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Since 2014, a war with Russia-backed separatists has killed 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine, Russia has annexed Crimea and Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union has suffered due to corruption and failed political reform. Crisis Group supports and reports on implementation of the 2015 Minsk Agreement to turn a ceasefire between the warring parties into a peace deal. Through a network of contacts on both sides of the conflict divide, we assess the dire humanitarian situation and engage local and foreign actors to prevent clashes from escalating, facilitate conflict settlement and strengthen a reintegrated Ukrainian state.

CrisisWatch Ukraine

Unchanged Situation

Fighting continued in east while largest Russian military build-up at border since Moscow’s 2014 invasion brought renewed international attention. In Donbas conflict zone, fighting killed 15 Ukrainian govt troops and five Russian-backed fighters throughout month, per official and de facto reports. Moreover, explosion 2 April killed five-year-old child 14km from contact line, while three other civilians were killed and six injured during month. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe indicated shelling frequency doubled in April compared to previous month while Ukraine’s military casualties increased fivefold compared to April 2020. Following late March announcement by Ukrainian military commander Ruslan Khomchak that Russia was building up forces on borders, U.S. President Biden 2 April called President Zelenskyy and pledged support for country’s territorial integrity. Zelenskyy 6 April spoke to NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg, requesting Membership Action Plan and asserting “NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbas”. French President Macron, German Chancellor Merkel and Zelenskyy 16 April discussed de-escalation measures. Advisers to Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France) heads of state 19 April pledged efforts to rescue July 2020 ceasefire through strengthening bilateral coordination and verification measures; Moscow same day rejected joint statement proposed by France and Germany as “unspecific and declarative”; Kyiv proposed stricter liability for sniper fire on grounds that Russian shooters had driven rise in military casualties. Zelenskyy 20 April suggested meeting in Donbas; Putin counter-offered meeting in Moscow, provided Kyiv negotiated directly with Moscow-backed forces in Donbas first. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu 22 April said troops were returning to permanent bases. Moscow mid-month announced closure of sections of Black Sea to foreign naval ships and state vessels until 31 Oct. Trilateral Contact Group for Donbas peace process met 28 April, voiced readiness to renew ceasefire but failed to agree on joint plan.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

13 Apr 2021
If you want to say you’re going to defend Ukraine, say you’re going to defend Ukraine, [NATO] membership or no membership. Foreign Policy

Olga Oliker

Program Director, Europe and Central Asia
6 Apr 2021
This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a major escalation [between Ukraine and Russia]. But we should still be worried because it’s a symptom of the deadlock in the peace process. Bloomberg

Katharine Quinn-Judge

Senior Analyst, Ukraine
17 Mar 2020
Maybe there’s a shift in thinking about war [in Ukraine]. What is the point of fighting now? Maybe it’s better to self-isolate, rather than sit in trenches. New York Times

Anna Arutunyan

Former Senior Analyst, Russia
24 Sep 2019
Ukraine is really dependent on [U.S.] aid and support, and that makes it an easy country to influence, because of that, at least on paper. Vice

Olga Oliker

Program Director, Europe and Central Asia
16 Aug 2016
Russia is intensely frustrated by the lack of movement on the February 2015 Minsk agreement, and has sought to put the onus for the lack of progress on Ukraine. Reuters

Paul Quinn-Judge

Former Senior Adviser, Ukraine and Russia

Latest Updates

War & Peace: Ukraine’s Zelensky Revolution

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Anna Kovalenko, Deputy Head of the President's Office in Ukraine, about reforms in the security sector and reaching a peace deal with Russia. 

Peace in Ukraine (II): A New Approach to Disengagement

Ceasefires in Ukraine's Donbas repeatedly fray because no side is fully invested in peace. Until the sides can agree on a long-term political solution, they should focus on protecting civilians through carefully targeted sectoral disengagements. If this facilitates peacemaking, so much the better.

The COVID-19 Challenge in Post-Soviet Breakaway Statelets

The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through.

War & Peace: The Russian and European Roles in Ending Ukraine’s War

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope discuss what can be done to break the impasse and move toward a durable peace in Ukraine and broader security concerns in Europe and Russia that must be taken into account.

Peace in Ukraine I: A European War

To help Ukraine find peace, the EU, NATO, and member states must seek new approaches to arms control discussions with Russia and European security as a whole. They should also consider a more flexible sanctions policy, such that progress in Ukraine may lead to incremental easing.

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Our People

Katharine Quinn-Judge

Senior Analyst, Ukraine

Bogdan Voron

Giustra Fellow, Ukraine