UkraineAlert

On Saturday, June 6, approximately 200 people gathered in the great hall of the Vyshhorod state administration building to welcome home 120 soldiers returning from the war in eastern Ukraine.

Vyshhorod District Head Alexander Gorgan presented certificates to those soldiers who had completed one year of military service, which entitles them to land, medical care, and preferential hiring. It was by all accounts an ordinary town-and-gown ceremony in Vyshhorod, a small city north of Kyiv.

But something was clearly different: Gorgan gave his cell phone number to local residents and encouraged them to contact him with their problems.

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The Russian government and its proxies in eastern Ukraine have consistently branded Kyiv's government a fascist junta and accused it of having Nazi sympathizers. Moscow's propaganda is outrageous and wrong. In fact, Ukraine's radical right political parties—Right Sector and Svoboda—have been marginalized.

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Russian politicians and pro-Russia separatists in the Donbas have repeatedly accused Ukraine of promoting fascism and Nazism since the February 2014 overthrow of former President Viktor Yanukovych. But at a Shabbat concert in Kyiv on June 5, another side of Ukraine was on full display: religious diversity and pluralism.

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Vladimir Kara-Murza has regained consciousness in a Moscow hospital after falling gravely ill on May 26, and the Russian opposition leader's father now says his son was poisoned.

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On May 30, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko named former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Governor of the Odesa region. There are a number of ways to interpret the bold move, but two historical analogies may be more apt: Saakashvili is either following in Duke of Richelieu's footsteps as an outside Governor of Odesa or the late CIA Director Richard Helms' path. Ukrainian politics are murky, but in Saakashvili's case, the motivation behind his appointment looks like a mixed bag. Saakashvili has been simultaneously promoted and exiled.

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Moscow recently announced that it will procure fifty new nuclear-capable bombers, the Tupolev TU-160 or Blackjacks, which are the world's largest combat aircraft. This seemingly anodyne announcement points to a critically important element of Russian strategy that we overlook at our and our allies' peril. The procurement is the latest in a continuing series of unilateral Russian violations of arms-control agreements and treaties with the United States and Ukraine. The systematic dismantling of arms-control agreements through unilateral violations has become a consistent theme of Russian policy.

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As commentary on Ukraine increasingly focuses on the next Russian offensive and ways to end the war, now is the time to consider how to rebuild a unified country. Any attempt to move past the violence and establish a stable basis for reform must involve a frank discussion of the past. A truth commission is likely to emerge as a compelling option. But truth commissions are not a panacea, particularly in situations of frozen conflict where the international community has no experience with these institutions. If eastern Ukraine hardens into a stalemate, which looks increasingly likely, the country would lack the right conditions for a truth commission to function effectively.

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Mikheil Saakashvili has a varied resume: former President of Georgia, Justice Minister, parliamentarian, senior statesman, and Ukrainian presidential adviser. On May 30, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko added another line to his CV. He named Saakaskvili regional Governor of Odesa, a vulnerable and strategic port city on the Black Sea. Despite having served in Georgia through a number of high-stakes crises, this new position may turn out to be Saakashvili's most challenging yet.

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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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