Ukraine 2015 – 16

Written by  //  March 31, 2016  //  Europe & EU, Russia  //  1 Comment

Thoughts from Kyiv
by Mychailo Wynnyckyj

Ukraine’s Unyielding Corruption
NYT Editorial Board
The Ukrainian Parliament finally voted to oust Ukraine’s odious prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, on Tuesday. The United States and European countries that have provided aid to Ukraine had long pressed for his dismissal; in his year in office, Mr. Shokin became a symbol of Ukraine’s deeply ingrained culture of corruption, failing to prosecute a single member of the deposed Yanukovych regime or of the current government while blocking the efforts of reform-minded deputies. Alas, nothing is likely to change unless President Petro Poroshenko and Parliament agree to install some real corruption fighters and approve serious judicial reform.
Corruption has been pervasive in Ukraine since independence, fed by close-knit ties between politicians and oligarchs and a weak justice system. The protests in 2014 that led to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych were largely fueled by popular fury at his monumental corruption and abuse of power. Yet his overthrow has yet to show results.
In a speech in Odessa last September, the United States ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, said corruption was as dangerous for Ukraine as was the Russian support for a military insurgency in eastern Ukraine. And on a visit last December, Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. said corruption was eating Ukraine “like a cancer.” Among the examples Mr. Pyatt cited was the seizure in Britain of $23 million in illicit assets from the former Ukrainian ecology minister, Mykola Zlochevsky; Mr. Shokin’s office, however, declared that there was no case against the minister, and the money was released.
In his last hours in office, Mr. Shokin dismissed the deputy prosecutor general, David Sakvarelidze, a former prosecutor in Georgia brought in by President Poroshenko to fight corruption. And before that, Mr. Shokin had systematically cleansed his office of reform-minded prosecutors. The acting prosecutor general now is Yuriy Sevruk, a crony who can be trusted to continue Mr. Shokin’s practices.


1 September
Marvin Kalb: Putin’s deceptive pause: What are Russia’s next steps in Ukraine?
(Brookings) A deceptive late-summer pause has settled over the Ukraine crisis. At least, in the coverage of it. For many weeks now, the war in the Donbas has slipped off the front page. Although leaders such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko still search for an acceptable formula to end the war, it has continued in the southeast corner of Ukraine, with casualties mounting. …
Another line of argument, much less comforting, is that Putin has merely been waiting for the right moment to widen the war in Ukraine and perhaps elsewhere. Rebel fighters in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, supported by Russian forces, have recently been engaged in non-stop maneuvers, perhaps preparatory to a move on the strategic port of Mariupol, still in Ukrainian hands. If Putin decided to strike, Western analysts believe that it would be a tough fight but that ultimately the pro-Russian forces would win. The Poroshenko regime would then be pushed to the edge of collapse.
… far more threatening to the West—specifically to NATO—is that Putin might launch a sophisticated hybrid attack into the Baltics, starting with Estonia, where 24 percent of the population is Russian. Because Estonia is a member of NATO, it can and would almost certainly invoke Article V, which says that an attack on one NATO member would be regarded as an attack on all. President Obama promised last year during a visit to the Baltics that the United States would honor Article V. In recent weeks, apparently concerned about expanding NATO maneuvers, Russian generals have gone out of their way to deny that they have any intention of invading the Baltics.
Would Putin really go that far? Would the United States, tired from non-stop wars in the Middle East, really roll up its sleeves and fight for Estonia? Neither is very likely. So, what now? Unfortunately, so much of the answer lies in Putin’s strategy, so murky and unpredictable to outsiders and maybe to him and his advisers as well.
24 June
Very pleased to see that the Epoch Times has taken up the David (Jones) “Arming Ukraine: A No-Brainer” vs David (Kilgour) “Should the West Arm Ukraine Defensively?” concept since it was dropped by Yahoo! David Jones points out that The “David vs David” articles are designed to provide contrasting positions on a mutually agreed topic. In this instance, however, without seeing eachother’s drafts, David J and David K came to closely coincidental views.
23 June
The IMF Bows to Putin in Ukraine
The IMF appears to be taking a pragmatic stance. Russia, after all, has shown that it has unconventional means of enforcing repayment. Its armed proxies control a sizable part of Ukraine’s industrial east. If needed, regular Russian troops can inflict lasting damage on what remains of the country’s export potential by shelling a few steel mills. If the IMF said it would keep lending to Kiev after a default on the Russian bond, there could be unpredictable consequences.
From the point of view of commonsense justice, though, Ukraine shouldn’t owe Russia anything. It should be the other way around. The state-owned Ukrainian assets Russia expropriated in Crimea are alone worth much more than $3 billion.
6 June
Georgians guide Ukraine’s reforms path away from Russia
Kiev grants Ukrainian nationality to Georgia’s ex-president and his team, charging them “to make impossible possible”.
(Al Jazeera) Despite the spirit of optimism, Davit Sakvarelidze, who is leading similar reforms in the prosecutor general’s office, thinks that he and his fellow Georgians can only achieve limited success in Ukraine.”We can see solutions to Ukraine’s problems much faster, because we have already dealt with them back home,” he said. “But we do not have political power here, so Georgian reformers will be only as successful as they are allowed to be by the people in charge.”
4 June
Ukraine’s War Is Back
(Bloomberg) … on June 2, Ukraine appointed Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who fought and lost a war with Russia in 2008, as governor of Odessa, which would be on the map of a fully realized Novorossiya. Saakashvili’s success in turning Georgia from a failed state into an investment destination remains under-appreciated, so this was a creative, if strange and desperate, move. Yet he is also a red rag to Putin’s bull.
12 May
My Ukraine
A personal reflection on a nation’s dream of independence and the nightmare Vladimir Putin has visited upon it.
Chrystia Freeland
(Brookings) Russians see Ukraine as the cradle of their civilization. Even the name came from there: the vast empire of the czars evolved from Kyivan Rus, a loose federation of Slavic tribes in the Middle Ages.
19 February
(Foreign Policy) Fighting in eastern Ukraine continued Thursday as the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany spoke via phone to find a way to implement a cease-fire agreement that so far has done little to halt the violence.
On the heels of the Ukrainian army’s retreat Wednesday from Debaltseve, a strategic rail-hub that lies between the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, there were reports Thursday of shelling near Donetsk and the city of Mariupol. Per the terms of the cease-fire agreement, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry should have begun Tuesday, but by Thursday shelling appeared to continue.
18 February
Ukrainian troops begin leaving embattled transport hubukraine-war-2-18-15v2
(WaPost) Hundreds of exhausted Ukrainian forces staged a chaotic retreat Wednesday from a strategic town besieged by pro-Russian rebels, marking a major defeat for the government and bringing uncertain consequences to efforts at ending the 10-month-old conflict.
The scenes from the railway hub Debaltseve — with Ukrainian soldiers facing fire even as they withdrew over frozen fields — were a stunning reminder of the region’s instability less than a week after the announcement of another cease-fire bid. …
Thousands of Ukrainian troops had been hanging on in the town for months, but their supply lines had been largely cut after pro-Russian rebels nearly encircled them.
(Foreign Policy) The loss of Debaltseve is a major defeat for the Ukrainian army. By seizing Debaltseve, the separatists now control the railway junction linking the rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Moreover, the fall of Debaltseve has eliminated a pocket of Ukrainian army control along the front-line that stretches between those two cities.
13 February
To reach Ukraine accord: high diplomacy, ‘dirty games’ and pig’s fat
(Reuters) – The talks lasted more than 17 hours, during which a couple of “buckets” of coffee were drunk, and took place in what Ukraine’s foreign minister, with some understatement, described as a “difficult psychological atmosphere”.
The drily-worded declaration at the end of the Ukraine peace summit concealed the drama of an overnight diplomatic roller-coaster. Nerves were stretched to breaking point in negotiations which all sides agreed were often close to collapse.
One Wednesday Nighter comments: Russia has insisted that it does not participate in the conflict. However, the armistice agreement signed by all parties yesterday by both Russia and the separatists, expressly states that the Tornado-S rocket-launchers will be withdrawn.
These were introduced in 2012 and have not been sold to anyone. Only Russia has them!
Therefore Russia has now admitted in writing that it IS a participating party in this conflict

