On May 11 the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a search of the Kyiv home of Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch, politician and millionaire who is widely regarded to be sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin is, after all, godfather to Mr. Medvedchuk’s daughter and Mr. Medvedchuk has long been known to harbor sympathy for the Kremlin even before Ukraine’s ongoing war against pro-Russian and Russian-backed separatists began in the east of the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Kyiv on May 6, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It marked the first visit to Ukraine by a senior official in the administration of President Joe Biden, and Mr. Blinken reaffirmed the position that the United States believes Ukraine is a key ally in the fight against Russian aggression.
Thirty-five years ago, on April 26, 1986, during a test meant to simulate an electrical outage, power to the No. 4 reactor at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant unexpectedly dropped to a near-zero level. Reactor operators, who were not scheduled to work and were not properly prepared to run the test, tried to restore power. The core of the reactor, which had become unstable and suffered from various design flaws, exploded twice, spewing radioactive material across a large swath of Europe.
News broke just several hours before The Weekly’s deadline on April 22 that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered Russian troops to start returning to their permanent bases, seemingly deescalating a situation that heightened tensions with the West over Moscow’s military buildup near the border with Ukraine, as well as in Russia-occupied Crimea.
While there is a growing sense in North America that we may have begun to turn a corner in the fight against the ongoing pandemic, the situation in Ukraine appears to be moving in the opposite direction. There has been a surge in COVID-19 infections, and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko recently announced that the capital will remain in a lockdown until at least April 30.
Amid an ongoing pandemic currently spiking throughout the country and amid a growing threat of renewed Russian aggression and more Russian troops mobilizing along its northern, eastern and southern borders, Ukraine has simultaneously been tasked by Western allies with rooting out corruption and graft endemic throughout much of the country.
The editorial in last week’s issue of The Ukrainian Weekly focused on the rising level of violence occurring in Donbas. We noted that, according to a March 20 report by Radio Svoboda, it appeared that the number of “separatist” forces near the occupied towns of Horlivka and Mospino, both in the Donetsk region, had increased recently.
Writing for Eurasia Daily Monitor on March 24, journalist Yuri Lapaiev noted a “creeping escalation” along the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces in Donbas. This creeping escalation comes despite a ceasefire that was brokered last year and started officially on July 27, 2020. Mr. Lapaiev wrote that the ceasefire, while technically still in place, “is functionally over.”
Perhaps the winds are beginning to shift. Or, perhaps it’s just the ongoing pandemic restrictions that have begun to affect Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is often described as intent on projecting a calm, controlled yet commanding demeanor. But clearly something has riled the normally staid former KGB intelligence officer.