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“It is time to unite.”

The slogan ambushes Ukrainians from all sides these days as Petro Poroshenko, the president, deploys it to win votes ahead of parliamentary elections on October 26 that will determine whether he can secure a mandate for important but stalled reforms.

Appeals to unity are easy to understand. Since the popular protests in Kiev against the rule of ousted former president Victor Yanukovich a year ago, Ukraine has lost Crimea while big parts of the Donbas, an industrial region in the south-east, have fallen to separatists. 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Ukraine’s pre-term parliamentary election on October 26 will elect a new parliament that will be undoubtedly pro-European but the jury is still out if it will lead to long overdue reforms and a strong fight against corruption. Three factors will influence the election results. 

By Riccardo Puliti of the EBRD

Until recently the Nabucco pipeline, just like the chorus in Verdi’s opera of the same name, was a symbol of freedom. It was designed as an alternative route for large quantities of natural gas coming into Europe, reducing the continent’s dependency on the Soviet-built pipeline system that runs from East to West.

But the Nabucco dream did not become reality, mainly because it would not transport enough gas to make it viable and especially because Turkmenistan, a big producer of natural gas, was not part of the project. However, this vision of independence could yet live on in another guise – but only if there is the political will to drive it forward. 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Vladimir Putin’s strategy of creating a “New Russia” from eight Russian-speaking regions in Urkaine has failed. Russia’s president has covertly and overtly supported violent separatism in Donetsk and Luhansk (known collectively as the Donbas), where over 10,000 combatants and civilians have died, with the aim of controlling eight Ukrainian regions. Yet Putin currently controls only a third of the Donbas that was never part of historic, Tsarist “New Russia”.

Putin faced – and continues to face – five obstacles to his initial goals. 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, has returned home after making emotional pleas for support to the Canadian and US legislatures, where he received sympathy and cash but no military assistance. Poroshenko faces deep-seated scepticism among western governments and experts over whether Ukraine’s leaders can overcome their differences, fight corruption and move beyond rhetoric to action in implementing long-overdue reforms. 

By Dmytro Shymkiv of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration

In cooperation with the European Union, Ukraine is pushing ahead with a reform package designed to modernise the economy and prepare our country for eventual EU membership. The reforms require tough choices and will encounter obstacles along the way but commitment to change by the Ukrainian government and civil society alike instil the hope that we can transform our country’s economy and political system. 

Following the ceasefire between Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbas and an announcement by Kiev that it will grant self-rule status to the rebellious territories, the chances are increasing that Ukraine’s industrial heartland will find itself locked in a frozen conflict.

If so, what will happen to the Donbas economy, the source of 16 per cent of Ukraine’s GDP and 23 per cent of its industrial output? 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

As Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, arrives in Canada to address both houses of parliament the question of why Canada is not willing to give military support to Ukraine is high on the agenda.

Doug Saunders, a columnist at leading daily the Globe and Mail, argues that western governments have good reasons for not supporting Ukraine on the battlefield. These include Ukraine’s military incompetence – a legacy of Soviet training of the officer corps – and continued high-level corruption.

But are these unique and only applicable to Ukraine? 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Friday’s abduction on Estonian soil of Eston Kohver, an officer in Estonia’s Internal Security Service, by “green men” – Russian special forces in uniforms without identification – was the latest instance of a tactic first used during Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in March. The timing of this act of international piracy was no coincidence, coming a day after US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country, when he promised Nato would defend the three Baltic states. 

By Ben Aris of bne

The chances of a lasting ceasefire in the conflict in eastern Ukraine are looking better.

But the cessation of military hostilities will only mark the outbreak of a new fight: the gas war between Russia and Ukraine is about to restart and will probably come to a head in January, when Ukraine risks running out of gas. 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the tide on the battlefield has turned against Kiev, with its armed forces and volunteer National Guard on the retreat. Russia’s next move could be to push towards Mariupol to create a land corridor from Russia through the Donbas to occupied Crimea.

Whatever steps Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, takes next it is beyond doubt that two of Europe’s biggest countries are at war. 

It has been a shocking day in the progress of the crisis in Ukraine. As evidence mounts of yet more direct and duplicitous Russian military activity on Ukrainian soil, Russian assets have taken a hammering. The rouble fell 1.5 per cent against the dollar even after paring earlier losses and the RTS index of Russian stocks was down 3.3 per cent on the day, also after staging a recovery.

President Vladimir Putin denies Russia is involved in Ukraine at all, even as the Russian people hail him as a conquering hero with popularity ratings to match. But the chances that his adventure will be to their benefit are looking increasingly slim. As Neil Shearing of Capital Economics argued in a note on Thursday, “Russia is likely to be the major loser from any further escalation in the conflict.” 

By Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

The crisis in Ukraine continues to go from one worst case scenario to the next with little sign of any near term prospect of compromise or resolution.

High hopes were set on Wednesday’s Minsk summit but little was achieved in effect – beyond a photo op for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, who spun a yarn that he is really, truly interested in peace, and in any event that Russia is in fact not a party to the current conflict. 

By Stefan Jajecznyk and Taras Kuzio

As fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions intensifies, the first foreign member of the Ukrainian military has become a casualty of Russia’s proxy war. Codenamed ‘Franko’, Mark Paslawsky who grew up in the Ukrainian diaspora in New Jersey and was a West Point-trained officer in the US Rangers, gave up his US citizenship for a Ukrainian passport and the chance to serve in the Donbas volunteer battalion, one of more than 20 in Ukraine’s newly formed National Guard.

Paslawsky (pictured above) was wounded by shrapnel on August 18 during a firefight with separatists and Russian paratroopers in the outskirts of the regional capital of Luhansk. With no air ambulance available he could not be saved by medics. He was buried this week. 

On Friday, as Russian trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered eastern Ukraine, another, less remarked on convoy was on its way to the Donbas. Dozens of vehicles carrying food, personal hygiene products and medicines entered the region from the west, provided by businesses controlled by Rinat Akhmetov, the Ukrainian billionaire whose industrial assets are concentrated in this part of Ukraine.