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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL Grigory Frolov May 2, 2019
    Time for Ukraine to Compete with Russia

    Showman Volodymyr Zelenskiy will soon be sworn in as president of Ukraine. Last month he crushed incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a remarkable landslide. Zelenskiys victory was noteworthy in Ukraine, but its also making headlines across the former Soviet Union. While Zelenskiy is inexperienced and his policies arent well defined, he knows how to engage the public through clear and innovative communications.

    Poroshenko did many things right and wrong over the last five years. He created a strong network of Western partners that included international financial institutions, the United States, Canada, and the EU as well as numerous smaller allies. This network of relationships will be inherited by the new administration. On the other hand, Poroshenko leaves office overseeing a complete breakdown of communication on Ukraines eastern flank, with the Kremlins agenda and propaganda having achieved a position of almost total dominance over the Russian-speaking information bubble.

    This presents an opportunity for the new president. There is a high probability that the tough foreign policy positions and military defense line built up by Poroshenko will be somewhat softened, while communication with Russia will likely see a certain amount of course correction, even if a total reset remains unlikely.

    A new foreign affairs team will likely focus mostly on further cooperation with donors and financial institutions and attracting FDI.

    However, Zelenskiy may be able to shake things up in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict has reached a stalemate. Zelenskiy hails from eastern Ukraine and is a Russian speaker who built his popularity by making fun of Ukraines authorities. Servant of the People - a popular TV-show produced by Zelenskiys 95 Kvartal studio in which he played a fictional and honest president of Ukraine was seen by many in occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, and Simferopol.

    What would happen if Zelenskiy, after hes inaugurated, calls on these people to move to Ukraine? Its quite possible that many will follow.

    One of the key problems of the Donbas grey zone that distinguishes it from Transnistria or South Ossetia is its dense population. Up to 2.5 million people currently live there and pay taxes to the fake occupying local regimes that survive only with life support from Moscow. If Ukraine were able to take a significant part of these people back, it would have a large impact on the negotiation process.

    The Kremlin understands that Zelenskiys influence on public opinion in the so-called DNR and LNR will be huge. Putins decision to simplify the acquisition of Russian citizenship for Ukrainians living in the occupied territories might be a preemptive strike.

    For Russian speakers, the stadium debate between the two presidential contenders two days before the presidential election has become one of the most significant political events in the last few years. The Zelenskiy-Poroshenko debate has been seen by millions not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and beyond. Current Time, a Russian-speaking channel with coverage in Central Asia, showed the debate live with Russian interpretation, and so did Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from a YouTube channel.

    From outside of Ukraine, Zelenskiys victory was interpreted as a message of hope; a young, bright outsider triumphed over the old political class in a free election. This message resonated with people who want to see Lukashenko or Putin defeated. Zelenskiys team was effective in imprinting on Ukraine and the world the idea that their political struggle is a struggle of the new generation against the Soviet legacy and oligarchs.

    Servant of the People is available in Russian on Netflix, and free of charge on pirated Russian websites. Zelenskiy is an easily recognizable person in Russia, since many mass market shows were shown in Russia, particularly before 2014.

    The potential soft power influence of Zelenskiys Ukraine on audiences in Russia and around the post-Soviet area is limitless. But will he will use it once he is in charge?

    During just a few interviews that Zelenskiy gave during the campaign, he said he wants to create an international Russian-speaking channel. This statement was likely not just an empty promise. Television is one of Zelenskiys proven competencies, and one where he has his own team of professionals ready to go. Indeed, Zelinskiy is probably already thinking of what happens to his studio after he becomes president. A new television station might be a win-win strategy for the president and society.

    Discussions about how Ukraine can influence Russia, or help Russian dissidents, or create a Russian studies think tank have been circulating in Kyiv for a while, but it never fit with the general line of the party before Zelenskiy.

    Ukraine, with its cultural vibe and powerful civil society, has never tried to compete with Russia. Ukraine has an attractive and life-affirming public ideology that differs from that of the Kremlins, but it does not export it. Ukraine has a capability to influence Russian-speaking communities beyond its borders but it never has. The country has enough infrastructure and resources to compete for talented Russian-speaking migrants from the former Soviet Union (including Russia), but its migration agency hasnt been reformed since 1991.

    If Zelenskiy truly considers himself the president of a new generation, these three issues might belong on the top of his agenda.

