Weekly Ukrainian media digest, November 29 – December 4, 2016

Situation in eastern Ukraine
Combat situation. Combat actions continue in eastern Ukraine. Over the last week Ukrainian side registered a total of 237 militant attacks. Two Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 19 were wounded in action.

According to the ATO (antiterrorist operation) press-center in the Mariupol sector over the last day Russia-backed militants were firing upon the positions of Ukrainian Armed Forces in Talakivka, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka and Shyrokyne from mortars of various calibers, grenade launchers, large-caliber machine guns and small arms. In the Luhansk sector Novozvanivka came under fire of 82-mm mortars. Krymske, Zhovte, Lopaskine, Novooleksandrivka and Stanytsia Luhanska came under fire of grenade launchers. Russia-backed militants were firing upon Novooleksandrivka from antiaircraft systems. In the Donetsk sector combined Russian-militant troops were firing upon Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka from mortars and grenade-launchers.

Normandy Four meeting: roadmap discussion. Heads of the Foreign Affairs Ministries of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany met in Minsk on November 29 to draft the “road map” on implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin commented on the meeting right away, stating no considerable results were achieved. He said Russia is ignoring key issues, like access for international missions to the uncontrolled parts of the state border as well as to the entire uncontrolled area. Discourse of the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov was limited to accusing Ukrainian troops of violating agreements on disengagement. Access to Donbas for international armed missions is not on the agenda, Lavrov said. One of the key issues was exchange of prisoners. It will be discussed on December 7 at the Trilateral Contact Group meeting.

Media of the occupied Donetsk. Printed media in occupied Donetsk are by 80 percent composed of propaganda materials, says Donetsk blogger Stanyslav Vasin. His piece was published by Radio Liberty.  Largest and most popular newspapers of Donetsk at the moment are “Novorossiya”, “Donetskoe vremia” (Donetsk time) and “Golos Respubliki” (Voice of the republic). Due to the total control over local media on the part of the occupational authorities materials are presented with no criticism and often repeat themselves from one issue to another. Main content that the media offer draws on worshiping militant leader Zakharchenko, anti-Ukrainian propaganda and praising the industrial achievements of the Russia-controlled “Donetsk People’s Republic (“DPR”).

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine registered a five percent violence increase in Donbas over the last week. It was reported by Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM. He also noted that the monitors registered the use of mortars, tanks, artillery and multiple rocket launchers banned by the Minsk Agreements.

TV tower to broadcast near occupied Donetsk. A new TV tower on the Karachun hill will start official broadcasting in Donetsk region on December 5-6. It is expected that it will expand Ukrainian broadcasting to the temporarily occupied areas of the region up till the city of Donetsk. It was reported by Georgiy Tuka, Deputy Minister on affairs of the temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons.


Military training near Crimea: risk assessment
On December 1-2 Ukraine started a pre-scheduled training and missile drills on the training ground in Kherson region bordering with the annexed Crimea. It provoked an intense reaction and threats on the part of Russia.

Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Russian Federation called these plans a “provocation” that could lead to Moscow’s “tough reaction”. Russia’s air defense troops in Crimea were put on combat alert. Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that they did receive threats from the Russian side.

On December 1 Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces took all the security measures and explored the risks that could turn up during the training. As a result they decreased the size of the potentially dangerous launch area in the northern-western part of the Black Sea water area. News in English.

Expert assessment. Ukrainian experts are of the opinion that Russia’s threats aim at discrediting Ukraine. According to the experts Moscow’s aim is to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence. “By doing so they will try to not only improve their image but to also get out of the sanctions regime,” said Mykola Snigurovsky, director of military programs at the Razumkov Center.

According to the Russian military expert Aleksandr Goltz, Kyiv aims to prove yet again that Crimea is Ukraine and thus they are free to take any action they consider appropriate over its territory.

European experts do not rule out that the step can be dangerous as it will be considered as provocative action by the Russian side. The experts are of the opinion that this series of reciprocal military actions that are mounting tensions should be stopped, these actions are openly provocative. In case tensions increase or the conflict with Russia gets into an open armed phase, Ukraine should not count on NATO.


