Consequences and False Dominoes: The Crisis in and over Ukraine

April 20, 2014

Tarik Cyril Amar

Origins: Elections have Consequences

Ukraine has turned from “borderland” to “on the edge,” the scene of a frightening act of collective brinksmanship. How did we get here? Clearly, the trigger (but not more) for the current Ukrainian crisis was last November’s sudden decision of the by now ousted Ukrainian president and kleptocrat-in-chief Viktor Yanukovych to reject an EU Association Agreement and to prefer a deal with Russia. Perhaps the last opportunity to avoid a full Russian invasion of Ukraine – now already a fait accompli in Crimea and an increasing threat for (eastern) Ukraine – was the Sikorski-Steinmeier-Fabius deal reached and then abandoned at the end of the Maidan Revolution in February: the last potential “off-ramp” was deliberately missed by both the former Ukrainian president and his Maidan opponents.

 But regarding what Ukrainian democracy can learn for the future, February 2010, though little mentioned, matters most: independent Ukraine’s last presidential elections before the current crisis. Yanukovych won not because of his own strong support but due to widespread frustration with preceding “Orange” rule. Yet Ukraine then was a democracy with real pluralism and real elections. But too many Ukrainians decided that the gains made after the Orange Revolution of 2004 were secure or irrelevant. They were helped in these anti-politics by fractious and egotistical politicians and some of the same intellectuals now lecturing the West about its duties. Back then they were calling for a politics of no compromise or evoking the panacea of civil society, while disdaining the state and its powers and risks.

If Ukrainian democracy will get a second chance, then under conditions of severe crisis: frustration must not defeat patience again. Here is a challenge for Ukraine’s (and not only) intelligentsia, harder than blaming Russia or hectoring the West: to explain at home that the state matters, that there are lesser and greater evils, that the distinction is worth voting about, and that a curse-on-all-their-houses is a suicidal approach even to the politics (and politicians) of Ukraine.

Escalations: Invasions have Consequences

Russia has made choices too. Even after Yanukovych’s ouster, it has had options short of brute force for influencing Ukraine. Judging by its success after the Orange Revolution, its prospects were good to deploy energy politics (facilitated by Ukraine’s habit of guzzling and not paying), media and trade influence, and the venality of much of Ukraine’s political elite (local and central). Yet Russia has chosen the one option certain to antagonize the West, reinvigorate NATO, lead to European energy diversification, tilt Ukrainian politics west, and solidify large parts of Ukrainian society (though not all of it) against outside aggression. It has also left the West no choice but economic sanctions because both hypothetical alternatives (doing nothing or the use of military force) are politically and ethically impossible. Russia, moreover, is widely seen as severely infringing international law and the European status quo and of stoking unrest in Ukraine, with a risk of large-scale civil and international war.

Russia will pay, economically and politically, for its new, unnecessarily confrontational Ukraine policy. The exact price tag will depend on the real outcome of the Geneva agreement. Yet because Russia is now tied into a globalized economy, the costs of sanctions and, more importantly, the general loss of business confidence and cooperation, will be borne by the West too. This might last for a while. Expectations that economic pressure will work quickly are mistaken: Russia is likely to show resilience. Moreover, its current government will use western pressure to explain problems at home. This may not work forever, but it is rash to count on it failing quickly.

Potential Escalations: Consequences will have Consequences

Bleak as things are, drawing the wrong consequences from the current fiasco can make them much worse. Offering Ukraine a NATO perspective now, and for the foreseeable future, means inviting full-scale war to it. Values are much invoked. Here’s a simple value to note: It’s not solidarity to set up a country for a war that would devastate it. Also unhelpful: public calls for a Ukrainian reverse “Vietnam” to make Russia pay in blood by providing Ukraine with military aid short of intervention. If any Ukrainians, in Ukraine and abroad, consider Cold War re-enactors their natural allies, they should think again: fantasies of Ukraine as a reverse “Vietnam” are as cruelly realpolitik as anything Russia has to offer. They also show what the invocations of Ukraine’s place in “Europe” are worth to some grand global strategists. (Poland, a NATO member, might also wonder about its role in such fantasies: refugee camps and counter/insurgency bases?)

Dominoes Don’t Help

One response by western commentators is to reinvent the domino theory: If the West fails to resist Russia over Ukraine, this argument goes, then the international order or Europe must crumble; ultimately, Russia’s relapse into bad old habits, if unchecked, must lead to a new dark age of might-makes-right. In reality, the international order, fortunately or unfortunately, has proven robust enough to survive severe and also long-lasting infringements. It is true that Russia’s take-over of Crimea is special because Russia has been explicit and official about expanding its territory at the cost of others. Moreover, the implications of Russia’s threat to eastern Ukraine are even worse: while no justification for Russian actions, Crimea’s (and Sevastopol’s) special status in Ukraine provided prior lines on the map to limit the Crimea crisis. In the case of a full-scale attack on eastern Ukraine, regional administrative (oblast) borders might or might not provide such lines. Finally, Russia’s spin narrative (the need to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking populations abroad) is very scary because it is arbitrary and unreal, could be applied again, and would be a highly disruptive principle if it were to spread. Yet it is still counterproductive to treat Ukraine as a vicarious battlefield in which to defend western civilization against an onslaught from a Eurasianist East because there are still ways pragmatically to contain both Russia’s new reach to “protect” and what it will mean for the international order.

