Weekly Ukrainian media digest, May 10 – 16, 2016

May 16, 2016.

Situation in ATO zone

During the past week, militants continued attacks on Ukrainian forces in ATO zone, using 82 and 120-mm mortars and grenade launchers, which according to the Minsk agreements should be taken away from the boundary line (news in English). Last week, militants continued intensive shelling of ATO positions near Avdiivka (it is in these positions where Ukrainian soldiers were injured most often). Totally, ATO positions came under fires 124 times last week. As a result of the shelling and land mine blasts, 3 Ukrainian military were killed, 17 injured.

Donbas is threatened with environmental degradation and mercury contamination of drinking water because of the militants’ actions. There have been more of recorded facts testifying the destruction of infrastructure and industrial facilities in the temporarily occupied areas of Donbas. According to the Ukrainian intelligence, the servicemen of the 1st AC of the Russian Armed Forces dismantle and transport the equipment from the former Mykytiv mercury plant (which is in the regime of “dry close-down”) for scrap metal. Because of this pumps may stop pumping water, which can lead to drinking water contamination with mercury species in the nearby settlements (news in English).

The intelligence also reports that Russia continues strengthening illegal armed formations in the temporarily occupied Donbas. A unit of the 10th special purpose brigade of the RF Armed Forces (the place of permanent deployment – Molkino, Krasnodar region) came to Luhansk from Krasnodar region. Sniper groups came to Dokuchayevsk and Bezimenne (news in English).

OSCE Special monitoring mission (SMM) states that on May 9 they recorded a large number of weapons on “military parades” in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk. This is fixed in the mission’s report. In Donetsk, the observers saw 15 serials, seven serials with armed men in military- type uniform as well as seven serials with unarmed men and one serial with women in police or military type clothes.

OSCE SMM fixes reduction of ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This was reported by Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Alexander Hug.

Political negotiations: Normandy Four meeting in Berlin. The meeting of Foreign Ministers in Normandy format in Berlin on May 11, where they discussed the possibility of elections in the occupied territories, ended without any result. Neither side seemed to bet ready to make mutual concessions. Ukraine insists on compliance with Ukrainian legislation and on holding elections under Ukrainian regulations (Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s comment in English). Russia insists on the adoption of new rules and laws in the direct dialogue between Kyiv and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insists on the militants’ amnesty. The European participants are inclined to reach a compromise on the basis of Ukrainian proposals but taking into account the proposals of Russia.

Seventeen stolen Italian paintings have been found

Border guards together with the military prosecutor’s office found 17 paintings stolen from an Italian museum “Kastelvekko” in late November last year. This was reported by the State Border Guard Service press center. The pictures had been prepared for smuggling from Ukraine to the territory of the Moldovan Republic (news in English).

Human Rights. Occupied Crimea

Repressions of the Crimean Tatar people continue on the peninsula. On May 12, armed representatives of the Russian Federal Security Service conducted a series of searches in homes and cafes owned by the Crimean Tatars. As a result, 4 Crimean Tatars were arrested  in Bakhchisarai. Later a video of searches, conducted by the occupational authorities, appeared in the Internet (news in English).

According to one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar people Zair Smedlyayev, he expects the searches to continue until May 18 – the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944. He believes that such actions are intended to provoke Crimean Tatars to take radical steps: “Not much is needed to provoke conflict” (news in English).

Survey

42.4% of Ukrainians did not like that Volodymyr Groisman was appointed Prime-Minister. These are the results  of a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center. The decision was supported by 35.4% of respondents. A relative majority of citizens (44.3%) believe that in terms of effectiveness the new government will be the same as the previous one. 20.1% of respondents believe that the new government will be better and 17.3% – that the new government will be worse than the previous one. 10.3% of respondents believe that after the resignation of Yatsenyuk’s government, forming a new government and a coalition, the political crisis ended, the majority of respondents (72.7%) do not.

New Prosecutor General of Ukraine

A new prosecutor general was appointed in Ukraine. It is Yuri Lutsenko, a famous Ukrainian politician. In 2005-2006 and 2007-2010 Lutsenko was interior minister, and during Yanukovych’s presidency he spent more than a year in prison. Recently Lutsenko headed BPP faction in the Verkhovna Rada.

The biggest problem of Lutsenko’s appointment to the post of Prosecutor General was that he is a politician close to President Poroshenko, and therefore it will be difficult for him to avoid accusations of subordinating Prosecutor General’s decisions to the President. Another important issue is that Lutsenko has no legal education, and by law he could not be Prosecutor General.

To solve the second problem, within one day the parliament voted a new draft law that was immediately called “Lutsenko law” – a law under which the Prosecutor General may not have legal education. After the law was adopted, President signed the bill within an hour and a half and within another hour and a half the law was published in the “Voice of Ukraine” (which is considered record -fast). On the same day President Poroshenko recommended Yuriy Lutsenko for the post of Prosecutor General, the specialized parliamentary committee supported this candidacy and later Parliament approved Lutsenko’s appointment.

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The adoption of the law was accompanied by a debate in parliament, but was approved by 258 deputies’ votes. According to Serhiy Leshchenko, MP from BPP faction, the law was passed with the support of MPs who are subject to oligarchic clans (39 persons  who are subject to Kolomoiskiy and other gas oligarchs). The parties “Samopomich”, “Batkivshchyna”, and some MPs from other factions (including BPP) were against the law.

