TODAY: Pro-Russian stronghold Slovyansk retaken by Ukrainian forces; Tatar leader banned from Crimea by Kremlin; Russians feel the pinch of sanctions. Putin reaches out to Obama; punishment for protesters tightened; Internet freedom attack enshrined in law; Putin’s star treatment.
Slovyansk, the town in eastern Ukraine which served as the rebels’ military headquarters has been recaptured by Ukrainian forces, a victory of ‘huge symbolic importance‘ in the words of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Why has the Kremlin not responded? Mary Dejevsky suggests that Russia’s motives may be less aggressive than they might have initially seemed. The Guardian reports on daily life in Donetsk, ‘a ghost town after dark‘. The Kremlin has banned a leading member of Crimea’s Tatar community, Refat Chubarov, from entering the peninsula for five years on the basis that he has been guilty of ‘activities to incite interethnic hatred’. ‘Russia doesn’t behave as a partner‘ is the overall verdict of NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen. As sanctions take their toll on ordinary Russians, this article questions whether citizens feel that the annexation of Crimea was worth it. Energy giant Rosneft maintains it has seen ‘no impact whatsoever‘ from western sanctions. Read More
TODAY: Gazprom will block any reverse gas flow to EU; Merkel and Obama stand firm; Putin turns away from aggressive youth policy; ECHR condemns Georgian deportation; Borodin accused of embezzlement; Conservative Party questioned over pro-Russia donors.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger insists that EU companies have the ‘absolute right’ to sell Russian gas to Ukraine, though Gazprom says it will impose restrictions if it detects any reverse flow on its gas measuring stations. The Economist sees the Ukraine crisis devolving into an era of ‘warlordism, or the rise of authorities who rely for their position not on ideology but on force and patronage’. But ostensibly, says the Washington Post, Putin is now after a truce. Various EU governments are considering stopping or restricting funds to Russian projects if peace is not restored in Ukraine by next week. US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel continue to be in dialogue on punitive measures. Comments by President Vladimir Putin indicate that the Kremlin will move away from its previous policy of backing aggressive political youth groups, saying that the aim was to promote Russia’s ‘historical, cultural and natural riches’. The European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia for the mass deportation of Georgian citizens in 2006.
TODAY: Diplomats promise to agree on new cease-fire by Saturday; Medvedev blames Poroshenko, US continues to support Ukraine; ultra-nationalist says he feels abandoned by Russia; Moscow reveals long-term message via Security Council; Moldova’s EU ties violate human rights, says Rogozin; journalists targeted in Luhansk; Yandex may escape regulation; crime boss extradited.
The Foreign Ministry released an ‘unusually harsh’ statement yesterday demanding that Ukraine reinstate a cease-fire and halt military operations, and says it is continuing to update its White Book on human rights violations in Ukraine which it says is an invitation to the international community to act. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says President Petro Poroshenko’s decision to abandon the initial cease-fire was ‘a dramatic mistake’. Following talks in Berlin, both sides, plus German and French colleagues, pledged to reach a new, ‘unconditional’ cease-fire with a deadline of this Saturday, with the aid of a ‘contact group’ from Kiev. The US is continuing to voice support for Ukraine, blaming pro-Russian separatists for the failure of earlier cease-fires. According to The Times, separatists fighting in Ukraine feel abandoned by President Vladimir Putin, with the movement’s most prominent figure, Aleksandr Dugin, saying he believes Putin is now attempting to cut his losses in Ukraine. The deputy head of Russia’s Security Council says he welcomes the demise of US hegemony and the emergence of a new post-Cold War world order – which analysts see as a move designed to test Moscow’s long-term message in the media without the risk of using a more prominent figure as mouthpiece.
TODAY: Violence in Ukraine escalates, Putin blames Poroshenko, Peskov says Kremlin has little influence on fighting; central bank data contradicts IMF claims that sanctions are working; Putin lashes out at ‘containment’; Kremlin rights council member attacked; Rosneft will sue if Gazprom denies access to China pipeline; way out for Visa and MasterCard; Russia will return to standard time.
