Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Oct. 3-10, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • “There was never a strong state on this land. Medieval feudal mosaics, fragile kingdoms and early-modern Cossack republics had nothing in common with European absolutism or Russian authoritarianism,” said Valerii Pekar, a lecturer at the Kiev-Mohyla Business School, in a recent article. “This is a country of balance, not of leadership. Nobody can rule Ukraine like a king.” (New York Times, 10.08.17)

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • The Russian Justice Ministry has warned three U.S.-funded news outlets based in Moscow that their activity may be defined as that of a “foreign agent” and restricted accordingly. (The Moscow Times, 10.10.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • From Oct. 3 to Oct. 10, nine Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action in the Donbas, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. No separatist casualties were reported. (UNIAN, 10.10.17, 10.08.17, 10.07.17, 10.05.17, 10.04.17)
  • Two civilians were killed and 13 were wounded in Donbas in September according to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. In September, monitors recorded a 62% decline in the number of explosions from August; the number of civilian casualties also declined by 59%. (Interfax, 10.06.17)
  • The chief of Ukraine's General Staff, Viktor Muzhenko, has said that the Ukrainian army is ready to recapture rebel-held parts of Donbas by force, but it would likely lose up to 12,000 servicemen in such an operation. (BBC Monitoring Ukraine & Baltics, 10.06.17)
  • Hungary's foreign minister said that European Union sanctions placed on Russia aren't hurting Putin's regime. (CNBC, 10.04.17)
  • The global economy is set for continued strong growth into 2018, but the U.K. and Russia are likely to miss out, according to leading indicators released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (Wall Street Journal, 10.09.17)

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

  • NATO launched a new multinational force in Romania on Oct. 9 to counter Russia along its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea following the Kremlin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea. The force will initially be built around a Romanian brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers, supported by troops from nine other NATO countries, and complementing a separate deployment of 900 U.S. troops who are already in place. Still, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “Russia is our neighbor ... we don’t want to isolate Russia. We don’t want a new Cold War.” (AP, 10.09.17, Reuters, 10.09.17)

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:

  • RAND report: Several factors suggest a very low Russian incentive to attack NATO, including Russia's perceptions of NATO's willingness to fight to defend its members against a Russian attack; limited Russian political or strategic interest in any current NATO territory, including the Baltic States; and limited domestic threats to the security of the regime in Moscow. Additional NATO posture enhancements have the potential to further limit this incentive. (RAND, October 2017)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • For more than two years, some 300 American soldiers have been quietly helping train an enormous partner military in western Ukraine. “Every 55 days we have a new battalion come in and we train them,” a spokesperson for the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine said. (Defense One, 10.05.17)

Strategies and recommended actions:

  • Anthony Blinken, a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, writes: “What might give Mr. Putin pause at turning up the temperature yet again within eastern Ukraine—or worse, taking another whole bite out of the country—is the knowledge his troops would be seriously bloodied in the doing. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, once the leading opponent of lethal aid, now is open to it. … Defensive weapons for Ukraine is an idea whose time has come.” (New York Times, 10.04.17)
  • Vygaudas Usackas, the EU ambassador to Russia from 2013 to 2017, writes: “It must be made very clear [to Russia]: the road to Europe goes via Kiev, and it involves respect of Ukraine's European choice, and adherence to the European security order. Moreover, it cannot go through ‘managed’ democracy in Russia itself.” (European Council for Foreign Relations, 10.05.17)
  • Anastasia Voronkova, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, writes: “Without some form of consent and regular contact with the self-proclaimed republics in the east, U.N. [peacekeeping] deployment will not be possible. Yet the authorities in these areas are unlikely to agree to such a deployment without the prior granting of special autonomy status—a parameter that although already present in Minsk II remains as yet unfulfilled and is quite widely seen in Ukraine as a reward for the rebels and a dangerous step toward the breakup of the state. (IISS, 10.10.17)


  • No significant developments.

Other important news:

  • Ukraine will host a session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for the first time in 2020, according to the first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament. (TASS, 10.08.17)
  • Jon Huntsman, the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, said that restoring Ukrainian sovereignty and bringing North Korea to the negotiating table will be central issues as he works to improve relations between the two countries. He said he wants to improve relations, but the first step is returning Ukrainian control within its internationally recognized borders. (AP, 10.07.17)
  • The Ukrainian parliament has passed hotly-disputed bills regarding the rebel-controlled eastern territories, despite opponents’ concerns that the bills don’t assert Ukraine’s control of the eastern territories strongly enough. The bills refer to elements of the 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany. (AP, 10.06.17)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the phone on Oct. 9 to that the Ukrainian bill on reintegration of Donbass runs counter to the Minsk agreements. (TASS, 10.09.17)
  • Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, met with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov on Oct. 7 in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade. (RFE/RL, 10.07.17)
  • Ukraine has been able to monitor Paul Manafort's former business associates and turn up evidence of Russian hacking in the 2016 U.S. election, in part owing to American technical support. The CIA tore out a Russian-provided cellphone surveillance system and put in American-supplied computers, the former head of an S.B.U. liaison office that worked with foreign governments said. (New York Times, 10.08.17)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a visit to Ukraine on Oct. 9 that Turkey won't recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. (AP, 10.09.17)
  • The European Parliament on Oct. 5 adopted a resolution condemning Russian verdicts against dozens of Crimeans who opposed Moscow's seizure of the peninsula and demanding the release of those who are behind bars. (RFE/RL, 10.05.17)
  • While activists in Ukraine welcomed news that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Oct. 4 conceded to their demand to create an anticorruption court, their enthusiasm was curbed knowing that legislation that could hinder investigations is awaiting the president’s signature. (RFE/RL, 10.05.17)
  • Ukraine’s chief prosecutor blamed a Russian crime lord linked to Russia’s security agency for the killing of renegade Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov. The prosecutor said Voronenkov was gunned down in March on orders from Vladimir Tyurin, a former partner of Voronenkov’s wife, Maria Maksakova, and that Tyurin, who had ties with Russia’s FSB, commissioned several Ukrainians for the hit job. (AP, 10.09.17)