Weekly Ukrainian media digest, May 3 – May 9, 2016

Situation in antiterrorist operation zone
Russia-backed militants fired 63 times upon the positions of Ukrainian Armed Forces over the last week. Two Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 12 were wounded in action and as they hit explosive devices.

Compared to previous reporting periods considerable decrease in number of ceasefire violations is registered. However ceasefire was not adhered to completely. Militant groups kept using grenade launchers, large-caliber machine guns and small arms upon the strongholds of ATO forces. They also used Minsk-banned 120-mm mortars. Russia-backed militant groups were firing upon the Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka (Donetsk sector), Shyrokyne and Taramchuk (Mariupol sector), provocations were also registered in the Luhansk sector.

According to the police statistics in Donetsk region as of May 6, 2016, 864 persons are considered missing, police continue search work, said Vyacheslav Abroskin, Head of National Police in Donetsk region. A total of 1645 persons have been registered missing since ATO started, since then whereabouts of 690 persons were discovered, 91 killed were identified as persons from the above list.

German Federal Government contributed the amount of EUR 2 million to the UN Refugee Agency in order to support its project “Humanitarian assistance and protection for IDPs and other vulnerable persons affected by the crisis in Ukraine”, reports Ukrainian office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. According to the agency Germany already contributed EUR four million to the project in 2015 (news in English).

During commemorative events for the victims of World War II on May 8 Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko noted that Ukraine counts on political and diplomatic ways to regain control over the temporarily occupied territories. He said that prior to any steps on the political settlement considerable progress in security issues needs to be achieved including ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian military equipment, complete access to all occupied areas for OSCE including the contact line and the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian state border.

Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s representative to the Trilateral Contact Group on settlement of the situation in Donbas said that Kyiv will not be discussing with Russia-backed forces elections in the occupied territories of Donbas until full control over Ukraine’s border is regained. Provisions of the agreements that fall into the security block need to be fulfilled first.

Broadcasting restarted in Donbas
First parts of the new 180-meters TV tower are being brought to Karachun hill near Sloviansk, Donetsk region, reported Oleksandr Bryhynets, Advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Information Policy in ATO zone. The Ministry reminded that the old tower was destroyed back in July 2014. As a result Ukrainian broadcasting was not reaching the Northern part of the Donetsk region. Although almost 50 transmitters have been installed in ATO zone full-fledged broadcasting is only possible if a new TV tower is installed.

Human Rights. Occupied Crimea
Crimean Tatar Resource Center presented another review of the chronicles of events and violations in Russia-annexed Crimea over April 2016. Totally, the survey includes over 60 violations. The center identified such major violations over the last month as mass detention of Crimean Tatars in the village of Pionerske in Simferopol District on April 1 (news in English).

On May 6, 2016 armed men arrived at the mosque of the Crimean Tatars in the village of Molodizhne in Crimea and detained about a hundred Muslims after praying. After a while people were released but ordered to come to the police station again. Chairman of Mejlis Refat Chubarov called the incident discrimination.

In the occupied Yevpatoriya on May 7, Russian security forces detained 25 Crimean Tatars and took them for questioning to the police, according to journalist Osman Pashayev. The security officials explained that the detention was conducted in connection with the operation to arrest perpetrators of the murder in Krasnodar (Russia).

According to a message in social network “VKontakte” about Crimea, in Russia a mechanical engineer Andrey Bubyeev was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in a penal colony settlement. This was reported by lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina. He was accused of making public appeals for extremism and activities aimed at violation of the territorial integrity of Russia. The reason for Bubyeyev’s prosecution was his reposting the material “Crimea is Ukraine” by a publicist Borys Stomakhyn and a picture on the same subject on his page “VKontakte”. Bubyeyev claims that he is prosecuted because of his conviction. He does not admit his guilt. Earlier, Head of the Investigative Committee of Russia Alexandr Bastrykin proposed to legislatively recognize denial of the results of so-called “referendum on joining the Crimea to Russia” as extremism (news in English).

According to Mustafa Dzhemilev, Authorized Representative of the President of Ukraine for the Crimean Tatar People, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) keeps captive 14 Crimean Tatars (list in English).

Commemorating World War II victims. New historic narrative
It’s the second year now since Ukraine officially moved away from the tradition of “celebrating the Victory Day over the Nazi Germany” to the tradition of commemoration of the WWII victims. In line with the international practice the Remembrance and Reconciliation Day was introduced on May 8 when tribute to the WWII victims is paid. “Red poppy” was chosen the symbol of remembrance (news in English).

