UkraineAlert

When Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine captured a fighter pilot loyal to Kyiv in June 2014, they got more than they bargained for. Nearly a year later, Nadiya Savchenko is on trial in Russia, and at the center of an international imbroglio. “This isn’t an ordinary case,” Russian attorney Mark Feygin said at the Atlantic Council on April 14, about his client. “It should be understood as a political affair, not a legal one.”

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Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It, the new book by Anders Åslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, presents so compelling an argument that—even before publication on April 17—it has already persuaded the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Western nations to adopt a $40 billion economic stabilization program for Ukraine. This is because policy makers at the IMF and in key capitals take Åslund seriously. Long the preeminent expert on Ukraine’s financial shenanigans and economic dysfunction, Åslund has also been a constant advocate of truly radical reform, offering trenchant critiques of half-hearted efforts in 2014 by Kyiv, the IMF and bilateral donors. 

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While the Russian threat to Poland and the Baltic States has sparked justified anxiety, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imperial adventure is just as much of a threat to the Balkans. 

Moscow is putting on a full-court press—using energy exports, information warfare, trade, arms sales, and efforts to obtain military bases in Cyprus, Montenegro and Serbia—to subvert the process of European integration, undermine democratic values and institutions, and erode the independence of Balkan states. Moscow also seeks to maintain and perpetuate the ethnic tensions that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s, even as the states that emerged from that bloody chaos stand poised to move on to a new era.

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Luhansk Oblast – Ukrainians are waiting for war to start again. Since a ceasefire agreement went into effect in February, the winter has been relatively quiet in Luhansk Oblast, marred only by sporadic rockets fired from the territory of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR). In many respects, life appears oddly normal in the small towns and villages along the border of the LNR and Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk.Parents walk with their children along the narrow roads, grocery stores are open, and there is the occasional group of teenagers smoking and loitering around bus stops. But these normal scenes are jarringly interrupted by handwritten warning signs. “Danger, do not walk here,” written in bright red letters hangs on one school building in a village outside of Sievierodonetsk. Fresh shelling sites from missiles fired by Russian-backed separatists are just a few miles away from the normalcy of small city life.

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There’s good reason for guarded optimism in the new Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko and the parliament brought the country’s most powerful oligarch to heel in March 2015 and the justice department has set its sights on the richest oligarchs.

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Ukraine won an important battle in the war against the oligarchs with the removal of Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskyi last week. But Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Ukrainian parliament are just getting started. 

On April 7 the government challenged billionaire Rinat Akhmetov’s grip on energy companies. Some parliamentarians are pushing to curb the power of Dmytro Firtash, another tycoon whose empire expanded under Viktor Yanukovych. 

“The key issue is the ‘de-oligarchization’ of the country. We are trying to bring order to the government, whereas the oligarchs want chaos,” Poroshenko recently told ICTV

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Former Putin advisor says they will not, advocates stronger response

Western sanctions on Russia are not working and a proposal to provide defensive weapons to Ukrainian security forces will not deter the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, according to Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“For those few people who are there [on the sanctions list], yes, it is rather painful,” but otherwise sanctions are “barely seen” in Russia, Illarionov said at the Atlantic Council on April 7.

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Vladimir Putin’s 10-day disappearance shortly after the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and his triumphal reappearance after the broadcast of a 150-minute documentary on state television, suggest a more erratic—and aggressive—policy course in Russia. Here’s why.

After Putin’s disappearance on March 5, the Russian media and the blogosphere dealt with little else. 

However, the main “Putin event” was not the resurfacing of the Russian President at a meeting on March 16, but the airing of a documentary commemorating the first anniversary of the annexation of Crimea the day before.

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As Kyiv Slashes Spending, the Economy’s Real Shrinkage This Year May Be 10, Not 6, Percent

The International Monetary Fund last month threw what looks like a much-improved financial lifeline to Ukraine—and indeed, the new loan program is welcome help for a desperate need. But a check on the math of one prominent IMF realist suggests that the cost of the overall aid package could be a Ukrainian economic shrinkage this year of an extremely painful 10 percent—much more than the IMF predicts publicly.

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Vladimir Putin

Putin’s War is Not Over Donbas, but a New Russian Empire

According to Vladimir Putin, Crimea and Ukraine are where the spiritual sources of Russia’s nationhood lie. And he “always saw the Russians and Ukrainians as a single people. I still think this way now.”

People observing the crisis triggered by Putin’s aggression against Ukraine therefore ought to understand what these words mean. Quite simply they mean that for Putin—and for much of Russia as well, even without the constant incitement of Kremlin propaganda—there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people, national identity, culture, or history. Seen through this Russian lens, the concept of a Ukrainian state independent of Russia is at best a legend or fantasy. At worst it incarnates a threat to the very existence of the Russian state. And obviously Moscow will meet that threat with violence.

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