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live Ukraine Live Blog: The Crisis In The East

People leave flowers at a memorial for journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was killed by a car bomb in central Kyiv on July 20, 2016.

Latest News

-- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office has proposed a prisoner exchange with Russia involving Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is jailed in Russia, and Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, who is in detention in Ukraine.

-- The European Parliament has overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Russian authorities “to release without further delay and unconditionally all illegally and arbitrarily detained Ukrainian citizens both in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.”

-- Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree expanding the simplified procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship for all residents of Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

*Time stamps on the blog refer to local time in Ukraine

15:03 26.2.2019

15:00 26.2.2019

Here's an item from RFE/RL's news desk:

Death Toll Up To 13,000 In Ukraine Conflict, Says UN Rights Office

The estimated death toll also includes 4,000 members of Ukrainian forces (illustrative photo)
The estimated death toll also includes 4,000 members of Ukrainian forces (illustrative photo)

KYIV -- Some 13,000 people have been killed, a quarter of them civilians, and as many as 30,000 wounded in the war in eastern Ukraine since it broke out in April 2014, the United Nations says.

The estimated toll includes more than 3,300 civilian deaths, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a document dated February 25 and provided to RFE/RL the same day.

It comes as the simmering conflict between Russia-backed separatists and government forces approaches its sixth year, with little progress toward the implementation of a Western-brokered cease-fire and political-settlement deal known as the Minsk Accords.

"OHCHR estimates the total number of conflict-related casualties in 40,000-43,000" from April 14, 2014 to January 31, 2019, the statement said, including "12,800-13,000 killed."

The estimated death toll includes 3,321 civilians, among them the 298 passengers and crew members who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

A Dutch-led international investigation concluded that the jet was shot down by a Buk missile from a Russian system that had been brought from Russia into separatist-held territory in Ukraine and later returned to Russia.

The estimated death toll also includes 4,000 members of Ukrainian forces and 5,500 "armed groups," the OHCHR document said.

OHCHR estimates the total number of people wounded at 27,500 to 30,000, including 7,000 to 9,000 civilians.

The proportion of civilians in the casualty figures has declined sharply, with the estimated share of civilians in total conflict-related deaths at 33-34 percent in 2014 and 10-11 percent in 2018, the OHCHR said.

In the past, OHCHR released updated casualty figures from the conflict several times a year. But the new document said that the "previous conservative estimate of total conflict-related casualties was as of 15 November 2017."

That report said that the OHCHR had recorded 35,081 conflict-related casualties -- 10,303 people killed and 24,778 wounded -- and said the real toll could be higher.

Russia has provided military, economic, and political support to separatist militants who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the corner of southeastern Ukraine known as the Donbas.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled in November 2016 that the war in eastern Ukraine is "an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation."

Critics say Russia encouraged separatism and fomented unrest across much of Ukraine after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014 in the face of mass protests known as the Maidan.

The protests erupted in the fall of 2013, when Yanukovych abruptly abandoned plans to sign a pact tightening Ukraine's ties with the European Union and called for closer economic interaction with Russia instead.

With reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv
14:20 26.2.2019

It seems the controversy over Ukraine's Eurovision entrant has now moved up a notch. This is how the BBC is reporting it:

Ukraine's entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest, Maruv, has been dropped in a row related to tensions between her country and Russia.

Maruv's song, Siren Song, won a public vote on Saturday, but the singer later fell out with the country's national broadcaster.

She was given 24 hours to sign a contract that temporarily barred her from playing in Russia.

Talks stalled on Monday and the broadcaster revoked Maruv's nomination.

The 27-year-old, whose name real name is Anna Korsun, said she was prepared to cancel her next tour of Russia, but that other stipulations in the contract amounted to "censorship".

Read the full BBC article here.

13:48 26.2.2019

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12:43 26.2.2019

And here's a tweet from Odesa by the U.S. special representative for Ukraine with the Donald Cook in the background. (He's supposed to be meeting Ukrainian President Poroshenko later today.)

12:38 26.2.2019

Video of the U.S. Navy's Donald Cook coming into Odesa:

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