JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Ukraine 2015 – December 2021
Prepare a swift response to Russia invading Ukraine, Latvia tells west
Nato not sending a clear signal would mean ‘glue that keeps us together’ has failed, says foreign minister
(The Guardian) A swift reprisal package against Russia – including US troops and Patriot missiles stationed in the Baltics, the cutting off of Russia from the Swift banking payments system and reinstated sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – must be prepared now in case it invades Ukraine, the Latvian foreign minister has said.
The warning from Edgars Rinkēvičs comes as Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin prepare[d] to hold talks about the growing tensions.
The US has said it would send reinforcements to Nato’s eastern flank in the event of an invasion, as well as imposing severe new economic measures against Russia.
With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops already gathered within striking distance of the borders, the situation is the worst it’s been since 2015, when Moscow staged a large-scale incursion into Ukraine, clandestinely sending tanks and artillery to encircle Ukrainian troops and compelling Kyiv to sign a peace agreement in Minsk that has since come close to collapse.
Tuning Out Putin on Ukraine is Easy – and Self-Defeating
(Carnegie Moscow Center) Putin wants Biden to finally face up to an unpleasant dilemma. The message is simple: Washington needs to brace itself for its partner Ukraine to be soundly defeated militarily in what would be an especially humiliating re-run of recent events in Afghanistan. Or it can back down and reach a compromise with Moscow over Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Zelensky alleges Russia plotting coup against him for next week
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asserted Friday that a group of Russians and Ukrainians planned to attempt a coup in Ukraine next month and that the plotters tried to enlist the help of the country’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.
Zelensky, speaking at a “press marathon” for local and international media, said that audio recordings, obtained by Ukraine’s security services, caught plotters discussing their plans and mentioning Akhmetov’s name.
Akhmetov was not involved in the purported coup plot, however, Zelensky said.
The president offered no other details, however, leaving many questions about his motives for making the
allegations public and what possible actions authorities have taken.
U.S., Russian Military Chiefs Speak On The Phone Amid Heightened Tensions Over Ukraine
(RadioFreeEurope) The United States’ and Russia’s top military officers spoke over the phone on November 23, amid heightened Western concerns over Russian military moves near the Ukrainian border.
Blinken Warns Russia Against Making a ‘Serious Mistake’ in Ukraine
Appearing with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the intentions behind Moscow’s latest military buildup were unclear.
Dmytro Kuleba: The Lublin Triangle reflects a new trend in international politics
On October 5, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took part in the Lublin Triangle meeting together with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau and Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomėnas in the format of a roundtable discussion within the framework of the Warsaw Security Forum.
“For decades the international agenda has been shaped by major international organizations and alliances. The OSCE, the Council of Europe, NATO, the EU and the UN structured the world order. Today, primarily due to Russia’s aggressive actions, it is increasingly difficult for the big alliances to maintain international peace and security. Therefore, flexible regional formats, such as the Lublin Triangle, are gaining greater importance,” Dmytro Kuleba underscored.
Ukraine and NATO — don’t ask, do
Ukraine has waited a long time to receive a NATO membership action plan, and it will have to wait longer. Originally published in the Kyiv Post, Steven Pifer provides three recommendations for Kyiv.
(Brookings) NATO has no fixed checklist of what countries must do to qualify for a MAP, that is, an aspirant for a MAP cannot present a fully checked scorecard and automatically claim one. The decision to bestow one ultimately is a political call by alliance members. What is unfair is that Ukraine today arguably has made as much progress toward meeting the criteria for membership as had other countries when they received their MAPs, for example, Bulgaria and Romania in 1999 or Albania in 2007. Indeed, Ukraine has probably done more.
The reason why Ukraine waits is also unfair. NATO’s 1995 enlargement study said, “No country outside the alliance should be given a veto or droit de regard over the process and decisions.” Yet the Kremlin has, in effect, exercised such a veto. Allies appear unenthusiastic about a MAP now, particularly because there is no good answer to the question “if Ukraine joins NATO tomorrow, does the alliance then find itself at war with Russia?”
