UkraineAlert

The Russian government under President Vladimir Putin is “directly coordinating and leading the fight to destabilize and disunite Ukraine”—despite Putin’s increasingly desperate efforts to hide the truth—concludes a damning report issued September 17.

“An Invasion by Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine” is a joint production of the New York-based nonprofit Institute of Modern Russia and The Interpreter, a daily online journal that translates articles from Russian media while reporting on events in Russia and countries directly affected by Moscow’s foreign policy.

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Russian propaganda managed to surpass its own absurdity when the head of Russia's Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, claimed that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk fought alongside rebel forces in both Chechen wars. Yatsenyuk supposedly tortured and executed Russian soldiers there. This apparently took place in the mid-1990s when Yatsenyuk was a 20-year-old law student in western Ukraine with no military training. He also worked for a law firm which for some reason never noticed his absence.

Social media was quickly filled with satirical pictures showing "evidence" of Yatsenyuk as a bearded radical Islamist. In many ways, such obvious lies may seem funny but one wonders if it has gone so far that the Kremlin is starting to believe its own lies. In her excellent book on the Russian president, The Man Without a Face, journalist Masha Gessen describes how Vladimir Putin suggested a meeting with her without knowing that she had written critically about him. This is an indication that Putin has surrounded himself with yes-men and reads selectively. The fact that the people who operate the world's largest nuclear arsenal and are prepared to invade neighboring countries are losing contact with reality is not exactly amusing.

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Winter is less than four months away, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is already freezing eastern Ukraine.

No, I'm not talking about the possibility of Ukraine not being able to renegotiate lower gas prices this year. (That's another issue entirely).

The kind of freeze that Putin is plotting for Ukraine is political. For more than a year, he has been deploying troops to eastern Ukraine to assist Russian-backed rebels to destabilize the country. And it's working.

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Many people claim that following the 2013-14 protests against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and worsening violence in the Donbas, Ukrainian attitudes have significantly changed—mainly towards European integration, support for democracy and the fight against corruption.

Our project—“Region, Nation, and Beyond: An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconsideration of Ukraine”—attempts to verify those assumptions and analyze changes in Ukrainian society in the wake of the Euromaidan.
 

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Donald Trump, the Republican Party's most bombastic presidential candidate, thinks President Barack Obama is a wimp and that he's weak on Ukraine.

"Putin does not respect our president whatsoever," Trump said via Skype at the Yalta European Strategy Summit in Kyiv on September 11.

Trump's language is consistent with other Republican critiques of Obama's handling of the Ukraine crisis. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have referred to the President as "weak," and other GOP leaders have lamented that his approach is leaving the West open to more Russian aggression.

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Kyiv is famous for its golden Septembers, clear, cool days, where the sun shines brightly on the city's many golden cupolas. The weather did not disappoint Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk and the distinguished crowd at his 12th Yalta European Strategy Summit (YES) on September 10-12 in Kyiv. The summit was an impressive mix of glitz and substance. The glitz came in the form of unremarkable talks by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Israel President Shimon Peres, a video message from former US President Bill Clinton, a speech in favor of gay rights by Elton John (no songs, unfortunately) and an entertaining—and to some, over the top—Skype interview with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

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Forces hostile to US interests are filling vacuums around the world. It’s Islamic State and Iran in the Middle East. It’s a rising China in East Asia. It’s a bullying, belligerent Russia in Eastern Europe. 

How to reverse the fraying world order?

On September 16, Republican presidential candidates will meet for a second debate, this one hosted by CNN and Salem Media Group and televised from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Will Ukraine make it? Conditions necessary for Ukraine’s current reform drive to succeed look more promising than they did in 2013. Not only does Ukraine now have its most pro-European parliament and reform-oriented government since independence in 1991; it’s also seen at least four other significant shifts in domestic politics that, taken together, render any equation of pre- and post-revolutionary Ukrainian society misleading.

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Russia’s military involvement in Syria and Ukraine obligates the United States and its European allies to bring the Kremlin back to Earth and recognize that such adventures cannot be sustained indefinitely. Russia simply does not have the money and human resources to do so in view of low oil prices and birth rates. It will find itself increasingly isolated if it supports Syria’s Assad regime and separatists in the Donbas.

Washington has recently expanded its anti-Russia sanctions list to include 29 more individuals and 30 companies including some based in Cyprus, Finland, Romania, Switzerland and the UK. These additions will surely be painful for the Kremlin elite and their business allies.

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In peacetime, September 1 is an eventful day for Ukrainian children—it marks the first day of school.

But the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, now in its second year, has put a dark stain on this usually festive occasion. This year, Ukrainian kids in Kyiv started school following violent protests outside Parliament. On August 31, a few dozen members of the nationalist political party Svoboda (Freedom) and the paramilitary extremist party Right Sector gathered to protest the vote on a controversial decentralization bill to amend Ukraine’s constitution.

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