Weekly Ukrainian media digest, June 26 – July 4, 2016  

July 04, 2016.

Situation in the Antiterrorist Operation Zone

Antiterrorist Operation (ATO) Staff reports that Russia-backed militants fired 61 times upon Ukrainian troops in Donbas on July 3. Almost two thirds of the attacks – 38 took place in the Donetsk sector, 20 attacks – in the Mariupol sector. Russia’s proxies keep using heavy weapons. “In the Donetsk sector Ukrainian positions in Pisky and Zaitseve came under fire from 122-mm artillery. Enemy was firing Minsk-banned 120-mm mortars in Avdiivka and Novhorodske,” said ATO spokesman Oleh Sushynsky (news in English). Militants also fired upon the town of Toretsk, ruining residential houses were, reported Vyachesav Abroskin, Police Head in Donetsk region.

Over the last week four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in ATO zone in course of combat actions and having tripped explosive devices, 35 were wounded. ATO Staff registered a total of 365 attacks made from the temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Last week Ukrainian opera singer Vasyl Slipak who served in the volunteer Ukrainian corps “Right Sector” was killed in the area of Luhanske. Militants launched an offensive from Debaltseve near Luhanske. According to the fighter who was in combat together with Slipak at first artillery was fired, then militants used tanks and infantry. The fighters were trying to repel the attack.

In the Luhansk sector in ATO zone the sides of conflict moved personnel and equipment closer to the contact line, said Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug. On its Twitter account OSCE reported on increase in level of violence on the northern and western outskirts of occupied Horlivka.

Sanctions against the Russian Federation. “The Council of the European Union prolonged the economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 January 2017,” says the statement published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

“Our active diplomatic work of the last days including the visits to Brussels and Paris, negotiations with Berlin and intense negotiations with EU member states brought their results despite the position of skeptics and pessimists,” said Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. “It should stimulate Russia to implement the Minsk agreements and terminate Crimea’s occupation,” the President is convinced.

Human Rights

Russian lawyer Mark Feygin said he turned to the “Memorial” human rights center for assistance as to the case of his client – deputy head of Mejlis (Crimean Tatar representative body) Ilmi Umerov. Umerov was charged with “separatism” in the occupied Crimea. Feygin appealed to “Memorial” calling to recognize that his client is being persecuted “for political motives”.

Occupied Crimea

The so-called vice-governor of Sevastopol  Oleksandr Reshetnikov asked the Russian government to check on extremism the election program of the party “Yabloko”, which called Russia’s actions on the occupied Ukrainian territory as annexation of Crimea. Radio Liberty writes about this is with reference to the Russian media.

On July 1, the Russian party “Yabloko” presented its program to the Russian State Duma elections scheduled for September 18.

“Our position is very clear: we are for the inviolability of borders in Europe, we are for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and we believe that Crimea belongs to Ukraine, its annexation is illegal and should be canceled. We believe that the future of Crimea must be determined by the peninsula residents on the basis of the rule of law,” the document says.

In Simferopol, on July 2, a group of activists tried to hold a public rally in support of Crimean political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, who are held in Russian prisons.

According to the event organizers, the rally was to be held at the building of the Crimean office of the Russian FSB. But they managed to stay there only a few minutes. Then the Russian police arrived at the scene and prevented the action.

Media: the return of political pressure?

Experts of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) are registering increase in number of paid materials promoting political parties. They are Opposition Bloc, Lyashko’s Radical Party, Narodny Front (People’s Front), Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc and Vidrodzhennia (Renaissance). Fifty three paid media materials were registered in May, 75 in June.

Ratio between paid political and commercial materials in June constituted 88 to 12 percent respectively. Six leading online Ukrainian media have been monitored including “Obozrevatel”, “LB.ua”, “Ukrainska Pravda”, Ukrinform, “Liga” and UNIAN.

“No paid materials were discovered on Ukrainska Pravda and Ukrinform websites,” noted IMI. Highest number of paid articles was registered on “Obozrevatel” web site: 33 materials over one week (11 of which were ordered by Opposition Bloc, nine by Lyashko’s Radical Party). Twenty seven materials were spotted in UNIAN over the week ordered by Narodny Front, Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc and Vidrodzhennia.

People’s attitude to corruption

The number of people who are ready to declare the facts of corruption in Ukraine is increasing, according to Transparency International. In 2014, only 13% of Ukrainians declared their willingness to expose corruption. In November 2014, Transparency International held a campaign “They would not be silent!” aimed at explaining the importance of exposing corruption in the country. This was reported by Oleksandr Kalitenko, senior analyst at Transparency International Ukraine. After this campaign, 45 percent of Ukrainians declare their willingness to report cases of corruption (32 percent growth). Despite the fact that the number of potential “exposers” has doubled, only 2 percent do report and not just declare their readiness to report,” he said.