Missing Belarusian Activist Is Found Dead in Park in Ukraine
The police began an investigation after Vitaly Shishov went missing in Kyiv and was found dead in a park near his home
Missing Belarus activist Vitaly Shishov found hanged in Kyiv park
Vitaly Shishov, who led a Kyiv-based NGO, was found hanged in a park in the Ukrainian capital, police say.
Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania have become havens for Belarusians during a crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko following a disputed election last year.
Shishov’s death came as Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said over the weekend she was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics and threatened with forced repatriation for criticising her athletics federation.
The sprinter, who was granted a humanitarian visa by Poland on Monday, said she feared being jailed if she returned to her country.
Her husband Arseny Zdanevich told the AFP news agency on Monday that he had fled Belarus to Ukraine and was hoping to join his wife “in the near future”.
Ukraine Is Part of the West
NATO and the EU Should Treat It That Way
By Dmytro Kuleba
(Foreign Affairs) Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in November 1991, the area that extends from central Europe to Central Asia has been commonly referred to as the “post-Soviet space.” The label has always been problematic—and 30 years after its introduction, the time to retire it has come. The term misleadingly implies a degree of political, social, and economic coherence among a diverse set of countries that includes my own, Ukraine. Even more worrying, its use encourages policymakers and publics outside this geography to see the countries within it through a single lens.
This reductive approach serves the Kremlin’s imperialistic aims. Russian President Vladimir Putin spares no effort to promote the false historical narrative that Ukrainians and Russians constitute “one nation”; his recent 5,300-word opus on the subject has reportedly become compulsory reading for the Russian military.
Putin wishes to reassemble the countries of the former Soviet Union and reverse what he calls the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” But for millions of people across the region, the Soviet Union’s collapse was not a catastrophe. It was a liberation.
Is Putin’s next big chance to take Ukraine now?
(Atlantic Council) Russian President Vladimir Putin recently published an opinion essay “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” He argues that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, that Ukraine has fake borders, and that the West has established an anti-Russia project to instill fear in Ukrainians.
Some new claims in his essay, however, should be a cause for concern. While discussing the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Putin argues that Kyiv “does not need the Donbas.” He states that the “inhabitants of these regions will never accept [Western] order,” and that Ukrainian sovereignty can only be achieved by partnering with Russia.
So is Putin preparing for a new incursion into Ukraine?
… Given this long pattern of Russian meddling during major sporting events, Putin’s next incursion into Ukraine could coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. First, Putin’s essay on Russia and Ukraine is rather timely. We know that Putin will go to great lengths to ensure that Russia and Ukraine are unified, or to destroy Ukraine as a cohesive state. Second, the weather in eastern Ukraine favors a new Russian offensive. According to military experts, the spring in eastern Ukraine is known as mud season. This would have made it difficult for the Kremlin to move its heavy machinery into the Donbas, but with a dry summer, it is possible that Russia’s troop movement near Ukraine’s eastern border in April 2021 was a precursor to what may come. Or it could deploy more forces in the Black Sea or take the Zmiiyni Island, as analysts at the Kyiv-based Center for Defense Strategies have warned. Finally, the West has been preoccupied with the fight over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. As several European states continue to lobby against the pipeline’s completion, the United States and Germany recently announced a joint statement on Nord Stream 2. Distractions favor Putin.
The West would be wise to observe Russia’s behavior during the Tokyo Olympics. A new Russian offensive would put the West on high alert, and Western officials must be ready for this potential scenario. Otherwise, this incursion could be catastrophic for Europe and deadly for Ukraine.
Ukraine pressures Nato for membership as Russia amasses troops at border
Zelenskiy urged for his country to be put on pathway to membership of western military alliance
(The Guardian) Ukraine’s president has called on Nato and key member states to hasten his country’s membership of the western military alliance in response to a growing build-up of Russian forces on his country’s borders. [See more Russia September 2020 –]
Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke with Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, on Tuesday, and urged for Ukraine to be put on a pathway to future membership to halt the long-running conflict in the eastern Donbas region.
A statement released by the Ukraine presidency following the call said that “the most urgent issue” in relation to Nato was “the possibility of obtaining the Nato membership action plan”, seen as a pathway to future membership.
