June 26, 2020



940 new COVID-19 cases in one day

Ukraine, as of the morning of June 23, had 20,554 COVID-19 cases, according to the National Security and Defense Council’s epidemic monitoring system. Meanwhile, the Public Health Center of the Health Ministry of Ukraine reported that in the previous 24 hours 940 new cases of COVID-19 were registered, 453 of those previously infected had recovered, and 16 people had died. There were 681 cases on June 22; 735 on June 21; 841 cases on June 20; and 921 cases on June 19. In turn, on the website of the National Security and Defense Council’s COVID-19 epidemic monitoring system, the number of people infected totally since the beginning of the pandemic as of the morning of Tuesday amounted to 39,014 people, some 17,409 people recovered and 1,051 people died. The largest number of new cases was detected in the Lviv region (203), Rivne region (126) and Zakarpattia region (78). (Ukrinform)


EU and WHO deliver PPE to Ukraine

On June 23, a shipment of medical respirators and masks, goggles, face shields and gowns for health-care workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Ukraine, the press service of the European Union Delegation to Ukraine reported. “The delivery of around 1 million units of personal protective equipment (PPE), funded by the European Union and procured by WHO in cooperation with the rest of the U.N. system, includes 500,000 medical masks, 125,000 respirators, 250,000 gowns, 50,000 face shields and 2,500 goggles. These supplies cover the personal protection needs for 50 COVID-19 frontline hospitals in all regions of Ukraine for a minimum of one month at full capacity,” reads the report. According to the EU Delegation to Ukraine, all items have been checked to ensure they meet quality and safety standards for healthcare workers on the frontline. The head of the Local and Human Development Section of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, Frederik Coene, and the World Health Organization’s representative and head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, Dr. Jarno Habicht, met the plane early that morning at Kyiv Boryspil International Airport. The supplies will be distributed by the WHO Country Office according to the needs of the health-care facilities identified by the Ministry of Health in Ukraine. The supplies are part of a larger assistance package of the European Union, and its Solidarity for Health Initiative, which is implemented in partnership with the WHO Regional Office for Europe and aims to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. “The delivery of laboratory supplies (equipment, consumables, reagents) is also ongoing with further deliveries expected within two weeks,” the EU Delegation to Ukraine said. (Ukrinform)


Iran to send black boxes to France

Iran says it will send the black boxes of a downed Ukrainian airliner to France for analysis in the “next few days” and expressed readiness to resolve the issue of compensations to the families of the victims. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in a phone call with his Canadian counterpart, Francois-Philippe Champagne, his ministry said in a statement on June 22. Mr. Champagne said that Mr. Zarif had committed to sending the flight recorders to France without further delay. The Canadian minister, who has consistently pressed Iran to compensate the families of victims, also said Iran had “agreed to enter into negotiations for reparations.” According to the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Tehran has told Kyiv it was ready to “resolve legal issues and discuss how to compensate the families” of victims, but was yet to receive a delegation from the other party. Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by Iran’s air defenses after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on January 8. All 176 people on board the Kyiv-bound aircraft were killed in what Tehran later acknowledged was a “mistake.” Iranian forces had been on high alert at the time of the tragedy, which came hours after Iran had launched missile strikes on an Iraqi military base housing U.S. troops. The Iranian strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad airport. The Ukrainian airliner’s cockpit voice and data “black box” recorders were the subject of an international standoff after the plane was shot down. They are expected to contain information about the last moments before the aircraft was struck and crashed. The 176 victims included 82 Iranian citizens and 63 Canadians, many of them of Iranian origin. France’s BEA air accident investigation agency is known as one of the world’s leading organizations for reading flight recorders. (RFE/RL, with reporting by AFP and Reuters)


Fatal gas explosion in Kyiv building

At least one person was killed in a gas explosion at an apartment building in Kyiv, rescuers said on June 21. Several people could be trapped under wreckage after four floors of the nine-story building were destroyed, the State Emergency Services said in a statement that day. “As of 11 a.m., one person was found dead. Twenty-one people were evacuated. Three people have been released and further evacuation of the house’s residents is under way,” the statement said. It said 21 residents had been evacuated from the building, but it was not immediately clear how many people had been inside. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, with reporting by Reuters)


Zelenskyy not trusted by 50 percent

Trust in Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the board chairperson of the Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research, Olha Balakireva. “After the election, a positive balance of trust was maintained. The situation began to change in January and, as you can see, already against the background of the coronavirus, our last measurements in May and June showed a change in this balance and now the balance of trust is negative,” Ms. Balakireva reported, presenting a study by the Center for Social Monitoring at a press conference on June 23 titled “Monitoring of Ukrainian Population’s Public Opinion: June 2020. Radicalization of Sentiment against Backdrop of Economic, Political Crisis.” Mr. Zelenskyy is fully trusted by 13 percent of respondents, 28.3 percent trust him somewhat, 25.4 percent do not trust him somewhat and 24.8 percent do not trust him at all. “Thus, 50 percent of the population today does not trust President Zelenskyy,” Ms. Balakireva summarized. During the study, conducted on June 10-19 via personal interviews at respondents’ places of residence, 3,037 people were interviewed in all regions of Ukraine, except for the occupied territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and Crimea. The sampling error is 1.1-1.9 percent. (Ukrinform)


