Blog

View posts by country or region

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 »

By Ievgen Vorobiov of PISM

Three months of the Russia-led proxy war in Ukraine have claimed the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen and civilians. Until now, Western media have lazily ignored the complexity of the security crisis, while public opinion in the West has had more pressing concerns than an unfolding war on the edge of the European Union. EU politicians have had an easy ride in pretending to handle it.

But the downing of flight MH17 by pro-Russian militants is slowly changing perceptions in the West. It is still a war in a “faraway nation” but now with a dramatic number of foreign civilian casualties. If you had told a western European diplomat two weeks ago that EU citizens would be the next victims of Russia’s slowly-unfolding massacre in Ukraine, they would have dismissed you as paranoid and manipulative. Not any more. Continue reading »

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has tough decisions to make this week that will have a profound impact on his legacy and on Russia’s future. His two choices are both unpalatable for the anti-Ukrainian strategy he has pursued since last November. Then, he led Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s president at the time, to turn away from Europe, supplied weaponry for Ukraine’s security forces used against protesters, occupied Crimea and launched a proxy war to break up Ukraine by detaching the so-called “New Russia” (Tsarist Russia’s name for east Ukraine). Continue reading »

By Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

Ukraine, along with Georgia and Moldova, has signed far-reaching free trade and association agreements with the European Union. This is a landmark agreement for Ukraine and will be transformational.

Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, has indicated that his country aims for EU membership but this is a long-term goal, likely 10 to 15 years away at least. Ukraine is realistic and understands the changing politics in the EU, which goes against further enlargement as nationalism builds in EU member states. But as with Turkey, the EU accession process is more important than the end result. The process will transform Ukraine by providing a key anchor for reform. It will enable Ukraine to adapt to European core values including the rule of law, democracy and a market economy. This is what the Maydan demonstrations were all about. Continue reading »

Getting caught up in a war zone ranks among the worst-case scenarios for an oil company. This has happened to Royal Dutch Shell in eastern Ukraine, where heavy fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian military forces continues.

Shell has a hydrocarbons production-sharing agreement at the 8,000 sq km Yuzivska field, which lies across Donetsk and Kharkiv regions. A map of the field shows it covers Slovyansk, the heart of the pro-Russian military uprising.

Such proximity has affected Shell’s Ukraine operations, but only up to a point, according to the company. Simon Henry, Chief Financial Officer said on Bloomberg TV in early June that the oil giant is taking “time out on the actual drilling activity on the ground”, for security reasons. Continue reading »

By Dalibor Rohac of the Cato Institute

Can the European Union help Ukrainians get their country back on track? Notwithstanding the threat the country faces from the east, the bulk of Ukraine’s problems are domestic: lack of economic growth and employment opportunities, rampant corruption, mismanagement of public funds and burdensome regulation.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the prospect of EU membership served as an impetus for radical reforms across central and eastern Europe. A credible timeline for joining the Union would certainly improve the prospects for similar reforms in Ukraine. On the other hand, given the EU’s internal problems and the current state of disarray in Ukraine, European leaders are not keen to rush into accession talks. Continue reading »

As international budget airlines begin to make headway in the Russian market, Aeroflot has launched its own version of easyJet. Passengers crammed aboard the maiden flight from Moscow to – guess where? – Crimea on Tuesday were waved off by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister. Continue reading »