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22 November, 2021

Digest of Ukrainian news: 15.11 – 21.11.2021

The world through the prism of Ukrainian interests

Trends

  •   Foreign policy and international agenda

    The main events of last week in the context of Ukraine’s foreign policy were related to theEuropean Union.

    The Foreign Ministers of the Associated Trio will work together to transform the Eastern Partnership into an instrument of European integration. Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are in favour of differentiating relations with the EU in the framework of the neighbourhood policy on the principle "those who do and want more should get more."

    During its presidency of the Danube Strategy of the EU, Ukraine will focus on the decarbonisation and transformation of the economy, as well as on the development of human capital and labour markets.

    The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky proposed to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen several solutions to stop the energy crisis in Europe and prevent its development. In particular, the Ukrainian leader stated that the state was ready to reduce the price of gas transit to Europe through its territory. 

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    •   Domestic policy

      The main events in Ukraine over the past week traditionally concerned COVID-19, as well as the publication of new details of the operation to detain Wagner militants and the arrest of one of the leaders of the anti-vaccination movement in the country.

      Ukraine has reached the plateau of the current wave of the COVID-19 epidemic. According to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, this is evidenced by the stabilization of the main incidence rates in the country. He also said that the figure of occupied beds in Ukrainian hospitals began to decline.

      An international team of journalists Bellingcat published an investigation about the operation by Ukrainian security services to detain militants from Russia's private military company Wagner. Among them were people who may be involved in war crimes in Donbas. According to Belingcat, the operation was not fully implemented due to the fact that the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak influenced the decision to postpone it for a week.

      The court arrested Ostap Stakhiv, one of the leaders of the "anti-vaccination movement" in Ukraine. He is accused of overthrowing the constitutional order in the state. Earlier, the Security Service of Ukraine announced that it had identified and blocked a network of organizations that, under the slogans of resistance to vaccination, sought to destabilize the socio-political situation in Ukraine.

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      •   Security

        The domain of security was among the most fruitful last week. Developments regardingNord Stream 2, Ukraine’s participation in an international security forum and multinationalmilitary exercises were the most significant news as of 15-21 November 2021.

        First of all, Ukraine has joined the certification process for Nord Stream 2. The German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) approved an application of the Naftogaz to join the certification of the given gas pipeline. Also, the European Commission is ready to consult with Ukraine on its decision over a BNetzA draft conclusion concerning certification of the pipeline.

        At the same time, Ukraine is participating in the tabletop exercise “Maple Arch 2021” inGeorgia to enhance its interoperability with NATO. In addition, representatives of the Ministry of Defence and the State Service of Communication and Information Protection took part for the first time in NATO cyber security exercise “Cyber Flag 2021”. Moreover,in 2022 Ukraine will participate in NATO maritime exercise “Dynamic Move 2022”. So,Ukraine-NATO cooperation is on a rise.

        Moreover, a Ukrainian delegation participated in the ХХІІ Halifax International SecurityForum where it informed the international community about the security situation regarding Ukraine. One of the most discussed topics in the context of Ukraine was about prospects of its possible participation in the EU permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) initiative.

        Also, the situation in Donbas remains stable with 52 ceasefire violations on the part of pro- Russian militants. As a result of these violations, 6 Ukrainian soldiers were injured and 1 was killed.

      •   Bilateral relations

        The bilateral sphere of Ukraine’s foreign policy was quite fruitful last week. One of themost active tracks included Ukraine-Great Britain, Ukraine-US as well as Ukraine- Suriname. At the same time, Ukraine-Bulgaria relations witnessed some negative developments.

        The interactions with Great Britain and the US were focused mostly on security and defence issues. For instance, the British delegation headed by Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace conducted a working visit to Ukraine on 16 November where it had meetings with Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. Afterward, on 18-19 November, Oleksii Reznikov carried out his first working visit to the US as a newly appointed Defence Minister. The meetings with US counterparts were introductory with sharing common concerns regarding the security situation near borders between Ukraine and Russia as well as the current migrant crisis at the Belarusian-Polish frontier.

        At the same time, Ukraine-Suriname relations witnessed some development with the first- ever contact between Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries. In addition, Ukraine and Suriname shared their common prospects of furthering their relations by developing trade in the spheres of agriculture, chemical industry as well as IT.

      • Meanwhile, Ukraine-Bulgaria relations were marked with some tension after the words of Rumen Radev, the President of Bulgaria, that Crimea is Russian now. According to Dmytro Kuleba, this statement dealt a blow to friendly relations between the two countries.

