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Analysis and Comment (133)

A woman votes from her hospital bed in Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast. EPA/Sergei Kozlov

Dispatch from Kharkiv: Ukraine votes and steels itself for winter

Ukraine’s snap parliamentary election on October 26 looks set to return a pro-Western parliament to Kiev – setting the country up for a long and tense winter. And while the elections seem to have gone…
Arsenyi Yatsenyuk needs support from other parties if he is to stay as prime minister. EPA/Tatyana Zenkovich

Pro-Western bloc set for majority in elections that expose deep divisions in Ukraine

Ukrainians have voted for a new parliament. The exit polls, in line with earlier predictions, indicate that the Petro Poroshenko Bloc – which also includes the UDAR party of Kiev’s mayor, former boxing…
Signed, sealed, delivered: Ukrainian president Poroshenko. EPA/Sergey Dolzhenko

Restive Ukraine signs EU pact and hands rebels self-rule

On the same day that it finally voted to ratify the EU Association Agreement that helped spark the Euromaidan protests in 2013, Ukraine’s parliament also voted to give self-rule to the rebels holding major…
David Cameron and Anders Fogh Rasmussen have a plan. Luke MacGregor/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Explainer: what’s on the agenda at the NATO summit?

NATO member states are meeting this week in Wales at what could prove a milestone summit. Since the 2012 Chicago meeting, the security landscape has changed dramatically and important questions about NATO’s…
Celtic Manor welcomes careful drivers and diplomatic debaters. Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Press Association Images

An old threat calls for a radical new approach from NATO

World leaders are beginning to converge on Newport in Wales for two days to reflect on NATO’s aims and objectives, ahead of the organisation’s main summit on Thursday and Friday. While in Wales, they’ll…
Yes…but is it war? Inspecting weapons seized in east Ukraine. EPA/Tatyana Zenkovich

Explainer: when does a conflict become a war?

Is the conflict in Ukraine a war? This question has been raised in recent reports about a Russian invasion in Ukraine on the Caspian Sea. The USA and other NATO powers call it an “incursion”; the Baltic…
Compensating their exporters. EPA/Wolfgang Kumm

How the EU is handling Russia’s food import ban

The European Commission has announced emergency EU funding of €125m for fruit and vegetable growers hit by the ban imposed by Russia on imported Western food in retaliation for the West’s own sanctions…
The evidence is out there, waiting to be found. Igor Kovalenko

Here’s how you find out who shot down MH17

More than a month has passed since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed with the loss of all 298 lives on board. But despite the disturbances at the crash site near the small town of Grabovo, near Donetsk…
The United Nations Security Council’s primary responsibility is maintaining international peace and security – a task aided by the veto power. Francois Proulx/Flickr

Don’t be too quick to condemn the UN Security Council power of veto

Recent events in Gaza and Ukraine and the ongoing gridlock in Syria have dominated newspapers and airwaves – and debate in the United Nations Security Council. Despite UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon…
Overdue for reform: UN Security Council. EPA/Jason Szenes

UN Security Council veto is killing people

The conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza and Syria are symptomatic of deeper problems in the international system. If the Security Council were to fulfil its role under the UN Charter, tackling many of these tragic…
Australia’s trade relationship with Russia looked better in 2007. Dean Lewins/AAP

Tough talk but little to lose on Russian trade sanctions

Poke a Russian bear with a stick and he will retaliate. That’s the lesson facing Australian exporters today. When Australia announced it would join the United States and Europe in placing trade sanctions…
The St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is a sign of the city’s former historical significance. matt shalvatis

Historical Kiev, a city ringing with ‘holy, heavenly songs’

A city glistening with the light of holy icons, fragrant with incense, ringing with praise and holy, heavenly songs. These lines referring to the “mother of Russian cities” and the “joy of the world” may…
Isolated by sanctions - but does Putin care? EPA/Mikhail Klimentyev/Ria Novosti

Explainer: how will sanctions against Russia work?

The sanctions against Russia just announced by the EU and the US are widely reported to be the harshest since the end of the Cold War. The package includes cutting off Russia’s state-owned banks from international…
A separatist soldier hands an MH17 black box to a Malaysian delegation. EPA/Robert Ghement

Explainer: what will MH17’s black boxes reveal?

The news that the black boxes from Malaysia Airlines flight M17 has been handed over to Malaysian authorities, will lead to many questions about what information they have to offer. The two recorders have…
America has never apologised for its own passenger plane shooting incident. EPA

History shows US response to MH17 will be all talk, no action

President Barack Obama has declared the apparent shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane over Ukraine is a “terrible tragedy” and warned that “the world is watching”. He has offered full assistance…
Show of hands: the UN Security Council. EPA/Justin Lane

Explainer: international law and flight MH17

As the events surrounding the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine become clearer, more and more voices are claiming the plane may have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern…
Debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Arilines flight MH17, which crashed over the eastern Ukraine. EPA

Black box scuffle could mask the truth about flight MH17

Normally, when a crashed aircraft’s black box is recovered, it can reveal exactly what happened to cause the disaster but in the case of MH17, the political instability between Ukraine and Russia could…
Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have successfully defied the government in Kiev, but will have gravely harmed their cause if they brought down flight MH17. EPA

Q&A: Flight MH17 and the spiralling conflict in Ukraine

The shooting down of flight MH17 has thrust the separatist conflict in Ukraine back into the international spotlight. The Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels have been locked in a military and…
Ukrainian separatist rebels under the banner of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ are reportedly responsible for shooting down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. EPA/Stringer

Ukrainian rebels gain firepower but may have blown their cause

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine represents considerable escalation of the military capabilities of the insurgency based around the “Donetsk People’s Republic”. Although…
Peace Brigade may be a somewhat misleading name for this militia. EPA/Ali Abbas

Modern conflict blurs the line between soldiers and civilians

As I write this, the people of Gaza hopes for an end to the week-long Israeli bombardment which has killed more than 180 Palestinians – many of them civilians have been dashed after Hamas rejected the…
Installations of the main natural gas pipeline in the Boyarka village near Kiev. Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

Russia’s game of chicken with Ukraine leaves Europe on the edge

As with the previous Russia-Ukraine gas disputes in 2006 and 2009, how we describe the current stand-off between the two countries is a matter of semantics. Those earlier disputes found solutions based…
In Warsaw, a newly unveiled memorial puts freedom of speech at the heart of Poland’s liberation from communism. Aleksandra Hadzelek

Liberation of Poland and Eastern Europe all started with a word

“It all started with a word,” said Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski at the opening of a memorial to freedom of speech, “and the word was ‘freedom’“. The event completed three days of commemorations…
Shake? Please? NATO Secretary General Rasmussen (l) visits Romania. EPA/Robert Ghement

Ukraine gives NATO a reason to exist – but big players demur

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), once again saved from potential irrelevance, has come to the fore in the West’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis. In the aftermath of its withdrawal from Afghanistan…
Petro Poroshenko has won a clear first-round victory in Ukraine’s presidential election. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

‘Chocolate King’ Poroshenko wins Ukraine presidency but violence continues

With the outright victory of Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s presidential elections on May 25 now confirmed, hopes are running high for a new beginning that will deliver a swift way out of a protracted crisis…
Who’s going to wage war with China over a rock in the ocean? That is why Beijing feels confident in claiming and building on this disputed reef in the South China Sea. EPA

Ukraine crisis offers lessons in how to handle China’s ambitions

Since the end of the Cold War it has become accepted knowledge that economic ties between the major powers prevent conflict. In a world of globalised production chains and capital flows the general argument…
A World War II tank rumbles onto the streets in Lugansk, Ukraine in preparation for Victory Day. EPA/Igor Kovalenko

Ukraine separatists engaged in high-risk game as they press on with referendum plan

Vladimir Putin’s statements giving qualified support for presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25, calling on separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone their planned referendums and announcing a pull-back…
Russia steps back - but it’s too late for this family. EPA/Roman Pilipey