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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL Andrej Lushnycky May 1, 2019
    Ukraine's New Language Law Rights Historic Wrongs

    For centuries the Ukrainian language was relegated to the status of a peasant language by the foreign rulers of the lands that make up the country today and by foreign scholars in Europe and abroad who perpetuated this Russian imperial falsehood. More recently, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited a Soviet political elite who spoke Russian, and to this day all of Ukraines oligarchs are Russian-speaking. This has buttressed the post-colonial dominance of the Russian language and culture in the public sphere and the subsequent ostracism of the Ukrainian language. The Ukrainian-speaking majority has been historically marginalized as peripheral, with inferior access to high culture, quality education, prestigious jobs, political office, and the creation of wealth primarily due to the bias of the established colonial practices that saw Ukrainian as "low" and "rural."

    That all changed on April 25, when the parliament adopted a new language law. The numerous reactions to it both domestically and abroad would have made a fascinating character study to catalogue the people and their reactions on the various television programs. On display was a broad swath of human emotions ranging from euphoria to lament. The intellectuals, as well as young people with university degrees who had spent time abroad, came across as extremely supportive and contented. The laborers and pensioners who had enjoyed limited opportunities for higher education and travel outside of the former Soviet Union were more dismissive. In further observation, several of the second category mentioned that their discomfort was due to limited knowledge of the language and not some sense of discrimination. Regret that there was too little interesting content in Ukrainian on TV was mentioned several times, a particular issue that should be, in theory, remedied by the new law.

    In a form of Ukrainian exceptionalism, the long-derided Ukrainian peasant language has not only survived but has flourished and become the lingua franca and the way forward of progressive thinkers, writers, civic and religious leaders, intellectuals, and the majority of Ukrainians. Intentionally choosing to speak Ukrainian signals that a person wants to develop the country into a modern European nation based on values and the rule of law. For many, the Russian language is associated with a return back to a dark and gloomy totalitarian past. Unlike during the Czarist or Soviet times, this new language law does not attach any stigma to speaking another language; instead, it requires that Ukrainian be the language of first resort to balance out its significance among all of the languages spoken in Ukraine.

    The role of the diaspora should not be ignored in this narrative. Ukrainians have much to be grateful for to their large and effective representative communities abroad, who have carried Ukraine in their soul to preserve its heritage, its multi-ethnic and religious culture, and its rich language and literature. Their patriotism and contribution to the development of Ukraine has never been limited by any geographical boundaries. That should be a lesson to all in Ukraine, that patriotism is not bound by borders or language, but rather by the closeness of those who love their country and who are willing to invest in its success.

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  • Hannia

    What's next? USSR revival?": Ukraine envoy to UN on "Putin's passports" for Ukrainians
    UNIAN:17:40, 28 April 2019

    Russia seeks to "plant" its passports across Ukraine, Yelchenko says.

    Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, drew parallels between Vladimir Putins desire to issue passports to Ukrainians with a novel by George Orwell. Taking to Twitter on Saturday, April 27, Yelchenko wrote: "This insanity continues as if in Orwell's work. Another intention [of Vladimir Putin] is to plant Russian passports throughout Ukraine. What's next? USSR revival? And the UN Security Council will continue to wait patiently while 'calling for all sides'?"

    As UNIAN reported earlier, on April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on simplifying the procedure for issuing Russian passports to residents of the temporarily occupied Donbas. On April 27, Putin went further, claiming Russia could begin to facilitate the procedure for acquiring citizenship to all citizens of Ukraine.

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 15:11 26.04.2019
    Businessman Kolomoisky files five new claims against NBU, PrivatBank to court

    The former owner of PrivatBank, Ihor Kolomoisky, has filed five new lawsuits against the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and PrivatBank to the business court of Kyiv, the Novoye Vremia.Business publication reported on Friday, referring to sources in legal circles.

    "On April 19, 2019, Kolomoisky filed five new claims in the business court of Kyiv against the National Bank of Ukraine and PrivatBank... The lawsuits dispute five loan agreements and his personal guarantee under them," the publication said.

    According to the publication, the first hearings will be held on May 10, May 22 and May 23.

    According to the report, lawyers explain such actions by the ex-owner of PrivatBank with a desire to back up the decision of the Pechersky district court, made on April 20, which satisfied Kolomoisky's claim to terminate the personal guarantee agreement on refinancing loans issued to PrivatBank by the National Bank in the amount of UAH 9.2 billion.

    As reported, Ukraine's government, at the recommendation of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and former shareholders of PrivatBank, the largest of which at that time were Ihor Kolomoisky and Hennadiy Boholiubov, on December 18, 2016 decided to nationalize PrivatBank, the largest Ukrainian financial institution at the time.

