Weekly overview of the Ukrainian media between July 27 and August 3, 2015

Situation in the ATO Zone
The confrontation between ATO forces and militant groups continues. On Monday, the ATO Press Center reported, combined Russian and Russian-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions in eastern Ukraine 99 times over the last day, used artillery systems prohibited by the Minsk Agreements five times, mortars 33 times, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and small arms 81 times and tank-mounted weapons five times. Russian-backed militants concentrated their attacks in the vicinity of Donetsk. Between 6pm on August 2 and midnight on August 3, militants fired on Pisky, Opytne and Avdiivka two times with 120-mm mortars. Later, militants fired at Pisky from tanks.

Last week, militant groups fired on ATO forces 543 times. They also used grad multiple rocket launchers. Militants continue to shell Ukrainian troop positions, even from Donetsk.

According to reports by the spokesperson of the Administration of the President of Ukraine on ATO-related issues, over the last week, nine Ukrainian troops were killed in action and 62 were wounded in action.

Ukrainian Armed Forces will not withdraw from strategic locations in the vicinity of Mariupol, said Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko during his trip to Sloviansk, Donetsk region on Sunday. “Withdrawal of heavy weapons and artillery concerns the agreed areas. These are the areas of Mariupol. We are talking about the withdrawal of forces from the village of Shyrokyne, but we are keeping our units on the commanding heights in the village of Berdianske. We will not yield to provocations. The security of Mariupol has improved a lot since we have sent additional units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This also applies to other areas—near the town of Avdiivka, the Bakhmutka highway, and the town of Shchastia,” said Poroshenko.

In the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) faced aggressive behavior from Russian-backed militants, who forced OSCE monitors to return to Mariupol (report). East of DPR-controlled Oktiabr (28km northeast of Mariupol), two DPR militants in a civilian pickup truck stopped an SMM patrol, ordering monitors to return from the direction they had come.

According to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, “We [the Ukrainian government] are launching a new initiative that will allow internally displaced persons who lost their homes, work and property because of Russian aggression to sue Russia in the European Court of Human Rights or in national courts. The IDPs will be able to demand compensation for all damages caused by Russia in relation to each family, to each citizen.”

On the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry called on Russia to stop aggression against Ukraine and respect the principles of the agreement.

The German government will provide 1 million euros to support the project Comprehensive Stabilization Support to IDPs and the Affected Population in Ukraine. A total of 6,500 people in nine regions of Ukraine will receive aid by the end of this year

The Japanese government allocated 800,000 dollars as part of a UN project to create new jobs and promote entrepreneurship for IDPs who currently reside in Dnipropetrovsk region after fleeing Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Displaced People Break Myths About Russian Language in Ukraine,” a video report on IDPs in Donetsk who have reopened their businesses after resettling in “Little Donetsk,” Kyiv.

“Woman at War,” a Report about Yuliya, a member of the Kulchytsky Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine.

StopFake’s website debunked a Russian news story distributed by some Russian media. It contained an alleged statement from President Poroshenko on “unity” between Ukraine and Russia.

Interview with French journalist Pierre Sautreuil on reconciliation after the war and the situation in the self-proclaimed Luhanks People’s Republic (LPR). Sautreuil also released an investigation on Russian humanitarian aid and the infighting it causes amongst militants in the areas they control.

Reforms in Ukraine
Ukraine’s Constitutional Court recognized that the draft law amending the Constitution’s handling of decentralization is a legal move according to Ukraine’s Constitution. The Constitutional Court approved the paragraph of a draft law (Number 2217a) that stipulates that a separate law will address local self-governance in specified areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Polish experts criticized the new law.

The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) is considering holding a special session between August 24 and 28 to vote on changes to the Constitution of Ukraine.

President Poroshenko signed a law on electronic appeals and petitions. The law allows individuals and groups to submit applications over the Internet and creates an opportunity for Ukrainian citizens to address the President, Verkhovna Rada, Cabinet of Ministers and local governments through ‘e-petitions’ on official websites.

