UkraineAlert

Stimulating Ukraine's economy is a key goal of the reforms that are underway in Kyiv. Ukraine's Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) should enable better economic management and freer trade. But there's an important precondition for growth: investor confidence. Domestic businessmen and foreign investors must feel sufficiently motivated to spend their money, time, and energy to utilize, renew, and create Ukrainian production facilities. Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategy in Ukraine, in part, aims to deprive the Ukrainian state of its ability to offer credible physical and legal protection for private property and social stability. The two separatist areas in the Donbas have little value for the Kremlin in themselves, but they are important instruments that Moscow can use to stir up domestic unrest in Ukraine and unleash uncertainty that chases away investors.

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Leaders at the recent G-7 summit reaffirmed their commitment to keeping sanctions on Russia in place. They also agreed that sanctions will likely be extended until 2016 because Russia has failed to implement the Minsk II ceasefire agreement. But the summit ended on a disappointing note: The summit communiqué and all the G-7 leaders indicated that Russia's observance of Minsk II would lead to reduced sanctions. Nevertheless, the G-7 communiqué highlights much of what is wrong with European security today.

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Corruption threatens to derail Ukraine's progress, American and Ukrainians officials agreed at the Atlantic Council's Wrocław Global Forum in Wrocław, Poland on June 13. "There is no issue that is a greater threat to Ukraine's long-term success today than institutionalized corruption," said Geoffrey R. Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine. "It's a bigger threat than Russian tanks."

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Much has been made about the tactics and military doctrine driving Russian operations in eastern Ukraine. Some analysts see Russia following a hybrid war strategy, while others contend that the Kremlin is simply trying to "catch up conceptually to the realities of modern war." One thing is clear: Russia is manipulating eastern Ukraine through misdirection, bluff, intelligence operations, and targeted violence.

Russia's recent massing of troops and military hardware at its Kuzminsky firing range—only thirty miles from the Ukrainian border—raises fears that the escalating conflict may soon involve Russian regulars. Yet despite the telltale signs of Russian involvement such as unmarked vehicles, servicemen without insignia, and weaponry routinely seen in the possession of pro-Russian separatists, this latest buildup does not signal another massive Russian incursion. At least not yet.

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On Saturday, June 6, approximately 200 people gathered in the great hall of the Vyshhorod state administration building to welcome home 120 soldiers returning from the war in eastern Ukraine.

Vyshhorod District Head Alexander Gorgan presented certificates to those soldiers who had completed one year of military service, which entitles them to land, medical care, and preferential hiring. It was by all accounts an ordinary town-and-gown ceremony in Vyshhorod, a small city north of Kyiv.

But something was clearly different: Gorgan gave his cell phone number to local residents and encouraged them to contact him with their problems.

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The Russian government and its proxies in eastern Ukraine have consistently branded Kyiv's government a fascist junta and accused it of having Nazi sympathizers. Moscow's propaganda is outrageous and wrong. In fact, Ukraine's radical right political parties—Right Sector and Svoboda—have been marginalized.

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Russian politicians and pro-Russia separatists in the Donbas have repeatedly accused Ukraine of promoting fascism and Nazism since the February 2014 overthrow of former President Viktor Yanukovych. But at a Shabbat concert in Kyiv on June 5, another side of Ukraine was on full display: religious diversity and pluralism.

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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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