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CrisisWatch Ukraine

Deteriorated Situation

Casualties in Donbas conflict zone surged while govt sanctioned several Kremlin-friendly public figures. July ceasefire in Donbas – longest-lasting ceasefire in east to date – faced growing strains amid significant uptick in casualties: Ukrainian army during Feb suffered up to a dozen combat-related deaths while Russian-backed forces lost at least eight fighters, per social media reports. Landmines 14 Feb killed three Ukrainian servicemen. In first civilian casualties from live fire since July, shelling 23 Feb killed one civilian and 3, 22 Feb injured two, according to Ukrainian and separatist media reports. Ukrainian commander 20 Feb reported extensive use of heavy weapons in Donbas by so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) forces; DPR-friendly sources, however, suggested Ukrainian forces fired artillery first. Other incidents contributed to deteriorating security in Donbas: Ukrainian security personnel 9 Feb fatally shot man attempting to cross front-line checkpoint after he ignored orders to stop car; car bombing 15 Feb injured DPR battalion commander and his daughter, for which de facto authorities blamed Ukrainian security services. Ukraine’s chief envoy to Minsk Trilateral Contact Group Leonid Kravchuk 8 Feb said armed groups’ aggression warranted return fire. President Zelenskyy 11 Feb brought G7 ambassadors to visit military positions at frontline and spoke of July ceasefire’s success. In capital Kyiv, hundreds 23 Feb protested Odesa сourt’s decision to sentence activist Serhiy Sternenko to seven years in prison for alleged kidnapping, leaving 27 law enforcement officers injured and 24 people arrested. Meanwhile, National Security and Defense Council 19 Feb announced sanctions on Kremlin-friendly politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife; Kremlin press secretary 20 Feb responded that such action fuels concern that Kyiv “will consider it possible to solve the situation in [Donbas] by military means”. Kyiv 2 Feb sanctioned Medvedchuk associate Taras Kozak, accusing him of involvement in Russia-linked coal smuggling scheme and stripping licenses from three television channels he owns. U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba 2 Feb held first call during which Blinken pledged “robust U.S. economic and military assistance”; Ukrainian MFA same day said Blinken promised lethal weaponry.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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

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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Peace in Ukraine: A Promise yet to Be Kept

Last May, President Volodymyr Zelensky took office promising to end the then-five-year old war with Russia. As his administration approaches its one-year anniversary, however, Zelensky’s peacebuilding efforts face backlash in Kyiv, skepticism in Moscow, and hostility in the Russian-backed breakaways in Donbass.

Originally published in ISPI

Ukraine Walks a Tightrope to Peace in the East

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has embarked on an uncertain path to end the war in the region of Donbas, but his efforts have revived a process that had seemed increasingly hopeless. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to support Zelenskyy’s efforts to end the separatist conflict in the east.

A Possible Step Toward Peace in Eastern Ukraine

Kyiv has accepted the Steinmeier formula, a mechanism for jump-starting implementation of the peace deal for parts of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. This decision is welcome, but the Ukrainian government should step carefully to boost chances of a settlement.

Q&A / Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine-Russia Prisoner Swap: Necessary, Not Sufficient

A long-awaited prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia marks a positive development in their bilateral relationship. Both countries should now build on their recent progress to implement the 2014-2015 Minsk agreements, the surest path to ending the war in eastern Ukraine.

Our People

Katharine Quinn-Judge

Senior Analyst, Ukraine

Bogdan Voron

Giustra Fellow, Ukraine