Economy: RF embargo against Western countries, trade and gas wars with Ukraine

The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine in response to the prolongation of Russian Federation (RF) embargo on food till the end of 2017, proposes to strike back in kind and to extend Ukrainian countersanctions. This was stated by Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade Representative of Ukraine Natalia Mykolska on Thursday.

Besides, the Russian Federation has introduced additional restrictions on Ukrainian goods transit through its territory. It is reported by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine on its website. The RF issued an additional decree on extending the restrictions on transit to the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic through the territory of Russia.

Gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine persists. Gazprom believes that Ukraine should pay for gas supplied to the uncontrolled territories. The Naftogaz of Ukraine’s debt for gas supplies to the southeast of Ukraine increased to 718.5 million dollars, said Chairman of the Gazprom Board of Directors Alexey Miller. Here, gas supplies to the territories that are not controlled by the Ukrainian government are concerned.

National Oil and Gas Company “Naftogas of Ukraine” refutes the statements of the Russian company “Gazprom”. Since November 2015 Naftogaz has neither bought gas from Gazprom nor has paid for it, they say. Before that, Naftogaz imported gas exclusively through the gas transporting system (GTS) entry points on the government-controlled territory. All gas volumes purchased by Naftogaz have been recorded by the parties and paid by Naftogaz, emphasized the company. They added that Naftogaz does not accept natural gas contracted with Gazprom through the gas metering stations Prokhorivka and Platovo, which receive Russian gas beyond the control of Ukraine.

Gazprom is ready to start gas supplies to Ukraine at a price of $ 167.57 per thousand cubic meters after receiving prepayment, said Miller.

Arts and culture

Reorganizing and establishing new museums in the near-front zone as a tool of humanitarian policy is in focus of the conference to be held on July 7 at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Experts, officials and artists will discuss the actual humanitarian policy in the frontline area, local and international experience of revitalizing industrial spaces as well as project ideas implemented or planned in Ukraine’s near-front zone. Case studies to get into the spotlight include the actual Sloviansk regional history museum, planned projects of Svitlohrad museum, “Luhansk’s Arts & Facts” and “Museum of Donbas modern history”. The projects aim at researching and rethinking the history and cultural legacy of the region. The conference is to be broadcast online with English translation here from 13.00 to 18.00 (Kyiv time).

The site of the toppled Lenin monument in Kyiv is to become the spot for an artistic intervention by Mexican artist Cynthia Gutierrez dubbed “Inhabiting Shadows”. The event is organized by Izolyatsia foundation as part of the “Social Contract” project also embracing an exhibition and a series of public discussions set to rethink Soviet legacy and commemorative objects in public space. The intervention is to take place on July 9 and will be on show for one week.

Review of English-language media

Stories

“As Ukraine pays tribute to Vasyl Slipak, Russian TV interviews the sniper said to have killed him” – Kyiv Post

“Two Ukrainians are among the victims of the deadly terror act in Istanbul” – Ukraine Today

“Gennadiy Afanasiev speaks about his imprisonment in Russia” – Hromadske International

“OSCE releases images of their UAV downed on May 21” – Ukraine Today

“Two new political parties form as liberal camp splits” – Kyiv Post

Story by Hromadske TV on Vasyl Slipak, opera singer and volunteer killed in the combat zone in June 28

“Russia continues its food war on western food” – Ukraine Today

“Ukrainian photographers win prestigious contest of Vogue Italy” – Ukraine Today

Interview

“Improving business climate in Ukraine” – Ukraine Today’s interview with Deputy Business Ombudsman Yaroslav Hrehirchak

“Brexit: parallels with Ukraine” – Hromadske International’s interview with Peter Pomerantsev

“Right wingers in Sweden, the Netherlands, France will want to follow Brexit but won’t succeed” – Ukraine Today’s interview with Oleksandr Khara, Ukrainian foreign policy expert

“Violations of Minsk agreements escalate in Donbas” – Hromadske International’s interview with Mykhailo Samus, director of the Center for research of the army, conversion and disarmament

“Women’s rights and the Ukrainian army” – Hromadske International’s interview with Natalia Karbovska, board member of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund

Opinion

“Why David Cameron is Yanukovych in reverse” – opinion editorial by Vitaliy Portnikov translated by Ukraine Today

Analytical materials

“How will Brexit affect Ukraine’s future: experts sharing thoughts” – Ukraine Today

“Andriy Parubiy’s political journey from revolutionary to Rada speaker” – Kyiv Post

Top 12 biggest achievements of Ukrainian reforms – Reanimation Package of Reforms

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