Atlantic Council

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EU’s Economic Ties to Russia Slow its Pace, But New Steps Show Unity With US

This week’s European sanctions on Russia are “a game-changer” in applying the European Union’s first restrictions on a relatively broad sector of trade, says the Atlantic Council's Fran Burwell. While the sanctions are shaped to avoid directly damaging key European economic interests, and are not as broad as many US policymakers seek, Burwell said they also are likely to cause secondary effects in Russia that will tend to drive more investment out of that country. In the West's effort to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt his attacks on Ukraine, the EU's new sanctions align Europe with the United States in targeting key political and business allies of the Russian leader.

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On the eve of Argentina's likely default, Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Megan Greene reviews the likely outcomes, and gives implications for the future of sovereign debt defaults

Argentina's Default Will Have Wide Implications
Argentina is probably going to default tomorrow. An Argentinian debt default would clearly not be good for the country economically, but contagion would probably be limited and far less hard hitting than its previous 2001 default. If Argentina does default tomorrow, the biggest casualty would be the process of sovereign debt restructuring, which would become chaotic and haphazard.

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Vasyl Budik has spent eighty-six days as the hostage of Russian Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezler, a rebel commander in southeast Ukraine. But not just any hostage. Budik has at times been Bezler’s intermediary with Ukrainian authorities and his spokesman to local media. He has the freedom to make a Skype call to a reporter – but no guarantee that he will get out of his predicament alive.

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Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezler Leaves as Ukrainian Troops Advance, His Hostage Says

As Ukraine’s army advances against the Russian proxy forces in southeast Ukraine, it has forced one of the rebels’ most prominent and brutal commanders, former Russian army Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezler, out of his headquarters. Ukrainian troops and Bezler’s rebels fought battles at Horlivka yesterday, and Bezler left the city, turning his command over to one of his lieutenants, said Vasyl Budik, a local businessman who has spent the past three months as Bezler’s hostage – and, at times, his spokesman.

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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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