Despite the changes and the law on decommunization in force that bans the use of communist symbols, the old narrative still finds supporters. Thus minor incidents have been registered in Kyivand Kharkiv on May 9 between Ukrainian activists and those who came with Red Soviet flags and wore St. George’s ribbons (the symbol largely used by Russia-backed forces in eastern Ukraine and actively promoted by Russian propaganda).

In occupied Donetsk and Luhansk military parades took place on the occasion of the Victory Day. The equipment that was on show is banned by Minsk agreements. The parades also took place inCrimea.

Fighting corruption
Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine (GOU) is constantly trying to discredit the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). This was stated by Head of NABU Artem Sytnyk. “If you wanted to take a prosecutor to court before, you needed another prosecutor’s decision, and now there is a body to break this hegemony. In addition, defendants of the high-profile criminal cases and those who are behind them, have good access to media resources, that is why defamatory information campaigns are regularly carried against NABU,” noted Sytnyk. He also said that under public pressure the GOU began referring cases to NABU for investigation.

“Maidan Monitoring” Information Center and “Sociologist” Research Bureau with the support of the European Commission conducted the poll “Landscapes of discrimination: sex and gender” in Ukraine. One in three Ukrainians (33%) considers “job placement and labor relations” the area where discrimination is shown most. 44% of respondents consider that women in Ukraine receive groundlessly fewer opportunities for work than men. From 41 to 58% of respondents consider that women should return to their traditional roles in society. A catastrophic situation is observed in the attitude towards sexual minorities: 65% of Ukrainians consider that schools should have the right to fire the teacher, if the teacher is a homosexual (text of the research in Ukrainian).

In 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, 47 banks and 104 non-bank financial institutions were withdrawn from the Ukrainian market; besides, the ownership structure was disclosed in the 44 solvent banks, according to the annual report of the Financial Stability Board published on the official website of  the National Bank of Ukraine.

Ukrainians have become poorer as demonstrated by the figures of the State Statistics Committee, which published the population expenditure and income patterns for 2015.

According to its data, last year Ukrainians spent money most on goods and services (89.8%). Traditionally, salaries (39%) and social assistance (about 37.8%) were the main sources of replenishment of the family budgets. In total, Ukrainians’ incomes amounted to 1.744 trillion UAH in 2015. The State Statistics Committee notes that last year the income of every Ukrainian was 31 082 UAH, which is 4300 UAH more than in 2014. In other words, nominally we grew rich by 15%, but actually with the increase in food prices and utility payments we grew poorer by 22.2%. In 2015, inflation exceeded 43%, and in 2014 – 25%.

The number of foreign tourists who visited Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 decreased by more than 90% as compared with 2013. According to the State Statistics Service data, 15 159 foreign tourists visited Ukraine in 2015, while in 2014 – 17 070 people. For reference, more than 232 thousand foreign tourists visited Ukraine in 2013.

As Ukraine’s economy shows fresh signs of stabilization, the Ukrainian central bank announced on May 5 that it would further relax its foreign currency controls (Article of KyivPost).

Arts and Culture

At the Cannes Film Festival 2016 Ukraine is to present new films and a series of industry events in the Film Market section. On May 18 and 19 ten young Ukrainian film directors will present their works in person within the “Short Film Corner” program (film synopses and screening details in English here). Occasions to get to know Ukrainian industry professionals include the Meet Ukrainian Producers lunch and a reception at the Ukrainian pavilion on May 13. Five recently produced Ukrainian feature and animation films are to be screened, including the awaited “The Nest of the Turtledove” film by Taras Tkachenko co-produced with Italy.

Ukraine’s Jamala will perform at Eurovision on May 12 in the Second Semi-Final. Her song “1944”narrates mass deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944 through the personal story of her great-grandparents.

Recently produced Ukrainian films are being screened in Canada within the Ukrainian Canadian Film Festival through July 2016. Upcoming screenings in Ottawa include “Generation Maidan: A Year of Revolution and War” on May 11, documentary on Crimean Tatars “A Struggle for Home” on May 17 and “Gamer” by Oleg Sentsov (Ukraine’s political prisoner in Russia) on May 25. Money raised during the festival is directed to fund prosthetic assistance to Ukraine’s civilians and servicemen, to support Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and Ukrainian film industry.

Ukrainian edition of the German-language Austrian literary magazine “Podium” is out. Compiled by Ukrainian writer Tetiana Malyarchuk the issue contains translated works of contemporary Ukrainian writers and poets including Yuriy Andrukhovych, Yuriy Izdryk, Serhiy Zhadan, Kateryna Babkina as well as of authors whose works are considered classics like Vasyl Stus.