Experts’ opinions split. Some experts  were quite critical to this “flash-like” election of a new prosecutor and adjusting the law for him, because discussions on nominations had lasted for several months. Lutsenko’s flash-like appointment demonstrates that it was supported by Poroshenko, and questions the independence of the future Prosecutor General. Others believe that Lutsenko, who was politically convicted by Yanukovych government and served in jail for over a year, then took an active part in the events of the Maidan, will conduct an objective investigation and reform the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Еconomy

Moody’s international rating agency expects the resumption of growth in domestic product of Ukraine in 2016. Over the past year, inflation decreased from 60.9% down to 9.8%. However, now the national debt exceeds 80% of the GDP of Ukraine and restructuring of 3 billion dollars Euro bonds redeemed by Russia is likely to be delayed due to a long judicial process, according to the agency experts.

Moody’s expects that there will be a slow resumption of growth in economy of Ukraine in 2016-2017. Ukraine’s budget deficit is likely to remain within the target of 3.7% of GDP in accordance with the International Monetary Fund requirements due to the reforms in the tax sphere and the recent reduction in gas subsidies

The International Monetary Fund will grant another $ 1.7 billion loan to Ukraine, assures the Minister of Finance Oleksandr Danyluk. President Petro Poroshenko and Vice President of the US Joseph Biden agreed to sign soon the bilateral agreement on granting Ukraine the third $ 1 billion tranche of credit guarantees, informs the press service of the Ukrainian president.

According to approximate international estimates, the offshore assets of Ukrainian origin range  from $ 117 billion (Global Financial Integrity) to $ 167 billion (Tax Justice Network), informs Sergey Korablin, Doctor of Economics. Annual offshore losses of Ukraine reach $ 11-12 billion, which is equal to the volume of loans received from the IMF within the last two schedules (2014-2015), he informs in his article. According to the author, the above capital erosion is accompanied by a fall in fixed assets accumulation.

Economy of Ukraine starts to slowly grow after a protracted two-year decline, according to the State statistics data for the first quarter. The experts explain the growth in industrial production (by 3.7%) primarily by the world metal market recovery, where Ukraine is one of the major players. As to the increase in retail trade turnover (by 1.6%) which was decreasing for more than a year, the experts consider it the most accurate indicator of the fact that the worst is over. At the same time the decline in GDP accelerated from 6.8% in the first quarter of 2015 up to 9.9% in the first quarter of 2016. Exports and imports also continue to decline: -27.2% and -29.9%, respectively (cf. -14.6%, and -28%).

Arts and Culture

Ukraine wins the Eurovision Song Contest 2016. The winning performance is the “1944” song by Jamala. The singer of the Crimean Tatar origin narrates Stalin’s deportation of Tatars of 1944 through a family story. Her grand-grandmother was among the deported and lost one of her daughters. Jamala was voted second by the jury and chosen winner based on audience’s votes. According to the contest’s rules Ukraine is to host the Eurovision song contest in 2017.

Heaven’s Hundred public garden in Kyiv was selected into the final of the European Prize for Urban Public Space 2016 competition. The garden is one of the 25 finalists chosen out of 276 entries. The place used to be one of the key spots during Euromaidan revolution in 2013-2014. Right after the space was rearranged into a public garden by volunteer efforts. A mural of the first fallen Euromaidan activist Sergiy Nigoyan was completed in the garden by Portugese artist Alexandre Fartu. Competition winners are to be announced on July 4 at the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. Finalists’ works will be touring Europe for two years.

Italian street artist “2501” completed what is thought to be one of Europe’s tallest murals in Kyiv. The work is done on 26-storey building. The artist was inspired by Ukrainian coat of arms and chose liberty as the mural’s central theme. The new mural is part of the civic initiative that granted Kyiv several dozens of murals by international and local artists over the past two years.

Young Ukrainian architects and designers are to develop projects called to re-shape the yard of Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv within a three-day workshop guided by international experts. Architects and urban planning specialists from the Netherlands, Lithuania and Italy will pass on their expertise to the workshop participants. The event is organized by CANactions initiative and is part of the larger urbanism-centered festival that includes lectures, film screenings and exhibitions. Ivan Honchar is the museum preserving traditional folk items. Workshop results are to be publicly presented on May 21 in Kyiv.

News in English

Documentaries

«Donetsk Spring. The Fight For The Homeland» – Hromadske’s documentary about the spring of 2014 in Donetsk

Reportages

«Jamala brought Ukraine a victory in the Eurovision Song Contest» – KyivPost’s photo report

«OSCE monitors report prohibited tanks in Luhansk» – Ukraine Today

«Poroshenko appointed Lutsenko as prosecutor general» – KyivPost’s report

«Statement of journalists following database leak with personal information of war reporters in Ukraine» – Hromadske International

«Еka Zguladze has resigned. Police reform is blocked», – KyivPost’s report

«Trial over Ukrainian prisoners Karpyuk and Klykh is postponed» – Ukraine Today

«Nadiya Savchenko celebrates her 35th birthday in Russian prison» – Ukraine Today

Interview

«Тragic history of the Donbas» – Hromadske International interview with American historian Hiroaki Kuromiya

Analysis

«Ukraine ranks fourth in IDP report, following Yemen, Syria and Iraq» – Ukraine Today

«What Ukraine must do to get another $ 1.7 billion IMF loan» – KyivPost’s analysis

«Busting Soviet war-time myths» – Ukraine Today

«Top reformers exit as corruption wins day» – KyivPost’s analysis

«Russians react to losing Eurovision to Ukraine» – KyivPost’s analysis

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