Situation in the combat zone
Over the last week the situation in eastern Ukraine escalated. The number of attacks increased by 50 per cent compared to the previous week. Russia-backed militants keep using heavy weapons. Resulting from hostile attacks upon government-controlled Avdiivka premises of a school and of a kindergarten in town were damaged. Over the last week militants were firing upon the city’s residential blocks. During one of the tank attacks nine shells hit a house that hosts a surveillance post of the Ukrainian side at the Joint center for ceasefire coordination and control.
Impeding the work of OSCE. OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine reports that their unmanned aerial vehicle was attacked and downed near the Donetsk water filtration station.
Trade with occupied areas. Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers (government) adopted the procedure of moving the goods in the ATO zone – across the contact line. Humanitarian consignments (including food products and medicines) as well as the goods required for metallurgy, ore and coal mining and power generation are allowed to move across the contact line.
Smuggling: illegal cooperation schemes between entrepreneurs on both sides. “Donbas.Realii” journalists found new routes used by entrepreneurs to transport the goods into the territory that the Ukrainian government does not control. It turns out, logistical centers and food markets, that Ukraine constructed on the contact line for the people residing in the occupied areas to be able to buy Ukraine-produced goods, have actually turned into transit hubs. Wholesale trade is not allowed in these centers. Nevertheless, wholesale buyers from the occupied areas order the necessary amount of goods. Later arrive the retail customers from the occupied areas who are pretending to be purchasing the goods for themselves. Later crossing back into the occupied areas, they load the purchased goods in the same trucks, the load may reach up to several tons. An average fee for such courier delivery constitutes RUB 150 (approx. EUR 2,5) per one trip. Ukrainian side denies that these centers are used for smuggling and illegal schemes.
Life in “DPR” and “LPR”
Hromadske Radio correspondent, Iryna Sampan, spent a week in the uncontrolled Donetsk to get a feeling of what the life there is like. Upon entering the “DPR” the journalist spotted Zakharchenko’s (“DPR” leader) quotes on billboards, as well as visual symbols sporting the colors of the Russian flag, St. George’s ribbons and Vladimir Putin’s face printed on T-shirts.
The curfew from 11pm till 5am is in place in Donetsk. Clubs, pubs and other entertaining places mostly work until 10pm. Expensive restaurants are full. They are attended by all sorts of people: in suits, probably businessmen, groups of friends, couples, families with children. In the food shops there are quite a few locally produced goods. Instead, the majority are the goods imported from Russia, Ukrainian ones are on the second place even regardless of the blockade. There are also goods produced in Belarus and even in the EU (Swiss chocolate for example).
Supporters of ideas of the “Russian world” residing in the militant-controlled areas are a small group. They defend the slogans of the “Russian world”, hate everything Ukrainian and Poroshenko in particular, and are convinced that Ukrainian soldiers will come to kill them. Those, guided by the principle “I don’t care”, are a bigger group. They avoid expressing their opinion and participating in discussions. They live as if nothing has changed. There is a pro-Ukrainian side of Donbas, even though it is relatively small group. Answering the journalist’s question why they are not leaving to the government-controlled areas, they said: “if we leave, there will be nothing Ukrainian left here”. Ukraine supporters also think that speaking up openly will not change anything and is dangerous.
The case of Roman Nasirov: what you need to know about the detention of the Fiscal Service Head
Ukraine’s National Anticorruption Bureau has charged the Head of the State Fiscal Service with a UAH two billion infringement of public money. He was removed from the office for the time of investigation. The court is now supposed to choose a pre-trial measure for him.
Who is Roman Nasirov? Roman Nasirov became head of the State Fiscal Service in May 2015. He was chosen based on the competition held by the Ministry of Finance. Prior to that Nasirov used to be an MP from Petro Poroshenko Bloc and was chairing the parliamentary taxation committee. Before that he worked as an investment banker and was deputy director of the State food and grain company (one of the biggest state-owned companies in the agricultural sector that forms the reserves and exports the grain).
What are the charges? According to the version put forward by investigation, Nasirov helped to cover illegal activities of the group of runaway MP Oleksandr Onyshchenko. Onyshchenko’s firms avoided paying taxes. Instead, they were partially transferring the money to the accounts of “Ukrgasvydobuvannya” (state gas extraction company) presenting it as income. The State Fiscal Service issued a permission to postpone the payment. According to MP Tetyana Chornovol, respective permission was signed by Roman Nasirov personally. At that time the company owed UAH one billion (approx. EUR 34 million) to the state budget. According to Chornovol, when the debt doubled Nasirov signed another permission to postpone the tax payment.
Roman Nasirov earlier said that he does not remember signing the documents on incentives to the firms of the runaway MP. “I am signing 800-900 documents a day, sometimes over 1000. I am trying to remember everything, but it is not that easy to comment on a particular document signed or permission issued to postpone a payment, particular terms or numbers,” Nasirov said.
