Weekly Update on Ukraine, December 20 – January 10, 2016

Weekly Update on Ukraine, December 20 – January 10, 2016

Issue 1 – 2017

Situation in the zone of military operations: 
OSCE chairman visits Ukraine, militants deny access to humanitarian missions

Despite the agreements on ceasefire during the Christmas and New Year holidays, which was to begin December 24, 2016, armed hostilities in Eastern Ukraine continue. Over the past week, no one was killed, although 17 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded and 320 militants’ attacks were recorded in the area of anti-terrorist operation. According to official data, 211 Ukrainian military servicemen and 256 civilians were killed in area of military action in East Ukraine in 2016.

OSCE chairman visits Eastern Ukraine. OSCE Chairman, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, came to Donetsk region on January 3-4. He visited the entry / exit checkpoint  in Donbas and observed the consequences of shelling  in one of the settlements. According to him, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) will expand the area of its monitoring over the entire territory of Donbas and monitor cessation of hostilities. Kurz hopes that the status quo of these territories may change this year. After the visit, Sebastian Kurzpromised to allocate  an additional EUR 2 mln for humanitarian aid to residents of Donbas.

Activities of humanitarian missions on the uncontrolled territory. The self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) denied access to the uncontrolled Ukrainian territory to 15 international humanitarian missions. By the end of 2016, four missions, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Center for Donbas Development and the Russian fund “Fair Aid”, were accredited to work with the “DPR”.

Prisoner exchangeOn December 27, the “DPR” militants transferred two Ukrainian women, who had stayed in captivity, to Ukraine. The Ukrainian side stated that they were not in the list of prisoners to be exchanged. Ukraine handed over 15 persons to militants.

Life in the “DPR” and “LPR”
Delays in payments. According to local residents, who can publish their articles under the heading “Letters from occupied Donbas”, supported by Radio Svoboda, Donbas begins to face problems related to the payment of wages. Russia will not provide financial help any longer, and wages are to be paid by the republics. Delays in payments to doctors have actually led to the cessation of providing medical services, patients cannot have their tests done and are sent to commercial laboratories. The “military” of self-proclaimed republics also have a delay, but a few weeks only. They have more problems with the uniform and often have to buy it at their own expense. Despite comprehensive propaganda, people are reluctant to join “militia” ranks.

Ukraine surrenders? “Pinchuk’s Plan”
The American business newspaper The Wall Street Journal published a sensational article of Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk called Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace with Russia. The businessman calls to consider temporarily neglect the aim of EU membership from the stated objectives for the near future, and also “forget” about NATO. While supporting territorial integrity of Ukraine and recognizing Russia’s military aggression, Pinchuk calls to “ignore this truth” and accept Moscow’s proposals to end the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. That is to hold elections in self-proclaimed Russia-supported “republics”. He says that his position means “preservation of human life”.

“The philanthropist and businessman” Viktor Pinchuk, as he signed the article, built his business in the field of metallurgy, banks and the media, he actively supports the development of modern art and science, every year he sponsors Ukrainian breakfast at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Pinchuk’s article has caused a flood of negative reviews among opinion leaders in Ukraine. The Crimean Tatar activists condemn such “bargaining” with homeland and consider this article appeals to surrender. Activists urge, “Do not succumb to the temptation of “pragmatism”. High officials alsocriticized “Pinchuk’s plan”. Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, considers it unacceptable to give away any territory, as they are inhabited by Ukrainians, and recalls that Russia invaded Ukraine when the country had a neutral status. MP Hanna Hopko reminds that not only Ukraine but also Russia has to make concessions. Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, Dmytro Kuleba, assumes that Pinchuk cleverly manipulates intentionally false messages.

Economy: record grain exports
According to the Ministry of Agrarian Policy, Ukraine set a record of grain exports to foreign markets in 2016. It exported more than 39 million tons of grain, which is 13 percent more, than the previous season. In general, according to the State Statistics Service, grain export is 40.2% of total Ukrainian exports over the first 9 months of 2016.

The growth of consumer prices in Ukraine amounted to 12.4% by the end of 2016 and coincided with the forecasts of the National Bank and the government, being substantially lower than in the past years: 2015 – 43.3%, 2014 – 24.9%, stated the State Statistics Service of Ukraine. State Statistics said that the average annual inflation rate was 13.9% in 2016.

