Ukrainian interest. Putin's tricks, tireless Volker and cold shower from Mingarelli
The Russian president demonstrated an arsenal of various moves to maintain the image of the "great and terrible." Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin quoted Ukrainian film maker Oleh Sentsov, who went on hunger strike in a Russian prison. U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker was persistently promoting a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbas. On the eve of Europe Day in Ukraine, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli disclosed several unpleasant facts for Ukraine.
After his inauguration, Russian President Vladimir Putin is working from his resort residence in Sochi. Here, he met with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, who assured of being interested in a new impetus in bilateral relations. In Sochi, Putin also held talks with Syria's Bashar al-Assad, confirming that he continues to be the political patron of the Syrian president.
The opening of a bridge across the Kerch Strait to link mainland Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea should be seen as an example of a publicity stunt at the state level: Putin was driving a Kamaz truck in person to open traffic. The construction of the bridge has cost EUR 4.5 billion, but engineers cannot give any estimates of how long it will be in operation in future. This transport artery will have propagandistic value during the holiday season, but after it is over, the bridge will draw much less media interest, although the Kremlin has certainly an "espionage-related version" up its sleeve in case of a possible collapse.
The climax of Putin's activity in Sochi was his meeting with Angela Merkel, who has been there for the second consecutive year for talks with the Kremlin's master. It is difficult to say what is more important for the Russian president: the readiness of the German chancellor to continue the construction of Nord Stream 2, albeit with the condition to preserve the status of Ukraine as a transit state, or her readiness to discuss with Petro Poroshenko the fate of Russian propagandist Kirill Vyshinsky, who was arrested in Kyiv this week. By promoting the Vyshinsky case, the Kremlin is trying to neutralize the world's attention to an indefinite hunger strike announced by Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov demanding the release of Ukrainian political prisoners from Russian prisons.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin began his speech at a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe quoting Ukrainian citizen Oleh Sentsov, having reminded that over 60 Ukrainians had become political prisoners in Russia. Our country urgently needs the #FreeSentsov information campaign, which can influence the future of the citizen and film director. Klimkin also called on the citizens of Ukraine to boycott the World Cup in Russia.
U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker has visited Ukraine for the sixth time in the last 10 months. His position remains unchanged: he emphasizes Russia's responsibility for fueling the conflict in the east of Ukraine, urges it to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian territory and emphasizes that the United States keeps the doors open for talks with the Kremlin. Frankly speaking, it is unclear why Volker's statement of facts – about Ukraine's inability to return the occupied areas and Russia's misunderstanding of what to do with them – has blown up the information space. Probably, we should not expect a miracle from Kurt Volker, but we need to appreciate the strengthening of his public position toward Russia.
On the eve of Europe Day in Ukraine, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli said the image of our country in the European Union leaves much to be desired, and many EU members do not want to quarrel with Russia over Ukraine. He also predicts that the approach of election campaigns will lead to attempts to discredit the European integration of our country. However, this did not prevent the EU from supporting the Ukrainian government in launching the information campaign "Eurointegration: the Power of Opportunities." It's worth adequately taking Mingarelli's words and addressing the weaknesses of our country's image in the EU, while stopping positioning itself only as a victim of Russian hybrid aggression.
Yevgeny Magda is a fellow at the Institute of World Policy