2018: a challenging year for Ukraine

Featured, Ukraine

How would Ukrainians remember 2018? Unfortunately, one of the most popular trends of the year were the attacks on local activists. However, there were victories and good news too. There are things to be proud of.

The attacks on activists

During a protest led by the Anti Corruption Action Center (ANTAC), where activists demanded to dismiss the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, ANTAC head Vitaliy Shabunin was drenched with the antiseptic brilliant green. Photo: tsn.ua

The year started with sad news. The lawyer Iryna Nozdrovska, who fought to prevent the killers of her sister from escaping justice, was killed herself :

Ukrainian lawyer seeking justice for killed sister found deadFor two years, she was determined not to let the killer of her little sister walk free. Unfortunately, it is likely that the influential relatives of the killer turned out to be stronger. Iryna Nozdrovska, a lawyer who had on 27 December 2017 managed to prevent the release of the killer of her sister from imprisonment, was found dead on 1 January near Kyiv after being missing for two days. After several days of search efforts undertaken by activists and the police, the Ministry of Interior confirmed in a press release that the naked body found in a river in the Kyiv Oblast was that of Ms. Nozdovska, noting that a criminal investigation has been launched into the first-degree murder.

The sad trend of attacks on activists continued during the year:

Ukrainian activist attacked with acid dies in hospital. Mandator of murder still not foundKateryna Handziuk, the activist from the south-Ukrainian city of Kherson who was doused with sulphuric acid on 31 July 2018, died in the hospital on 4 November. The information was confirmed by Kyiv’s chief of police. After suffering burns to 30% of her body, the 33-year old activist and advisor to the Kherson mayor was being treated in Kyiv’s burn center, having undergone 11 operations. At publishing time, rumors explained her death by a blood clot or by the overall adverse effects of the extensive chemical burn.

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Despite the resolute promises of top officials, the masterminds of the murder of Handziuk are still unknown. As are the details related to the fake murder of Russian journalist Arkadiy Babchenko.

The fake of the year

Journalist Arkadiy Babchenko, alive and happy, stands behind SBU head Hrytsak and Prosecutor General Lutsenko. Screenshot: Channel 112 Ukraine

Russian journalist Babchenko alive, SBU staged his “assassination” to catch organizer. Exiled Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko who was reportedly shot dead in his back in Kyiv yesterday evening has shown up safe and sound at a briefing of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) today on 30 May. SBU Head Vasyl Hrytsak told journalists that the special service faked the death of Babchenko to catch those who had plotted his assassination.

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Upcoming presidential election

Petro Poroshenko during the 2014 elections. Photo: ua.112.ua

Yuliya Tymoshenko is leading the polls. Meanwhile, incumbent Petro Poroshenko, pro-Russian candidate Yuriy Boiko,  or comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyi, who isn’t even running yet, might be in second place. Another potential candidate for the second round is ex-minister of Defence Anatoliy Hrytsenko.

Ukrainians prefer comedian to current president and other insights from pre-election polls.In the last four years, many things have changed in Ukraine – it experienced a de-facto war with Russia, reforms (both successful and not really), the birth of civil society. But the political landscape has barely changed. Ukrainians will choose the president from nearly the same set of people as four years ago. These people are failing their expectations, and this gives ground for disappointment.

“Savior of the nation”: how Poroshenko bets on fear of Russia in bid to get reelected

In the spring of 2019, current president Petro Poroshenko will seek to be reelected to a second term, like all Ukrainian presidents elected before him. However, his position now differs dramatically from 2014. So what are his chances?

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Anti-Corruption breakthrough

The Court – Euromaidan Press documentary on the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court. Finally, Ukraine is closer to dealing with its top-corrupt than ever before. The High Anti-Corruption Court, which is expected to be launched in 2019, is the final link in the chain of anti-corruption institutions called to bring Ukraine’s corrupt leadership to justice.

5 months after legal start of Anti-Corruption Court, how close is Ukraine to prosecuting its top-corrupts? The decision to make the court didn’t come easily. Civil activists and the IMF pressured the Ukrainian government to pass a law on the Court’s creation. But the main challenges lie ahead, civil society representatives warn. funding.

