Kherson: The end of the beginning
The withdrawal of the Russian army from the city of Kherson ends the first chapter of Vladimir Putin's misadventure in Ukraine, which started on 24 February when he ordered his army to invade.
Ukrainians rightly celebrated, as the Ukrainian army returned to the city which Russia illegally annexed only a few weeks ago. Kherson was the only regional centre the Russians were able to occupy following their February invasion, which, let us not forget, initially aimed to take Kyiv and all other Ukrainian cities.
But as the Ukrainian president, and other Ukrainian officials warned, the war is far from over yet. But the Russian army is still in Ukraine, and now consolidating its positions on the left bank of the Dnipro river. The river will now serve as a natural defence barrier for the Russians in the face of Ukrainian attempts to liberate the rest of the territory under Russian occupation. And the coming winter may prove challenging for Ukraine in other ways too, given the Russian attempts to destroy key infrastructure and disrupt energy supplies.
But still Kherson can be seen as the end of the beginning. The journey for the liberation of Ukraine will take longer.
And after all Ukrainian territory is liberated, another journey will have to start: that of rebuilding Europe's security architecture on new foundations. Where Russia will stand in this is still not clear. Despite the facade of defiance and bravado, it is already evident that soul-searching has already started amongst the Russian elite about the Ukrainian adventure, and indeed about how Russia itself is governed. That, the Russian people will have to figure out by themselves, and the process is not likely to be either short, or easy.
Sun, 11/13/2022 - 05:07
Editorial: A dark day in the history of Europe
Friday, 30 September 2022 will for a long time be remembered as a sad and dark day for Europe. This afternoon, at 15:00 (12:00 GMT) in the St George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace president Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony annexing four more regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation.
The events in Europe in the 1930 are repeating themselves with an eerie familiarity: a big country invades a smaller neighbouring country, organises a sham referendum in parts or all of that country, after which it claims the moral authority to annex that territory or country.
In an act of cynicism late on Thursday, the Russian president signed two decrees recognising Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as independent territories. Their so called independence will last for only a few hours, before they are absorbed into Russia. The documents, shared on Russian state media, say the independence of the two regions is being recognised in accordance with international law and "enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations". However, UN Secretary General António Guterres has said any annexation of a country's territory based on the use of force violates the UN Charter and international law.
Europeans thought that those times were over, and that the lessons had been learnt. Apparently not. Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February set the stage for what will take place in the Kremlin today. After votes in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east of Ukraine, and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south, Russia will annexe them, in defiance of the wish of the Ukrainian people and their legitimate government, and of most of the international community. It has already acted in this way once, when in 2014, in similar circumstances it occupiued and annexed Crimea.
Today's events are being hailed as a victiory by the Kremlin. A stage has already been set up in Moscow's Red Square, with billboards proclaiming the four regions as part of Russia and a concert planned for the evening in celebration. Some Russians may decide to follow the misguided steps of their leaders, but for the rest of Europe today is a sad and dark day.
Fri, 09/30/2022 - 06:27
Editorial: Lukashenko's trip to Abkhazia is another act in Putin's nefarious plan
The president of Belarus, Alexandre Lukashenko, made a surprise appearance in Abkhazia on Wednesday (28 September), in a move that many see as being part of the Kremlin’s present strategy to further distabilise Eurasia to help achieve the ultimate aim, which is complete Russian hegemony on the post-Soviet Space. For sure, Lukashenko did not go to Sukhumi to have a last dip in the Black Sea before winter sets in. This was a calculated political move, typical of Lukashenko. So why did he go, and why now? Lukashenko has long been a tool of the Kremlin, not only when it comes to affairs in his own Belarus, but more broadly on the international stage. Yet he has also tried to cultivate the image of being independent-minded, not the sort to take orders from Vladimir Putin, but rather one that is able to influence the Kremlin and its policies. This visit proves that in fact he is simply a stooge.
Thu, 09/29/2022 - 07:04
The world pays its last respects to a Queen who dedicated her life to the service of her people
Sun, 09/18/2022 - 08:10
The world is paying its last farewell to Queen Elizabeth II who reigned for seventy years, and who died on 8 September.
The outpour of sorrow in Britain and throughout the world has exceeded all expectations. Queen Elizabeth II had become part of the life of the British people, most who know no other monarch in their lifetime. In the last days tens of thousands queued for many hours to pay their respects.
Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!
In the next few days the European Commission will announce its opinion on the request of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine for European Union candidate status. A decision will then be taken by the 27 member states in the European Council at the end of this month.