The Ukrainian president has been engaged in a frantic round of diplomatic activity in the past few days as Russia has markedly increased the number of troops deployed to the north and east of Ukraine and in occupied Crimea.
EU and UK pledge backing to Ukraine after Russian military buildup
Boris Johnson and European envoy say Kiev has their ‘unwavering support’, while Moscow denies threatening behaviour
‘Nothing About Us Without Us’: Normandy Without Ukraine?
By Vladimir Socor
(Eurasia Daily Monitor) Three members of the Normandy Four group discussed the other member, Ukraine, in Ukraine’s absence.
Throwing the Russia-Ukraine conflict into a mixed bag with other crises is a game to Russia’s advantage. In almost all of those crises, Germany and France (or the European Union) play a weaker hand than Russia or even no hand. Taking up these issues with Russia is a move that places Berlin and Paris in the position of soliciting problem-solving assistance from the Kremlin. This imbalance, in turn, can set the stage for tradeoffs, based on each side’s order of priorities in their respective neighborhoods. With Ukraine as its front-and-center priority, Russia holds leverage over Europe in Syria and Libya, two theaters where Europe has not only failed but is even failing to support a more capable Turkey for counter-leverage on Russia.
Why the Black Sea could emerge as the world’s next great energy battleground
(Atlantic Council) A recent CEPA strategy paper [The Black Sea … or a Black Hole? – Why the Black Sea Region Matters to the Kremlin] noted that the Black Sea region was not only a frontier between the West and Russia, but also the meeting point of four great forces: democracy in the West, Russian military aggression to the north, growing Chinese financial influence to the east, and Middle Eastern instability in the south.
To fend off rising Chinese inroads and Russian aggression, it said, the West and NATO would have to produce a multi-layered strategy. This would involve helping littoral states build strong economies while encouraging collaboration among them.
Such a vision would consolidate security on NATO’s southeastern flank. It would bring alliance members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey closer together with NATO’s strongest partners, Georgia and Ukraine.
One element that could underpin these objectives would be the development of Black Sea gas reserves which are being explored in the offshore zones of each littoral state. These reserves could become the linchpin of an integrated regional economy.
The exact volumes of gas currently lying deep underneath the Black Sea are not yet known. Rough estimates predict that the Ukrainian shelf may contain more than two trillion cubic meters of gas. The exact figure is yet to be determined since two-thirds of the country’s maritime area passed to de facto Russian control following Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz is preparing to explore 32 remaining blocks.
Meanwhile, Turkey made international headlines in 2020 when it said reserves at its offshore Tuna-1 exploration zone may be as high as 405 billion cubic meters. Further reserves could be discovered in adjacent blocks.
Top US national security officials call counterparts as Russia and Ukraine tensions rise
(CNN)Top US national security officials have spoken with their Ukrainian counterparts, and America’s top general held a call Wednesday with his Russian opposite number amid concern over Russian military activity in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, including what the US deemed a violation of a ceasefire by Moscow that led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers last week.
Rumours of War: Another Russian Surprise in Ukraine?
By James Sherr OBE
(The International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS)) A localised escalation, dramatic and devastating, leading to the deployment of Russian ‘peacekeepers’ on the current demarcation line, is probably the most realistic option. In the view of Sergiy Garmash, its aim would be to create a ‘new reality’ and ‘reformat’ dynamics in the region. It would have the merit of preserving existing territorial arrangements, at least outwardly, yet it would allow for the revival of military operations ‘at any moment required by Moscow’.12 Moreover, it is the one military option that fits observable evidence: the movement of forces from Russia and the mobilisation of local reserves. …
That a major escalation might rally Ukraine and revitalise Western support for it is eminently possible. But that does not diminish its probability. One looks in vain for signs that experience has refuted the orthodoxy that ‘compelling [Ukraine] by force into brotherly relations is the only method historically shown to be effective’.14 It is also possible that these rumours of war will dissipate as others have in the past. But if not, no one should be surprised.
