Dismantling of oligarchic economy main goal for 2018, say experts

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.

Iryna Nozdrovska in a photo from Facebook.

Ukrainian activist lawyer stabbed to death in Kyiv

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.

Russian shelling from occupied Horlivka damaged a kindergarten in Novoluhanske in Donetsk Oblast on December 18, a day before St. Nicholas Day.

Anti-government protests end in violence

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.

U.S. approves sale of light weapons to Ukraine

The U.S. State Department says it has approved an export license for Ukraine to buy certain types of light weapons and small arms from U.S. manufacturers. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on December 20 that Congress was notified of the decision on December 13. The license covers weapons in categories such as semiautomatic and automatic firearms up to .50 caliber weapons, combat shotguns, silencers, military scopes, flash suppressors and parts. It does not allow the sale of heavier weapons, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, that Ukraine has urged Washington to provide in order to strengthen its capabilities against the Russia-backed separatists it is fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. An article in The Washington Post described the State Department decision as approval of “the largest U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.”

The State Department’s Ms. Nauert noted that, “Under the previous two administrations, the U.S. government has approved export licenses to Ukraine, so this is nothing new.” According to Reuters, State Department records show that Ukraine has bought small amounts of light weapons and small arms for several years, both before and after Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014.

Saakashvili defiant as police clash with supporters at Kyiv protest camp

KYIV – Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president turned Ukrainian opposition leader, has vowed that he will continue to resist arrest after his supporters dramatically freed him from custody in Kyiv. Facing a deadline to turn himself in to the authorities later in the day, Mr. Saakashvili told supporters at a protest camp near parliament early on December 6 that he would not comply. “I will not show up at the pseudo Prosecutor-General’s Office,” he said. “I am ready to talk to investigators here in the camp.”

“Our plans are clear. Our main goal is to remove a criminal group from power and impeach it,” Mr. Saakashvili said, referring to President Petro Poroshenko’s administration.

Canadian Ambassador Roman Waschuk in Kyiv on November 11 stands with his wife, Oksana, and two high-ranking Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers who have taken part in helping Ukraine’s police reform, Bruce Kirkpatrick (left) and Orest Hnatkiv (right).

Canadian ambassador draws on all of Canada to boost ties with Ukraine

KYIV – The Ukraine that Canadian Ambassador Roman Waschuk knew while serving as political counselor for his country’s diplomatic corps in 1994-1998 has outlived its legacy.

Back then, Leonid Kuchma was in his first of two terms as president and starting to build the corrupt, oligarchic economic model that the nation’s post-revolutionary government inherited in 2014 and has been replacing incrementally ever since.