When thousands of Ukrainian citizens and most journalists fled to safety, Stanislav Aseev, an aspiring young journalist from the Donbas decided to stay put. Surrounded by frequent shelling, rupturing grenades, flying rockets, worn by the psychological stress of death, destruction, and high unemployment, and bombarded by propaganda that shattered friendships and families, he put his life on the line to tell this story.

Aseev paid a high price. In June 2017, the separatists arrested him on trumped-up charges of espionage, tortured him, and refused to include him in the last big prisoner swap.

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If one took the punditry seriously, it would be easy to conclude that the Western liberal order is being unmade before our very eyes. Some worried that US President Donald Trump would destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this week. He didn’t. Instead, he reaffirmed his commitment to it.

Yes, he undermined the credibility of the alliance and potentially created deep rifts among its members. He bashed Germany and told the Europeans and Canada that they need to pony up more dough. He was crass, and the United States’ image abroad took another hit. But NATO still stands.

Trump’s next big meeting is with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. The president has an unexplained soft spot for the Russian strongman and wants to mend US-Russian relations badly. After last month’s flop in North Korea, Trump needs a win.  

On June 29, Trump told reporters that he might recognize Crimea as Russia’s. In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, which had been part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic since 1954 and then of an independent and sovereign Ukraine since 1991. The United States has maintained that Crimea belongs to Ukraine—full stop, and so has the European Union. The White House later walked back Trump’s statement and said that US policy has not changed.

Still, Kyiv remains understandably anxious. The nation of 44 million worries that Trump will bargain away Crimea for better US-Russian relations. Others fret that Trump will lift sanctions on Russia.

The truth is that Trump can’t do as much as people think he can. 

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“Glory to Ukraine!” saluted Domagoj Vida in a video message last week to his Ukrainian fans following Croatia’s victory over host Russia in the quarter finals of the World Cup. Vida, a Croatian defender who had played for five years with Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, was pumped up from a heady goal in a dramatic victory over Russia on July 7.

It was natural that he would salute the millions of Ukrainian fans who had followed his exploits for five years in Kyiv. And it was normal that—as someone who had lived in Kyiv during the Maidan protests, the killing of more than one hundred protestors, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ten thousand deaths it has brought—he would have great sympathy for Ukraine.

Shouting “Slava Ukraini!” or “Glory to Ukraine!” would hardly seem a matter for FIFA, the international football authority. But Vida’s utterance created a major international kerfuffle with FIFA initially threatening to disqualify the offending Croatian footballer and his mate, Ognjen Vukojevic, an assistant coach. Later, the Croatian team would dismiss Vukojevic, who, likewise had played for Ukraine’ s Dynamo club.

The FIFA kerfuffle revealed a string of paradoxes about the international community, football, money, power, and double standards.

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Europe faces a looming choice with serious geopolitical consequences. It can continue to receive its natural gas through Ukraine or bypass Ukraine altogether and receive its gas through Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Option one—preserving Ukraine’s gas transportation system—helps diversify fuel supplies and means that Europe’s gas supplies can be expanded if needed.

Option two means that Europe will become even more dependent on Russian gas. Russia will be able to block the supply of LNG from the United States. Eastern and a significant part of Central Europe will have no reliable gas source for at least five to seven years. Plus it signals that commercial interests trump the European Union’s values and principles.

What’s the likely outcome?

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Some in the West like to beat up on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and portray him as the chief obstacle to reform. However, if Poroshenko is holding the country back, how did parliament, which is governed by Poroshenko’s party and Popular Front, manage to adopt so many reforms in four short years?

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On June 29, US President Donald Trump told reporters that recognizing Russia’s illegal land grab of Ukraine’s Crimea is on the table when he meets President Vladimir Putin in July. While the White House has since backed away and insisted that US policy hasn’t changed, the president and his staff may need a refresher.

In March 2014, thousands of Ukrainian citizens automatically became Russian citizens whether they wanted to or not. When Russia illegally annexed Crimea, anyone who had been born in Crimea or anyone with a Crimean residence permit was given Russian citizenship. At least 3,500 Ukrainian citizens kept their passports and refused Russian citizenship.

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Police reform is still listed among Ukraine’s most successful reforms undertaken since the Revolution of Dignity, but it shouldn’t be. In 2014-2015, it served as a showcase demonstrating Ukraine’s progress. To be fair, some results had been attained by that point: the newly reshuffled patrol police force was more transparent, it demonstrated zero tolerance for corruption, and it enjoyed unprecedented public support.

But “police reform” was only about patrol police, who account for less than one-tenth of the entire National Police—that is, 12,000 employees out of 140,000. The criminal police force, which investigates all general criminal offenses and is responsible for public safety, has never undertaken reform. Despite government promises that other vital departments of the National Police will undergo a reform as decisive and fast as that of the patrol police, it never happened.

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On July 9, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and European Council President Donald Tusk plan to meet at the EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels to discuss a range of issues. Anticorruption reform will rightfully be at the top of the list, but there’s another issue that the Europeans should raise forcefully. One that escapes the headlines.

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On June 20, Yulia Tymoshenko officially announced that she’s running for president, which is no great surprise. The former prime minister tops the polls and it’s her race to lose.

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Ukraine’s got a real chance to elect a reform-minded president if Western-leaning opposition parties unify. A dozen political consultants and smart Ukraine hands have told me that campaign funds will come if there’s unity, and with nearly 40 percent of voters still undecided, there’s still time to court voters ahead of the March 2019 presidential election.

But there’s still no unified voice that speaks for the millions that went to the streets and ousted Viktor Yanukovych during the winter of 2013-2014. It’s easier said than done. For starters, the two main Western-leaning opposition party leaders—Civic Position’s Anatoliy Gritsenko and Samopomich’s Andriy Sadovyi—don’t get along. But one older—but evolving—political party is jostling to become the group that consolidates the reform vote.

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