Putin plots Ukraine peace talks without Ukraine
(Atlantic Council) Ukrainian diplomats have raised the alarm this week over news of Russian plans to hold Ukraine peace talks without Ukraine’s participation. The Kremlin gambit has revived concerns that Moscow aims to bypass Kyiv and reach agreement directly with the West over Ukraine’s geopolitical future.
Speaking in Moscow on March 29, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed to reporters that preparations were currently underway for a video conference between Russian President Vladimir Putin and fellow Normandy Format leaders German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, with the conflict in Ukraine set to feature prominently on the trilateral agenda. Peskov stated that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would not be invited to join the talks.
News of Putin’s plans to engage France and Germany while isolating Ukraine underlines the Normandy Format’s failure to facilitate meaningful progress towards peace. This latest Russian initiative will increase calls for a rethink of the current negotiating format, with many senior figures in Kyiv already seeking a greater role for the United States.
Franco-German Proposals in the Normandy Forum: A Letdown to Ukraine
(Eurasia Daily Monitor) Moscow wants Kyiv to respond officially and negatively, not so much to the Russian document (a deliberate nonstarter) but to the Franco-German proposal, so that Kyiv would look intransigent and alienate Berlin and Paris. Indeed, the Franco-German “Key Clusters” adhere to the Russian-imposed Minsk Two “agreement” while tinkering with the sequence of steps at the margins. The Kremlin, however, is not interested in ending its multi-dimensional war against Ukraine and, therefore, not interested in the Franco-German proposals, regardless of how favorable they are to Russia.
Ukraine can learn from Azerbaijan’s recent victory
(Atlantic Council) Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the recent six-week war between the two countries looks to have ended decades of stalemate and transformed the geopolitical balance in the South Caucasus region. I
The renewal of full-scale military hostilities in Azerbaijan in late September marked a dramatic thaw in what was one of the former USSR’s oldest frozen conflicts, dating back to the early 1990s. The course and outcome of the war offer some potentially important lessons for Ukraine, which is home to the most recent of the many little wars to erupt amid the ruins of the Soviet Empire.
Since 2014, successive governments in Kyiv have failed to find a path towards peace that would end the six-year Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine and bring the region back under Ukrainian control. While the circumstances in Ukraine and the Southern Caucasus are by no means directly comparable, Azerbaijan’s success nevertheless provides a number of pointers for Ukrainian policymakers to consider.
Perhaps the most obvious conclusion is that internationally-backed post-Soviet peace-making forums are no longer credible. The Minsk Group that was established under the auspices of the OSCE in the 1990s to address the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process failed to make any progress despite the involvement of Russia, France, and the US. After decades of diplomatic deadlock, military force proved decisive in a matter of weeks.
There are obvious parallels here for Ukraine, which in engaged in its own ineffectual Minsk peace process. The agreements signed in the Belarusian capital in September 2014 and February 2015 by Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France were designed to serve as a road map towards a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Instead, the terms agreed in Minsk have yet to be fully implemented.
Ukraine agrees to dialogue with Russian-led republics
(Atlantic Council) Ukrainian officials have agreed to begin talks with representatives of Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine, marking a significant policy departure following six years of refusals to enter into direct dialogue with the Kremlin-appointed authorities of the breakaway regions. The agreement in question was signed in Minsk on March 11 by representatives of the Trilateral Contact Group, which consists of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Preliminary plans envisage the creation of a new Advisory Council that will feature ten Ukrainian officials and ten representatives from the so-called people’s republics in the east of the country. Russia will reportedly participate in the process as an international observer rather than as a party to the conflict and will have the same supervisory status as France, Germany, and the OSCE. The stated aim of this new Advisory Council is to facilitate dialogue towards the political settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with an emphasis on preparing the ground for planned local elections. …
Peter Zalmayev, Director, Eurasia Democracy initiative: The decision to raise the status of the separatist puppet entities in eastern Ukraine to that of negotiating partners severely undercuts Ukraine’s claims made to its Western partners, and in pending international litigation, of being a victim of Russian aggression. It has clearly been Moscow’s cherished goal ever since the launch of the Minsk process to shift the blame for the war onto Ukraine’s shoulders. This way, Russia could wipe the slate clean, including, among a long list of other crimes, its guilt for the downing of flight MH17 in July 2014, which is the subject of court proceedings currently underway in the Netherlands. President Zelenskyy’s decision may now distort that trial’s outcome in favor of the perpetrator. It could also undermine sympathy for Ukraine, along with the country’s credibility, among international audiences.
