Weekly overview of the Ukrainian media between September 1 – 7, 2015

Situation in ATO zone
In course of a teleconference participants of the Trilateral Contact Group re-confirmed that the ceasefire mostly stands. “Participants that met via Skype state: both sides mostly comply with the ceasefire,” said Darka Olifer, press secretary of Ukraine’s former President Leonid Kuchma. According to her the conclusion was drawn based on reports by officers from the Joint Control and Coordination Center and of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission monitors.

Compared to earlier weeks the number of ceasefire violations on the part of militants has considerably decreased. Russia’s proxies opened fire upon the ATO forces a total of 85 times in the last week, reports the ATO press service. According to ATO spokesmen one Ukrainian serviceman was killed in action in the last week and 14 were wounded in action

According to the spokesman of Administration of the President of Ukraine on ATO-related issues Colonel Andriy Lysenko the situation in eastern Ukraine remains quite calm. It was absolutely quiet in the area of Bakhmutska road and in the Mariupol sector yesterday. Not a single incident involving heavy weapons use by militants was registered along the entire combat line. In the rest of ATO zone Russia-backed militants fired several shots from grenade launchers near Schastia, Luhansk region yesterday as well as instigated a series of provocations in the Donetsk sector, namely between Svitlodarsk and Maryinka and near Avdiivka.

President: Ukraine’s New Military Doctrine is based on the continued threat from Russia and demands full compatibility of Ukraine’s Armed Forces with NATO standards. The new Military Doctrine of Ukraine officially states that the Russian Federation is a military adversary of Ukraine and sets a task to redeploy military units and formations and establish proper military infrastructure in eastern and southern regions. According to the President the novelty introduced by the Military Doctrine is to abandon the policy of non-alignment and restore strategic course towards the Euro-Atlantic integration, shift the emphasis in the conduct of military operations on the complex use of military and non-military instruments: economic, political, information-psychological etc.

Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin does not rule out the possibility to swap the GRU (Main Intelligence Department) servicemen of the Russia Federation Special Forces for Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia. However, these steps would only be possible after the respective court sentence on Russian servicemen. Klimkin commented on the statement by the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Konovalov made on September 2, who did not rule out the possibility of exchanging political prisoners. Konovalov noted that the issues of possible swap must be decided using diplomatic channels.

General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reports three Ukrainian servicemen disappeared at the administrative border with Crimea having handed over the shift.

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine reports on the launch of the project “Youth Contact Group”. “SMM is convinced that the project provides a chance to young Ukrainians to change the situation for the better by improving the dialogue among young people from various parts of Ukraine. The project provides them with an opportunity to implement their own ideas and projects to normalize the situation in the country,” the statement says.

Top news piece from Donbas became resignation of Andrey Purgin, “parliament speaker” of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)”. Experts tend to believe that this is the result of Russia’s intention to remove non-obedient proxies standing in the way to quick Minsk agreements implementation. Denis Pushylin, “DPR” representative, who is also considered to be a person of the tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, replaced Purgin. Pushylin made immediate statement on the possibility to end the war as soon as the weapons of caliber less than 100mm are withdrawn from the frontline. Analytical article on the power games in Donetsk is available here.

“Putin decreases temperature of the conflict in the East”: an interview by Hromadske International with foreign correspondents Simon Ostrovsky (Vicenews) and Oliver Carroll (The Independent).

Ukraine’s Security Service states that it has detained a Russian Federation citizen near Slavne village in Donetsk region, where he took part in combat as part of the “DPR” militant group. According to the detained man, he was recruited by an FSB staff member in the penal colony where he was serving his term.

In its report of September 4 OSCE says that six Grad multiple rocket launchers were missing from the storage site in the area controlled by the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). Monitors discovered all registered pieces of equipment at the storage sites of the Ukrainian side that the monitors visited on September 4.

National Reforms Council agreed to introduce a three-year moratorium for changing the tax legislation after the tax reform is implemented in 2015, said Dmytro Shymkiv, Deputy Head of Administration of the President of Ukraine. The moratorium is expected to secure the forecasted business development as the state will be able to analyze the dynamics of revenue to the budget.

Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on decentralization. President of Ukraine is convinced that amendments to the Constitution will be voted in by the Verkhovna Rada after the local elections when elections won’t be a factor making pressure upon the MPs and neither one of the political forces will be able to instigate provocations similar to the ones on August 31. Before the changes are voted, wide civil discussions of respective changes shall to take place.

Public opinion on decentralization: Infographics by Hromadske International.

Experts: Constitutional changes don’t threaten national sovereignty. The fears of Ukrainian nationalists that constitutional amendments on the decentralization of power in Ukraine will undermine the country’s sovereignty are groundless, experts say.

Exclusive interview of Marcin Święcicki, Head of the Polish coordination group on decentralization in Ukraine to Ukraine Today. Expert explains decentralization in Ukraine.

“Decentralization or destabilization?” interview with Mariya Heletiy, Deputy Director of the Civil Society Development Project.