 Red Lines and Shifting Baselines

With the Geneva agreement providing some hope but also running into some trouble, what can be done? First of all, it was to be expected that its implementation would be difficult and interpretations of its meaning differ. Obituaries are clearly premature. Geneva may fail. But the alacrity with which some western commentators are claiming or predicting failure smacks of putting their own belligerent mood regarding Russia and the West over what’s best for Ukraine. Secondly, Ukraine needs to disarm private militias, including those claiming allegiance to the revolution; it also needs constitutional reform, even if Russia tries to misuse both concepts. Disarming private militias does not infringe on Ukraine’s sovereignty in any way (and is a mostly symbolic act anyhow). Russia’s idea of “federalization” is not acceptable, but decentralization is urgently needed. This provides room for compromise and Ukraine’s supporters should impress this fact on its government.

Secondly, fetishizing the language issue absurdly contradicts Ukraine’s national interest: it is de facto bilingual anyhow. Russian should be given official status as a state language. If the government or other actors, including from abroad, want to support the Ukrainian language, they should do just that instead of being phobic about Russian. Fortunately, the government has – finally – shown some readiness for these compromises. In general, no matter the probably underwhelming or counterproductive outcome of its currently suspended operations in eastern Ukraine, it will have to settle for compromises its leaders will find hard to accept or to explain to their electorate. If they are patriots, both shouldn’t stop them, but if they are populists, they will sacrifice Ukraine to their ambitions, while blaming the West.

Ukraine’s western backers, meanwhile, have rightly chosen a combination of graded economic measures, restraint, and diplomacy. Yet the news might easily get grimmer again. Then we will hear more trending accusations of appeasement and betrayal. But we are neither in an interwar, nor in a Cold War, but in a post-Cold-War world: Ironically, western expectations are skewed by how successful the West has already been. Confused by short memory and shifting baselines, the western public should take stock of reality: since the end of the Soviet Union both NATO and the EU have expanded at the rate of almost one new member every two years, mostly into the former Soviet bloc. Much has been reached rapidly. It needs to be consolidated calmly – not risked in a fit of false analogies, mistaking Putin for Hitler and the present for Munich 1938. Consolidation means that defensive tripwire forces from the “old” NATO members have to be stationed permanently with the current “new” members in Eastern Europe. This would serve stability: ambiguity about NATO commitment is the last thing we – including Ukraine and Russia – need.

In sum, what is needed is a strategy likely to frustrate anybody still psychologically tied to the Cold War, be it on the “hawk” or the “dove” side: practicing and insisting on restraint in and over Ukraine, while at the same time shoring up NATO’s credibility among its members in Eastern Europe. Such a strategy promises no quick fixes, it looks much less exciting on CNN than calls for the Vietnamization of Ukraine, it invites unfounded but popular accusations of appeasement as well as of being provocative toward Russia, it sits badly with public opinion in at least one key player, Germany, and it will cost plenty of money. What it has to offer, however, is substantial: the best chance for stabilization and peace Ukraine still has (the alternative is not World War Three, but a regional war or a drawn-out local insurgency, both devastating in their own ways); a reduction of global tension with Russia, so that cooperation can continue and develop again despite serious disagreement; and, perhaps, most importantly, time. And, please, no mistaking fervor, preferably publicly displayed, for commitment: none of this implies betraying Ukraine; it’s actually the best chance left to save it.

The author is assistant professor of history at Columbia University.

EuroMaidan and Crimea: Recapping Five Months of Change in Ukraine

April 12, 2014

David Marples

From November 2013 to the end of February 2014, protesters gathered on Kyiv’s central square, in a series of demonstrations known as the Euro-Maidan. These protests have involved several distinct stages, culminating in what some analysts have called a national revolution that has removed the government and presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. What follows is an attempt at a synopsis of events that encompass this extraordinary period that has turned into a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and seen the latter country annex Crimea and support pro-separatist movements in various parts of the neighboring country.

As a historian who has followed Ukraine since Soviet times, I recall two earlier civic protests of importance. The first was the occupation of the Maidan by Kyiv’s university students in 1990, demanding the resignation of then Prime Minister Vitaly Masol. Though widely condemned by Communist officials, they ended with the removal of the unpopular figure. The second was known as the Orange Revolution, and arose as a protest against the doctored results of the 2004 presidential elections. Ironically, this event served to prevent the same Yanukovych from winning the presidency. He did, however return as Prime Minister under the Yushchenko presidency, and then won the 2010 elections, narrowly defeating Yulia Tymoshenko.

In late November 2013, Yanukovych had signalled his willingness to commit Ukraine to signing an Association Agreement with the European Union at the EU summit in Vilnius. The Europeans had demanded in return that he release Tymoshenko from captivity (she had served 2.5 of a 7-year jail sentence for signing an agreement with Russia on energy prices in 2009, when she was Prime Minister), and initiate constitutional and legal reforms. After a visit to Moscow, where he spoke with President Vladimir Putin, Yanukovych made the decision not to sign the agreement. It seemed once again that Ukraine would remain within the Russian orbit, and would most likely commit itself to future membership of the Russian Customs Union, which is to come into force on 1 January 2015, and currently involves Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, with Armenia a likely additional member.

Within hours, protesters came to the streets, motivated by anger at the change of direction. They were main youthful, alerted by social networks and text messages. What occurred was essentially a civic protest on the future of Ukraine and it took the authorities completely by surprise. Though the daily numbers would dwindle, every Sunday saw masses come out on the streets. At its peak, the numbers were so vast that it was impossible to count them. On the whole, the authorities reacted cautiously, deploying the Berkut riot police but without any serious confrontations. But on the night of 30 November and morning of 1 December, the order was given for the Berkut to clear the square by force. The Berkut descended on the Maidan, clubbing and beating demonstrators.

