Weekly Ukrainian media digest, October 18 – 24, 2016

Situation in eastern Ukraine
Situation in the combat zone in eastern Ukraine keeps deteriorating. Russia-backed militants keep using large-caliber weapons banned under the Minsk agreements. Most tense situation is observed in the Mariupol sector where militants fired over 3,000 rounds upon the positions of Ukrainian troops over the last week. The weapons they used included 152-mm tube artillery and 120-mm mortars near Pavlopil, 82-mm mortars near Krasnohorivka and Shyrokyne, 122-mm tube artillery and 120-mm mortars near Vodyane.

Over the last week Russia-backed militants fired 264 times upon Ukrainian troops. One Ukrainian serviceman was killed in action and 20 more were wounded in action over the period in question.

In the Luhansk sector militants restarted firing from Grad multiple launch rocket systems, made attacks near Troyitske. Russia’s proxies also fired 122-mm self-propelled artillery systems, 82-mm mortars, grenade launchers and small arms of all types available near Popasna. Militants used infantry fighting vehicles and large-caliber machine guns as well as were firing for effect from 120-mm mortars near Krymske.

In the Donetsk sector Avdiivka remains the epicenter of combat actions, where militants keep using tanks, grenade launchers, machine guns, small arms as well as 82-mm and 120-mm mortars.

Disengagement of troops in Donbas. Actual situation on the ground does not provide the necessary preconditions for disengagement of troops stipulated by the Minsk agreements. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak stated that Russia is not ready to fulfill the agreements on disengagement of troops from the contact line in Donbas.

Roman Bezsmertny, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine, former representative of Ukraine to the Trilateral Contact Group stated that the actual contact line in Donbas and the one foreseen by the Minsk agreements do not fully coincide. It concerns first of all Debaltseve that was seized by Russian troops after the second agreements in Minsk were signed. According to the document it needs to remain under control of the Ukrainian government.

OSCE. Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, confirmed intense militant attacks in the Mariupol sector: “Mission monitors recorded a nine times increase in the number of ceasefire violations in areas east and northeast of Mariupol. According to Alexander Hug, the SMM heard over 500 explosions in that area. On the same day, our monitors in the “DPR”-controlled village of Zayichenko heard numerous explosions and fire from various weapons, including multiple rocket launchers,” reported Mr. Hug.

Political statements. Normandy Four meeting took place in Berlin late in the evening on October 19. Conflict in eastern Ukraine was in focus of the talks. Leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia took part in the meeting. The latter was represented not only by the president and by the foreign affairs minister but also by the advisor to the Russian president, Vladislav Surkov, who had been sanctioned and banned entry to the EU. Security and political components of the Minsk agreements were discussed including drafting of the road map that is to become the main document for implementation of the Minsk agreements, as well as local elections.

President Petro Poroshenko, in an interview to the main Ukrainian TV channels, stated that the fact of Russian aggression had been acknowledge by everyone; Ukraine needs the OSCE police mission which would permanently stay on the boundary line, in the areas of disengagement of forces, storage of heavy weapons and at the border; Ukrainian border guards return to the administrative border after the elections in separate regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (regions) and, if all security conditions are fulfilled, the separate regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (regions) elections date can be discussed and approved by the Ukrainian Parliament; an alternative to the Minsk agreements is an open war with Russia; “Ukraine is not exchanged for Syria”.

According to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, it is important that the meeting took place, although it did not “produce miracles”. The parties agreed to work on the “road map” and the foreign ministers will discuss it in detail at a November meeting. Merkel specified that the purpose of the document is to give Ukraine access to its borders, but it may become possible only after the elections and observers will stay there until that time. Ukraine should adopt a law on elections in separate regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (regions). French President Francois Hollande noted that the priority in the humanitarian field is resolving the problems of persons deprived of their liberty.

Russia: All participants confirmed that the Minsk agreements should be the basis of the settlement in southeastern Ukraine, as Vladimir Putin stated. He also confirmed the readiness to extend the OSCE mission in the withdrawal area ​​ and places for storage of heavy weapons. Also, Putin said that the parties “had decided on some issues of humanitarian character”.

Russia deploys weapons on the border with Europe. Russia moves the missile complex “Iskander” to Kaliningrad, the territory bordering on Lithuania and Poland to “clarify the parameters of a US military satellite”. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite accused Russia of an aggressive show of force against the whole of Europe and the Swedish Ministry of Defense stated that they consider it a provocative signal policy as it aggravates the situation across the region.

