The Kerch Strait bridge under construction in 2016. Photo: Kremlin.ru.

As the last four years have demonstrated, the US and NATO are not going to become directly involved in military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow understands this well. It correctly calculated that intimidating Ukraine in the Azov Sea would lead to loud condemnations of Russian behaviour with no serious consequences.

The problem facing Western countries is two-fold: Moscow prioritizes its objectives in Ukraine over relations with the West, and it retains vast capacity to inflict damage on Ukraine by stoking conflict and strangling its economy.

The Kremlin has become used to Western sanctions and other instruments of pressure, concluding that it can live with them despite their inconvenience.…  Seguir leyendo »

A portrait of President Vladimir Putin was carried at a celebration of the anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation, in Sevastopol.CreditCreditMax Vetrov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 2014, for the first time in seven decades, a state sought to redraw Europe’s map by way of military aggression. Russia’s theft of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula commanded condemnation and economic sanctions from around the world. But as the news coverage moved on, Moscow was left to design a new assault: an 12-mile bridge between Russia’s mainland and Crimea.

The Ukrainian people will not watch as Russia continues its creeping annexation of our country. Four years ago, in the aftermath of our revolution, Ukraine alone was not able to withstand a Russian military adventure. But today our resolve is strong, and we are prepared to stand up to Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia and Ukraine have been fighting for several years on land, but the two clashed at sea recently. How likely is this maritime conflict to escalate?

Maritime disputes feature prominently in global politics. China’s maritime conflicts with neighboring states over the Senkaku/Diaoyu, Spratly, Paracels and other small islands and reefs have generated over a dozen militarized clashes at sea since 1991. Confrontations in the Kerch Strait between Russia and Ukraine on Nov. 25 and the imposition of limited martial law in Ukraine create similar concerns about escalation of the situation to war.

There are several diplomatic issues at stake in the Russia-Ukraine relationship, and understanding these points of contention can help clarify the escalation risks.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Monday, the Ukrainian government imposed martial law in 10 of its 25 provinces — the first time the country’s government took this step since Ukraine became independent in 1991. The declaration of martial law was in response to Russia’s attack on, and subsequent seizure of, three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to cross through the narrow Kerch Strait between the Russian mainland and the contested Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine’s military conflict with Russia and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has been going on for nearly five years. This conflict has cost more than 10,000 lives and has seen Ukraine lose control over Crimea and parts of the Donbass region.…  Seguir leyendo »

Seized Ukrainian military vessels are seen in a port of Kerch, Crimea, on Nov. 26, 2018. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Nov. 25 skirmish between Russian Border Guard and Ukrainian navy ships in the Kerch Strait has escalated tensions not just between the two countries, but also between Russia and NATO.

Two Ukrainian navy small-armored boats and a tugboat attempted to cross into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait. A Russian Border Guard ship rammed the tug. Russian forces eventually captured all three boats, holding them in the Crimean port of Kerch.

This crisis kicked off months ago

In March 2018 Ukraine seized a Russian-flagged fishing vessel, claiming that it had violated exit procedures from the “temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.” Although the Russian crew was released, the boat remains detained in a Ukrainian port.…  Seguir leyendo »

Seized Ukrainian military vessels in the port of Kerch on 26 November. Photo: Getty Images.

On 25 November, the Russian coast guard denied access to two Ukrainian armoured artillery boats and a tugboat on their pre-planned transit through the Kerch Strait to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Russian forces reportedly assaulted the Ukrainian surface vessels, leaving the crew of 23 captive and 6 Ukrainian servicemen wounded. In the wake of the attack, Russia temporarily closed navigation to non-Russian traffic through the Strait, before reopening it on Monday.

This represents an escalation for Russia in the Sea of Azov, from air and sea provocations to direct military action against Ukrainian assets. It is the latest step in the Kremlin’s long-term efforts to destabilize Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

This morning, I woke up with one thought in my head: The fate of democracy in my country may be decided by a vote over which I have no control. The Ukrainian president and parliament have just joined to pass legislation that could mark the beginning of the end of the democratic institutions for which so many have fought and died.

The unprecedented declaration of martial law in Ukraine, the first since World War II, came just hours after Russian warships attacked Ukrainian naval vessels in the Sea of Azov, opening a dangerous new front in the continuing Russian-Ukrainian war.

