Read daily updates from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe and borders the Russian Federation to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. It has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe. The territory of Ukraine has been inhabited for at least forty four thousand years. It is a candidate site of the origins of the Proto-Indo-European language family.

In the Middle ages, the area was a key center of East Slavic culture, before being divided between a variety of powers. Ukraine remained divided until its consolidation into a Soviet republic in the twentieth century, becoming independent in 1991 (to come to agreements on an area of security and prosperity, the Ukraine. Memorandum on Security Assurances was drafted and signed.)

The country has long been a world breadbasket due to its fertile conditions. The country, as of 2011, was the world's third-largest grain exporter. In 2011 the harvest was much larger than average harvest and export fees had been lowered. Ukraine is one of ten most attractive agricultural land acquisition regions.

Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea), and two cities with special status: Kiev, its capital and largest city, and Sevastopol, which houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement. In February and March 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. This event took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and is part of the wider Russo-Ukrainian conflict. To restore Russia–Ukraine relations by means of reversing the 2014 annexation, the Crimea Platform was designed.

23 June 2022, Ukraine accepted as candidate to join EU


WALK OF SOLIDARITY | Pursuing accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine| Ukraine and the Netherlands |The Kyiv Independent | Bakhmut | Time for the West to assume the worst | CRIMEA PLATFORM | the association agreement | SCENARIOS FOR UKRAINE | trade deal with the EU | The Ukrainian Crisis | several background narratives | The European Union and the Crafting of Durable Reform in Ukraine



Official website



Russian attack on Ukraine commemorated: 'Support as long as necessary'

Russia's attack on Ukraine is being commemorated in several places around the world. Two years ago this day, the Russians attacked Ukraine
from multiple sides. The aim was to overthrow the government of President Zelensky and 'demilitarize' Ukraine.

Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny (4 June 1976 – 16 February 2024) was a Russian opposition leader, lawyer, anti-corruption activist, and political prisoner. He organised anti-government demonstrations and ran for office to advocate reforms against corruption in Russia and against President Vladimir Putin and his government. Navalny was founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). He was recognised by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, and was awarded the Sakharov Prize for his work on human rights.

In December 2023, Navalny went missing from prison for almost three weeks. He re-emerged in an Arctic Circle corrective colony in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. On 16 February 2024, the Russian prison service reported that Navalny had died at the age of 47. His death sparked protests, both in Russia and in various other countries. Accusations against the Russian authorities in connection with his death have been made by many Western governments and international organisations.

On Friday, March 1, he was buried at the Borisov cemetery.





  Pursuing accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine
US President Joe Biden made a surprise trip to Kyiv on Monday 20 February 2023, his first since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, and announced new military assistance and incoming sanctions against Moscow.

<- As Biden and Zelensky walked around a monastery Tuesday, air raid sirens blared, providing a stark reminder of the war.


  International Centre for the Prosecution
of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine

21 September 2023, International legal experts discussed the different mechanisms to pursue accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine, including the establishment of a special tribunal. What would be the exact model this tribunal could and should take?

Even though Ukraine can prosecute individuals for the planning, preparation or waging of an aggressive war or armed conflict, or conspiring for any such purposes, as well as conducting an aggressive war or aggressive military hostilities (Article 437 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), the framing of this provision, and the issue of immunity ratione personae (immunity for heads of state and other high-ranking officials) would make prosecution in national courts of high-level foreign officials, such as Putin, complicated.

Moreover, the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in this situation as both Russia and Ukraine have not ratified the Rome Statute, and the UN Security Council will not refer the situation to the ICC because of Russia’s veto.

As a result of this, discussions on establishing a tribunal for the crime of aggression have been gaining momentum. One of the topics under discussion, among both politicians/policy makers and academics, is the exact model this tribunal could and should take.

President Zelenskyy clarified he wanted a fully international criminal tribunal and not a hybrid/internationalised model (a court rooted in Ukraine’s judicial system, but including international elements as well), the model advocated for by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack a few days earlier.

Watch the video  
INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, 1 March 2022: Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation) Urgent Communication to the Russian Federation from the President under Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court Monday, 7 March 2022, Public hearing on the provisional measures request presented by Ukraine.
Russian representatives failed to show
Tuesday, 8 March 2022, the hearing was canceled in light of Moscow's boycott.


  Ukraine and the Netherlands



President Zelensky met with students via livestream Leiden University on Campus The Hague, Tuesday 12 September, 2023

The city in the Netherlands not only has a university, but also hosts international organizations, (international) tribunals, ministries and several think tanks.

26 July 2022 was the Independence celebration in the Netherlands. The accompanying Prize has gone to President Volodymyr Zelensky and he was received on his behalf by Ambassador Maksym Kononenko.

