The Ukrainian conflict escalated dramatically last week. The media almost immediately called this outburst of violence in Eastern Ukraine “a test for Donald Trump”, but mostly tried to persuade readers that the test was prepared by Russian President Vladimir Putin, rather than by the Ukrainian authorities. The mainstream press noted that the response of the Trump’s administration was low-key as it called for an immediate cease-fire and implementation of the Minsk agreements but omitted any mention of Russia. It contrasted sharply to the stance of the previous administration, which used to put the blame on Moscow without any investigations and evidence. Then (it could be some sort of reaction to the media’s criticism) during the UN Security Council meeting US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley condemned “aggressive actions of Russia”. Nevertheless, the press pointed at the general change in tone and portrayed it as a sign of a possible shift in the US Russia’s policy. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal report that NATO cancelled a meeting with Ukraine trying not to provoke the Kremlin was considered as an additional argument.
This time the outlets were more moderate in their estimations and, at least, some of them managed to mention that Moscow had no motivation to step-up violence as the latest flare-up occurred exactly at the time when there were a lot of speculations that President Trump was preparing Russia’s sanctions relief. Moreover, some analysts compared the situation to that in Georgia in 2008 when, hoping for US interference, Tbilisi tried to provoke the Kremlin. However, now American and European hawks got a trump card to sabotage lifting of the sanctions by fueling baseless media hysteria. Despite the theories that Putin wants to gauge what he could gain under Trump or even to “complete his takeover of Ukraine” seem totally untrustworthy, the mainstream media is able to exploit the escalation to create negative public mood towards Russia.
Meanwhile, after a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban Russian President Vladimir Putin explained that, from his point of view, the current Ukrainian government had provoked outburst of violence because “Ukrainian leadership nowadays needs money, and the best way to get it is to squeeze it from the European Union, individual European countries or the United States and international financial institutions, by pretending to be a victim of aggression”. Besides, he noted that amid failures in the economic and social areas Kiev tries to “mobilize” people around the government and to start some kind of dialogue with President Trump, whom some Ukrainian officials called “a clown” during the presidential campaign.
It is worth noting, that Putin’s visit to Hungary itself drew a lot of media’s attention since observers think the Russian President will use it to weaken support for economic sanctions against Russia and break “the West’s unity”. However, Moscow and Budapest really have a lot of business projects to discuss, including building of two nuclear reactors. Generally the sanctions question was a cornerstone of the whole week as Washington decided to “fine-tune” sanctions against Russia’s Security Service (FSB) and fueled another wave of discussions. It seems that the coming weeks will witness hot debates between protagonists and opponents of restrictive measures against Russia and, unfortunately, these debates are likely to be accompanied by new provocations and loud statements of those who are interested in fear-mongering among ordinary citizens in the West.
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