         

        Foreign policy and international agenda

        The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Associated Trio will work together to transform the Eastern Partnership into an instrument of European integration. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are in favour of differentiating relations with the EU in the framework of the neighbourhood policy on the principle "those who do and want more should get more." This was stated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba after a meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and Moldova.

        The discussion took place during a meeting on the forthcoming Eastern Partnership summit between the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Vargei and the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. During it, Dmytro Kuleba outlined the Ukrainian vision of strategic directions of the neighbourhood policy: trade development, strengthening security, including energy security, implementation of the European green course, integration into the European digital single market.

        During its presidency of the Danube Strategy of the EU, Ukraine will focus on the decarbonisation and transformation of the economy, as well as on the development of human capital and labour markets. This has been stated in the Program of the country's presidency in the initiative, which was presented on November 15. Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishina said that one of the main tools for implementing the chairmanship plan in the Danube Strategy would be the implementation of projects in Ukrainian regions. She also said that Ukraine seeks to expand the initiative to Khmelnytsky, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Ternopil, and Vinnytsia regions.

        The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky proposed to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen several solutions stop the energy crisis in Europe and prevent its development. The head of state and the European institution spoke about this during a telephone call. Thus, Volodymyr Zelensky stated that his state was ready to reduce the price of gas transit to Europe through its territory. He also reaffirmed readiness to provide Ukrainian storage facilities for the storage of strategic fuel reserves. Finally, the parties discussed the possibility of creating a regional platform to strengthen energy security.

        Domestic Policy

        Ukraine has reached the plateau of the current wave of the COVID-19 epidemic. This wasannounced last week by the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal. According to him, the main incidence rates in the country have stabilized: over the past week, almost 140 thousand new cases were detected, and before that – 152 thousand. The number of occupied beds in hospitals also decreased: from 51.7 thousand to 50.9 thousand. At the same time, last week the number of regions of Ukraine with the highest level of epidemic danger increased to 19 (including Kyiv) – a "red" level was established in the Vinnytsia region. However, Denys Shmyhal said that the highest restrictions may soon be lifted from Kherson and Luhansk regions. At the same time, the rate of vaccination against COVID-19 in Ukraine has decreased significantly: last week more than 600 thousand people received the first dose of the vaccine, and the previous week – more than 800 thousand. The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi stated that vaccinated citizens soon would be able to receive a monetary reward – 1,000 hryvnias for services or goods in the domain of culture or sports.

        An international team of journalists Bellingcat published an investigation about an operation by Ukrainian security services to detain militants from Russia's private military company Wagner. Among them were people who may be involved in war crimes in Donbas. According to Belingcat, the operation was not fully implemented due to the fact that the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak influenced the decision to postpone it for a week. During this time, a truce between Ukraine and Russia was to begin in the Donbas. Eventually, Wagner's militants were detained in Belarus, from where Alexander Lukashenko's regime handed them over to Russia.

        Later, journalist Yanina Sokolova published a report by the former head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Vasyl Burba, which confirms the fact of the operation. Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the President's Office, called the journalist's decision incorrect, as it was a matter of publishing details of the intelligence work of the country at war. Later, in a public speech, Vasyl Burba stated that Andriy Yermak had instructed to postpone the operation to detain the militants on behalf of Volodymyr Zelensky.

        The court arrested Ostap Stakhiv, one of the leaders of the "anti-vaccination movement" in Ukraine. He is accused of overthrowing the constitutional order in the state. Earlier, the Security Service of Ukraine announced that it had identified and blocked a network of organisations that, under the slogans of resistance to vaccination, sought to destabilize the socio- political situation in Ukraine. During the searches of its participants, evidence was found that may indicate the influence of the Russian Federation on the activities of this network. According to Ukrayinska Pravda, Ostap Stakhiv was one of its leaders.

        Security

        Ukraine’s participation in the certification process for Nord Stream 2: The German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) approved an application of the Naftogaz of Ukraine to participate in the certification process for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on 15 November 2021. "We welcome BNetzA’s decision to accept Naftogaz’s petition to intervene in the certification of the Nord Stream2 operator. Our view remains the same: the Nord Stream 2 pipeline operator cannot be certified unless it complies with all requirements of EU competition and energy law. There can be no special treatment for Gazprom”, said Naftogaz CEO Yuriy Vitrenko.

        "Naftogaz’s engagement in the certification of Nord Stream-2 AG operator will ensure greater transparency as Gazprom will need to provide arguments that the Nord Stream 2 “complies”with German and European legislation.

