Weekly Ukrainian media digest, May 17 – 23, 2016

Situation in ATO zone
Situation in antiterrorist operation zone (ATO) zone remains tense. Ukrainian positions keep being attacked. According to the ATO Staff Russia-backed militant groups fired 155 times upon Ukrainian troops over the last week. Five Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 34 were wounded resulting from combat actions and mine blasts.

Militant groups keep using heavy artillery. Yesterday Ukrainian positions near Shyrokyne were fired upon from 152-mm artillery. Avdiivka, Nevelske and Krasnohorivka were fired upon from large-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers and mortars (news in English).

Monitors of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) were able to monitor the situation in Avdiivka that militants shelled with artillery on Saturday night, the mission’s press service reported. On May 22 ATO Staff reported that resulting from the militant attack on Avdiivka with the use of 122-mm artillery systems representatives of the Joint Control and Coordination Center (JCCC) on ceasefire and stabilization of contact line had to be evacuated. Later that day “DPR” militantsdisproved statements of the Ukrainian side on the artillery attack near Avdiivka and evacuation of the Russian representatives to the JCCC.

The SMM observed a slightly higher level of violence in Donbas compared to the previous day. In violation of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, armed “DPR” (“Donetsk People’s Republic”) members stopped the work of the SMM’s remote monitoring equipment in the area of the Donetsk airport (Report).

Militants disabled a video camera that OSCE installed in the area of the Donetsk airport and in Donetsk. Militants were ordered to do so by the “DPR” leader Oleksandr Zakharchenko (news in English).

Negotiations: exchange of prisoners. President’s Envoy on settlement of the conflict in Donbas and first deputy head of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) Iryna Gerashchenko said that 657 persons are currently considered missing in Donbas. Gerashchenko also noted that according to the data of Ukraine’s Security Service 112 civilians and military are held captive by militants.

After the contact group meeting in Minsk OSCE Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine Martin Sajdik said no progress had been achieved as to the liberation of hostages and the so-called “amnesty” for militants. He said the humanitarian sub-group was intensively discussing liberation of illegally held persons, however the “sides have different views on that”.

Ukrainian side reports that militants in Donbas are blocking the process of hostages liberation, said spokesperson of Ukraine’s representative to the Trilateral Contact Group former Ukraine’s president Leonid Kuchma. Representatives of the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions link liberation of hostages to amnesty. She also said access of the International Committee of the Red Cross experts to Ukrainian hostages is currently being blocked.

Political negotiations: OSCE police mission. Discussion on the presence of the OSCE police mission in Donbas is still in progress, said Head of the General Staff of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko. “In case the decision is made we shall start agreeing further cooperation steps between the OSCE mission and the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” said Muzhenko.

OSCE is considering an opportunity to send a police mission to Donbas in case local elections are held. “It could be a police operation that would help support the law and order in the area and help secure safety for elections,” said OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier. According to Zannier the OSCE is ready to send hundreds of policemen possibly armed in order to secure safety in voting places. The mission is going to work in cooperation with the “local policemen in Donetsk and Luhansk regions” in order to prevent criminal activities and help international organizations observe the elections. The mission would only be possible in case both sides agree to cease fire. “It is a complex scenario, but we can make it in case everyone agrees,” emphasized Zannier.

President Poroshenko appealed to Germany the chair OSCE country asking to accelerate the process of drafting of suggestions to deploy the armed police mission in Donbas, reports President’s press service.

Protests against elections in occupied areas of Donbas
On May 20 a rally calling not to let elections happen according to the Russian scenario in the temporarily occupied areas of Donbas took place near the Verkhovna Rada. Protestors intended to pass their demands to the MPs. “Our main demand is to not hold elections in Donbas. Because in this case we will lose Crimea once and for all and Russia will disappear from all media as an aggressor state. The West will get all reasons to lift all sanctions from the Russian Federation,” protestors claimed. Participants of the rally were carrying signage of Azov, Right Sector, Aidar and of veteran organizations. Some protesters were throwing smoke grenades and firecrackers.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that it would be irresponsible to derail the peace processes on Donbas. Commenting on the protests near the Parliament he noted that Russia is using this “picture” to present it as destabilization of situation in the country. He spoke against derailment of the peace negotiations and emphasized that it is not possible to resolve the Donbas situation in a military way.

Scandal around “Myrotvorets” website. Continued.
Advisor to Ukraine’s Security Service Yuriy Tandit said that those who are spying against Ukraine will be held liable. In such a way he commented on the situation that “Myrotvorets” created by publishing the list of journalists who were accredited in the area not controlled by the Ukrainian government. He said Ukraine’s Security Service will be checking the list and will check those who are using the journalist ID in order to spy for Russia.

Earlier “Myrotvorets” web site published a list of over four thousand journalists and their contact details obtained allegedly through a hacker attack on the “DPR” databases. The journalists in question received the so-called “accreditation” from “DPR” to work in the area controlled by militants. Last week “Myrotvorets” published the data once again (news in English).

Media organizations call upon the law enforcement staff to stop “intimidation of the journalists” started by “Myrotvorets” web site. The organizations appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and Head of Security Service Vasyl Hrytsak. “Repeated publication of this data and the fact that the data is not only still present in open access but was also distributed again in the ‘revised version’ indicates that authorities are tolerating such pressure upon the media,” media experts emphasize.

Publishing on “Myrotvorets” web site the data of international journalists who worked in occupied Donbas and were “accredited” with the unrecognized “DPR” and “LPR” (“Luhansk People’s Republic”) will harm Ukraine’s reputation, said Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Jan Tombinski during the panel discussion “How to Succeed in Europe?” in the framework of the Europe Day in Ukraine. Investment in Ukraine’s reputation capital means it is no good to loose friends. What happened with “Myrotvorets” may have very negative consequences, noted Tombinski.

