UkraineAlert

On July 14, hours after the United States, Russia and four other world powers concluded a nuclear accord with Iran, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that the deal negated any reason for a US missile defense network in Europe. We should now prepare ourselves for the inevitable political and propaganda onslaught Russia will mount against those missile defenses. After all, both the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly stated that their official purpose was to defend against Iranian missile threats—which the new agreement shoves back into the relatively distant future.

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The Russian Army has released a photo of a Ukrainian tank decorated with a swastika, yet the original Reuters photograph shows no such emblem. Russia also released a photo of a Ukrainian soldier covered in Nazi tattoos, but that picture was actually taken in 2005, inside a Russian prison. Europe is revolted by any reminders of its Nazi past, which is why Russia plays up false claims that Kyiv is a product of that tradition. At a time when Ukraine and other former Soviet republics need worldwide support, Russia continues its media barrage to alienate these countries from their natural allies in the West.

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Sixteen months after Russia's March 2014 annexation of Crimea, the peninsula's human rights situation is getting progressively worse. The first wave of repression targeted mainly pro-Ukrainian activists and Crimean Tatars, while in 2015 the Kremlin's victims have been Slavs: Ukrainians and Russians. Since early this year, Russian authorities have forcibly resettled thousands of self-sufficient businessmen and managers, as well as various religious leaders. In June 2014, the Ukrainian government registered 1.36 million refugees. Unofficially, more than 50,000 Crimean refugees now live on the Ukrainian mainland; the others are displaced persons from the Donbas.

Among the most publicized provocations of harassment of people was the March 13, 2015, search of the Simferopol residence of Natalia Kokorina, an ethnic Russian and editor of the Center of Journalistic Investigation. FSB employees raided the apartment of her parents and questioned Kokorina. Last spring, Sergei Mokrushin—also an ethnic Russian journalist—was expelled from Kerch, a city in Crimea. In July 2014, he and a colleague, Vladlen Melnikov, were beaten by the so-called Crimean "self-defense," a unit linked to Sergei Aksenov, the self-proclaimed premier of the Crimean Republic. This paramilitary group enjoys official status thanks to a ruling by the republic's council.

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Dmytro Solohub admits that the Ukrainian economy is "very fragile" and faces "lots of security risks"— but says he's doing everything he can to stabilize Ukraine's currency, control galloping inflation, and return his country to prosperity as quickly as possible.

Solohub, 37, took over in mid-March as Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). He was previously head of research at the Kyiv-based Raiffeisen Bank Aval.

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The conflict in Ukraine highlights dangerous trends in Russian foreign policy. Russian-backed separatists and the Russian military have killed thousands of civilians and Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine. It's the starkest example of Moscow's neo-imperialist foreign policy so far. However, even more worrisome trends have emerged.

Last week, Yevgeny Fedorov, a ruling party Duma majority member asked the Russian Prosecutor General's office to examine the 1991 recognition of the sovereignty of the Baltic states by the USSR State Council. The Prosecutor's office obliged.

Now, the same Fedorov and a colleague want to annul the creation of the State Council altogether as "an act of treason," and possibly put Mikhail Gorbachev on trial for the dismantlement of the Soviet Union.

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When the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, both Poland and Ukraine were poor. Since then, the Polish economy has boomed, while Ukrainians are poorer than they were twenty-four years ago.

Poland got its reforms right in the 1990s, and now plays a significant role in Ukraine's reform process. This is evident in the close relations between both country's leaders, the joint plenary session between both parliaments in January 2015, and support from Polish society. But Warsaw's role as Ukraine's advocate in the European Union is even more appreciated.

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Ukraine made headlines again when a nationalist group and police in the western city of Mukachevo exchanged gunfire that killed three on June 11. A group of 21 armed members of Right Sector seized a sports complex owned by Member of Parliament Mikhail Lanyo and reportedly beat and shot one of his employees in the process.

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Ukraine’s Economy Minister: Unlike Greece, Ukraine is embracing reforms

The Greek financial crisis has diverted global attention away from Ukraine, but it also "sheds a positive light" on the Kyiv government's achievements, Ukrainian Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius said in a July 14 interview.

"Greece is rejecting reforms, and we are embracing reforms," said Abromavicius, who visited Washington for the first-ever US-Ukraine investment summit held a day earlier.

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Kyiv is vibrant with intellectual and political discussions. As after any revolution the debate is about what is wrong and what should be done. Policy people acknowledge that reforms are proceeding but too slowly, while a typical business verdict is that corruption is as bad as before, but it has become more disorganized, since the old Yanukovych hierarchy has broken down.

The economic situation is frightful with GDP falling by 17.6 percent in annualized terms in the first quarter and annual inflation reaching 61 percent in April. But much has gone right, more than Ukrainians usually notice.

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As the Greek tragedy unfolds, many Europeans seem to have forgotten that for the first time since the end of World War II, a country is trying to redraw European borders by force. Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine is, by far, Europe's most serious security crisis since the Balkan wars. Once again, we are reminded of what happens when autocrats think they can act unchallenged.

Ukraine's situation is dire, but things don't look too good for Russia either. So far, Moscow's increased support of the rebels has only elicited tougher sanctions from the European Union, crippling the Russian economy. But there's a weak link: maintaining and perhaps strengthening the sanctions when necessary requires consensus among EU member states. This is why Russia is scheming to make some EU countries weary of this "economic war" even before Europe has fully recovered from the economic crisis, and jump ship.

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