        In addition, during a meeting between Herman Halushchenko, the Minister of Energy of Ukraine, and Kadri Simmons, the European Commissioner for Energy, the later told her Ukrainian counterpart that the European Commission was ready to consult with Ukraine in the process of preparing its decision over a BNetzA draft conclusion regarding the certification of the Nord Stream 2.

        Let us recall that

        Military exercises: Ukraine is taking part in the tabletop exercises “Maple Arch 2021” (14-28 November 2021). These are annual multinational exercises aimed at fostering international military relations. Their goal is to enhance interoperability among NATO member states and deepen their relations with partner countries as well as bringing the latter closer to NATO military standards.

        Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Turkey, and Canada partake in the exercises while Georgian is hosting them at the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center.

        Let us recall that “Maple Arch” is an annual exercise held since 1999 with the assistance of the government of Canada.

        In addition, representatives of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and of the State Service of the Special Communication and Information Protection took part for the first time in a cyber exercise“Cyber Flag 2021” (18-19 November 2021) carried out in the US.

        “Cyber Flag” is a system of collective defence in cyberspace created with a view to building a community of allies and partners to improve the ability to detect, synchronize and jointly respond to simulated malicious actions in cyberspace targeting critical infrastructure and key resources.Canada, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Estonia are among the participants too. Thus, Ukraine’s joining the “Cyber Flag” exercise indicates better and deeper cooperation with NATO in thedomain of cyber security.

        Furthermore, Ukraine will be involved in NATO maritime tabletop exercise “Dynamic Move 2022”(31 January- 8 February 2022) that is to be held in Ostend, Belgium.

        Halifax International Security Forum: The Ukrainian delegation headed by Oleskiy Danilov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, took part in the ХХІІ Halifax InternationalSecurity Forum (18-21 November 2021). The delegation informed the world community about the security situation in Ukraine and around our country. Ukrainian delegates had meetings with representatives of CanadaGermanythe US, and the Netherlands. One of the main topics fordiscussion was Ukraine’s prospects to join the EU defence initiative PESCO (the permanent structured cooperation).

        Let us recall that the given Forum is one of the biggest platforms to discuss international security issues on the part of representatives of defence and foreign affairs bodies. More than 300 delegates from 70 countries were present at the Forum.

        Ceasefire regime in Donbas: According to the Joint Operation Forces reports, pro-Russian militants violated the cease-fire regime 52 times as of 15-21 November. As a result of the violations, 6 Ukrainian soldiers were injured and 1 was killed.

         

        Bilateral relations

        Ukraine-Great Britain: The British delegation headed by Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace conducted a working visit to Ukraine on 16 November. The delegation had meetings with Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. The meetings were mostly focused on security and defence issues with special attention to the development of the Ukrainian Navy. "The United Kingdom has become our key partner in building the Ukrainian fleet. I expect that future security projects planned under this agreement will be effectively implemented", highlighted Volodymyr Zelensky.

        In addition, Oleksii Reznikov and Ben Wallace issued a joint statement. “The United Kingdomstands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and will continue its long-standing determination to support them”, the statement reads.

        Ukraine-US relations: The monitoring week was marked with numerous meetings on the part of newly appointed Minister of Defence of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov. The first meeting within bilateral cooperation with the US was held with Kristina Kvien, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., where thecounterparts agreed to further bilateral defence cooperation.

        Furthermore, the Ukrainian Defence Minister conducted a working visit to Washington on 18-19 November 2021. Oleksii Reznikov had meetings with Jim Inhofe, the US Senator (R-Okla.), Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, and Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs. "We remain committed to supporting Ukraine in its efforts to implement deep and comprehensive defense sector reforms"stressed Lloyd Austin. Also, Mr. Reznikov noted“Our common task is to do everything possible to make the losses from possible escalation increasingly unacceptable to the aggressor. This requires the completion of reforms, consistency, resources and the involvement of strategic partners”.

        Ukraine-Bulgaria relations: Rumen Radev, the president of Bulgaria, said during a presidential debate that Crimea belonged to Russia now. Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine commented“words of the current Bulgarian president do not contribute to the development ofgood neighborly relations between Ukraine and Bulgaria and are sharply dissonant with Sofia's official position on supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within itsinternationally recognized borders”. Later the President of Bulgaria reiterated his words about“Russian” Crimea and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba replied that Mr.Radev’s words had dealt a blow to friendly Ukrainian-Bulgarian relations.

        Ukraine-Suriname relations: Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, held a telephone conversation with Albert Radmin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Suriname. It was the first high-profile contact between the two countries.
        The counterparts focused on interactions within the United Nations and trade issues, particularly in the spheres of IT, agriculture, and the chemical industry.

         

        Foreign Policy Council" "Ukrainian Prism"


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