Russian border patrol and FSB ships on three Ukrainian Navy vessels in the Black Sea on 25 November.

Putin has crossed a Rubicon – Will the West respond? Vladimir Putin has now done openly what he has denied doing in the past and what most Western leaders have shamefully accepted as an excuse not to face up to his aggression: In the case of the Kerch Straits naval action, Putin has used regular Russian military units to attack and seize Ukrainian ships on international waters.

Russian wave of disinformation from the Azov Sea. The main wave of disinformation narratives this week is unsurprisingly connected to the attack on Ukrainian ships near the Sea of Azov. But let’s not rush straight into the examples. Instead, let’s filter them using the approach created by Ben Nimmo. According to him, Russian propaganda largely relies on four tactics: to distort, distract, dismiss and dismay.

Russia's threat and disinformation


With Donbas occupation, Russia brought religious persecution alien to Ukraine: report. The Ukrainian Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) has released a report titled “Religious Freedom at Gunpoint: Russian Terror in the Occupied Territories of Eastern Ukraine.” The paper reveals religiously motivated persecution in the occupied part of the East-Ukrainian region of the Donbas which had accompanied the installment of Russian-backed puppet states there starting from 2014.

Open Street Map decides to mark Crimea as Russian territory. On 14 November, one of the managing organs of Open Street Map (OSM), the Data Working Group (DWG), changed its rules from 2014 and decided to modify the tags for Crimea in the OSB geodatabase: Ukraine’s administrative borders were cut off, and Crimea marked as territory belonging to Russia.

Russia’s bilateral cyber world order. Russia, the United States, France, and China held secret talks on cybersecurity in Paris this week to produce something akin to a “Treaty of Westphalia” for cyberspace. In this way, they hope to avoid clashes that may harm their vital interests and introduce deconfliction mechanisms as exists in the air sector. Concurrently, Russia has called for the establishment of cybersecurity working groups with other states as it wants to take the lead in setting the rules of the game.

Fight against disinformation is also a fight for independent media, Novaya Gazeta case shows. In Russia, the “red lines” which define the limits to what journalists can write or say are often referred to as the “double white lines.” Like in traffic, if media outlets cross the double white lines, they put themselves in danger and may be punished.

New York Times sheds light on decades-old tradition of Kremlin disinformation campaign. A three-series multimedia project by the New York Times reveals how current Kremlin disinformation campaigns stem from a long tradition of weaponizing information.

How we defend ourselves against the disinformation virus: NYT series final episode
Seven commandments of fake news: New York Times exposes Kremlin’s methods

“I was told we should work with fascists”: former KGB officer Zhirnov. Recently, British media reported that half of the Russian diaspora in the UK are informants of the special services (SVR, GRU, and even the FSB). This revelation was based on a misinterpretation of a report about the scale of Russian espionage by the British analytical center Henry Jackson Society. In fact, this testimony, which refers to sources in the intelligence community, cites more modest figures: about 500 agents led by 200 case officers. However, some Russian emigrants who spoke with the author of the report, professor Andrew Foxall, suspect that every second compatriot could potentially become an informant.

Holodomor remembrance

See which countries recognize Ukraine’s Holodomor famine as genocide on an interactive map. On November 24, Ukraine marks Holodomor remembrance day, commemorating the millions of Ukrainian peasants who died in result of an artificial famine during Stalin’s repressions 85 years ago, in 1932-1933.

‘Stalin prepared the Holodomor the same way Hitler did the Holocaust,’ Hrynevych says. Ukrainian historian Liudmyla Hrynevych says that “Stalin prepared the Holodomor with the very same methods which Hitler prepared the Holocaust,” thus making explicit that the terror famine in Ukraine was an act of genocide that merits being put alongside Hitler’s mass murder of European Jewry.

“Let me take the wife too, when I reach the cemetery she will be dead.” Stories of Holodomor survivors. This year Ukraine remembers Holodomor victims on 24 November. The artificial famine of 1932-1933 claimed the lives of millions of Ukrainians. Radio Svoboda asked its readers how the Holodomor had affected their families. Here we publish their replies.

Changed by Euromaidan

Five years, five stories. On the fifth anniversary of the Euromaidan Revolution, we have sought out activists who joined the protests back then and are still actively involved in building the country today. In the series “Changed by the Euromaidan: 5 stories,” we asked them why they do what they do, and what they think about Ukraine’s five post-revolutionary years.

Five years after Berkut beating, Euromaidan activist recalls every detail.  Roman Krasnianchuk can still recall the moments when he was abused by the Berkut riot police. He attends the court hearings regarding crimes against Euromaidan activists in solidarity. 

Activist behind Novorossiya’s defeat in Kryvyi Rih: I am hit with five lawsuits for my civic stance. Anton Kravchenko, one of the key figures responsible for the failure of Russia’s “Novorossiya project” aiming to split Ukraine in half after Euromaidan in Kryvyi Rih. He has continued being an activist and now has five lawsuits opened against him for his civic stance.

Oleksandra Dvoretska: We IDPs have a motivation – to return Crimea and Donbas. Oleksandra Dvoretska was forced to flee occupied Crimea, didn’t despair, and founded an NGO to help fellow IDPs like her. 

Larysa Artiugina: Ukraine’s unique volunteer movement most powerful weapon we have to win this war. A filmmaker and activist Larysa Artiugina made it her personal mission to rebuild Donbas – body and soul. 

Roman Maselko: My promise to slain Euromaidan activists is to bring bad judges to justice. A lawyer Roman Maselko went from banker to judicial reform activist and advocate of the families whose family members were killed by the Berkut during the protests of 2013-2014. He says he won’t stop until the judges prosecuting innocent activists of those days are brought to justice.

In the other news: