Ukraine’s leaders ‘giving up on reuniting the country’?


Ukraine’s leaders may be giving up on reuniting the country, The Economist reports:

Most Ukrainians say the war in Donbas, as the region is known, is the country’s most important issue. Yet they dislike the proposed solutions: fewer than 10% view the Minsk agreements positively. Although the Ukrainian government publicly supports implementing them, in private officials say that doing so could be disastrous. Compromise is politically fraught. Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian fighter pilot who returned from Russian captivity to a hero’s welcome last year, had her allegiance questioned after meeting with separatist leaders. Some of President Petro Poroshenko’s rivals have called for blockading the territories.

The most pressing issue facing Ukraine is corruption – the “cancer” in the body politic, civil society activist Svitlana Zalishchuk tells Open Democracy:

According to recent polls, over half the population agrees, despite the nation’s numerous challenges (war, annexation, the economy). Even by Eurasian standards, Ukraine’s corruption is extreme: the public space is dominated by billionaire oligarchs who own their own political parties, TV stations and even paramilitary battalions. Zalishchuk (right) believes that very few in Ukraine’s parliament are not bribed: “It’s about 10% – approximately 40 people – that are not corrupt”, out of a total of 450.

Ukraine has moved closer to western values and the western way of life, says Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska, a member of the Ukrainian parliament.

For the first time in 25 years, western-educated professionals, including myself, are in government. While not yet at critical mass, such reformers along with civil society are key drivers of Ukraine’s transformation,” she tells The Financial Times.

The end of the U.S.-Ukraine alliance will also have a terrible effect on civil society, which remains crucial to the country’s continuing transformation,” says Maxim Eristavi (left), a nonresident research fellow with the Atlantic Council and co-founder of Hromadske International, an independent news outlet, based in Kiev.

It’s nearly impossible to count all the times in the past three years when pressure from the U.S government, often low-profile, helped activists to deflect attacks on independent journalists; to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people; or to push forward urgently needed reforms,” he writes for The Washington Post.

Activists ‘Disappeared’ in Separatist Territory

А Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activist and another person have been missing since January 31, 2017, in the separatist-controlled area of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, and are feared to be victims of enforced disappearances, Human Rights Watch said today:

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the de facto authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) have detained them and are refusing to acknowledge their detention. Grey Violet, a Russian transgender person (also known as Oleg Vasilyev and Maria Shtern), and Victoria Miroshnichenko arrived in the DNR on January 31. They had planned to stage a public performance in Donetsk in support of the LGBT community and record it on video.

“It is distressing that no one has been able to find out where Grey Violet and Miroshnichenko are since they arrived in the DNR 10 days ago,” said Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Their sudden disappearance requires prompt and effective investigation.”

During a recent research trip to Ukraine, I found the country’s political elite are dealing with this uptick in geopolitical uncertainty and insecurity in two ways, Carnegie analyst Balázs Jarábik writes for War On The Rocks:

First, there is scrambling by various political factions to build bridges to the new U.S. administration. Yulia Tymoshenko, the controversial former prime minister turned populist opposition leader, has been playing up her brief informal interaction with Trump last week at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Second, Ukraine is using the flare-up in the Donbas to call attention to Russia’s thinly disguised role in the war — a tactic that has worked in the past. A tough statement from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley suggested that this tactic is starting to do the trick with the new team in Washington. However, Trump’s press secretary’s statement, the readout from Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Trump’s latest note that “we don’t know exactly what is happening there” begs for a more careful assessment. So far, the Trump administration has only been talking about the importance of maintaining Crimea-related sanctions while implying that the more far-ranging sanctions imposed over the war in Donbas could be rolled back if Moscow partners up with Trump in Syria.


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