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Eventful week in Ukraine: “eternal” minister resigns, judicial reform kicks off, IT bill adopted, cannabis bill fails

Ukraine’s former Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. Photo:
Eventful week in Ukraine: “eternal” minister resigns, judicial reform kicks off, IT bill adopted, cannabis bill fails
Article by: Kyiv not Kiev
Today we have not just a regular digest: it will be an improvised stream from the Verkhovna Rada. The MPs have voted on so many vital laws this week that it’s pretty impossible to miss them out.

The usually quiet political season in Ukraine has suddenly become an active news source in just one week. We have seen the dismissal of the old and the appointment of a new Interior Minister, the creation of a new regime for IT companies, the launch of judicial reform, and, unfortunately, the failed bill on the legalization of medical cannabis. Let’s take a look at all this together.

Ukraine has a new Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, called “permanent temporary,” was fired. Avakov personally wrote his resignation, and the MPs did not hesitate to accept it.

Deputy Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko said that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had proposed Avakov to resign. David Arakhamia, the head of the “Servant of the People” faction in the Parliament, confirmed the same. According to him, there was an agreement between the President and the former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs since Zelenskyy took office.

“There was an agreement: when the President asks him to leave, Avakov will resign.” Arakhamiya explained, “They communicate with each other perfectly well, they follow a civilized path.”

One can only guess what caused such an unexpected turn of events. Some say that Zelenskyy wants to take control over the country’s key power structure. Avakov is considered too influential in the ruling circles, there is a certain dependence on him, and the ruling authorities usually tend to get rid of such people.

Some have suggested that the resignation is linked to Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President. He allegedly managed to convince Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the need to dismiss a minister who is not 100% representative of Zelenskyy’s inner circle.

Another reason may be the pressure of Western partners. Some say, they demand Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements, which could be why Arsen Avakov did not want to stay at the post.

One thing remains clear: the resignation of odious Avakov was a long-awaited event due to unsolved high-profile criminal cases, such as the case of journalist Sheremet and public activist Gandzyuk, who were killed under mysterious circumstances as well as Sternenko’s case. In the first case, the perpetrators have not yet been identified, and in the latter one, the entire government vertical was accused of bias.

But the most significant reason hides in one sentence Ukrainian activists use on the demonstrations: “Where do you call if the police kill?” which emerged during Avakov’s term of office. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reform, which was supposed to ensure the cleansing of the ranks of law enforcement officers from incompetent police officers, took place only on paper. In fact, the entire internal system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has remained without any global changes. And for years, it was covered up by the “reform of the patrol police”. Worst of all, the cases of violent detentions, attacks and beatings by police officers, negligence, etc., have become more frequent.

“Eternal” Minister of Interior Avakov leaves. Ukraine’s police problems stay.

Now, Ukraine has a new Interior Minister. Denys Monastyrskyy is a member of the Parliament of Ukraine of the 9th convocation and former chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Law Enforcement. He is also close to the current Deputy Interior Minister, Mr Herashchenko, and to Avakov himself. It means that we shouldn’t expect significant personnel shocks in the ministry soon.

Denys Monastyrskyy. Photo: Mariia Savoskula

Denys Monastyrsky was offered this position by the President of Ukraine himself, and the politician admits that it was the most difficult decision in his life.

G7 and the EU congratulate Ukrainian move towards the reform of the judiciary

The Ukrainian parliament has finally adopted essential for the judiciary reform bills, which has been called for by international partners. On July 14, the Verkhovna Rada voted for the reform of the High Council of Justice. The day before, Parliament approved a law on the High Qualifications Commission with proposals from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Historical event” as Ukraine finally adopts all legislation for judicial reform

These laws provide for a radical cleansing of the judiciary, and international experts will play a crucial role here. Now the suitability of judges will be decided by people who do not have a conflict of interest.

The US Embassy in Kyiv has already supported these steps:

“These laws will help pave the way for a renewal of the judiciary based on the principles of integrity and professionalism. The USA and the EU are ready to support Ukrainian partners to successfully implement these laws, restoring citizen’s and investor’s confidence in the Ukrainian judicial system.”

Now Ukraine can hope for the active interest of foreign investors because the corruption component is already being removed from the judiciary.

“Historical event” as Ukraine finally adopts all legislation for judicial reform

New virtual economic zone in Ukraine

The MPs adopted in the second reading the bill, introducing a special legal regime DIIA.City. The bill’s authors underline that this regime has absorbed the best practices of similar systems in other countries and will stimulate the IT sector. The Ukrainian IT system will be more precise for foreign investors, and the ownership, taxation, and employment structure will be more transparent.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov believes that the DIIA.City regime will help increase IT revenues from 6 billion to 16.5 billion dollars by 2025, and the number of employees – from 200 thousand to 450 thousand.

This law provides effective tools for attracting investment, additional ways to protect intellectual property rights and a new form of cooperation with professionals — the so-called “gig contracts.” All these are familiar things for technology giants and startups abroad. Here in Ukraine, these things are being talked about seriously for the first time. According to the bill’s creators, it will only contribute to the intensive development of the Ukrainian high-tech industry.

A fly in the ointment: MPs left Ukrainians face to face with pain

One of the biggest disappointments of the last week was also presented by the Verkhovna Rada. MPs failed to vote on a bill to legalize medical cannabis in Ukraine. Medical cannabis is not known as a drug throughout the civilized world but as a medical substance that allows seriously ill patients to relieve excruciating pain. There are many stereotypes on this issue in Ukraine. However, MPs had to think not about them but about how to help their citizens. They have abandoned ill Ukrainians in suffering and made them criminals who buy a banned substance to soothe the pain.

Medical cannabis uses the marijuana plant or chemicals in it to treat diseases or conditions. It is not the same as recreational cannabis, which people use to get “high.” Cannabis-based drugs were planned to be purchased and manufactured in the form of pills, oils, sprays and even patches. They are not addictive in patients.

According to the latest estimates, more than two million Ukrainians urgently need them now. These are cancer patients, about 20 thousand children with severe epilepsy, war veterans, patients with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and many others.

How many more stages of discussions, rallies, and outright persuasions from the medical community must occur, so that MPs stop inflating populism on this issue and do their primary job – simply to help their citizens.

Dubiv Victoria is a project manager at TRUMAN, editor of KYIV NOT KIEV.

Polina Boichuk is an associate partner at TRUMAN, co-founder and co-host of KYIV NOT KIEV.

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