The protests were re-energized by this clumsy and thoughtless assault. The numbers rose again. On December 16, Putin offered Ukraine $15 billion in loans and reduced gas prices to offset Ukraine’s financial crisis, sparked by the near depletion of its hard currency reserves. More than anything the offer seemed to demonstrate that without Russia, Ukraine could not survive. Moreover, the sum was far more than the EU or the IMF was prepared to consider. In truth it was probably more than Russia could afford. The situation was exacerbated further by the quasi-legal rushing through parliament of draconian laws—the so-called “anti-protest laws” on January 16. Their goal appeared to be to curb freedom of speech and assembly, the outlawing of NGOs and the establishment of a dictatorship under Yanukovych. The laws were the brainchild of two MPs from the Party of Regions, Vadym Kolesnychenko and Volodymyr Oliinyk. Though repealed only twelve days later, these laws heralded the culmination of the Euromaidan protests.

The protests were now less about the EU and more about the future of Ukraine. More attention was paid to the innate and grotesque corruption of the ruling regime, of the prevalence of oligarchs who had enriched themselves at the expense of the state, of the lack of legal reforms. These protests had two immediate results. One was the agreement of Yanukovych to sacrifice his Prime Minister, Nikolai Azarov (who promptly fled to Vienna on an Austrian passport) and try to make a compromise with opposition leaders.

The Prime Minister’s position was offered to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the former Economy and Foreign Minister of Ukraine and leader of the Batkivshchnyna party following the incarceration of Tymoshenko. That of Deputy Prime Minister was offered to Vitaly Klychko, the former world champion boxer and leader of the party Udar, which ran third in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Both refused to take up these posts, possibly because they could detect the growing weakness of the government, but more likely because to have done so would have cost them influence on the square.

In reality, these leaders, and to some extent the third opposition leader Oleg Tyahnybok of Svoboda, had never led the protests. Rather they reacted to the moves on the Maidan. As the situation polarized, both sides changed character and personnel. On the government side, gangs of thugs were bussed into Kyiv from other cities, principally Kharkiv and Donetsk, simply to cause mayhem. They set fire to cars, beat up protesters, kidnapped people, and targeted prominent journalists. On the opposition side, several local militias formed, based partly on rightist groups like Pravy Sektor. Batkivshchyna formed its own self-defense group. The average protester—if one can deduce such a thing—was no longer the 20-something student, but more hardened 30 and 40-year olds, not only ready for a fight but unprepared to compromise. Many were from Western Ukraine. In their local regions, the government of Yanukovych no longer existed. They had established their own rulers.

The EU finally returned to active involvement. On February 21, while the EU agreed to introduce sanctions against Ukrainian leaders, the foreign ministers of Poland, France, and Germany arrived in Kyiv. Working into the night, they brokered a deal between the government and the three parliamentary opposition leaders. It would have seen a temporary administration, constitutional reforms to reduce the powers of the presidency—returning to the situation as it was in 2004—and new presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year. The stipulation, which was supported by the United States, was that in the interim, Yanukovych would remain as president. That provision proved unacceptable to those on the Maidan.

In the center of Kyiv, the situation began to resemble the final scene of Les Miserables, with barricades piled high, burning tires that set off thick black smoke, and the accumulation of a variety of weapons—mostly Molotov cocktails, but some guns and clubs. The struggle was now for control of Ukraine. It ended as we know with carnage and bloodshed, as the government—Yanukovych and Interior Minister Vitalii Zakharenko bear the main responsibility—ordered troops to fire on protesters using live ammunition, situating snipers on rooftops who picked off targets at will. The government had begun to slaughter its own people. It was the moment of no return. The numbers of dead approached 100; hundreds more were wounded, many severely. But the assault, remarkably, failed and the protesters remained in place.

The immediate outcome has been the flight of the president and most of his Cabinet. The government of Ukraine fell on February 22. Yanukovych fled to Russia, where he as remained, used alternatively as a symbol of Russia’s position that the government in Ukraine is illegal, and as a pawn in Vladimir Putin’s strategy for the neighboring country, but not one that is considered a likely catalyst of anything decisive. Putin has never had much time for Yanukovych. Ukraine has a temporary president, appointed by a parliament in which many deputies of the Regions Part have abandoned their affiliation with the former president. The acting president is the new parliamentary speaker, Oleksander Turchinov, a 49-year old economist from Batkivshchyna. Yulia Tymoshenko is free and is running for president. New elections have been brought forward from December—as agreed to in the deal between the old government, the opposition, and EU leaders—to May 25. The frontrunner is an oligarch who according to Taras Kuzio is a political chameleon, chocolate manufacturer Petro Poroshenko.

In contrast to the Orange Revolution, the government has been overthrown. Ukraine has entered a new phase in its development. Russia, initially, was left on the sidelines, seemingly preoccupied with the Sochi Olympic Games. The EU and the United States also failed to influence the course of events in the later stages. The provisional government is making up rules as it proceeds. Some of the militants from the protests, for example, took over the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Threats from anti-Maidan elements to split the country initially proved futile. The Right Sector, an integral part of the more violent aspects of the Euromaidan, have been removed from central Kyiv by the Ukrainian police.

Revolutions are never black and white; they all have shades of grey. This one is no exception. The innocence of the first days of Euromaidan was very different from February 20a and 21, the most violent days in the history of independent Ukraine. The country removed some of the legacies of 1991—a Donetsk-based regime of apparatchiks and gangsters, with their own private mansions and assets abroad—but it was by no means clear that the interim government can offer unity and compromise. The financial crisis in mid-April is much worse than was the case in late November. Ukraine badly needs help today as it mourns its victims.