The Ministry of the Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine met to prepare for a merger between Ukrtransnafta, Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta, and to lay the groundwork for a unified energy company. Many experts have criticized this idea. They say it could lead to an oil sector monopoly by business tycoon Ihor Kolomoysky. Furthermore, according to the Third Energy Package of the EU, which Ukraine has implemented, transportation, extraction and sales should remain separate. A unified energy company would breach this stipulation.

According to the Crimean Khanate, the World Congress of Crimean Tatars calls upon the international community to recognize Russia’s continuous actions to eliminate the Crimean Tatar people as genocide; a genocide which began in1783 when it destroyed the historical homeland of the Crimean Tatars.

On Sunday, August 2, at the World Congress of Crimean Tatars in Ankara, Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars, said that since the annexation of Crimea by Russia at least 10,000 Crimean Tatars have left the peninsula. “Again, numerous factors are forcing many Crimean Tatars to leave their homeland and move to mainland Ukraine: tough discrimination and lawlessness against Crimean Tatars – especially the kidnapping and murder of young people – the forced drafting of young people into the Russian army with the prospect of sending them to war with their Ukrainian brothers, the complete absence of democratic freedoms, and the lack of any prospects for young people in the occupied Crimea,” said Dzhemilev.

On July 31, in Rostov-on-Don, the North Caucasus district military court began hearing the case of Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov and activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. A key prosecution witness, Hennadiy Afanasiev, who himself was previously sentenced to seven years in prison, is giving his testimony at the hearing. Afanasiev was convicted in the same case as Sentsov and Kolchenko. After the reading of the preliminary evidence against Afanasiev, he refused his statement, claiming that the evidence had been given under duress.

Threats, bans and Soviet methods were used in attempt to stifle the Crimean Tatar Congress, stated Dzhemilev. Three prominent Crimean Tatars have been prevented from leaving Crimea to attend the congress, which is politically embarrassing for Russia, continued Dzhemiliev, who went on to say that  the effective ban comes after weeks of FSB visitations, threats and attempts to use the small number of pro-regime Crimean Tatar organizations to undermine the Congress.

Click here for the Weekly overview of the main developments in Crimea.

Sociological Poll
If a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO was held in July 2015, 64% of citizens would have voted “for,” 28.5% “against,” and 7.5% “undecided,” according to the data of the poll conducted by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the sociological service of Razumkov Centre between July 22- 27, 2015. It should be noted that these findings differ from the results of the May survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, according to which the referendum participants’ votes would have been distributed as 51% “for” and 49% “against.”

The Ministry of Economic Development published a brief showcase of state-owned enterprises on the list for privatization in 2015.

The business ombudsman’s office published a quarterly report on doing business in Ukraine. The ombudsman received a total of 172 complaints from businesses on the actions of state bodies. The majority of complaints were related to the non-return of the VAT, the non-payment of state compensation to enterprises whose employees have been mobilized in the ATO, as well as the systematic failure of government and local officials to adhere to judicial rulings. Most often, businesses have complained about the State Fiscal Service (30% of complaints), Prosecutor’s Office (12%), State Registration Service, Ministry of Justice and the highest authorities – the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers, the President (7% each). The ombudsman also published a report on systematic problems for businesses as a result of military operations in the east of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian economy is showing signs of stabilization due to the banking system. To restore growth, it is necessary to continue a balanced economic policy and structural and institutional reforms, as believed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Restoring a healthy banking system is the key to economic recovery as a whole. To do this, Ukraine must move decisively in the direction of strengthening banks through recapitalization, reducing lending to related parties and the writing-off of impaired assets. At the same time, experts note that the second tranche of the loan from the IMF will provide a vote of confidence in the foreign exchange market.

A recent research has examined what Ukrainians mostly save on and why they are afraid to make major purchases. According to the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions Survey, three points on the consumer confidence index in Ukraine showed growth in comparison to the results of the 2nd quarter of 2015, i.e. an increase to 48 points, in comparison with Europe, which maintains 79 points. More and more Ukrainians are planning to save money on buying clothes (64%), will try to save on gas and electricity (58%), reduce vacation expenses (50%) and a much higher percentage of people (54%) are willing to switch to cheaper food brands. Beginning with 2014, the main causes for Ukrainians’ concern are the war (56%) the economic situation in the country (26%), and the increase in utility prices (25%) and consumer goods (19%).