Ukraine’s most influential woman targeted by political opponents

KYIV – The governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), Valeria Gontareva, is Ukraine’s most influential woman, according to a survey released two weeks ago. Yet she’s also being targeted for dismissal as part of a campaign being led by another powerful Ukrainian woman, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. The former prime minister joined oligarch Serhiy Taruta, also a national deputy, in attempting on October 17 to register a parliamentary resolution to dismiss Ms. Gontareva and launch a temporary investigative committee related to the National Bank’s failure to return money to depositors in banks that collapsed after the Euro-Maidan, in addition to alleged crimes. “The living standards of people have fallen, 80 banks were destroyed and the interest on business loans has grown to 30 percent. A nuclear bomb to liquidate the economy of our state is practically in her hands,” Ms. Tymoshenko told the Verkhovna Rada the next day.

Who’s truly beholden to the Kremlin?

Dear Editor:

Let’s cut through the hysteria and examine the facts. Long before Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump exchanged compliments, Bill Clinton received a phone call from Mr. Putin in 2010 thanking him personally for delivering a speech for $500,000, paid by a Russian investment bank that was promoting shares in a company that controlled 20 percent of America’s supply of uranium, a critical component in nuclear weapons. The State Department, led by Hillary Clinton, signed off on the deal just two months after her husband’s speech, enabling the Russian state nuclear agency to not only acquire 20 percent of America’s uranium but also own the land in which the deposits are located. She was also secretary of state when $145 million in donations reached the Clinton Foundation from the shareholders of the company that sold America’s uranium. Yet that wasn’t the only money the Clintons raised from the Russians that resulted in the exchange for sensitive materials.

Anti-Ukrainian sentiments swell in Poland

KYIV – After attending the NATO summit on July 8, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took an unprecedented step towards Ukrainian-Polish reconciliation by visiting the Volyn Massacre Victims Memorial in Warsaw. He placed a wreath, lit a candle and knelt on his right knee before its main column. Mr. Poroshenko’s gesture – the first official visit by a Ukrainian politician to the memorial since it opened three years ago – came at a time when cooperation between the neighbors is critical in the face of ongoing Russian military aggression. It also came during a wave of unprecedented anti-Ukrainian sentiments in Poland. On June 26, Polish radicals attacked a Ukrainian Catholic prayer procession in Przemysl (Peremyshl) that had occurred annually, injuring a participant.

Rada approves arrest of Onyshchenko

Charges mark first major anti-corruption case in post-Maidan period
KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament voted on July 5 to strip political immunity from National Deputy Aleksandr Onyshchenko and arrest him for criminal charges related to the alleged theft of $64 million through fictitious firms set up in the natural gas trade, which has long been plagued by corruption. Mr. Onyshchenko had known for at least three weeks that he could be arrested and was already in Austria by the time the vote came up in the Verkhovna Rada. He wrote on his Facebook page that he was preparing for the Summer Olympics and continued to deny wrongdoing. Despite his evasion of arrest thus far, the criminal charges against Mr. Onyshchenko mark the first major anti-corruption prosecution against a high-ranking official in the post-Maidan period. It is widely believed to have been prompted by demands from Western institutions that the Ukrainian government start punishing large-scale crimes.

Rada approves language quotas for radio

KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament voted on June 16 to set quotas for Ukrainian language content on commercial radio, approving legislation that served as a compromise between two bills – one favored by radio lobbyists and the other by language activists – that were rejected two weeks earlier. The measure earned 268 votes and was strongly supported by all five of the Verkhovna Rada’s pro-Western factions, two of which (the Radical Party and Batkivshchyna) didn’t support the earlier drafts. They were sent back to committee, where the approved version was drafted by a working group that included deputies, lobbyists and activists. “These aren’t quotas for Ukrainian songs on the radio. This is vital space for the Ukrainian song,” Petro Poroshenko Bloc National Deputy Viktor Kryvenko told Parliament following the vote.

