Ukraine Conflict Monitor, June 6-13, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • U.S. Senate leaders said they had reached an agreement late on June 12 to approve new sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for the country's conduct in Ukraine and Syria. In a statement released late on June 12, the top Republican and Democratic senators on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs said the agreement would impose new sanctions and ''provide for a mandated congressional review'' if the White House sought to ease penalties unilaterally. The new sanctions would be imposed upon ''corrupt Russian actors,'' people involved in human rights abuses, suppliers of weapons to the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and people conducting ''malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government,'' among others. The measure would also cement existing sanctions, including some affecting Russian energy projects that were enacted as part of executive orders, the senators said. (New York Times, 06.13.17)
  • Bloomberg Views columnist Leonid Bershidsky wrote: “Upon closer examination, sanctions have been a questionable deterrent: Putin has held on to Crimea, continued backing Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine and waded into battle in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad. Putin's regime is far from teetering, and it's not internationally isolated, either. … Russian economists have estimated that the country lost about 1.5% of economic output thanks to them in 2014 and 2015, and every additional year of the restrictions is costing the Russian economy about 900 billion rubles ($15.8 billion). That's not unmanageable for the Russian economy.” (Bloomberg, 06.12.17)

 Russia’s leverage over West:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • A United Nations report says hostilities have been escalating in eastern Ukraine in recent months because parties to the armed conflict there have "repeatedly failed to implement cease-fire agreements.” The report by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine recorded 36 conflict-related civilian deaths and 157 injuries from Feb. 16 to May 15—a 48% increase on the previous three months. The report says that since the conflict began in eastern Ukraine in mid-April of 2014, at least 10,090 people have been killed—including 2,777 civilians. It said at least 23,966 people have been injured and more than 1.6 million people displaced by the fighting. (RFE/RL, 06.13.17)
  • One Ukrainian soldier was killed and five wounded in Donbas in 57 violations of the ceasefire from June 12-June 13, the press center of the Ukrainian security operation (ATO) headquarters said June 13. On June 11, ATO headquarters said four Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and seven wounded in Donbas over the previous 24 hours. On June 9, ATO headquarters said one Ukrainian soldier had been killed. (BBC Monitoring, 06.09.17-06.13.17)
  • The Ukrainian military’s shelling of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) left one civilian and one militiaman wounded, while six residential dwellings suffered damage, DPR Operational Command spokesman Eduard Basurin said June 11. Two civilians were wounded after the car they were traveling in hit a mine in the northeastern outskirts of Gorlovka in the DPR, acting Mayor Ivan Prikhodko said. (TASS, 06.11.17, TASS, 06.12.17)

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

  • About 25,000 military forces from the United States and 23 other countries will take part in a large-scale military exercise called "Saber Guardian" planned in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania next month. (Reuters, 06.07.17)
  • Germany and France are working out specific proposals for a European Union defense fund ahead of a bilateral ministerial meeting on July 13, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview published on June 10. (Reuters, 06.11.17)

Red lines and tripwires:

  • Ukraine’s parliament on June 8 set NATO membership as a key foreign-policy goal, replacing the non-aligned status adopted by ousted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in a move that’s likely to further sour relations with Russia. The move formalizes Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO after having a fast-track application rejected in 2008. (Bloomberg, 06.08.17)

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

  • No significant developments.

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • A combat training center that U.S. troops helped establish in Ukraine plans to host brigade-sized rotations beginning in 2018, officials said. (ArmyTimes, 06.08.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Other important news:

  • Moldovan intelligence believes five Russian diplomats expelled from Moldova last month were spies who were recruiting fighters for the Moscow-backed insurgency in neighboring Ukraine, a government source and two diplomatic sources told Reuters. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin described the allegations as "idle gossip," saying they were not supported by facts. (Reuters, 06.13.17)
  • On June 11 Ukrainians celebrated the first day of visa-free travel to most EU countries, which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed as a "a final exit of our country from the Russian Empire." (RFE/RL, 06.11.17)
  • The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine has requested that the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross help locate Stanislav Aseyev, a blogger missing since June 2. (RFE/RL, 06.12.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on June 12 signed a law banning the St. George ribbon, which is seen by many Ukrainians as a symbol of Russian aggression. (RFE/RL, 06.12.17)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared North Korea the “most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security,” before the House Armed Services Committee on the night of June 12, moving Kim Jong Un’s regime past Russia as the No. 1 threat that the United States faces. But Mattis still identified Russia as a threat, along with China, Iran and terrorist organizations. Russia and China, he said, are both “resurgent and more aggressive” and have placed the “international order under assault.” Mattis said there was no indication that Russia wanted a positive relationship with the United States, saying it had chosen to be a strategic competitor. (The Washington Post, 06.12.17, Reuters, 06.12.17)
  • Hackers allied with the Russian government have devised a cyber weapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life, according to U.S. researchers. The malware, which researchers have dubbed CrashOverride, is known to have disrupted only one energy system—in Ukraine in December. In that incident, the hackers briefly shut down one-fifth of the electric power generated in Kiev. (The Washington Post, 06.12.17)
  • Former members of Ukraine's special forces, known as Berkut, were sighted working as OMON riot police at the anti-corruption protests in Russia, reported Ukrainian news outlet (The Moscow Times, 06.12.17)
  • Ukraine's Kazakh Embassy has lodged a protest over maps near an international energy exposition in Astana that show Ukraine's occupied Crimean Peninsula as part of Russia. (RFE/RL, 06.13.17)