If Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky fails to rein in the oligarchs and rampant judicial corruption, his reforms will sputter and Ukraine will lose its best chance in decades to escape Russia’s influence and emerge as a pro-Europe Western-leaning democracy, analysts say.
Timothy Ash, a Ukraine specialist from Bluebay Asset Management, says it appears Zelensky will not move to rein in favored oligarchs, like Ihor Kolomoisky, an influential mogul who controls 1+1 and has close ties to the president. Judicial reform efforts were being frustrated and disreputable judges remained, , and write for The Washington Post:
“What we are learning across the board really is that Zelensky is very much shaped by popular opinion and is not that willing to put his head above the parapet and rock the boat for reform,” said Ash, a London-based emerging markets analyst specializing in Ukraine.
“It’s a shame, really,” he added, “as much of this popular opinion is shaped by Ukrainian media captured by oligarchic interests, which are intent on keeping the status quo where the state remains captured by certain oligarchs.”
Orysia Lutsevych, a Ukraine analyst at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said that although Zelensky was close to Kolomoisky, it was too early to say whether the president would be able to rein in the country’s powerful oligarchs writ large. Kolomoisky’s perception now is that it’s his time, regardless of what Zelensky thinks,” she told The Post.
In late January, Oleg Sentsov arrived in Washington, DC to continue his campaign to free Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held by Russia, notes . This was Sentsov’s first visit to the United States. Accompanied by a delegation of other Ukrainian human rights advocates, Sentsov attended a series of high-level meetings held between January 27–29, 2020 with members of Congress, senior State Department officials, journalists, and think tanks, she writes.
Sentsov, a vocal critic of Russia’s annexation of his native Crimea, was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison on groundless charges of “terrorism.” After serving five years of his sentence, Sentsov was released in September 2019 as part of a prison swap between Russia and Ukraine. This was due in part to a tireless advocacy campaign by PEN America—which awarded him the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award—and other human rights organizations. Following meetings at the Atlantic Council, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the U.S. Agency for International Development, Sentsov’s delegation met with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) of the House of Representatives’ Ukraine Caucus, Flynn Sapia adds.
The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion on “Everything You Know About Ukraine is Wrong.” Panelists: Yevhen Hlibovytsky, partner at Pro Mova; and former Penn Kemble fellow Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. 3:30 p.m. February 12, 2020. Venue: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. RSVP Travis Horne, 202-778-4993, firstname.lastname@example.org