Weekly overview of the Ukrainian media between September 22 – 28, 2015

Situation in the ATO zone

Despite the enduring four-week ceasefire in the conflict zone there are opinions that hostilities in Donbas may resume in case Putin’s visit to the UN General Assembly is unsuccessful. At the same time some experts note there is a possibility to quickly establish peace in the region in case the situation follows the ‘Transnistrian scenario’. Ukraine’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs assumes that Russia will allow establishing peace in Donbas in case agreement with the West on Syria is reached.

“For about a month the adversary has not been using heavy weapons including tanks, mortars and artillery. Only minor hostile provocations on the frontline and local skirmishes are taking place. Very often fire is not launched precisely but in order to provoke Ukrainian troops to return fire. By doing so the enemy is trying to blame conflict escalation on the ATO forces,” said spokesman of Administration of the President of Ukraine on ATO-related issues Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.

Despite the relatively calm situation in the ATO zone, 33 attacks on the positions of Ukrainian Armed Forces were registered over the last week. Two Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and eight were wounded in the ATO zone over the last week. On September 27 (http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/news/27274897.html)militants were firing upon Maryinka for one and a half hour, other violations were registered near Lozove, Mayorske and Luhanske (Donetsk region).

Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin believes that under certain circumstances the conflict in Donbas may continue. . “In case discussion on Syria situation and on several other issues will not be supported and continued with Washington, and to a smaller extent with the European Union, Russia and Putin may consciously destabilize the situation in Donbas,” said the Minister.

Ukraine wants a complete and unconditional ceasefire to be established, said Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Russia needs to cease fire completely and unconditionally not temporarily ahead of the UN General Assembly. According to him Ukraine stands ready to hold fair and transparent elections in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. To make it happen Ukrainian government and Ukrainian legislation need to be restored in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

OSCE calls on the sides to make further steps to strengthen recent positive developments. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine also continues to register a relatively quiet situation. In Donetsk region, particularly in Horlivka the situation remains tense. Not a single case of heavy weaponry use was registered in Luhansk region, said Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM to Ukraine

Ukraine will do everything possible not to let fake elections happen  on the occupied territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, said the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, taking into account experience of illegal ’elections’ of November 2, 2014. The President recalled the clear statements of the international community that such ’elections’ are not in line with Ukrainian legislation, therefore free expression of citizens’ will cannot take place.

A Ukrainian court sentenced Russian Major Starkov to 14 years for participating in waging war against Ukraine, said Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios. Starkov  admitted his guilt in full, added Matios. (News piece in English).

The so-called ’Luhansk People’s Republic’ (‘LPR’) militants ordered all UN agencies to immediately leave the territory of the self-proclaimed republic (in English). The so-called ’Donetsk People’s Republic’ militants did not let eight trucks with humanitarian aid from the Red Cross (in English) enter its territory. Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) emphasized that the ban imposed by the so-called ’LPR’ on their organization is depriving people of access to medicine and medical aid. Ukraine’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in turn, underlined that impeding work of international humanitarian organizations in such a way is unacceptable.

President Poroshenko’s visit to the United States

During meetings with leaders of EU countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly the President of Ukraine enlisted support for Ukraine’s position. “We were assured that the Syria issue cannot be conflated with the Ukraine issue,” the President  stated. President Poroshenko emphasized that Ukraine will keep making decisive steps to protect its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. He also mentioned that Ukraine will suggest changes that aim to restore the rightful role of the UN and of the UN Security Council as a mechanism to protect global security.

Statement by the President of Ukraine at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in the framework of the UN General Assembly in English. Main goal is peace and freedom to secure sustainable development of humanity, stressed President Poroshenko

Combatting corruption

President Poroshenko said that introducing changes to the state procurement law and bringing it into compliance with international standards is a powerful tool to counteract corrupt acts. In their turn the newly created agencies such as the National Anticorruption Bureau, new police and Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office promised to decisively prosecute corruption (article in English).

Corruption in Ukraine remains a major problem as people in power may change but oligarchs remain in place because they have money and such a system is profitable for many, said ex-President of Georgia and current the Head of the Odesa state regional administration, Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili noted that the EU wanted to establish a fund covering salaries of civil servants but the Ukrainian side did not let it do so.

The Prosecutor General Office refuses to combat internal corruption and is undermining reforms that the Ukrainian government is undertaking, claimed the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt speaking at a financial forum in Odesa. According to him the Prosecutor General Office impedes everything that the Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers and the National Reforms Council are doing to accelerate political and economic reforms. “Instead of supporting reforms in Ukraine and working to eliminate corruption, corrupt civil servants at the Prosecutor General Office worsen the situation by openly and aggressively undermining reforms,” he said.

Ukraine dropped to 56th place in the updated budget transparency ranking that includes 102 countries and is compiled by the International Budget network. Ukraine fell 21 positions in the ranking. Information used to compile the ranking was collected over 2013 and in the first half of 2014. However, according to the experts no radical improvements in budget transparency have happened since.

Reforms

Decentralization, combatting corruption and reforming judicial and law enforcement systems are parliamentary priorities, emphasized Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament Volodymyr Groysman. Other changes will be implemented swiftly and effectively, if these basic reforms are implemented, he said.

“Reform of the judicial system shall not be reduced to superficial changes  and reinstatement of those who have been taking bribes for many years. A complete change of the entire judicial corps in the country following the principle that was used to create the new Ukrainian police is underway,” stated Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. According to him this principle needs to be extended not only to law enforcement agencies but also to the bodies on which the business climate in the country depends.

President Poroshenko is ready to support the bill  on civil service drafted with the assistance of the European Union, said Jan Tombinski, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine. President Poroshenko held a constructive discussion on this matter with EU Commissioner on Justice Vera Jourova during her visit to Ukraine. EU experts are ready to assist in revising the draft law that sets the basis to reform governance, said Tombinski. Once the bill is adopted, the EU is ready to consider providing financial assistance to support the reform.

Survey

Do Ukrainians choose the EU or the Eurasian Economic Union? According to the Democratic Initiatives Fund and the Razumkov Center research, 51 percent of Ukrainians opt for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. Only 17 percent prefer integration into the Eurasian Economic Union. About one-third of the population (31 percent) cannot decide on their integration priorities. Joining the EU is mostly supported in Western (82%) and Central (52.5%) regions. In the south 39 percent choose integration into the EU, and 26 percent choose the Eurasian Economic Community, 35 percent have not made their choice yet. In eastern Ukraine, 26 percent support the Eurasian vector.  The number of those who support the European direction (37.5%) or are uncertain (36%) are similar. Public opinion in the liberated territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is almost equally divided between those who prefer the EU (31.5%), the Eurasian Economic Union (34%) and uncertain (34%). Full report in English.

Crimea

In over a week of the Crimean “blockade” no cargo has crossed the annexed Crimea administrative border with Ukraine, according to the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars Rеfat Chubarov.

The Crimean Human Rights Group claims that Russia’s Federal Security Service is interfering in Muslim religious communities’ activities particularly Muslims must now hold “preventive conversations” with the security forces.

After Crimea came under Russian control, the peninsula lives in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, physical and psychological pressure, forcing the Crimean Tatars to take a difficult decision to leave their homes in search of a better life on the mainland Ukraine, stated the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovska ) .

Additionally, the Russian Federation and the occupation authorities intend to prohibit the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars (аnalytical article in English). They want to accuse Mejlis of collaboration with the Ukrainian extremist organisation ‘Right Sector’ and of receiving funding from the West.

Gas deal

Ukraine, Russia and the European Commission have agreed on terms of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine. Agreement on a comprehensive 2015-2016 winter package has been initialed. According to the Vice-President of the European Commission on the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič, all the technical details are settled, and framework agreements defined. The initialed protocol is valid from October 1, 2015 until late March 2016. Under the agreement, Ukraine will receive a discount on gas. Šefčovič also says that $500 million will be involved to buy 2 billion cubic meters of Russian gas for subsequent injection into underground storage. The Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine Volodymyr Demchyshyn noted that Ukraine’s national oil and gas company ‘Naftogaz’ already has the necessary funds for purchasing this volume.

Until March 31, 2016, Russia’s Gazprom will not demand that Naftogaz of Ukraine follows the ‘take and pay’ rule which requires paying a minimum amount regardless of the actual purchase volume, as the Russian company confirmed. The company still retains all of its rights under this contract, emphasized Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller.

Economy

The European Union has prepared a program of financial assistance to Ukraine, informed Berend de Groot, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Ukraine. “The approximate amount of assistance from the EBRD and the EIB is over one billion euro. Besides, €95 million will be allocated to Ukraine directly from the EU.” According to him, this money will be allocated to local Ukrainian banks for lending to Ukrainian businesses which require technical re-equipment of goods to meet EU export standards.

Canada additionally intends to invest $26 million in Ukraine reported Roman Washchuk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine, at the Odessa Financial Forum. He expressed hope that these funds will help the National Bank to cope with the current difficulties. Over the past 18 months, Canada has already invested over 45 million Canadian dollars in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of 2014 Ukraine has eliminated more than 25% of banks (59 in total) in order to produce a more stable domestic banking sector.

The State Aviation Administration of Ukraine notified Russian airlines about a ban on flights to Ukraine. Earlier, the National Security Council of Ukraine adopted the corresponding resolution, which takes effect on October 25.

We propose analytics, video and reportage in English about Ukraine

Reportage 

President Poroshenko visits the UN

Reportage of Ukraine Today about lives of orphans brought from the combat zone

Border guards detained 22-year-old Italian who wanted to fight on “DPR” side

Humanitarian situation in Luhansk worsens

People in New York are protesting against Putin’s speech at the UN

Interview 

«Greatest victoiries and defeats of Ukraine»: interview with Rebecca Harms

«Abyss between Western and Eastern Europe is growing»: interview with   Swedish intellectual Carl Henrik Fredriksson

«Ukraine wants to join NATO, but does NATO want Ukraine?»: interview with diplomat Alexander Khara and analyst Michael Cecire.

«What will Putin say at the UN?» – interview with  Mykola Gnatovsky, Professor of International Law at the Shevchenko National University.

Analysis

«Blockade of Crimea: who does it and why?» – discussion.

FOOD BLOCKADE OF CRIMEA: BELATED ACTION OR CHALLENGE TO KREMLIN FOREIGN POLICY PLANS? An analytical article of the Kharkiv Human Rights Union.

«How the negotiations between the USA and Russia on Syria will influence Ukraine»:

Weekly English video StopFake . Media circulate a fake letter, supposedly from a Swedish Chief Prosecutor, promising to classify as “secret” any information found regarding Ukrainian war crimes. Russian media falsely claim that the President of the European Commission predicts “civil war” and “ruin” for Ukraine. Russian media dig up a resolution from 1959 to prove U.S. support for independence for Donbas. And Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko purportedly believes that a federation is a better basis for government than a unitary state.

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