Weekly Ukrainian media digest, April 12 – April 18, 2016

Situation in ATO zone

Russia-backed militants in eastern Ukraine do not cease attacks upon the Ukrainian Armed Forceswith the use of grenade launchers, machine guns of various types, antitank systems as well as 82-mm and 120-mm mortars, reports ATO press center. Avdiivka, Donetsk region, remains the epicenter of militant attacks. Read on the detailed report on the situation in ATO over the last day.

Positions of Ukrainian troops were attacked 539 times over the last week. Four servicemen were killed and 22 were wounded as a result of mine explosions and combat actions.

Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug said that the situation in Donbas has sharply deteriorated and that the monitors were registering over a thousand of violations daily. He visited Yasynuvata, Shyrokyne, Zhovanka and Zaitseve, met representatives of the Joint Coordination and Control Center. “More and more frequent are the cases when we register missing equipment pieces in the storage facilities and then we see them appearing along the contact line.” The monitors are also registering planting of new mines by both sides of the conflict. On April 14 alone the monitors registered 4 372 shots fired.

The Future of the Minsk Agreements: Kyiv Security Forum
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is of the opinion that presence of the Russian troops in the temporary occupied Donbas is a provocation that keeps escalating the conflict. NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow noted that both regular Russian troops and mercenaries are fighting in Donbas. (Translation of the interview excerpts in Ukrainian): “Recruited local forces, so-called volunteers from Russia as well as regular Russian troops are active there. Despite the fact that Russian servicemen took down their insignia and made up their call signs, we know for sure and not only from the intelligence but also from open sources including social networks that a large number of Russian troops is still present in eastern Ukraine,” noted NATO Deputy Secretary General.

Vershbow added that presence of the Russian troops in Donbas looks like as if Kremlin was trying to make the situation escalate even more. He said current results of implementation of the Minsk agreements are not successful but they are still not a failure. “International pressure including sanctions needs to be extended. Russia needs to understand that half-measures are not going to satisfy the international community or Ukraine,” added Vershbow. He noted that elections are not possible in such a security situation.

Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution (U.S.A.) Lilia Shevtsova said on the margins of the Kyiv Security Forum: “There is an obvious fact that one may reaffirm – the Minsk agreements are impossible to implement. States that are parties and guarantors to the agreements realize that the conflict of interests between Russia and Ukraine makes the Minsk agreements impossible to implement.” Neither of parties including Russia is ready to say that Minsk is not working, it might lead to destruction of this fragile break and of the ceasefire. “Putin is neither ready to accept the defeat nor to surrender. It is all about preserving the system of autocracy that is degrading, possibly in agony that nevertheless may last very long. Ukraine in this context is the most serious and dramatic experience,” noted the expert. She is convinced that Moscow will continue the policy of “neither war, nor peace”. “It is actually not a situation of the hybrid but of the undeclared war”. Moscow will keep trying to further increase the tension, says Shevtsova.

Ceasefire and access to the Russian-Ukrainian border for OSCE need to come first, said Johannes Regenbrecht, Head of German Foreign Ministry’s Task Force on Ukraine. Representative of the German Foreign Affairs Ministry emphasized that the security part of the Minsk agreements, ceasefire and access to the contact line and to the border for the monitors is a priority that needs to precede the political part of the agreements. “Military forces from both sides need to cease fire and allow the OSCE to accomplish main procedures including checks of withdrawal of heavy weapons, give OSCE full and unimpeded access to the contact line and to the Russian-Ukrainian border. This access is required for OSCE to accomplish their work.” Moreover Regenbrecht emphasized that elections in occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions need to take place base on the Ukrainian legislation and only after the security package is implemented. Regenbrecht emphasized that “Nothing from the political part is going to be implemented until the security part of the Minsk agreements is implemented,” he reassured. “It is not possible to organize now free and just elections, according to the OSCE standards and to Ukrainian legislation with participation of international observers. These are the conditions clearly outlined in the Minsk agreements.” Meanwhile Ukraine needs to demonstrate goodwill and be preparing the election law.

Savchenko case
According to Illia Novikov, lawyer of the illegally imprisoned in Russia Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, she is in a critical condition. Nadiya Savchenko is on the 13th day of the dry hunger strike. Last week Nadiya’s sister managed to convince her to accept supporting IVs. He noted that even these procedures will help her survive for just a few more days. Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyerMark Feygin does not believe in the possibility of quick transfer of the Ukrainian to her homeland.

