Weekly news digest

(December 17-23)
This weekly news digest highlights the situation in the eastern Ukraine and on the Crimean
peninsula, focuses on Ukraine’s economy and its challenges, and analyses Ukrainian and
international statements as well as the international support provided to Ukraine.
The situation in the ATO area remains uncertain. During the week, the ATO positions were
attacked 95 times by the terrorists, 5 Ukrainian servicemen were killed (since the beginning of the
“ceasefire” – 162). Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has so far claimed the lives of 5.000 people.
The situation on the border remains tense. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine reported
the redeployment of the Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. Russia once again blocked the
mandate extension of the OSCE SMM to Ukraine at two Russian checkpoints “Hukovo” and
“Donetsk”. According to the monitoring mission, Russia’s 10th “humanitarian aid” convoy crossed the
border on December 21, containing 71 truck and 16 gasoline tanks. Also, pro-Russian rebels and their
leaders say that it is rumoured that their Russian “curators” had betrayed them. The armed clashes
between the local insurgents and pro-Russian rebels became very common since Russia’s humanitarian
aid is only issued to the last ones. Nevertheless, Russian State Duma initiated the establishment of
Russian “volunteers” support fund. D. Medvedev signed the law to establish a government agency to
provide humanitarian aid to the southeastern territories of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the military tension de-escalation is not facilitated by the diplomatic methods of
conflict resolution. The chances of resuming Minsk talks fade as the sides cannot reach consensus
regading the subject of the meeting. H. Tagliavini said the priority will be given to the ceasefire and
military equipment withdrawal, hostages’ exchange, and humanitarian aid deliveries to the rebel-held
territories.
The key defining event of the week was the bill’s adoption, proposed by P. Poroshenko, to drop
Ukraine’s non-aligned status. As it was noted in the explanatory note to the bill, “the aggression of the
Russian Federation against Ukraine, its illegal annexation of the Crimea, the so-called “hybrid war”
waging, military intervention in the eastern regions of Ukraine, constant military, political, economic
and informational pressure predermine the urgency to look for more reliable guarantees of Ukraine’s
independence, security, sovereignity and territorial integrity”. P. Poroshenko said that Ukraine’s
parliament voting to revoke the neutral status demonstates the society willingness to move towards
Euro-Atlantic course. He also added that this does not mean Ukraine will join NATO right away since
the country needs to fulfil numerous requirements in order to be able to apply for NATO membership.
Russia’s statements send a clear message to Ukraine and all the democratic countries. D.
Medvedev called Ukraine’s decision to drop non-aligned status “an application for NATO
membership” and said it makes the country a potential military adversary. V. Putin believes that
Russia’s position in the Ukrainian crisis is the only one right, not the one the Western world occupies.

He also admitted that Russia contributed to the rise of international tensions but only to protect its
interests.
The following tendencies are observed in the Crimea: 1) economic situation worsened – the
prices went up, the lack of water and electricity supplies is obseved, power cuts are common, food
crisis; 2) political persecution and Crimean Tatars’ and ethnic Ukrainians’ rights violations - the
homes of Mejlis activists are being illegally searched, Mejlis leaders are kidnapped while being on a
train, 300 Ukrainian politicians and community activists were denied entrance to the Crimea,
Ukrainian schools are being closed, people are denied their right to learn Ukrainian language, history
and culture; 3) integration into Russian military defense complex - military and aviation units are
being established on the peninsula.
The NDSC secretary Turchynov said that the war will be over only when the Crimea returns to
Ukraine. A. Yatsenyuk warned western countries that the so-called “appeasement policy” of
compromising with a country to avoid its aggression against the other country will not work in
Russia’s case. The leader of Sevastopol separatists O. Chalyi made it clear in his statement that the
Crimea’s annexation was planned long before the Maidan, and Yanukovych eascape only created the
favourable conditions for it to happen. Along with that, Russia plans to repeal the 1954 USSR
Supreme Soviet Presidium's decree on "The transfer of the Crimean province from the RSFSR to the
UkrSSR.” The US and the EU consistent and coherent position regarding the new sanctions
implementation against the Crimea is held in respect. The disturbing fact is that during the last five
months 99 foreign vessels entered Crimean ports (most frequently these were the vessels under the
flags of Turkey, Romania, Greece, and Germany).
The current financial and economic situation in Ukraine is characterized by the following
tendencies: 1) the deterioration of the macroeconomic situation - the GDP and industrial production
decline by 7% and 16% respectively as a result of Russia’s aggression in the Eastern Ukraine,
increased default threat because of the debt growing to $11 billion (which is 80% of GDP); 2)
complicated financial situation - national currency devaluation by 98% since the beginning of the year
and unsuccessful NBU policy , budget complications because of increased military spending up to 5%
of GDP, an urgency for banking system refinance program, pension fund deficit up to 90 billion
hryvnia; 3) a growing dependence on international financial support - IMF loan tranches, help from
the US, Canada, and the EU; 4) the mounting energy crisis - thermal power stations’ stoppage, power
cuts. On the meeting with F.Mogherini, P.Poroshenko assured the EU foreign policy chief that the
Ukrainian authorities are determined to implement the reforms despite the war. A.Yatsenyuk also
believes that “the reform process is Ukraine’s last chance to become the EU member”.
This week, Belorussian and Kazakhstan presidents’ visits were of strategic importance. The
statements made by Ukrainian, Belarusian and Kazakhstan leaders during the visit demonstrated an