Chornobyl nuclear power plant: New confinement
Ceremony that marked conclusion of the sliding operation over the sarcophagus at the 4th power block at the Chornobyl nuclear power station took place on November 29. Construction’s weight is 36 thousand tons, it is 110 meters high, 257 meters wide and 164 meters long. Confinement project is designed for 100 years, over this time the ultimate solution to the problem is to be found. The process of putting the Chornobyl power plant out of operation will last until 2064. Governments of over 40 countries have contributed to the ambitious construction project. Check out the video of the confinement sliding as well as the interview with the EBRD “Chernobyl Shelter Fund” deputy director.

Confinement installation makes the area safe for working with radioactive materials inside the confinement, dismantling of constructions as well as limits radiation influence upon people, personnel and environment.

Experts remind that the story is not over yet, as a series of ecological problems remains, to resolve them both support from international partners and Ukraine’s clear priorities in energy and environment protection spheres are crucial. Moreover back in April Yuriy Kostenko, Ukraine’s Minister for natural resources in 1992-1998 who was personally involved in liquidation activities at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, emphasized that the new confinement will cover ecological problems instead of resolving them.

Meanwhile the Ministry of ecology and natural resources promotes development of renewable energy in areas adjacent to the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Officials hope to turn the two and a half thousand square meters of abandoned land into a plot on which solar energy parks Chornobyl Solar will be constructed. Ecologists note that in case Chornobyl Solar will be launched, safe locations need to be identified on its territory so that the solar panels themselves do not turn into radioactive waste.


Human rights: Sushchenko, Karpyuk, Dadin
Sushchenko. Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media, said that the Russian authorities denied her visit to Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist detained in Russia.

He was detained in Moscow on September 30. Russia’s Security Service charged him with spying and called “a staff member of the Main Intelligence Department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense”. On November 28 a court in Moscow extended his arrest till January 30, 2017.

Sushchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin said the defense had submitted the claim asking to transfer the journalist to house arrest however the court of the first instance ignored the claim.

Karpyuk. Ilia Novikov, lawyer of imprisoned in Russia Ukrainian Mykola Karpyuk, said that in the nearest time his client will be transferred from Chechnya where he is currently serving his term to another region. The exact place remains unknown for now. Defense is preparing the documents to file to the European Court of Human Rights.

On May 26, 2016 the court in Chechnya sentenced Mykola Karpyuk to 22,5 years in prison, and another Ukrainian Stanislav Klykh to 20 years in prison for taking part in the Chechen War on the side opposite to Russia’s federal forces. Karpyuk and Klyukh reject their guilt, say they have never been to Chechnya, as well as were seized by Russian law enforcement personnel illegally and have been subject to torture.

Dadin. Russian opposition activist and Euromaidan protestor Ildar Dadin was transferred from prison in Karelia where he was tortured. Dadin was sent to another region but it is not reported where to exactly. In a recent interview Dadin’s wife confirmed the fact of torture as well as stated that she would be insisting that he is transferred to another prison regardless of Ildar’s unwillingness to leave his fellow prisoners in trouble. In November translation of Dadin’s letter to his wife was published in which the activist was describing the prison conditions, threats of the management as well as torture that he himself and other prisoners were subject to.

Crimea: restarting Ukrainian broadcasting
On December 2016 Deputy Minister for Information Policy, Artem Bidenko, reported that they started constructing a TV and radio tower 150m tall in Chongar of Kherson region that will broadcast to the temporarily occupied Crimea. Later occupational authorities of Crimea declared that they will stop broadcasting of Ukrainian media to the peninsula’s territory due to incompliance with the Russian law.

However, the Ukrainian side has already claimed it would not be possible. According to Serhiy Kostynsky, member of the National Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting they lack infrastructure on the peninsula to do so. First of all, the capacity of the Ukrainian tower will be five kW, while to jam the Ukrainian signal a more powerful tower is needed. No tower capable of doing so is found in the adjacent areas. Secondly, it is a question of power, which has already been subject to shortage in Crimea after peninsula’s annexation.


Opinion polling: ranking of Ukraine’s political parties
Kyiv International Institute for Sociology made a public opinion poll on November 4-13, 2016 that cast some light on the subject matter.

82 percent of Ukrainians view the current social and economic situation as “bad”. They name high-level corruption as the main reason for that, 66% are of such opinion.

