Weekly media overview of the Ukrainian media between December 8 – 14, 2015

Situation in ATO zone

Situation in eastern Ukraine remains tense. Number of ceasefire violations by militant groups stand at the level observed in late spring – early summer, reports official military spokesmen. Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 25 were wounded over the last week, these are both combat losses and the ones resulting from mine blasts.

Militants of so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) concentrated tanks, multiple rocket launchers (MRLS) and heavy artillery in the three sectors, reports Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. The information has been passed to representatives of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. Tanks, MRLS and artillery systems exceeding the 100-mm caliber were seen deployed to the area near Alchevsk and Pervomaysk, Donetsk region and near Donetsk. Use of the above weapons is banned by the Minsk agreements.

The Minsk agreements remain unfulfilled, the humanitarian situation is worsening, Crimea remains illegally annexed and its peoples’ human rights remain oppressed, stated Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN at a recent meeting of the UN Security Council convened on Ukraine. “Ceasefire violations are on the rise. Many recent casualties are a direct result of the abhorrent use of landmines and booby traps. Others have been caused by heavy weapons; the same heavy weapons that were supposed to have been withdrawn under the Minsk. The OSCE monitoring mission makes clear where the blame lies. The majority have been committed by the separatists,” the UK Representative to the UN noted.

Field commander of the Cossacks of Stakhanov Pavel Dryomov was killed – blasted in his own car outside Stakhanov in the occupied areas of Luhansk region on December 12. Dryomov was the last of Luhansk field commanders who came under the spotlight in spring 2014 and was remaining in power. Even those sympathizing with Luhansk separatists tend to think that the so-called “LPR” leader Igor Plotnitsky bears responsibility over elimination of the Stakhanov Cossack leader. It is quite likely that Dryomov’s murder became a final move in the confrontation between Plotnitsky’s group and a number of separate militant groups that sprung sporadically in the “Cossack times” when the power was not concentrated in one hands.

Local residents in Donetsk start openly complaining about abuse and looting of the so-called “DPR” militants. “We are hostages here. A year ago the majority of people I knew supported the so-called “DPR”. If the referendum was to be held today, 50% would vote against, locals reassure.” Video report by Ukrainian blogger Anatoliy Shariy.

Experts’ special report on Russia’s violations of Minsk agreements

Ahead of the European Council meeting where prolongation of sanctions against the Russian Federation is to be decided upon, independent Ukrainian experts have prepared their own report – assessment of implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Experts Anna Shelest, Oleksiy Yizhak, Maksym Palamarchuk and Oleksiy Haran in a joint English-language publication presented their assessment of the current state of Minsk agreements implementation. The report entitled “State of Minsk agreements implementation: unofficial opinion of Ukrainian experts” starts a series of publications “Peace for Ukraine” supported by the European program of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Crimea

On December 8 state energy company Ukrenergo restarted power supply to the occupied peninsula through one of the four earlier damaged power lines “Kakhovska – Tytan”. Leaders of Mejlis (representation body of Crimean Tatars) were apparently put under pressure as the activists refused to conduct the activities that would not be possible without state support. “It is quite likely a result of pressure from all sides including the Russian Federation. There was possibly a threat of a new wave of repressions and there is also pressure coming from inside of Ukraine. Mejlis Head and MP Refat Chubarov is a member of President’s faction. Seems like President’s representatives have founds arguments to convince them,” says expert Petro Oleshchuk.

Activists have achieved a lot through the blockade of the occupied Crimea, says leader of Crimean Tatars Mustafa Dzhemilev. Firstly the issue of Crimea has been raised to the new level both inside Ukraine and internationally. “Secondly we have demonstrated that Crimea has no prospects without Ukraine and that keeping Crimea will be so expensive for Russia that they will regret they’ve seized the peninsula,” added Dzhemilev. In his opinion the Crimea blockade has also consolidated the Ukrainian society. According to Dzhemilev 80% of Ukrainians support the activists.

Meanwhile Russia is in try to construct an energy bridge to Crimea to ensure peninsula’s energy independence from mainland Ukraine.

Sociology

“Will there be the third Maidan?” Over the last two years social and economic risks have become even more evident. They included devaluation of the national currency, great inflation, and increasing utility and other tariffs. At the end of 2013, economists warned: political instability will be followed by economic one.