Euromaidan entered a second phase on February 27, when armed units in uniforms without markings took over the Crimean parliament and government buildings in Simferopol. They installed a new prime minister, Sergei Aksionov, whose party had received only about 4% in the most recent Crimean elections. Troops, who were supplemented by the 25,000 sailors of the Russian Black Sea Fleet took over government buildings and military installations, forcing the surprised Ukrainian units to surrender. The Ukrainians did not respond with force, and the attackers (now clearly identified as Russians) did not suffer any losses during the takeover. The annexation of Crimea was solidified by a referendum on March 16, during which it was reported that over 95% supported the peninsula joining the Russian Federation—the alternative on the ballot, confusingly, would have led to the re-adoption of the Constitution adhered to briefly in 1992.

Russia and Ukraine then engaged in a war of propaganda about what was happening. The Ukrainians, backed by most of the international world and the UN, maintained that Russia had invaded their territory, violating international treaties signed in Budapest in 1994 and Kyiv in 1997, the latter a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two states that agreed to existing boundaries. This treaty had been revised by the 2010 Kharkiv Accords, which extended Russia’s lease on the Sevastopol base for the fleet for a further twenty-five years (i.e. from 2017 to 2042). Russian president Putin has officially revoked the 2010 treaty. The Russian version of events is that an illegal pro-Nazi junta has taken over Ukraine and is persecuting Russians and Russian speakers.

Aside from sanctions and travel bans, however, the Western response to events has been somewhat subdued. US president Obama ruled out any form of military response to Russian intrusions into Ukraine. Russia has amassed a large military force on Ukraine’s borders and is believed to be behind mass disturbances in several Ukrainian cities. At the time of writing, small groups of around 200 people had taken over administrative buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk and erected barricades around them. They have declared the formation of autonomous republics. A similar attempt in Kharkiv failed. Russian political leaders have expressed their support for a “federal system” in Ukraine, including in talks with United States. Ukraine’s richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov has supported this position, with the proviso that Donbas remains in Ukraine. It might be termed a form of “Finlandization.”

Thus Ukraine at present is in a critically unstable position and the threat of a Russian invasion is quite serious. Its interim leadership has acted cautiously and timidly, albeit insisting that Russia has no right to make demands on Ukraine as to its form of government. Though in the long term, international sanctions may imperil Russia’s energy-centered economy, in the short term, there is no doubt that Putin’s position is the more powerful. Already Russian prices for gas sold to Ukraine have risen to $485 per tcm, from the earlier $268, and Ukrainian authorities have stopped payments for Russian gas pending talks.

The West is simply unable to predict Vladimir Putin’s next move and NATO is belatedly bolstering its position in the eastern borderland member states. But there is no doubt that the Russian president has the initiative and the West is responding to his maneuvers awkwardly. The third stage of Euromaidan approaches and may well be the most critical one in the history of Ukraine.

The Crimean Crisis in Energy Terms

March 27, 2014

Anastasiya Stelmakh

On March 16, 2014 a disputed and tendentious referendum in Crimea provided the expected result: 97% of the people living in Crimea (including those of Russian citizenship) supported the idea of Crimea becoming a part of Russian Federation. Next day the Crimean authorities adopted a Declaration of Independence. And on March 18, 2014 the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, recognized Crimea as a sovereign and independent state. The same day Putin officially approved the annexation of Crimea (

The Crimean question has been widely discussed in all world media. Indeed such a great violation of international principles and norms in the 21st century was hardly predictable. The Crimean question as a part of a largerpolitical puzzle between the West and Russia leaves more questions than answers. Though most scholars have focused on the ethnic and language differences in Crimea, the energy context is mentioned less frequently. In my opinion when we talk about a “petro” state like Russia energy context is of crucial importance.

What is the importance of Crimea in energy terms?

 First of all, Crimea as a part of Ukraine possesses high energy potential. Its estimated energy reserves are about 45 trillion cm of gas. Indeed this number is especially striking when taking into consideration that shale gas reserves in Ukraine by comparison contain just 3,6 trillion cm of gas. Nevertheless the situation is far from being straightforward and has many loopholes.

Most of the estimated reserves are located in the offshore fields of the Black Sea. Therefore, the issue of extraction and transportation of these reserves is rather complicated and environmentally risky. But the entrance of such internationally recognized companies as ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron prove that these reserves are worthy of exploration. One could argue, however, that even though these reserves for Ukraine are quite significant, Russia possesses much greater and cheaper resources in Siberia. From one perspective, indeed the transportation network of Russian energy resources is well developed and Crimean energy resources seem like a small reward for a state already so well endowed.

On the other hand, to benefit fully from energy reserves in Crimea, Russia would need considerable investments and Western companies are unlikely to participate under the terms of international isolation (Shell has already announced its withdrawal). With the current turmoil in Ukraine and so far internationally unrecognized status of Crimea as part of Russia, Russia’s investments will have dubious grounds, at least in the short-term perspective. But even the current uncertainty leaves Crimean energy resources under the control of President Putin, rather than the Ukrainian authorities.

Among other important energy assets in Crimea are the largest solar power plants in Ukraine. Built by Austria-based Activ Solar in 2011, these plants include Perovo power plant (105MWp) and Okhotnikovo power station (82,6 MWp). These solar power plants were  part of a national energy project aimed at producing energy from clean sources like the sun. If the Crimean authorities decide to nationalize these plants, they will cease to receive the most generous feed-in tariff, equal to 0,34/kWh, from Ukraine. Regardless of their high potential, renewable resources, like solar energy, have never been a priority for Russia and therefore their activity may be suspended.