The following message was expressed by Zelensky in his daily video post on July 26:

“Today, in the Netherlands – a country for the understanding of which we worked for a very long time – the Ukrainian people were honored with another award – a special Dutch Independence Award. Our ambassador received it on behalf of Ukrainians. In particular, these iconic things reflect the radical changes in the attitude towards Ukraine that have taken place in the world. Our courage is truly an inspiration to all free nations and the community of democracies in general. And just imagine how inspiring the Ukrainian victory will be.




RF does not want to belong to Europe, nor does it really want to belong to Asia, but be a territory on the map with its own story.  
Bakhmut (a symbolic 'new East Berlin')


Ukraine and Russian Federation

Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian-Russian State border (with annex and maps). Kiev, 28 January 2003

Entry into force: 23 April 2004, in accordance with article 6

  Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 27 March 2014

[without reference to a Main Committee (A/68/L.39 and Add.1)] 68/262.

Territorial integrity of Ukraine


Time for the West to assume the worst  
Conclusions of the roundtable discussion “How to support Ukraine and deter Kremlin aggression” , Yalta Europan Strategy, 01 February 2022

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and Yalta European Strategy hosted a roundtable discussion “How to support Ukraine and deter Kremlin aggression” in Kyiv. A delegation of retired US ambassadors and former government officials and experts focused on how Ukraine and its Western partners can work together to deter the threat of a new Kremlin offensive against Ukraine, which would also be a major blow against NATO, EU, and American interests. In the opening remarks, John Herbst, former US ambassador to Ukraine said: “I can tell you that American support for Ukraine in this crisis situation is substantial. You all know that Biden administration laid out three things that they would do if Moscow sends those +100,000 troops or some portion of those +100,000 troops into Ukraine: there would be punishing sanctions, there would be an increase in American military assistance to Ukraine, and there would be a strengthening of NATO’s posture along Moscow’s border.” And U.S. policy is toughening as it is sending additional weapons to Ukraine nowCommenting on the decision to withdraw the families of U.S. diplomats from Ukraine, the former U.S. ambassador said: “The decision to withdraw the families is a decision that as an ambassador I would have taken, because that is what we do around the world.” “Senior U.S. administration’s officials have said that Putin has not made up his mind yet,” 

Amb. Herbst added about the prospect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.Philip Breedlove, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe General (Ret.), mentioned Putin’s recent paper on Ukraine: “It’s clear in his paper about Ukraine that Putin still sees this great country as a part of Russia. And clearly he has a sight of making that happen again sometime. And we see that his ambitions and his desires are even bigger than Ukraine, and that in his heart he wants to rewrite the security architecture of Europe, to re-approach what we had in the Warsaw Pact then. Remember what he said about the fall of the Warsaw Pact? He said it was the biggest catastrophe of our time. And now we see him positioning force and pressuring nations to try to recreate that security environment that he had. And this crisis is completely manufactured and completely contrives by Mr. Putin to advance those two goals.”General Breedlove mentioned the incursion of Russian troops into Georgia in 2008 and said that time “the West didn’t get it right”, but “Now is the time for the West to get it right”. He suggested that Russia “built a toolkit on the border with Ukraine” and invasion is possible in three directions:
  • in the north through Belarusin the center through Donbas
  • in the south through Crimea from the Black Sea

“Each of those options have different strategic goals: possibly the overthrow of your great government in the north, possibly the embarrassment and the splitting of NATO and Europe by invading through the center, and saying ‘I’m here, you are not. I’m in control, you are not’. And then possibly from the south for a more punishing economic blow to your great country,” General Breedlove suggested.

Answering a question about whether Putin is really going in or taking the debate about the possible invasion of Ukraine as a leverage to push forward negotiations about NATO, Alexander Vershbow, former US ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary general of NATO, said: “Putin has not yet made a decision to invade. Deterrence are still working. I think Putin is constrained by the direct costs of the invasion itself, whether it’s a large-scale invasion or a smaller one. He has to reckon with the possibility of material losses, human losses, casualties.”“The fact that Russians are allowing diplomacy to continue, suggests that they might be looking at some points in U.S. and NATO responses that might be worth pursuing and could start a path towards de-escalation,” he added.

