Weekly overview of the Ukrainian media outlets August 25 – 31, 2015

Situation in ATO zone

According to official military reports, there is a drastic decrease of militant activity on the frontline. Militant leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic(DPR) continue preparations for so-called elections in occupied areas according to the laws of the self-proclaimed republic. The DNR blames Ukraine for its initial unwillingness to fulfill the Minsk agreements.

Militants fired upon Ukrainian positions 474 times over last week. According to information provided by the spokesman of the Administration of the President of Ukraine on ATO-related issues Andrey Lysenko, 13 servicemen were killed in action and 46 were wounded in action between the 24 and 30 of August. Over the last week, the militants used mortars and grenade launchers several times, Grad systems two times, and other multiple rocket launcher systems eight times against the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The number of attacks considerably decreased by the end of last week, while militants did not use heavy weapons. This easing of tensions may be the result of agreements on a complete ceasefire effective September 1, reached to facilitate the start of the new school year.

According to intelligence, self-proclaimed DPR militant groups worked out a plan of provocative measures to be held on September 1, said the ATO spokesman. “The planned provocations are cynical crimes – attacks on schools and other educational institutions in the region are to be blamed on anti-terrorist operation forces,” said Colonel Lysenko. According to him, militants plan to use the provocations as a pretext to address the Russian Federation to officially and openly deploy “peacekeepers.”

Head of the Luhansk military-civil administration, Heorhiy Tuka, announced that the Luhansk region representative office will be set up in Kyiv, and it is to deal with regional development and to address the region’s problems.

One hundred and fifty seven persons remain in militant captivity, around 100 of them are Ukrainian servicemen, said Ukraine’s representative to the humanitarian subgroup within the Trilateral Contact Group Iryna Gerashchenko. Twelve persons were liberated from militant captivity on August 27.

In the militant-held territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, there are 111 camps where representatives of the Russian GRU and FSB train militants, statedhead of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Hrytsak, who continued to say that in general, the Russian-terrorist forces in Ukraine involve more than 33,000 people, and about 9,000 soldiers of regular military forces of the Russian army.

Changes to the Constitution

At a meeting with representatives of the regions, President Petro Poroshenko had a discussion on the Constitutional changes regarding decentralization. Over the course of the discussion, the head of the state said that the reform will make Ukraine a stronger state.

On August 31, MPs approved on its first reading the draft resolution that preliminary approves the draft law introducing changes to the Constitution of Ukraine on the decentralization of power, which resulted into violent clashes with one person killed and over 100 wounded.

Local elections

Another draft law that aims to provide an opportunity for internally displaced persons (IDP)  to vote in local elections on October 25 was registered in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament. Several MPs and civil society organizations initiated the document’s creation. It is expected that an IDP may address the state body in charge of the voters registry in the location where the person has previously registered as an IDP asking to change his/her voting address.

The Central Election Commission defined the list of local councils on Ukraine-controlled territory in Donetsk and Luhansk regions where local elections on October 25are not to be held, including 91 councils in Donetsk region and 31 councils in Luhansk region. This decision was made as it is not possible to guarantee security in these towns during the elections. The Central Election Commission also stipulated that local elections are not to be held in 125 towns in militant-held areas of Donetsk region and 146 towns of Luhansk region. The President of Ukraine emphasized that local elections in Mariupol have to happen.

The new law on local elections, which are to be held in Ukraine in October, introduced gender quotas in the bodies of local authority. Every party running in the elections must include at least 30% women.

Reforms

Head of the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine Aivaras Abromavicius said that it’s necessary to create a group of companies that will encompass all strategic companies. “Abromaviciuses and Demchyshyns don’t have to be managing state companies. Strategic enterprises are to be included in the group, while the rest are to be privatized,” he wrote on Twitter. According to Abromavicius, the Ministry has already drafted a resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers and sent it for approval to the central bodies of executive power.

After budget decentralization has been held in Ukraine, in 2015 local budgets are to get seven billion hryvnias due to an ecological tax. This revenue has to be used for nature protection measures, noted Vice Prime Minister Valeriy Voshevsky.

Anticorruption reform. This week Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau selected first 70 detectives.

Agriculture reform. Good harvests create positive trends in the economics. Agricultural development requires a long-term strategy for all stakeholders on the market including the state. The Ministry of Agriculture has developed a strategy that covers not only legislative measures but also lays fiscal policy priorities in the field of agriculture, organizational and other administrative measures.

Investors are dissatisfied with the slow pace of reforms in Ukraine (analytics).

Human rights

In Russia, a court in Rostov-on-Don passed a sentence for two citizens of Ukraine; film director Оleg Sentsov and activist Оleksandr Коlchenko, who are accused of being part of a terrorist conspiracy. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, while Kolchenko was given 10 years.

Amnesty International calls upon Russia to free Sentsov and Kolchenko from their sentences. “During the trial, even more shocking details regarding the torture of the defendants to provoke a confession were revealed. The fact that these tortures are not investigated is another manifestation of the disregard for standards of fair trial in this case,” stated a Ukrainian office of Amnesty International. WHO?

Economy

The expert community is questioning the rationality of the debt restructuring scheme agreed to by the Ukrainian government. Particularly, their doubts pertain to future debt payments which are tied to the country’s GDP. Although the the Law on State Budget for 2015 provides for a social benefit increase from the 1st of December, the Ukrainian government has already decided to allocate part of the savings resulting from the debt restructuring to social benefits from the 1st of September. The Government of Ukraine submitted to parliament a draft law for increasing social standards for nearly 12 million Ukrainian citizens.

According to analysts of the Agency, the Ukrainian government’s default on debt in foreign currency is almost inevitable. International rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) ranked the long-term credit rating of Ukraine in foreign currency at the “CC” level with a negative outlook.

The reluctance of European countries to finance the purchase of gas by Ukraine has become more clear. Now, Ukraine is dealing with the need to mobilize the necessary resources within the country. In recent years, experts point out that Naftogaz could decisively claim the repayment of debts by internal customers, and thus the necessary funds for the purchase of gas from Russia could be collected.

Ukraine’s Energy and Coal Industry Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said that Ukraine is ready for the heating season. Today, Ukraine deliver about 600,000 tons of grade A coal from the ATO zone. In addition, Ukraine receives fuel supplies from Russia and South Africa. According to the Minister, the trilateral meeting on the issues of Russian gas supplies in the Ukraine – EU – Russia triangle will be held on September 11. According to Demchishin, the issue of payment for supplies of Russian gas being pumped into Ukrainian underground storage facilities in Ukraine and in the European Union will be settled by November. Ukraine and the Еuropean Commission brought together their respective positions and worked very productively on the question of the financing of gas pumping, said Demchyshyn.

During the first half of 2015, large and medium-sized enterprises in Ukraine, excluding budgetary institutions, incurred a loss of 232.617 billion hryvnias before tax, a sum 1.7 times higher than the loss before tax for the same period last year, according to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine.

Ukraine will receive a loan of another 500 million US dollars from the World Bank. The funds will be used for measures aimed at the growth of the Ukrainian economy, setting transparency in the systems of control and for reducing the cost of doing business in the country.

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