A protester during a rally in support of jailed activist Serhiy Sternenko at the President's Office in Kyiv on 20 March. Photo: RFE/RL
It has been a busy week in Ukraine. Here is a recap of the main events that happened in the country from Kyiv not Kiev: Sternenko protesters vs the President’s Office, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda visits Ukraine, amid record high mortality from COVID-19, a poll has found that 40% of Ukrainians believe the conspiracy theory that the virus was created artificially to decrease the population.
Protests in support of Serhiy Sternenko continue
Painted walls, broken windows and doors – those are outcomes of the action “Can’t you hear? You will see” near the Office of the President of Ukraine, aimed at supporting public activist Serhii Sternenko and protesting against his imprisonment. Several thousand protesters chanted slogans demanding Sternenko’s release.
“Street art” on the building of the Office of the President is a consequence of the enormous indignation of citizens about selective justice and the systemic lack of the rule of law in the country. Among the activists were those who condemned the protesters’ actions, calling them vandalism. They said that during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, not one window on the administrative buildings was damaged, and such actions will not attract the respect of other supporters of the movement in support of Sternenko. Proponents of decisive measures, on the contrary, are convinced that without the active defense of justice by any means, everyone risks being in the dock.
Damage to the building of the Office of the President, according to their press service, is estimated at two million hryvnias. Having checked cleaning companies` prices in Kyiv, journalists and activists say that everything can be removed many times cheaper – they estimate restoration in 80,000 hryvnias. It turns out that is how you can make money on a high-profile case.
In Ukraine, society’s demand for justice and truth has met a catalyst in YouTube blogger Serhiy Sternenko, little known to the average Ukrainian. Judicial reform is the highest priority in Ukraine, and all Western partners are calling for it. If the authorities could pretend not to hear these calls until today, it will be difficult for them to ignore thousands of people and opinion leaders. Sternenko’s trial has become a litmus test of the judicial and law enforcement systems in Ukraine.
The history of the Sternenko effect:
The Sternenko’s case has been dragging on since 2015 when an activist was declared a suspect in the abduction of Serhiy Shcherbych. Sternenko states that the case is fabricated and politically motivated, with a lack of evidence and witnesses and built “exclusively on Shcherbych’s statement”. This proceeding revealed the gravest threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and statehood – a lack of judicial justice. Activists, politicians realized that the next victim of political forces could be anyone who might be coming their way and cannot protect themselves from fabricated accusations.
- Protests sweep Ukraine as Odesa court jails civic activist for 7 years, finding him guilty of kidnapping to earn $11
- Prosecutor General turns the tables on corruption fighter who survived three murder attempts
- Ukraine’s courts are trying to jail a corruption fighter, but a sea of public support is getting in the way
President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda paid an official visit to Ukraine on March 18-19
President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda addressed the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s Parliament] in the Ukrainian language, remembering the common heroes and condemning Russia’s aggression.
“I address you in an old and esteemed language that for a long time had been persecuted and almost eradicated, but never destroyed,” he said.
It is his first visit to Ukraine in this status. He expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sanctions against Russia. Gitanas Nausėda claimed,
“Crimea is Ukraine! We strongly condemn Russia’s illegal actions, we support Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and welcome Kyiv’s initiative to establish an international platform for Crimea.”
During the visit, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Gitanas Nausėda signed a joint declaration on Ukraine’s European perspective.
President Nausėda mentioned holding a conference on reforms in Ukraine to be held on July 6 in Vilnius.
“I have already received a promise from the President [Zelenskyy] to visit us at the conference on July 6. This event will be a great opportunity to discuss the support of the international community for Ukraine,” said the Lithuanian President.
President Nausėda mentioned lessons of shared history that taught Lithuania to respect Ukraine’s aspiration for freedom and cherish its independence spirit.
Throughout the history of bilateral relations, Lithuania has consistently supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sanctions against Russia. Lithuania and Ukraine have been strategic partners since medieval times when Ukrainian territories were part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The Rating Group Ukraine conducted a survey asking Ukrainians their opinion on how Covid-19 appeared
According to the results, 71% believe that coronavirus is an artificial virus. Among them, 40% think it is a way to reduce the population. Interestingly, 31% believe it was created due to a scientific experiment, and 27% are convinced it is a bacteriological weapon. Another 17% are sure that the virus was created on purpose to cause an economic crisis, to make money on the vaccine (16%), and to control people (12%).
At the same time, amid the accelerating rates of coronavirus infection spread (more than 10,000 cases daily, record death rates), the Ukrainian authorities decided to impose a ban on walking without masks in parks and streets in the cities of the “red” zone and introduce strict quarantine measures in Kyiv until April 9.
Unfortunately, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine predicts that the current mortality rate is likely to be exceeded soon. In general, peak incidence has not yet been reached in Ukraine. The increase in mortality is expected by the beginning of April. The fact that Ukraine started vaccination late, amid the most active spread of the virus, puts the most vulnerable groups in terms of mortality – the elderly and patients with chronic diseases – in great danger.
Another critical decision: foreigners who want to enter Ukraine must present a negative PCR test, taken no more than 48 hours before arrival in Ukraine. This restriction does not apply to refugees, representatives of diplomatic organizations and international missions.