Thursday

8th Dec 2016

Don't forget Russia in EU talks, Ukraine says

  • View through Ukrainian artillery sight on Russian positions in east Ukraine (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

As leaders meet in Bratislava to try to stop EU fragmentation, Ukraine has highlighted Russia’s role in trying to “shatter” the bloc.

“I strongly believe that every threat you will discuss - ongoing migration waves, large-scale propaganda and misinformation, rising populism and right-wing extremism, undermining of values and instigation of N-exits - are all servants of Russia’s hybrid warfare”, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said in a letter, seen by EUobserver, to EU institutions and capitals on Thursday (15 September).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Poroshenko depicted the war in Ukraine as the front line in defending Europe's post-Cold War order (Photo: president.gov.ua)

“The Kremlin scenario is to shatter the EU’s unity and the trans-Atlantic alliance and to impose an ‘alternative Europe’, based on integration fatigue, national egoism, [and] hatred”, he said.

Russia relations are not on Friday’s agenda, with EU leaders to discuss them at a summit in October instead.

But the Kremlin’s attempts to “weaponise” refugees, in the words of one Nato general, and its financing of far-right, anti-EU parties have shown that Europe’s problems are not just internal.

Russia’s media campaign, on TV and on the internet in almost every EU language, has also fed anti-EU populism.

In Germany, earlier this year, fake Russian news that migrants had raped a girl prompted street protests. In France, last year, journalists exposed Russian loans, worth millions, to the far-right National Front party.

Sanctions

The EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia two years ago due to its invasion of Ukraine.

But in the run-up to the October summit, some EU leaders have said sanctions did not deter Russia or that they impeded diplomatic solutions.

For Poroshenko, Moscow would take EU concessions as a green light to commit more “crimes”.

“Any debates on easing the restrictive measures … are counterproductive and instigate the Kremlin to further violations”, he said in his letter.

He said the sanctions were “a powerful tool” and that they “keep the Kremlin at the negotiating table both in the Minsk process and in the Normandy format”.

The Minsk ceasefire accord says “foreign” troops must leave east Ukraine and that Kiev must devolve power to war-torn regions via local elections.

The Normandy format - meetings in which France and Germany speak for the EU in talks with Ukraine and Russia - authored the Minsk deal.

Minsk sequencing

The EU’s position is that Russia must fully comply with Minsk before it relaxes sanctions.

But EU diplomats said that the October talks could “decouple” sanctions from Minsk, freeing Europe to undertake “selective engagement” with Russia in return for smaller, positive steps.

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, in Kiev on Wednesday, also said Ukraine should move forward on devolution because Russia-controlled fighters had called a truce.

A Ukrainian official, who asked not to be named, told EUobserver there was a risk that the EU could blame Ukraine for Minsk non-compliance, even though it cannot hold elections in Russia-occupied regions until Russian forces pull out.

The official said that if elections went ahead, it could, “paradoxically”, see the EU reward Russia on Minsk progress due to concessions made by Ukraine.

“Only sequencing of the Minsk commitments can provide us with transparent benchmarks and sound guarantees for implementation”, Poroshenko’s letter noted.

The president, who is to attend the EU’s October summit, also warned that Russia used “controlled escalation” to undermine the peace process when it did not go its way.

Escalation

With Russia surging troops toward Ukraine’s borders in summer, that risk of escalation was highlighted in a UN report on Thursday.

“The situation along the contact line remains deeply unstable … there is a real risk that a new outbreak of violence could happen at any time”, the UN’s human rights envoy, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said.

The Ukrainian official said it was a good thing that the French foreign minister, and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, toured the conflict zone on Thursday because it would help them to “understand the reality of Russia’s hybrid war”.

He said the Ukrainian army is better equipped today than it was last year to resist Russian aggression.

Speaking to EUobserver in Brussels last week, Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian MP and former soldier, who regularly visits the front line, said that if Russia invaded Ukraine “It would be very bloody. There would be a brutal reaction by every Ukrainian man and woman. We would fight to the last man”.

“It would be the most pessimistic and drastic situation for Russia’s own existence”, she said.

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

The EU executive says that a statement decribing the former Cuban leader as a "hero for many" is balanced and suggests that the use of the word dictator by a commissioner doesn't reflect its position.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  3. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  5. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  6. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  7. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  8. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  9. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  10. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  11. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  12. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals