UkraineAlert

As Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced an end to the cease-fire by government forces fighting Russian-backed militants in the Donbas region of the southeast, new accounts emerged to show how futile was the ten-day truce. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry reported that the country’s armed forces lost 27 soldiers killed and 69 wounded.

And from Donetsk, the effective capital of Donbas, Yevhen Shybalov writes of the truce that only pessimists got this one right. Shybalov is a correspondent for Ukraine’s most prominent weekly paper, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia (the paper is published in Ukrainian and Russian as Dzerkalo Nedeli – the names translate as the “Weekly Mirror”), and his dispatches have often given a feel for the grimness of life in Donetsk at war.

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Kateryna Serhatskova, a 26-year-old Russian reporter for the Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda, is becoming one of the main documenters of the "dirty war" for control of the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine. Serhatskova, who lived for several years in Crimea, travels regularly to some of the most violent and fearful towns in the Donbas conflict – Donetsk, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and others.

Serhatskova and a few other volunteers are keeping a list – about eighty names long, now – of local residents whose detention by the Russian-backed rebels in Donbas they have confirmed. But some families are afraid to permit documentation of their missing relatives, and the investigators believe that the rebels hold probably several hundred captives, most of them local people, Serhatskova said.

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Former US Ambassador Bryza Urges Stepped-Up Effort to End Political Pricing by Kremlin and Gazprom 

Russia has unsheathed its gas weapon again, demanding higher prices this spring from Ukraine and announcing last week a cutoff in sales to its neighbor unless paid for in advance. (As Moscow twists Ukraine’s arm over gas, it has retreated on its gas price to Lithuania, which may offer a valuable lesson, Agnia Grigas writes.) The West can better defend Ukraine and Europe against Russia’s weaponization of gas sales by demanding that Russia’s state-owned Gazprom sell gas to European Union states at a uniform basic price, says Atlantic Council Nonresident Senior Fellow Matthew Bryza.

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Ukraine Military’s Most Famous Female Pilot is Now a Captive of Separatist Rebels


She looks tired, her face slightly puffy, but her blue eyes are calm and clear, and she appears utterly unafraid. Dressed in military fatigues, her hair cut short, she sits in the corner of a white-tiled room, handcuffed to a set of yellow metal bars.

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President-elect Poroshenko makes his first remarks after Ukraine's landmark elections. English subtitles available via close captioning, and translation available below.

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Russian-Sponsored Rebels Hold a 'Referendum' on Separation from Ukraine, But a Local Journalist Finds It a Farce


Donetsk resident Ihnat Svyachyshyn sets off to vote in the May 11 Donetsk separatist referendum. He asks his neighbors, a couple in their mid-twenties to join him but they refuse. While they support a federalization of political power in Ukraine, they think the referendum is being held improperly.

Svyachyshyn, a writer for the Donetsk-based news website Novosti Donbassa, starts early in the morning as he heads to vote at School No. 60, in the city’s Smolyanka neighborhood. Few people are present and he is glad to note that there are no armed, masked men. He shows his passport and is given a ballot. His request to also vote for his wife (he actually has no wife) is rejected because he can’t present her passport. An elderly woman standing behind him votes for her entire family, having come with all their passports.

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The Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and a coveted metropolis both for Ukrainians and Russians, became a battleground between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainians opposed to the country’s division. Accounts in Ukraine’s news media say the city’s police responded much as in the eastern Ukrainian cities hit by separatist violence so far, doing little to protect Odessa residents attacked by extremists, and instead tolerating or helping the aggressive pro-Russian groups. This widening pattern of police actions in heavily Russian-speaking zones of the country is one of the weekend’s worst pieces of news for Ukraine’s interim government.

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Ukraine has launched its most serious counter-attack yet on Russian-backed separatist militias at Slaviansk, a relatively minor city in eastern Ukraine. Slaviansk, by all evidence, serves as the main command center for the armed groups that have seized towns in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

The Ukrainian operation appears “well mounted with concern for the lives of civilians and unarmed pro-Russia forces,” said Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Adrian Karatnycky. It “shows a restoration of coherence” on the part of Ukraine’s interim government that may improve its chances of successfully holding the May 25 presidential election, including in eastern Ukraine, Karatnycky said. A successful election would bolster the government’s legitimacy and its strength in confronting the Russian-backed secessionist campaign in eastern Ukraine

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Her Chances of Moving Policy or Preventing a War Are Less Clear

While song and emotion come effortlessly for Ukrainian musician and pro-democracy activist Ruslana Lyzhychko, she says she’s nervous about speaking publicly in English, a language with which she struggles. But Wednesday night she delivered a meticulously practiced appeal for Ukraine to 900 of Washington and Europe’s foreign policy and business elite. When she finished with a soaring rendition of Ukraine’s national anthem, the crowd was on its feet, and Ruslana had turned a ballroom of the Ritz Carlton Hotel into an outpost of Kyiv’s Maidan.

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Why are Russia’s nearly 2 million Ukrainians silent? That is the question of Ukrainian educator Iryna Kluchkovska  asks in the mainstream daily broadsheet Den (The Day). Russia’s annexation of Crimea and sponsorship of violent uprisings in Ukraine’s east have mobilized Ukrainian communities to protest in New York, Sydney, Munich and elsewhere, she writes. But the expatriates of Ukraine's single biggest diaspora – the nearly 2 million (or 1.35 percent of the total population) living in Russia – have been silenced by fear, writes Kluchkovska. She recounts the stories of four Ukrainian community leaders killed or attacked in cities across Russia during the past decade – cases in which Russian officials have made no arrests and no convictions. This violence has delivered a message to Russia’s Ukrainians that they are vulnerable and have no recourse to law. As Vladimir Putin’s government declares itself the protector of rights for ethnic Russians in Ukraine, it systematically represses Ukrainians in Russia, terrorizing them into a deafening silence, Kluchkovska concludes.

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