Sexual violence in occupied territories, Poroshenko’s second term, Elina Svitolina setting records, and more – Weekly Update on Ukraine #17 – 2017

Situation in the combat zone

Situation in the combat zone. On May 21 combat actions restarted in the area of Donetsk airport, reported the Ministry of Defense spokesperson on ATO-related issues Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.
OSCE. OSCE Special Monitoring Mission spotted 13 “Grad” MLRS in the occupied territory of Luhansk region. OSCE also notes the 75 per cent increase of violence in Donbas. The Mission registered the security situation deteriorating between May 8 and May 14. It comes after continuous decrease in the level of violence observed over the previous five weeks.
Detention of militants. Two militants, who interrogated captives and took part in seizing of public offices back in 2014, were detained in Donetsk region. One of the detainees is unemployed resident of Druzhkivka, he interrogated captives in militants’ basement. Another one is resident of Bakhmut, he took part in blocking ammunition depots and in seizure of the Artemivsk inter-district prosecutor’s office.

Life in “DPR” and “LPR”

Untimely salaries lead to increased crime rate. Crime rate has reportedly increased with militants after payments of compensation to them were delayed. Intoxicated with alcohol “servicemen” of the mortar unit of the 11th motor-rifle regiment of Donetsk-based 1st army corps were shooting at civilian apartment houses. Militants also fired upon a civilian vehicle driving from Maryinka to Krasnohorivka. It was reported by the Head of the Krasnohorivka civil-and-military administration Oleh Lyvanchuk.
“Holiday season” in DPR. What are the most popular holiday destinations for the residents of the occupied Donbas? A little less than one week is left until the start of the summer, the “hot” season has already started for Ukraine’s tourist operators. The visa-free regime came as a true seasonal present for Ukrainian citizens. The situation in Donetsk is quite different: most of the tourist agencies are empty. Siedove town on the coast of the Sea of Azov comes as the top holiday destination for the people in the occupied territories. It is a few hours drive from Donetsk. The Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula is also quite popular with the residents of the occupied Donbas.

Will President Poroshenko run for the second term?

On May 25 three years ago Petro Poroshenko, an independent MP at the moment, won the presidential elections in the first round getting 54,7% of votes. Ukrainian online media “Ukrainska Pravda” presents its forecast on whether Poroshenko will run for the second term.
Opinion polling. According to the latest polls, 13,2% of voters (those who intend to vote and have chosen their candidate) would cast their votes for Poroshenko. Leader of “Batkivshyna” party Yuliya Tymoshenko comes as the second choice with 12,9% of votes and a minimum difference a size of the statistical error. The third top candidate is Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of “Okean Elzy” musical band with 12,3% of votes.
Strategic meeting. A week before Easter President Poroshenko summoned the so-called “strategic nine” – an informal consultancy body whose members are the actual and former head of the Presidential Administration Ihor Rainin and Borys Lozhkin, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, Head of the Parliament Andriy Parubiy, Head of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Turchynov, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Head of the Interior Ministry Arsen Avakov and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Suggestions as to the Constitutional reform. Yatsenyuk, who resigned from the position of the Prime Minister suggested that Poroshenko held the Constitutional reform. In his opinion, Poroshenko may become the first President who refuses part of his powers redistributing them to the government and the Parliament. Yatsenyuk is convinced that the step will remove the duality of power and will help implement democratic changes in the country. According to Yatsenyuk and another promoter of changes Minister Avakov, the President has to represent the country at international level, but it has to be clearly stipulated by law.
Limiting powers. Yatsenyuk also suggested stripping the President off the right to influence upon the appointment of the Head of the National Bank, heads of regional state administrations, head of the National regulator for energy and utilities as well as of the head of the National Guard. The government is to be formed exclusively by the Parliament. It is suggested to keep the status of the Head of the Armed Forces for the President only for the war time. Additionally, it is suggested that the President is not part of any political force.
Alternative options. Ihor Hryniv, former head of the faction “Petro Poroshenko Bloc”, and Borys Lozhkin were convincing Poroshenko that it is worth having a candidate who would be able to win the elections if he fails. Possible successors named were Volodymyr Groysman, whom the President does not trust, and Yuriy Lutsenko.
For now, the only big achievement that Poroshenko may attribute to himself is the visa-free regime that the EU has granted to Ukraine. However, it is not enough to win the presidential elections. Further steps planned by the President and his inner circle do not foresee radical change.