A spokesman for Activ Solar did not deny that uncertainties around the political situation in Ukraine had caused the disruption of the company’s activities ( Apart from the unstable situation in Crimea, Activ Solar is risking the loss of other assets in Mykolaiv and Odesa. Because of allegations that company members used the connections of Sergiy Klyuev (a close ally of Yanukovych and a member of Party of Regions) to enrich themselves at the state’s expense, Activ Solar is being investigated concerning money laundering and financial crimes by the USA and Liechtenstein ( If a connection between the son-in-law of Sergiy Klyuev, who is the head of Activ Solar in Ukraine, and the former governmental officials is found, Activ Solar’s assets in Ukraine may be frozen as a part of sanctions imposed on the members of the former government.

How much energy does Crimea consume?

 On average Crimea consumes around 1,5 bcm of gas annually. A daughter company of Naftogaz, Chornomornaftogaz, controls gas extraction in the peninsula. A rapid increase in gas extraction took place from 1,05 bcm in 2009 to 1,65 bcm in 2013 ( These numbers indicate that Crimea may become energy independent if the capacity of the underground storage is increased, and thus the extra volumes of gas needed in winter could be taken from the storage. Moreover, in the Energy Strategy of Ukraine the plans to increase gas extraction in Crimea were forecasted to reach 2,5-3 bcm of gas annually. This would also mean that Russia could increase its exports of gas to other countries.

Concerning electricity, Crimea is much more dependent on Ukraine, since 90% of its electricity comes from continental Ukraine, mostly from Zaporizhzhya and Kakhovka. The capacity of power stations in Crimea is enough to cover only one-fifth of the needs of the peninsula. Construction of the Crimean nuclear power station might have solved Crimea’s electricity death, but after the Chornobyl disaster of 1986, the construction was frozen. Therefore, the current authorities hope that Ukraine will not cut electricity. Moreover, they plan to build two steam electric power plants in the near future in order to meet electricity needs of the peninsula (

It is highly unlikely that Kyiv will suspend gas supplies to Crimea as this would imply recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia. Therefore, formally raw materials supply will be provided under special terms for the occupied territories. Second, the possible suspension of gas supplies would provide Russia with a casus belli to take control over Kakhovka power station. Thus, as the current state of affairs shows, the interim government will try to avoid direct confrontation in Crimea.

What is the fate of Chornomornaftogaz?

 The fate of Chornomornaftogaz is also under discussion. This company though itself not as attractive as Russia would like to think, is nonetheless of great interest because of the location and newly purchased rigs. Chornomornaftogaz coordinates operation activities of the part of Gas Transportation System of Ukraine located in Crimea. It controls over 1300 km of gas pipelines, one compressor station, and Glebov underground storage (capacity of 900 million cm, planned to be extended to 4 bcm). The recent purchase of two new rigs ‘Independence’ and ‘Petro Godovanets’ for around $100 million became well known in mass media under the title of ‘Boyko’s rigs’ (Vyshky Boika). They appear to be one of the most valuable assets in energy terms for Russia.

Vladimir Konstiantinov, the head of the Supreme Council in Crimea, already stated that Gazprom should be in charge of gas and oil extraction in Crimea ( New oil and gas fields in Odesskoe and Bezimiannoe were taken under the control of Crimean authorities. The fate of Chornomornaftogaz is still unknown and in accordance with Aksyonov’s declarations it will be nationalized and then it will become an integral part of Gazprom. This move will raise the capitalization of Gazprom to $50 billion (

Meanwhile, Naftogaz brought an action against Chronomornaftogaz for 6,9 billion UAH obtained as an interest-free loan for the purchase of two rigs ( The hearings of International Arbitration might last for years. For the time being Crimean energy resources are in the hands of Gazprom’s representatives. Ukraine in its turn did not manage to secure and transport documentation on offshore explorations to Naftogaz. Therefore, de facto Russian control over Crimean energy resources deprives Ukraine of potential extraction of energy sources in the offshore fields, but it does not really change the current energy balance of Ukraine.

South Stream changing the route?

 The discussions about South Steam changing its route deserve special attention. South Stream is not only an extremely expensive project (approx. $60 billion), but also very controversial as it does not meet the requirements of the Third Energy Package. Annexation of Crimea may bring about an alteration of the South Stream’s route. If it is constructed through Crimea along the formula ‘sea-land-sea’, then its initial price may be reduced by $20 billion. This option should not be excluded as Russia has already declared that in the fall of 2014 offshore section construction will start (

Gas cut offs?

The probability of Russia cutting off gas from Ukraine and disrupting supplies to European countries still exists. After the 2006 and 2009 gas crises Europe learned its lesson. European diversification plans are implemented with the assistance of Norway and Algeria. Therefore, though the EU still relies on Russia for more than quarter of its gas needs, as the winter season has passed already, the EU may use gas from the European gas storage facilities. The EU has already drawn its main conclusion, as announced by British Foreign Secretary William Hague: ‘We have started today discussing the longer term, the need to reduce European dependence on Russian energy over many years to come’ (

The United States in return has offered a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine in case of gas cut offs. But the export of liquefied gas from the US will be possible only after 2016 at earliest. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s inability to pay on time for the consumption of gas and the increase of the gas price to $500 starting from April 2014 will leave Ukraine in a quite vulnerable position. The gas stored in the underground storages is depleting, and without it gas transit to European countries may be endangered. Therefore, regardless of the importance of Crimea in energy terms, the interim government will most probably dedicate its time to resolving the gas issue and securing gas transit to Europe.

