Reports by Atlantic Council and Boris Nemtsov’s allies reveal extent of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is violating a February 2015 ceasefire agreement by continuing to send troops and weapons into Ukraine in a blatant attempt to destabilize the country, according to an Atlantic Council report issued May 28.

The report, Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine, draws on open source material and uses social media posts to track the movement of Russian soldiers and equipment across the border into Ukraine.

“There would be no conflict in Ukraine today but for Putin’s strategy to provoke one,” said Damon Wilson, the Atlantic Council’s Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy, and one of the report’s five co-authors. “We don’t have a Ukraine problem, we have a Putin problem.”

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Sgt. Leonid Kichatkin of the Russian 76th Airborne Division and Russian soldier Anton Tumanov died in August 2014 while fighting in eastern Ukraine. Their deaths amply demonstrate that Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine is false.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 10 once again justified the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as a statesmanlike act of defending Russia's national interests. This time Putin did so with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next to him. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact—the 1939 deal that split Eastern Europe between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany—was a death warrant for millions of Poles, Jews, and other East Europeans and paved the way for World War II. From his repeated justifications of the pact, one can derive six important insights into the mentality and objectives of Putin and Russia's elite.

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European Ambassadors see “erosion” of sanctions regime if US Congress is viewed as cause of deal’s failure

Failure to secure a deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program in return for phased sanctions relief could unravel a crippling sanctions regime on the Islamic Republic if that outcome is perceived to be the West’s fault, two European diplomats said May 26.

“If we were to walk away, or if the [US] Congress were to make it impossible for the agreement to be implemented, then the international community would be pretty reluctant, frankly, to contemplate a ratcheting up further of the sanctions against Iran,” Sir Peter Westmacott, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States, said at the Atlantic Council.

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The European Union's Summit on the Eastern Partnership, held May 21-22 in Riga, was a disaster for Ukraine. For friends of democracy, the rule of law, and Ukraine, it would have been better had this EU summit never taken place and its joint declaration never written.

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For most of the 20th century, Ukraine was the victim of two equally malevolent empires—Germany and Russia. Germany's contribution to Ukraine's devastation was the two World Wars; Russia's was the imposition of Soviet rule and the concomitant destruction of Ukraine's peasantry and elites. Unsurprisingly, one of the most constant images in 20th-century Ukrainian commentary is that of their country being caught between a hammer and an anvil.

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In Russia this April, a Baptist pastor was jailed for professing his faith. Pavel Pilipchuk's five-day detention was brief, but excessive. It followed his refusal to pay a heavy fine for organizing street evangelism in the city of Oryol, around 200 miles south of Moscow. By not informing city officials of his plans, a local court ruled the pastor had violated Russia's law regulating public demonstrations. Pilipchuk's plea that "Christian hymns and conversation are not demonstrations" fell on deaf ears. So did his appeal to Russia's constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

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Instability arcs along Europe’s periphery from the Middle East and North Africa up the Black Sea and into the Arctic, while transnational security challenges (climate change, cyber threats, etc.) challenge our future. At the same time, the bonds of Cold War transatlantic solidarity have weakened as new generations arise and isolationist/nativist movements reemerge on both continents. Yet now is exactly the wrong moment for the United States and Europe—particularly Germany—to turn inward or mistrust each other. Today’s crises require transatlantic leadership and solidarity as revanchist-minded powers such as Russia and China stand ready to take advantage of any retrenchment to set new terms for the 21st century order.

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"To those from outside, [the fighting in Ukraine] may seem like a regional conflict, but that's really not the case," said Archbishop Zoria Yevstratiy of Chernihiv of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Kyiv Patriarchate. 

In an interview at the Atlantic Council on May 19, Yevstratiy described the situation in Ukraine as unique and of global significance.

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Analysts and journalists have begun to ask where the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine will go next now that the second ceasefire agreement has failed. Skirmishes on the frontline in Shyrokyne, less than ten miles from Mariupol's city limits, have raised concerns that Mariupol will be the next target. Geographically and commercially speaking, Mariupol makes sense. It's the busiest commercial marine hub on the Azov Sea and considered a must-have for Russia if a land corridor to Crimea is ever to be realized. Mariupol would also be a symbolic coup for the separatists. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko named the city the provisional capital of the Donetsk region in 2014. The separatists have also threatened to take the city. Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the Donetsk People's Republic, warned that separatists will take Mariupol if Ukrainian forces continue their "aggression."

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