In waging a clandestine war in eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has made a bargain with the devil. He has farmed out much of the fighting to warlords, mercenaries and criminals, partly in an attempt to simulate a broad-based indigenous resistance to Ukrainian rule. But Mr. Putin’s strategy of using such proxies has resulted in the establishment of a warlord kleptocracy in eastern Ukraine that threatens even Moscow’s control of events.
Surrogate fighters were recruited from four sources: local criminal gangs; jobless males who live on the fringes of eastern Ukraine’s society; political extremists from Russia’s far right, including Cossacks; and itinerant Russian mercenaries who fought in Chechnya, North Ossetia, Transnistria and other regional conflicts in the post-Soviet Union.… Seguir leyendo »
With a major battle around the rail hub of Debaltseve ending with the withdrawal of Ukrainian government forces, it looks like the tenuous truce in eastern Ukraine may hold. After violence that has left more than 5,600 dead and displaced about 1.6 million people, world leaders hope the cease-fire can be sustained and Ukraine can start to rebuild — even though the Minsk agreement, concluded last week after talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, is regarded skeptically by many, including some of its European Union architects.
Ukraine’s leaders, however, point to one crucial gain: The Minsk agreement treats the Donbass, the eastern region that includes the Donetsk and Luhansk areas declared “people’s republics” by separatist rebels, as an integral part of Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
Kiev is abuzz with creative reforms in governance, major anti-corruption initiatives and budgetary clawbacks against rent-seeking oligarchs. Civic activism is on the upsurge, and a new government team — populated with many foreign-born and Western-educated ministers — is largely free from the control of the country’s super-rich, who dictated policy in the past.
In recent months, Ukraine’s defenses have strengthened since the Russian takeover of Crimea and the eastern industrial Donbas region. Ukraine’s security service, formerly riddled with corruption and Russian infiltration, has rebuilt its leadership. Combat readiness has improved and weapons production is on the rise, as are the refurbishment and modernization of tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.… Seguir leyendo »
A few short weeks ago the Kiev I visited was awash in talk of terrorist plots and civil war.
The lightning-quick annexation of Crimea by Russian troops had created much anxiety. People feared that the commemoration of May 9, the day on which Ukraine and Russia celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, would encourage pro-Moscow insurgents to seize government buildings beyond their strongholds in eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of well-armed and well-trained men, many with links to Russia, had already moved into hard-scrabble industrial cities near the Russian border. There had been violent clashes between Ukrainian patriots and pro-Russian separatists in Odessa, in the south.… Seguir leyendo »
The outcome of Vladimir Putin’s aggression in the Crimean Peninsula is not yet settled, but one thing is clear: He will have few indigenous allies, should he attempt to occupy and split away Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions. Instead of stirring pro-Russian sentiments, the actions of his military have advanced national unity among Ukrainian citizens and have led the country’s new leaders to moderate their actions.
Immediately after the collapse of Viktor Yanukovych’s regime, marauding groups of far-right vigilantes threatened local governments and legislators, primarily in central and western Ukraine. In Kiev, a triumphalist post-Yanukovych majority in parliament pressed forward with revolutionary justice, releasing not only jailed political prisoners such as Yulia Tymoshenko but also a range of dodgy ultra-right activists who had been convicted of various criminal charges.… Seguir leyendo »
As Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin meet in Kennebunkport, Maine, this weekend, Russia's leader has many reasons to smile. His country is increasing its strategic dominance over Europe's energy supplies while U.S.-led efforts to promote energy diversity for Europe are faltering and the European Union's energy policies are in disarray.
On June 23 Russia further eroded European energy unity when its state company Gazprom reached agreement with Italy's ENI energy conglomerate to build a gas pipeline connecting Russia to Southern Europe via the Black Sea. This could displace a similar, U.S.-backed project called Nabucco, which is important to achieving diversity in energy sources.… Seguir leyendo »