UkraineAlert

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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The European Union's Summit on the Eastern Partnership, held May 21-22 in Riga, was a disaster for Ukraine. For friends of democracy, the rule of law, and Ukraine, it would have been better had this EU summit never taken place and its joint declaration never written.

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For most of the 20th century, Ukraine was the victim of two equally malevolent empires—Germany and Russia. Germany's contribution to Ukraine's devastation was the two World Wars; Russia's was the imposition of Soviet rule and the concomitant destruction of Ukraine's peasantry and elites. Unsurprisingly, one of the most constant images in 20th-century Ukrainian commentary is that of their country being caught between a hammer and an anvil.

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In Russia this April, a Baptist pastor was jailed for professing his faith. Pavel Pilipchuk's five-day detention was brief, but excessive. It followed his refusal to pay a heavy fine for organizing street evangelism in the city of Oryol, around 200 miles south of Moscow. By not informing city officials of his plans, a local court ruled the pastor had violated Russia's law regulating public demonstrations. Pilipchuk's plea that "Christian hymns and conversation are not demonstrations" fell on deaf ears. So did his appeal to Russia's constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

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