On April 18 district-level Kyiv court sentenced Russian regular servicemen Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov to 14 years in prison with confiscation of all their assets. The servicemen were detained in Luhansk region in May 2015 after the combat in which a Ukrainian serviceman was killed. Court ruled Russian servicemen guilty in waging aggressive war, assisting the terrorist organization and staging a terror act.

Also on April 18 Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice received an appeal from Nadiya Savchenko in which she is asking to start the procedure of her return to Ukraine, wrote the Minister of Justice Pavlo Petrenko on his Facebook page.

“One should not expect a swift decision to come out in two-three days on the exchange of Nadiya Savchenko to Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov,” said Savchenko’s lawyer Feygin. He said court’s sentence for the Russian servicemen is to come into force in a month while unilateral release of Savchenko by Putin prior to this term is quite unlikely. There is also a procedural issue as to documenting the exchange of Savchenko to Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov. “Granting pardon is the most likely option,” wrote the lawyer.

President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Pedro Agramunt called on the Russian Federation to release the Ukrainian pilot and MP Nadiya Savchenko and all other hostages. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin calling to free Savchenko and other political prisoners kept in Russia. Forty-six MEPs signed the letter. PACE rescheduled the debates on Savchenko case that were earlier planned on April 18 to April 21.

Occupied Crimea
Representatives of Crimea’s occupational authorities are working out the instruments to attract foreign investment omitting the sanctions, reports TASS. “It is important for foreign investors not to get sanctioned while working here. We agreed to not make it public. A series of tools will allow the foreigners to come here, make the money move, get dividends and income. This issue is not subject to public discussion. It is important to us that such instruments are present,” said head of the occupational government of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov. He said first contracts with international investors in Crimea can be signed already in June 2016.

Sergey Aksyonov announced signing the agreement with the investor on the construction of terminal in the airport “Simferopol”, which amounts to 32 billion rubles. This is reported by Krym.Reality, news project of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, referring to Aksyonov’s statement. The signing was part of the II Yalta International Economic Forum. The Russian Prime Minister of Crimea does not disclose an investing firm, to protect it from the Western sanctions. According to Sergey Aksyonov, at the forum the Council of Ministers of Crimea signed 12 economic agreements with entrepreneurs totaling about 70 billion Russian rubles.

On April 13, Russian-appointed “Prosecutor of Crimea” Natalia Poklonskaya suspended the activities of Mejlis, single highest executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars.

Meanwhile, searches and arrests of Crimean Tatars persist in Crimea. According to Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the forbidden Mejlis, on April 18 two Crimean Tatars have been arrested. On April 16, it was reported that in Crimea police raid Crimean Tatars’ houses under the guise of population census.

There can be no normalisation of the relations with Russia as long as Moscow leads a war in the eastern Ukraine, stated Mariluise Beck, Member of the German Parlament.

Political crisis: new government
The political crisis in Ukraine has entered a new phase – change of government. Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned from the post of prime minister, which is now taken by the former parliament speaker Volodymyr Groisman. The Verkhovna Rada also voted for the new composition of the Cabinet of Ministers. Though, it is too early to speak about solving the political crisis in the country. Rather, it is an attempt to take a breath. A number of facts prove this: politicians could not agree on the post of the head of the Ministry of Healthcare and it is still vacant, the nature of the negotiations around key positions in the government and controversy of a number of ministers – because of their past and possible relation to financial-industrial groups. In addition, the question of appointing a new Prosecutor General is still unresolved.

The International Monetary Fund  confirmed their readiness to continue cooperation with the new Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine led by Volodymyr Groisman.

Sociological group “Rating” conducted a survey about results of possible parliamentary elections. Sociologists also included possible participation of Saakashvili’s nonexistent party. Out of respondents 13 percent would vote for “Batkivshchyna”, 11 percent – for “Opposition Block”, 10 percent – for the party of Saakashvili and “Samopomich”, 9 percent – for Petro Poroshenko Block, 7 percent – for the Radical Party. “Svoboda” is very close to the 5-percent barrier with the figure of 4 percent. According to the same survey, 45 percent of respondents would support holding early elections, and 41 percent voted “against”.