Crimea: life without Ukrainian water
In the spring 2014 Ukraine did not open the North Crimean Canal floodgates and thus isolated the peninsula from water supplied from the Dnieper River – the largest fresh water source for Crimea (85%). As a result, Crimean reservoirs became shallow.

The lack of water affected agriculture of the peninsula. According to the self-proclaimed Ministry of Agriculture of Crimea, after the Russian annexation the area of irrigated lands in the peninsula has decreased tenfold. The Crimean authorities ask people not to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Sociology: do Ukrainians feel happy?
On December 16-20, 2016, the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Razumkov Centre held a joint public opinion poll. The poll revealed that according to 73% of the population, the situation in the country has changed for the worse.

55% of respondents are not willing to undergo hardships for the sake of the success of reforms (24% – because they do not believe in the success, 31% – because their financial situation is already unbearable).

Ukrainian respondents called President Petro Poroshenko “politician of the year”. However, according to the sociologists, none of the politicians has had such a low result (9.5%). This is the lowest result of the “politician of the year” since 2000. Most respondents (62%) believe that Ukraine needs new political leaders.

Despite all the difficulties, a little more than a half of the population of Ukraine are optimistic. According to a survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in December 2016,54% citizens of Ukraine felt happy or somewhat happy, 25% felt partly happy and partly no, and 19% – rather unhappy or unhappy.

Young people are generally happier than elder people. The higher the income level is, the more people feel themselves happy. Relatively less happy now are the residents of the Eastern region:  59% of the population of Western region felt happy, 50% – in the Central, 60% – in the Southern region, while in the East of the country this share is 44%. That is, war with all its consequences is an important factor that makes residents of the East region of Ukraine unhappy.

Culture: Days of Ukrainian cinema in Brussels
On January 20-22, Days of Ukrainian cinema will be held in Brussels. Five Ukrainian films will be shown at Bozar Centre for Fine Arts. At the opening, Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s 1930 film “Earth” will be shown to the accompaniment of music played by ethnic group “DakhaBrakha.” The following four new Ukrainian films will be presented: “Мariupolis“, “Ukrainian Sheriffs” , “Close Relations” (documentaries) and “Nest of the Turtledove” (fiction).

The absurd of the week
Vadim Rabinovich, deputy from “Opposition bloc”, asked the questions: “Who in the last ten years invited Oleksandr Oles to Ukraine at least once, and who ever talked to him?”. Despite the fact that the Ukrainian  poet Oleksandr Oles died in Prague in 1944.

He made this absurd remark in a live broadcast on Ukrainian television, where he commented on the recent event: on January 3, Oleksandr Oles was exhumed in Prague. For half a century the rent for his tomb  was paid by Volodymyr Mykhailyshyn. But when he died, Mykhailyshyn’s son decided to bury his father where the tomb of the Ukrainian poet was. The poet’s body was exhumed, which caused a real scandal. Since the new place in the cemetery will cost 20,000 krones, it has been decided to rebury the poet in Ukraine.

Our selection of English-language news and articles about Ukraine

”Poroshenko administration slams Pinchuk’s idea to trade Crimea for Donbas” – KyivPost
”What was really going on in Novoluhanske?” – Hromadske International
”Changes ‘by the book’: how a library in Sloviansk became a center of attraction to the citizens” –  The Day
”ОSCE: How to force Russia to implement the terms of Minsk 2” – The Day
”Syrian option for Ukraine” – The Day
”How Ukrainian children become film directors at the age of 10” – Hromadske International

”Russia refuses to acknowledge it is part in Ukraine war” – Hromadske International interview with Major General Borys Kremenetsky, head of the Ukrainian side of the Joint Coordination Center for Ceasefire Monitoring
”Ukrainians have problems with understanding their rights” – Hromadske International interview with philosopher Mykhailo Minakov

”An existential moment for the Euro-American alliance” – Anne Applebaum, KyivPost
”Can Kyiv defend itself? – Andreas Umland, KyivPost
”One cannot have ‘a little bit’ of Putin” –  Willem-Gert Aldershoff, KyivPost

”The Maidan cases in numbers and in pictures” – Hromadske International