August 13, 2021

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U.S. appoints NS2 energy adviser
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has appointed former diplomat Amos Hochstein as senior adviser on energy security with a focus on measures to “reduce the risks” posed by the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline and support energy security in Eastern Europe. The appointment demonstrates Washington’s resolve to “push back against the Kremlin’s use of energy as a geopolitical weapon” and foster a secure and sustainable energy future for Ukraine, NATO members and the European Union, Mr. Blinken said in a statement on August 10. Germany and the United States reached an agreement on Nord Stream 2 in July, ending years of bickering between the allies over the nearly complete pipeline that will bring Russian natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Berlin and Washington jointly pledged support for Ukraine, which will potentially be deprived of gas-transit fees when the pipeline is complete. They also committed to confronting Russia if it uses energy to apply political pressure. Germany is also to appoint a special envoy to negotiate a 10-year extension of Russia’s current transit agreement with Ukraine, which expires at the end of 2024. Mr. Hochstein is a businessman and former lobbyist who was a special envoy for international energy affairs during the Obama administration. In 2020, he stepped down from the supervisory board of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company Naftogaz amid concerns about a slowdown in reform and creeping corruption. (RFE/RL)

Zelenskyy says peace ‘depends on Putin’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he is doing “everything” he can to end the war with Russia-backed separatists but that peace and control of territory in the so-called Donbas depends “90 percent” on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Speaking in an interview with a Ukrainian TV channel on August 5, he also said preparations were being made for a meeting with the Russian leader. Mr. Zelenskyy said he “really wants” the conflict to end. “Unfortunately, not everything depends on me,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “I believe and don’t hide it at all – and the president of the Russian Federation knows my opinion – today 90 percent of success in the return of the Donbas, peace in Ukraine, the de-occupation of our territories, depends on one person.” Kyiv and Moscow have sparred over the site and agenda of a face-to-face presidential meeting. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said Mr. Putin is prepared to discuss bilateral relations with his Ukrainian counterpart but not the situation in eastern Ukraine. Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been tense since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and armed Russia-backed separatists ignited a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has left more than 13,200 people dead. The separatists still control large swaths of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Moscow has consistently denied it is a participant despite overwhelming evidence of direct military and other support for the separatists. A series of agreements that occurred in Minsk to pave a way to end the conflict have gone unfulfilled. “I have always advocated that the first point of” Minsk and the “essence” of all agreements is a cease-fire, Mr. Zelenskyy said. “You should at least stop firing to talk about something. This is a fact,” he added. The Ukrainian president also said that the “occupied” territories of eastern Ukraine will never be Russian, and he encouraged residents there who consider themselves Russian and the region part of Russia to go and “seek a place in Russia.” (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)

Ukraine, Germany to discuss NS2
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelens­kyy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss guarantees for Germany’s fulfillment of obligations within the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, presidential press secretary Serhiy Nykyforov said on August 11. “This visit [of Ms. Merkel to Ukraine on August 22] is a logical continuation of the contacts of the visit of the president of Ukraine in the quadrangle – Washington, Europe, Brussels, Berlin, Kyiv. Angela Merkel and Volodymyr Zelenskyy will talk specifically about how exactly Germany will guarantee the implementation of those obligations that matter in case Russia, after the launch of Nord Stream 2, tries to somehow abuse its monopoly position,” Mr. Nykyforov said during a briefing at the president’s office. He said that during the talks, security in the east of Ukraine “and how to revive the peace talks” will certainly be discussed. In addition, according to Mr. Nykyforov, issues of bilateral relations between Ukraine and Germany will be discussed. “Germany is our key partner in politics, economy, trade, industry and energy. The potential for strengthening these relations is great,” he said. He also said Ms. Merkel’s visit “proves that there is not a word about Ukraine without Ukraine, and that the most important modern security issues in Europe cannot be resolved without direct negotiations with the president of Ukraine.” Mr. Nykyforov also said the schedule and program of Ms. Merkel’s visit has not yet been finalized and it is not yet known whether she will take part in the summit of the Crimean Platform on August 23, but she was given an invitation. (Interfax Ukraine)

U.S. sees continued Russian aggression
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is observing the ongoing aggressive actions by Russia against Ukraine in the Black and Azov Seas, as well as in the Kerch Strait. He made the relevant statement during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on maritime security. “In the Black Sea, the Kerch Strait, the Sea of Azov, we see continued aggressive actions against Ukraine with dangerous incursions on the sea and in the air and the harassment of vessels, which are disrupting commerce and energy access,” the U.S Department of State press service said, citing Mr. Blinken. The top U.S. diplomat said the United States supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and once again stressed that Crimea is Ukraine. “We reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. Crimea is Ukraine,” Mr. Blinken said. “When nations ignore or purport to redraw the borders of other nations, whether by land or by sea, they undermine the sovereign equality of member-states, a guiding principle of the United Nations,” Mr. Blinken said during the meeting of the UN Security Council on maritime security on August 9. (Interfax Ukraine)