    Kyiv's district administrative court on April 18, 2019 recognized the nationalization of the bank as illegal based on a law suit filed by Kolomoisky. The NBU and Finance Ministry said they would appeal the ruling after publication by the court of its ruling. Both institutions said the decision to nationalize PrivatBank was correct.

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 17:59 26.04.2019
    Ukrtransnafta suffers no damage from pumping polluted Russian oil CEO

    Ukrtransnafta did not suffer damage from pumping polluted Russian oil, director general of the company Mykola Havrylenko has told reporters in Minsk.

    "For the time being, I can officially declare that no damage was caused unless the lost revenue from the volume of outstanding work," he said.

    As reported, Belneftekhim concern on April 19 announced a sharp deterioration in the quality of oil flowing through the pipeline from Russia. According to the concern, the content of organochlorine compounds in the Urals oil coming in via the Gomeltransneft Druzhba pipeline exceeded the standard values by several times.

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 18:43 26.04.2019
    Final president vote results to be announced at noon on April 30 CEC

    The Central Election Commission (CEC) will start its meeting at about 12:00 on Tuesday, April 30, where it is to announce the final results of the presidential elections in Ukraine.

    "Tentatively at 12:00 on April 30, the Central Election Commission will start a meeting, where it is to establish and announce the results of the presidential runoff voting on April 21, 2019," the CEC press service said on Friday.

    Earlier, CEC Deputy Head Yevhen Radchenko explained that the CEC would receive a confirmation from the courts by the morning of April 30 that the results of the presidential elections in Ukraine were not being challenged in court, after which it would be able to announce the final results.

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 11:22 27.04.2019
    Tymoshenko: president should be allowed to fulfill his powers as defined by Constitution

    The leader of the Batkivschyna Party, MP Yulia Tymoshenko is convinced that the idea to revise the powers of the president proposed in the draft law initiated by Samopomich contradicts the Constitution.

    "In my opinion, the bill proposed by Samopomich contradicts the Constitution. In addition, the country was bored with political intrigue, dragging of power and attempts to change the rules during the game. People are waiting for changes in their lives, actions and results," Tymoshenko said on Facebook

    According to her, the powers of the president are clearly defined by the Constitution. And we must allow the elected head of state to do his job, she added.

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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL Chatham House April 25, 2019
    10 Ways the West Should Engage with Ukraine after 2019 Elections

    Five years after the annexation of Crimea and the instigation of conflict in the Donbas, the reasons for continued sanctions on Russia have not gone away. Crimea is still occupied. War grinds on in the Donbas.

    Ukraine held presidential elections this spring and will hold parliamentary elections in the fall. Whatever the results, events in Ukraine are important and have far-reaching consequences. Instability in Ukrainewhich is Russias strategic goal if it cannot control Ukrainewill have destabilizing effects in Europe, including increased migration, trade disruption, and cyberattacks.

    There are at least ten important principles and policy priorities for Western governments in their engagement with Ukraine after the 2019 elections.

    1. Demonstrate unconditional commitment to Ukraines sovereignty and territorial integrity

    Western governments need to reinforce the message that Ukraines territorial integrity is nonnegotiable. This will communicate the Wests red lines and deter further Russian encroachment. It will also demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine.

    2. Fine tune conditionality

    Western financial support has focused on fiscal discipline. The Ukrainian population has suffered as a result. Western supporters should acknowledge these sacrifices, use more carrots and fewer sticks, and be ready to offer more if Ukraine shows signs of successful financial reform.

    Western governments and international financial institutions should tighten conditionality by making new requirements more detailed and not focusing on quick wins. It is key that conditionality also protects reform achievements since the Euromaidan, such as strengthening the independence and governance of the National Bank of Ukraine, cleaning up the banking sector, and improving transparency at Naftogaz.

    The IMF should be the economic policy anchor. Western governments may have to consider adopting the nuclear option of withdrawing assistance if reforms are reversed. The IMF and the new Ukrainian leadership should scale up the current fourteen-month standby arrangement (worth $3.9 billion) by quickly agreeing on the conditionality to expand the program into a full agreement. This issue is urgent as Ukraine is facing a peak in its external debt repayment over the next three years.

    3. Maintain a coherent Western front and renew sanctions until Russia changes its behavior

    Upholding sanctions against Russia over the past five years has been a significant achievement. Concern that Kremlin-friendly EU member states or the Trump administration might veto the renewal of sanctions has so far been unfounded. However, the disruptive potential of recalcitrant EU member states should not be underestimated. Given the unanimity required for the renewal of sanctions, EU member states should be aware of how frictions can weaken the Wests ability to maintain a unified front.