The bill that President Petro Poroshenko sent to parliament, and which lawmakers passed on Monday, gives the president wide-ranging powers, but Poroshenko assured the public that he wouldn’t use those powers to suppress civic freedoms.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Saturday evening, three small Ukrainian naval vessels left the Ukrainian port of Odessa and headed for the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Along the way, they had to pass through the Kerch Strait, a sliver of water that lies between the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland. The Ukrainian ships were well within their rights to be there — a similar group of ships went through the strait just a month ago, and a 2003 treaty guarantees the rights of both nations to use those waters. But this time, in a carefully arranged provocation, Russian ships fired on the Ukrainian ships — and then seized them, along with 23 crew members.…  Seguir leyendo »

A television broadcast of the inauguration of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2014. Photo: Getty Images.

In 2017, Suspilne, Ukraine’s public broadcaster, kick-started a transformation. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the broadcaster and its previous incarnations had for the most part screened a combination of stale, Soviet-style content and PR for politicians. However, over the past two years, it has built on a reform roadmap developed in 2014 to revamp its structure and deliver better quality programming.

But now funding cuts threaten to derail the reforms and leave Ukraine without an essential component of building an information-savvy society and a healthier democracy.

A good start

The reforms so far have improved the quality and independence of content and reshaped Suspilne’s bloated internal structure.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, left, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill tour the Kremlin in May 2010. The Russian Orthodox Church warned Sept. 28 that it would sever ties with the leader of the worldwide Orthodox community if he grants autonomy to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. (AP)

On Oct. 11, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople — the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide — started a process to grant independence to a Ukrainian Orthodox Church seated in Kiev, freeing it from the control of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. The decision has touched off an intense political storm, and threatens to open a new — and possibly violent — front in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Here’s why.

A brief primer on the Orthodox Church

Unlike Catholicism, Orthodoxy does not have a centralized hierarchy with a pope-like authority figure. Rather, it’s composed of 14 autonomous churches, each of whose authority generally coincides with the national borders of countries with large Orthodox populations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s effort to keep Ukraine under its thumb prompted a revolution in 2014 and a war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. It also prompted, on Monday, what may be one of the most serious splits in Christendom since the Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054 and the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago. This new crisis has deep historical roots, and could shape religious and secular ties among many countries for years to come.

Here’s what happened: The Church of Russia announced this week that it was breaking ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has primacy in Orthodoxy and which has decided to give autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lviv o Lemberg

Leópolis, la principal ciudad de la Ucrania occidental, cambió varias veces de Estado y de nombre oficial a lo largo del siglo XX. Fue primero Lemberg, la capital de la provincia austriaca de Galitzia, en el Imperio austrohúngaro; y luego Lwów, en la Polonia independiente de entreguerras. Invadida por la Unión Soviética en 1939 y por la Alemania nazi en 1941, sufrió de manera intensa los terribles azares de la II Guerra Mundial. Stalin la incluyó entre los territorios que se anexionó tras su victoria sobre Hitler y pasó a ser Lvov durante más de cuatro décadas. Por fin, la Ucrania emancipada en 1991 la convirtió en Lviv.…  Seguir leyendo »

A closed pharmacy in an empty hospital hallway in Zimogorye, Ukraine, in 2015. For years, tens of millions of dollars were siphoned out of the health care budget by corrupt intermediaries and hidden offshore for the benefit of powerful insiders.CreditCreditBrendan Hoffman for The New York Times

The scale of global kleptocracy has become so vast — by some accounts, more than one trillion dollars is stolen annually from developing countries — that it is almost impossible to imagine how the problem could ever be defeated. But a tiny victory in Ukraine shows a way forward.

Ukraine has high rates of smoking and drinking, and the national delicacy — salo, or cured pork fat — is representative of a heart-unhealthy traditional cuisine. Cardiovascular disease is by far the leading cause of death in the country, killing two out of every three Ukrainians. Despite this alarming statistic, however, surgeons have long struggled to obtain stents, the small tubes of steel mesh used to open up the arteries that supply oxygen to the heart after they have become clogged.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, is carried on a stretcher as he is deported to Germany on Aug. 20. (ABC/AP)

As the United States deports a former Nazi concentration camp guard to Germany, the world has been reminded again of the popular image of the Holocaust as one of impersonal mass slaughter. In the death camps, Jews and other victims died at the hands of murderers who didn’t know their victims but were filled with anti-Semitic hate.

