Weekly Ukrainian media digest, May 31 – June 6, 2016

Military situation
Most tense situation over the last week was observed near Donetsk, namely in the area of Avdiivka. Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 34 were wounded in action over the last week. A total of 278 attacks were registered. In May 28 Ukrainian troops were killed in action and 107 were wounded in action making it the deadliest month since the beginning of 2016.

In addition to Avdiivka tense situation was observed near Opytne, Pisky, Mayorsk, Myronivske and Luhanske where Ukrainian troops were attacked with small arms, large-caliber machine guns, mortars of various calibers (including the ones banned by Minsk agreements) and grenade launchers. In the Mariupol sector positions of ATO forces were attacked near Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Novotroyitske, Shyrokyne and Lebedynske. Russia-backed forces keep using 82-mm and 120-mm heavy weapons banned by Minsk agreements.

Combined Russian-militant forces fire upon Zaitseve checkpoint across the contact line. Over the last day its work was suspended and then consequently reopened, reports Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service.

OSCE’s unmanned aerial vehicle downed by militants in Donbas registered a Minsk-banned 210-mm OSA surface-to-air missile system and a ZU-23 antiaircraft system (OSCE report in English). The Mission also released a photo of the respective violation of Minsk.

Political statements. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said the progress in settlement of the situation in Donbas is next to zero this year.

Foreign Affairs Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov drastically rejected the idea which Ukraine emphasizes that security in Donbas has to precede holding of local elections in occupied areas of Donbas. “All of a sudden security theme has become central for Poroshenko, and it is not only about ceasing fire but also ensuring some security forces on the entire territory of Donbas. I would like to say: Donbas will never get to it,” Lavrov said during an online press conference.

OSCE police mission and elections in Donbas
Russia does not agree to place OSCE monitors at the Russian-Ukrainian state border until the special status of Donbas is introduced into Ukraine’s Constitution, said Foreign Minister Lavrov. “Ukrainians constantly want it (placing OSCE observers at the border – editor’s note) but they were explained many times that until no amnesty and the law on special status is introduced that would guarantee additional rights in these areas, until these rights are fixed in Ukraine’s Constitution on permanent basis as part of the special status, it is hard to count on that,” Lavrov said.

President of Ukraine Poroshenko states that elections in the occupied areas of Donbas are only possible after the armed OSCE police mission is introduced and ensures safety. According to Poroshenko security component is not only about ceasing the fire, it is not enough. “Efficient surveillance posts need to be installed on the contact line that would guarantee implementation of security conditions. Along with them respective posts of international forces need to be installed on sites where weapons are stored and on the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border,” the President said.

Occupied Crimea
In Russia-annexed Crimea Crimean Tatars are worst affected by the deteriorating human rights situation, states the 14th UN report on human rights in Ukraine released by the organization last week. Anti-extremism and anti-terrorism laws have been used to criminalize non-violent behavior and stifle dissenting opinion, while the judicial and law enforcement systems have been instrumentalized to clamp down on opposition voices. Worst affected are Crimean Tatars whose representation body Mejlis has been banned and whose rights are being constantly violated.

At the end of May, 2016, the Russian Sociological Service Levada-Center conducted a poll  in order to find out the Russians’ attitude to Nadiya Savchenko’s release. 44% feel positive about the exchange of Savchenko for Russian intelligence officers, 37% – feel negative, 20% – have not heard anything about the incident, and 9% – are undecided.

At the same time, citizens of the Russian Federation were asked about their attitude to Ukraine. 39% – feel positive, 47% – negative, 13% – undecided. The general dynamics is positive, because 64% felt negative about Ukraine, and 25% – positive in May, 2016.

However, according to another Levada-Center poll, Ukraine remains the second-worst enemy of Russia, after the United States. According to a recent poll, 70% of Russians feel negative about the US, 62% – about the EU, and 47% – about Ukraine. When asked about countries that are unfriendly and hostile to Russia, the Russians put the US (72%) in the first place, and Ukraine – in the second (48%). In comparison, only 4% of Russians consider France a hostile country.
Institute of Mass Information in its recent report registered increase in number of physical attacks on journalists in Ukraine: seven in May, four in April, two in March, one in February and four in January.

“Myrotvorets”: end of the story
“We call on those responsible for Myrotvorets to remove personal data from the website and desist from inflammatory language,” says the G7 Ambassadors’ statement regarding journalists’ personal data on Myrotvorets website published on the web site of the UK Embassy in Ukraine last week. “The characterisation of all listed journalists as “collaborators with terrorists” endangers the personal security of those affected and Ukraine’s hard-won media freedom. Journalists should be able to carry out their work free from threats, harassment and intimidation. It is vital, and in Ukraine’s interests, that journalists are able to report on events in the Donbas and elsewhere,” G7 Ambassadors are convinced.

“I am hopeful that the investigation will bring those responsible for leaking and publishing personal data of the journalists on Myrotvorets website to justice,” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said.

At the press conference on June 3 President of Ukraine Poroshenko said he condemns publicationof journalists’ personal data on “Myrotvorets” web site. He claimed the Myrotvorets website “had made a mistake” by disclosing the data and urged for an investigation. He also emphasized that journalists in Ukraine do not face any related threat.

Local media outlet “Hromadske” has checked the information to find no reports on violence against the journalists whose names were published on “Myrotvorets” web site. At the same time many of the above journalists publicly reported about the threats that they had received in social networks and by anonymous phone calls.