    4. Increase multilateral efforts in countering Russian propaganda

    The EUs East StratCom Taskforce, set up in 2015 to tackle Russian disinformation, is a low-level operation. In preparation for the European parliamentary elections in May 2019, Brussels has increased the budget (from 1.9 million in 2018 to 5 million in 2019). But this is nothing in comparison to what the Russian government spends on its disinformation (allegedly 1.1 billion). Ukraine is at the forefront of the disinformation war. Western governments should boost multilateral platforms for deconstructing Russian propaganda.

    5. Boost defense cooperation, including defense assistance to Ukraine

    Following the example of the US shipment of Javelin anti-tank missile systems in April 2018, other Western states should consider supplying lethal defensive aid to Ukraine. Supporting Ukrainian resolve to defend itself is the real deterrent against Russia, rather than sanctions.

    NATO should consider opening the Enhanced Opportunities Program for Ukraine, which is currently available to Sweden, Finland, and Georgia. The crisis in the Azov Sea has demonstrated Ukraines need to strengthen its coastal defense. At the same time, Russias control over the Crimean Peninsula allows it to unlawfully expand its maritime boundaries and seize oil and gas infrastructure to access deposits that are within Ukraines economic zone. Against this background, NATO should consider a reinforced presence in the Black Sea.

    6. Clarify Ukraines perspectives on NATO/EU membership

    EU membership should be on the table and achievable. This would provide the most powerful anchor for reforms in Ukraine. If Ukraine demonstrates solid progress in implementing the EUUkraine Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), other forms of deeper integration could be discussed. Policymakers should look to offer Ukraine a similar relationship to the UKs after Brexit or the proposals being designed for Turkey.
    7. Ensure judicial reform is not botched

    If Ukraine fails to build trust in the courts by renewing its corps of judges, this role could be outsourced to a special judicial body formed of international (foreign) legal professionals, similar to the Astana Financial Center Court. In this context, Western governments should take responsibility for failing to understand the scale of the changes they required of Ukraine. They should accept that while the establishment of a High Anti-Corruption Court can strengthen accountability, it is not a silver bullet. Reforms of the Prosecutor Generals Office are also likely to be problematic, in which case Ukraine should be encouraged to consider disbanding it and starting afresh.

    8. Promote electoral reform

    The current mixed electoral system in Ukrainewhereby half of MPs are elected from single-member constituencies in a first-past-the-post system and half are elected through a closed party-list proportional representation systemallows for abuse of power and corruption. An electoral system based on proportional open party lists would be a move in the right direction.

    9. Support the economy, media, and civil society

    If the right accountability is in place and conditionality is met, Western governments should consider increasing budget support to help the country balance its books and ensure continuity of reforms. This would also increase the Wests influence in the reform process. More also needs to be done to diversify ownership of the media, particularly television. Independent quality media and journalist projects must be further supported as an alternative to the current media landscape, which is mainly owned or dominated by senior figures in business or politics. Finally, it is essential that international donors and Western governments enhance their support to local and regional NGOs. The focusshould be on developing human capital and investing in younger generations.

    10. Emphasize Ukraine as part of the European family

    EU member states should treat Ukraine as a member of the European family, not as a distant relative. The UK should consider visa liberalization for Ukraine, as already granted by the Schengen zone. At a time when the Russian state seems to be unable to reinvent itself, Western policymakers need to craft a clearer concept of the different directions Ukraine and Russia are heading in, and the relations they wish to build with these countries accordingly. In other words, supporting Ukraine is more important than having better relations with Russia in its present state.

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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL David J. Kramer April 25, 2019
    What Zelenskiy's Victory Means for Ukraine

    The temptation in Kyiv and elsewhere is to look past Sundays overwhelming victory by upstart Volodymyr Zelenskiy over incumbent Petro Poroshenko and try to divine what it means for Ukraine. This piece will yield to that temptationbut after acknowledging the importance of what happened Sunday and throughout the election campaign. Free and fair elections in a region not known for them should not be taken for granted.

    Ukraine has developed a strong track recordwith a few notable exceptions such as the 2010 local elections and the 2004 second-round presidential election that precipitated the Orange Revolutionof conducting decent elections. Ukrainians take their elections seriously and turn out to vote in numbers that exceed those in the United States. I co-led an observer mission with the International Republican Institute and, along with my colleagues, found only the most minor of problems on election day.

    In a region in which incumbents usually dont go quietly, Poroshenko quickly and graciously accepted the results. That speaks well of him and of Ukraines democratic maturity.