Oksana Bashuk Hepburn: How to stop Putin
Confusion reigns. Meanwile, Putin is using the time well by supplanting U.S. leadership in the free world and sowing chaos. He wants America cobbled–revenge for having won the Cold War—and with that an open season on Europe.
To win globally, he operates locally. For this reason, he’s moved with a new, seductive peace offering to Ukraine: let’s take Europe together.
The forerunner to this strategy was in evidence at the recent Munich Security Conference where Russia — determined to reclaim Ukraine with a fake 12-point peace plan– was very much in evidence.
The plan was forcefully criticized by Ukraine and democrats worldwide; even pulled off the conference website. Its return underscores Russia’s penetration of democratic institutions while the list of eminent signatories indicates how far it has succeeded in corrupting Western hearts and minds.
It is time to take aim at Russia propaganda and recognize it as the mental coronavirus spreading rapidly to infect and destroy democracies. While learning how to “isolate and eliminate” the disease we must strengthen the only currently active defence against Russia, Ukraine.
Previous measures have been too lame. Wasted time allowed Putin to take advantage of wobbling democracies. He will advance further if not stopped. Remember: he is now seducing Ukraine with promises to end the war if it joins Russia in overtaking Europe and beyond. The EU and NATO will have helped to nurture a stronger enemy via all its efforts to democratize Ukraine if that happens.
Ukraine must remain in the democratic camp for global peace and security to prevail. To show that they mean business EU and NATO states need to shun the new Hitler’s– Putin– May Day “never again” sham.
Hope for ‘long-elusive progress’ in negotiating peace in eastern Ukraine
(Modern Diplomacy) Marking the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Minsk II agreement, the UN political chief told the Security Council on Tuesday, that along with the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk memorandum, it remains “the only agreed framework” for a negotiated, peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, also recalled that the Secretary-General has consistently expressed the UN’s “strong backing” for the lead role of the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), and the OSCE to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and called for “a revitalization of these efforts”.
“Most notably”, she said, “on 9 December, and after a three-year hiatus, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in Paris under the so-called Normandy Format” and called for, among other things, immediate measures to stabilize the situation.
The leaders committed to fully implement the ceasefire and to support an agreement within the contact group on three areas aimed to disengage forces and equipment.
Flawed peace plan for Ukraine doesn’t pass muster
(The Atlantic Council) A distinguished group of American, European, and Russian former government officials and think tank experts has taken advantage of the Munich Security Conference to issue a statement recommending twelve steps to bring greater security to Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic region. For years, the Kremlin has tried to change the conversation on Ukraine, and they are clearly seeking another opening in Munich. In response, twenty-nine former US diplomats, government officials, and experts point out their errors.
Most of the twelve recommendations from the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group—if faithfully implemented by all parties—are constructive and could both serve as confidence-building measures and alleviate the difficulties and suffering endured by the population in or near the occupied Donbas. Several are problematic; two in particular echo Kremlin negotiating proposals or disinformation themes. More importantly, the document describes the problem to be resolved in Kremlin-friendly terms, perhaps in order to persuade members of the Russian elite to sign.
The signers identify the problem in their very first sentence: “the conflict in and around Ukraine.” That description obscures the problem’s origins and makes it impossible to find an appropriate solution. … In short, the problem to fix is Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine—by restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, starting with the Donbas. More broadly, the problem is to persuade Moscow that it does not have the right to dictate the policies of its neighbors.
It’s Time for Ukraine to Let the Donbass Go
Reintegration would be too costly; beyond an expensive reconstruction, it would entail reintegrating a deeply pro-Russian region at a time when Ukraine is finally moving West.
(Foreign Policy) As the Dec. 9 meeting of the Normandy group tasked with resolving the war in Ukraine’s Donbass approaches, Ukrainians would do well to consider that Russia’s occupation of the territory has actually been a godsend for their country.