Human rights: Every third person held captive by militants in Donbas has been subject to sexual violence

Human rights organizations – members of the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” were interviewing victims and witnesses of sexual violence in Donbas for several months. They have documented 162 cases of sexual violence in various forms. Each third interviewed person was subject to sexual violence while held captive by Russia-backed militants. Those who involuntarily became witnesses of the violence may well be considered victims as well. Human rights defenders also documented the cases of sexual violence or threats on the part of representatives of Ukrainian volunteer battalions and law enforcement agencies.
“Sexual violence is one of the most silenced topics in course of the war in Donbas. For the people liberated from captivity it comes as a difficult memory, not to mention that it is difficult for them to speak about it. Victims and witnesses of sexual violence almost do not believe that justice will be restored, even with time,” said Oleksandra Matviychuk, head of the board at the Center for Civil Liberties.
Sexual violence during an armed conflict may come in different forms: rape, forced sterilization, forced stripping, threats of sexual nature, torture with elements of sexual violence (beating or applying electric current to genitals) etc.

Culture: Illustrations put Cossacks back into the popular context

A book that reveals the making of illustrations for the legendary “Aeneid” book of 1968 was presented at the annual international fair “Book Arsenal” in Kyiv. This work of the XIX century by Ukrainian writer Ivan Kotliarevsky is a remake of the Virgil’s classic poem, in which Kotliarevsky makes Cossacks main characters. Artist Anatoliy Bazylevych created the illustrations that became revolutionary at the time modernizing the image of the Ukrainian Cossacks and contributing to the visual tradition of portraying them. Artbook publishing house presented the book “Bazylevych’s Aeneid” that unveils the making of the legendary illustrations as well as contains the texts that explain the historical background and context of the epoch. The project is accompanied by an exhibition of illustrations from the “Aeneid” that date back to the 1960s-1980s. The exposition comes as a preface to the large exhibition project “Aeneid: heroic and erotic” that will present the Ukrainian visual tradition in depicting the Cossacks and is due to open in the end of August in Kyiv.

Sports: “The Roman Holiday” of Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina

On May 21 Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina won the prestigious Masters Tournament in Rome. n her way to the final Ukrainian beat Alizé Cornet (France), Mona Barthel (Germany), Karolína Plíšková (Czech Republic) and Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain). In the final Svitolina in three sets (4: 6, 7: 5, 6:1) beat the world 4th racket Simona Halep from Romania.
The victorious tournament in Rome raised Svitolina to the top of the WTA champions’ run. Over the year, the Ukrainian athlete gained 2845 points – 423 points more than Karolína Plíšková who is the second in the ranking.

Our selection of English-language materials by Ukrainian media

”Poroshenko promises more active ‘Normandy format’ soon” – UNIAN
“Ukraine-NATO: 20 years of cooperation” – Livyi Bereh
”Ukrainian science helps military save lives” – UNIAN
”Ukrainian ban on Russian social media: can Russia retaliate?” – column of Olesya Yakhno-Belkovska for UNIAN
Analytical materials
”Week’s balance: ban of Russian websites, IMF mission in Ukraine, and launch of pension reform” – weekly digest by UNIAN
“Five facts to know about the Russian websites ban in Ukraine” – Hromadske International
”Headless Central Bank – the situation with Hontareva’s resignation” – UNIAN
“Yanukovych vs Ukraine: explained” – Hromadske International
“Five unreported facts about displaced people in Ukraine” – Hromadske International