    No one knew who would win Ukraines presidential race, a rarity in the region. Those who didnt make it into the April 21 runoff accepted the results. There was no violence in the run-up to either round. Two days before the second round, on April 19, Poroshenko and Zelenskiy squared off in a raucous debate before a stadium audience, the envy of Russian and Belarusian citizens but not of the leaders in those countries.

    The only glaring problem with the election was the responsibility not of Ukrainian authorities but of the Kremlin. As a result of Russias occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donbas, nearly 16 percent of Ukrainian voters were de facto disenfranchised or faced great difficulty participating in the process. That this election took place at all, much like the elections in 2014, despite Russias war and invasion speaks volumes of Ukrainians determination to not let anyone, including Putin, derail them from their democratic, Euro-Atlantic-oriented path.

    So what will a Zelenskiy presidency yield? Nobody knows for sure, including arguably Zelenskiy himself. IRI polls leading up to the election showed the war with Russia and corruption as the top two issues among voters concerns. Zelenskiy has talked about negotiating with Putin, but the reality of bearing presidential responsibility for resolving the conflict may change his thinking. He has talked about holding a referendum on joining NATO, though the Ukrainian parliament added an amendment to the countrys constitution making clear that membership in NATO and the European Union is a key pillar of Ukraines foreign policy, making a referendum unnecessary.

    On corruption, Zekenskiy has called for revoking the immunity of parliamentary deputies and going after those involved in malfeasance. He has hinted at going after Poroshenko, a billionaire in his own right. Adhering to rule of law will be critical when it comes to fighting corruption, which remains a huge problem.

    Ukraine divides power between the presidency and the parliament, and the Rada will hold elections in October that are as, if not, more important than the presidential race. That suggests that the parliamentary campaign will distract deputies from getting much done over the next six months, amid speculation over who will be the next prime minister.

    Rumors are also rampant over whether Ihor Kolomoiskiy, an oligarch supporter of Zelenskiy who fled to Israel after his bank, Privatbank, was nationalized in 2016, will return to Ukraine once Zelenskiy takes office. Poroshenko and Kolomoiskiy became bitter rivals despite the latters backing for militias that may have saved part of southeast Ukraine from being gobbled up by Russia in 2014-15. There are also rumors that former Georgian President and Odesa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili may return. Like Kolomoiskiy, Saakashvili had a dramatic falling out with Poroshenko. The return of either individual risks turning the political situation in Ukraine into a circus, something the country can ill afford.

    For the international community, President George H.W. Bushs vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace can never be realized without Ukraine. The United States, Canada (which has a sizable Ukrainian diaspora population) and our European allies must remain committed to supporting Ukraines Euro-Atlantic aspirations by keeping the doors open to NATO and the European Union when Ukraine satisfies the admissions criteria. The West must not let Russian occupation of part of Ukrainian territory stand nor become a de facto veto over Ukraines integrationist goals. Democratic success in Ukraine is vital to Ukrainians, but it will also advance Western interests and eventually redound to the benefits of liberal-minded Russians as well. That, after all, is why Putin is so scared of seeing Ukraine succeed.

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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL Mary Mycio April 18, 2019
    How the West Helped Put a Comedian in Reach of Ukraines Presidency

    With polls putting Ukraines incumbent president Petro Poroshenko far behind TV actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy ahead of Sundays run-off election, it is worth considering how the West helped put this secretive comedian, backed by oligarchs, on the cusp of becoming commander-in-chief of a country at war with the Kremlin.

    A case in point occurred in February, a month before the first round gave Zelenskiy 30 percent compared to Poroshenkos 16 percent. When Denis Bihus, a muckraking journalist funded by the United States and the European Union, accused the presidents friends of smuggling Russian military parts in 2014, it seemed like a bombshell.

    In fact, it was a hatchet job.

    The alleged culprits father was a security official before Poroshenko fired him. Theyre also business partners. But Bihus presented no evidence linking either man to the smuggling. In fact, when the same story aired two years earlier, it received little attention. During the Kremlins 2014 invasion, those desperately needed parts could only be bought on Russian black markets.

    This time, with unverified text messages that shed little new light, Bihus allegations generated a lot more heat. How and why it ignited a scandal this time remains murky. But the politics became clear a few days later when oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskys TV channel featured Bihus on a two-hour talk show devoted to bashing Poroshenko.

    Currently living in Israel, Kolomoisky lost a fortune in Kyivs bank reforms. Hes also Zelenskiys hardly secret sponsor. He probably saved southern Ukraine from Russian invasion with methods that included bostering local militias and ensuring regional officials loyalty. But the price for Kolomoiskys services was high. His crooked banking empire also despoiled the country of an alleged $5.5 billion, leading to the banks nationalization. That conflict is currently being litigated in London; Kolomoisky wants $2 billion back from Ukraines budget.

