October 9, 2020



Number of COVID cases up to 239,337

Ukraine has registered 4,753 new coronavirus cases in past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 239,337, it was reported by Ukrinform. “We registered a record number of recoveries over the past day: 2,569 patients. At the same time, we have a record number of new coronavirus cases as a total of 4,753 people, including 219 children and 251 medical workers, have been tested positive over the past 24 hours,” Minister of Health of Ukraine Maksym Stepanov said at a briefing on October 7. Seventy-seven deaths and 730 hospitalizations have been recorded in Ukraine in past 24 hours. In all, 4,597 coronavirus patients have died and 105,970 patients have recovered in Ukraine since the pandemic began. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)


Poroshenko hospitalized with COVID-19

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia after he tested positive for COVID-19, his wife said on October 3. Mr. Poroshenko is in a hospital in Kyiv, his wife, Maryna Poroshenko, said in a video posted on Facebook. “Despite the fact that my husband has bilateral pneumonia, he is strong-willed and is demonstrating this in the fight against the disease,” his wife said. The 55-year-old former president announced on September 29 he had tested positive for the coronavirus and said he was receiving treatment at home. He suffers from diabetes, which is associated with an increased risk of developing complications from the coronavirus. A billionaire confectioner, Mr. Poroshenko is currently a member of the Verkhovna Rada and leader of the European Solidarity party. He led Ukraine after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the outbreak of conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in the east of the country. In 2019, he lost the presidential election to Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ukraine, with a population of some 40 million, has reported more than 222,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 4,300 fatalities. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and President Zelenskyy’s wife both contracted the virus but have recovered. (RFE/RL, with reporting by AFP)


WHO prediction for Ukraine’s COVID cases

“In the coming months, we expect the number of cases to exceed 5,000 and reach 7,000 to 9,000 a day. In the same context, we also see an increasing number of cases in Europe,” the head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, Dr. Jarno Habicht, said in an interview with Suspilne TV channel on October 1. He noted that an increase has been observed in all countries as the disease has not yet been eradicated. “In Ukraine, virus transmission in communities is still observed. We have not narrowed the transmission to cluster distribution [through social ties: family, school grade, employees of one department], which many European countries are nearing. Our research shows that only one person in four washes their hands regularly. We also see that every third person does not maintain physical distance when attending various events,” Dr. Habicht said. When asked about an increase in the number of coronavirus cases by the end of the year, the WHO representative said: “It is difficult to make an estimate. But if we start recording more than 9,000 cases a day in December, I will be concerned a little more.” (Ukrinform)


Statement from EU-Ukraine summit

Following the 22nd European Union-Ukraine summit on October 6, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, and Josep Borrell, vice-president of the European Commission, acting on behalf of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, issued a statement, which reads, in part, “We agreed on the importance of accelerating and reinforcing reform efforts, in particular on the judiciary (including reforming the High Council of Justice and the independent recruitment of judges with integrity) and in the fight against corruption, ensuring strong and independent anti-corruption institutions. We welcomed the renewed commitment of Ukraine to fight the influence of vested interests (‘de-oligarchization’). In this regard, we underlined the need to further strengthen media pluralism in Ukraine.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daiy Briefing)


EU sanctions for Kerch bridge

The European Union on October 1 announced asset freezes on four companies and two individuals responsible for the construction of the Kerch Strait railway bridge. It also imposed visa bans on two individuals, Alekandr Ganov and Leonid Ryzhenkin. Mr. Ganov is the director of the JSC TC Grand Service Express, which operates the railway service between Russia and Crimea, and Mr. Ryzhenkin is the deputy director for infrastructure projects at Stroigazmontazh, the firm that supervised the construction of the bridge. The following entities will have their EU assets frozen: Crimea Railway, the owner and operator of the railway tracks on the bridge; the First Crimean Insurance Company, which insured the construction; Lenpromtrans­proyekt, which designed the railway approaches to the bridge over the Kerch Strait and acted as architectural supervisor during construction; and the Berkakit-Tommot-Yakutsk Railway Line’s Construction Directorate, which provided engineering services during the construction. Railway traffic on the bridge connecting mainland Russia and the Russia-occupied Crimean peninsula was opened in December 2019. The railway bridge sits alongside the road bridge that was opened in May 2018. Shortly after the opening of the road bridge, the European Union slapped asset freezes on six companies involved in its construction: Mostotrest, Stroygazmontazh, its subsidiary Stroygaz­montazh Most, as well as the construction firm CJSC VAD, engineering firm GPSM and the Zaliv Shipyard. Russia occupied and forcibly seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. (RFE/RL)