Ukraine needs to develop the strategies for covering the situation in occupied territories by the mass media as a result of “Myrotvorets” website publishing of the list of journalists who were accredited with the militants, said Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze, Vice Prime Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration during the discussion “How to Succeed in Europe?”. “As a state we have to apologize to the journalists who are covering the events there in a responsible and objective manner. We should also speak about the state-established rules of covering the situation in the area in question,” the Vice Prime Minister noted.

Human rights and occupied Crimea
On 18 May, Ukraine remembers the victims of the deportation of Crimean Tatars, whom Stalin forcibly displaced from their native Crimea in 1944. Five victims shared their memories of the deportation in the “I survived the genocide” campaign (in English). UCMC infographic.

On May 19 after interrogation by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in occupied Crimea Ilmi Umerov, Deputy Head of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, was charged with calls to violate territorial integrity of Russia, reports lawyer Emil Kurbedinov. Kremlin-controlled Crimea’s prosecutor’s office officially said it started a criminal case against Umerov for “separatism” resulting from his speech on Crimea Tatar ATR TV channel where he was emphasizing the need to force Russia leave Crimea and Donbas.

Verdict against Russian military servicemen
On May 23  a verdict against Russian military servicemen Captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Sergeant Alexander Alexandrov came into effect. The court found them guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison with confiscation of property. President Petro Poroshenko expressed hope that the court decision will provide opportunities for the exchange of Nadiya Savchenko (news in English).

Fighting corruption in the regions
About 20 NGOs  from different regions of Ukraine announced creating a nationwide movement “Under control” to fight corruption at the local level. According to members of the movement, activists will record corruption in the system “Barometer of political corruption” and will make a rating of corruptioners from political parties based on the results of investigations. The initiators say that corruption at the local level is as high as at the central one. In the housing sector alone, losses due to corruption are more than 50 billion hryvnyas. In addition, activists will pass the results of investigations to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index in Ukraine  which reflects the attitudes of online respondents and their expectations for the future, in the first quarter of 2016 dropped by 2 points to 46 points.
They emphasize that Ukraine is still ranked second among the most pessimistic countries in the world after South Korea. “A great part of the respondents in Ukraine see no bright prospects in work, consider their financial situation disadvantaged and believe that now is not the most favorable time for purchasing,” Nielsen reports. The number of Ukrainian citizens who believe that Ukraine is in crisis has increased. In the first quarter of 2016, 97% of respondents notice crisis. 71% of Ukrainians believe that the country will overcome the crisis in the next 12 months. Every third Ukrainian (32%) in the online survey states that they do not have any free money left after buying essential goods. Ukrainians spend the saved money on clothing (30%) and the payment of debts (20%). Every third Ukrainian (38%) still worries about the war. Economy, prices for utilities and food – top 3 causes of Ukrainian respondents’ concern; and the number of those concerned continues to grow.

Arts and culture
Within the current edition of the Biennale Architettura in Venice Ukraine is represented in the collateral events section. The project entitled “Architecture Ukraine – Beyond the Front” is arranged by Izolyatsia platform for cultural initiatives. The exhibition explores the cities in areas of conflict juxtaposing Mariupol in Ukraine’s government-controlled area and occupied Donetsk. The project is based on findings of international and Ukrainian visual artists, architects and designers within their residency in Mariupol in 2015. Using video and printed materials the artists reflect on occupation, death rates, gender, nationality, industry, oligarchy, power etc. The exhibition is open from May 26 to June 30 at the Spazio Ridotto.

Script by Ukrainian film director and script writer Marysia Nikityuk received the ScriptTeast Krzysztof Kieslowski award at the Cannes Film Festival. Nikityuk’s script for the “When the Trees Fall” film was developed within a screenwriting workshop and chosen best among the 11 projects from seven eastern and central European countries. The award also foresees EUR 10,000 contribution for the film production.

Activists from central and eastern Ukraine traveled to Donetsk region on a train to present arts and talk to locals. Initiative entitled “Agit-train” consisted of 10 carriages and 200 volunteers and artists. After the nine-day voyage to the east activists brought back hand-made items from local children that will be displayed in Kyiv. On the next trip to Luhansk region civic activists from Donetsk region whom the organizers met over the first trip will join.

News in English

«Donetsk Spring. The Fight For The Homeland» – Hromadske’s documentary about the spring of 2014 in Donetsk

«Jamala brought Ukraine a victory in the Eurovision Song Contest» – KyivPost’s photo report

«OSCE monitors report prohibited tanks in Luhansk» – Ukraine Today

«Poroshenko appointed Lutsenko as prosecutor general» – KyivPost’s report

«Statement of journalists following database leak with personal information of war reporters in Ukraine» – Hromadske International

«Еka Zguladze has resigned. Police reform is blocked», – KyivPost’s report

«Trial over Ukrainian prisoners Karpyuk and Klykh is postponed» – Ukraine Today

«Nadiya Savchenko celebrates her 35th birthday in Russian prison» – Ukraine Today

«Тragic history of the Donbas» – Hromadske International interview with American historian Hiroaki Kuromiya

«Ukraine ranks fourth in IDP report, following Yemen, Syria and Iraq» – Ukraine Today

«What Ukraine must do to get another $ 1.7 billion IMF loan» – KyivPost’s analysis

«Busting Soviet war-time myths» – Ukraine Today

«Top reformers exit as corruption wins day» – KyivPost’s analysis

«Russians react to losing Eurovision to Ukraine» – KyivPost’s analysis