Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Oct. 31-Nov. 7, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • In the next five years, Ukraine’s aggregate payments for external liabilities will amount to over $40 billion; the net reserves of the National Bank of Ukraine stand at $5 billion. (Wilson Center, 11.02.17)
  • Ukraine’s international reserves as of early November amounted to $18.7 billion, according to preliminary data, a growth of 0.5 percent over the previous month. (Ukrinform, 11.07.17)

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • Brussels is proposing to extend EU rules to cover all pipelines importing gas into the bloc, marking the latest move to regulate the controversial Nord Stream 2 project. The proposed change would require Nord Stream 2 to make some operational changes but would not block the project. (Financial Times, 11.03.17)

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • Since the beginning of 2017, more than 400 civilians have been injured in Donbass, according to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. (Ukrinform, 11.03.17)
  • Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded in action in Donbass Oct. 31-Nov.7, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation headquarters has reported. No separatist casualties have been reported. Additionally, one child was killed and two more children were injured in Donetsk in an incident with an unexploded ordnance, the OSCE mission has reported. (UNIAN, 11.06.17, 11.04.17, 11.03.17, 11.02.17, 11.01.17, Interfax, 11.07.17)
  • Some 60 percent fewer visas were granted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow between September and August, while in St. Petersburg, the U.S. consulate issued approximately a quarter of its usual visas. The consulate in Vladivostok issued 55 percent fewer visas over the two-month period, while the consulate in Yekaterinburg saw an 84 percent drop. (The Moscow Times, 11.03.17)
  • Moscow has vowed to hit back at Canada after Ottawa announced financial sanctions and other restrictions on 30 Russians in connection with whistleblowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose 2009 death and the crimes he uncovered have been a persistent thorn in the Kremlin's side. (RFE/RL, 11.04.17)
  • Ukraine has introduced sanctions against 18 Russian companies. (TASS, 11.07.17)

Impact of Russia’s actions vis-à-vis Ukraine on other countries:

  • China has benefited from the break-up of defense-industrial ties between the military industrial complexes of Russia and Ukraine after the Crimea crisis. (The Diplomat, 11.07.17)
  • Finland is planning large-scale military drills with the United States and other allies, its defense minister said Nov. 3, in a region worried by Russia's increasing military activity. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the country and praised Finland on Nov. 6 for establishing a new center dedicated to countering the unconventional forms of warfare that Russia is fond of using. (Reuters, 11.03.17, The Washington Post, 11.06.17)
  • NATO defense ministers will this week discuss initiatives to bolster their cyberwarfare capabilities, the alliance's secretary-general said Nov. 7, part of the group's broader efforts to offset rising threats from Russia. (Wall Street Journal, 11.07.17)

Red lines and tripwires:

  • Ukraine may apply for membership in NATO in 2020, the state-run newspaper Government's Courier said Nov. 7, citing a senior Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official. (Xinhua, 11.07.17)

Factors and scenarios that could cause resumption of large-scale hostilities or lead to accident between Western and Russian forces in Europe:

  • Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Nov. 6 that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery in persistent cease-fire violations in the Donetsk region over the previous 24 hours, wounding two soldiers. (RFE/RL, 11.06.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster has been presented with three options for arming the Ukrainians. Of those three options, the State Department and Defense Department are advocating for a $47 million package, according to a State Department source. (ABC, 11.03.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Brookings senior fellow Steven Pifer writes: “It is time for Mr. Putin and the Kremlin to seek better advice on how to deal with their southeastern neighbor. Some suggest that the Russian president’s proposal for a peacekeeping operation is the opening bid in the Kremlin’s search for a way out of its Donbass quagmire. If so, Mr. Putin should move more quickly. His current approach is locking in a generation of Ukrainians who will detest Russia.” (The Moscow Times, 11.01.17)
  • Former ambassador to Russia and NATO Alexander Vershbow: “Putin’s September peacekeeping proposal may indicate that he is considering ways to cut his losses. … The challenge is to convince Putin to choose the right path: full Minsk. We should test him at the negotiating table by proposing a robust peacekeeping force that could ensure full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty, while at the same time showing him that the costs of continued occupation will only rise over time.” (Newsweek, 11.05.17)