Iryna Bekeshkina, Head of “Democratic Initiatives Foundation”, says in an interview to Forbes, “the most annoying thing for people is failure to fulfill two key demands of Maidan – fight against corruption and bringing to justice those who shot the activists. Very little is done in this direction. Meanwhile, Ukrainians are willing to defend their European choice, election results, values ​​and freedoms, but rarely do they act in defense of their social and economic rights. “In Europe it is just the other way round: social and economic issues are the most crucial.”

Economics

Moscow is preparing to sue Ukraine for a debt. “We are preparing a set of documents to go to court,” said Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. If Russia is ready to accept the terms of restructuring, it is welcome. “If Russia is to sue Ukraine, we are going to sue Russia. We are fully prepared,” said Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Ukraine’s position remains unchanged: “We have offered all the international creditors to conduct restructuring. All appropriate creditors have accepted our offer. Russia will not receive different terms of restructuring than other creditors have received,” said Yatsenyuk.

The Ministry of Finance is preparing to enter into additional agreements on granting loans to Ukraine. “We are preparing additional agreements on the provision of support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey. All of them are members of our international financial coalition,” said Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko. “Prevenient measure for the next tranche is adoption of the budget and the Tax Code , which will form the budget. Once we do that, we will wait for the decision of the International Monetary Fund”, said Jaresko.

Weekly reforms summary. External support

Public service reform

Public service reform is finally moving forward. Parliament adopted a new wording of the Law “On Public Service.” Thus, the process of full reset of the bureaucracy has been launched. The principles of this reload meet European Union standards, as evidenced SIGMA expertise (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management). One of the key innovations is depoliticization of the public service, open competition for posts, introduction of posts of state secretaries. Besides, state officials will finally get decent salaries (with the support of international donors). The law stipulates that public service officials can be financed by the state budget and by international assistance.

The law will come into force on May 1, 2016, so there is still time to get ready for its implementation and to develop the necessary regulations. Besides the fact that the adoption of this law is a historical step for Ukraine symbolizing a break with the Soviet past, it also has a practical significance, because it testifies that Ukraine complies with one of the important conditions of access to the second tranche of European Union support (EUR 600 mln) under the macro-financial assistance program amounting to 1.8 billion euros.

Tax reform

A two-year struggle for a new tax system is coming to the finish line.  The government submitted to parliament a revised draft of a new wording of the Tax Code of Ukraine taking into account the proposals of deputies and the business community. Among the innovations are reduction in the tax burden on payroll, tax police demilitarization, introduction of modern electronic services.  The President acted as mediator of the process.

State authorities openness

Kyiv City State Administration has launched an online service that allows anyone to track medical supplies to the medical institutions in Kyiv financed from the municipal budget.

In six months, the English version will appear. Kyiv became the second city (after Odessa), which implemented such an initiative. It will be continued, because according to the law, more than 300 data sets should be open to the public in Ukraine.

Reportage

«Bidenmania in Ukraine: the key message from US Vice President Joe Biden’s address in Kyiv»: Ukraine Today’s report

«Savchenko prepares for new hunger strike “: Ukraine Today’s report

«Ukrainian town comes back to life thanks to arrival of refugees from Donbas conflict zone»: report of Ukraine Today about the town of Orbita

«Activists: Crimean energy blockade does not help Ukrainian cause on peninsula »: Kyiv Post’s report from Simferopol

«Farmers in Eastern Ukraine struggling to survive: UN food and agriculture organization»: Ukraine Today’s report

Interview 

«About contacts between Russia and National Front in France»: Hromadske International interview with Rafaël Tresanini, French journalist and author of the Investigative Report “National Front – the Kremlin’s Eye”

«About Russian corruption in the EU courts»: Hromadske International interview with Nikita Kulachenkov, member of the anti-corruption organization

«About US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine»: Hromadske International interview with Noah Sneider, The Economist correspondent  in Moscow

«Why there is not enough help from the Ukrainian government to displaced persons from Donbas»: Ukraine Today interview with with Olena Vynogradova, NGO “Right to Protection”

Analysis

«Putin expects the West’s attention distraction from the conflict in Ukraine»: KyivPost analytical material (the National Post reprint)

 «Ambassador of Turkey to Ukraine sees an opportunity to improve Ukraininan-Turkish relations»: Brian Bonner’s editorial, KyivPost

«Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s team corruption charges can make him go»: Kyiv Post article

«Fakes from the Russian media: Biden proposes to federalize Ukraine»: StopFake material

Weekly video digest from StopFake in English

«Political motives of Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine»: Democratic  Initiatives Foundation аnalytical material»

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