Answering a question about why the current situation in Ukraine matters to the U.S., Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, said: “We are supporting Ukraine because it is in our national security interests. It is the smart thing to do to support Ukraine. The U.S. is a country of values. And supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do as well. It reflects who we are as Americans, as a democracy supporting another democracy in the face of an authoritarian and increasingly aggressive atmosphere.”“We need to support Ukraine by deploying deterrents, but also by deploying diplomacy,” she added, and warned that Russia would continue its aggressive actions if the West doesn’t do this.“The outcome of the next month will certainly affect Ukraine’s future. Perhaps on the positive side, or perhaps not. But it will have the impact more broadly for the U.S. and for the other countries around the world, because I think in some sense it will shape the world that we live in. So I would say that the stakes of what’s happening right now, could not be higher, certainly for Ukraine, but also for the West and the U.S.,

on June 14th the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Emine Dzhaparova addressed Ukraine's bid for EU candidacy status, Dutch-Ukraine relations, and the current situation in Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula
The Great Game in Ukraine is Spinning out of Control
Amb. Yovanovitch concluded.Answering a question about whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is imminent or not, Steven Pifer, former US ambassador to Ukraine, said: “It’s hard to predict when this might happen, and it might be that Vladimir Putin himself has not yet decided whether or not to use the force. But I think that it’s time for the West to assume the worst.”Andriy Zahorodnyuk, Center for Defence Strategies and a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, in turn, said that a large-scale invasion is unlikely, despite the rising number of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border to 135,000, which is more than last week: “It’s a small increase compared to last week. We think that a large-scale apocalyptic scenario is not realistic, however there is a very high risk of escalation in eastern Ukraine.”Commenting on the current security threats, Anton Herashchenko, an aide to the Interior Minister of Ukraine, pointed at the security gaps on the Ukrainian state border: “We still don’t have properly equipped from the engineering point of view the state border with Russia and Belarus. Around 900m UAH has been allocated to beef up security on the border since this year started.”Addressing the economic fallout of the current situation, Ambassador Roman Waschuk, the Canadian business ombudsman of Ukraine, said: “A serious economic stabilization prudential package needs to be worked out. Ensuring that Ukraine stays on the even economic keel through this crisis is important.”Summarizing the discussion, Amb. Alexander Vershbow said: “Putin does see the window of opportunity closing. Since the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, he has been trying to bring Ukraine back into his orbit but has failed. Ukraine is slipping from his grasp.
In his closing remarks, Amb. John Herbst concluded:Putin’s objectives go beyond Ukraine. Your fight is our fight. Putin’s Munich speech in February 2007 laid out a world, in which our world can see a real damage. The documents that the Kremlin sent to the U.S. and NATO in December lay out the world in which Moscow and Germany return not just to the borders of the Soviet States, but to the whole of Western Europe, whole Warsaw Pact. Putin wants to rewrite the security system. He wants to rewrite basic principles like national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”


the association agreement  
The Netherlands held a national advisory referendum on a almost unknown association agreement between the EU and Ukraine. According to those in favor, a treaty with economic benefits; according to opponents a treaty with political disadvantages. End of Februari 2016, there was a debate with several politicians and the initiative taker for the advisory referendum on the issue.

"A recipe for disappointment", the Dutch advisory referendum on the association agreement with Ukraine was called. A consultative referendum is too limited to recommend the government because citizens can not explain why they vote for or against. Moreover, the government could disregard the outcome. But the main problem lies in the question itself: 'does the advisory referendum really concern a treaty with the Eastern European country, or do voters base there vote on something else?'

There was a heated debate. With humor, intensity, and loud interruptions each tried to make his point. The politicians are firm supporters of the treaty. "It is a trade agreement with a bonus, where political appointments act as insurance for European trade interests. The treaty will help Ukraine to "get out from under the Soviet yoke" and to create a stable democracy."

The initiator of the referendum (the Netherlands only has one type of referendum, the advisory referendum: a non-binding referendum requested by citizens through the collection of signatures ("citizens advise politicians") did totally disagree with this. He sees the treaty as the immediate cause of the crisis in Ukraine, and fears that this will only bring more instability. Next to this, he suspects that this will be the first step towards EU membership for Ukraine. His 'no' vote against the association agreement is also a protest against the EU itself. The politicians stressed that EU membership is nowhere mentioned in the treaty - they want this agreement precisely because Ukraine will not join the EU.

As the debate progressed, the emphasis was placed more on the geopolitical consequences of an enhanced relationship between the EU and Ukraine. First, it is a strong signal to Russia. Potential political risks are no reason to abandon the treaty. According to the initiator of the advisory referendum, the EU is trying precisely to create political influence through the convention and will provoke Russia. Through the economic dependence on Russia, that could be bad for Ukraine.

 from Nexus Symposium The Battle for Europe


SCENARIOS FOR UKRAINE (European Council on Foreign Relations)

5 December 2014

Europe needs a clearer and more unified strategy for promoting a diplomatic settlement if Ukraine is to avoid becoming a frozen conflict, according to a policy paper published by the European Council on Foreign Relations. The analysis 'What Will Happen With East Ukraine? says the EU’s chief goal should be the return of Donbas to Ukraine by implementation of the Minsk agreements and suggests that the EU can help prevent Moscow controlling Kiev’s geopolitical choices by ‘converting Russia’s pain from sanctions into a tool for diplomacy’. The authors, ECFR Senior Policy Fellows Kadri Liik and Andrew Wilson, believe that - with the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine teetering on the brink - the status quo is unstable and will lead to an escalation of the conflict. They examine future scenarios for Ukraine and identify four potential outcomes:

