UkraineAlert

Gazprom has been making headlines in Europe lately. And not in a good way.

The leaking of a 271-page report compiled by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition, which describes violations of European legislation by the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, recently became a sensation. It’s not, however, because the report reveals any previously unknown facts. It’s simply that these facts confirm that Russia is using gas as a political weapon.

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Four years after Crimea's annexation, Ukraine is still struggling to get its defense capabilities back on the sea.  

On April 4, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine will receive two American ‘Island’ class boats, which previously were in the service of the US Coast Guard. This offer dates back to 2014.

According to Poroshenko, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense is currently working on “internal procedures for the completion and approval of a draft contract.”  The president announced that a meeting between the parties will take place in May 2018 to finalize the details.

This statement follows the March 30 airing of a “Schemes” investigation, a joint project of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and UA:Pershyi TV Channel.

Why is it taking so long for Ukraine's leadership to finalize the deal?   

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“We were moving through flashing fields. And I realized history was evolving right in front of my very eyes. I had yellow goggles on; everything was yellow with them. I took the goggles off, and then the wind started blowing in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything,” says volunteer soldier Bizhan Sharopov, who fought against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15. He’s talking about the battles for Lutuhyne and Heorhiivka that took place in the summer of 2014.

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Bizhan was among Donbas veterans participating in the “Voice of War” project, which teaches writing skills so that veterans can share their experiences about the war in eastern Ukraine.

We met them and talked about their memories. Their stories are a mosaic of danger, difficulties, heroism, friendship, and work. Here are some.  

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on April 17 that Ukraine might have an independent, unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church as early as July 28—the anniversary of Kyivan Rus’ adoption of Christianity. He made this prediction after the Ukrainian parliament voted to support the president’s efforts to convince Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to grant autocephalous status to the combined Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC)-Kyiv Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

During an official state visit to Istanbul, Poroshenko met with Patriarch Bartholomew on April 17. The two leaders held seven hours of closed-doors discussions before the president announced “Ukraine is as close as ever to the emergence of its own Unified Orthodox Church.” Poroshenko refused to divulge the details of the agreements he reached with the Ecumenical Patriarch. Opposition members of parliament claim that Poroshenko’s efforts are a charade designed to help the president’s party at the polls next year. While electoral politics may have influenced the exact timing of the talks in Istanbul, they represent the culmination of many years of efforts to have the Kyiv Patriarchate recognized. Two hundred sixty-eight parliamentarians voted to endorse Poroshenko’s efforts, far more than the 132 members of the president’s party.

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It’s Easter Monday in Kyiv, a holiday, and no one is working except Denis Gursky. The affable Mariupol native has an anxiety-inducing to-do list, but you wouldn’t know it from his easy laugh and wide smile.

We meet at Gursky’s stunning new 500-square meter co-working space in Kyiv’s tallest commercial building to discuss Ukraine’s unique start-up potential.

“We want to export products, not people,” Gursky says.

Ukraine has a major problem. It’s hemorrhaging its most talented workforce. Seven percent of the country’s workers are abroad, which worries economists, experts, and the government. Ukrainians can easily make four times more in neighboring Poland, where the language is similar and the physical distance is nothing.

Gursky admits that most of his Ukrainian friends and classmates live abroad, in New York, Washington, and Silicon Valley, and he too lived in Washington for a time. Yet he remains bullish on Ukraine.

The thirty-three-year old founder of the NGO SocialBoost says that there’s no other place where he could go from a street activist who organized hackathons to an adviser to the prime minister in two short years.

Even as his Ukrainian friends make their lives abroad, he asks them with a straight face, “Don’t you have FOMO [fear of missing out]?”

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Oleksandr Solontay is trying to accomplish the political equivalent of pushing Ukraine’s winter snow uphill. In a country that still struggles to shake its addiction to oligarchs and other figureheads despite multiple attempts at revolution, the thirty-seven-year old is aiming to construct a political party from the ground up.

Solontay, an educator and former city and regional council deputy, is betting that a new generation of Ukrainians—and more than a few of their elders—are ready for a party built on the democratic principles of grassroots activism, long-term vision, transparency, and true independence.

“We have a lot of parties in Ukraine officially. In reality, we have practically none,” Solontay said, describing them instead as virtual “fan clubs” with little ideology or internal debate about party platforms.

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Ukrainian nationalism is growing quickly, but radical parties have never done well in elections. This may change in 2019, when Ukraine will hold both presidential and parliamentary elections, which are the first national elections after the Euromaidan revolution and the Russian military invasion in 2014.

While Ukraine has committed to joining Euro-Atlantic institutions and embarked upon structural reforms, the overall situation in Ukraine remains uncertain. Even now, next year’s presidential and parliamentarian campaigns are already impacting decision making.

Given society’s widespread distrust of most current political parties and their leaders and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, radicalism is growing quickly.

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After the victory of the Euromaidan, the demand for combating corruption drastically increased, and new institutions were established to fight high-level corruption. However, there is an ongoing conflict between two of the newly established agencies that greatly diminishes their ability to fight corruption. Below we explain the fight in ten question and answers.

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The Congress of Russian Americans, a group claiming to represent five million Russian-speaking Americans, recently wrote to US President Donald Trump deploring the state of Russian-American relations, denouncing the expulsion of sixty Russian diplomats from the United States, and denying Russia’s involvement in the recent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. It also alleges that Russian speakers face "serious discrimination" in America.

In response, an independent group of Russian-speaking immigrants has released a letter that disputes these claims. Well-known human rights activists, filmmakers, writers, journalists, lawyers, scientists, engineers, university professors, medical doctors, artists, professionals in various areas, and ordinary Russian-speaking Americans have signed the response, which says that the Congress of Russian Americans (CRA) does not represent them or their values. Calling the CRA letter "yet another act " in Russia's ongoing info war against the United States, its 144 signatories say that they are "are appalled by the CRA’s audacity in their attempt to create an impression they speak for the entire Russian-speaking community."

A copy of the letter follows.

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For more than a year, Ukraine’s government and activists have been at odds over a March 2017 law that requires activists to disclose their assets online in the same way that public officials do. The law was roundly criticized by Ukrainian civil society as well as by the international community.

But now, the Presidential Administration and independent lawyers say that the law is invalid and unenforceable, based on a 2012 Constitutional Court decision. No one can be forced to publicly submit information about their private life without their consent.

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