KYIV – Ukraine can expect to see its economy grow only modestly over the previous year by 2.9 percent, or to $113 billion, if declared, albeit muted, reforms continue, say three Kyiv-based policy centers and an economist in Washington.
Despite Russia’s unprovoked war that Kyiv has managed to contain, the country’s biggest internal national security threat remains corruption from within, they say. It includes existing quasi-monopolies that the oligarch-economic machine has managed to preserve, and a disjointed judicial system that enables the takeover of businesses and land from their rightful owners, domestic or foreign.
KYIV – Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister has called the killing of an activist attorney in Kyiv “a challenge to the state” as the authorities, facing public outrage, opened a murder investigation into the death of Iryna Nozdrovska.
KYIV – Anne Applebaum, journalist, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, received an honorary doctorate at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (known by the acronym NaUKMA) during a ceremony on December 16, 2017, in a packed university auditorium filled by over 750 students. Many of the students asked excellent questions after Ms. Applebaum’s lecture based on her book, “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” about the genocidal Holodomor of 1932-1933. Ms. Applebaum’s visit to Ukraine included a NaUKMA fund-raising event at the Kyiv Art Arsenal, a press conference, a book presentation, and meetings with media and civil society reformers, as well as members of the executive and legislative branches of the Ukrainian government. The author also had an extensive private meeting with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.
A Russian court in occupied Sevastopol back on November 16, 2017, sentenced Ukrainian former military expert Dmitry Shtyblykov to five years imprisonment in a strict penal colony (Regnum, November 16). Mr. Shtyblykov worked at the think tank Nomos, which, prior to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, operated in Sevastopol. A year earlier, on November 9, 2016, he was apprehended in that Black Sea port city, together with two other suspects – Vladimir Dudtko and Alexey Bessarabov (the latter had also worked at Nomos) (Krymr.com, November 10, 2016). All three men are former Ukrainian officers. According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), these “subversive and terrorist groups” of the Ukrainian Intelligence Service “were aiming to commit acts of sabotage on the military infrastructure facilities and livelihood of the Crimean peninsula” (Fsb.ru, November 10, 2016).
LVIV – U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch visited the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Lviv on November 23, 2017. She met with the children and young people of the center during a tour of the facility. Dzherelo has been serving children with disabilities in the Lviv Region since 1993. It serves 170 children daily and is the only center of its kind in Ukraine. According to Peace Corps Volunteer Christie Taylor, the ambassador “seemed to be impressed by our participants and staff.
WASHINGTON – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists have been targeted in no fewer than 38 incidents in at least 12 of the countries they cover in 2017, in what the company has called “relentless pressure” on its journalistic mission. “We report on local politics, social issues, corruption, wars and extremist movements in places where both governments and non-state actors would prefer to control the media,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent. “Our reporters take enormous risks because they believe their work matters and that free societies need a free press.”
The number of incidents represents an increase over previous years and coincides with a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that says the record number of journalists jailed worldwide this year is indicative of “a global crisis in freedom of the press.” RFE/RL reporters work in many of the countries where CPJ documented imprisoned journalists, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Among the most serious cases, RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena is serving a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence following a conviction on “separatism” charges in Russia-annexed Crimea. On December 18, 2017, the peninsula’s Supreme Court let stand Mr. Semena’s conviction and sentence, but reduced a ban on his “public activities” from three years to two.
KYIV – Investigative journalist Natalie Sedletska of the TV program “Schemes” was presented the Light of Justice award on December 2, 2017, at the 10th gala dinner of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). The award was established by the late Dr. Anastasia Shkilnyk, a Ukrainian Canadian philanthropist, author and academic who named it after her father, a renowned lawyer and community and political activist during the liberation movement of Ukraine in 1917-1920, Dr. Mykhailo Shkilnyk. The award is intended to recognize Ukrainians who distinguish themselves for moral, spiritual and ethical leadership. Previous recipients of the award include former Ukrainian dissident Yevhen Sverstiuk; Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people; and community activist Larissa Zalyvna. Bishop Borys Gudziak, President of UCU, said as he presented the award: “Anastasia Shkilnyk was a very noble woman.
The appointment of Robert Mueller as special investigator of Russian interference in the 2016 election may well prove to be the most significant event for the future of Russian-American relations because it “deprives Russia of a chance for an effective ‘exit strategy’ from its Ukrainian adventure,” according to Russian historian Vladimir Pastukhov. “Russia never was ready for and did not in fact want to ‘fall into’ a global conflict with the U.S. and the entire Western world” because neither its economy nor its military are capable of withstanding such a clash for very long, the St. Antony’s College (Oxford University) historian argues (polit.ru/article/2018/01/01/worldpolitics/). Such a confrontation in fact “threatens Russia with the very same outcome that it did the late USSR,” Mr. Pastukhov continues. The Kremlin in fact understood that when it began its Ukrainian adventure, but it believed the West and especially the U.S. were “inclined to ‘a big deal’ ” about spheres of influence as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact or the Helsinki Final Act did.
KYIV – Tensions between Ukrainian politician Mikheil Saakashvili and erstwhile ally Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko were further strained after the former Georgian leader called on the president to resign in an open letter he published on his Facebook page on December 19.
The U.S. special envoy for the Ukraine conflict has said 2017 was the deadliest year in the region since the outbreak of violence three years ago, and warned that hostilities are again ratcheting up. Kurt Volker’s comments on December 19 came as international monitors reported intense shelling overnight near the town of Novoluhanske, part of the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas. United Nations officials reported eight civilians injured and dozens of homes damaged, with winter temperatures complicating matters. “A lot of people think that this has somehow turned into a sleepy, frozen conflict and it’s stable and now we have… a ceasefire.