Weekly Ukrainian media digest, April 19 – April 25, 2016

April 25, 2016.

Situation in ATO zone

Over the last week number of attacks upon Ukrainian troops by Russia-backed militants decreased almost twice compared to the previous week. A total of 225 attacks were registered. Seven Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 30 were wounded in action.

Situation in ATO zone remains complicated and is characterized by increased intensity of hostile attacks in some parts of the frontline. Same as in the past weeks militants are firing most frequently upon Avdiivka using 82-mm and 120-mm mortars in this sector. Russia-backed militant troops violated ceasefire near Zaitseve, Opytne, Maryinka, Shyrokyne and Pisky. Report on the situation in ATO zone over the last day in English.

Militants are holding captive over 110 persons in occupied Donbas who are officially considered to be hostages, said Yuriy Tandit, Advisor to the Head of Ukraine’s Security Service (news in English). According to Iryna Gerashchenko, Ukraine’s representative to the humanitarian subgroup within the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk 681 persons are missing in the ATO zone.

Russian command in charge of the occupant troops plans to intensify combat actions ahead of May 9 in order to demonstrate their military capacities in the Donetsk and Mariupol sectors. They are planning to seize uncontrolled villages in the “grey zone”, reports Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

Militants have passed to the Ukrainian side 20 more imprisoned persons that were serving their terms in penitentiary institutions on the temporary occupied territory in Donetsk region. Ukrainian side is ready to pass to Russia-backed militants 50 persons to swap them for 25 Ukrainian hostages. Respective agreement was made at a meeting of the humanitarian subgroup in Minsk, said Ukraine’s representative Iryna Gerashchenko.

Main Intelligence Directorate keeps collecting evidence as to participation of the regular Russian troops in combat actions in Donbas. The facts collected are to be further passed to the International Criminal Court. Thus Major Ruslan Iskuzhenov of the Russian Federation Armed Forces is Deputy Commander of the so-called “First motor rifle battalion of the 3rd motor rifle brigade (Horlivka, Ukraine), 1st army corps (Donetsk, Ukraine)” of the Center for territorial troops (Novocherkassk, Russia) of the Yuzhny military district (Rostov-on-Don, Russia). Major-General of the Russian Federation Armed Forces Kuzovlev was in charge of the so-called “Second army corps” (Luhansk) between autumn 2014 and spring 2015. Major-General Tsekov was in charge of the “Second motor rifle brigade” (Luhansk) of the “Second army corps” between autumn 2014 – spring 2015. He was promoted to the Major-General rank for taking part in combat actions in Donbas.

Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine Martin Sajdik told journalists in Minsk that ceasefire is being violated by both sides. He noted that heavy weapons are being again used in the attacks, they were withdrawn from the contact line according to earlier reached agreements. However they were returned to the frontline positions from storage sites.

On April 21 an interactive map for assistance to those affected by the Russian aggression was presented in Kyiv. According to the organizers’ opinion the resource will be of use to both internally displaced who will find out where they can get various types of assistance as well as to journalists and international donors who will be able to contact reliable NGOs.

Occupied Crimea

Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov said the issue of banning Mejlis of Crimean Tatars in the annexed peninsula is “an internal Russian issue” and Russia will not be taking into account any external “recommendations”. That’s the response to the call of the U.S. State Department on Russia to cancel the decision by the Ministry of Justice of Russia to recognize Mejlis activities “extremist” and stop the process of recognizing it illegal.

Russia keeps supplying ammunition to the militants it backs. Ukrainian intelligence registered arrival of five cars with ammunition and spare parts to the military equipment from the territory of Russia to the militant-occupied Ilovaysk, Donetsk region.

OSCE expressed concern over the threat to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the Russia-annexed Crimea. Respective statement on behalf of Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, was published on the OSCE web site. Thus, intimidation of Crimean journalist Mykola Semena is of concern (news in English). On Tuesday morning his apartment in Simferopol was searched, computer equipment was seized, the journalist himself was detained for several hours then let go after he signed the consent to travel restrictions. Mijatović emphasized that similar acts of intimidation were applied to several more residents of Crimea – photographer Lenyara Abibulayeva and Ruslana Lyumanova. Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group released a comment on detention of journalists in occupied Crimea.

