UkraineAlert

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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"To those from outside, [the fighting in Ukraine] may seem like a regional conflict, but that's really not the case," said Archbishop Zoria Yevstratiy of Chernihiv of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Kyiv Patriarchate. 

In an interview at the Atlantic Council on May 19, Yevstratiy described the situation in Ukraine as unique and of global significance.

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Analysts and journalists have begun to ask where the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine will go next now that the second ceasefire agreement has failed. Skirmishes on the frontline in Shyrokyne, less than ten miles from Mariupol's city limits, have raised concerns that Mariupol will be the next target. Geographically and commercially speaking, Mariupol makes sense. It's the busiest commercial marine hub on the Azov Sea and considered a must-have for Russia if a land corridor to Crimea is ever to be realized. Mariupol would also be a symbolic coup for the separatists. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko named the city the provisional capital of the Donetsk region in 2014. The separatists have also threatened to take the city. Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the Donetsk People's Republic, warned that separatists will take Mariupol if Ukrainian forces continue their "aggression."

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Ukraine bleeds, but reforms impressively, while the West ignores it. The Minsk ceasefire agreement does not hold, though the intensity of the fighting has faded. In mid-March, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) doubled Ukraine's international reserves, but the country's finances remain fragile. Europe's central banks should provide a large swap credit with minimum risks to shore up Ukraine's economy.

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