  • Donetsk and Luhansk return to Kiev’s control following a transition period with no right of veto over Kiev. The best hope for this would be by implementation of the Minsk agreements. Crimea would remain an unresolved issue but this outcome would allow Ukraine independence through economic and political reforms. This is unlikely to happen through a sudden diplomatic breakthrough and Ukraine is unlikely to try to achieve this by military means.  
  • A frozen but ‘insulated’ conflict allowing the creation of an enclave with border monitoring but with no agreed roadmap for the return of the territories. The EU could seek a mandate for a border monitoring mission or the current OSCE-led mission could be expanded. Neither Russia nor Ukraine wants this outcome but both might accept it as a lesser evil.  

    Further Russian conquest in which Russia could attempt to take over all or most of ‘Novorossiya’ - the whole of the east and south of Ukraine. To prevent this scenario Europe should use the deterrent of sanctions and the threat of further sanctions while keeping open the option of dialogue.  

  • Federalisation under which the eastern regions are returned to Ukraine but remain under Moscow’s de facto control. This would provide Moscow with leverage over Kiev’s decision-making, hinder much-needed domestic political and economic reforms and impede the development of Ukraine’s relations with the EU and NATO. 

The ECFR paper concludes the return of Donbas to Ukraine as envisaged by the Minsk agreements (outcome 1) should remain the EU’s chief demand. The authors warn that Europe should also prepare for the frozen conflict scenario (outcome 2) while ensuring the conflict is ‘insulated’ as failure to do so is likely to lead to the chaos of a Russian-controlled Ukraine (outcome 4). Kiev’s ability to reform and provide rules-based governance remains crucial. The authors suggest that EU member states will need to remain united, engaged and potentially willing to commit significant border missions if Kiev is to have any chance of resolving the chaos in eastern Ukraine.


  trade deal with the EU
The Government had been working for years on a landmark trade deal with the EU which would have paved the way for the former Soviet nation to join the group, but Yanukovych backed out of signing the agreement last November. It would have required Ukraine to adopt hundreds of EU laws, regulations and standards, along with a sweeping reform programme. In return, the agreement would have allowed for the abolition of visas for Ukrainian citizens, amongst other measures.

Ukrainian officials eventually admitted that the u-turn had resulted from Russian pressure. Moscow had threatened painful sanctions in order to keep the country from falling under further Western influence. The decision led to a widening of the cracks between the country’s pro-European western regions and its Russian-speaking industrial heartland, and tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets protesting the last-minute decision to back out of the deal.

The Ukrainian Crisis

28 April 2014 Ambassador of the Ukraine to the Netherlands giving explanations on questions from students regarding the events in the Ukraine

The Ukrainian Crisis: Catalyser or Detonator? An article by Paul N. Goldschmidt director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute published 6 March 2014: 

The acceleration of the dramatic events in Ukraine forbids the EU to continue to ignore superbly its own internal disagreements in the areas of defence and foreign affairs. Indeed, it is to be hoped that these matters become central to the political debate leading to the European elections which, by a happy coincidence, will take place on the same day as the “accelerated” presidential elections in Ukraine. The debates surrounding socio-economic matters (austerity, stimulus, unemployment, immigration, etc.) or institutional subjects (structural reforms, banking union, treaty changes, etc.) are getting bogged down by technocratic cum legalistic considerations which contribute to the ever growing disaffection for the “European dream” and exacerbate daily the cleavage between europhiles and euro sceptics. Thus, the purpose of the elections is perceived – as promoted by the simplistic arguments of the national/populist parties – as a referendum “for or against” the Union, the implications of which are far from being understood by the elector.

The Ukrainian crisis, and its risk of degenerating into a political, economic or even military confrontation, provides a unique opportunity to mobilise public opinion in favour of a significant reinforcement of the EU. It demonstrates the absolute necessity to develop a common defence capability in support of a foreign policy serving the vital interests of all of its citizens. Such an approach could dissipate the objections to the emergence of a federal EUand provide the necessary basis to complete the integration process inherent to the EMU.

Indeed, facing Russia which is able to decide on its own on any initiative it believes to be in its interests (including the power to impose unilaterally sacrifices on its own population), only a Union speaking with a single voice can hope to contribute to the primacy of international law by organising a coherent power base that commands respect and, if necessary, is capable of inflicting credible retaliatory sanctions. If it is clear that the timescale needed to implement such fundamental changes is incompatible with the immediate requirements of dealing with the Ukrainian question, three measures of totally different natures but nevertheless complementary might contribute to create the appropriate preconditions.The first measure concerns the raising of a financial aid package of between USD 35 and 50 billionThe responsibility for this support program rests with the entire international community, including multilateral institutions such as the IMF, the EBRD, and the EIB as well as with EU Members, the USA and any country concerned, including Russia. Consultations towards this end are already under way.  Its purpose is to organise the financial bailout of Ukraine by providing the necessary support to its economy, to avoid insupportable hardships that would befall its population in the case of default and to forestall the unpredictable geopolitical consequences - including within the EU – of the chaos that would entail.
The progressive disbursement of this aide must, of course, be conditional on the implementation of reforms including free elections, the guarantee of democratic institutions, the fight against corruption, structural reforms, guarantees for minority rights etc.The gravity of the situation should overcome the objections raised concerning the difficulties of raising such an amount. To put things into perspective, it represents less than half the “fines” that the shareholders of banks will have to fork out in connection with fraudulent manipulations in which the latter have been implicated (in excess of $ 23 billion for Morgan-Chase alone!). It represents also only a small fraction of the amounts required by the bailing out of banks in the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis or of some Eurozone Members following the sovereign debt crisis after 2010

The second measure is a request that the United States abolish its ban on gas exports.

Secretary Kerry has already indicated that his country is prepared to give support to the Ukraine and act in order to reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies. By doing so, the blackmail potential of Russia both towards Ukraine and the EU would disappear and, by hitting where it hurts, reduce the threat of Russian imperialism. This decision would simultaneously reduce energy costs in the EU and contribute to fuel the still anaemic economic recovery; it would also contribute to the equilibrium of the USA’s balance of payments reducing global imbalances and restoring stability to the international financial system

The third measure recommends reinstating compulsory military/civil service (for men and women) throughout the EU. This measure, which is on the face of it totally “politically incorrect”, should be considered under several different and complementary angles:
  1. As a significant contribution to addressing the problem of youth unemployment which has reached unacceptable levels and the cost of which is exploding. It should include an important “training” component aimed at improving employability at the end of the service.

    A a first step aiming at assuming the defence of the Union by its Members instead of the exclusive reliance on the United States whose commitment might be waning. It would be an important marker towards the international community indicating that the Union is ready to assume its own security and that it expects the respect that goes with it.

  2. As a measure that could contribute to managing the vexed question of both legal and illegal immigration by making national service a precondition to access to labour markets and social benefits.

Implementing such a program can only be conceived at EU level by gaining the support of public opinion, justified by the resurgence of the pertinence of the original objective of maintaining peace that presided over the Union’s inception. The “federalisation” of EU defence – a sine qua non condition for its credibility – implies a parallel unification of foreign policy. Pooling these two areas of national sovereignty would form a solid base for further economic and financial integration, for stabilising the Euro and for stimulating the economy.

In conclusion, it would be easy to develop arguments showing that these proposals are sheer utopia and to defer once again, in the name of pragmatism, any decision. The Ukrainian crisis, including all the fears it engenders, constitutes a full scale test of the Union’s capacity to revive the “European dream”; it could prove to be the catalyser needed to take, at last, the difficult decisions for which there is currently such an obvious lack of political will. Putting these questions at the centre of the European election debate is an opportunity not to be missed. If, on the other hand, the Union proves incapable to address appropriately the challenges that threaten so clearly its security, its economy and the survival of its social model, then the Ukrainian crisis might well become – like the subprimes in 2007 – the detonator of the next crisis. It would then only confirm the incapacity of the Union to assume its own destiny.


several background narratives  
Picked up 4 March 2014 from Centre for British Influence, Michael Emerson, associate Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies wrote: Having given himself the authority to invade Ukraine, Putin is now pushing right up against the red lines if he has not already overstepped them. This is the point at which regular diplomacy becomes inoperative, and the action becomes coercive, either through sanctions in the least bad case, or in the worst, war.