Human Rights

Russian Ministry of Justice received a request from the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice for transfer of imprisoned Ukrainian pilot and MP Nadiya Svachenko.

Savchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin published a copy of Nadiya’s statement in which she calls to bring her back to Ukraine. Information note: on April 19 President Poroshenko and Nadiya’s family succeeded to convince the pilot to stop the dry hunger strike (news in English).

Ukrainian Serhiy Lytvynov was sentenced to 8,5 years in prison in Russia following accusation of theft that he allegedly committed during combat actions in Luhansk region. Lytvynov was detained by Russian law enforcement staff in a hospital in Rostov region, Russia in summer 2014 where he got after crossing the border together with the refugees. He was accused of mass killings and sexual violence against civilians that he had allegedly committed as part of the “Dnipro-1” volunteer battalion. Later when lawyer and human rights activist Maria Tomak and Ukraine’s Consular Service were able to prove that “killed” civilians never existed, the Russian Investigation Committee revoked accusations in military crimes and left the accusations in plundering (comment of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group).

Russian films banned

President Poroshenko signed the law that prohibits screening Russian films produced after 2013 as well as the films that promote law enforcement agencies of the aggressor state. Law-makers are of the opinion that it is going to enhance Ukraine’s national security and decrease separatist moods in the society.

OSCE’s Mijatović is of the opinion that the recent legislative ban of Russian films in Ukraine may limit free distribution of information. Mijatović said that “Ukraine’s current significant progress in the area of media freedom should be preserved and enhanced, not undermined” (news in English).

Sociology: corruption index in the Ukrainian media

The Ilko Kucheriv Democratic initiatives Fund conducted a research of transparency of the Ukrainian media. The aim of the research was to get expert opinion on the quality of journalistic materials on television and radio, in print and online publications and news agencies. The majority of respondents represented the media sector (journalists and editors in the media, etc.).

One in four surveyed media workers admitted that the media they work for constantly or frequently publish customized materials. Another 38% responded that it happens occasionally, or rather as an exception. However, only 10% said that they have never faced cases of paid journalism. Paid journalism, according to the responses, it was usually political in nature, sometimes – economic or associated with certain individuals. Some respondents also gave approximate “tariffs” for publishing customized materials in the media, of which they were aware. They are highest on television – ranging from 14 000 to 83 000 UAH (450 to 2 800 euros/ 550 to 3 200 US dollars). The cheapest, according to the respondents, is to place them in online publications (price from 4 000 to 21 000 UAH, i.e. 130 -700 euros or 150 – 820 US dollars per material). (Full text of the research)

Reforms

The Ministry of Justice offers  to involve foreign judges in the judicial reform process. It was stated by Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko. He specified that they plan to carry out the judicial reform, which will include competitive selection and testing, within two years. According to the concept, during this time they expect to approve a package of interim laws and create special courts.

The European Union declares that their assistance to Ukraine depends on the pace of reforms in the country. According to the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, who has come to Kyiv on a two-day visit, the sooner the government and parliament of Ukraine move to reforms, the more support the EU can provide. “Usually the government has a hundred days grace period, but in Ukraine they must be a hundred days of concrete steps and work. The government should cooperate with the Parliament and to show their seriousness of intentions to carry out reforms,” said Mr. Hahn. The European Union expects resolute fight against corruption, appointment of an independent and reform-oriented Prosecutor General, thorough reform of the prosecution, effective work of anti-corruption bodies and a system of electronic declaration of profits. The European Union is ready to allocate the second tranche of macro-financial assistance of 600 million euros only under condition of “outstanding results,” added the Commissioner.