 The author is a PhD Candidate at Middle East Technical University in Turkey.

ANNOUNCEMENT! East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies

March 9, 2014

Oleh S. Ilnytzkyj, editor-in-chief of East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies invites contributors and readers of Current Politics in Ukraine to consider the new journal as a publication venue for their research.

East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies is a scholarly, peer-reviewed, online periodical, dedicated to publishing original research articles, reviews and review articles.

EW:JUS encourages submission in English of previously unpublished work by academics, graduate students, and policymakers. The journal welcomes thematic issues by guest editors and original scholarship presented at conferences; it is open to sponsoring online forums for scholarly debates and exchanges. The journal accepts research that incorporates web technologies and multimedia (e.g., audio and visual materials). The focus and themes of the journal include, but are not limited, to the following: Ukraine and its neighbors; Ukrainian humanities and social sciences in a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective; the Early Modern, Modern, and Contemporary periods; cultural geography and geopolitics; empires, regions, borders and borderlands; dominant and subordinate cultures; collective identities, gender, multiculturalism, nationalism; and the sociocultural foundations of modernization.

Peer Review Process: Overview

EW:JUS accepts for review previously unpublished manuscripts, written in English, that are not under consideration by another journal.

(Note: Authors may submit articles in other languages but only for purposes of initial evaluation and feedback. If an article is deemed suitable by the editor, the author will be required to submit the manuscript in English for the formal peer review process).

The editor and/or the editorial board are the initial reviewers of articles; they make a preliminary judgment about the appropriateness of the article for the journal, the quality and clarity of the text and check for adherence to the journal’s stylistic, bibliographic and formatting criteria (see Submissions). Submissions that do not meet these basic standards will be rejected.

Articles that pass the initial screening undergo a double blind review process by outside reviewers selected by the editor and/or the editorial board. Referees are scholars with known reputations and expertise in the same field as the submitting author. They are invited to review the article by being sent the title and abstract; on agreeing, they receive access to the full text with the author’s name removed.

Referees write an assessment, recommending acceptance or not. An article must receive at least two positive reviews to be published. In some cases, e.g., if the assessment is vague or noncommittal, the opinion of another referee will be sought.

Authors receive copies of all the anonymous written appraisals and are required to address any deficiencies. Manuscripts that show promise but are not ready for publication are returned to the author for further work and are then subject to a second review.

Normally, peer reviews take between 1 and 3 months, depending on the availability of appropriate referees.


EW:JUS will be published twice a year, but individual articles and reviews may appear as soon as they are ready.

For details visit:


March 7, 2014

Olesya Khromeychuk

Two days before International Women’s Day two activists belonging to the FEMEN protest group were beaten up in Crimea. The two women, their topless bodies daubed with the words ‘Stop Putin’s War’, were carried away from the crowd that had attacked them by unidentified men and men who looked like Russian Cossacks, who tried to silence their cries and hide their topless bodies. Women in the crowd could be heard condemning them as ‘prostitutes’.[i] Sarah and Margarita, FEMEN activists from France, will be nursing the bruises they received in Crimea and marking International Women’s Day at home in France, in safety. But what will the 8th of March be like for the women of Ukraine?

The different potential ways of observing International Women’s Day include the showering of women with gifts and flowers, traditionally associated with Soviet times (especially since the post-war period when women were celebrated for their femininity)[ii] or boycotting it altogether as a holiday imposed by the ‘occupier’. These different attitudes towards International Women’s day in Ukraine could fit perfectly into the tiresome but still widely disseminated cliché of ‘split Ukraine’: this simplified image could explain that while one segment of Ukraine enjoys celebrating old Soviet holidays, such as the 8th of March, another rejects such festivals in favor of a more traditional Mother’s Day, celebrated in May.

What will be left out of this dichotomous portrayal is the fact that, historically, International Women’s Day was used to campaign for better pay and voting rights for women. And this was the case not only for the industrialized world in the early 20th century but also for the Russian Empire, which encompassed both Russia and much of contemporary Ukraine. In 1917, on February 23 according to the Julian calendar and March 8, according to the Gregorian, the women of Petrograd began a strike for ‘bread and peace’ and against the death of soldiers in the First World War. A week later the Russian Tsar was forced to abdicate, and soon afterward women were granted the right to vote.

In the current crisis in Ukraine women have been almost invisible with one or two exceptions. Their presence in the reports was limited to the footage of grieving mothers of the Maidan casualties and angry old women in Odesa and Crimea. In the recycled daily analysis of the conflict between the Ukrainian ‘fascists’ and Russian ‘defenders’ of Crimea the focus was purely on men. It is thus not surprising that in the sea of the bold (if so far futile) statements coming from Putin, Obama, Yatseniuk, Cameron and other men of power, the news that Michelle Obama gave Ruslana Lyzhychko, a Ukrainian pop singer and the icon of the Maidan protests, the Women of Courage award received almost no publicity.

The award was issued for ‘exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.’[iii] Ruslana, as she is widely known in Ukraine, took to the streets together with thousands of demonstrators back in November and was one of the Maidan’s most visible leaders. She spent many cold nights together with the rest of the protesters, playing the piano and encouraging the crowds to maintain a peaceful protest even when the riot police resorted to violence.

Ruslana was not the only woman on the Maidan. Thousands of women joined the protest movement in various capacities. The roles they picked for themselves reflected the wide spectrum of views held by Ukrainian society at large and its female population in particular. Some were happy to perform traditionally ‘feminine’ duties, such as cooking for the other demonstrators and nursing the wounded when the protests turned violent. Many unquestioningly obeyed the ‘orders’ of the all-male defence units to stay in the rear of the battle zones which unfolded in Kyiv.