British ambassador on relations with Russia
A return to normal relations with the Russian Federation is impossible as long as it continues to destabilize Ukraine and seize its territory, British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons said on August 6. Ms. Simmons said at the Inaugural Forum of the Expert Network of the Crimean Platform held in Kyiv that Ukraine continues to pay a high price for its courage, for having decided to use its sovereign right to turn toward the West. Russia must respect the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and returning to normal relations is impossible as long as Russia continues to destabilize Ukraine and seize its territory, she said. Ms. Simmons assured participants of the forum that the United Kingdom will try to strengthen the resolve of the international community and make efforts to keep the issue of Crimea constantly in focus. The ambassador said that the United Kingdom remains a loyal partner of Ukraine as Kyiv resolutely defends its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Russia’s actions in 2014 cannot be justified, she added, saying that Russia seized the territory of sovereign Ukraine by force, having grossly violated the rights of Ukrainians, as well as a number of its international obligations. The United Kingdom’s position is clear, Ms. Simmons said: it does not recognize and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. Ms. Simmons stressed that the illegal annexation of Crimea posed significant challenges to Ukraine and the overall Euro-Atlantic security system. She said that the international community must continue to confront these challenges. “We must show Russia that we will not tolerate its screaming disrespect for the international order. We must make sure that Russia is responsible for the terrible human rights violations and environmental destruction on the peninsula. The rights of Crimean residents must be protected,” the ambassador said. The diplomat stressed that it is always necessary to remind the world that Crimea is Ukraine and will always be Ukraine. That is why the United Kingdom welcomes the active efforts of Ukraine on the Crimean Platform initiative, Ms. Simmons said. (Interfax Ukraine)

Marchers protest repression in Belarus
Hundreds of people marched in Warsaw to protest political repression in Belarus on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Belarus presidential election that the opposition says was rigged in favor of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Many Belarusians living in exile in Poland joined the demonstration in which people carried the Belarusian opposition’s red-and-white flag and chanted “Long live Belarus!” The protest began in central Warsaw and marched past the U.S. and Russian embassies. A speaker at the latter accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being responsible for repression in Belarus since the election awarded Mr. Lukashenka a sixth term. Belarusians also marched in Kyiv on the eve of the election anniversary to show solidarity with those who fight for freedom in Belarus and to commemorate the death of Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou, who was found hanged in a park in Kyiv after he was reported missing on August 2. Ukrainian police have launched a murder investigation into the death of the 26-year-old, who led a Kyiv-based organization helping persecuted Belarusians. Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya posted a video clip of the march in Kyiv on Twitter, saying Belarus made a choice a year ago “and we continue to defend it.” The Belarusian opposition consider her the real winner of the August 2020 presidential vote. The 38-year-old left Belarus out of fear for her safety amid a brutal state-orchestrated crackdown on dissent. The results of the August 9, 2020, presidential election touched off massive street protests throughout Belarus, which led to the crackdown. Over the last year Belarusian authorities have forcibly expelled or jailed opposition leaders, arrested tens of thousands of people, targeted dozens of NGOs and refused accreditation to or forced out journalists. Mr. Lukashenka has earned the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator” in the West for his relentless repression of dissent, including the forced diversion in May of a Ryanair commercial flight to Belarus to arrest an opposition blogger and his girlfriend. The organizers of the Warsaw march said the event was held as a sign that Belarusians in Poland will not give up their fight to bring change to Belarus. Among their demands was the release of political prisoners held in Belarus. Poland, along with Lithuania and Ukraine, is hosting a number of Belarusians living in exile. One of the most recent to arrive is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, an athlete who was granted a humanitarian visa after she refused her coaches’ orders that she return to Minsk after she publicly criticized their decisions. The European Union on August 8 also acknowledged the anniversary of the Belarusian presidential election, saying in a statement it was ready to take “further measures” beyond sanctions already imposed “in light of the regime’s blatant disregard of international commitments.” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter that Belarusians went to the polls on August 9 last year to vote for democracy. “Since then they have stood up for those values against [the Lukashenka] regime’s brutal repression,” he said. “Voices of the people of Belarus will not be silenced! We #StandwithBelarus.” (RFE/RL, with reporting by AP)

Ukraine negotiating with Moderna for vaccine
The Ministry of Health of Ukraine is negotiating with U.S. company Moderna regarding the authorization of a vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ukraine, the ministry’s press service told Interfax-Ukraine on August 11. “In order to register a medicine, a vaccine manufacturer must apply to a government regulator with a relevant application for public authorization. Such a norm is the standard not only in Ukraine, but also in EU countries, the United States and during the re-qualification of a medicine by the World Health Organization. The ministry is negotiating with the manufacturer so that this vaccine can be authorized in Ukraine,” the ministry said. The Health Ministry said that, according to the current legislation, unauthorized medicines can be used in case of an emergency. “Considering that the vaccine was approved for emergency use by regulators of the WHO, the United States and Europe, the ministry decided that, if this medicine is received as humanitarian aid, it will allow vaccination against COVID-19 in Ukraine. According to the current legislation, we have the right to use medicines unauthorized in Ukraine in case of an emergency,” the ministry said. Additionally, according to the statement, Ukraine has a powerful pharmacovigilance system harmonized with international standards. Pharmacovigilance for the safety of vaccines against COVID-19 in Ukraine is regulated by the pharmacovigilance procedure, the vaccination roadmap and the procedure for prescribing and using medicines for the treatment of COVID-19, approved by Health Ministry decision No. 1482 dated June 30, 2020. (Interfax Ukraine)