According to another “Rating” survey, 55 percent of Ukrainians support Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. Another 15 percent want Ukraine to join the Customs Union. The number of undecided is the same. According to the survey, EU accession is mostly supported in the western and central parts of Ukraine – 82 percent and 62 percent respectively. In the east, the numbers of those who support the EU and the Customs Union are almost equal – 31 percent and 30 percent. In the south, 40 percent are for joining the EU and 25 percent – for joining the Customs Union. As of February 2016, 45 percent of Ukrainians would vote for the accession to NATO, while 30 percent would vote against (full survey in Ukrainian).

Fighting corruption
The National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine(NABU) recorded that MPs and judges do not declare their cars and real estate, but there are no proper tools for bringing them to justice. It was stated by NABU Head Artem Sytnyk. As of today, nine criminal proceedings on 12 persons have been sent to court. “These are our first results. They are mainly judges who were caught for illegal benefits. The losses of the state from corruption schemes are about 1 billion hryvnia,” informed Artem Sytnyk Head.
April 16 marked the first anniversary of creating NAB in Ukraine. The Bureau prepared a report  and an infographic on their results (in English).

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) plans to invest about 1 billion euro in Ukrainian economy in 2016, as EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti stated. But such financing will be provided only after implementation of the reforms.

Arts and culture
Ukraine’s biggest book industry event – Arsenal Book Fair will be held in Kyiv on April 20-24. Arsenal book fair traditionally provides a platform for international and domestic publishers, writers and illustrators to meet and present their works to the public. It also has a vast program of side events including artistic exhibitions, arts and crafts workshops and cinema screenings. Among this year’s highlights there is a special Crimean Tatar program that includes books in Crimean Tatar language, Crimea-focused literature as well as thematic discussions. Ukrainian graphics, illustrations and comic books will form the fair’s separate section. 25 Ukrainian and 25 French illustrators will present a joint exhibition of their works.

Kyiv International Short Film Festival takes place for the fifth time, this year on April 20-24. It has considerably expanded and has the potential to become an important industry event in Eastern Europe. The festival’s competition program has both Ukrainian and international blocks. “Foreigners on Ukraine” section presents Ukraine-focused films produced by international film-makers.

“What Ukraine Sounds Like” is a project that gives an opportunity to listen online to 700 contemporary Ukrainian musicians from across the country. The list came as a result of thorough research conducted by Ukrainian musician Kasha Saltsova and journalist Oleksandra Hayvoronska. The project comprises various genres and is the biggest consolidated compilation of contemporary Ukrainian music to date.

News in English

«Traces of the Revolution. Amnesty» – Hromadske International documentary about the end of the Maidan.

«Savchenko slips to critical condition»: KyivPost material

«This is how volunteers save lives in the frontline»: Hromadske International report

«Peninsula Fear» – Hromadske International report from Crimea

«Lithuania adopted “Savchenko sanctions list” that includes 46 persons»: Ukraine Today report

«’Prosecutor of Crimea’ Poklonscaya has suspended the Crimean Tatar Mejlis as ‘terrorist organization’»: Ukraine Today report

«Discover Ukraine» : Ukraine Today report

Ukraine Today interview with Ukraine’s former deputy prosecutor Vitaliy Kasko

«New Government, Old Ukraine?» – Hromadske International interview with Orysia Lutsevych, Chatam House analyst
On expectations for the new government of Ukraine, progress in reforms and in implementation of the Minsk agreements. Hromadske International interview with Johannes Regenbrecht, Head of Ukraine Taskforce in the German MFA.

«IMF ready to continue supporting Ukraine»: Ukraine Today analytics

«Groysman and new ministers»: KyivPost analytics on the new government (infographics)

New government – Ukraine Today infographics 

«New finance minister – ‘old school’ or reformist?»: KyivPost analytical material

«Two years of war: Human cost of Russia’s undeclared war in Ukraines’s Donbas» – Ukraine Today infographics

«Who are the 11 newest members of the president’s faction in Ukraine’s parliament?» – KyivPost analytics

Ukraine will publish the online KGB archives – Euromaidan Press material

“Coverage of the conflict in the east by Ukrainian media: study of journalists’ values, attitudes.​” –analytics by Media Sapiense. In February-March 2016, Telekritika NGO had a research of editorial practices, journalists’ opinions about their role in the conflict coverage as well as of the landmarks defining the journalists’ practices.

“Do the Minsk Agreements have any future?” – аnalytical material of the Institute of World Policy.