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The war continues

The Technology of Blocking the Mariupol and Berdyansk Ports – Provided by Andrii Klymenko

No longer ATO, not yet a war. Ukraine adopts controversial “Donbas . On 18 January 2018, the Ukrainian Parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, adopted the law on the reintegration of Donbas in its second reading, with 280 out of the total 450 deputies voted in favor. The law gives Russia the status of an occupying country, makes no reference to the Minsk agreements, and was criticized by human rights organization as failing to defend the interests of people living in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine.

NATO officially gives Ukraine aspiring member status; membership action plan is next ambition. Ukraine is now an official NATO aspiring member, i.e. nation declaring aspirations to become full-fledged members of NATO. It was added to the list of such countries on NATO’s website on 10 March 2018.

Also, the frontline has shifted to the water:

Russian aggression in the Azov Sea has been ongoing since May 2018. The situation in the Azov Sea started aggravating in May 2018, when Russian border guards began detaining merchant ships going to the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdiansk or back to different countries. The arrests took place in the high seas and in the Kerch Strait. To counter this, the Ukrainian Navy began to transfer their vessels to the Azov Sea. The last attempt to transfer three Ukrainian ships to the Azov Sea ended in Russian border guards seizing them with the use of weapons on 25 November.

Read also: Russian attack on Ukrainian ships: who has a right to do what in the Azov Sea

Russia takes 24 prisoners of war after attacking Ukrainian ships in Azov, televises “confessions”. After the Russian attack on Ukrainian vessels near the Azov Sea on November 25, Ukraine introduced martial law in ten oblasts of the country. Russia’s actions were condemned by the international community. Still, Russia tries to score points by using the Ukrainian sailors it has taken captive for propaganda purposes.

Martial law ended in Ukraine, but not Russia’s military buildup near the border. A limited martial law was introduced on November 26 in ten Ukrainian oblasts in response to Russia’s attack on Ukrainian naval boats in the Kerch Strait. Martial law has expired on 26 December and the head of the state decided not to extend it. Ukrainian officials insist that the threat of the full-scale invasion persists.

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Political prisoners

Sentsov during a medical checkup on the 138th day of his hunger strike. Photo: Russia’s penitentiary service

The POWs sailors joined the list of 70 Ukrainian political prisoners seized by Russia.

The most famous of them is filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who held a 145-day hunger strike, demanding to release all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. Some of the other prisoners followed his example.

Imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov stops hunger strike on day 145. Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker accused of terrorism by Russia, has announced that he is stopping the hunger strike that he had started on 14 May 2018, demanding to free all the Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia.

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Other international battles

Photo: COE.INT

 In February, Ukraine’s Naftogaz won a lawsuit against Russia’s Gazprom.

Hague court rules Russia must compensate Ukrainian investors $159 mn for Crimea lossesThe Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague has issued a unanimous judgment in the case Everest Estate LLC et al. v. The Russian Federation, ruling that Russia is responsible for violating the rights of Ukrainian investors and must compensate 19 Ukrainian private entities $159 mn for the losses resulting from the annexation of Crimea back in March 2014. Russian representatives did not attend the hearing and did not file any post-hearing submissions.

Everything you wanted to know about Nord Stream 2 but were afraid to ask.  Germany gave the final green light for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline enabling the Russian state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom to double its gas supplies to Germany. Its adepts say the project will diversify the EU’s gas supplies. However, critics call the project politically motivated and warn that it may pose a threat to European security: Russia will be able to use it as an instrument of hybrid warfare against the West.

Russia loses battle for PACE: resolution allowing sanctions to be lifted fails voteOn October 9, Russia lost the battle for PACE: the resolution which would have allowed sanctions on the delegation to be lifted in January 2019 was not approved by the delegates. Moreover, for the first time, PACE delegates started discussing whether Russia has a place in the Assembly.

The good news of the year

The Unification Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches took place in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on 15 December. Photo: president.gov.ua

New chances, new risks. Where Ukrainian Orthodoxy stands on the eve of independence. Ukraine has completed the penultimate step before receiving a recognized Orthodox Church independent from Moscow. On 15 December, a Council in Ukraine convened to unify the existing three Orthodox Churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) into one single Church, which would then be granted the Tomos of autocephaly, or declaration of independence, from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Council elected Epifaniy, a Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, as its Primate. While many in Ukraine are celebrating, others are less optimistic about the outcome of the Council and warn that the new Church has a long journey ahead before it is accepted by the family of world Orthodox Churches. Euromaidan Press talked to three experts in church issues to understand what happened at the historical event and what this heralds for the future of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

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