However, the image of the Russian army suffered a heavy blow last week. A group of the Northern Fleet of the Russian Navy with aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” left Severomorsk for Syria. It is noticeable that the technical condition of the only Russian aircraft carrier leaves much to be desired: thick smoke is coming from the chimney of the ship, like ships of the 19th- early 20th century and there are fire trucks on the deck. Photos of the aircraft carrier passing the English Channel, covered in black smoke caused extensive jokes in social networks.

Human rights: Russia refuses to exchange Sentsov and Kolchenko. Stanislav Klykh is in critical condition
Sentsov and Kolchenko. Ukraine still negotiates the exchange of its citizens Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko sentenced to long prison terms in Russia. Russia refused to release the Ukrainians under the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons from 1983, although three Ukrainians (Nadiya Savchenko, Yuriy Afanasyev and Gennadiy Soloshenko) have been pardoned by the President of Russia this year and returned home. And people, pardoned by the Ukrainian President, departed in the opposite direction.

At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Justice refuses to exchange  Sentsov and Kolchenko allegedly because of their status as citizens of the Russian Federation. To remind, in early 2014, after the illegal Crimean annexation, Russia automatically changed citizenship of all Ukrainians who live on the peninsula. Contrary to the statement of the Ministry, the Russian Ombudsman, Ella Pamfilova, confirmed the Ukrainian citizenship of Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko.

Stanislav Klykh. A Ukrainian, Stanislav Klykh, who is kept in a predetention center in the Russian city of Grozny, went mad because of the tortures applied to him, said Zoya Svyetova, Russian human rights activist. “Now we know, the evidence that he was tortured terribly to force him to confess the worst crimes he never committed has been published.” At the meeting on October 17 Klykh waived his attorney and demanded that a Russian singer should be his defender.

According to the Russian investigation version, Klykh participated in the Chechen war against federal forces in 1994-1995. UCMC previously published materials on Ukrainian political prisoners in Crimea and Russia, including Sentsov, Kolchenko  and Klykh.

Crimea: Kerch Bridge, Lenin’s fall, shortage of doctors and the HIV-positive
Builders have formed the first section of the roadway on Kerch Bridge that will connect the annexed Crimea with Russia. The peninsula residents have been waiting for the connection to continental Russia since the peninsula occupation in early 2014.

Because of the bridge construction, the Russian government plans to resettle 185 people residing in 8 houses. They promised to build new housing for them before the end of October 2016 but the terms were postponed several times.

On the night of October 21  unidentified persons pulled down the statue of Lenin in Sudak. While police are conducting investigation, head of the city administration Vladimir Serov has promised to restore the monument. It should be noted that Crimea remains a reserve of communism: every town and village have a monument to Lenin, and the streets still bear the names of communists.

The Ministry of Health of the self-proclaimed government of Crimea informed that as of October 2016 the peninsula has 7,195 doctors, which means 81 percent of staffing permanent positions. Most doctors work in the hospitals of Simferopol, Yalta, and Yevpatoria. The least number is in district clinics – about 53-68 percent.

More than 25,000 HIV-positive citizens  have been registered in the annexed Crimea territory. Feodosia takes the leading position (10 percent of the total). This was stated by Irina Komarnytska, head of Feodosia department for the prevention and fighting of AIDS. According to her, the situation has been tense over the recent years. Previously, the infection was transmitted mostly through drug use, now there is an increase in the number of infections through sex – up to 68-70 percent.

Economy: State budget, suspension of cooperation with Russian banks and credit from the World Bank
The Verkhovna Rada has approved the draft budget for 2017 in the first reading. Costs of legislative activity of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in first reading were increased by a fifth. Funding of the Prosecutor General Office was increased considerably. The State Budget projects GDP growth at 3% and income growth by 17.3%. However, some MPs and official consider these figures as too optimistic. During discussion the MPs submitted 1,167 amendments to the budget.

Industrial output growth slowed down to 2% in Ukraine. The highest growth has been recorded  in manufacturing computers, electric equipment and in food industry.

National Bank of Ukraine has obliged banks to stop cooperation with the Russian Federation payment systems. Ukrainian banks are obliged to to stop cooperating with the Russian payment systems “Golden Crown,” “Colibri,” “Leader,” “Unistream,” Anelik and Blizko.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has issued a decree to enact the resolution of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on extending  the special economic sanctions  against individuals and legal entities of the Russian Federation and other countries whose activities, in one way or another, violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Besides, the list extended for 1 year has been supplemented with new persons. All in all, there are 682 people in the list.

