Rebels without a Cause: Russia’s Proxies in Eastern Ukraine

Europe Report No. 254, 16 July 2019.

International Crisis Group. Principal Findings.

What’s new?

Russia’s gradual retreat from any plans to annex parts of eastern Ukraine has opened schisms between Moscow and its separatist proxies in the region.

Why does it matter?

For Kyiv, these divides could create opportunities to restart dialogue with the people of the east. Such contacts, in turn, could help lay the groundwork for Ukraine’s unification.

What should be done?

The rift between Moscow and its proxies should inform new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s policies. Kyiv should look to rebuild relations with the inhabitants of separatist-held areas, by easing the economic blockade on the east and increasing outreach to the population there.