Ukraine 2015 – 19

Written by  //  September 9, 2019  //  Europe & EU, Russia  //  2 Comments

House committees launch probe of Trump, Giuliani and Ukraine
(Reuters) – Three U.S. House of Representatives committees said on Monday they had begun “a wide-ranging investigation” into reports that President Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and possibly others pressured Ukraine’s government to assist Trump’s re-election campaign.
The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees wrote to the White House and State Department seeking records related to what they described as efforts to “manipulate the Ukrainian justice system.”

7 September
Russia And Ukraine Conduct Prisoner Exchange, Renewing Hopes For Talks
(NPR) Russia and Ukraine conducted a major prisoner swap on Saturday that released 70 people who had been imprisoned in both countries, a deal aimed at easing tensions sparked by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
While several obstacles still stand in the way of peace negotiations between the two countries, the exchange renews hopes that Moscow and Kiev will hold talks. France and Germany have been working behind the scenes to make such a summit happen.
It was an emotional scene at Ukraine’s Boryspil International Airport on Saturday, when 35 Ukrainian prisoners stepped off an aircraft and were reunited with their loved ones. Meanwhile, a Russian plane carrying 35 people who were previously detained by Ukraine landed in Moscow.

5 September
Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election
Not only has Trump refused to grant the Ukrainian leader a White House visit, but also he has suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to a country still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces.
(WaPo)UKRAINE’S NEOPHYTE president, Volodymyr Zelensky, took a big step this week toward proving that he will be, as he promised, the most pro-reform president in Ukraine’s history. On Monday, he laid out a breathtakingly ambitious five-year plan including virtually every measure the International Monetary Fund and Western governments have urged on Ukraine in recent years, from land reform to the privatization of state companies to a cleansing of the judiciary.
That ought to be cause for celebration in Washington, where successive Democratic and Republican administrations have tried to draw Ukraine away from Vladimir Putin’s Russia and into the ranks of Western democracies, only to be frustrated by the fecklessness and corruption of the country’s political leaders. Yet Mr. Zelensky has so far failed to win the backing of President Trump.
Some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence. But we’re reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.

4 September
New hopes, old risks: the prospects for settling the conflict in Donbas
Since Volodymyr Zelensky took power, he has caused a significant intensification of international negotiations concerning Donbas because ending the war is one of his key goals.
(Centre for Eastern Studies – OSW) A working meeting was held on 2 September in Berlin as part of preparations so-called Normandy Format summit (leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France) for settling the conflict in Donbas. This will be the first such summit since 2016. When the meeting was over, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs, Vadym Prystayko, announced that Ukraine intended to end the war by the end of this year and that “we will have to make some painful compromises”, which – as he stated – was an effect of the decisions which had already been made, starting from 2014.

29 August
Newly-elected Ukrainian parliament opens first session
(Xinhua) — Ukraine’s newly-elected parliament held the first official meeting here, Interfax Ukraine news agency reported on Thursday.
The first meeting opened on Thursday in the presence of incumbent President Volodymyr Zelensky and former Presidents Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Yushchenko and Petro Poroshenko.

12 August
What Is Ukraine? We Finally Have an Answer
(Atlantic Council) The election of Volodymyr Zelenskyy as president sets the stage to finally define the national idea of Ukraine. Since independence, it has not been clear to the world —or Ukrainians— what exactly Ukraine is and what defines Ukrainians.
Three aspects of the 2019 election point to the emergence of democratic multiculturalism, a society which respects and accepts diversity, as a national idea.First, Ukraine elected a president from its tiny Jewish minority (somewhere between 360,000 and 400,000 in a population over 40 million), and did so by a huge margin. … Second, the strength of Zelenskyy’s victory spanned Ukraine from east to west, and the new president won a majority in 26 of 27 oblasts. … The third revealing aspect is the relative cleanliness of the elections. Foreign observer missions confirmed that the dirty tricks common in the post-Soviet space were largely absent, incumbents or well-heeled opponents’ efforts to tilt media coverage or influence voting and counting procedures minimal.

4 August
UNIAN: Election commission announces official results of parliamentary elections
(Kyiv Post) According to the protocol, 43.16% of voters (6,307,793 votes) cast their ballot papers for the Servant of the People Party. The Opposition Platform – For Life Party was supported by 13.05% of voters (1,908,111 votes), Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party by 8.18% (1,196,303 votes). Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity was backed by 8.10% of voters (1,184,620 votes), and Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Holos (Voice) Party secured 5.82% of votes (851,722).
Thus, the Servant of the People Party gets 124 deputy seats, the Opposition Platform – For Life Party has 37 seats, the Batkivshchyna Party – 24, the European Solidarity Party – 23, and the Holos Party – 17.

22 May
Russian scenarios: Moscow on the inauguration of President Zelensky
(OSW) Following the inauguration of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that President Vladimir Putin would not congratulate Zelensky on his inauguration but would do so when he records the first successes in settling the ‘internal conflict in south-eastern Ukraine’ and in normalising relations with Russia. The head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, responded positively to the proposal Zelensky had expressed for the exchange of prisoners of war. Lavrov also noted that Zelensky did not attempt to deepen the social rift over language and called for a similar attitude on religion.

20 May
Ukraine’s leader takes office and calls snap election
Volodymyr Zelenskiy aims to win seats in parliament where new party is not represented
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, took the oath of office on Monday and immediately announced plans to dissolve parliament, setting up a clash between the country’s entrenched political class and its new leader.
Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won a landslide victory in elections last month, amid anger over corruption and a grinding war with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s south-east.
In a fiery inauguration speech on Monday, he called on government ministers to resign and urged officials not to idolise the president.
“I don’t want my portraits to hang in your offices,” Zelenskiy said. “Because the president is not an icon or an idol. Hang pictures of your children there and look them in the eyes before every decision.”
He called on outgoing lawmakers to revoke their immunity from prosecution, to establish criminal liability for illegal enrichment and to sack controversial officials, including the prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko.

22 April
Comedian wins landslide victory in Ukrainian presidential election
Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat as Volodymyr Zelenskiy takes over 70% of votes, promising: ‘I won’t mess up’
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an actor and comedian with no political experience other than playing the role of president in a TV series, has won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election, with near-complete counting showing he has won over 70% of the vote.
The incumbent, Petro Poroshenko conceded defeat on Sunday evening before results started coming in. According to official results released on Monday morning, with 85% of the vote counted, 41-year-old Zelenskiy had won 73.4% of the vote, compared to Poroshenko’s 24.4%.


31 March

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

2 Comments on "Ukraine 2015 – 19"

  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?

  2. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 9, 2019 at 7:46 pm · Reply

    A propos post of 9 September “reports that President Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and possibly others pressured Ukraine’s government to assist Trump’s re-election campaign.” a former envoy to Ukraine suggests: “I suspect that there is more to Trump’s refusal to supply military aid to Ukraine at this time. He may be doing Putin a favour. For some time Trump has been urging Zelensky to make a deal with President Putin in the Donbas. In such negotiations, Ukraine would be at a disadvantage without Western support.”

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