The World Bank has approved a $500 million loan to finance the purchase of the required volumes of natural gas by the state energy holding  “Naftogaz of Ukraine” for the heating season 2016-2017.

Sociology: attitude of Ukrainians toward gender equality
Razumkov Center conducted survey “Gender equality and development: view in the context of the European strategy of Ukraine.” Its findings have been presented at a press conference at agency “Interfax-Ukraine”. The survey has been conducted in April this year in all regions of Ukraine except for the annexed Crimea and occupied Donbas. More than two thousand respondents aged 18 and older have been surveyed. The survey has covered the areas of family policy, economy, social and labor relations, etc.

1 out of every 10 persons in Ukraine faces sex discrimination. Women come up against this problem more often than men. However, almost 53% of respondents believe that we have equality without any discrimination. Among those respondents who believe that sex discrimination exists in Ukraine, 16.3% of women and 5.8% of men have experienced such discrimination.

Ignorance of the law. Ukrainian legislation on gender equality meets European standards. However, according to the researchers, it is not implemented by public authorities. The question in the survey was: “Are you aware of the validity of the Law on equal rights and opportunities for women and men?” 52.1% of respondents have answered that it’s the first time they hear about it, and 3.7% – that they are familiar with the text of the law. To the question “Are you aware of the action of the Law on prevention and combating discrimination in Ukraine,” 58.3% of people responded that it’s the first time they hear about it, and 2.5% – that are familiar with its text.

Women and Politics. Ukraine ranks 140 in the world in the percentage of women in “big politics.” The European Union is the most successful in attracting women to politics​​. In the EU countries women occupy on average 29% of seats in parliament, which is twice the number of women in the Parliament of Ukraine  (only 12%). Over 40% of parliamentary seats are occupied by women in Sweden, Finland and Spain. From 30% to 40% of women are in parliaments of Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia and Austria.

Sports: Ukrainian boxer – boxer of the year
Each year, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) determines the best boxer of the year according to their organization. In 2016, Оleksandr Usyk  has become the winner of this award.

In September, the Ukrainian gained victory over Krzysztof Głowacki and became the WBO cruiserweight  world champion. Thus, Usyk has broken the record of American boxer Evander Holyfield and has won the league title in his 10th fight in the professional ring.

Exhibition of Ukrainian and international posters of the XX century opens in Kyiv. “Ephemeroids. XX century in posters” comes as a visual research of Europe of the past century. About 300 posters were collected for the show. They were provided by museums, libraries, archives and private collections in Ukraine and abroad. The works are grouped into the “war”, “totalitalitarism” and “human being” sections. Among the topics covered are Soviet and Nazi propaganda, collectivization, woman’s social role, Hungarian revolution of 1956, Chornobyl disaster etc. The exposition includes but is not limited to the works of “the father of the modern poster” Jules Cheret, Czech art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha, French artist of Ukrainian dessent Cassandre and of Ukrainian graphic artist Pavlo Kozhun.

Our selection of English-language materials in Ukrainian media
«Leaders agree to draw up ‘road map’ for peace in Ukraine as Normandy Four talks end in Berlin» – Ukraine Today
«EU leaders mull new sanctions against Russia over Syria» – Ukraine Today
«More house searches for the Crimean Tatars» – Ukraine Today
«Ukraine will sue Russia over the ban of Crimean Tatars Mejlis» – Ukraine Today
«Russia refuses to extradite Sentsov» – Ukraine Today
«Donald Tusk: Russia’s strategy is to weaken EU» – Ukraine Today
«Ukraine becomes global leader in flour exports» – Ukraine Today
«European Parliament has stable majority to introduce visa-free regime with Ukraine» – Ukraine Today
«Corruption destroying Western Ukraine’s forests» – Hromadske International
«Prisoners of the Donbas» – Hromadske International’s interview with Pavel Lisyansky, Director of Eastern Human Rights Group
“Returning Ukraine to Russian World is Putin’s obvious goal” – Hromadske International’s interview with Ralf Fücks, president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
«Donbas reintegration now ‘a suicide’ for Ukraine» – Ukrainian political expert Alexander Khara
for Ukraine Today
«Impotence of Normandy Format» – Roman Tsymbaliuk in his column for Ukraine Today
«’Motorala’s’ death in Donbas as deconstruction of Russian myth» – Pavlo Kazarin in his column for Ukraine Today
Analytical materials
«Rinat Akhmetov: too big to tame» – KyivPost analytical article, the OligarchWatch project
«Ukraine can become top destination for surrogacy» – KyivPost