The Donbass has consistently supported Ukraine’s most retrograde, anti-reformist, anti-European, pro-Russian, and pro-Soviet political forces. It was the Donbass that made Viktor Yanukovych, whose political career was dedicated to bringing Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit, president in 2010. It was out of the Donbass that came his corrupt Party of Regions. And it was the Donbass that opposed popular pro-democracy uprisings in 2004 and 2014.
Kremlin eyes four-way Ukraine summit this year
(Reuters) – An international summit on solving the Ukrainian crisis is likely to take place this year, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow on Monday.
Ukraine’s Unlikely President, Promising a New Style of Politics, Gets a Taste of Trump’s Swamp
Volodymyr Zelensky swept to power pledging to end corruption. Then the White House called.
(The New Yorker) In one sense, Zelensky was saved by the whistle-blower complaint, which seems to have put an end to Trump officials’ demands for investigations. But, as the impeachment inquiry proceeds in Washington, the challenge for Zelensky will be to avoid irritating a volatile American President while preserving good will among Democrats. Zelensky could be in a tough spot if, in the course of the impeachment inquiry, Congress requests to speak with Ukrainian officials or to access their documents.
Putin and Hungary’s Orban helped sour Trump on Ukraine
(WaPo) President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by its regional adversaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, current and former U.S. officials said. Trump’s conversations with Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election, the officials said.
Gordon Sondland, E.U. Envoy, Testifies Trump Delegated Ukraine Policy to Giuliani
Mr. Sondland said in his testimony to House impeachment investigators that he was disappointed the president involved his personal lawyer in diplomacy with Kiev.
By Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt
(NYT) Mr. Sondland, a Trump campaign donor who has emerged as a central figure in the Ukraine scandal, testified under subpoena that he did not understand until later that Mr. Giuliani’s goal may have been an effort “to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.”
According to a copy of his opening statement to investigators, which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Sondland said Mr. Trump refused the counsel of his top diplomats, who recommended that he meet with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, without any preconditions. The president said the diplomats needed to satisfy concerns that both he and Mr. Giuliani had related to corruption in Ukraine, Mr. Sondland asserted.
His account is at odds with testimony from some foreign policy officials. They have portrayed Mr. Sondland as a willing participant who inserted himself into Ukraine policy even though the country is not in the purview of his posting, and was a key player in Mr. Trump’s efforts to win a commitment from the new Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals.
It emerged as Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters that the Trump administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate whether Kiev helped the Democrats during the 2016 election, an unsubstantiated theory that the president has long espoused. But hours later, Mr. Mulvaney denied what he had said earlier, charging that the news media had misreported his account despite the fact that his words were captured on camera.
‘The New Berlin Wall’: Why Ukraine Is Central to the Scandal
(NYT) Caught between the clashing geopolitical ambitions of Russia and the West, Ukraine has for years had to balance competing outside interests and worked hard to cultivate all sides, and also rival groups on the same side — no matter how incompatible their agendas — with offers of money, favors and prospects for career advancement.
Ukraine, said Serhii Plokhy, a Harvard historian whose books include “The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine,” has for centuries been tugged in different directions by rival suitors, and became a “battlefield” between Russia and the West when it declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, a lecturer in philosophy at the Ukrainian Catholic University, said Ukraine’s pivotal position in geopolitical struggles had made Kiev, a picturesque capital of cobblestoned streets on the Dnepr River, into the 21st century’s equivalent of Cold War dens of intrigue like Vienna and Berlin, or Casablanca during World War II.
Unlike Russia, ruled since the time of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century by a single, strong leader, usually a tyrant, Ukraine has always been a land of competing power centers. This has made it a fertile ground for democracy but also left it a highly fractured nation with an ever shifting constellation of feuding power-brokers who often look to foreigners for help in their internal struggles.
The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.
(New York) [T]he real trick in Trump’s defense is framing the call as the entire scandal. The scandal is much more than that. The call is a snapshot, a moment in time in a months-long campaign that put American policy toward Ukraine at the disposal of Trump’s personal interests and reelection campaign.