    His sneaky grab for the presidency surely cant be what Ukraines Western supporters wanted when they demanded the oligarchs divestiture as a condition for the Western aid that has poured into the country since 2014, including millions for anti-corruption projects. Bihuss show, for example, received $150,000 in US grants between 2016 and 2018 from the US non-profit Internews, which is currently running a $35 million, five-year media program in Ukraine. Leaving aside the questionable practice of Western governments paying foreign journalists, these are not huge amounts. But they are parts of programs with disproportionate impact on public opinion.

    Bihuss role as a prop in Kolomoiskys blatantly partisan marathon vividly demonstrated how some of these well-intentioned projects have ended up reinforcing the already powerful anti-government messaging from the Kremlin and the deposed oligarchs who still own Ukraines most powerful TV channels. Given the dearth of competent alternatives in Ukraines political class, this has helped put Zelenskiy in reach of Ukraines presidency.

    Its undoubtedly true that Ukrainians are in a foul mood. A 2018 poll funded by USAID, the United States foreign aid agency, showed that those believing nothing will change grew from 42 percent to nearly half in one year.

    What explains the dismal mood? While Poroshenko deserves blame for many mistakes and failures, he also deserves credit for leading the most competent, reformist government in Ukraines independent history. Its a low bar, certainly. Yet none of the countrys real achievements received a fraction of the attention as corruption. These included structural reforms in banking, the gas trade, and public procurements that have saved $6 billion on costs previously lost to corrupt schemes. Of course, banking reforms are boring and technical. Yet, not even visa-free European travel lifted the gloom.

    The grinding war in the east looms in public opinion. Kept at a low simmer, the conflict has killed over 13,000 people since 2014. Few families are unaffected. Unfortunately, aspects of anti-corruption programs have amplified an already stressful atmosphere

    Acting on the never-tested assumption that their anti-corruption models are effective, much less universal, donors began funding a variety of activists, NGOs, and journalists after 2014 to expose corruption in Ukraine. In addition to awareness raising, this has primarily consisted of naming and shaming the powerful followed by demands for their prosecution and punishment. When the subjects of the various exposes never went to jail, the grantees, bolstered by donors and diplomats, accused the government of bad faith and stalling.

    Bad faith is a real problem. But even given political will, corruption in most of the worlds countries, including Ukraine, isnt a flaw in the system that can be fixed by punishment. Its the system itself. Moreover, its a systemdefined broadly as favoring the powerfulwhich every country has had to one degree or another for most of history. That began changing minimally only two centuries ago. But even today, the exceptions are few, nearly all are in the West, and many are faltering. Witness the United States.

    Yet, rather than recognizing that corruption is a stage of social and political development, traditional corruption fighters see it only as a moral failing. The results, in the colorful words of Europes leading anti-corruption expert Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, look much like an invasion of the temperance league in a pub on a Friday night: a lot of noise with no consequence.

    Largely, thats because journalistic exposes are a lot easier to do than successful prosecutions of high-level financial crimes. Its also why dozens of books about the 2008 Great Recession havent put a single Western official in jail.

    Ukraines criminal justice system is a blunt instrument. It doesnt prepare competent prosecutors able to win convictions against the top defense attorneys that the powerful can always afford. Add ill-trained, overworked and corrupt judges to understand why it has been nearly impossible to win convictions in high-level cases without eventually losing on appealor using authoritarian methods.

    But without bad guys going to jail or losing power, these approaches might be harmful. The almost exclusive focus on wrongdoing hasnt created a toxic atmosphere for the corrupt. Instead, it seems to have created a toxic atmosphere for everyone, fueling such powerless outrage, anger and cynicism that vast swathes of the public are willing to vote for a virtual candidate who avoids questions, debates, and independent drug testing.

    However, proponents of these methods seem oblivious or indifferent to such predictable social and political consequences. Until recently, they didnt consider the downsides of their policies at all, such as how anti-corruption drives have brought authoritarians to power or are used politically. As evident by the Kremlins gleeful support of Zelenskiy, it likes nothing more than seeing Ukrainians disaffected with their government. Western donors should stop helping.

    To reduce corruption, Ukraine needs a competent legal system that does not exist. Without it, the continued focus on exposes of alleged crimes that cant realistically be punished seems irresponsible and counterproductive. Better to spend the money on an entertaining and educational series like a CSI Kyiv. Maybe that will produce a better TV hero for Ukraines next president.