French journalist commented on the clashes outside the Verkhovna Rada

Ultranationalists could become a big problem for Ukraine‘.

The Verkhovna Rada passed the law on securing transparency of media ownership. The law enforces actors of media activities (TV broadcasters and programming providers) to disclose the actual ownership structure and provide the information on the final beneficiary owner of companies. It also enforces the actors to introduce control mechanisms to ensure that the information provided is credible (submission of income declarations of beneficiary owners). The authors also introduced to the bill a paragraph that prohibits establishing and running TV companies with the share owned by individuals or legal entities registered in offshore zones or that of Russia’s residents.

The Constitutional Commission has approved the proposals of the working group on justice on judicial reformation and respective constitutional amendments.”We approved the core document of the working group on the the judicial system reformation materials,” said Volodymyr Groysman, Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada, after the voting. The Constitutional Commission members decided that in the future these materials will be subjected to public discussions and will be submitted for the approval of the Venice Commission. At the same time an alternative proposal, which has not been included in the approved document, will also be submitted for the approval of the Venice Commission. The draft amendments to the Constitution in terms of judicial reform suggest repealing immunity of judicial branch representatives and simplifying the procedure for their dismissal. “Finally the inviolability of the judicial branch representatives is canceled. The procedure for their dismissal will be simplified and an effective model of the judicial system will be established. This allows us together with the Prosecutor’s Office and the national police to launch a process to effectively fight corruption,” said President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. According to him, the draft amendments to the Constitution in the first place allow significant increase in transparency in the judges’ work and liability.

Weekly comprehensive update on reforms in Ukraine available here.

Fighting against corruption
Military Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine shows the results of effective work to combat corruption, believes Anatoliy Matios, Chief Military Prosecutor of Ukraine. “Despite the difficult economic situation in Ukraine and the ATO, within a year of work the Military Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine returned to the state property 9,000 hectares of land that had been illegally disposed in the previous period,” – said Matios.

According to the analysis of public procurement during January – August  the State Financial Inspection prevented violations which equal 2.2 billion UAH. In particular, due to the identified violations tenders for a total amount of 1.3 billion UAH were canceled and contracts for 0.9 billion UAH were terminated.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde after the meeting with the President: Ukraine surprised the world with its achievements in reforms. President Petro Poroshenko had a meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde who is on a working visit to Ukraine. Following the meeting, Christine Lagarde noted that Ukraine had surprised the world with its achievements in reforms.

The state budget for 2016 in case of maintaining the current tax system and the performance of all the Government obligations will require more than 130 billion hryvnias as additional funding, according to the Ministry of Finance. According to calculations of Ministry, defense spending will increase by 16 billion hryvnias, the cost of subsidies to citizens will increase by 19 billion hryvnias. About 7 billion hryvnias will be required for funding reforms – in particular for the judicial reform, increased salaries to the prosecutor’s office workers and financing the new police. The Ministry of Finance suugest to cover the budget gaps by de-shadowing economy, improving culture of paying taxes at all levels, improving management of state-owned enterprises, as well as effective fighting against smuggling and confiscating of criminal assets.

The amount of direct foreign investment to Ukraine is $ 40 billion, said Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade Ruslan Korzh during the National ICC Ukraine Forum  “Invest in the future of Ukraine”.

In order to improve efficiency of between government and domestic businesses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a new platform for information exchange with national manufacturers for promotion of Ukrainian products in foreign markets, said Foreign Minister Pavlo Кlimkin. In this regard, Klimkin said that the newly created resource should become an aggregator for economic and business information from the ministry, foreign diplomatic institutions of Ukraine and Ukrainian producers for the promotion of Ukrainian products in foreign markets. It should also become place where foreign companies can find all the information they need to invest in the Ukrainian economy.

After the confirmation of long-term credit rating of Ukraine at the “SS” level, International rating agency Standard&Poor’s Ratings Services forecasted 2% growth of the economy in 2016, which corresponds to the forecasts of the key creditors of Ukraine – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. “The macroeconomic situation in Ukraine remains extremely difficult. We expect that in 2015, economic decline will be about 15%, but in 2016 it may grow up to 2%, and in 2018 – up to 4%,” reports the agency.

The vast majority (71.1%) of Ukrainian citizens believe that Russia is the aggressor, a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” are terrorist organizations, not representatives of the population of the territories concerned (64.9%) – Razumkov Center.

These results are not statistically significantly different from those that were received in March 2015. Giving an overall assessment of the conflict, the majority of respondents (50.4%) consider it a war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine. Significantly fewer respondents perceive the situation as a civil conflict between the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian residents of Ukraine (13.6%) or the struggle between Russia and the US for influence (25.9%). In March 2015, these figures were 56.1%, 15.6% and 18.6%, respectively. Among the respondents who believe that the conflict is a war of aggression against Ukraine 98.7% call Russia an aggressor; among those who perceive the situation as a civil conflict between the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian residents of Ukraine 45.8% consider Russia an aggressor; and among those who interpret the conflict as a struggle between Russia and the US for influence 45.6% consider Russia an aggressor.