EU leaders OK extension of sanctions

European Union leaders on June 19 supported a six-month extension of economic sanctions imposed against Russia over its role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefed other EU heads of state and government during a videoconference and said, according to RFE/RL sources familiar with the matter, that no progress had been made in implementing the Minsk agreement. The sanctions were first adopted in July 2014 after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and starting providing military support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people. Since then, the sanctions have been extended every six months. A formal decision to prolong the sanctions beyond their current July 31 expiration date is to be taken by EU ambassadors in the coming weeks. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year proposed a freeze on economic sanctions on “humanitarian” grounds in order to allow countries to better combat the coronavirus pandemic. But EU officials have rejected Mr. Putin’s call, with both European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel insisting the measures “do not impede Russia’s capacity” to combat the epidemic. The sanctions mainly target Russia’s financial, energy and defense industries. (RFE/RL)


Call for more integration of Eastern Partners

European lawmakers are calling for the creation of a “common economic space” between the European Union and the six former Soviet republics of its Eastern Partnership program as part of a process of “gradual integration” into the bloc. The European Parliament made the call in a report supported on June 19 by 507 members of the European Parliament (MEPs), with 119 voting against and 37 abstaining. The document is supposed to serve as the chamber’s wish list regarding the future of the Eastern Partnership program, which includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The program, launched in 2009, is meant to bring the six former Soviet republics closer to the EU without clearly offering future membership. “While accession is not foreseen under the framework of the Eastern Partnership, the Eastern Partnership policy can facilitate a process of gradual integration into the EU,” the report reads. It proposes to “embark on a process to create a common economic space” and says Brussels should “focus on telecommunications and prioritize the creation of a roaming-fees-free regime between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries and an intra-Eastern Partnership one as soon as possible.” Other suggestions include the establishment of an Eastern Partnership University in Kyiv and the appointment of an EU special envoy for Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia over its forcible seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014 and its support for militants in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014. (RFE/RL)


Zelenskyy denies political persecution

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was not behind what opponents says is political persecution of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, who now is a national deputy in the Verkhovna Rada. “He just wants to be a victim, wants everyone to think that there are political persecutions in Ukraine,” Mr. Zelenskyy said in an interview with the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. “I am not interested in Mr. Poroshenko, I am not interested in political persecutions, I just don’t do these things. I am sure that he is simply heating up the situation: he has not been heard from for half a year before elections, his political force in the Parliament did not vote for any of the current big reforms in our country. I have not seen anything, except this latest story, they started compiling ratings on this hype. I am taking it in my stride,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. (Ukrinform)


IKEA products use illegally felled wood

The British NGO Earthsight reported that its 18-month-long investigation has found that IKEA is selling beech chairs made from wood that was illegally felled in the forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians, home to endangered lynx and bear. “This illegal harvesting is being enabled by the corrupt state-owned forestry enterprises which run most of Ukraine’s forests. Continued illegal logging to supply IKEA’s beech chairs was even detected by Earth­sight during the worldwide Corona­virus (Covid-19) lockdown of April 2020,” Earthsight said on June 23. “Many of IKEA’s melamine-coated chipboard furniture products are also made from Ukrainian wood of suspect origin. During the reign of the notoriously corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych in 2011-2014, millions of dollars in bribes were being paid into offshore accounts of his corrupt cronies by overseas companies to access timber. Earthsight’s investigation shows it is highly likely that wood on which such bribes had been paid subsequently made its way into IKEA products,” the NGO noted. Reuters reported on June that IKEA said it would review its wood supply chain in Ukraine after the Earthsight report was released. “We acknowledge that illegal logging remains a widespread global issue, and work proactively to implement measures to verify that our suppliers comply with legality,” IKEA added, saying it had begun an independent audit into practices in Ukraine. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)


Bail denied for Handzyuk case suspect

A court in Kyiv has sent the head of the Kherson Oblast Council to pretrial detention under suspicion of ordering a deadly attack on anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk in 2018. The Pechersk district court late on June 18 ruled that Vladyslav Manher must remain under pretrial arrest without bail until July 28. On June 16, officers of the Security Service of Ukraine detained Mr. Manher while he was at a hospital in the city of Kherson and transferred him to Kyiv. Mr. Manher had failed twice to show up for the hearing about his pretrial restrictions, citing his own health problems, as well as those of his daughter. Mr. Manher has denied any involvement in the attack. Handzyuk, a 33-year-old civil activist and adviser to the mayor of the Black Sea port city of Kherson, died in November 2018 – three months after she was severely injured in an acid attack. Prosecutors arrested Mr. Manher in February last year and charged him with ordering the attack. Mr. Manher was later released on bail. In June 2019, five men were sentenced to prison terms of between three and six and a half years for organizing and executing the attack, after they made plea deals with investigators. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)


Russian police chief suspected of spying

A police chief in Russia’s western region of Kursk has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Ukraine. The Lefortovo District Court in Moscow said on June 22 that Dmitry Borzenkov, the police chief in the Zolotukha district in Kursk, was placed in pretrial detention over the weekend and will be held until August 18. The Federal Security Service said on June 22 that Col. Borzenkov, born in 1981, is suspected of collecting classified information for Ukraine while allegedly being recruited by its intelligence service. The Kursk regional Internal Affairs Ministry said that Col. Borzenkov, who has worked at the post since mid-April, will be fired. The Kursk region borders with Ukraine’s eastern region of Sumy. Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been tense after Moscow illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and threw support to pro-Russia militants in Ukraine’s east, where almost 13,200 people were killed in the ongoing conflict. (RFE/RL)