Weekly Ukrainian media digest, April 5 – April 11, 2016

Situation in ATO zone
Ukrainian troops were fired upon a total of 501 times over the last week. According to consolidated reports by the ATO spokesmen three Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 40 were wounded in combat actions and mine blasts over the last week.

By the end of the week Russia-backed militants drastically increased the number of attacks upon the positions of ATO forces, made the record number of attacks – 91 on April 9. They were firing from tank-mounted weapons, mortars of various calibers, machine guns, grenade launchers and small arms. Joint Control and Cooperation Center (JCCC) reported considerable escalation in the area of Avdiivka, Donetsk region over the last week. It is currently the most intense spot in the ATO zone where Russia-backed militants fired 584 rockets and mines (Ukrainian positions were fired upon 98 times in this area).

On April 10 Russia-backed militants made 64 attacks upon the positions of ATO forces using Minsk-banned 120-mm and 82-mm mortars, tube artillery and antiaircraft mounts. Adversary was incessantly firing upon Ukrainian strongholds near Opytne, Maryinka, Stanytsia Luhanska, Pavlopil, Zaitseve, Novotroyitske, Pisky, Novhorodske and Verkhnyotoretske (report in English on the situation in ATO zone covering April 10).

In a statement published on the OSCE web site Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan called on all sides of the conflict in Donbas to adhere to ceasefire. Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM expresses his concern over high number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region that have been taking place after September 2015 when the parties agreed to a ceasefire.

While patrolling the area around Zaitseve OSCE monitors came under fire north of militant-occupied Horlivka. The patrol vehicle was fired upon near Snizhne that is controlled by Russia-backed militants (OSCE report). Militants of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) were threatening the SMM monitors with weapons. The incident took place near militant-controlled village Smile in Luhansk region. In the opinion of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC Russia-backed militant groups are trying to intimidate the monitors and impede their access to Avdiivka.

Military and political leadership of the Russian Federation keep disbursing considerable amount of money from the state budget to maintain subversive activities in temporary occupied areas of the eastern Ukraine, reported Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. A total ofRUB 775 million was directed to maintain so-called administrative bodies and law enforcement structures of the so-called “DPR” (“Donetsk People’s Republic”) and “LPR”.

Human Rights
Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian pilot and MP illicitly imprisoned in Russia, went on dry hunger strike on April 6. On April 5 her sentence came into force. The Russian Federation is ready to exchange the Ukrainian servicewoman and MP if Ukraine admits that the sentence of the Russian court is just, said Nadiya’s mother.

On April 13 district-level court in Kirovo-Chepetsk, Russia, will consider “conditional early sentence” of Ukrainian citizen Oleksandr Kostenko who was illegally sentenced to 3,5 years in prison in the occupied Crimea. Kostenko, Ukrainian from Crimea and a Euromaidan activist, is one of many Ukraine citizens illegally held in Russia. According to the Ukrainian diplomats Kostenko has passed a claim to Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice through his lawyer to have him transferred to serve his term in Ukraine.

Russia’s Ministry of Justice tasked the prison service to prepare the documents required to consider transfer of the four sentenced Ukrainian citizens to Ukraine including film director Oleg Sentsov to serve their term in the country of their citizenship. At the same time the Ministry of Justice emphasized that the final decision will be made by the Russian federal courts. Respective order was issued following the request submitted by the Ukrainian side as to transfer of Oleksandr Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiyev, Oleg Sentsov and Yuriy Soloshenko.

In Russia-annexed Crimea repressions against the Crimean Tatars are mounting, said leader ofCrimean Tatar people Mustafa Dzhemilev. “Thirteen Crimean Tatars are currently imprisoned,” he said. Over 200 searches took place over the past two years. “About 95 percent of searches were conducted at home, in schools and mosques of Crimean Tatars,” noted Dzemilev adding that the pretext for ransacking the premises was “they [law enforcement officers – UCMC] were allegedly looking for weapons and prohibited literature.” Searches are being conducted even with violations of the Russian law.

