Putin's Wars in Eastern Europe: Post-Crimean Reality

On 19 March, 2019 in Kyiv, Centre for Global Studies Strategy XXI in cooperation with V.I.Vernadskii Taurida National University with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Ukraine Office organized the international conference "Putin's Wars in Eastern Europe: Post-Crimean Reality". The consequences of Russian occupation of Crimea and Russia's aggression against Ukraine for European security, the current situation in Eastern Europe and new hybrid threats for the countries of the region, as well as possible ways to counter the Russian hybrid war, were discussed by the participants during the discussion.

The discussion was opened by the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Hanna Hopko, the Principal of the V.I. Vernaskii Taurida National University Vladimir Kazarin, Head of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Office in Ukraine Gabriele Baumann and President of the Centre for Global Stutudies "Strategy XXI" Mykhailo Gonchar.

Hanna Hopko noted the importance of predicting Russia's next actions against Ukraine and in Eastern Europe. She focused her speech on the issue of the danger of the construction of the Nord Stream 2, and emphasized the importance of preserving the European and Euro-Atlantic course of Ukraine after this year's elections. She summed up her statement with the following words: "Fighting for return of Donbas and Crimea, we fight for European security architecture."

Volodymyr Kazarin drew attention to Russia's aggressive policy with regard to the occupied Crimea and President Vladimir Putin’s speech on March 18 in occupied Simferopol. Mr Kazarin expressed confidence that Crimea will return to Ukraine, so everyone needs to make a lot of effort to make it come true.

Gabriele Baumann noted that Germany underestimates the general picture and geopolitical threat that comes from Russia, since the German politician is still largely benevolent towards Russia, and many politicians, especially the elderly ones, are still captive in the thinking of the era of Gorbachev and Putin's beginning 2000s.  Meanwhile, according to her, the Russian attack against Ukrainian ships in November 2018 made Europe look at Russia's policy in a different way.

Mykhailo Gonchar presented the analytical note "EU-Ukraine Cooperation on Combating Hybrid Threats in the Cyberspace" prepared by the Centre for Global Studies "Strategy XXI" with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Office in Ukraine. He emphasized that Russia is continuing the policy of "collecting land, and analyzed the latest messages of the assistant to the Russian President V. Surkov and the Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation V. Gerasimov compared with 2013-2014. He noted that Russia's military and political leadership was increasingly using the terminology of the Cold War, and militaristic rhetoric prevails in official documents of the Russian Federation, aimed at further expansion. "The masks are overthrown, but not everyone understands it in Europe," summed up M. Gonchar (Slide 1).


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During the first discussion panel "Hybrid threats of the post-Crimean policy of Russia for new independent states" among the speakers were Eskander Bariiev, Member of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Rosian Vasiloi, Expert of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives  Viitorul (Moldova), Andrei Paratnikou, Head of the Analytical Project «Belarus Security Blog» (Belarus), Igor Todorov, Professor of Uzhgorod National University, Lidiia Smola,  Professor of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, political analyst (Slide 2). The discussion was moderated by Oleksandr Hara, Deputy Chair of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies. The speakers focused on the hybrid threats of the post-Crimean policy of Russia, the peculiarities of the new phase of the hybrid war, information measures against Ukraine, the situation in Belarus in the context of Russia's intentions to expand its influence on Minsk, the results of the parliamentary elections in Moldova and the process of settling the Transnistria conflict, the problems of the Crimean Tatar people in the occupied Crimea, the reflection of the Crimean issue in the electoral programs of the presidential candidates.


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Second disсussion panel was named “The power aspect of Russian politics in the Azov-Black Sea region”, where the speakers were Іgor Kabanenko, President of the Ukrainian Agency for Advanced Scientific Research, Head of the Supervisory Board of the International Center for Security & Defense Strategies, Mark Voyger, Senior Lecturer in Russian and Eastern European Studies, Department of Political and Strategic Studies, Baltic Defence College, (Slide 3), Andrii Ryzhenko, 1st Rank Captain, Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, (Slide 4), and Mykhailo Samus, Deputy Director of the Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies. The discussion panel was moerated by Oksana Ishchuk, Head of the Information and Strategic Communications Programs of the Centre “Strategy XXI”. The issues of operational and strategic situation in the Azov-Black Sea region were discussed. Among other topics discussed were the Russian strategy of limiting access to the Black Sea by increasing its own military presence and placing in Crimea the latest weapons, forecasts for further development of the situation and possible strategy of Ukraine in the prevailing conditions. Particular attention was paid to the notion of legal warfare (lawfare) - a distorted interpretation of international law by Russia. Such an exploitation of the international law is gaining momentum and requires the creation of special groups for its study and counteraction.


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In the course of the third discussion panel “Regional Peculiarities of the Russian Hybrid Aggression”, the keynote speeches delivered Hryhorii Perepelytsia (Slide 4a), Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Vencislav Bujic, Director of NGO Serbian-Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Serbia, (Slide 5), Vladimir Barbashov, Civic expert in information wars (Slide 6), Jan SIR, Assistant Professor, Department of Russian and East European Studies of the Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences of the Charles University (Czech Republic), and Natalia Ishchenko, Deputy Director of the Institute for World Policy (Ukraine). The discussion panel was moderated by Vitalii Martyniuk (Acting Executive Director – Head of the International Programs, Centre for Global Studies Strategy XXI). The speakers focused on the nature of the hybrid war of the Russian Federation in Eastern Europe, the regional features of Russian aggression in various parts of Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe, the Kremlin’s messages that it addresses to Russian people, Russia's influence on the politics and society of Belarus, the Czech Republic, Serbia and other countries of the Balkan region.


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The fourth discussion panel was devoted to humanitarian instruments and consequences of Russian hybrid warfare. As a keynote speakers of the panel, were invited Lana Samokhvalova, observer of the Ukrinform, Archbishop Klyment of Sympheropol and Crimea, Yevheniia Horiunova, Associate Professor of the V.I. Vernadsky Taurida National University (Slide 7), Yurii Temirov, Dean of the Historical Faculty of Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University. The discussion panel was moderated by Andrii Kulakov, Program Director of NGO Internews Ukraine. During discussion panel the topics of the long-term exploitation of religion by Russian special services, the current situation around parishes of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Crimea, the general political situation in the country and among the faithful people after the recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, were discussed. The second part of the panel was devoted to the use of education and culture as tools of information warfare in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk region and in Crimea. The issues of the pression to Ukrainian-speaking population, the elimination of programs for studying the Ukrainian language in Crimea and Donbass, the teaching of distorted interpretation of the history of Ukraine in schools, the militaristic upbringing of children, the forced involvement of children in militaristic parades, were discussed.

Summing up the discussion, the president of the Centre for Global Studies "Strategy XXI" Mykhailo Gonchar concluded: "The aggressiveness of Russia is growing not because it is strong, but because the West is weak and deconsolidated. Sanctions slow down the expansion of Russia, but do not stop it. Russia, in its global hybrid aggression, acts in many respects from within - from within Ukraine, from within the EU, from within the United States." He stressed that only joint efforts with the use of instruments of asymmetric actions from the outside could act against the Putin regime and from within Russia.



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