Russia’s nationalist quest risks future of European borders

Vladimir Putin has called for the postponement of the planned referendum in eastern Ukraine just four days before the vastly pro-Russian provinces were due to vote on secession. The Russian president also…
Perhaps the Quad can do a better job. streetwrk.com

How the EU could help save Ukraine at the eleventh hour

Ukraine is disintegrating before our eyes, with escalating anarchy, civil war and proxy war with Russia, and dozens killed in Odessa on Friday. Acting President Alexander Turchinov officially declared…
Power games unmasked. Pro-Russian protesters gather outside the seized City Hall in in Mariupol, Ukraine. Anastasia Vlasova

Ukraine clashes raise stakes in struggle to control the Donbas

It is the most serious conflagration since armed pro-Russian forces began taking control of official buildings in the Donbas. At least one anti-government protester is believed to have been shot dead by…
Assembling the Nord Stream in 2011. Bair175

Russia, Ukraine, and Europe are tied by gas dependency

The German energy giant RWE has begun to “reverse flow” supplies of gas from Europe back to Ukraine via Poland, a process first arranged in 2012, with an agreement to deliver up to 10 billion cubic metres…
The hanging of Masha. Bruskina on October 26 1941 was the first of the Nazis' many public executions in occupied Russia. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/masha.html

Academics and ‘barbarians’: why one article aroused Russian ire

It’s not easy for Australians to become famous in Russia. It would seem harder still to become a figure of loathing in Russian print and online media. But Associate Professor Timothy Lynch, who teaches…
On the edge. Pro-Russian protesters clash with police in Donetsk. EPA?Roman Pilipey

Ukrainian troops fight to fill east’s dangerous power vacuum

Kiev is fighting to regain control over the eastern region of Ukraine, with troops acting to take back occupied buildings across the Donetsk region. The occupation of government buildings in cities over…
Eastern Europe relies on the network of gas pipelines that runs from Russia through Ukraine and Belarus. EPA/Eustream/AAP

Will the Ukraine crisis open up a new gas market for Australia?

The ongoing standoff between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated Europe’s vulnerability caused by its reliance on Russian gas. The situation has locked the two nations into a dispute over paying for gas…
The protector of “Russians” (wherever they are). Kremlin.ru

How Vladimir Putin has changed the meaning of ‘Russian’

The crisis between Russia and Ukraine reveals how dramatically Vladimir Putin’s nationalism has changed over the past 14 years. After he came to power in 2000, Putin preferred to refer to people in Russia…
Time to point the finger. Viktor Yanukovych speaking with reporters during a press conference in Kiev. Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

The seven grave mistakes that prompted the Ukraine crisis

The situation in Ukraine remains tense, yet the odds are that it will now stabilise. It is unlikely Russia will invade eastern Ukraine, both because it is unclear whether this was in the plans (if such…
The Veneto region, with its picturesque capital Venice, has voted in a referendum for independence from Italy. Matthew Gast/Flickr

Context is critical to European independence referendums

Just as Venice risks disappearing beneath its waters, it is making a remarkable political reappearance. The Venetian Republic existed for more than 1000 years until it came to an end at the hands of Napoleon…
A poster in Kiev’s Independence Square voices fears of another war between Ukrainians and Russians. EPA/Robert Ghement

Ukraine’s ‘forgotten history’ sowed seeds of bitter division

World War Two didn’t end in Ukraine in 1945. After the devastation of German occupation, which left the country in ruins and millions dead, Ukrainian nationalists continued to murder thousands of Jews…
On message: a pro-Russian newspaper in Simferopol, Crimea. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

Ukraine, Kremlin propaganda and the Cold War trap

Facebook can be a confusing place. For the follower of Ukrainian and Russian politics the messages could not be more different. At the same time that “Euromaidan PR” is posting pictures of “Putler” and…
Russia’s economy is more rusty than people realise. Johan Viirok

Crimea exposes Russia’s neglected economic base

No amount of international sanctions will reverse Russia’s takeover of Crimea. But unless Vladimir Putin can now extend his influence over eastern Ukraine, the incomplete triumph could undermine him. If…
Too close for comfort? Narva Bridge on Estonia’s Russian border Hannu

The tiny Estonian town that could spell the end of NATO

The Russian invasion and rapid absorption of the Crimean peninsula might seem like the spark ready to ignite a new Cold War. In fact, given the feeble Western response so far, the more likely outcome is…
Will the global community definitively stigmatise Russia as an international pariah until it renounces the use of force to challenge a UN member’s territorial integrity? EPA/Alexey Nikolsky

What can Australia and the global community do about Russia?

