Atlantic Council

New Atlanticist

As Ukrainian Army Weakens Kremlin’s Proxy Forces, Putin Steps Up War to Avoid Defeat


The war in Ukraine has heated up significantly in the ten days since the Russian-led and supplied insurgents shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Ukrainian forces retook the city of Lysychansk from the rebels late last week and have established control over most of their border with Russia. They are advancing on the city of Horlivka, a stronghold of the rebels and a gateway to Donetsk, the principal city of the Donbas region.

The Ukrainians’ steady advance, and the prospect that they might seal the border and cut insurgent supply lines, have led the government of President Vladimir Putin to again escalate its intervention in Ukraine. In addition to keeping up a steady flow of armored vehicles, missile systems and fighters to its agents in southeastern Ukraine, the Kremlin has sent heavy artillery. Russian forces along the Ukrainian border are directly attacking the Ukrainian military with artillery fire. In some locations, Ukrainian forces are under fire by the separatists to their west and the Russians to their east.

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The government resignations clear the way for early Rada elections. It's not a welcome development. There is a lot to be concerned about. Government unity is important for dealing with the current security dangers, but this is something for Ukrainians to work out.

John E. Herbst is director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. He served as the US ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006.​

With Early Elections, Will Political Infighting Revive?


Yesterday’s announced resignation of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is a potential step toward strengthening Ukraine’s government – but also a political risk that deepens the uncertainties facing Ukraine at least for the coming months.

The potential to strengthen the government is this: Ukraine needs a new parliament, and the breakup of the existing coalition is the only way to get it.

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Khodakovsky Blames Ukraine for Provoking What He Says Indeed May Have Been a Rebel Shootdown of MH-17


A senior commander of Russian-backed proxy forces fighting in southeast Ukraine confirmed today that the separatist militias indeed have been armed with the model of medium-range anti-aircraft missile that the US and Ukrainian governments say was used last week to destroy Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, based in Donetsk province, told Reuters news agency that another militia group had moved a battery of the SA-11 (or “Buk”) missiles into the area where the airliner was shot down. He gave a lengthy account of the attack suggesting that the rebels had indeed fired one of the missiles to destroy the plane, and then removed the launcher to avoid having it discovered.

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Russian Soldiers and Paramilitaries Post Stories and Pictures of Their War on Ukraine


Perhaps he was bragging, perhaps he thought he was doing his job and being patriotic. Whatever the reason, Russian army soldier Vadim Grigoriev recently piled on further evidence of Russia’s escalating – and increasingly direct – attacks on Ukraine. Using Russia’s version of Facebook, the website VKontakte, Grigoriev not only boasted that his artillery unit had been shelling Ukraine, he posted pictures to document it, under the heading “All night we pounded Ukraine.”

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President, Prime Minister and Civil Society Groups Push for Transparency; Parliament and Bureaucracy Will Be Obstacles

The 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.

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PHOTO:OSCE/Evgeniy Maloletka

International Diplomacy on the Russia-Ukraine War Has Been Dominated by Moscow

As 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.

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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. ”

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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.

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The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17 has heightened international concern about the Ukraine-Russia conflict, tragically demonstrating the broader impact and consequences of the ongoing war.

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