Human Rights: Equaity March in Kyiv
Fifth international LGBT forum Kyiv Pride 2016 is due to take place in Kyiv on June 6-13, 2016. The forum’s motto is “Security of a person – development of a country!” The program foresees around 20 educational events and discussions. On June 12 traditional Equality March will be held – a peaceful march to support the ideas of personal and public security, human rights and against the discrimination.

Some far-right forces have already announced their intentions to oppose the events. Right Sector’s press secretary Artem Skoropadsky voiced on Facebook the threats of physical violence to the participants of the march.

At the same time e-petition to the Kyiv City Council called to prohibit holding of the Kyiv Pride 2016 and of the Equality March has got 10,000 required signatures and is thus to be considered by the city authorities.

The issue is highly debated in the society: large number of civic sector representatives expressed themselves in favor of holding the March and for the rights to peaceful assembly stipulated in the Constitution. It is expected that more people will take part in the march in comparison to the last year. Last year there were clashes during the March, dozens got wounded.

Police is determined to protect human rights at the Equality March, claimed National Police Head Khatia Dekanoidze.

Judicial reform
On June 2 Ukraine’s Parliament enacted the judicial reform by passing a series of laws and introducing respective amendments to the Constitution. The reform is backed by international partners and has been approved by the Venice Commission. The newly introduced legal provisions limit the immunity of judges, transform the system of courts in Ukraine, introduce anticorruption mechanisms and increase judges’ salaries.

Economy: will IMF program continue?

Ukraine and its key creditor, the International Monetary Fund, agreed on the basic issues of the second tranche of financial aid. In case of reaching final agreements, Ukraine may receive the next tranche of the loan program in July and August. This was stated by David Lipton, Deputy Managing Director of the IMF. Lipton said that Ukraine has to effectively reform the pension system, which is now ineffective. In 2015, the IMF approved a lending program of Ukraine’s economy with the use of the EFF (Extended Fund Facility) totaling 17.5 billion dollars for a four-year term.

The IMF will decide on the disbursement of the next1.7 billion dollars tranche to Ukraine at the end of June, after assessing the specific government’s steps and the implementation of the “homework”. This was stated by Jerome Vacher, representative of the International Monetary Fund.

Ukraine and the US signed an agreement  on credit guarantee for $ 1 billion. The funds involved as a result of the bond issue will be used for social support to the most vulnerable population segments, including as a result of increase in gas tariffs. The guarantee agreement is part of the bilateral and multilateral economic support to Ukraine, which includes a four-year International Monetary Fund program, and reflects the economic reforms of the Ukrainian government.

Arts and culture

“In search of Made in Ukraine” fair that unites over 300 Ukrainian producers was held in Kyiv on June 4-5. Product categories offered by the fair participants range from clothes, footwear, home decor items to detergents, cosmetics, perfumes and food – all locally produced. The open-air event held in Kyiv’s historic Podil area started in 2014 at the initiative of blogger Yuliya Savostina. Over the two years the fair has grown both in number of the participants – mostly small and medium-sized businesses: from 75 to 350, and of the visitors: from 5,000 to 45,000.

Days of Kazimir Malevich will be held in artist’s native city – Kyiv on June 9-11. The future pioneer of abstract art was born in Kyiv into a Polish family in 1878, he left Ukraine in his 20s and came back to live and work in Ukraine 20 years later. The events comprise an exhibition of Malevich’s works and of the works of other Ukrainian avant-garde artists, a series of expert panel discussions, pubic lectures and film screenings including the classic “The Eleventh Year” film of 1928 by Dzyga Vertov.

Traditional embroidery from Donetsk region as well as historic embroidered artifacts will be on show in Kyiv on June 8-28. The exhibition is based on private collection of a Donetsk native – researcher and activist Lyudmyla Ognyeva and on the collection of the destroyed civic-set Donetsk museum. The exhibition also includes the items embroidered by Ukrainian political prisoners in labor camps.

News in English

«Savchenko comments on her first appearance in Ukrainian parliament» – Ukraine Today
«Odesa Security Forum: Hybrid solutions to security in Black Sea region and beyond»: – Ukraine Today’s report
«How much Yanukovych’s party invested in corruption» – Ukraine Today’s report
«US and UK will organize forum next year to help Ukraine recover stolen assets abroad» – KyivPost
«KGB monument in Kyiv demolished on fourth attempt» – Ukraine Today’s photos and video

«New prosecutor general gives hope to families of killed protesters» – Ukraine Today’s interview with Markiyan Halababa, a lawyer for Euromaidan victims’ families
«What does Savchenko’s return mean for Ukrainian politics?» – Hromadske International’s  interview with philosopher Mykhailo Minakov and journalist Iryna Slavinska
Ukraine Today’s interview with Jérôme Vacher, IMF Resident Representative to Ukraine
«Exposing Ukraine’s corruption» – Hromadske International’s interview with Drew Sullivan, OCCRP editor
«Bribery at Ukraine’s former ruling party» – Hromadske International’s interview with Ihor Rozkladay, Media Law Institute expert

«UN report: No Donbas elections until security provided» –  Ukraine Today
«Poll: Russians see Ukraine among its top enemies» – KyivPost
«UNICEF report: Donbas conflict affects over half million Ukrainian children» – Ukraine Today

«West on autopilot» – KyivPost’s editorial note

Portrait: “new faces” in government
«Kovaliv’s ambitious plans for rebuilding Ukrainian economy» – KyivPost’s article about First Deputy Economy Minister Yulia Kovaliv