New agreement in Minsk
Parliamentary elections at the end of October were a major victory for the pro-European parties led by, among others, President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The five dominant parties formed a coalition government.
No elections were held in rebel-held areas and in Crimea. Donetsk and Luhansk hosted their own elections in November 2014, recognized by none other than the separatists themselves and Russia. For the Ukrainian government, the separatist election was a violation of the terms of the failed ceasefire. The government has now decided both to send troop reinforcements to the east and to suspend financial support for the rebel areas, including payments of pensions and support for schools and hospitals. The EU and the US extended economic sanctions against separatist leaders and banned all economic contacts with Crimea.
By the end of November, according to the UN, almost 1,000 people had been killed since the ceasefire agreement was signed in early September. Well over a million Ukrainians had fled their homes, a large part to Russia or other neighboring countries but also close to half a million within the country. Reports came several times during the autumn about new Russian troop movements entering Ukraine.
Following new advance by the separatists in early 2015, the leaders of Germany and France succeeded in mediating a new ceasefire agreement, which was signed in Minsk, Belarus on 12 February. In addition to an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, it was stipulated that democratic elections would be held in the separatist areas under Ukrainian law, that a new constitution would regulate the degree of autonomy in the eastern counties and that the Ukrainian state would regain full control over the border with Russia. local elections.
Despite the agreement, trust between the Ukrainian government and the separatists remained non-existent and Ukraine officially identified Russia as a threat to the country.
From the second half of 2015, however, there was some stabilization of the situation around the war front, which was thought to be mostly due to Russia starting to take an active part in the war in Syria. According to the UN, however, Russia continued to import weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin admitted in December that Russian personnel had “performed certain military duties” in the neighboring country.
In 2016, violence continued to flare up periodically and no political solution to the conflict was in sight. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France failed in May 2016 with a new attempt to reach a lasting peace agreement. Observers from the European Security and Cooperation Organization (OSCE) warned that fighting was likely to return to a full-scale level. The US delegation to the OSCE said in November that its staff had seen 30,000 men in military uniform enter Ukraine from Russia.
While the fighting periodically continued to intensify, the conflict also took on a more economic dimension. In the winter of 2017, Ukrainian nationalists began blocking the railways to the breakaway areas in protest against the government’s “trade with the enemy.” The activists were arrested after a while by the police, but in return the government stopped freight traffic to the east. At the same time, the separatists confiscated several large companies in the east and paid taxes only to the breakaway governments.
For the rest of 2017, the pattern consisted of attempts at ceasefires that were immediately broken. In an investigation into the situation in Crimea, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September accused the Russian state of serious abuses against civilians, including torture, unfair trials and deportations.
Sweden and Ukraine
Sweden’s relations with Ukraine are good and the exchange of visitors has been close in recent years. Foreign Minister Margot Wallström visited Ukraine in November 2014.
Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU, mainly within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, is central to Sweden’s relations with Ukraine. The EU-Ukraine relationship is based on an Association Agreement (abbreviated AA), which replaces the previous Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PSA). An important part of the new agreement is a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which in addition to significant trade facilitation in both directions means that Ukraine adopts important parts of EU trade laws and regulations. Ukraine and the EU have also concluded an agreement on visa facilitation, which entered into force in 2008, and a dialogue is under way on visa exemption as a long-term goal.
Sweden’s reform cooperation with Ukraine is governed by a results strategy for reform cooperation with Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and Turkey for the period 2014-2020. The strategy is estimated to comprise a total of approximately SEK 8 billion and the support to Ukraine is estimated to amount to approximately SEK 220 million / year. The purpose of the reform cooperation is to contribute to the countries ‘rapprochement with the EU through support primarily aimed at 1) increasing the countries’ economic integration with the EU and their market economic development 2) contributing to stronger democracy, increased respect for human rights and a more developed rule of law, and 3) improved environment and limited climate impact. The Swedish support will continue to prioritize initiatives in the field of gender equality. The support is adapted to each country’s conditions and challenges in the EU rapprochement.
The EU also supports Ukraine through the European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI). The purpose of ENI is to promote peace, stability and economic growth throughout the region by supporting political and economic reforms in the 16 partner countries. ENI has a total budget of approximately EUR 15.4 billion for the period 2014-2020.
Ukraine is a growing market for Swedish business. About 150 Swedish companies are active in Ukraine and Sweden is one of the ten largest investors in the country. Business Sweden has a seconded trade secretary on site. Problems with waste management, energy consumption and low water quality contribute to a great interest in Swedish energy and environmental technology.
Sweden has an embassy in the capital Kiev and Ukraine has an embassy in Stockholm.