President, Prime Minister and Civil Society Groups Push for Transparency; Parliament and Bureaucracy Will Be ObstaclesThe past week’s news from Russia’s mad proxy war in southeast Ukraine has been brutally shocking: the shooting down of Flight MH17, the remains of passengers left in wheat fields and train cars as investigators negotiated with separatist thugs, and the continued warfare.
This painful news has obscured better developments elsewhere in the country, as Ukraine’s pro-democracy forces and the still-new government fight back with one of the strongest weapons they can use: reforms to combat corruption and strengthen Ukraine’s vibrant but still very incomplete democracy. In his seventh week in office, President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree July 23 creating a National Reform Council to coordinate work across the government, and with civil society, on administrative and economic changes.
International Diplomacy on the Russia-Ukraine War Has Been Dominated by MoscowAs the international community works both to calm the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in southeast Ukraine and to assure a credible investigation of the Malaysian Airlines disaster there, the main body in that effort is the Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe. But the OSCE is limited in its roles because it relies on the consensus of its fifty-seven members, and thus needs Russia’s permission for the missions it takes on. Those limits are so severe that that a broader diplomatic engagement, and perhaps the creation of a new forum to support Ukraine, is required, several analysts write in the past week.
Alternate Reality Presented to the Russian Public by its Media
Four days after the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, Russia’s state-dominated news media are bending fact and credulity in an effort to blame Ukraine for the disaster. Within hours of the crash, Russia’s second largest news agency, RIA Novosti, announced that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the Ukrainian military. Citing the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic press service as their source, RIA reported that “eyewitnesses reported that the Malaysian jet was attacked by a Ukrainian fighter plane, after which the plane broke in midair into two sections and crashed on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic. After the attack the Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down and crashed. ”
Calls for Probe of Flight MH17 Will Disturb Back-Room Policymaking
The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner by the Russian-led insurgents in southeastern Ukraine appears to have awakened Europe’s conscience. The principal powers in the EU had been able thus far in the Ukraine crisis to avoid directly accusing the Kremlin of responsibility for the disorder in Ukraine’s southeast. They had sanctioned Moscow three times for failing to rein in “the pro-Russian separatists,” but those measures were notably weaker than the sanctions issued from Washington. This encouraged Mr. Putin to believe that, due to its economic interests in Russia, the EU would not act decisively against Kremlin aggression in Ukraine.
Vladimir Antyufeyev Fought Dirty Wars in Latvia, Moldova, Georgia; He’s Just the Man the Kremlin Needs
Last week the Russian-backed “Donetsk People’s Republic” became even more Russian-led. The two Muscovites at the top of the separatist leadership introduced the latest Russian citizen to join their team – and the one with the most prominent role so far in the Kremlin’s quarter-century of struggles to cripple the independence of its neighboring European states.
Putin Used West's Hesitation to Escalate Kremlin's War on Ukraine
The news that the United States has sanctioned several major Russian banks and firms, greatly limiting their use of American financial markets, is the first good news in months in terms of Western support for Ukraine. The designation of Vnesheconombank (Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs), Rosneft (Russia's largest oil producer) and Gazprombank in particular will have a major impact on the Russian economy. EU sanctions are notably weaker, but still exert a price on the Kremlin for its escalating aggression in Ukraine. The decision to stop any funding for Russian projects by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will have an impact.