Ukraine Conflict Monitor, June 20-27, 2017

Please note there will be no Ukraine Conflict Monitor on July 4 due to the Independence Day holiday.

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump on June 29 will lay out his plan for reducing regulations to boost already-abundant U.S. production of oil, natural gas and coal and export it around the world. The Trump administration wants to make sure the United States remains "technologically and economically engaged" in the nuclear industry, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said. "If we do not, then China and Russia will fill that void," Perry said. (Reuters, 06.26.17)
  • U.S. lawmakers said on June 26 they did not know when legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia might come up for a vote in the House of Representatives, and the White House said it had concerns about the measure. A White House official said the Trump administration felt some provisions in the bill would interfere with its ability to use sanctions to try to influence Russia. (Reuters, 06.26.17)
  • The U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee's $696.5 billion defense policy bill includes several provisions aimed at curtailing rising Russian aggression, including the possible suspension of the INF treaty. (The Hill, 06.26.17)
  • Thirteen EU nations voiced support on June 26 for a proposal to empower the bloc's executive to negotiate with Russia over objections to Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline plan to Germany, despite opposition from Berlin. (Reuters, 06.26.17)

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • Russia will respond if the U.S. pulls out of the INF pact, warned a leading defense official in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party, despite allegations that Russia has repeatedly violated the treaty. (Newsweek, 06.26.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • There are hundreds of people—or possibly several thousand—who are missing or held as prisoners of war in eastern Ukraine. (The Washington Post, 06.26.17)
  • From June 20 to June 26, three Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and five wounded in action in the Donbas, the press center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. One civilian was also wounded on June 22 when several shells hit a residential house in the town of Maryinka. (UNIAN, 06.26.17, UNIAN, 06.24.17, UNIAN 06.22.17, UNIAN 06.22.17, UNIAN 06.21.17)
  • A colonel in Ukraine’s armed forces has been killed in a car bombing in Kiev that authorities are investigating as a "terrorist attack." A statement from Ukraine’s defense ministry on the June 27 explosion identified the victim of the blast as Col. Maksim Shapoval. (RFE/RL, 06.27.17)
  • Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor of the Financial Times, writes: “Last year, the Russian stock exchange was among the best performers in the world. But halfway through 2017, the Russian market is one of the year’s worst performers. … [One major factor] is the sharp reversal of hopes for an improvement in U.S.-Russian relations following Donald Trump’s election.” (Financial Times, 06.21.17)
  • Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s LetterOne’s L1 Energy unit recently walked away from a deal to buy Texas oil producer ExL Petroleum Management LLC for about $700 million over concerns the plan could be rebuffed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (Bloomberg, 06.26.17)
  • Russia’s defense industry plans to replace all its products manufactured in Ukraine by 2018 and in NATO countries by 2020, Sergei Chemezov, head of the Rostekh state corporation said on June 27 at a meeting of the Union of Russian Mechanical Engineering and the League for Assistance to Defense Industries that was also attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. (TASS, 06.27.17)

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

  • At a Brussels summit, the 28 EU leaders—22 of them from NATO member nations—agreed to jointly develop or purchase military equipment such as drones. They also agreed to use EU funds to finance Europe’s battlegroups. (AP, 06.22.17)

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:

