Ukraine Conflict Monitor, April 25-May 2, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin that European Union sanctions will have to remain on Russia, in a chilly encounter in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that exposed their differences on issues from Ukraine and human rights in Chechnya to Russian electoral interference. Merkel said that she would like to be able to lift the economic penalties, but the Minsk process remains “arduous” with small steps forward and steps back. Merkel called on all sides in the conflict in Ukraine to work toward the ceasefire envisaged by the Minsk accords, and said there was no need to replace the Minsk process. The German government also says there are no plans to invite Russia to return to the club of leading industrialized nations. (AP, 04.28.17, Reuters, 05.02.17, Bloomberg, 05.02.17)
  • The United States will not prepare a new round of sanctions against Russia in the near future. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has instead decided to focus on a measure to counter Russian influence in Eastern Europe. “We’re going to do an Iran sanctions bill … We're also working together on a bill to push back against Russia in Europe and what they're doing,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the committee's chairman, told the Politico news site. “Those are the two courses of action that we're taking.” (The Moscow Times, 05.02.17)
  • Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 project has taken a step towards implementation with the signing of financial agreements with Engie, OMV, Shell, Uniper and Wintershall. The five companies have committed to providing long-term financing for 50% of the total cost of the project, which is currently estimated to be €9.5 billion ($10.4 billion). (Maritime Executive, 04.25.17)

 Russia’s leverage over West:

  • If Russian President Vladimir Putin has a Trojan horse in German politics, it’s an estimated 2.5 million voters who speak Russian and make up the country’s largest minority voting bloc. (Bloomberg, 05.02.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • Gazprom has increased its claim against Ukraine's Naftogaz to $37 billion and expects an arbitration court in Stockholm to rule on the dispute on June 30. Gazprom also wants to cut gas transit via Ukraine by 80%, starting in 2020. (RBTH, 04.26.17, Reuters, 04.26.17)

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • Ukrainian authorities said on April 26 that three of its troops have been killed and four wounded in eastern Ukraine in an apparent flare-up of fighting between government troops and Russia-backed separatists. In the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, rebel commander Eduard Basurin told the local media outlet Donetsk News Agency that one of its fighters was killed and two wounded in shelling by Ukrainian troops on April 25. (AP, 04.26.17)
  • Five Ukrainian soldiers were reported wounded in action in eastern Ukraine on May 1, according to UNIAN. The Ukrainian military fired more than 1,130 munitions at the settlements of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic over the same period of time, Donbas separatists told TASS. (Russia Matters, 05.02.17)

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

  • No significant developments.

Red lines and tripwires:

  • No significant developments.

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

  • Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry: “The miscalculations of Soviet and U.S. leaders almost subjected the world to a nuclear holocaust. I believe we avoided that catastrophe as much by good luck as by good management. Today, because of the ongoing hostility between the U.S. and Russia, we are recreating the conditions that could lead to a nuclear war by miscalculation.” (The Hill, 04.25.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • No significant developments.

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Other important news:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a phone conversation on May 2. The Kremlin said the two leaders agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany on July 7-8. They also discussed resolving the conflict in Syria and the “explosive” situation on the Korean peninsula, with Putin calling for “restraint” there, according to the Kremlin’s statement. The White House readout confirmed the two leaders discussed North Korea and that they agreed that “all parties must do all they can to end the violence” in Syria. Significantly, Trump has agreed to send a representative to the Syrian cease-fire talks co-sponsored by Russia in the Kazakh capital of Astana on May 3-4, according to the White House statement. The statement also notes that Trump raised the issue of establishing “safe, or de-escalation, zones.” Neither of the two readouts mentioned the conflict in Ukraine. (Russia Matters, 05.02.15)
  • Sources in Moscow and Kiev tell Russian newspaper Kommersant that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko continue to speak on the phone, though both leaders regularly trade harsh accusations in public. According to Kommersant, the latest conversation between Putin and Poroshenko took place in early April. The two leaders reportedly spent 20 minutes discussing the conflict in eastern Ukraine and that the call took place at Poroshenko’s request. (The Moscow Times, 04.28.17)
  • "The Russian behavior as we've seen, you know—the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine, the support for this murderous regime in Syria and now arming the Taliban—these are all things that's clearly cut against Russian interest," said U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster. He said that for relations with Russia to improve, "what we really need to see is a change in behavior." (RFE/RL, 04.30.17)
  • Polish authorities say they have arrested an Austrian man suspected of committing war crimes in eastern Ukraine, though there were conflicting reports about whether he fought with Kiev's forces or alongside Russia-backed separatists. (RFE/RL, 04.30.17)
  • Guillaume Cuvelier, a prominent militant who fought with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and participated in far-right European politics, recently completed U.S. Army training and is serving in an American infantry division in Hawaii, according to Army and other records. (The Washington Post, 05.01.17)
  • Ukraine on April 28 started returning an estimated $1.5 billion in assets allegedly stolen from the Kiev government by ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych and his associates. (RFE/RL, 04.28.17)
  • A Washington lobbying firm that worked under the direction of Paul Manafort’s firm registered on April 28 with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent—the same day a spokesman for Manafort backed off his previous statement that Manafort had decided to register. The AP reported in August that Manafort’s consulting firm covertly orchestrated the lobbying and public opinion operation on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych’s  political party in Ukraine. (AP, 04.28.17)
  • Commemorations are under way in Ukraine to mark the 30th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Sirens were sounded at the same moment as the first explosion at the reactor, in the early hours of April 26, 1986. (BBC, 04.26.17)
  • Ukraine's state security service raided on April 26 the Kiev offices of the country's largest investment bank, Dragon Capital, looking for illegal software, drawing a dismayed reaction from Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman. (RFE/RL, 04.27.17)