UD. 25 June 2016.  By Petro Rewko.

Is Russia preparing its next move?

With conflict in the east raging on, the Minsk agreement in tatters and the West reluctant to take further action, is this Putin’s moment to make his next move? 

Reports claim that Russia is allegedly preparing for future confrontation with the West. 

The war that Russia has been waging in Ukraine is only the first phase of a possible conflict with the West and NATO countries in Europe. 

Intelligence agencies in various countries have made the same evaluation saying that many of the measures which Russia has been taking in Ukraine, the Baltic states and other post Soviet countries is a demonstration of Russia’s strength and will to defend her interests by use of all means, including force. 

Large scale operational and combat training, in particular the build up of Russian Forces in the south-western and western areas of Russia and the arrival of further Russian troops in the Donbas Region only help to substantiate such claims. 

If these allegations are true, there is a strong possibility that Ukraine is destined to become involved in an even heavier conflict in the coming months. The West therefore needs to re-engage its focus on President Putin and the conflict in Ukraine which seems to have curve-balled away to other areas of the world either naturally or strategically. 

Savchenko on Arming Ukraine 

Since her release in May, Nadiya Savchenko has been determined to have her opinions heard by as many officials both in Ukraine and the rest of the free world. In her latest statement she insists that arming Ukraine with lethal military aid could trigger a worldwide conflict. Instead, she proposes an increase in personal sanctions against top Russian officials. 

In an interview with Voice of America, Savchenko said:

«Should the West help Ukraine with weapons? It depends on the determination of the Western powers. Giving weapons to Ukraine can lead the world into World War III. If we look at the current situation, it should be a consistent assistance. Firstly, it is economic and political aid with sanctions against Russia. Because the country [Russia] should understand that it did wrong, and such actions should not exist in the modern world. More personal sanctions should be imposed to lessen the suffering of people.» 

She also added that sanctions are beginning to hurt ordinary Russians but the Kremlin is ignoring this with the country’s top official’s turning a blind eye to people’s misery. 

Some of Ukraine’s political and military leaders, and their western counterparts, have called on the U.S. and Europe to arm Ukraine in her fight against Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

With claims of a potential WWIII, what can the West really do to stop Putin’s Russia from reestablishing the once vast dictatorial empire should he (Putin) make such a bold move? 

Some European countries are beginning to look away by seeking to minimise or even remove the currently imposed sanctions by claiming that they are hurting their own respective economies and that Russia is now playing ball with the West. 

The war in eastern Ukraine is still very real and many military personnel and innocent individuals continue to pay the price with their lives. 

We do need a new front of action and diplomatic intervention from the West to resolve a conflict which has lasted unnecessarily far longer than most had expected. Much of this is perhaps due to the lack of firm action to impose the rule of international law on President Putin and the Russian Government. More words and less substance from the West.

Ukrainian Crisis talks

U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland was in Kyiv on Wednesday and, not surprisingly, the issue of implementing the Minsk agreement topped the agenda!

Nuland met with senior Ukrainian officials, including the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy, to discuss the situation in the country’s east, the implementation of the Minsk agreements and bilateral and regional relations, including reform priorities. 

Ukraine has done as much as it can to comply with the agreement but has had to retaliate as a result of increased attack. 

From Kyiv Nuland flew to Moscow to discuss the Donbas crisis with senior Russian government officials and the «next steps to implement the Minsk agreements in support of the Normandy countries and the Trilateral Contact Group».

Once again we have a meeting of words on an agreement that was supposed to have been implemented back in September 2014. 

If both countries involved cannot or even refuse to meet and Nuland has to travel to each country and hold separate meetings, it would seem that little progress has been made. 

With Russia building up its armed forces in Ukraine’s east, where is the proof that Russia has any intention of honouring this or any other agreement? It may sign documents to pacify the West but in reality, it has and is continuing with its own agenda.

Diplomatic negotiations are never easy or straight forward as we all know but when dealing with a leader and government who rewrite the facts to suit their way of thinking and feel they have done as requested and vindicated themselves to the rest of the world it is very difficult for anyone else to advise or inform them that they are wrong and have not done as agreed and requested. 

New Investment

It is always good to report something positive concerning the Ukrainian economy and investment given Ukraine’s fluctuating political instability. A US Company, Bunge, has invested $180million into a new industrial cargo complex at the seaport of Mykolaiv. The project appears to be one of the largest foreign investments into Ukraine’s agriculture sector.

President Poroshenko attended the opening ceremony and on cutting the ribbon stated the investment was evidence of an improving climate. He added that the launch of the complex is a good example of the faith of the investor creating a good economic future for Ukraine. 

The complex will process oilseeds and act as a transhipment centre. Its opening follows several years of growth in Ukraine’s agricultural sector, which has seen Ukraine become the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil and sixth largest grain exporter. 

75th Anniversary

On 22 June Ukraine marked a day of mourning and commemoration of World War II victims. On the same day in 1941, Nazi Germany launched its invasion of the then Soviet Union. The consequences on the Ukrainian nation are still unspeakable. Around 7 million Ukrainians were killed during the war and countless innocent civillians were torn away from their families – most never to see each other again.

To mark the anniversary Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko led a memorial ceremony and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kyiv. 

The Soviet Union’s victory of Nazi Germany has become a key flashpoint in the identity conflict which has gripped Ukraine since the collapse of the USSR. Soviet sympathizers have traditionally adopted a hard line approach towards efforts to rehabilitate Ukrainian independence fighters who fought against both Soviet and Nazi forces during WWII, while for many Ukrainians the conflict remains above all an immense human tragedy.

During WWII, Hitler prioritized the southern flank of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, making Ukraine one of the key battlefields in the global conflict.

Yes, millions of Ukrainians perished while millions more were also shipped to the Third Reich as slave labourers, only to be sent to Soviet Gulag camps after their ‘liberation’ from Nazi captivity.

We are all fully aware of the consequences and ramifications of that time as we hold memories of parents, grandparents and family members being engaged in a conflict not knowing which was the best way to turn.

We have witnessed misguided and sometime slanderous accusations on what happened during those times of conflict with no understanding of the mitigating circumstance that war throws upon a nation and its people. Lets us pray that history does not repeat itself for future generations. 

Ukrainian football

And finally. Shevchenko is odds on favourite to take over as head coach of the Ukrainian National Football Team. Andriy that is! 

With Ukraine’s embarrassing exit from Euro 2016 without scoring a goal or securing a point and Head Coach Fomenko doing the honorary thing and resigning, the country now looks to Lobanovskyi’s star talent Andriy Shevchenko to return some pride back into Ukrainian football. 

Inheriting an ageing team which seems to have shown little fight or passion in in France may turn out to be an uphill challenge, even for the talented and well-liked Shevchenko. 

As a player he was able to bring a touch of class and win a game with a stroke of genius. 

Will he be able to work the same magic as the national team coach? 

With the World Cup qualifiers looming in September and Ukrainian football fans expecting better, Shevchenko will need to turn fortunes around swiftly if Ukraine is to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 where ever they may be held! 

But then again, there is another option – Myron Markevych, the current manager of Dnipro…(?) Over to you, Federatsia Futbolu Ukrayiny!

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