New hurdles surface in Ukraine’s Euro-integration

KYIV – Ukrainians are finding themselves stalled on the road to integration with Europe after officials revealed bureaucratic hurdles that emerged in recent weeks. Some are the fault of the Ukrainian government, but the biggest factors are related to the large inflow of migrants, according to reports. On the national level, the ratification of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement faces more delays, and could still possibly be derailed, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte admitted on June 13, as reported by the news site. He cited his country’s April referendum in which Dutch citizens voted against the government’s ratification of the agreement. EU officials have delayed approval of a visa-free regime for the citizens of Ukraine – as well as Turkey, Georgia and Kosovo – until at least the fall, Evropeiska Pravda ( news site) reported on June 10, citing anonymous EU diplomats.

Rada rejects radio quotas for Ukrainian-language music

A bill to boost Ukrainian-language music content on prime-time radio was supported by 260 musicians, including Ukrainian rock legend Oleh Skrypka. KYIV – Despite an abundance of popular, high-quality music in the Ukrainian language, much of it doesn’t get primetime airplay on Ukrainian radio stations. It’s most often played after midnight – a practice that has long been criticized and has become particularly relevant during a time of Russian war against Ukraine statehood. Civic activists and pop musicians have conducted a campaign since the winter to get legislation approved that would boost prime-time Ukrainian-language radio quotas to 35 percent from the current 5 percent average airtime, culminating in a vote in the Verkhovna Rada at its June 2 session. Yet the nation’s legislators rejected four attempts that day to approve either of two bills that would have introduced quotas for the Ukrainian language.

The soft-spoken fight the war

When Mykhaylo, a cousin of my wife, told me a year ago that he was being dispatched to the Donbas front, I couldn’t believe it. Rather, I couldn’t imagine it. He’s as skinny as a pencil, as fragile as glass and can barely raise his voice above street noise as he speaks. I’ve never seen anger or aggression from him and can’t imagine what that would look like. In short, this guy has no business being mixed up in a war.

Ukraine enacts legal reforms, changes to law enforcement

KYIV – Ukraine’s government this week adopted this week significant systemic reforms to its judiciary and changes to law enforcement, largely in response to Western demands that were pent up for months owing to the nation’s political crisis. Early in the week, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko announced his changes, including the appointment of new deputies and department heads, as well as the restructuring of certain departments. He also asked certain figures of the old guard to resign on their own, while also closing or transferring some of their controversial cases. The Verkhovna Rada voted on June 2 to approve constitutional amendments that structurally altered parts of the nation’s judicial system, mustering 335 votes, or 35 more than was needed for them to pass. Aimed at depoliticizing Ukraine’s judicial system, the amendments were supported by the Council of Europe and the U.S. government.

Nadiya Savchenko freed after 709 days in captivity

KYIV – Nadiya Savchenko, the former Ukrainian military pilot who was kidnapped by pro-Russian forces on Ukrainian territory in June 2014, was released to Ukraine on May 25 after nearly two years in captivity during which she endured what is globally recognized as a show trial that convicted her on false charges of complicity in murder. The 35-year-old native of Kyiv became Ukraine’s internationally recognized symbol in the war against Russia as the public learned of the nefarious nature of her capture by Donbas terrorists who surrendered her to Russian officials, the torture she endured in prison, her repeated hunger strikes that brought her to the brink of death and the rigged criminal trial that exposed the extreme corruption of Russian courts. Upon arriving at Boryspil International Airport near the capital, she was greeted by her mother, Maria, and sister, Vira, offered a few remarks before journalists, before heading to the Presidential Administration, where she was presented with the highest state honor, the Golden Star of the Hero of Ukraine award, for her unbreakable will, civic bravery and sacrificial service to the Ukrainian people. “For 709 long days, we worried, prayed, actively worked and organized protests to gain what happened on this present day. A day when hope returned to Ukraine – Nadiya Savchenko and hope – and the firm faith in our victory,” said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, playing on words that referred to the meaning of the names of both Nadiya (hope) and her sister, Vira (faith).