  • Kostiantyn Fedorenko, a junior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kiev, writes: “While there is little visible likelihood of a ‘third Maidan’—at least without some major trigger—the degree of instability in Ukrainian politics seems to be increasing. It is a sign that the campaign for the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, or possibly even a snap vote, has kicked off.” (Wilson Center, 11.02.17)
  • Peter Mazarlik writes for the Atlantic Council that “entrenched corruption in the customs services of Ukraine, even amid a slew of post-Maidan reforms,” and “the recent return of wholesale corrupt practices” to the ports of Odessa underscore the need for political will and reforms, as well as “the ongoing threat to both economic prosperity and national security that corruption poses in Ukraine.” (Atlantic Council, 11.06.17)
  • The Economist: “Though many Russians gladly cheer the Kremlin’s wars, whether in eastern Ukraine or Syria, as seen on the television screen, they largely do not aspire to become martyrs for the cause.” (The Economist, 11.02.17)

Other important news:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet this week at an economic summit in Vietnam. “We may have a meeting with Putin,” Trump said. “And, again, Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.” (The Washington Post, 11.03.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have discussed the possibility of sending U.N. peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 11.05.17)
  • Wess Mitchell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will visit Ukraine at the end of a 10-day trip to Europe that starts this week. (RFE/RL, 11.06.17)
  • Poroshenko says that Ukraine and Saudi Arabia are ready to sign an agreement on defense cooperation. (Ukrinform, 11.02.17)
  • Ukraine's political and military elite were targeted by a hacking group with alleged links to Russian security services. The 545 people who were targeted included an officer who developed an artillery-guidance app used by the Ukrainian military in its fight against Moscow-backed separatists. (RFE/RL, 11.02.17)
  • Hackers tried to access confidential data in powerful but stealthy phishing attacks launched in parallel with the BadRabbit ransomware strike, the head of the Ukrainian state cyber police said Nov. 2. The discovery suggests Ukraine may have been a key target of last week’s attacks, despite the higher incidence of BadRabbit victims in Russia. (Reuters, 11.02.17)
  • Ukrainian opposition politician Serhiy Leshchenko who helped uncover off-the-books payments allegedly made to Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort says he provided the information to the FBI but never heard back from the agency. (AP, 11.03.17)
  • Ukrainian prosecutors intend to ask the U.S. Justice Department for permission to interview Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort following his indictment last week. (RFE/RL, 11.02.17)
  • Ukrainian Security Service chief Vasyl Hrytsak says Yulia Prasolova, suspected of killing Col. Oleksandr Kharaberyush earlier this year in Mariupol, has been arrested. (RFE/RL, 11.01.17)      
  • Russia temporarily shut down three checkpoints on Crimea's border with Ukraine on Oct. 31 following reports that an act of sabotage could have left part of the peninsula without power and gas. (The Moscow Times, 11.01.17)
  • A Russian court has denied a house arrest request from Ukrainian teenager Pavlo Hryb, currently held in custody on terrorism-related charges. The Krasnodar regional court upheld a lower court's decision to keep Hryb in pretrial detention until Jan. 4, 2018. (RFE/RL, 11.07.17)
  • Mikheil Saakashvili says he has received confirmation from the Ukrainian authorities that his stay in the country is legal. (RFE/RL, 11.07.17)
  • Fifteen years ago, refugees from Ukraine made up 19 percent of the 27,110 total refugees that came to the U.S., the highest share of any nationality that year; in fiscal year 2017, Ukrainian nationals made up less than 4 percent of the year’s total 53,716 refugees. (Pew Research Center, 11.02.17)