Extended sanctions against Russia, Delegation of French MEPs to visit Crimea, opinion polling and more – Weekly Update on Ukraine #24, 22 – 28 June

Situation in the combat zone

Over the last week Russia-backed militants kept violating the ceasefire. The overwhelming majority of ceasefire violations were recorded in the North of the combat zone.

Russian proxies fired upon the Ukrainian troops’ positions from 122-mm artillery near Orikhove, they later fired from 120-mm mortars, grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms. 

EU extends sanctions against Russia

On June 29 the Council of the European Union extended sanctions targeting specific economic sectors of the Russian Federation for six more months, until January 31, 2021. Respective Council decision was issued.

The decision follows the latest implementation assessment of the Minsk agreements by the European Council made during the video conference on June 19. “Given that full implementation has not yet been achieved, EU leaders took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia,” the Council explained.

The EU introduced the restrictive measures against Russia in 2014 over its aggression in Ukraine. The sanctions target financial, energy and defense sectors of the Russian Federation as well as the dual-use goods. On June 18, the Council of the European Union prolonged the sanctions against Russia over its illegal annexation of Crimea until June 23, 2021. 

Delegation of French MEPs to visit Crimea

A delegation composed of members of the European Parliament for France is to visit Crimea, reported RIA Novosti as quoted by “Yevropeiska Pravda”, citing the international relations chief at the illegal Crimean “Parliament” Yuriy Gempel.

“A delegation of MEPs will visit Crimea on June 30 – July 2. All of them are members of the European Parliament for France,” Gempel said.

He added that the delegation will be chaired by Thierry Mariani, MEP, member of the foreign affairs committee, President of the “French-Russian Dialogue” Association. 

“As part of their visit, delegation members will go to polling stations in Yalta and Simferopol as experts to assess the voting on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation,” Gempel said. 

Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General started a criminal proceeding for violation of the entry procedure to the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea by Mariani and other French MEPs in 2016, pursuant to Article 332-1.

Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the visits of foreign politicians to Crimea are not official. Back in July 2016, the Ministry warned foreign nationals and stateless persons against illegal visits to the peninsula.  

Consequences of the pandemic: how many Ukrainians lost their jobs?

Ukraine already numbers 511 thousand unemployed, according to the State Employment Service. Starting from mid-March, when Ukraine was put into lockdown, 249 thousand persons lost their jobs. The number represents an 80-percent increase compared to last year. The Finance Ministry had to take UAH nine billion (approx. USD 337 million) from anti-coronavirus funds to support the unemployed.  

The numbers illustrate the number of unemployed that registered officially, while actual numbers are way higher. The National Bank projects that unemployment rate will peak in the second quarter reaching 11,5 per cent of economically active population, or 2,8 million persons in total. The usual average is eight per cent. 

During the lockdown up to two million persons or seven-eight per cent of economically active population have lost their jobs, says Yulia Drozhzhyna, head of the expert analytical center at the careers web site “Grc.ua”. “Representatives of small and middle-sized businesses, as well as those employed in tourism and restaurant industry, working in gyms and beauty salons lost their jobs,” the expert lists the sectors that suffered most. 

While in the European Union unemployment hits hard the young, in Ukraine in often concerns the job seekers over 50.

Opinion polling: Zelenskyi’s approval rating is sinking

In June 2020, 38 per cent of Ukrainians approved of Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s job handling, while 45 per cent did not. In May the figures were 47 and 37 per cent respectively.

The result was obtained through a recent opinion poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KMIS).

It is the first time since Zelenskyi assumed office, that disapproval outnumbered approval.

“The difference between the number of those who approve of the President’s job handling and those who disapprove went negative for the first time this year, scoring minus seven points,” the sociological service elaborated.

Meanwhile, attitude to the government and the Parliament stays negative, as before. In June 2020, 23 per cent of the interviewed approved of the government’s performance, 59 per cent disapproved. The Parliament’s performance scored 21 and 62 per cent respectively. 

How pro-Russian forces meddle in local elections: case of Kyiv

As Ukraine is getting ready for local elections to take place in autumn 2020, pro-Russian forces get active too. UCMC’s Hybrid Warfare Analytical Group analyzes the case of Andrii Palchevsky who runs for Kyiv mayor: details.

How Ukraine is fighting COVID-19

On June 29 Ukraine reported 706 new coronavirus cases. There were 12 deaths and 88 recoveries. 

In Ukraine the total number of cases since the pandemic began now stands at 44,344. A total of 19,115 patients recovered, 1,159 patients died due to coronavirus-caused complications. 

On June 29, public health authorities conducted 6,962 PCR tests and 4,030 ELISA antibody tests.