established constructive dialogue between Kyiv and the country members of the Customs Union.
O.Lykashenko said that Belorussia always supported the idea of peace in Ukraine, and N.Nazarbayev
said that he is ready to facilitate the restoration of economic cooperation between Ukraine and
Kazakhstan. O.Pushkov expressed Moscow’s unsatisfying reaction and warned O.Lykashenko about
the danger of improving the relationships with the West while some deputies even called a visit to
Kyiv a Moscow’s “betrayal”.
The international community, particularly the EU countries, seems to have a split position over
the question of imposing new sanctions against Russia and expanding the existing ones. While some
EU high officials and some EU-members support the idea of the sanctions regime and its extension
(M.Schulz,

A.

Merkel,

W.Schäuble),

other

German,

Austrian

and

Italian

officials

(F.Stainmayer,Z.Gabriel,V.Faiman,P.Dzhentilioni) are deeply disturbed about the influence that
sanctions have on Russia’s economic and are against imposing the new ones. F. Hollande says he is
ready to review the decision on whether to lessen the sanctions against Russia. While there are active
discussions regarding the sanctions regime in Europe, this week, USA and Canada imposed new
sanctions against certain sectors of Russian economy and the Crimea. It is worth to mention that the
purpose of sanctions against Russia remains the same - to stop Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
USA, Canada and Poland provide significant international support to Ukraine, different
countries are providing their help as well: Germany - in economic sector, Slovakia - in gas reversion,
Montenegro joined the sanctions regime, Denmark ratified the Ukraine-EU agreement. Lithuania,
Czech Republic, Serbia, China, France, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Moldova are
also of immense help. The EU (sanctions against Russia, financial help, negotiations about visa-free
regime), NATO (military cooperation), the OSCE, WHO and numerous financial institutions (billion
euro credit from EIB, credits from EBRD for Ukrainian economic companies) provide the most
significant help among all the international organizations. The Visegrád Group not only opens the way
to the very organization, but also strives to become a bridge to Ukraine’s integration into European and
Euro-Atlantic unions. While the loan tranches are gradually decreasing, the international military and
consultative help does not lessen but significantly increases.
The international economic pressure on the country-aggressor from the international
community starts to create favorable conditions for a diplomatic solution of the “Ukrainian crisis”, and
this is why it is crucial not to lessen the pressure.
The materials used for the weekly news digest include the official websites of the President, the
National Security and Defence Council, the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the
government,

Ukrainian

Internet

newspaper

“Ukrainska

Pravda”

(“Ukrainian

DmytroTymchuk’s blog “Informatsiinyisprotyv” (“Informational Resistance”),

Truth”),

Ukrainian news

agency UNIAN, Ukrainian news program TSN, weekly political magazine “Korespondent” (
“Journalist”), weekly political, economical and the arts magazine “UkrainskyiTyzhden” (“Ukrainian
week”).