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Olena Starik

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Kalmyks attend the unveiling ceremony of a Buddha statue
Geopolitics

Fall Of The Empire? Ethnic Separatism On The Rise In Russia

Far from being a unified state, Russia is full of federal subjects — many of which have spawned separatist movements. Moscow, far from Siberia or the Caucasus and focused on Ukraine, is finding it harder to contain them.

They began to show up more and more in 2019: people were displaying symbols of separatism at protests in different regions of Russia. One example that marked this movement were the flags of the Ural People's Republic at protests during the spring of 2019 against the construction of a temple in Yekaterinburg, the industrial city in the Ural mountains 1,100 miles east of Moscow.

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Photo of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron stand in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on May 9
Geopolitics

Why Macron's New EU Membership Scheme Is All About Appeasing Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a new European Political Community, with support from Germany's Olaf Scholz, that would include Ukraine in a second-tier union. No, this is not about European "core values" — it's just the latest attempt by the EU's two biggest players to be sure not to upset Vladimir Putin.

-OpEd-

KYIV — French President Emmanuel Macron said that Ukraine's accession to the European Union will take years, if not decades. He also proposed the creation of a new union on the continent — the European Political Community, which may include countries that must wait to join the EU, or which have left (like the UK).

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At the same time, according to Macron's plan, joining the new union will mean other states cannot gain membership to the European Union.

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Photo of a man walking past destroyed houses in Irpin
Society

Beyond Post-Soviet: Ukraine's Architectural Opportunity From The Rubble Of War

The war rages on, but some in Ukraine are already looking to how society can be rebuilt. Two Ukrainian architects share their vision for what a future Ukrainian urbanism — and society — might look like.

KHARKIV — Russian bombings have already destroyed thousands of Ukrainian houses, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The war is still far from over, so we know the losses will only increase. And yet, we must use the time before victory arrives to plan for the rebuilding of our cities.

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This viewpoint is shared by Iryna Matsevko and Oleg Drozdov, heads of the Kharkiv School of Architecture, one of the few Ukrainian universities recognized internationally as meeting the highest standards in the field. The architects share their opinion that not just Ukrainian houses should be restored — so too should Ukrainian society.

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​Photo of a man withdrawing Russian rubles
Geopolitics

How Sanctions Are Quietly Destroying Russia's Economy

The European Union has prepared the sixth package of sanctions against Russia, which includes restrictions on Russian oil imports, as well as disconnecting more Russian banks from the SWIFT bank circuit. The effectiveness of these measures are not always visible, but they are real ... and potentially fatal .. for the Russian economy.

-Analysis-

KYIV — Are sanctions working? To answer that question, it makes sense to first ask which sanctions have been most effective so far?

Economic sanctions against Russia for its aggression toward Ukraine began to be imposed immediately after the 2014 occupation of Crimea and the outbreak of the war in Donbas, but those cannot be considered effective. In any case, they did not deter Moscow’s invasion in 2022.

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But the sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union and their allies since February 24 have already hit the aggressor's economy significantly. The blocking of Russia's foreign exchange assets abroad has become the most painful. According to various estimates, this has affected about half of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, worth around $300 billion.

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Old man and a Ukrainian soldier.
Geopolitics

In The Shadow Of Chernobyl, Ivankiv Now Recovers From Russian Army Disaster

Humanitarians and the Ukrainian army are offering assistance to the inhabitants of Ivankiv and its surroundings after they suffered bombings and occupation from the Russian troops in the early stages of the invasion.

IVANKIV — This town not far from the Chernobyl nuclear zone was attacked in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some of the heaviest battles took place here, as Russian troops sought to break through on the way to the would-be conquest of Kyiv

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The former district center and surrounding villages were finally liberated on April 1, by which time, residents had been under a complete blockade — without electricity, food or medicine.

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Photo of a woman walking past destroyed buildings in Borodyanka near Kyiv
Economy

Rebuilding Ukraine: Lessons From Nations That Rose From The Ashes Of War

After two months of war, experts in Ukraine are starting to consider what plan could work to restore the local infrastructure and economy, looking at the experience of Germany, Japan and Italy — countries that went down in history for their economic miracles after being destroyed by war.

-Analysis-

KYIV — World history has many examples of post-war reconstruction. Since the end of World War II, there have been more than 30 major wars and more than 250 military conflicts in the world, involving at least 60 countries.

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But even with such a seemingly large sample, successful examples of recovery can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Each is unique and depends on many factors — from the banal availability of natural resources to the coincidence of circumstances in the region.

The case of Ukraine is unique. Our level of economic development, the presence of established state institutions and legitimate authorities, well-established production processes, and the stability of the financial system make the prospects for Ukraine's recovery significantly different from those of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Angola. Our country is closer to the examples of Europe, as well as some Asian countries after 1945.

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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to journalists.
Germany

Why German President Steinmeier Will Never Be Welcome In Kyiv

Why was German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier disinvited to the Ukrainian capital? The case is being used by the German elite for their own benefit, or rather, for Russia, whose economic and political treasures in Europe are guarded by the same Steinmeier.

-OpEd-

KYIV — The German ruling elite was indignant that Ukraine did not give permission to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, along with the heads of state of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, to visit Kyiv.

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Der Spiegel magazine reported that the Office of the President of Germany negotiated with the Ukrainian side for a long time, reaching an agreement, but then the Office of the President of Ukraine stopped answering calls and suspended any talks on Steinmeier's visit as part of the trip of Eastern European leaders to Ukraine.

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Photo of Ukrainian soldier standing near a destroyed bridge.
Geopolitics

Blitzkrieg To Salami Tactics: A Closer Look At Russia's Pivot To The East

Vladimir Putin's original plans for conquest of Ukraine have not changed. By pulling back from Kyiv and flirting with negotiations, he is trying to buy time to reorganize for a longer war that require Ukrainian forces to hold their ground in the eastern Donbas region.

-Analysis-

KYIV — Be clear: It is too early to talk about peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said Moscow is preparing its reaction to the peace treaty proposal presented by Ukraine. It is pointless to discuss the Ukrainian version of the proposals now, which would be subject in any case to significant adjustments.

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Moreover, the invading army will try to occupy as many southeastern territories of Ukraine as possible, destroy strategically important objects of Ukrainian infrastructure. So it is too early to talk about a peace deal because it is the Russian leadership that isn't ready to talk about it seriously yet.

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The Eternal Russian Art Of Isolation
Ideas

The Eternal Russian Art Of Isolation

Like from a Pushkin tale, Soviet embargo, or even a COVID lockdown, Russia is at home when it is proudly or despondently cut off from the external world. And after a post-Soviet pause of opening up, here we are again, says Russian writer Yury Saprykin.

-Essay-

MOSCOW — Our current state is ultimately more the norm than the exception: it's only taken a few days to return to this phase, now it seems that life simply took its natural position. Like the hero of a Russian novel, who overcame apathy and suddenly rushed somewhere, chased an unrealizable dream, only to immediately lose his strength and collapse on the old sofa.

This impulse took 30 or so years, which is not a long time for a Russian novel.

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Thirty years, though not a very long life is enough to witness the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of a new one. Old-timers have something to remember: “hostile voices” on a shortwave radio, the concept of “contacts with foreigners,” imported jeans bought from speculators, a bottle of French cognac from a “traveling” colleague.

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China May Be Set To Turn Against Russia For Its Epic Miscalculation In Ukraine
Geopolitics

China May Be Set To Turn Against Russia For Its Epic Miscalculation In Ukraine

China did not expect a protracted and bloody war in Ukraine, which is causing global upheaval and thus major problems for Beijing's interests. There are growing signs that the Chinese government's policy of "strategic neutrality" is reaching its limit.

-Analysis-

KYIV — China's neutral stance on the war in Ukraine looks to many like tacit support for Russia's behavior. Before the invasion and in its early days, statements by the Chinese Foreign Ministry contained pro-Russian hints about NATO as a vestige of the Cold War, “indivisibility of security,” “understanding of Russia’s legitimate concerns about its security,” and non-acceptance of the “unilateral use of sanctions” by Western countries.

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However, a certain distance from the situation remained in other statements (“respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries”) and attempts were made to avoid political or economic involvement (a call to resolve the “conflict” by dialogue and negotiations).

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File photo of a solider near a tank as part of File photo of a joint Russia-Belarus military exercise in Naro Fominsk
Geopolitics

Yanukovych And A New "Little Russia": Putin's Final Plan For Ukraine

Putin says he wants to "denazify" Ukraine, but his true goal is bringing the country back into Russia's sphere of influence as part of an all-Russian nation. To achieve that, he will try to turn it into a second Belarus, with a puppet ruler who has a familiar face.

-Analysis-

KYIV — An article recently appeared on Ria Novosti, Russia’s main state online news agency with the headline: "Russia is restoring its historical fullness, bringing together the Russian land and the All-Russian nation — Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians." The article said stopping the “disintegration of Russian lands” should be the first step towards restoring the effective rule of the USSR.

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Even now, three decades later, its collapse remains a tragedy for Vladimir Putin. He believes that "Little Russia"— that is, Ukraine — must be led by a Russian puppet like the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

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And Russia's Interests? No Good Scenario From Ukraine Invasion
Geopolitics

And Russia's Interests? No Good Scenario From Ukraine Invasion

A top analyst at one of Moscow's most prestigious research institutes comes down clear and strong: Russia's military invasion of Ukraine will leave the country isolated on the world stage, with grave consequences for the country's future.

-OpEd-

MOSCOW — The military operation in Ukraine poses long-term challenges for Russia.

Sanctions and other measures may appear to be a temporary outburst of indignation, but one should be under no illusions. If the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives once started and immediately paused do not lead to substantive agreements — and such an outcome is highly likely — pressure on Russia may continue for at least as long as Russian military forces remain in Ukraine.

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Having launched an operation in Ukraine, Russia went all in, challenging the country's development goals that Russian ministries and research centers worked so hard to achieve. The business people and investors who came to Russia in the old reality had completely different plans for the future, which are unlikely to be adapted to the new reality. Few and infrequently will want, and indeed can, travel between Russia and the West over the closed airspace.

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