Ukraine Conflict Monitor, May 16-23, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • Two Ukrainian servicemen have been wounded in Donbas as pro-Russian militants violated the ceasefire 48 times over the previous day, the headquarters of Ukraine's security operation said on May 22. Three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded on May 19, according to these headquarters. (BBC Monitoring, 05.19.17, 05.22.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced a ban on several Russian-owned internet firms. They included VKontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki, the two most widely used social networks in Ukraine;, one of the country’s most popular email services; and Yandex, a major search engine. (Economist, 05.19.17)
  • Energoatom President Yury Nedashkovsky has confirmed progress in Holtec International's preparations to build a Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The facility will mean Ukraine will no longer have to spend $200 million each year on its arrangement with Russia to transport and reprocess used nuclear fuel. (World Nuclear News, 05.17.17)

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

  • NATO may revive a Cold War naval command to counter Moscow's increased submarine activity in the Arctic and to protect Atlantic Sea lanes in the event of a conflict. Top military officers from NATO nations in Brussels this week received a briefing on a review of the proposed command structure, including options for the Atlantic post. NATO aims to complete its command structure review by February 2018. (Wall Street Journal, 05.18.17)

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:

  • On May 17, two Russian Su-24M Fencer attack jets flew quite close to the Royal Netherlands Navy Frigate HNLMS Evertsen operating in the Baltic Sea. The two unarmed aircraft came within 200 meters of the ship. (The Aviationist, 05.17.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal this week will include provisions to end many foreign military grants administered by the U.S. State Department and replace them with loans, a move that could affect up to $1 billion in aid to dozens of countries if Congress approves, U.S. officials said. An internal State Department memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal names Pakistan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Ukraine, Colombia, Philippines and Vietnam among countries that could be affected. The cuts could affect Ukraine's ability to deploy counter-mortar radars, an important issue in its struggle with pro-Russia separatists backed by Moscow, the memo says. (Dow Jones, 05.21.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Charles Kupchan, a professor of international affairs, wrote: “First, Washington needs to play a more direct role in negotiating the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Second, Mr. Trump must commit to maintain sanctions on Russia until it upholds its obligations under the Minsk agreements. Third, Washington and its European partners must make it clear to Russia that it must end the violence in Donbas before Ukraine grants the region autonomy. Fourth, Ukraine’s parliament needs to move ahead with the necessary Minsk legislation. Fifth, on Crimea, the west should pursue an ‘agree to disagree’ policy.” (Financial Times, 05.23.17)


  • No significant developments.

Other important news:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to reboot attempts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine with a summit between the presidents of France, Ukraine and Russia. (EURACTIV, 05.23.17)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agreed on May 20 to try to improve the security situation in eastern Ukraine and return to implementing the Minsk ceasefire deal after an upsurge in violence there. (Reuters, 05.20.17) 
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and France's new President Emmanuel Macron held their first phone conversation and discussed possible further cooperation in resolving the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin said in a statement on May 18. Putin will meet Macron before the end of the month as part of an “unplanned” visit to Paris. (The Moscow Times, 05.22.17, Reuters, 05.18.17, Wall Street Journal, 05.15.17) 
  • Russia has sent a request to the World Trade Organization asking to hold consultations over Ukraine's sanctions against Moscow, in place since 2014, Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies on May 20. (Reuters, 05.20.17)
  • Ukrainian hacker Vadym Iermolovych was sentenced on May 22 to 30 months in a U.S. prison for a scheme using stolen unpublished news releases to make around $30 million in profits. (RFE/RL, 05.22.17)
  • Months after Russia annexed Crimea, Paul Manafort returned to Ukraine to advise the pro-Russian party, now known as the Opposition Bloc, for the 2014 parliamentary elections. Nestor Shufrych, one of the party leaders, says Manafort pushed for them to be both anti-NATO and the voice of Russians in the east. Shufrych thought they had no chance but they got nearly 10%, with 29 seats. Manafort personally approved the list of candidates, according to another party official. (Bloomberg, 05.22.17)
  • Ukraine’s parliament on May 22 backed television language quotas requiring major channels to broadcast at least three-quarters of their programs in Ukrainian. Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada parliament passed the TV quotas bill by a 269-15 margin. (EURACTIV, 05.23.17)