Court hearing continues in Crimea as to recognizing Mejlis of Crimea Tatars an extremist body. According to the defense Mejlis is an international body as it acts not only in Crimea, the case thus needs to be considered by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. (Mejlis is a legislative-representative body of Crimean Tatar people – UCMC). Prosecution also stated that Crimean Tatars are not indigenous people as “defined” by the international law (these territories need to be colonized).

Political crisis
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced resignation on April 10, 2016.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko will dissolve the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament) if the coalition is not formed and new government is not approved this week, said Stepan Kubiv, President’s representative to the Parliament. President Poroshenko noted that new government and coalition are expected within the current week of parliamentary work. They need to be reform-oriented, their primary tasks include implementation of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and combatting corruption.

Coalition that is being formed based on the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (BPP) and People’s Front(Narodny Front) party already numbers around 230 MPs (constitutional majority to make a parliamentary decision equals 226 MPs – UCMC), said MP from BPP faction Oleksandr Bryhynets who was recently granted a parliamentary seat.

Samopomich, Batkivshyna and Radical Party factions do not intend supporting Volodymyr Groysman for the post of the Prime Minister. Batkivshyna MPs noted that they have not made a final decision yet but have preliminary agreed to not support Groysman’s candidature.

Fight against corruption. Panama papers case
The main purpose of setting up Prime Asset Partners Limited (BVI) in the British Virgin Islands was to create a special purpose venture (SPV) for transferring business to the management of Rothschild Bank, instead of minimizing the tax base as the other participants in the “Panama papers” scandal did, said President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. “I did not do it to minimize tax; it was a fully public act. This company did not receive a single penny from Ukraine,” said the President. There is a difference in the cases of Russia, Iceland and the rest of the world: we had an absolutely transparent process and its purpose was to separate business from politics and establish credibility. There is no other way but create an independent venture and transfer it to a well-known bank.

Meanwhile, journalists of the program “Scheme” studied Petro Poroshenko’s business, which he had built for more than 20 years, and found that offshore companies had been part of the current president of Ukraine’s business structure from the beginning. Moreover, according to the materials of 2003-2004 criminal cases which journalists were able to find – Poroshenko could use them for tax evasion.

Only 1 percent of Ukrainians reported corruption to the Prosecutor General’s Office or the police in the last 12 months. This is evidenced by the data obtained in the PACT Inc. survey. However, as the results show, 16 percent of people are interested in reporting, and 6 percent – are interested in finding out how to do it. As it is indicated, the reasons for such passivity have not been studied, but they may be related to people’s reluctance to solve their own problems and lack of knowledge about their rights.

President Petro Poroshenko  spoke on the steps to be taken towards the announced de-offshorization. He entrusted the Ministry of Finance and the State Fiscal Service to ensure Ukraine’s accession to the international interagency convention on ensuring Ukraine’s access to non-residents accounts. After that Ukraine should automatically receive information on Ukrainian residents’ accounts in any bank in the world.

Referendum in the Netherlans
The referendum in the Netherlands on ratification of the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement failed to pass. However, low voter turnout (slightly more than 30%) gave rise to fierce debate more about the future of the EU than on issues specifically related to Ukraine.

Statistics: victory of indifference. Regardless of the fact that the victory of Ukraine’s opponents seems convincing one should not forget that 68 percent did not show up at the referendum, 13 percent supported Ukraine and 19 percent submitted a “no” vote. Statistically this referendum is a victory not as much of the association opponents but of indifference, illiteracy on association and political absenteeism resulting from various reasons from the majority of the country’s population. Not the last reason why the Dutch eurosceptics succeeded is they put on referendum the issue that was supposed to be of interest to the liberal majority of the country. At the same time they managed to mobilize the entire electorate that opposes the pro-EU government coalition and the EU itself. The referendum also demonstrated that the EU is entering the age of populist politics. Main reasons why voters said “no” were corruption (50 percent), Ukraine’s further membership in the EU (34 percent) and not sharing the EU values (31 percent). Those who voted “yes” emphasized improvement of trade relations between Ukraine and the Netherlands (49 percent), benefits for the Dutch economy (41 percent) and the idea that Ukraine will thus become stronger in its conflict with Russia (33 percent).

Defeat at the referendum actually becomes the red line for Ukraine. The EU will be less and less tolerating corruption in Ukraine and closing the eyes to it. The times of advances and compromises in the EU politics seen after the Maidan have gone. Each next argument about the fight of Ukrainians for European values will be confronted by pointing at high corruption level and lack of progress in the fight against it. Without the progress in this area nothing is going to work.

Despite the negative effects of the referendum for Ukraine the free trade area between the EU and Ukraine will keep on working anyway. The reason is over 90 percent of the Association Agreement’s content is within the responsibility of supranational institutions at the EU level: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council but not of particular member states. Provisions of the free trade area are included.

At the end of March during the international exhibition Defexpo India 2016 the Indian Ministry of Defence and a number of companies signed 15 memorandums with Ukraine on producing 500 transport aircraft and on long-term supply of gas turbines for the Indian warships. This happened against the background of the earlier frozen joint project with Russia on the construction of military transport aircraft Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) and denial of the Russian ships service. According to journalists, in this way Ukraine displaces Russia in the Indian military market.

Arts and culture
The cities of Kyiv and Lviv are working to develop documents that will shape development of culture at institutional level. Cultural actors of Kyiv are focusing their efforts on the Program “Culture of Capital 2018”. Civil experts as well as industry professionals emphasize the need to structure the program in a clear and strategic manner, they also note insufficient state financing of some sectors like cinema foreseen by the program. Lviv is drafting its cultural strategy until 2025,the working group that is conducting the work unites local authorities, civic sector actors and industry professionals. Latest draft is a comprehensive well-structured document that outlines strategic tasks and paves way towards their practical implementation with concrete steps and actors.

Private sector actively transforms former industrial spaces into co-working hubs and artistic clusters. Recent examples are revitalized industrial premises in Kharkiv and Lviv. Fabrica.space in Kharkiv (eastern Ukraine) is located in the premises of former agricultural factory that dates back to 1933. It now hosts an IT co-working space and a big event zone. The space was renovated by IT company Pics.io.Lviv’s (western Ukraine) former factory of radio-electronic medical equipment REMA is being gradually turned into an area of small workshops where artisan and creative industries find shelter. Jam Factory is another ambitious transformation project located in the industrial area of Lviv and due to become one of biggest artistic centers in Eastern Europe in two and a half years when the project is to be completed.

News in English

“Living on the front line”:  Ukraine Today reportage

“Poroshenko: Dutch vote not ‘strategic obstacle’ on Ukraine’s way to Europe “ : Ukraine Today reportage

“Voting in the Netherlands”:  Hromadske International special reportage

”Kyiv residents comment on ‘No’ vote in Dutch referendum on Ukraine”:  Ukraine Today reportage

“Lviv aims to become IT destination in Eastern Europe”:   Ukraine Today reportage

OSCE disgrace: monitors spotted at Russian-backed separatist wedding “:  Ukraine Today reportage

“What Yatsenyuk’s resignation means “:  Hromadske International interview withTaras Kachka, business ombudsman, deputy director of the “Renaissance” foundation

Interview with Makar Pesenyuk, Poroshenko’s manager, on the Panama scandal – Hromadske International

Most high-profile off-shore account holders in Eastern Europe”: Ukraine Today infographics

“Offshores in Eastern Europe”:   Hromadske International analysis

Head of the National Bank and the Panama scandal –the revealed schemes”:  KyivPost material