Fighting rages in run-up to Ukraine ceasefire
(Reuters) – Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels fought fiercely across the east of the country on Friday despite a new peace deal brokered by Germany and France.
A ceasefire is due to come into effect from Sunday under the agreement, which also envisages a withdrawal of the heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 casualties in the conflict that broke out almost a year ago.
12 February
Ukraine peace talksPutin: Leaders Agree To Deal For Ukraine Cease-Fire
Guns would fall silent, heavy weapons would pull back from the front and Ukraine would trade a broad autonomy for the east to get back control of its Russian border by the end of 2015 under a peace deal hammered out Thursday in all-night negotiations between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
(AP via WorldPost) — The peace deal reached Thursday for Ukraine, if it holds, would be a partial win for both Moscow and Kiev: Ukraine retains the separatist eastern regions and regains control of its border with Russia, while Russia holds strong leverage to keep Ukraine from ever becoming part of NATO.
But neither side came away from the marathon talks unscathed.
There’s no sign Russia will soon escape the Western sanctions that have driven its economy down sharply, and Kiev’s price for regaining control of the border with Russia is to grant significant new power to the east.
Under the terms of the deal reached after 16 hours of talks between the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, the next step is to form a sizeable buffer zone between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels. Each side is to pull heavy weaponry back from the front line, creating a zone roughly 30-85 miles (50-140 kilometers) wide, depending on the weapon caliber.
Then come the knotty and volatile political questions.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters the deal envisages special status for Ukraine’s separatist regions, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, maintained there was no consensus on any sort of autonomy or federalization for eastern Ukraine.
Jeremy Kinsman– A ceasefire in Ukraine: complex, but absolutely vital
There is no military solution to the conflict in Ukraine
(Open Canada) Putin doesn’t want to own Eastern Ukraine. He can’t afford it. There is no drumbeat heralding a fall of dominoes that restores the USSR. Putin’s ambition to restore Russia’s “greatness” is an issue of restoring pride and identity effaced by all-embracing communism. To the extent that territory comes into it, the improvised bite of Crimea is in their view uniquely entitled. The world’s freeze on Crimea will make it expensive.
Putin does want a guarantee that Ukraine won’t join NATO, whose expansion eastward has been cited by Russians as their main source of national humiliation and trickery at Western hands. Putin can’t get a guarantee on Ukraine, but the geographic reality is that Ukraine has to live with only associate status with NATO and the EU. Their best integrating guarantee will come from improving their governance reality, connections, and networks with the West, joining the forward-moving developed world. That is partly up to us. That will be the challenge for Russia’s own governance.
This will be the contest that matters, not Cold War II chest-beating from throwbacks on both sides.
10 February
New violence in Ukraine diminishes hopes before four-way summit
(Reuters) European officials say it is difficult to imagine the rebels agreeing to halt and go back to earlier positions after weeks during which they have been advancing relentlessly.
A Russian source quoted by the state RIA news agency said there were no plans to sign a document to resolve the conflict at the peace talks, and the main subject would be creation of a demilitarized zone.
9 February
EU Puts Off Fresh Russia Sanctions Awaiting Minsk Talks
(AP) — The European Union decided Monday to temporarily hold off slapping sanctions on more Ukrainian separatists and Russians pending the outcome of possible peace talks this week. … the EU has delayed placing asset freezes and travel bans on 19 more individuals, including five Russians, for their actions linked to eastern Ukraine. It said the situation would be reviewed Monday.
7 February
Western Leaders Divided Over How to Handle Ukraine Crisis as Peace Talks Fizzle
(VICE News) Emergency negotiations in Moscow and Kiev — billed as “one of the last chances” to avoid all-out war — appear increasingly unlikely to lead to an agreement between Ukraine, its Western allies, and Russia over how to end the mounting violence in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Speaking Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said attempts to negotiate an eleventh-hour peace deal were “definitely worth trying,” though success appeared “uncertain.”
24 January
Red Alert: Rocket Fire Could Signal New Offensive on Mariupol | Stratfor
Stratfor has declared a Red Alert over Ukraine as we watch for signs of a new offensive. We do not yet know Russia’s strategic intentions. Reports of rocket fire and potential moves on the city of Mariupol could simply be an attempt to signal the danger Russia could pose to their negotiating partners in the West. It could be an attempt to extend the pocket separatists supported by Russia currently hold in eastern Ukraine.
Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.
EU Sharpens Warning to Russia Over Escalation of Violence Ukraine
Foreign Policy Chief Sees Possible ‘Further Grave Deterioration of Relations’ With Kremlin
(WSJ) Ms. Mogherini’s warning on Saturday marks a substantial sharpening in approach by Brussels toward Russia