84% of Ukrainians generally mark as negative “everything that is going on in the country right now”. Out of these respondents 56% are of the opinion that it is better “to take to the streets to protest” in such a situation, 16% are of the opinion that “it is better to be patient about everything to maintain peace and quiet.” Another 40% of Ukrainians say that they are ready to personally participate in protests against the incumbent authorities.

Visa-free regime with the EU is important for 40 % of Ukrainians, not important for 52%.

According to the results obtained through anonymous polling (secret box method), should the parliamentary elections have taken place in the mid of November, representatives of seven political parties would have passed the 5% threshold. Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Batkivshyna party would have had biggest support (it would have got 20% of votes of those who would have voted and have made up their minds). Further ranking appears like that: 13,3 % for Petro Poroshenko Bloc; 9,8% for Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party; 9% for the Opposition Bloc; 8,2% for Za Zhyttya party; 6% for Samopomich party and 5,8% for Hromadyanska Posytsia party. “Svoboda” party would be about to pass with 4,9%.


Culture: contemporary architecture stirs public discussion, “Voroshylovgrad” to be adapted into film, the role of art in times of change
The newly constructed Kyiv drama theatre in Podil, façade of which was opened last week, caused intense public reaction. The building placed on Andriyivsky descent – in Kyiv’s historic area, is an example of contemporary architecture while major part of the houses on the street were constructed at the end of the XIX – in the beginning of the XX century. Theathre’s project was designed by Kharkiv architect Oleh Drozdov. The house differs from the neighboring ones by size, color and form. It is its “otherness” that has mainly caused anger and discontent with part of the society. Architects and industry professionals have generally expressed a positive feedback over the project. Public discussion around the theatre on Podil also brought to light the question on mechanisms to preserve historic parts of the city, civic participation in it as well as reshaping urban cities with contemporary architecture.

“Voroshylovgrad” film based on the same-name novel by Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan will get Ukrainian public financing for production. The project comes as coproduction between Ukraine and Switzerland. Overall film budget is UAH 30,980 million (approx. EUR 1,1 m). Half of it – UAH 15,490 million is to be provided by the Ukrainian State Film Agency – main state holder and manager of public funds for film production. “Voroshylovgrad” was named BBC’s Ukrainian Book of the Decade in 2014. It was translated into English, French, German, Italian and other languages. In a recent piece for The New Yorker historian Marci Shore called Zhadan “The bard of eastern Ukraine where things are falling apart”.

The role of art in times of change is changing as well. Industry professionals – participants of the discussion at UCMC exchanged unique experience gained over the past years in Ukraine in this regard. Thus, they spoke about decommunization that drives rethinking of of public space, museums that become cultural hubs as well as platforms for discussions between civil society and authorities, theatres that help establish and maintain social dialogue.


News in English by Ukrainian media


”Kyiv Post awards Top 30 Under 30 young leaders” – KyivPost (photos)

”Ukrainian missile tests near Crimea cause threats on the part of Russia” – Ukraine Today

”Theatre of combat actions in the east is expanding in Luhansk sector” – Ukraine Today

”War-divided Verkhniotoretske town in Donbas adapts to hard new realities” – KyivPost

”Russia accuses Ukraine and Poland in rewriting World War II history” – Ukraine Today

”Belarusian Donbas militant: Plotnitsky ordered to shell Luhansk” – Ukraine Today

”New healthcare reforms explained” – Ukraine Today

”Ukraine pays tribute to Holodomor victims” – photo report by Ukraine Today


”Tackling the rise of populiam” – Hromadske International’s interview with Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts

”EU financial support for Ukraine” – Hromadske International’s interview with Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Vice President for European and Social Dialogue

“Russian propaganda in Eastern Europe” – Hromadske International’s interview with Rebecca Harms, MEP from Germany

”Ukraine needs to review its policy on financing culture” – Kyiv Post’s interview with Olesia Ostrovska-Lyuta, general director of Mystetsky Arsenal


”A history of one road map” – op-ed of political scientists Oleh Belokos for Ukraine Today

”Je suis Marioupol” – op-ed of Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boychenko for Ukraine Today

Analytical materials

”How Maidan coverage changed in Russian media on the third anniversary of the event” – political scientist Ksenia Novikova for Ukraine Today

”Ukrainian revolution and challenges for global democracy” – Hromadske International