As violence in eastern Ukraine escalated yesterday, President Vladimir Putin blamed his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, for ending the mutual ceasefire, lamenting that he and his European colleagues ‘could not convince him that the road to stable, strong and long-lasting peace does not lie through war’. It was also implied that Poroshenko’s decision not to end the ceasefire had foreign influence. The WSJ says it is ‘obvious’ that Putin has ‘disregarded the demands […] that Russia stop intervening’. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that it was incorrect to assume that Moscow has significant influence over pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The International Monetary Fund says international sanctions have had a ‘chilling effect’ on investment, halted economic growth, and could isolate Moscow, although recent information from the central bank indicates that 60% of the investors who bought its MICEX shares came from Europe, Asia, and the US. Putin lashed out at the US for attempting to ‘contain’ Russia with its sanctions: ‘it is clear that this policy, unfortunately, did not end with the Cold War’.
TODAY: Ukraine-Russia ceasefire comes to an end amid promises of recrimination; Moscow demands investigation into alleged chemical weapons use; emigration on both sides. Washington’s new ambassador to Moscow awaits approval; profanity law hits Russia’s best-loved writers.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced he will not renew the ceasefire agreed with Russia, which expired last night, vowing instead in a televised statement, ‘we will attack and free our lands‘. He blamed the ‘criminal actions of the fighters‘ who violated the truce ‘more than a hundred times‘ for the failure of the peace plan. There has been, as of yet, no response from the Kremlin, though Putin ally and State Duma chairman Sergei Naryshkin decried Poroshenko’s decision. Russian share prices have dipped following the announcement of the Ukrainian President. Subsequent to the death of a Russian cameraman on the weekend, the Foreign Ministry has accused Kiev of endangering the lives of media workers. Gas flows to Ukraine from Russia apparently remain stable, despite the issues over outstanding debt. Russian manufacturing activity has slowed for an eighth successive month as a result of the Ukraine crisis. Moscow is demanding an enquiry into the alleged use of chemical weapons against independence forces in Ukraine’s east. Whilst certain parts of Russia have witnessed an influx of Ukrainians fleeing unrest, RFE/RL looks at why certain Russian nationals have decided to emigrate to Ukraine. Read More
TODAY: Russian journalist killed in Eastern Ukraine; tension builds as ceasefire expires tonight; OSCE detainees released; Lavrov chastises U.S. for Ukraine ‘pushing’. One year on from establishment of gay propaganda law, rights activists lament; Bolshoi Ballet head hospitalized; rocket mission postponed.
A Russian cameraman, Anatoly Klyan, who worked for state-owned Channel One, has died of a gun shot wound in Eastern Ukraine after while trying to film a protest by separatist-sympathizing women against the Ukrainian army. At 22.00 tonight the extended ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, negotiated by E.U. leaders along with the Russian and Ukrainian President, will expire. Despite the agreed pause in hostilities, fighting continued on the weekend between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists around the eastern city of Slovyansk. Pro-Russian insurgents have released a second team of four OSCE observers who had been held captive since the end of May. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continues to level criticism at Washington, stating on television, ‘our American colleagues still prefer to push the Ukrainian leadership toward a confrontational path.’ Russian military advisers have assisted in preparing Iraq’s air force to use five used Sukhoi combat planes in its campaign to free areas of the country’s north that have been captured by the ISIS group.
The following op/ed article by Robert Amsterdam and Jakrapob Penkair was first published in the Diplomatic Courier:
Less than a month since Thailand’s military seized power by a coup d’etat, the junta has been quick in attempting to “normalise” their illegal power grab.
Seeking to shore up support, the junta has launched a charm offensive by sending a delegation to China, where they now claim to have support for their coup, and hosting visits of military leaders from neighboring states. This regional strategy could place extraordinary pressure on Washington to recognize the coup or risk watching a key ally drift into Chinese hands.
For anyone who remembers the 2006 coup, there may be a sense of déjà vu. At first, foreign governments made strong statements, followed by inaction, and later followed by resignation and acquiescence.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was firm in his initial comments, stating: “There is no justification for this military coup. (…) We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.”
The law on this matter is clear—no U.S. aid can go to a government whose elected representative was deposed by a military coup. A large-scale joint exercise with the Thai military has already been cancelled, but still no sanctions have been tabled.
The European Union’s initial reaction was similar, but so far they have refused to suspend arms sales or discuss sanctions. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton urged the military to release the thousands of detained political prisoners and ease censorship, and said that they are following developments with “extreme caution.”
Unfortunately, more is needed.
TODAY: Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova sign EU pact; Russia bothered and not bothered, depending on source; Glazyev calls Poroshenko a ‘Nazi’; Kudrin to head Moscow Exchange; Merkel makes second call to Putin, Kerry issues warning; LUKoil head says sanctions taking their toll; Justice Ministry to ban home births; Putin mob links book to be published.
In a decisive turn away from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova will sign a key accord with the European Union today, the same one that sparked the current Ukrainian crisis when ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych failed to sign it in November. The signing date of the accord was moved up ‘because of the risk of the Russians perhaps derailing or creating high levels of tensions in both Moldova and Georgia in the run up to signature,’ says one analyst. Russia has said it may raise tariffs on Ukrainian imports in response to the deal, which it fears will see EU exports finding their way into Russia duty-free, via Ukraine. Other Russian sources say any backlash from Moscow has nothing to do with the economic aspects of the deal, but rather the fact that it looks like ‘European expansionism into [Russia’s] traditional sphere of influence.’ Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin, says Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is a ‘Nazi’ for endorsing the ‘illegitimate’ deal. Former Finance Minister, prominent liberal voice, and free market champion Alexei Kudrin has been appointed the new head of Moscow’s Exchange.
TODAY: Putin hopes for extension of Ukraine ceasefire; Federation Council revokes approval for use of military force in the neighbouring state; Washington wavering on fresh sanctions; military morale at post-Soviet peak. GDP creeps up; extremism law employed for Internet crackdown. Russia fails to shine in Good Country Index; Putin remains the nation’s choice, says new poll.
President Putin has held a four-way phone call with his German, French and Ukrainian counterparts to discuss the situation in Ukraine, in which he called for an extension of the terse ceasefire beyond Friday to provide further discussion time. E.U. Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger hopes Moscow will return to negotiating with Kiev over gas prices. In a video provided by RFE/RL, President Putin can be seen pledging to always protect Russians in Ukraine, though he hopes he can do so without the use of armed forces. On which note, Russia’s upper house of parliament has voted overwhelmingly to revoke authorization for Russian military intervention in Ukraine, a decision welcomed by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen says he has seen ‘no signs‘ that Russia is respecting its international commitments and announced that the alliance will extend its suspension of practical cooperation with the Putin regime. It has however averted further tensions with Russia, by failing to approve Georgian membership of the group. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has announced that Russian military morale is at its highest in 17 years.
TODAY: State-owned companies may be banned from holding foreign bank accounts; Putin revokes possibility of sending troops into Ukraine; ceasefire in doubt after more deaths in eastern Ukraine, Kiev says Russia using landmines; Moldova optimistic on European cooperation; row with Israel over RT raid.
The Finance Ministry is planning to ban state companies from holding accounts with foreign banks and confine their assets to Russian-owned banks; this piece says the paperwork is already being prepared, whilst Reuters says the idea is merely ‘lingering’ and that analysts are skeptical as such a move would damage the investment climate. The MICEX hit its 2014 high yesterday after President Vladimir Putin reversed an earlier Kremlin ruling that Russia could take its troops into Ukrainian territory, thus formally abandoning the possibility of military intervention. The Moscow Times called it ‘an ostentatious demonstration of goodwill’. Nonetheless, the mutual ceasefire is in question after pro-Russian insurgents shot down an army helicopter in eastern Ukraine, killing nine soldiers, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko responded by threatening to abandon the agreement. Kiev has accused Russian troops of planting landmines on its territory during the annexation of Crimea. Is Russia using soft power in France?