Ukrainian interest. Reappointed Putin, encouraging Czaputowicz, and Szijjarto breaking bad
Putin became Russia's president for the fourth time. Even after Brexit, EU states have not lost confidence in London's position. Hungarian foreign minister has crossed the line. The political struggle French foreign minister visited Kyiv. Poland's Jacek Chaputowicz reiterated his country's interest in a democratic and sovereign Ukraine.
Putin's re-election went rather smoothly. Perhaps, only his 77% popular support has somewhat surprised western and few independent Russian journalists. The meeting of the "reappointed" leader with his former opponents was really awkward while, the recent public debate between Alexei Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak showed that there is no reason to count on any democratization in Russia. Many heads of state, government, and international organizations congratulated Putin upon his victory. While Emmanuel Macron recalled international problems where the "Russia factor" is evident, Donald Trump made a phone call seemingly willing to show his personal independence. At the same time, the civilized world did not recognize the results of the elections held in the occupied Crimea.
However, the current stage of Russia-West relations is anything but a honeymoon. The spy poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent on British soil has made London's stance significantly harsher. Theresa May might intend to become a new "iron lady" and has already tried to convince her EU counterparts to take a tougher stand toward the Kremlin. It is quite possible that the expulsion of Russian spies with diplomatic status from EU countries will have a domino effect. Head of the EU Council Donald Tusk has already announced new sanctions against Russia.
Interestingly, in their attempts to clear themselves of poisoning accusations, Russia also managed to get into a fight with the Czech Republic, traditionally moderate in its relations with the Kremlin. And now PM Andrej Babis does not rule out parting with Russian spies. In the meantime, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has fully switched to the pre-election campaign mode. It is hard to find any other reasons for the Hungarian top diplomat's new claims toward Ukraine. Now, besides the "peculiar interpretation" of the decisions of the Venice Commission regarding the Ukrainian education law, he expressed outrage over Ukraine's intentions to deploy an army battalion in Zakarpattia's Berehove. There is hope though that once the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 8 are over, the tone of the statements of Hungarian officials will change for the better.
The struggle is continuing around the Nord Stream-2 project. Germany and Austria insist on the exclusively economic nature of the gas pipeline project, which not all in the EU and U.S. believe. The European Parliament's profile committee decided to extend the rules of the EU's internal gas market to the ambitious Russian project (and other similar ones). It is interesting that the U.S. position is becoming increasingly harsh as Washington starts threatening with sanctions any companies taking part in the Nord Stream-2 construction. Due to the current situation, it's only Gazprom that continues promoting the project. Incidentally, the Russian energy giant will have to negotiate gas transit via Ukraine even after 2019 when the existing contracts expire.
Donald Trump replaced his national security adviser. No one really succeeds in remaining for a long time in the immediate entourage of the impulsive president, but this particular replacement may lead to Washington beefing up its position on many international issues as a former military officer H.R. McMaster was replaced by a typical "hawk" and career diplomat John Bolton.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian visited the capital of Ukraine, confirming his country's commitment to strive for the implementation of Minsk agreements. Together with Ukrainian and German colleagues, the chief of French diplomacy will visit Donbas in the near future. While in Kyiv, he met with the former hostages released from the militant captivity to hear about the situation in the occupied territories from first-hand accounts.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, while speaking in the Polish parliament, did not dare to call Ukraine-Poland relations a "strategic partnership", at the same time noting Warsaw's interest in the "independent and stable Ukraine". The primary objective in bilateral relations is to reduce the amplitude of the "swings" in the dialogue between Ukraine and Poland and to expand the space and topics for discussion.