Where exactly are the red lines?That may only be really revealed by events. But we have some clear markers. If Russia invaded the East Ukraine mainland, around Kharkiv or Donetsk for example, that would be the red line for Kyiv and the West. If sizeable armed groups of Ukrainian extremist nationalists invaded Kharkiv or Donetsk and entered into a real fight with local people there being killed, that would be crossing Putin’s red line, as would now be an attempt by the Ukrainian military to push all Russian troops back into their barracks in Sevastapol. For many people Russia has already crossed the red line in these last few days in Crimea. While criticising the EU for interference in Kyiv, and forgetting that its mediation during the last days of Yanukovich stopped the killing in Kyiv, Russia deployed troops to take over government buildings and airports. Well-armed, uniformed and equipped troops did their work with all identification badges removed and even the number plates of their military vehicles removed, and at first they refused to say who they were – ‘nobody knows’. A story for small children. This last weekend Russian troops have openly surrounded and blockaded Ukrainian military bases in Crimea, humiliating Kyiv. Obama calls for the Russian troops to get back into their barracks, but Putin ignores this.What happens when the red lines are crossed? As between Russia and Ukraine it would mean war, a real war, with incalculable consequences. Prime Minister Yatseniuk has already described Putin’s announcement as a declaration of war. The Ukrainian armed forces have received a general mobilisation order. The idea of Russians and Ukrainians really killing each other is mercifully still ‘unthinkable’, yet on this centennial anniversary of the first world war, we are reminded that big wars can be triggered ‘accidentally’ by small incidents. Putin’s presumed calculation is that his self-authorisation to go to war is intended to deter Kyiv from challenging him in Crimea, or to deter extremists for West Ukraine from attacking in the East. But there is no lack of small incidents ready and waiting to happen in Crimea and East Ukraine.For the EU and US it would mean cold war, with progressive actions to make of Putin an international pariah and to build up sanctions against Russian economic interests. This has already begun, with Western withdrawals from preparatory meetings for the G8 summit in June. G8 could easily be discontinued in favour of returning to the old G7. To which could be added scrapping the EU-Russia summit in Sochi also in June, and resolutions condemning Russia put to the OSCE and Council of Europe, or proposals to suspend Russia’s membership. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has already sketched the sanctions toolkit: visa bans, asset freezes, trade and investment measures. The EU could do the same with greater impact, and develop cooperatively with the US steps to substitute increasing amounts of US for Russian gas, the latter having declined to about a third of the EU’s total gas imports. Russia’s economy is already weak, and a further weakening would endanger Putin’s political base.

There is still a small margin of possibility for cool heads to arrange de-escalation. There is a group of reasonable people now assembled as the government of Ukraine. But they do not yet have the street under control, and would need somehow to get the extremist militias off the street and into the democratic political process – let there be early parliamentary elections and let them try to get a few seats in the Rada. The EU for its part has to make it clear that its support for the new leadership in Kyiv is absolutely not a winner-take-all challenge to Russia’s economic interests. The origin of the conflict was Yanukovich’s refusal to sign with the EU under pressure from Putin to join his customs union. Even Putin must now see that Ukraine will not join his customs union. But Ukraine could have high-quality free trade with both the EU and Russia, and with goodwill these arrangements could perfectly well be designed technically to avoid conflict. How much pain does there have to be before there can be a return to such mundane and peaceful normality?

Protesters at Independence Square on the first day of the Orange Revolution

Pro-EU demonstrations at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kiev

Orthodox priests standing between pro-European Union activists and police

Thursday, 20 February 2014 it was announced that the US will coordinate with the European Union in response to ongoing violence in Ukraine, with sanctions being considered, the White House said Wednesday. President Barack Obama was expected to address the violence as telling reporters aboard Air Force One en route to the city. "We continue to watch events very closely, including who we believe is responsible for violence, and we've made clear that we would consider taking action against individuals who are responsible for acts of violence in Ukraine," deputy National Security Adviser said. "We have a toolkit for doing that that includes sanctions."

"Events like what we saw yesterday are clearly going to impact our decision making," he added, noting the US and EU would change their calculus if the Ukrainian government pulls back riot police from Independence Square in Kiev, the capital, releases prisoners and pursues dialogue with the opposition. Early Wednesday, riot police continued a massive assault on protesters camped on Independence Square, after the bloodiest outburst of violence in nearly three months of demonstrations killed at least 26 people and injured 388 overnight there. "I think the scenes that we saw in Kiev yesterday were completely outrageous and have no place in the 21st century," Rhodes said. In his phone conversation with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Tuesday, US Vice President Joseph Biden urged the government to de-escalate the situation by pulling back riot police and starting an "immediate" dialogue with the opposition.

Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine continues to maintain the second-largest military in Europe, after that of Russia. The country is home to 46 million people, 77.8 percent of whom are ethnic Ukrainians, with sizable minorities of Russians (17%), Belarusians and Romanians. Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine; its alphabet is Cyrillic. Russian is also widely spoken. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which has strongly influenced Ukrainian architecture, literature and music.

