Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Aug. 29-Sept. 5, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the removal of sanctions on Russia would be economically beneficial to both Russia and Germany but insisted that Moscow would have to cease its imposition on Ukraine before these sanctions could be lifted and the advantages felt. (CNBC, 08.29.17)
  • The European Union will extend for six months the blacklist containing the names of 153 Russian citizens and citizens from the self-proclaimed Donbass republics, as well as 40 companies. (TASS, 09.05.17)

 Russia’s leverage over West:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said he won’t respond “for the time being” to the closing of the Russian consulate in San Francisco, though he noted that 155 of 455 Russian diplomats working in the U.S. were actually assigned to duties at the United Nations. While the Kremlin had ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy staff numbers to 455 to achieve parity, it “reserves the right” to demand further reductions, he said. (Bloomberg, 09.05.17)
  • U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the U.S. would circulate new draft sanctions against North Korea and wants the Security Council to vote on them Sept. 11. Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected U.S. calls for new sanctions after North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test. Putin condemned what he described as a policy of whipping up war hysteria, which he said could lead to a “global catastrophe and a huge number” of human casualties. (Bloomberg, 09.05.17, Bloomberg, 09.05.17)
  • NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has returned to Earth after completing a record-breaking nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station. (RFE/RL, 09.03.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • In the summer of 2017, 55 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, while 269 were wounded, according to data from the Information and Analytical Center of National Security. (UNIAN, 09.04.17)
  • From Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, a total of two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action in the Donbas, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. (UNIAN, 09.03.17, 09.04.17)
  • The Security Service of Ukraine reports that about 23 officers were killed during “anti-terrorist operations.” (Interfax, 08.29.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a decree introducing the collection of biometric data from all foreign nationals, including Russians, who cross the country’s border starting Jan. 1, 2018. (TASS, 09.01.17)
  • The United States seized control Sept. 2 of three Russian diplomatic posts in the U.S. after confirming the Russians had complied with the Trump administration’s order to get out within two days. (AP, 09.02.17)

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

  • Poland and Sweden, a NATO partner, are conducting military drills in September, but the alliance as a whole won't hold any of its own exercises during Zapad. While the alliance has increased the number of planes conducting the Baltic air-policing mission, it intends to keep the size of its ground force, roughly 4,000 personnel, steady in September, to avoid any moves that look like provocation. (Wall Street Journal, 08.30.17)
  • The U.S. took over the Baltic air-policing mission in Lithuania, beginning with flying seven F-15C jet fighters from the U.K. out of Lithuania on Aug. 30. The U.S. fighters will begin standing alert to intercept unknown aircraft Aug. 31, replacing four Polish F-16s. (Wall Street Journal, 08.30.17)

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:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 5 that any decision by the United States to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine would fuel the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In comments likely to be interpreted as a veiled threat, Putin suggested that pro-Russian separatists were likely to respond by expanding their own campaign. “It’s hard to imagine how the self-declared republics would respond. Perhaps they would deploy weapons to other conflict zones.” (Reuters, 09.05.17)
  • The Russian military sought Aug. 29 to allay Western fears about major war games set for next month, describing them as regular drills, but Ukraine's Armed Forces Chief of Staff and Commander-in-Chief Viktor Muzhenko said the Russia-Belarus Zapad 2017 exercise poses a threat to NATO countries and the nations of the post-Soviet world. He also said Ukraine’s Armed Forces will conduct strategic maneuvers Sept. 12-15 simultaneously with Zapad. NATO said Aug. 30 it will send three experts to observe Zapad, but alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wants Belarus and Russia to allow broader monitoring. (Interfax, 09.01.17, AP, 08.29.17, RFE/RL, 08.29.17, AP, 08.30.17, TASS, 09.01.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • No significant developments.

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • No significant developments.


