RFE/RL president condemns extension of Crimean journalist’s detention

WASHINGTON – RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned a decision on July 6 by a court in Russia-occupied Crimea to extend by six months the detention of RFE/RL freelance reporter Vladyslav Yesypenko. This latest Kremlin-backed move to target independent media outlets was announced during a closed-door hearing on July 6 in Simferopol regarding Mr. Yesypenko’s politically-motivated case. The next hearing is scheduled for July 15.

Biden and Putin project optimism after resolving practically nothing in Geneva

United States President Joseph Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16 for their first summit since Mr. Biden took office. Both countries have been stuck in a vicious spiral of diplomatic, military, political and economic confrontation. Most predictions ahead of the Geneva summit were, thus, restrained, downbeat or dismal, with both the Kremlin and the White House warning the public not to expect too much. Initial low expectations allowed both presidents and their teams to spin the summit results post factum as a significant success, with Mr. Putin talking of “glimmers of hope” and Mr. Biden projecting optimism.

Mitigating the impact of Nord Stream 2 on Ukraine

Two weeks after the Biden administration waived congressionally mandated sanctions on Nord Stream AG, the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the first link of the subsea line is completed and ready for testing (Vesti.ru, June 4). But the Russian president knows it is too early for a victory dance. Amidst a flurry of sharp reactions to the sanctions’ waivers from the U.S. Congress and most Central-East European states, and the ongoing U.S.-German talks on mitigating the potential negative impact of the pipeline completion on Ukraine, the future of the pipeline remains uncertain.

Ukrainian government relaxes pandemic restrictions

LVIV – Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers lowered the country’s COVID-19 danger level to green, the lowest designation, and eased certain pandemic measures, particularly those requiring self-isolation and requirements for mass events and social distancing. It did, however, extend an emergency COVID-19 lockdown categorization until August 31, the country’s prime minister said on June 17.

Crimea’s nuclear potential: a return to Soviet practices

On April 12, amid escalating tensions along the Ukrainian border, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran expressed concern that “Crimea’s infrastructure is being prepared for potentially storing nuclear weapons” (Radio Svoboda, April 14). Even though Mr. Taran did not supply evidence for this claim, it is plausible to assert that such nuclear potential in occupied Crimea certainly exists.

Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova form Association Trio

The foreign affairs ministers of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing cooperation on European integration in Kyiv on May 17, forming a trilateral alliance called the “Association Trio.” The primary goal of the new alliance is to make a concerted move toward European integration, as the document outlines their EU membership goal. “[A]s European states, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have a European perspective and may apply to become a member of the European Union,” the document stated (Mfa.gov.ua, May 17).

Ukrainian World Congress spearheads global advocacy campaign for Ukraine’s NATO Membership Action Plan

BRUSSELS – In advance of the 2021 NATO Allied Leaders summit on June 14 in Brussels, the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) calls on global Ukrainian communities and friends of Ukraine to petition leaders of NATO-member countries to accelerate a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine. This summit takes place amid the unprecedented escalation of Russian aggression in the region clearly indicating that Russia is an imminent threat to Europe and all NATO member countries.

Four setbacks to Western credibility in Ukraine

Within the last three weeks, a series of decisions by leading Western powers seems to indicate a downgrading of Ukraine on the scale of Western policy priorities. Taken partly in deference to Russia, these decisions risk demotivating Ukrainian reform efforts (hesitant though these are) and eroding Western credibility in Ukraine.

Four setbacks to Western credibility in Ukraine

Along with United States President Joseph Biden greenlighting Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 project, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken giving Ukraine’s concerns short shrift preparatory to Mr. Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (see Part One in Eurasia Daily Monitor, May 27), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has unexpectedly toned down its endorsement of Ukraine’s ambition to join the alliance in the future, while Germany and France have given Kyiv reason to conclude that their position is weakening vis-à-vis Russia in the “Normandy” negotiations on the war in Ukraine’s east.