UARU
Is Ukraine a Priority For the Kremlin in 2017?
6 February, 2017

What you need to know:

✅ Ukraine has become a strong topic since the weekend in Russian state media.
✅ A statement that came from the White House (US) regarding finding some resolution with regards to the Russian-Ukrainian border, obviously some observers had to point out that the conflict isn’t actually on the border.
✅ Belarus: The Kremlin released a comment on its website pointing out how much Belarusians benefit from Russian subsidies.

Hromadske spoke to NPR Moscow correspondent Lucian Kim on February, 5th, 2017 via Skype. 

Nataliya Gumenyuk: With all the recent escalations in eastern Ukraine on the front line, how important is the agenda for the Russia as in Kyiv it is the number one topic, we are curious as to the official Russian reaction. 

Lucian Kim: On the one hand you have the media coverage, what is interesting in the state media Ukraine has become a strong topic since the weekend, and what the state media are still calling a ‘civil war in Ukraine’ the conflict that is continuing is very sensitive because the lifting of sanctions hangs on the outcome or at least a resolution in Donbas. As far as the agenda within the Kremlin I would say Ukraine seems to be quite low and it seems that the Kremlin does not want Donbas to be on any form of agenda, especially on the international agenda, they are preferring to focus on other matters.

Photo credit: Avdiivka, Ukraine, 01/02/2017.

Christian Borys: I saw Oliver Carol saying something interesting on Twitter the other day, he was saying that the media in Russia is attacking the OSCE, but they are not bringing up the issue in Avdiivka, could you elaborate on that at all?

Lucian Kim: What came to the notice of Russian journalists is that are covering this conflict was that the OSCE was on the spot when Ukrainian tanks were seen in Avdiivka, but I am not very familiar with all the specifics with the timings the OSCE made which report. I think there may not have been an immediate reaction, that’s why Ukrainian State media jumped on that particular point. 

Christian Borys: On the topic about Donald Trump, he just had his phone conversation with Poroshenko, what did you make of the wording and the statement that came of that call?

Lucian Kim: What is interesting is the statement that came from the White House regarding finding some resolution with regards to the Russian-Ukrainian border, obviously some observers had to point out that the conflict isn’t actually on the border but further into the interior and especially if you look on a map. Avdiivka is not very close to the Russian-Ukrainian border at all, just looking at the way the Russian state media responded, the main point was that the readout from Ukrainian and US of that phone call, there was no mention of sanctions, but of course the sanctions are between the various countries of the world and Russia and not directly involving Ukraine, so that would not have been a topic at all. This is a very sensitive issue for Russia so that’s probably why they were looking to see if there was any mention of sanctions.

Nataliya Gumenyuk: With regards to the Putin/Trump phone call, there was all sorts of guesses about the relations between the two countries and that Trump would be easier on Putin, but there were a number of statements from The White House about support from Ukraine, how was it seen by the media in Russia, does it make Russians any less confident about the US? 

Lucian Kim: What is noticeable in the Russian state media is in the last few weeks of the Obama administration it did really look like the gloves are off after Putin’s big conference when he criticized the Obama administrations and more or less saying the Democrats were sore losers and that’s why they were going after Russia. Since the inauguration of Donald Trump the feeling has changed completely, although the statement by the new US ambassador to the UN, she did make a strong statement about the situation in Ukraine and Russia’s role in it, there does not appear to be much comment on it, the idea may be let’s wait and see what kind of policy is established.  Let’s wait and see what the new Secretary of state Rex Tillerson deals with Russia and what everyone is expecting is the long awaited meeting between Putin and Trump. 

Photo credit: http://president.gov.by/

Christian Borys: You mentioned that a few people find things confusing, what is happening between Belarus and Russia? What is the view from Moscow?

Lucian Kim: It is really interesting, the president of Belarus spoke out making some very strong statements about Russia, he criticized Russia for going back on its word with regards to imports and blocking cultural products from being exported, and this came in the wake of Belarus loosing visa requirements for 80 countries. So I think that these loosening of visa regime didn’t really sit well with Russia. But was particularly interesting about the Lukashenko comments is that within hours the Kremlin released a comment on its website pointing out how much Belarusians benefit from Russian subsidies.