Ukraine Monitor Articles
The exchange of prisoners opened a period of intensive negotiations and possible decisions which should lead to the settlement of the conflict in Donbas. The Kremlin played with Zelensky in the case of the exchange of prisoners and now it is dragging him into another trap. Similarly as Macron.
The exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia is a political victory of the Kremlin. In exchange for the captives, with 24 sailors ahead who should have been unconditionally released by Russians after the decision of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea from May 25, Kiev released spies, rebels and terrorists, including Vladimir Tzemach, a key witness in the investigation concerning MH-17. Now, it is time for another step which is the Normandy format summit. Also, in this case, one should assume that if the meeting takes place, it will bring decisions unfavourable for Ukraine. Unfortunately, led by national political calculations, Volodymyr Zelensky takes steps which are not favourable for the interest of the state.
A memorandum on energy cooperation signed on August 31 in Warsaw between the United States, Poland and Ukraine is yet another stage in the U.S. expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) into the Central and Eastern European markets. What seems to be a mere business plan to gas companies from the states of Texas or Louisiana is, however, of great significance for the energy security of the countries in our part of Europe. It will reduce dependence on Russian gas, and, as a result, hit the interests of Moscow, at the same time bringing Ukraine closer to the West and strengthening the status of Poland as a key U.S. ally in this part of Europe – not only in terms of the military sphere, but also the energy one.
The U.S. administration aims to block the sale of a strategically important Ukrainian engine manufacturer for aircraft and missiles to China. During his recent visit to Kyiv, John Bolton has probably warned the Ukrainians about the consequences of finalising such a transaction. The White House has already sent a warning signal, delaying the transfer of $250 million worth of military aid to Ukraine.
On August 26, at the closing press conference of the G7 summit in the city of Biarritz, President of France Emmanuel Macron announced that a meeting of the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France dedicated to the conflict in Ukraine will be held in September.
John Bolton’s two-day visit to Kyiv concerned not only U.S.-Ukrainian bilateral relations, but also the Donbass problem and certain issues of Ukraine’s domestic politics. It can only be assumed that the U.S. President’s National Security Advisor agreed on an agenda for the upcoming meeting between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, who are both to participate in the 80-anniversary celebrations of the outbreak of the Second World War in Poland.
On August 18-19, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu paid a two-day visit to Kyiv. This has been the first state visit of the head of government of the Jewish State to Ukraine in over 20 years. Aside from the fact that at present the bilateral relations between the two countries are very good, the trip was of great importance for Netanyahu especially in the context of Israeli domestic politics.
Another phone call with the Kremlin, strange words about the death of Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass, a request addressed to the French president regarding talks in the Normandy format – all of this does not bring Ukraine closer to ending the war in the Donbass. Volodymyr Zelensky seems to be trying to seize the initiative, however, his diplomatic efforts come off as chaotic and, in fact, further the Kremlin’s political goals.
The Opposition Platform – For Life party obtained 13.05% of the vote in the recent parliamentary elections to the Verkhovna Rada, thanks to which it took second place, but with a gigantic loss against the winner. However, the seats have surely already been counted in the Kremlin and the Russians can see that the presidential party together with Viktor Medvedchuk’s party have a clear constitutional majority.
Ukraine is officially a republic with a semi-presidential system. However, after the elections on July 21, one can say that this is a presidential republic. The scale of the Servant of the People party’s victory surprised even its founder, President Volodymyr Zelensky. He has the comfort of ruling which nobody in Ukraine has had since 1991. Now, it is time for the realisation of promises and satisfaction of high – and diverse – expectations of Ukrainians.
Even though the President of Russia has not congratulated the President of Ukraine on his victory in the elections, they had a contact for the first time. For now only via telephone. Earlier, the Kremlin was consistently rejecting contact with Petro Poroshenko. But Vladimir Putin spoke to Volodymyr Zelensky – underlying that Kiev initiated the conversation. Regardless of the topic of the talks and possible arrangements, this is Putin’s success.
The Russian Federation has decided to showcase its naval power in the Black Sea. This is Russia’s response to the recent sea manoeuvres of Ukraine and its allies. Four days after the start of the Sea Breeze 2019 exercise, the Black Sea Fleet began its own exercises. Moscow does not pretend that this is closely connected with the recent activity of Ukrainian and Western ships in the Black Sea.
The idea to hold talks on the Donbass region and Crimea in the so-called “Normandy format” with the extra participation of the United States and the United Kingdom is not very convenient for Russia for a number of reasons. First, Volodymyr Zelensky has now taken the diplomatic initiative in the dispute over the occupied territories. Second, Moscow has to reject his offer. In this way, while Kyiv gains international recognition for both of these reasons,
This year Sea Breeze naval exercises are being held in a tense atmosphere. The situation in the Black Sea has not been so dangerous since 2014. This is the effect of the aggressive Russian politics – manifested by the so-called Kerch incident in November 2018. Currently, Moscow is stressing that the Black Sea Fleet is monitoring the activity of vessels taking part in the Sea Breeze 2019.