The Big Costs of Treating Ukraine Like Little Trumpland
Trump’s push to get Ukraine’s new president to do his political bidding threatens to undermine a key U.S. partnership in countering Russia.
(The Atlantic) It’s true that Ukraine relies heavily on U.S. support to defend itself against Russia. Though Trump has long called on European nations to take on a greater share of the burden of U.S. military assistance, America remains the primary guarantor of Ukrainian security and sovereignty. The separatist war in eastern Ukraine continues; the Crimean peninsula is still in Russian hands; there is always the threat of further Russian incursions. Any rollback of U.S. support, and any setbacks in the political relationship between the two countries, is cause for serious concern in Kiev.
At the same time, however, a rift in the Ukraine-U.S. relationship can also hurt America in its own struggle against Russia. Ukraine’s spy services and military forces have become an important U.S. partner in countering Russia—especially in the realm of hybrid warfare, which Moscow has deployed so effectively against America and its allies. Lost amid the accusations that Trump has used U.S. aid as leverage to push Ukraine to do his political bidding is the fact that while Kiev is heavily reliant on America to defend against Russia, America needs help from Kiev too.
Trump Blurts Out to Reporters That He Pressured Ukraine to Smear Biden
(New York) Over the past two days, President Trump has drained most of the remaining mystery from the world’s least mysterious crime drama. In a series of comments to the media, the president casually revealed that yes, he had pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden, and yes, he had tied that demand to military aid.
An old editor of mine who once worked the police beat for a newspaper told me most murder investigations are solved with the police arriving at the crime scene to see a man holding a gun and weeping about why he did it. The political ecosystem, though, is not structured to handle such cut-and-dried scenarios. Concerns must be raised, hearings must be held, money must be followed.
What Actually Happened Between Joe Biden and Ukraine, Explained
Hint: It’s not what President Trump wants the media to believe
(Rolling Stone) Now, this may be difficult to believe, but what actually happened between Biden and Ukraine is far more complicated than the president claims. In fact, it isn’t really that much of a controversy at all. Here’s a brief rundown of what inspired Trump’s latest efforts to get a foreign government to investigate one of his chief political opponents.
The Mounting Scandal Over What Trump Said to Ukraine’s President
If Volodymyr Zelensky so desires, he has the ability to seriously damage Trump’s Presidency with a few choice disclosures.
(The New Yorker) … That is an unwelcome, and potentially dangerous, scenario for any Ukrainian President, given the degree to which Ukraine relies on American diplomatic, economic, and military assistance. It is not just the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid that Kiev depends on but also American loan guarantees, economic sanctions against Russia, and diplomatic involvement in negotiating an end to the war in the Donbass. With that conflict continuing to boil, American military training and weaponry remains vital to Ukraine’s military. In 2018, the Trump Administration agreed to supply the country with anti-tank Javelin missiles.
Behind the Whistle-Blower Case, a Long-Held Trump Grudge Toward Ukraine
For months this spring and summer, Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, tried to deflect pressure from President Trump and his allies to pursue investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Biden’s son and other Trump rivals.
On July 25, two weeks after the first call between Mr. Zelensky’s aide, Andriy Yermak, and Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Zelensky had a call of his own with Mr. Trump. During their conversation, Mr. Trump pressed for an investigation into Mr. Biden and repeatedly urged Mr. Zelensky to work with Mr. Giuliani, according to people familiar with the call.
In the weeks after the call, events unfolded rapidly in a way that alarmed some officials in both countries. They interpreted the discussions as dangling support to Ukraine in exchange for political beneficial investigations.
On Aug. 12, a whistle-blower filed a complaint with the intelligence community inspector general that was at least in part about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Then, in late August, the Ukrainians learned that a package of American military assistance was being delayed by the White House, because, Vice President Mike Pence later explained after a meeting with Mr. Zelensky, he and Mr. Trump “have great concerns about issues of corruption.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A personal reflection on a nation’s dream of independence and the nightmare Vladimir Putin has visited upon it.
(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.
(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.
Ukrainian troops begin leaving embattled transport hub
(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.
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.
Putin: 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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