One Comment on "Ukraine 2015 – 16"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson July 28, 2015 at 3:31 am · Reply

    A compilation of a discussion thread among (mainly) former Canadian Foreign Service officers.
    — The Max Fisher article [How World War III became possible: A nuclear conflict with Russia is likelier than you think published on Vox] mentions Russian paranoia about right-wing or fascist elements in the Ukraine. Brief mention in the media of such elements and their influence may have from time to time come to your attention, but detail has been lacking – understandably, many of us think that we have not read nor seen enough to enable us to make informed judgments. How influential are the fascist elements? How strong was support for the German army in the Ukraine during World War II? (In short, does Russian paranoia have some rational historical and factual basis?)
    — Basically a Fascist is anyone whom the Russians don’t like. The term Fascist has the double advantage of appealing to Russian public opinion, as well as to what Lenin referred to as the”useful idiots” in the West. For the Russians the Hungarian uprising of 1956 was a fascist uprising; so was the Czech spring of 1968. The Berlin wall was built to prevent the Fascists from invading East Berlin. Most recently a Russian newspapers referred to the victorious Canadian hockey team in the World Hockey Finals as a bunch of Ukrainian fascists.
    As far as Ukraine is concerned, the supporters of the far right were only a small minority among the hundreds of thousands that rallied against Yanukovych on the Maidan. Yanukovych referred to all the demonstrators publicly as Fascists, while in private communications with his security officials, he called on them to suppress those homosexuals and Jews. Most recently the Russians have combined the two slurs and described the government of Ukraine as being composed of Judeo-Fascists.
    While Ukraine has an authoritarian political culture, the far right is a distinct minority. The small number of far right adherents who were in the first government following the downfall of Yanukovych did not last long.
    Moreover, in last year’s May presidential election the Far Right candidate obtained only 2.3% of the vote. In the parliamentary election in the fall the Far Right found their number of seats in a 450 seat parliament reduced from 36 to six or seven. Freedom House gives Ukraine marks for freedom and democracy that are twice as high as those that it gives to Russia.What the Russians have against the Ukrainians is not that they are Fascist, but that they are independent.
    To the extent that the word Fascist has any meaning today, it refers to a highly authoritarian, militaristic and nationalist state with territorial ambitions. It is the Russians whom this definition best fits. The foreign minister of a Baltic State is reputed to have recently said to Putin, if you are looking for Fascists, why don’t you stare in the mirror?

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