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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL Melinda Haring April 18, 2019
    Don't Believe the Hype. Presidential Elections Aren't What Matters in Ukraine

    Theres election fever in Kyiv, and with less than a week before Ukrainians go to the polls to likely elect an inexperienced comedian as their next president, the outcome is all but certain. Volodymyr Zelenskiy should easily defeat incumbent President Petro Poroshenko on April 21.

    The far more interesting question is who will win the October parliamentary elections and who will lead the next government.

    Ukraine has a bizarre presidential-parliamentary system, which means the parliamentary elections are more important than the presidential race. The president picks only two ministers and three other posts, while the prime minister selects everyone else. This means that the next president oversees foreign policy, while the prime minister leads economic and domestic policy.

    The next prime minister, not the president, will be in the driver's seat when it comes to economic policy. And Ukraines finances arent in good shape. The country of 44 million has become the poorest in Europe while receiving $14 billion in remittances in 2018.

    Its too early to speculate about the new government beyond a few general statements. The next parliament will be made up of at least five political parties, and the governing coalition will be fragile and probably less reform minded than the current parliament. Given these realities, Ukraines reformers need to unite now and spend the next six months building one political party with real grassroots support, instead of fighting each other and endlessly negotiating.

    Theres at least ten groups, parties, and leaders vying for the Euromaidan vote, which makes up to fifteen percent of the total vote. If none of these groups unify, none will be in the next parliament. (Ukraine has a five percent threshold.)

    These groups know that they must merge and start organizing. They knew it last year. Instead, they drank a lot of coffee and prayed for rock star Slava Vakarchuk to rescue them. He led them on for an entire year, urging Ukrainians to take responsibility, while eschewing it himself. His Hamlet act tilled the political soil for the rise of Volodymr Zelenskiy, who looks set to become Ukraines sixth president. If Zelenskiy wins, blame Slava.

    The picture for Ukraines 2019 fall elections looks very different than it did in 2014. Ukraines experienced reform political partiesSamopomich and Civic Positionare on life support. Samopomich, the Lviv-based political party that took more seats than expected in the 2014 elections, has run itself into the ground. Five of its members of parliament defected last week. Theres no enthusiasm for Civic Position, the party run by three-time failed presidential candidate Anatoliy Gritsenko.

    Among the Euromaidan reformers, three new movements bear watching.

    First, People Matter (μΐΔΙ ΧΑΦΜΙΧ¦), a center-right civic movement that plans to register as a political party next month, is gaining momentum. On April 13, about one thousand people packed into an auditorium for People Matters third forum in Kyiv. Earlier this spring, People Matter held well-organized events in Lviv, Odesa, Dnipro, and Kharkiv. The organization has just hired a field organizer and seems to be building regional offices. Based on a marriage between the Kyiv Team in the Kyiv City Council led by entrepreneur Sergiy Gusovsky, representatives from the Institute for the Future think tank, and some experienced government officials, including Maxim Nefyodov, People Matters aspires to be Ukraines first liberal political party that doesnt take any funds from oligarchs. However, none of its top talent has national name recognition and it doesnt get much play on any of the major television stations, so People Matter will have to merge, implement a much more aggressive communications strategy, and build an actual presence in big cities if it wants to be in the next parliament.

    Second, a group of experienced ministers and parliamentarians is quietly organizing behind a platform called οΔΞΟΔΥΝΓ¦. The group wants Ukraine to join the EU and NATO, but it stayed out of the presidential election. Its main members include Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Rada Foreign Affairs Chair Hanna Hopko, former education minister Sergiy Kvit, and others. There are rumors that the party may soon merge with another small party with appeal in Ukraines south and east. This group needs to burnish its reform credentials in order to compete. Without an anti-corruption message, it wont be able to compete with incumbent President Petro Poroshenko or Zelenskiys party, both of which favor a Western foreign policy orientation.

    A third formationAct Togetherthat could take off is led by parliamentarian Mustafa Nayyem, MP Svitlana Zalishchuk, MP Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska, the deputy head of the patrol police, and others. The group has held meetings across the country, although the meetings were primarily attended by young people and sparsely attended. Its messages and themes are similar to those of People Matter.

    Perhaps these three movements will all become parties or merge in some fashion. Now is the time to join forces and organize. And when Slava Vakarchuk calls, they would be wise to ignore him this time.

