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CrisisWatch Ukraine

Unchanged Situation

Discord among Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) parties resurfaced over local election in Donbas, while July ceasefire held in Donbas conflict zone. Ahead of nationwide elections scheduled for 25 Oct, disagreement persisted between Ukraine, Russia and Russian-backed proxies in Donbas over Ukrainian parliament’s July decree that conditioned local elections in Donbas on region’s “deoccupation, demilitarisation and reintegration”; disagreement blocked discussions at 16 Sept TCG meeting on prisoner swap and disengagement along contact line; Russian TCG representative Boris Gryzlov 16 Sept said decree contradicts Minsk agreements, while Donbas proxies urged Kyiv to amend the decree. Reintegration minister 18 Sept called for parliament to amend decree, citing its impact on Minsk negotiations. President Zelenskyy 30 Sept dismissed first deputy head of Ukrainian delegation to TCG and former PM Vitold Fokin after Fokin 29 Sept stated that he “can see no evidence of war between Ukraine and Russia in Donbas”. In Donbas, 27 July ceasefire held but fighting 6 Sept killed one govt serviceman at checkpoint in Luhansk region, and both sides continued to sustain non-combat casualties mainly from explosives, including three Ukrainian soldiers and two Russian-backed fighters killed 1-23 Sept, according to pro-Ukrainian non-govt source. Advisers of Normandy Four (France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia) leaders 11 Sept met in Berlin, reached agreement to allow Red Cross to visit prisoners in custody of Russian proxies. NATO and govt 20 Sept began four-day joint command and staff military exercises, coinciding with Russian “Caucasus 2020” military drills. Ukraine 30 Sept reported record daily number of 4,027 new COVID-19 cases, prompting Kyiv to restrict entry to all foreigners until 28 Sept; de facto republics reported modest rise in cases. G7 member states 16 Sept urged Ukrainian authorities to support anti-corruption agencies, including National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, after Constitutional Court 16 Sept ruled that bureau was unlawfully established by presidential decree; vice chair of delegation to EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee 17 Sept stated govt “is jeopardizing visa-free with EU and further tranche of €1.5bn assistance”.

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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