The trial. On the day of the arrest, on March 2, Nasirov was taken to the Feofania hospital as an emergency case. Detectives from the National Anticorruption Bureau as well as prosecutors of the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office followed him. Law enforcement staff was ransacking the premises of the State Fiscal Service, they were seizing the documents and holding other investigation activities. Nasirov is the key suspect in the gas case of Oleksandr Onyshchenko.
Nasirov was detained and taken to the court. Pre-trial measure was supposed to be chosen. From the moment of his detention Nasirov was lying on medical stretchers, many say he was simulating the acute health state. He was in the court building at night on March 5-6 as activists fearing he could slip away gathered by the court building to not let him do so. Before the court hearing commenced on March 6, Nasirov stood up and walked. Earlier his lawyers were claiming that he had a heart attack.
Ukraine’s lawsuit against Russia at the International Court of Justice
On March 6 the International Court of Justice (UN’s highest judicial body) starts the trial re alleged Russia’s violations in Ukraine of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Ukraine filed the lawsuit against Russia to the Hague-based International Court of Justice in the mid-January 2017. It stresses that Russia is violating the rights of the non-Russian ethnic groups in the occupied Crimea as well as has been financing militant groups in Donbas starting from 2014. Ukrainian delegation is chaired by Olena Zerkal, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, Russian – by Roman Kolodkin, director of the legal department at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Russia.
Check out UCMC’s material explaining key legal details of Ukraine’s lawsuit against Russia as well as forecasts on the outcome of the case.
Opinion polling: public opinion on the higher education in Ukraine
In December 2016 the Ilko Kucheriv, Democratic Initiatives Foundation, teamed up with the Ukrainian Sociology Service to hold a nation-wide opinion poll “Education in Ukraine”. Most serious problems that the respondents pointed at are:
- corrupt university management (37 per cent);
- non-recognition of Ukrainian diplomas internationally (34 per cent);
- university education does not match the requirements of the employment market (32 per cent).
As priority steps to improve the quality of university education the respondents suggest that all forms of corruption in universities are eliminated (44 per cent), scientific work is encouraged (39 per cent), salaries of professors are increased (37 per cent) and cooperation with the best international universities is established (35 per cent).
Culture: Ukrainian fashion designers in Paris and at London Fashion Week
Ukrainian fashion designers presented in Paris collections of their brands Anton Belinskiy, Stas Kalashnikov, Masha Reva, Drag & Drop and Frolov. Anton Belinskiy’s fashion show was part of the current edition of the Paris Fashion Week. Designers’ show room is open until March 8 at the premises of the Ukrainian cultural and information center in Paris (22 avenue de Messine).
Earlier seven Ukrainian designers presented Ukraine at London Fashion Week’s event – International Fashion Showcase. Participating countries bring works by young designers in form of an installation. Ukraine showcased the pieces by Flow the Label, Jean Gritsfeldt, Alina Zamanova, FROLOV, Yana Chervinska, DZHUS, the COAT by Katya Silchenko. Ukrainian stand’s concept was “Wish You Were Here” and referred to a typical Ukrainian bus stop from the 60s with monumental mosaics being its integral part.
Sports: five weeks in a row of Ukrainian tennis success
On March 5, Ukrainian tennis player Lesya Tsukrenko won the tournament in Acapulco, Mexico. She won from French player Kristina Mladenovic in the two final games. The victory in the tournament became third in the career of the Ukrainian athlete and put her on the top-50 list of world’s best tennis players.
The victory marks the fifth week in a row of successful performance by Ukrainian athletes. Over this period, Ukraine’s best tennis player Evelina Svitolina won two tournaments (in Taiwan and in the UAE) and entered the top-10 list of best tennis players. She also contributed to the victory of the Ukrainian team over Australian tennis players in the Fed Cup. More than that, 14-year old junior tennis player Marta Kostyuk won the Australian Open and Oleksandr Dolhopolov won the tournament in Buenos Aires.
Absurd of the week: bust of Russian Tsar in Crimea starts weeping oil
Former de-facto prosecutor of Crimea and a current MP of the Russian State Duma Natalia Poklonska said on air of a Russian TV channel that a miracle happened in Simferopol, Crimea – a bust of the last Russian Tsar Nikolai II started weeping oil.
The statement caused much fun on the social media, while the local administration head of Svetogorsk, Leningrad region of Russia went even further and said that the Lenin monument in the city started weeping oil as well.
Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media
“Greeks in Ukraine: Living near the front line” – Hromadske International
”Roman, the Mythbuster” – column on Roman Nasirov by UNIAN’s editor-in-chief
”Blockade with ‘external management,’ visa liberalization breakthrough and diplomatic landings in Kyiv” – UNIAN’s weekly analytical digest
“Donbas railway blockade halting steel transportation” – Hromadske International
”Trump doctrine and Ukraine” – The Day