UkraineAlert

One could be forgiven for mistaking the campus of the Ukrainian Leadership Academy in Kyiv for a small liberal arts college in the United States. With its red-brick dormitory and modern glass facade, light-filled cafeteria that doubles as a disco, easy camaraderie, and never-ending intellectual discussions, it transported me back to my undergraduate days in Pennsylvania.

But the academy is different from most colleges; it strictly forbids drinking, drugs, smoking, and sex, and students exude a seriousness of purpose absent on most US campuses today.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing in his hunt for dissidents abroad. In his determination, he has found some powerful allies within Western democracies—a practice that should alarm those who prize justice and the rule of law.

In recent weeks, I’ve been collecting stories of Russian dissidents who say they fell victim to exchanges of confidential information between European officials and Russian authorities. The leak of one Cyprus prosecutor’s emails in November has exposed a growing trend: in its hunt to track critics, the Kremlin is recruiting allies within Western states’ law enforcement agencies.

The communication leak on the part of Cyprus’ deputy attorney general exposes a much wider exchange of confidential EU information, some of it classified, with Russian authorities.

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“In the area of Avdiivka, you can hear 120 millimeter mortar shelling, while just 500 or 600 meters away, there is a bus stop with children waiting for a school bus,” remembers Vasyl Antoniak, a volunteer soldier who fought in the Donbas in 2014-15.

For many Ukrainian soldiers, the line between war and normal life is almost invisible. Both are intermixed in the Donbas, where Ukraine is fighting Russian-backed separatists.

Ukrainian war veterans participating in a writing training under the auspices of the “Voice of War” project had different experiences with locals who stayed and lived in the war zone. Here is what they told the UkraineWorld networking initiative.

“Having entered Ilovaisk, we had to search civilians at a military checkpoint,” recalls volunteer shooter and paramedic Serhii Mishchenko. “We noticed that many locals had a piece of paper with the lyrics of the Ukrainian national anthem. ‘What is this?’ we ask.”

“‘We were told that people who don’t know the Ukrainian anthem would be executed,’ responds the local.”

“‘So what? Have you memorized it?’ I ask him.”

“His answer is, ‘Yes.’”

“I put my hand on the rifle and tell him, ‘Let’s start with the second verse.’ You should have seen how pale he was. I was surprised. ‘Did you really think that we were going to shoot you? Really?’”

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Russia’s recent naval activity around Ukraine and the Baltic Sea is more than simply a threat to countries in the region. In fact, it represents a challenge to the international order, one that could be replicated by other rogue nations.

Since invading Ukraine in 2014, Moscow has become significantly bolder.

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Proponents of Russia’s Nord Stream II pipeline rely on at least seven arguments to explain their support for the politically motivated project. The trouble is, these justifications are based on incorrect assumptions or outright disinformation. We identified the seven myths and then used publicly available facts to set the record straight.

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On April 30, the US Department of State confirmed to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty the delivery of Javelin antitank missile systems to Ukraine. This issue has been long-standing: the Obama administration refused to send the weapons to Kyiv, while President Donald Trump changed course.

Some experts warn that giving Ukraine lethal defensive weapons will only enrage the Russians and escalate the war, while others, including Atlantic Council experts, have insisted that arming Ukraine is the most effective way to change the facts on the ground and force Russian President Vladimir Putin to finally negotiate.

In 2017, the US Congress approved a $47 million military-aid package that included 210 Javelin antitank missiles and thirty-seven Javelin launchers, but the State Department refuses to say how many weapons have been delivered.

UkraineAlert asked its experts the following: What difference will the arrival of the Javelins make militarily and politically in the four-year conflict between Russia and Ukraine? Is this a game-changer?

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Gazprom has been making headlines in Europe lately. And not in a good way.

The leaking of a 271-page report compiled by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition, which describes violations of European legislation by the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, recently became a sensation. It’s not, however, because the report reveals any previously unknown facts. It’s simply that these facts confirm that Russia is using gas as a political weapon.

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Four years after Crimea's annexation, Ukraine is still struggling to get its defense capabilities back on the sea.  

On April 4, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine will receive two American ‘Island’ class boats, which previously were in the service of the US Coast Guard. This offer dates back to 2014.

According to Poroshenko, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense is currently working on “internal procedures for the completion and approval of a draft contract.”  The president announced that a meeting between the parties will take place in May 2018 to finalize the details.

This statement follows the March 30 airing of a “Schemes” investigation, a joint project of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and UA:Pershyi TV Channel.

Why is it taking so long for Ukraine's leadership to finalize the deal?   

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“We were moving through flashing fields. And I realized history was evolving right in front of my very eyes. I had yellow goggles on; everything was yellow with them. I took the goggles off, and then the wind started blowing in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything,” says volunteer soldier Bizhan Sharopov, who fought against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15. He’s talking about the battles for Lutuhyne and Heorhiivka that took place in the summer of 2014.

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Bizhan was among Donbas veterans participating in the “Voice of War” project, which teaches writing skills so that veterans can share their experiences about the war in eastern Ukraine.

We met them and talked about their memories. Their stories are a mosaic of danger, difficulties, heroism, friendship, and work. Here are some.  

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on April 17 that Ukraine might have an independent, unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church as early as July 28—the anniversary of Kyivan Rus’ adoption of Christianity. He made this prediction after the Ukrainian parliament voted to support the president’s efforts to convince Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to grant autocephalous status to the combined Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC)-Kyiv Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

During an official state visit to Istanbul, Poroshenko met with Patriarch Bartholomew on April 17. The two leaders held seven hours of closed-doors discussions before the president announced “Ukraine is as close as ever to the emergence of its own Unified Orthodox Church.” Poroshenko refused to divulge the details of the agreements he reached with the Ecumenical Patriarch. Opposition members of parliament claim that Poroshenko’s efforts are a charade designed to help the president’s party at the polls next year. While electoral politics may have influenced the exact timing of the talks in Istanbul, they represent the culmination of many years of efforts to have the Kyiv Patriarchate recognized. Two hundred sixty-eight parliamentarians voted to endorse Poroshenko’s efforts, far more than the 132 members of the president’s party.

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