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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? Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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.” Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

By Ben Aris of bne

Presidents Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin of Russia are to meet in Minsk today for the first time since fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine. Expectations for a peace deal are low. But what can each side put on the table to try to end a conflict that is killing thousands and smashing to pieces the most productive part of the country? Continue reading »

By Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

There are so many moving parts involved in Ukraine that it is hard to gauge the situation with any certainty. But without doubt the most interesting event of the past 24 hours was the Russian military convoy crossing the border, witnessed and photographed by western and Russian media outlets. More remarkable has been the muted reaction from the west and indeed from the western media. If this had happened four or five weeks ago, the White House PR machine would have gone into overdrive and warned of new sanctions unless Russia “de-escalated”. Thus far we have seen next to nothing. Continue reading »

In the past few decades, Ukraine has become one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Many who protested against the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovich, deposed early this year, said that under his rule, corruption worsened dramatically.

Ukraine’s new authorities have assured voters they are ready to fight corruption. Donors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have associated their financial support with Kiev’s anti-corruption measures.

So, what are the chances for success? Continue reading »

By Andrew Foxall of the Henry Jackson Society

The “stage three” sanctions announced by the US and the European Union against Russia last week are designed to bring about change in President Vladimir Putin’s behaviour by targeting Russia where it is most vulnerable – its economy.

Earlier rounds of sanctions – which primarily targeted government officials and businesses owned by those officials – were not taken seriously by their targets. Being sanctioned was seen a “badge of honour” by senior Russians. Continue reading »

Cold bathroom showers are compounding the misery felt by millions of Ukrainians oppressed by the combined effects of Gazprom’s stoppage of natural gas supplies, an economy in free fall and protracted battles between the national army and Russian-backed separatists in breakaway eastern regions.

Vitali Klitschko, the heavyweight boxing champion turned mayor of Kiev, announced on Monday that all hot water provided by municipal boilers to Soviet-built apartment buildings would be shut off through “September, the end of September.”

Though hot water in older apartment buildings is typically shut off for a week or two during summer periods for pipe cleaning purposes, the drastic measure taken by authorities now is necessary – officials say – to ensure that a country without Russian imports can maintain enough natural gas in underground storage facilities to heat homes during the winter. Continue reading »

Thursday will be a crucial day for Ukraine. Its parliament will attempt to adopt a package of bills needed to secure the next tranche of an IMF bail-out loan. Equally important will be a separate bill to allow the creation of a joint venture between EU and US companies to operate Ukraine’s gas transportation system.

That would strike a blow at Russia’s South Stream project. But what are its prospects? Continue reading »

By Dalibor Rohac of the Cato Institute

One can only hope that Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, which has claimed, among others, the lives of the passengers of flight MH17, will come to an early end. But is it possible that the conflict, for all the suffering and senseless destruction it has brought, could have a silver lining?

The past 20 years, during which many Ukrainians thought of their country as a bridge between the West and the East, without any obvious enemies, were years of complacency and failed economic policies, which ultimately resulted in the capture of the government by special interests. Continue reading »