European integration

Following over 10 years of struggle for visa-free regime with the European Union Ukraine has come very close to receiving the status so desired by its common citizens. European Commission made a respective legislative submission. The document is the official proof that Ukraine has fulfilled all requirements of the visa liberalization action plan. As soon as the submission is supported by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (respective bureaucratic procedures are to already start in two weeks) and the respective decision is published, the visa issue with the EU may well be considered resolved.

It also means that the stakes on results of the referendum in the Netherlands made by opponents of Ukraine’s integration to the EU did not work out. Moreover the Dutch parliament rejected the draft law suggesting revoking its vote for ratification of the agreement as the referendum results suggest.

Meanwhile several investors from EU member states announced their plans to expand existing or to start new projects in Ukraine. Manufacturing vehicles is one of the areas of focus.

Arts and culture

Focus Chornobyl. Artistic projects that reflect on the 30th anniversary of the nuclear disaster

“Food of War” group of international artists teamed up with locals to produce an exhibition that explores the Chornobyl exclusion zone 30 years after the catastrophe. Visuals of the show are based on the artists’ trip to the area around the nuclear power plant. “Clouded Lands” multimedia project with be on tour through the European continent repeating the route of the Chornobyl nuclear cloud after the explosion. It is to be showcased in Belarus, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway and the UK.

An exhibition offering its visitors a virtual reality tour to the Chornobyl exclusion zone opens in Kyiv this week. “Chornobyl VR project” is a joint Ukrainian-Polish initiative. Polish agency Farm 51 that designs games and innovative technical solutions developed a virtual reality (VR) technology adjusted to the exhibition format. The show will then travel to Poland and the U.S. // Trailer.

Ukrainian electro-folk band ONUKA devoted their new EP “Vidlik” (Countdown) to the Chornobyl disaster. ONUKA is on the rise in Ukraine mixing traditional folk instruments (sopilka, bandura, trembita etc.) with electronic rhythms. Tribute to Chornobyl disaster is also a highly personal event to the band’s frontwoman Nata Zhyzhchenko. Her father was a Chornobyl disaster liquidator. ONUKA’s “1986” track contains excerpts of the power plant’s operators’ communication recordings. // English-language articles about ONUKA.

“86” is one of the artistic initiatives in try to rethink the functionality of the area in proximity to Chornobyl. One of its projects “86. ІІІ Festival of Film and Urbanism” is to take place in Slavutych in early May. Slavutych is a town located less than 60 km away from Chornobyl, purposefully built to accommodate evacuated power plant personnel. The festival is centered on the theme of urbanism and is to include film screenings, visual arts and music. “86” are also setting up a local film commission.

News in English

Reportage

«European Commission has officialyy proposed visa liberasation for Ukraine» – Ukraine Today material

«New Finance Minister Danylyuk admitted that he has links to offshore companies» – KyivPost

«Savchenko has stopped her full hunger strike» – Ukraine Today report

«Ukrainian NGO helps parents accept their LGBT children» – KyivPost report

«Innocent victims of war: authorities reveal number of children killed and wounded in the ATO area» – Ukraine Today report

«Chornobyl: Ukrainian village in the exclusion zone slowly recovers from nuclear disaster» – KyivPost report

Interviews

Іnterview with former Deputy Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze: «Poroshenko wants to control something that already exists, rather than to reconstruct it» – Ukraine Today

«What are optimistic prospects of the new government?» – Hromadske International interview with Alina Alina Polyakova, Deputy Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council

«30 years on since Chornobyl disaster»: Hromadske International interview with Rebecca Harms, European Parliament MP

«How will the Russian government react to the Panama Papers fallout» – Hromadske International interview with Lilia Shevtsova, Brookins Instition, US

Analysis

«Visa-free travel for Ukraine is imminent» – Ukraine Today analysis

«Ukraine improved its press-freedom rating» – Ukraine Today analysis

«Changes in the Ukrainian export structure» – Ukraine Today infographics

«Nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers are stationed in Donbas – Stratfor analyst» – Ukraine Today

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