The international community has been impotent since Russia responded to the November 2013 Ukraine crisis with force, culminating in annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea this month. The G7’s…
Trust between Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder helped lubricate the Nord Stream deal. EPA Pool/Yuri Kadobnov

Energy trade between Europe and Russia will depend on trust

Much of the discussion on the current Ukraine crisis concerns European energy security and dependence on Russian gas. The different reactions of EU member states to the Ukraine crisis highlight an underlying…
In post-Soviet Russia, orange and black are the new black. RIA Novosti

World War II symbolism runs deep in Ukraine-Russia standoff

Many of the images of pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine, from Crimea to Donetsk, have shown them wearing black-and-orange-striped ribbons. The symbolism here is opaque to most Western observers, it…
Russia keeps its secrets under its hat, but cyber war’s nothing new. San Diego Shooter/Flickr

Cyber war in Ukraine – business as usual for the Russian bear

In a war – declared or otherwise – bravery and perseverance are not enough. Communications are important. Effectiveness means being able to command your troops and gather information. It also means being…
For the future of Crimea: pro-Russia supporters rally. EPA/Artur Shvarts

Explainer: how can Crimea legally secede from Ukraine?

We believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow…
Ukrainian far-right protesters commemorate the creation of the Ukrainian division of the SS in Lviv in 2011. EPA/Markiian Lyseiko

Far-right party jeopardises Ukraine’s path to democracy

Following days of protest and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s new interim government was announced on 26 February 2014. This is not an ordinary government. Politicians linked to the…
Command and control: Vladimir Putin is calling the shots. EPA/Alexey Druzhinyn/Ria Novosti/Kremlin Pool

On Ukraine, Putin has outfoxed the West at every turn

As talks stall between US and Russia in the ongoing crisis over Ukraine, Russia – written off by so many just two weeks ago as “humiliated” and “at a loss” – now appears to be in control of the situation…
Laying flowers in Kiev. EPA/Sergey Dolzhenko

Ukraine faces a nerve-jangling week of ‘red lines’

Having given himself the authority to invade Ukraine, Russian president Vladimir Putin is now pushing right up against the red lines, if he has not already overstepped them. This is the point at which…
Tired: all sides are hoping for an end to violence in Ukraine. Ilya Varlamov

Russia or EU? Ukraine torn by the horns of a dilemma

Ukraine’s problems have come to a head over the past week as the violence has escalated in Kiev and other major cities. When security forces began using live ammunition against protesters in Independence…
Don’t make a fuss: the Ukrainian women’s ski relay team celebrate their win at Sochi. Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

IOC rules at Sochi go too far with ban on black armbands

During the Sochi Games, much has been written about “ambush marketing”, and its applications at, and around, the Olympics. At Sochi2014, there have already been many examples of non-sponsors exploiting…
A protester plays the piano atop a burned-out bus in Kiev. Ввласенко

How could the EU do more for Ukraine?

When in Kiev recently I asked many Ukrainians how they thought the raging political and now violent conflict would end. All said they had no idea, but one of them said he had eight scenarios, which included…
From orange to blue and yellow: Ukraine’s protesters fly the EU flag front and centre. AP

Ukraine’s opposition needs help from Europe’s 89 generation

I will never forget the 12 hours I spent in the Ukrainian women’s prison in Kharkiv. Never in my life have I seen such misery or degrading treatment of prisoners, Nor will I forget my brief conversation…
If not you, then who? mac_ivan

Dreams of a new Europe dashed in Ukraine

Mass protests in Ukraine have come one week shy of the 22nd anniversary of the USSR being signed into obsolescence. Ukrainians are protesting against a decision made by their government that will make…

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