REUTERS

Ukrainian interest. Dialectics of annexation, Savchenko’s list, and anticipation of visa-free regime

The international community retains its stance toward the Russian annexation of Crimea, where Russian President Vladimir Putin went on March 18 in a move reminding a criminal’s come-back to a crime scene. "Savchenko’s List" has become a reality. Ukraine is in anticipation of a visa-free regime with the European Union.

REUTERS

Human Rights Watch organization, which is difficult to be suspected of excessive sympathy to the Ukrainian authorities, reported "a pervasive climate of fear and repression" in Russian-occupied Crimea. For the past two years, the peninsula has been turning from a cozy resort into Russia’s "unsinkable aircraft carrier." Moscow continues to defy the international community, which has not recognized the annexation of Crimea. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as well as the European officials reiterated the need to remain consistent in this matter. According to Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine intends to join forces in the struggle for de-occupation of its territory.

Not only has Vladimir Putin visited Crimea, topping the cake of a nationwide Krymnash [Crimea is ours] hysteria, but he also made some loud statements regarding the construction of a bridge to mainland Russia across the Kerch Strait. References to the unrealized plans of the occupation authorities were particularly provocative in the Russian president's speech. I believe it is no coincidence that Putin spoke on the island of Tuzla, which back in late autumn of 2003 had become a stumbling block in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Putin's logic is clear: to continue raising the bid and to ignore the international community's opinion against the background of Russia’s declared military withdrawal from Syria. The Kremlin chief seems to have used all possible methods on proposing the exchange of the recognition of the annexation of Crimea for something useful to the West. But over and over again, he does not get what he wants.

Instead the president handed over to the European officials a "Savchenko list," which contained nearly five dozen Russian citizens involved in the kidnapping and illegal criminal prosecution of the Ukrainian female pilot. The Kremlin has denied the existence of such document, continuing to prepare for sentencing Savchenko in a sham trial. Perhaps even today's crash of FlyDubai airliner near the airport of Rostov-on-Don may be used by the Russian government to filter the stream of Savchenko’s supporters wishing to come to Rostov and be present in the courtroom during the announcement of the verdict.

Meanwhile, the European Union unveiled the principles of its relations with Russia, putting in the first place the implementation of Minsk agreements. However, to date, the only progress in this issue are spot prisoner swaps, which does not influence the overall situation in Donbas. It is unlikely that the self-proclaimed “DPR” decided to issue its "passports" without coordination with its Kremlin supervisors. Such public displays of "independence" are just the tip of the iceberg.

Negotiations in Brussels have given Petro Poroshenko enough confidence to declare that European Commission would as early as April consider the issue of lifting the visa regime for the Ukrainians. This was preceded by the Rada reviewing its mistakes in the law on electronic declaration of income by the officials, as well as a painful process of launching the National Anti-Corruption Agency. It is highly probable that the Schengen area visas will be abolished for the Ukrainian holders of biometric passports in mid-summer, but in this situation it is critically important not to exaggerate the significance of this step. Simplification of travel to the EU is in fact a poor substitute for a real European integration, the goal far more distant for Ukraine.

Yevgeny Magda

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