Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Sept. 12-19, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • Ukraine’s population (without the Crimean Peninsula) as of Aug. 1 had declined by 128,500 since Jan. 2017, and its population averaged 42.5 million people between Jan.-July, according to the Ukrainian State Statistics Service. (Interfax, 09.19.17)
  • If demography is destiny, Ukraine has cause for concern. In this country of approximately 45 million, the annual death rate exceeds the number of live births. The German CEO of a major wholesaler estimates that as many as 200,000 Ukrainians emigrate each year. (Wall Street Journal, 09.19.17)

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:

  • From Sept. 12 to Sept. 19, eight Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action in the Donbas, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. Officials from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic reported that one of its servicemen and two civilians were wounded in the last week. (BBC Monitoring Ukraine & Baltics, 09.19.17, 09.18.17, UNIAN, 09.17.17, 09.16.17, 09.14.17, 09.13.17, TASS, 09.19.17, 09.18.17, 09.16.17)

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

  • The European Commission has proposed a set of measures to scale up the bloc’s response to what it called a “dramatic rise in cybercriminal activity.” (RFE/RL, 09.19.17)

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 visited the Zapad war games on Sept. 18, skipping the U.N. General Assembly in favor of the military exercises held jointly with Belarus. A revitalized Russian military sent tanks, paratroopers, artillery, antiaircraft weapons, jets and helicopters into frigid rains to engage the forces of a mock enemy called the “Western Coalition”—which Baltic leaders said was a simulation of an attack against NATO forces in Eastern Europe. Gen. Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s Military Committee, said the coalition is increasing efforts to re-establish the military-to-military communications with Russia to avoid any “unintended consequences of potential incidents during the [Zapad] exercise.” (The Washington Post, 09.18.17, AP, 09.16.17) 

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • The U.S. Senate on Sept. 18 strongly backed a $700 billion defense policy bill that maintains funding for Ukrainian military support and authorizes the treatment of injured Ukrainian military personnel in U.S. military facilities. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s claim that the the Senate bill allots $500 million for lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine. He did note that the Kremlin remains critical of the possibility of lethal weapons supplies to Kiev, which it says will not promote stability in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.19.17, TASS, 09.19.17, Reuters, 09.19.17)
  • U.S.-led military drills continued this week near the western Ukrainian city of Yavoriv on Sept. 18 as part of the Rapid Trident exercises, which involved more than 1,800 troops from 14 countries and have been held each year since 1996. (RFE/RL, 09.17.18)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Kimberly Marten, a professor of political science at Barnard College, and Olga Oliker, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “Kiev should cease negotiations with Right Sector and declare its armed forces illegal, prosecuting those who continue to fight under its banner while allowing qualified former members to enroll in the National Guard and other state security organs as individuals.”(War on the Rocks, 09.14.17)


  • Will Ukraine survive as a free, independent, pro-Western nation? “It's 50-50,” a veteran European diplomat who knows the region well said. (Wall Street Journal, 09.19.17)

Other important news:

  • In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, U.S. President Donald Trump decried threats to sovereignty in Ukraine and the South China Sea, but did not explicitly mention Russia or China. (AFP, 09.19.17)
  • Moscow’s ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzia, said the United States and Ukraine had formally told Russia in the United Nations Security Council that they were unwilling to work on a Russian proposal to deploy United Nations peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine. The envoy has earlier said that deploying a security mission in the Donbas would be discussed at a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council. (TASS, 09.18.17, Reuters, 09.18.17)
  • The speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said on Sept. 17 she saw no logic in deploying U.N. peacekeepers along the border between Russia and Ukraine, something Kiev and Washington favor. (Reuters, 09.17.17)
  • Any U.N. peacekeepers sent to eastern Ukraine must be granted access to the entirety of the region held by Moscow-backed separatists, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. (Reuters, 09.15.17)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have met in New York ahead of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, with Ukraine and Syria key topics of discussion. (RFE/RL, 09.18.17)
  • Kurt Volker, the U.S. State Department appointee heading up Ukraine negotiations, will meet with Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov in October. (Interfax, 09.16.17)
  • Police in Ukraine are investigating clashes that broke out on Sept. 18 after a court acquitted 19 defendants tried over deadly violence between pro-Russian and Ukrainian activists in Odessa in May 2014. Two of the acquitted, a Russian and a Ukrainian, were rearrested shortly after the hearing and charged with separatism. (RFE/RL, 09.19.17)
  • An explosion occurred at a separatist-installed monument in the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk on Sept. 18. (RFE/RL, 09.19.17)
  • Ukrainian diplomats visited Ukrainian teenager Pavlo Hryb held in Russian custody on terrorism-related charges for the first time since his arrest. (RFE/RL, 09.19.17)
  • The justice minister under former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, has been detained over allegations that he participated in an illegal "coup d'etat" in 2010. (RFE/RL, 09.16.17)
  • Mikheil Saakashvili, the ex-governor of Ukraine's Odessa region and former president of Georgia, has arrived in Kiev, where he vowed to challenge the revocation of his Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine's top prosecutor has said  Saakashvili will not be arrested for defying authorities with his dramatic return to the country after his citizenship was canceled. (RFE/RL, 09.19.17, RFE/RL, 09.16.17)
  • Ukraine’s prime minister, Voldoymyr Groysman, said Sept. 16 the government was reviewing the way it sets domestic gas bills to make sure market prices are taken into account—a bid to answer demands under a $17.5 billion International Monetary Fund aid program. (Reuters, 09.16.17)
  • Investors flocked to Ukraine’s first international debt placement since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea as the government offered $3 billion of 15-year dollar-denominated bonds. The debt is expected to yield 7.375%, down from initial guidance of about 7.75%. (Bloomberg, 09.18.17)
  • Ukraine has agreed to buy back more than $1.5 billion of bonds due in 2019 and 2020 in order to lighten its short-term debt servicing burden. (Reuters, 09.18.17)