On 16 July 1990, the new parliament adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. The declaration established the principles of the self-determination of the Ukrainian nation, its democracy, political and economic independence, and the priority of Ukrainian law on the Ukrainian territory over Soviet law. A month earlier, a similar declaration was adopted by the parliament of the Russian SFSR. This started a period of confrontation between the central Soviet, and new republican authorities. In August 1991, a conservative faction among the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union attempted a coup to remove Mikhail Gorbachev and to restore the Communist party's power. After the attempt failed, on 24 August 1991 the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence in which the parliament declared Ukraine as an independent democratic state.A referendum and the first presidential elections took place on 1 December 1991. That day, more than 90 percent of the Ukrainian people expressed their support for the Act of Independence, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk to serve as the first President of the country. At the meeting in Brest, Belarus on 8 December, followed by Alma Ata meeting on 21 December, the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Although the idea of an independent Ukrainian nation had previously not existed in the 20th century in the minds of international policy makers, Ukraine was initially viewed as a republic with favorable economic conditions in comparison to the other regions of the Soviet Union. However, the country experienced deeper economic slowdown than some of the other former Soviet Republics. During the recession, Ukraine lost 60 percent of its GDP from 1991 to 1999, and suffered five-digit inflation rates. Dissatisfied with the economic conditions, as well as the amounts of crime and corruption in Ukraine, Ukrainians protested and organised strikes.

The Ukrainian economy stabilized by the end of the 1990s. A new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in 1996. Since 2000, the country has enjoyed steady real economic growth averaging about seven percent annually. A new Constitution of Ukraine was adopted under second President Leonid Kuchma in 1996, which turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic and established a stable political system. Kuchma was, however, criticized by opponents for corruption, electoral fraud, discouraging free speech and concentrating too much power in his office. He also repeatedly transferred public property into the hands of loyal oligarchs.

In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections, which had been largely rigged, as the Supreme Court of Ukraine later ruled. The results caused a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the outcome of the elections. This resulted in the peaceful Orange Revolution, bringing Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power, while casting Viktor Yanukovych in opposition. Yanukovych returned to a position of power in 2006, when he became Prime Minister in the Alliance of National Unity, until snap elections in September 2007 made Tymoshenko Prime Minister again. Yanukovych was elected President in 2010.

Disputes with Russia over the price of natural gas briefly stopped all gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and again in 2009, leading to gas shortages in several other European countries.

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral in Kiev, an example of Ukrainian architecture
The Euromaidan protests started in late November 2013 and demanded stronger integration in the European Union, later becoming a general anti-governative revolt. On 22 January 2014, the protests became even more violent, after finding the dead body of the abducted civil activist Yuriy Verbytsky, and at least 4 other people were killed in clashes with the police.

The Euromaidan (Eurosquare) is a wave of ongoing demonstrations and civil unrest, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with very large public protests demanding closer European integration. The scope of the protests has since evolved, with many calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government. Protesters also have stated they joined because of the dispersal of protesters on 30 November and "a will to change life in Ukraine".The demonstrations began on the night of 21 November 2013, when spontaneous protests erupted in the capital of Kiev after the Ukrainian government suspended preparations for signing an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. After a few days of demonstrations an increasing number of university students joined the protests. Despite so far unmet demands to renew Ukraine-EU integration, the Euromaidan has been repeatedly characterized as an event of major political symbolism for the European Union itself, particularly as "the largest ever pro-European rally in history", able to "improve the EU's damaged self-confidence".The protests are ongoing despite a heavy police presence, regular sub-zero temperatures, and snow. Escalating violence in the early morning of 30 November from government forces has caused the level of protests to rise, with 400,000–800,000 protesters demonstrating in Kiev on the weekends of 1 December and 8 December. In the weeks since, protest attendance has fluctuated from 50,000 to 200,000 during organized rallies.
Violent riots have taken place on December 1 and January 19–21 in response to police brutality and government repressions. Notably, the protests have remained entirely directed at the regime, without a single store-front window broken in Kiev's downtown in two months of protests, contrary to civil unrest in other European nations such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France.In a poll taken on 7 and 8 December, 73% of protesters had committed to continue protesting in Kiev as long as needed until their demands are fulfilled. In a poll taken late December 2013 by the Research & Branding Group 50% of Ukrainians stated they didn't support Euromaidan, while 45% did support it. The biggest support for the protest can be found in Kiev (about 75%) and western Ukraine (more than 80%). In another poll conducted by the Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Fund and Razumkov Center more than 50% of Ukrainians stated they support the Euromaidan protests, while 42% oppose it.Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by Christianity, the dominant religion in the country. Gender roles also tend to be more traditional, and grandparents play a greater role in raising children, than in the West. The culture of Ukraine has also been influenced by its eastern and western neighbours, reflected in its architecture, music and art. The Communist era had quite a strong effect on the art and writing of Ukraine. In 1932, Stalin made socialist realism state policy in the Soviet Union when he promulgated the decree "On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organisations". This greatly stifled creativity. During the 1980s (openness) was introduced and Soviet artists and writers again became free to express themselves as they wanted.The tradition of the Easter egg, known as pysanky, has long roots in Ukraine. These eggs were drawn on with wax to create a pattern; then, the dye was applied to give the eggs their pleasant colours, the dye did not affect the previously wax-coated parts of the egg. After the entire egg was dyed, the wax was removed leaving only the colourful pattern. This tradition is thousands of years old, and precedes the arrival of Christianity to Ukraine.