But by the time that the death camps’ gas chambers became operational, approximately half of the Jews who would perish in the Holocaust were already dead. Many of these Jews were tortured or killed by “ordinary” non-Jews at close quarters: in apartments, in streets, in the woods and anywhere else Jews could be found.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian MPs vote on anti-corruption legislation in the parliament in Kyiv. Photo via Getty Images.

President Petro Poroshenko finally signed the law establishing the High Anti-Corruption Court on 26 June. This is one of the key conditions for the release of the next tranche of the IMF’s $17.5 billion support programme to Ukraine and should ensure that officials indicted by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) face trial.

Up to now, the unreformed lower courts have found ways to obstruct or delay cases brought by the NABU. Out of 220 indictments, there have been only 21 convictions. No senior official has gone to jail.

Created by reformist forces with strong backing from international partners, the NABU is a powerful example of a new institution unconnected with the past, with high professional standards relative to other law enforcement agencies.…  Seguir leyendo »

People commemorate victims of anti-government protests at Independence Square during the first anniversary of the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev, in November 2014. (Tatyana Zenkovich/European Pressphoto Agency)

On June 7, Ukraine’s parliament passed long-awaited legislation establishing a special anti-corruption court. Our country took another important move forward on its path toward building a European state where all are equal under the law. This was not the first step in this journey, and it won’t be the last. But I believe it showed that our journey toward a genuine democracy is now irreversible.

Nobody would argue that our reform process has been easy. Over the past two decades, Ukrainians have become skeptical that there could be any progress in the fight against the scourge of corruption. Nevertheless, the Euromaidan Revolution of Dignity gave Ukrainians hope for a new future of accountable leaders and the rule of law.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters hold the Ukraine flag and anti-government placards at a rally in Kiev, Ukraine. (Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The journal Post-Soviet Affairs recently published a special issue on politics and identity in Ukraine. The question of Russian vs. Ukrainian identity has been central to the study of Ukrainian politics for decades now, but especially so since the “Euromaidan” protests of 2014, Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, and continued violent conflict among Ukraine, Ukrainian separatists, and Russia-supported forces in the southeast. With this in mind, I spoke to one of the guest editors of the special issue, Olga Onuch, associate professor in politics at the University of Manchester and author of “Mapping Mass Mobilizations: Understanding Revolutionary Moments in Argentina and Ukraine” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).…  Seguir leyendo »

The indiscreet charm of a ban

On the 8th of May Telegram, an app which has been banned in Russia since early April, turned to the Supreme Court of Russia with an appeal.

“Not sure why the messenger needs it. It benefits from the ban,” commented Pavel Salin, Director of the Center for Political Studies at the Financial University.

Indeed, Telegram has become the forbidden fruit: following the ban, the app’s audience in Russia has not dwindled, but in fact expanded. Pavel Durov, the app’s creator, estimates that 15 mln Russians are its active users and thanks Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft for refusing to maintain the censorship.…  Seguir leyendo »

The war in Ukraine is more devastating than you know

The fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region is entering its fifth year. More than 10,000 people have been killed in this persistent conflict; 2,800 were civilians. Nearly two million people have been internally displaced or put at risk if they remain in their homes.

Today, the Donbas war is among the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with frequent attacks occurring from both sides across the oblasts (provinces) of Donetsk and Luhansk. Before the war, this compact, heavily urbanized and industrialized region held nearly 15 percent of Ukraine’s population (6.6 million) and generated 16 percent of its gross domestic product.

Now it’s a war zone.…  Seguir leyendo »

To Reunite Ukraine, Kyiv Must Overcome Its Own Prejudices

It is common for Ukrainian officials and their international backers to say that Russia’s 2014 invasion, which was partly motivated by Moscow’s anger at Ukraine pivoting toward Europe and the U.S., has unified the country and turned it even more resolutely westward. In one sense, they are correct: Moscow’s aggression has consolidated support among many Ukrainians for membership in the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

But talk of unity among Ukraine’s 44 million people is misleading. It leaves out over two million inhabitants of Crimea, annexed by Russia, and up to three million residents of Donbas, the eastern region of Ukraine partly controlled by Moscow-backed rebels.…  Seguir leyendo »