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  • Hannia

    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 14:00 16.04.2019
    Gazprom increases gas transit across Ukraine by 25% over repairs of Yamal-Europe pipeline Naftogaz

    Russia's Gazprom in the past week sharply increased volumes of natural gas transportation to Europe using the Ukrainian pipelines by 60 million cubic meters a day or 25%, reaching around 300 million cubic meters a day, Naftogaz Ukrainy CEO Andriy Kobolev has said.

    "The reason for this is the repair of the Yamal-Europe pipeline [passing through Belarus]... On an annual basis, this is equivalent to about 110 billion cubic meters of gas," he wrote on his Facebook page.

    As Kobolev said, such a sharp increase in transit is possible only due to the reliability and quality of the Ukrainian gas transmission system (GTS).

    "No other system is able to offer such flexibility and power reserves, even at such a favorable price," the head of Naftogaz added.

    In his opinion, this situation proves once again that the construction of bypass routes by Gazprom has no technical and economic justification.

    "The true motives of the actions of the Russians are solely political," Kobolev said.

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  • Hannia

    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 16:14 16.04.2019
    Groysman proposes that Slovak premier study creation of multimodal logistics centers in two countries

    Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman has invited his Slovak counterpart Peter Pellegrini to work on the creation of multimodal logistics centers (parks) in Ukraine and Slovakia.

    This issue was raised at a meeting of the two prime ministers in Bratislava, according to the website of the Ukrainian government.

    The report says the expediency of creating such centers is due to the active development of railway traffic along the Asia-Europe route.

    "The operation of the centers (tentatively in Ukraine's Chop and Slovakia's Kosice) could become a bilateral strategic project. Its implementation will be facilitated by strengthening cross-border cooperation between the two countries, including the development of border infrastructure, the functioning of joint checkpoints and the organization of joint border and customs control," the report reads.


    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 14:42 16.04.2019
    Ukraine and Slovakia could boost mutual goods turnover to $1.5 billion a year from current almost $1.4 billion.

    The issue was discussed at a meeting of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and his Slovakian counterpart Peter Pellegrini.

    "It is pleasant to note the growth of bilateral trade in the past year by almost 18%. But this is not enough: let's define the task to reach $1.5 billion in 2019," the website of the Ukrainian government quoted Groysman.

    The prime minister also said that Slovakia is among the top 20 trade partners of Ukraine among the EU countries.

    According to the press service of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Slovakia shares the arguments of Ukrainian colleagues and is ready to fully promote further integration of Ukraine into the European Union and NATO.

    Separately, the heads of government discussed the development of the Ukrainian diaspora living in Slovakia.

    The meeting of Groysman and Pellegrini was held in Bratislava on Tuesday, April 16, during the visit of the prime minister of Ukraine to Slovakia.INTERFAX-UKRAINE 14:42 16.04.2019

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 10:00 18.04.2019
    Independent auditors confirm NBU's consolidated financial statements for 2018

    The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has completed the process of preparing the annual financial statements for 2018 for approval by the Council of the Central Bank.

    According to the report on the NBU's website, on April 16 the consolidated financial statements of the NBU were approved by the board, signed by central bank governor Yakiv Smolii, NBU chief accountant Bohdan Lukasevych and director of the NBU financial controlling department Oleh Strynzha. On the part of the external auditor, the reports were signed by partners of the audit of Deloitte & Touche USC in Ukraine Yevhen Zanoza and Natalia Samoilova.

    According to the report, the statements were positively assessed by the independent auditor unconditionally.

    "According to the conclusion made by Deloitte & Touche USK, the consolidated financial statements of the National Bank of Ukraine reliably and in all material aspects reflect its financial condition at the end of the day on December 31, 2018, as well as its performance, cash flow and changes in capital according to international financial reporting standards," the report says.

    According to Ukrainian legislation, the annual consolidated financial statements together with the audit report must be approved by the NBU Council no later than April 30, 2019.

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 10:05 18.04.2019
    Health Ministry starts testing single transplantation system

    The developers have presented the base product of the Unified State Transplantation Information System, according to the website of the Ministry of Health.

    Currently, Health Ministry experts are checking the functionality of the system for compliance with all requirements for it. The ministry plans to fully launch the system from January 1, 2020.

    According to the report, the system includes stationary and mobile versions, has eight registers. The ninth register, the register of stem cell donors, will be attached to the system later. The system also covers all key logistic processes for the daily operation of registers: managing data on donors and patients, requests, records of transplantations made, etc.

    Transplant coordinators and family doctors will have access to the program. The system registers will interact through automatic search and matching donor-recipient pairs. At the same time, the system contains a large database of various medical reference books, which will make it possible to select the parameters of the donor and recipient semi-automatically and, accordingly, minimize the number of errors in personal donor cards.

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