  • A Russian jet flew within five feet (1.5 m) of a U.S. reconnaissance plane's wing tip over the Baltic Sea June 19, U.S. officials say. The encounter was deemed "unsafe" due to the Russian pilot's "high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft.” (BBC, 06.21.17)
  • A NATO F-16 fighter approached and was then warned away from a jet carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The NATO jet closed in and began flying parallel to Shoigu's plane. A Russian Su-27 fighter accompanying Shoigu's plane then approached from behind and rocked its wings to show it was armed. Then, the F-16 veered off. (The Washington Post, 06.21.17)
  • A “harvest ceasefire” has gone into effect for June 24 to Aug. 31 The ceasefire was violated 19 times by the Ukrainian Armed Forces from June 24 to June 25, according to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) operations command, while the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) was shelled seven times in that same period. Ukrainian troops were attacked 26 times along the entire contact line from June 24 to June 25, according to the press center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters. (TASS, 06.25.17, TASS, 06.25.17, UNIAN, 06.25.17)
  • The U.S. State Department said on June 22 it was "deeply concerned" about a pattern of violence by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine targeting unarmed civilians of a European mission monitoring the conflict in region. (Reuters , 06.22.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • "In your questions that were submitted to you, one of the questions was providing the Ukrainians with legal, lethal defense weaponry with which to defend themselves," U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told Patrick M. Shanahan, who was nominated in March to be deputy defense secretary. "Inexplicably, you responded by saying you have to look at the issue. It's not satisfactory, Mr. Shanahan." (The Washington Post, 06.20.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • “Over the past year, Russia has maintained its gains in Ukraine, continued support for the Assad regime in Syria, interfered in U.S. elections, violated landmark disarmament treaties and continued to take unprecedented provocative actions against U.S., NATO-allied and partner ships and planes,” reads a summary of the U.S. House of Representatives’ $696.5 billion defense policy released June 26. “These events all point to the importance of ensuring the U.S. military has the capability needed to protect the country and our interests, and to assure America’s allies and partners.” (The Hill, 06.26.17)


  • German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on June 26 that both Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists were violating a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine and it would likely be difficult to resolve the crisis in the short term. "It's very difficult to find a way out after so many years," Gabriel told an event hosted by the European Council on Foreign Relations. "Of course we are trying, but it does not look like we will have a [short-term resolution] of the difficulties in the region." (Reuters, 06.27.17)
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger predicted ongoing friction with Russia over Ukraine and Syria. "Russia has evolved to what amounts to a definition of absolute security [and] absolute insecurity for some of its neighbors," Kissinger said during his keynote address at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security in London, adding that Putin's view of international politics is reminiscent of 1930's European nationalist authoritarianism. "Russia wants to be accepted by Europe and transcend it simultaneously." Kissinger also warned that with political chaos enveloping Britain and the United States, Russia, India and China could gain a foothold in creating a new world order.” (AP, 06.27.17)

Other important news:

  • French President Emmanuel Macron says further peace talks over the Ukrainian crisis will be held in the coming days, following a meeting in Paris with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko. Macron said in a joint news conference that a phone call between the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia will be scheduled by the end of next week in an effort to make tangible progress. He insisted the so-called “Normandy Format” talks between the four countries are still the best forum to discuss the situation. Poroshenko said he felt "much more optimistic" following the meeting with Macron, while Macron said German leader Angela Merkel shared his determination to resolve the Ukraine conflict. (Reuters, 06.26.17, AP, 06.26.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that representatives from Trump’s administration have agreed to visit Kiev "in the near future" and will sign "very important" defense agreements. (RFE/RL, 06.22.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he and European Council President Donald Tusk have discussed relations with the EU, as well as U.S. sanctions related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. (RFE/RL, 06.22.17)
  • NATO’s senior military officer Petr Pavel said the alliance was confronting efforts by Russia to increase its military capabilities on virtually every level and allies were on guard to prevent any repeat of the Kremlin’s military intervention in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. “We face a huge modernization of all Russia military,” he said. (Politico, 06.26.17)
  • More than 80 companies in Russia and Ukraine were affected by the Petya virus that disabled computers June 27 and told users to pay $300 in cryptocurrency to unlock them, according to the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Group-IB. A number of Ukrainian banks and companies, including the state power distributor, were hit by a cyberattack on June 27 that disrupted some operations, the Ukrainian central bank said. The secretary of Ukraine's security council said there were signs of Russian involvement in the wave of cyberattacks. "Already on first analysis of the virus it is possible to talk of Russian fingerprints," the National Security and Defense Council quoted Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov as saying. (New York Times, 06.27.17, Bloomberg, 06.27.17, Reuters, 06.27.17)
  • The treason trial of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was quickly adjourned after formally opening on June 26 in a courtroom in Kiev. (RFE/RL, 06.26.17)