“Candidate Status” is the beginning of a journey for any country that wants to join the European Union. In the case of many successful candidates in the past, the process has often taken a decade or more. In the case of others, such as Turkey, the process does not appear to have an end in sight. In short candidate status is not an automatic ticket to EU membership, simply a political expression of the will of the applicant and of the EU to embark on the journey. This notwithstanding the EU has been increasingly hesitant to give a membership perspective to the trio. This is partly due to the so called “enlargement fatigue”, partly because there are those within the member states and the institutions who do not think Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine should be in the EU, period! These sceptics have been caught on the wrong foot by the war in Ukraine, the heroism of the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, and the decision of the trio to bring forward their request for candidate status and to ask that it be dealt with urgently.
Clearly, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not ready for EU membership today, but that is not what is on the agenda now. The many challenges facing the three countries should not be hidden under the carpet, and the political elites in Tbilisi, Chisinau and Kyiv must assume their responsibility to ensure political, economic and judicial reforms are implemented more comprehensively and more speedily. But for now, candidate status, especially in the present context, is primarily a political decision and a political statement, and it should be extended to the three countries now!
Thu, 06/09/2022 - 10:58
MARIUPOL: the name of a city etched in history with the blood of its people
The war in Ukraine is likely to continue for some time, and after that it will be an uneasy peace that will follow. For Ukrainians this is an existential battle - whether they want their country to continue to live. For the Kremlin it is existential too. A humiliating defeat in Ukraine will seriously undermine the legitimacy of the regime. There are therefore likely to be many battles ahead, many heroic Ukrainian cities to add to the catalogue of history. But for sure Mariupol's name will forever be associated with the heroism of its people, with the war crimes committed by the Kremlin in Ukraine, and with the futility and irrationality of war.
Thu, 03/10/2022 - 08:55
On International Women's Day we salute the courage of the women of Ukraine
8 March is International Women's Day - an occasion to celebrate the role of women in our societies, an opportunity to re-affirm their right for equality, a time to remember that across the world millions of women still do not have such rights and are often treated inhumanely.
This year we celebrate International Women's Day at a time when the world is watching in horror as the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds. For nearly two weeks now Russian forces have committed atrocities against peaceful civilian communities. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced, nearly two million to neighbouring European countries. The world has watched in awe as Ukrainians put up a stiff resistance to the invaders. And none more so than Ukrainian women who are playing a leading role in the resistance.
Tue, 03/08/2022 - 09:35
Editorial: Give Ukraine and the other trio countries an EU membership perspective now
A European Parliament resolution yesterday urged EU countries to work towards granting Ukraine EU candidate status. A membership perspective in the form of candidate status is not membership. It is a political signal that the door of membership is open, and an opportunity to focus minds on all the sides to start the long and laborious process of EU membership.
Whilst the resolution of the European Parliament speaks only about Ukraine, the three trio countries should be given the membership perspective and candidate status simultaneously. All three are very determined in pursuing this path; all three have strong Association Agreements with the EU; and all three are under considerable Russian pressure. A membership perspective will strengthen the hand of those working for reforms in these countries. It will also send another message to Putin's Russia that its nefarious policy towards the neighbours has failed. Now is the right time to do that.
Give Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia a membership perspective now! Give them candidate status and work with them to make this an achievable task within this decade.
Wed, 03/02/2022 - 09:51
Editorial: End this Genocide of a nation and hold those responsible to account
In front of the eyes of the whole world President Putin is conducting a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Having one week ago questioned the very existence of Ukraine, he subsequently unleashed the whole military might of Russia against it. The heroic scenes of resistance across the whole of Ukraine has been simply inspirational and has forced governments across the world to step up their response against this naked violence and aggression.
The world must show unity of purpose in rejecting Putin's aggression and in holding him and his immediate circle accountable. Those who end up on the wrong side of history will be eternally ashamed of their mistake.
Tue, 03/01/2022 - 09:22
Editorial: It seems that in Moscow they forgot how to count from 1 to 3
The Russians persisted in presenting a gathering in Moscow on Friday as a meeting of " 3 + 3 ", when in fact only five countries were present, and it was more the case of 2 + 3. Diplomatic deceit is not the basis on which South Caucasus regional co-operation should be built.
Mon, 12/13/2021 - 07:31
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Editorial: Thank you Mrs Merkel, Welcome Mr Scholz
9 December 2021
Strong leadership in and by Germany is necessary if Europe is to succeed in meeting the challenges of the future. Tomorrow Mr Scholz will travel to Paris and Brussels for meetings with the French President and with the EU leadership.
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Editorial Comment: Towards a crucial Eastern Partnership Summit
19 November 2021
The foreign ministers of the EU27 and the Eastern Partnership countries met in Brussels this week to take stock of the progress to date and actively prepare for the upcoming Summit. Various sources told commonspace.eu that it was a positive meeting.