Russian-sponsored unrest could threaten not only Ukraine’s reform process, but Kiev’s post-revolutionary order, argues analyst Molly McKew. The real influence of Russian banks in Ukraine is hard to measure, but as local banks were nationalized — the share of state-run banks now tops 50 percent — loans for small businesses and regular citizens grew scarcer, meaning Russian banks controlled a significant percentage of lending during the economic crisis, she writes for POLITICO:
The Kremlin’s banks may now leave Ukraine, but Russians will still own stakes in Ukrainian financial institutions. Sberbank Ukraine, for example, has already sold its assets to a consortium of investors headed by the son of a Russian oligarch. The National Corps has announced they will start a new blockade this week against all remaining Russian banks, accusing the NBU of taking “no real action” and accusing Gontareva and Poroshenko of protecting the banks. The NBU has asked law enforcement to prevent the blockade. The investigations against the NBU proceed, and this will be a complicated landscape for Western advisers to navigate: both the NBU and NABU are Western-backed projects.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an aggressive, emboldened Russia increasingly threatens European security and prosperity, as well as Europe’s alliance with the United States, analyst Anne Applebaum writes for the Washington Post.
“Russia supports anti-American, anti-NATO and indeed anti-democratic political candidates all across the continent; Russia seeks business and political allies who will help promote its companies and turn a blind eye to its corrupt practices,” adds Applebaum, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “Over the long term, these policies threaten U.S. business interests and U.S. political interests all across the continent and around the world.”
Oleg Sentsov (right), a writer, filmmaker and a native of Simferopol, has been an outspoken critic of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and was active in the Revolution of Dignity protests that took place in 2013-2014, Freedom House adds:
In May 2014, shortly following Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Sentsov faced spurious accusations from Russia-backed prosecutors of being part of a terrorist conspiracy, to which he pleaded not guilty. Following a dubious trial, Sentsov, along with fellow activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Russia.
This year, PEN America has awarded Sentsov with its Barbey “Freedom to Write” Award in light of his tremendous courage to speak out against the intolerance of free expression and conscientious dissent. Sentsov’s case highlights larger challenges to free expression that continue to choke fundamental freedoms in Crimea, Donbas, and Russia, and why Ukraine and the international community have a duty to support Sentsov and others like him in an effort to promote human rights in challenging times.