  • Peter Zwack, former U.S. Defense Attaché to Russia, writes: “The West—both NATO and the European Union—must prepare for the type of worst case, all-guns-blazing scenario that Zapad showcases every four years, but we must not stop there. It is Russia’s deceptive, stealthy and highly imaginative array of corroding, subverting, non-attributed operations that is every bit as dangerous as old-fashioned battlefield weaponry.” (The National Interest, 08.29.17)
  • Seth J. Frantzman, a Jerusalem-based journalist, writes: “Will this low-level conflict eventually reach a real ceasefire and can the separatist areas be incorporated back into Ukraine? Or will they morph into a model like South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia or like Transnistria; other Russian-supported statelets. The current feeling is that the chances for a resolution to the conflict are low today. Ukraine doesn’t stand to gain much by having to invest in reincorporation or fight to get the areas back. Russia doesn’t lose much by continuing its support of the breakaway republics. With the United States concentrating on other issues internally, and the EU distracted, the current stalemate seems likely to continue.” (The National Interest, 08.31.17)

Other important news:

  • Russia will ask the U.N. Security Council to send peacekeepers to patrol the front line in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 5, a development greeted by Germany as a new opportunity for detente. Russia’s foreign ministry will file a formal request with the U.N. Security Council, Putin said. (AP, 09.05.17)
  • Kiev does not accept talks with representatives of certain districts in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the introduction of a U.N. peacekeeping mission to Donbass and the involvement of Russian citizens in the peacekeeping contingent, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said. (Interfax, 09.05.17)
  • In spite of western sanctions aimed to cripple Russian business, Russian Aquaculture produced 664% more fish in the first half of 2017 compared with last year, and recently opened a new 1,500 ton fish farm as part of plans to double its fish stocks over the next year. Business is so good that it is preparing for a secondary share listing “in the near future.” Meanwhile, sales at Rusagro, the country’s largest agriculture company, rose 16% in 2016 compared with the year before, including a 49% increase in sales of crops such as wheat and corn. Wheat production at Steppe, a company owned by conglomerate Sistema, grew 80% last year. (Financial Times, 09.03.17)
  • The Chief of Ukraine's Security Service, Vasyl Hrytsak, has asked the chief of Russia's Federal Security Service, Aleksandr Bortnikov, to curtail special operations in Ukraine aimed at destabilizing the situation in Ukraine and Russia. (Interfax, 09.04.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed into law "On Amnesty in 2016," providing amnesty for those who defended the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in eastern Ukraine and did not commit serious crimes. (Interfax, 09.04.17)
  • When meeting for interviews with American filmmaker Oliver Stone, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the widely discredited reports that a Spanish air traffic controller at Kiev’s airport Borispol supposedly witnessed two Ukrainian fighter jets near Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 three minutes before it disappeared from radars and crashed in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine. (Meduza, 08.31.17)
  • A ship loaded with 62,000 tons of steam coal last week departed from the port of Baltimore and should arrive in the port of Yuzhny in Ukraine by mid-September. "According to the terms of the contract, it's worth expecting the delivery of 700,000 tons of anthracite steam coal from the United States by the end of the year,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly said. (Interfax, 09.02.17)
  • Representatives of the United States and Ukraine will make an observation flight over Russia and Belarus in accordance with the Treaty on Open Skies. (TASS, 09.04.17)
  • Joint Ukrainian-American response exercises to a radiation accident emergency will run from Sept. 5 to Sept. 8 at Energoatam’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. (Interfax, 09.05.17)
  • "There are 60 wars underway in the world, but not a single one on Europe’s territory, if we don’t count Ukraine. But Ukraine is not a European country in terms of the EU membership," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. However, Junker is welcoming the full entry into force of an agreement on closer ties with Ukraine, despite Russian attempts to derail the accord. The Association Agreement was signed in June 2014, seven years after negotiations began and gradually introduced to mollify Russia. (TASS, 08.29.17, AP, 09.01.17)
  • Ukraine says it will review a request from Georgia to arrest and extradite former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, one of the most colorful and divisive figures in the politics of both countries, if he re-enters Ukraine in the next few days. (Reuters, 09.05.17)
  • An Austrian court has rejected a Spanish extradition request for Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, potentially paving the way for the businessman to face bribery allegations in the United States. (Reuters, 08.30.17)
  • Ukraine is preparing to issue its first dollar-denominated debt since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea. (Financial Times, 09.05.17)