Other women chose to fight for their rights as citizens of Ukraine and as women by organizing an all-female self-defense unit. ‘Our sotnya (unit) came about because women were not allowed to enter the scene of clashes at Hrushevskoho Street because they were women’, stated Ruslana Panukhnyk, who organised the all-female self-defense unit of 30 core members and up to 800 followers, known as Zhinocha Sotnia (Women’s Company).[iv] ‘This self-defence training will help women understand they can do the same things as men’, added Olena Shevchenko, a professional athlete and coach of the unit.[v] Interestingly, unlike some of the much talked about Right Sector members, the women of the Zhinocha Sotnia did not see the need to adopt any nationalist symbols. Some of them speak Ukrainian, some Russian, and most (as is the case with the majority of the population in Ukraine) are bilingual. They see no problem in their cultural or linguistic diversity. Olena Kozhevnikova, a member of the unit made their position absolutely clear: ‘we protest against discrimination and fight for our rights.’[vi]

To mark International Women’s Day, the women of the Zhinocha Sotnia are organizing a demonstration entitled ‘From the Women of the Maidan to the Women of Crimea’, declaring that people, ‘regardless of their native language, nationality, religion, or age are united today in a shared concern and desire for peace.’ [vii] In their appeal to come out to the Maidan square in Kyiv, they call for ‘freedom, equality and women’s solidarity’ and remind us that ‘together we are strong enough to withstand the military aggression’.[viii]

While much noise has been made of the perceived and real repressions of this or that ‘half’ of Ukraine, the half which consists of women has been ignored. Perhaps it is time to hear its voice.

The author is lector in Ukrainian, Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Cambridge


March 7, 2014

Halya Coynash

Nobody expected a proper “referendum” from the puppet government in the Crimea, but it would be difficult to imagine anything more farcical than the ballot paper posted on the Crimean parliament’s website.

The document, in three languages – Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar – contains the following:

Ballot Paper for the all-Crimean referendum of March 16, 2014

Mark with any symbol in the box beside the variant of the answer which you are voting for.

1.  Are you for the Crimea re-uniting with Russia, as a subject of the Russian Federation?

2.  Are you for the reinstatement of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of the Crimea and for the status of the Crimea as part of Ukraine?

A ballot paper left unmarked, or where both variants are marked shall be invalid.

There are multiple problems with this document.

Firstly, there is no possibility of voting for the status quo.  Those who choose to take part in this event can place their doodles, signature or tick for one of two very different options: becoming a part of the Russian Federation or reinstating a constitution in force for around 13 days back in 1992 which declared Crimean independence.

It is just conceivable that some voters will know that on May 5, 1992 the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea adopted a “Declaration of State Independence of the Republic of the Crimea”, and that a constitution under these conditions was adopted the next day.  It was suspended on May 19, and considerable amendments made on September 25 that year.

It is more likely that squiggles will be given to the first option which is at least comprehensible.

Secondly, it is also quite unclear how the result of this vote is to be determined, with no indication as to the minimum turnout. .

A monumental change to the peninsula would not only be guaranteed by the lack of an option for staying put, but some pitifully small number of people could decide whether the Crimea becomes a part of Russia or goes it alone altogether.

Referendums in general need to have clearly articulated questions to which people answer yes or no.  They should also not take place under the watch of armed soldiers without insignia speaking Russian without an accent.

The decision to bring this “referendum” forward to March 16 was passed behind closed doors a mere 10 days earlier, on March 6.  Parliament “decided” to join Russia and to have this “confirmed” by referendum.

The explanatory note asserts that “nationalist forces, having seized power through an unconstitutional coup are flagrantly violating Ukraine’s laws, inalienable rights and freedoms, including the right to life, freedom of thought and speech; the right to speak ones native language. Extremist gangs have made a number of attempts to get into the Crimea in order to exacerbate the situation, cause an escalation in tension and unlawfully seize power”.

It was never possible that this so-called referendum could have much credibility since Ukraine’s Constitution clearly stipulates that any change in Ukraine’s territory must be put to a nationwide referendum.  That the puppet government in the Crimea and the Kremlin should have resorted to such an inept and thuggish parody was harder to anticipate.

Even a legitimate referendum could not be organized in 10 days.  Ukraine’s new leaders have stated clearly the vote will not be recognized and the Central Election Commission has suspended access to the Voter Register in the Crimea and Sevastopol (which has separate status according to Ukraine’s Constitution).

Attempts to present this as an infringement of the rights of people in the Crimea will also not wash.  The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars has called on all residents of the Crimea to boycott the event.  The lack of support of the Crimea’s indigenous people, up to 15% of the population, strips it of any legitimacy.

Western countries, as well as the UN Security Council have made it quite clear that the result will not be recognized.  That should have made Aksenov and his Kremlin patrons back down.  Instead they appear to have opted for grotesque farce.

This article first appeared in and is reproduced here with the author’s permission


March 4, 2014

David Marples

On March 2, Russian troops invaded Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine in which 15,000 sailors of the Russian Black Sea Fleet are stationed. What was the Russian president’s thinking in escalating a world crisis over the past week? Why has a politician, whom many considered to be a rational actor, chosen to intervene in Ukraine?

Analyzing the mind of the Russian president is not a simple task. His statements are often contradictory. He maintains, for example, that Ukraine’s new leaders should have adhered to the deal brokered by the European foreign ministers on February 21 that would have entailed former president Viktor Yanukovych remaining in office until new presidential elections in December 2014. Yet Russia took no part in that discussion nor did it sign that agreement, and perhaps even more significant, it has not advocated the return of Yanykovych, despite the fact that the latter has fled to Russian territory.