MP quits Servant of the People party

Ukrainian Member of Parliament Mykola Halushko (District No. 97, Kyiv Oblast) announced he is leaving the Servant of the People party, alleging that “in the local elections all the spaces in the candidates’ lists of political party Servant of the People were sold, and the call to take part in the election to fight with corrupt people and old local elites are, unfortunately, only words.” He added, “It’s enough to look at the list of Servant of the People in my district, and everything will be understood by everyone. Neither I nor my team will continue to participate in this kind of political party.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)


Independent news portal is banned

The independent Belarusian news site Tut.by said authorities have banned it for three months, the latest clampdown by officials on non-state media covering the country’s ongoing political turmoil. Tut.by said in an article posted September 29 on its website that, as of October 1, the site would be stripped of its status as a registered media outlet for at least three months. There was no immediate confirmation of the ban from Belarusian authorities. Tut.by, which said it had received four separate warnings, said it would continue to publish and report despite the order. The move could pose a risk for Tut.by’s reporters and photographers, who potentially could face fines or detention. Belarus has been gripped by political crisis since August 9, when officials declared Alyaksandr Lukashenka the winner of the presidential election. Opposition figures called the vote flawed and there have been near daily protests by masses of Belaru­sians calling for a new vote. Russia has strongly endorsed Mr. Lukashenka. Amid the street protests and political turmoil, Belarusian authorities have moved to strip accreditations for reporters and photographers for major international news outlets, and have detained some reporters, including those from RFE/RL, for working without accreditation. (RFE/RL)


Pro-Kremlin writers irked by Crimea book

When Bulgarian writer Svetoslav Nahum’s book “Escape From Crimea” was published in Sofia last year, he expected support from the Union of Bulgarian Writers (SBP). Mr. Nahum’s book depicts the tribulations faced by Ukrainians who fled their homes in Crimea after the territory was occupied by Russian military forces in 2014 and illegally annexed by the Kremlin. Instead of support, the 49-year-old Mr. Nahum says, the pro-Kremlin leadership of the SBP tried to undermine the promotion of the book and launched a media campaign in Bulgaria to discredit his work. He resigned from the SBP in protest. Mr. Nahum then sought support from the Bulgarian PEN Center – the Sofia-based chapter of PEN International, a global nongovernmental organization that champions human rights and freedom of expression. As a member of the Bulgarian PEN Center’s managing board, Mr. Nahum in February had proposed a declaration condemning Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea. The declaration denounced “the information war that Moscow is waging against Bulgaria’s national sovereignty” as part of a “hybrid war” that promotes the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda. It also called for the immediate release of Ukrainian writers, journalists and filmmakers who’d been imprisoned in Russia and in Russia-occupied Crimea after they’d opposed the annexation of Crimea. But the Bulgarian PEN Center’s management board rejected Mr. Nahum’s declaration by a 25-4 vote. Some members accused Mr. Nahum of accepting payments from the Ukrainian Embassy in Sofia to write what they called “anti-Russian propaganda” – a charge he dismisses as “ridiculous.” This month, Mr. Nahum’s book came out in Ukrainian. It is being praised in Kyiv as a bold attempt to counter Kremlin propaganda by telling the truth about events in Russia-occupied Crimea. “We were interested in the fact that, for the first time, a Bulgarian writer has dared to talk about the situation in Ukraine as it really is, and not as our [Russian] neighbors claim that it is,” says the Ukrainian translation’s publisher, Mykola Martinyuk, head of the Tverdynia Publishing House. There were 1,500 copies of the first edition in Ukrainian – a print run that is nearly sold out after less than a month. A second edition of 2,000 has already been printed. “I hope this book will also draw attention in the West to the suffering that so many Ukrainians have been through because of the Russian occupation and because of Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine,” the author says. In a letter to the Bulgarian PEN Center, PEN Ukraine’s executive board accuses the Union of Bulgarian Writers of “demonstrat[ing] a downright negative attitude to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and European choice of Ukraine.” PEN Ukraine’s letter also states: “We are very concerned that the leaders of major writers’ organizations of Bulgaria have openly taken the side of the aggressor state by condemning Bulgarian colleagues who express their humanitarian position, and who advocate against violence and propaganda from the Russian Federation.” Meanwhile, Mr. Nahum says he’s been “targeted by a campaign aimed at discrediting me” and “also been threatened – indirectly – with so-called ‘friendly advice.’” An SBP member warned him: “You might eat Novichok just like Sergei Skripal.” (Ron Synovitz of RFE/RL)