In the city of Kolomya near the foothills of the Carpathian mountains in 2000 was built the museum of Pysanka which won a nomination as the monument of modern Ukraine in 2007, part of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine action.


The European Union and the Crafting of Durable Reform in Ukraine
the article 'The European Union and the Crafting of Durable Reform in Ukraine':

The European Union (EU) has not merely proven powerless to prevent a tragic spiral of lethal violence in Kyiv. In addition, its image amongst protestors has suffered in recent weeks. Many Ukrainian democrats have switched to a refrain of, as one Maidan placard put it, “EU: thank you for your deep concern, now do something!” This is in stark contrast with the stirring evening of December 10 when hundreds of thousands cheered High Representative Catherine Ashton in one of the biggest ever pro-European demonstrations. Protestors will be looking for Ashton’s visit this week to deliver more tangible EU support.Many have called for the EU to impose targeted sanctions on members of the regime. After all, if the Union does not use punitive measures when pro-EU democrats are lying dead in the streets, why does the EU have sanctions clauses at all? The differences that have been on display between member states over sanctions will hardly inspire confidence in the EU from Ukraine's courageous and embattled protestors.Measures targeted at the financial assets of regime members are surely justified. And if bold and well targeted, they are likely to make a difference. At the same time, however, other cases suggest that such sanctions are unlikely to have a game-changing impact by themselves. Sanctions have had a limited impact not only in Belarus—the example most often evoked as a comparison with today’s turmoil in Ukraine—but in most other cases where they have also been used. And their potential is modest not only because the fast-evolving events in Kyiv are now determined overwhelmingly by domestic factors. It is also because sanctions generally have some effect when nested in a broader range of instruments.Self-evidently, events are moving fast and can shift unpredictably from one day to the next. At the time of writing, many hope that the government’s resignation and the revocation of repressive anti-protest laws will open the way for more productive dialogue between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. EU diplomats have focused primarily on the need for “political dialogue,” and there are many in the Union ready to seize on such negotiated compromises as a way out of the conflict. And encouraging dialogue and flexibility in positions is indeed crucial. However, the EU should not be overly supportive of deals that merely offer opposition leaders government posts without underlying institutional reform. Such patched-up deals are unlikely to stabilize the situation or placate the Maidan. In reaction to the recent concessions by President Yanukovych, many activists have stressed that the protests are not about replacing a few political figureheads but about a systemic political change.The EU should learn the lesson from having previously put too much emphasis on the signature of its Association Agreement with Ukraine almost as an end in itself. If the opposition does accept some kind of accord, the EU must this time not take its eye off the importance of such structural liberalization. In this vein, the key challenge for the EU is to begin shaping the conditions that will facilitate deeper democratic reform. Recently the EU introduced policy guidelines stating that sanctions should always be offset by an increase in positive support to reformers. It must now follow through on this sensible, balanced approach in Ukraine.The EU will need to match such support to a better analysis of the factors driving and impeding democratic deepening. It needs to move beyond generic civil society support and target its initiatives more purposively at the most constraining obstacles to democratization. These include:

  • countering more subtle forms of persecution against civic activists and organizations;

    working far more systematically on coalition-building initiatives with the opposition;  

    provision of new technical means to keep independent media on air and in circulation;  

    engagement aimed at picking off key economic actors from the regime's pool of support;  

    helping diversify those local economies that depend on the Russian presence, as in Crimea, or on large industries that are sensitive to Russian sanctions, as in the east of the country;  

    bridge-building between eastern and western parts of Ukrainian civil society;  

    better outreach, especially in provinces still dominated by Russian media;  

  • over the medium-term, boosting people-to-people contacts.

Monitoring elections—whenever they take place—will not be enough. The EU must engage early on to prevent measures that effectively load the dice in favor of the regime well before polling day. In 2004, external support for vote tabulation initiatives played a vital role and should be stepped up early on. An old, much-repeated yet still unavoidable point: it is by dramatically upgrading its offer of partnership that the EU could make a difference in influencing the vast majority of the population that is neither out in Maidan nor enthusiastic about the regime. Member states will pay a price for ritually repeating that this is not feasible.One broader connection is vital too: divisions between member states over what to do in Ukraine are a mirror image of differences over Russia. Effective action toward Ukraine cannot be disconnected from the need for the Union to design a more united and holistic strategy toward Russia. The EU's enthusiasm for enhanced engagement in Ukraine is low—and understandably so. When President Yanukovych decided not to sign the Association Agreement in November, many member states thought the move was a disappointment but no great tragedy. Some European governments almost seemed relieved: the EU could comfortably step back into passive mode, hold out the prospect of the agreement with the same conditions attached, and wait for Ukraine to get its house in order.

The events of the last week must now shake member states out of such indifference.