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Author: Adam Reichardt

Issue 3/2020: War in Donbas

Its costs, challenges and the commitment to peace. New Eastern Europe issue 3/2020 is now available!

April 7, 2020 - New Eastern Europe

How to respond to Putin’s undeclared war

The readiness to view the conflict in Ukraine as a kind of civil war because Russia never openly declared war goes beyond what strategists in Russia had hoped for. In the western part of Europe, a lack of knowledge about our continent’s history of the last century clearly plays into the hands of the Kremlin. Six years on, it still needs to be made clear that Putin is waging war against Ukraine.

In late February 2014 the Russian incursion into Ukraine began on the Crimean Peninsula. By February 23rd, then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had disappeared from Kyiv. With his flight, Vladimir Putin’s man in Ukraine evaded accountability for the lethal use of force against the pro-European protesters on the Maidan during the Revolution of Dignity. The Kremlin’s propaganda machine portrayed Yanukovych’s escape to Russia and the subsequent instalment of an interim president by the Ukrainian parliament as a fascist coup d’état.

April 7, 2020 - Rebecca Harms

Does Zelenskyy have a strategy for managing the Donbas conflict?

The road to peace in Donbas has not appeared smooth and straightforward, as had been expected by President Zelenskyy and his team. The emphasis on humanitarian issues cannot neglect the security situation on the ground nor the unchanged role of the Kremlin.

An attack initiated by representatives of the breakaway territories near Zolote, a town in the Luhansk Oblast, in the early morning of February 18th of this year could dramatically change President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his team’s conflict perception. What has been announced as the biggest separatist offense since 2018 naturally clashes with the pacifistic and human-oriented approach of Kyiv’s new leader. But further developments and statements have shown that we can expect no real change in either rhetoric or tactics.

April 7, 2020 - Hanna Shelest

The challenge of reintegration

A secure reintegration policy for Donbas should include two dimensions: de-occupation and strengthening of national cohesion. Every political step that emphasises one dimension of reintegration at the expense of the other jeopardises the security of those involved and thus the foundations for a sustainable political dialogue.

Rebooting the peace process and reuniting Ukraine – these lofty promises are the mainstay of the presidency of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since his election last year. In this spirit, during the first so-called Unity Forum held on October 30th 2019 in Mariupol, Zelenskyy introduced three crucial steps on how he sees the process of bringing the occupied territories back to Ukraine: ceasefire, reconciliation and safe reintegration.

April 7, 2020 - Igor Mitchnik Tim Bohse

A tale of two collapses

Today’s Sievierodonetsk reflects wider processes that are taking place in the Donbas region. In the summer of 2014 de-oligarchisation and decommunisation began to progress in parallel. They resulted in two collapses.

Many of us probably do not realise the role that heavy-duty hand cleaning paste has played in the history of the Eastern bloc. In Poland, for instance, this product was called pasta BHP, and it was commonly used to remove stains from paint and grease. Its trade allowed one Polish family, the Kulczyks, to become billionaires. In the Soviet republics, that paste was called Landish and was popularly used in households as a washing detergent.

April 7, 2020 - Wojciech Siegień

Evolution of an identity

The war has destroyed and continues to devastate Donbas. A majority of the region’s residents have no place to work or means to make a living. One way or another, these circumstances are forcing those who can afford it to abandon the region. Yet I know that even now there are many in Donbas who consider themselves Ukrainian. Unfortunately, they cannot openly express their beliefs.

I was born in Donetsk in the late 1960s and have lived here all my life. My views of Donbas and its people have been shaped for over decades and they have not changed much in recent years. However, in the first year of the Russian military aggression into our land I began to understand, for the first time, how difficult it is to explain some of the circumstances of our Donbas life to people, even though to us living here these things are quite simple and understandable. With this remark, I would now like start my essay, or rather a discussion, about the self-identification of the people of Donbas during the war.

April 7, 2020 - Volodymyr Rafeenko

Donbas veterans establish their place in Ukrainian society

An interview with Anton Kolumbet, the (former) first deputy minister for veteran affairs in Ukraine. Interviewer: Kateryna Pryshchepa
KATERYNA PRYSHCHEPA: A report recently published by the International Organization for Migration states that Donbas war veterans often face difficulties with access to services and benefits they are formally entitled to. In addition, they also face conflict situations in society. Is it possible to change these tendencies by legal means, or is there a need for information campaigns?

ANTON KOLUMBET: The problem stems from the fact that the current social guarantees and services for war veterans in Ukraine are still regulated by the law adopted in 1992. That law basically replicates the norms of Soviet legislation regarding the Second World War and Afghan war veterans. In the USSR the state was the principal property owner and the manager of social services: under our current free market economic conditions, some of those old benefits simply cannot be offered by the state anymore.

April 7, 2020 - Anton Kolumbet Kateryna Pryshchepa

Youtubers, influencers and creative activists are the new vanguard in Central Asia

It is a decisive moment for Central Asia. Societies of the region are receptive to the EU’s messages of transparency, democracy and rule of law, but they are also under pressure from other regional powers. If the European Union wants its new Central Asia Strategy to have a positive impact, it should reach out to innovative groups and individuals calling for change.

Over the past decade, the European Union has ceded ground in Central Asia, not only to Russia and a newly assertive China, but also to the Gulf states and Turkey, and experts forecast its influence is set to further decline. As EU Special Representative Peter Burian once quipped, “China is coming with an offer nobody can refuse, while the EU is coming with an offer nobody can understand.”

April 7, 2020 - Barbara von Ow-Freytag

Who is behind the plot to topple the Latvian parliament?

What started as a justifiable reason for protest was quickly hijacked by a handful of individuals looking to profit from the growing polarisation in Latvian society. A proposal by several anti-establishment political groups on November 14th last year called for the dissolution of the national legislature. It was at that point when it became clear that the groups had started a movement that would cause an unprecedented rift in civil society.

There exists a very common misconception in modern-day Latvian politics that all political conundrums can be solved by the most radical expression of civic action one can find within a democracy. However the idea of a movement pushing towards dissolving the national parliament, which is very popular, is flawed to the core and has the potential to stir up domestic and regional politics to an unprecedented level.

April 7, 2020 - Ričards Umbraško

Kaliningrad’s first million

Although Russia as a whole suffers from a continuous population decrease, Kaliningrad Oblast keeps attracting newcomers. For the first time in its 75 year-long history, the semi-exclave has exceeded one million inhabitants and continues to grow. Yet only the city and its immediate surroundings benefit from this trend.

The Kaliningrad Oblast, which is located on the Baltic Sea between Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east, was built on the ruins of the German province of East Prussia together with its capital city, Königsberg. The majority of its population, mostly ethnic Germans, fled in late 1944 and early 1945 as the Soviet Red Army advanced beyond the borders into pre-war Germany and started to encircle the region. The remaining thousands were resettled by the new authorities at the beginning of the 1950s. The repopulation of the region, now under Soviet control, was gradual and slow. By the beginning of the 1980s, the number of inhabitants in Kaliningrad had reached its pre-war levels.

April 7, 2020 - Miłosz Zieliński

The broken promises of Ukraine’s police reform

Gains of reform are threatened amid an exodus of Ukraine’s revolutionaries from patrol police. And failure to reform the upper echelons of the police could mean a return to the old corrupt and inefficient practices.

When Ukraine introduced a new and radically reimagined patrol police in 2015, Nazar Franchuk was one of the first to sign up. Franchuk, who spent the winter of 2013-2014 splitting his time between university exams and protesting in Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, wanted to bring his revolutionary energy to the new law enforcement body which was intended to replace the country’s notoriously corrupt police force.

April 6, 2020 - Chris G. Collison

The price of power

For the last 25 years the Belarusian society has been living under an authoritarian regime led by Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Even though the Belarusian leader is no longer perceived as the “last dictator in Europe”, he is the post-Soviet leader who has held onto power the longest.

Many of the post-Soviet countries, especially in Eastern Europe, experienced revolutionary moments after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some saw them more than once: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Almost all of these states have tried to implement the difficult, and at times dramatic, process of establishing democracy and getting closer to the European Union and other western structures. In Belarus a fossilised conservative system, which impedes its political and economic development, has been preserved, maintaining the republic in Russia’s sphere and under its influence.

April 6, 2020 - Pavel Usov

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