President Putin also maintains that because of the collapse of the EU-brokered deal, Russia is no longer bound by the terms of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, by which Russia, the United States, and the UK committed themselves to guaranteeing the security of Ukraine.

In essence, according to this line of reasoning, the Euromaidan leaders carried out a coup. Yet it was precisely as this deal was being debated that the ex-president ordered his troops to use live ammunition on the protesters, carrying out a massacre on the square. Consequently, Yanukovych lost his majority support in the parliament as many of the Regions Party MPs deserted to the opposition. He then fled the scene.

Putting these illogicalities aside, what else do we know about Putin’s thinking on the situation in Ukraine? What could have prompted him to flout the Budapest Memorandum and perpetuate and give new credibility to the old canard of Russian aggression against Ukraine? If we assume for the moment that we are inside Putin’s head, then it might run something like the following.

The Western powers refused to accept Yanukovych’s decision not to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union last November in Vilnius. That decision came after my meeting with the Ukrainian president in Moscow on November 9. Thus they financed and openly supported a mass protest in the streets of Kyiv during which violent protesters, organized by Western Ukrainian nationalist extremists, set afire their own police with Molotov cocktail. As evidence of US involvement one can cite the following: John Kerry and the Victoria Nuland were overheard in a phone conversation choosing the next government of Ukraine; and Senator John McCain appeared in the Maidan, standing, outrageously, alongside the Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok, a man whom even Yushchenko had thrown out of Our Ukraine over a decade ago for his racist views on Russians and Jews.

Once the “mobocracy” had attained the removal of Yanukovych, it elected its own government composed mainly of supporters of Euromaidan, and one devoid of any members of the Regions or Communist Parties, the parties traditionally supported by Russian-speaking Eastern Ukrainians. Moreover, the interim Cabinet promptly banned the controversial language law that had permitted Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine to conduct business in their own language. The Fascist leaders in Kiev had declared war on Russian and Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine.

But to understand fully Putin’s perspective, one would need to delve deeper. Here is a politician that would fit neatly into what Lenin perceived as the Russian chauvinist of 1922 when the Soviet Union was first forming: an adherent of the view that Kyiv—or more correctly Kiev—is the ancestral and founding city of the Rus’, the East Slavic nation that accepted Christianity in 988 and eventually divided into three component parts of the same family: Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, united also by the Russian Orthodox Church.

On several visits to Ukraine over the past years, Putin has made it plain that in his view, Ukraine is not a foreign country. One can take that further—in his view it is not even a country, but rather, to cite what Metternich said about Italy in 1847, a “geographical expression.” It is an anomaly that derived from what the Russian leader perceives as the greatest tragedy in history: the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

During one visit to Kyiv he made reference to the Treaty of Pereiaslav in 1654, when Russia and the Ukrainian Cossacks under Bohdan Khmelnytsky signed a treaty in a war against the Poles. Ironically, it was on the 300th anniversary of that treaty that Nikita Khrushchev, in what some sources have described as a drunken moment, chose to give Crimea to Ukraine as a “gift” from Russia.

It is of course quite reasonable to give a prized possession to one’s brother. But if that brother subsequently leaves home and then renounces all family ties (Ukraine in 1991), the gift becomes a theft.

For Putin, Crimea, and especially its port of Sevastopol, is sacred Russian soil. The port survived two great sieges after its conquest in 1783: one in the Crimean War of 1854-56; and another during the “Great Patriotic War” of 1941-45 against Hitler. Sevastopol is one of the original Hero Cities designated by Stalin in May 1945, alongside Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Odessa. Equally important Crimea is the one place in Ukraine that he can recognize as ethnically Russian—though that recognition implies a striking lack of recognition for the rights of the Crimean Tatars, deported by Stalin at the end of the war and still struggling for their rights today.

It is still unclear though what the Russian leader really hopes to gain from intervention. His statements do little to clarify the issue. Having secured all the main Crimean military bases, he declared on March 4 that there had been no invasion and no order to attack. Yet the actions of the mysterious forces were who took over the parliament in Simferopol or the airport, and military bases followed his own request to the Russian Duma to deploy troops across the Ukrainian border.

What is clear is that nothing in Vladimir Putin’s world will ever be the same. Already Yulia Tymoshenko, a presidential candidate, has declared that she would remove the Russian Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol at the earliest opportunity. The Americans are talking of asset freezes and trade embargos. The EU will discuss the crisis on March 6, and even the Germans, who are most reluctant to sever ties with an important trading partner, may be wavering. The man who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace in Syria will surely never been seen in the same light again by his G8 or EU partners.

Moreover, he has managed to convince skeptics of what some “Moscow skeptics” have tried to claim for years: that Russia in essence has retained its imperialist outlook, and is a predatory state that seeks to swallow its neighbors: that it operates less like Russia and more like Rossiya, seeking to regain its lost empire. Such comments until recently sounded far-fetched. Putin single-handedly has succeeded in giving weight to even the most outlandish of such claims.

Perhaps such policies worked in Chechnya in 2000 and Georgia in 2008; they seem doomed to fail in Ukraine because for once, the Russian president followed his heart rather than his head. Ukraine’s residents may or may not be disturbed by the events of November-February in Kyiv; but there is no evidence whatever that anyone sought or welcomed a Russian invasion.

Whatever the outcome of the Crimean crisis, it is difficult to see where the lengthy political career of Vladimir Putin, one of the most self-obsessed and egotistical leaders of the contemporary world, goes from here.


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