These countries bore the brunt of Europe’s major crises in the last decade: the 2008 economic crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis. In the aftermath of the economic crisis, Greece, Italy, and Spain experienced double digit unemployment and income drops, coupled with reductions to social safety nets. The EU’s response was to impose austerity measures. And while these policies helped shore up the countries’ economies, they also bred domestic resentment against the EU, mainstream parties, and liberal democracy. Then Syrian refugees began arriving by the thousands on the Italian and Greek shores, further exacerbating social tensions.
It is this volatile climate that has proven to be fertile ground for Russian overtures, while providing an opening for political parties oriented toward the East.
Ukraine also has the potential for becoming an airline transit hub. After the slump of 2014-2015, the sector is quickly making up for lost ground: total growth in the first half of 2017 was 28 percent for domestic and 23 percent for foreign airlines, exceeding the average European growth rate.
Yet poor transport infrastructure and obsolete technologies, as well as deep-rooted corruption, are holding back the nation’s transport sector from gaining its well-deserved place on the European route map.
There are reasons to be hopeful.
It’s not difficult to see why. For one thing, Ukraine's state-owned arms conglomerate Ukroboronprom is a cesspool of corruption. In one case, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine discovered a fraudulent scheme to buy old outdated engines for T-72 tanks instead of new motors while a recent audit found numerous financial violations and inefficient resource management totaling 557.8 million hryvnas (approximately $21 million).
The high level of secrecy surrounding the country's defense expenditures constitutes a major corruption risk, says Transparency International’s Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee Secretary General Olena Tregub. And these problems in the defense sector have real-world effects.
But several events in the last few months have shifted the terrain for Ukraine’s IDPs in positive ways, providing new avenues for political and legal justice for Ukraine’s 1.6 million IDPs.
This grim but all-too-conceivable scenario is perhaps the most compelling reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent UN peacekeeper posturing over Ukraine is hard to take seriously. The desire to keep evidence of war crimes from reaching international audiences is just one of many reasons why the prospect of peace is not only impractical but also unpalatable from Putin’s perspective. While the Russian leader may genuinely wish to extricate himself from the quagmire he has created, it is difficult to see how he could do so without courting disaster.
First and foremost, any Russian withdrawal from the Donbas would open up a veritable Pandora’s box of revelations. The Kremlin’s general involvement in eastern Ukraine has long been the world’s worst kept secret, but details of Russia’s exact role remain clouded in hearsay and are subject to furious denial. This would change dramatically if Moscow pulled its troops out.
In the capital of a country awash in anti-Putin sentiment, Ovechkin is defiantly flaunting his loyalty to a leader who has supported military aggression in Ukraine, is implicated in assassinations of his political enemies, and approved massive subterranean interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Ovechkin’s action is earning him scorn both among Washington Capitals fans and spectators around the NHL.
One can understand why many Russians who live in an information bubble of Kremlin-manufactured propaganda would support Putin. But Ovechkin has now spent the better part of the last thirteen years living, working, and getting rich in the United States. This means he has access to the truth about his president, and this makes Ovechkin's views especially deplorable. He knows about the Russian military’s direct engagement in eastern Ukraine, he has been exposed to evidence that it was a Russian military unit that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 passengers aboard, and he knows of the vast network of corrupt cronies that surround the Russian president.
Nor does Putin really need his help. How can a person living the United States and in the middle of a challenging hockey season be of domestic help to the Russian president’s March reelection bid?
Ovechkin's act is far more than a sign of loyalty and obeisance.
Inspired by the success of the Mestia-Ushguli route, a group of nature-loving idealists wants to elevate the Caucasus in hiking circles and bring world-class trails to other parts of Georgia, as well as to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and eventually, the conflict zones of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The proposal is similar to Russian actions in Georgia prior to 2008, when it supported a UN observer mission in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone and an OSCE mission in South Ossetia in addition to its own “peacekeeping” force. Rather than achieving lasting peace, these moves were a prelude to Russia cementing its presence in Georgia’s conflict regions.
In the Donbas, Russia is using military force to create a permanent unresolved conflict. The war is putting intense pressure on the government in Kyiv, sapping momentum from its efforts toward reform and Euro-Atlantic integration. But if and when Ukraine, Russia, and the Russian-backed separatists reach a durable ceasefire agreement, temporary respite is all it will be.
"As one of Canada's most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world's great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive," said Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson.
I was a director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the time and fully supported the decision to cancel. She was paid, and has performed since in smaller venues in Canada.
The accusation speaks to the severity of entrenched corruption in the customs services of Ukraine, even amid a slew of post-Maidan reforms to improve the trade and investment climate. Perhaps no other economic hub captures this tension between vested interests and substantive change better than the Odesa ports on the Black Sea. The recent return of wholesale corrupt practices to Odesa ports demands attention: it underscores the necessity of sustained political will to implement reform and the ongoing threat to both economic prosperity and national security that corruption poses in Ukraine.
Odesa has been a key battle in the tug of war between reformers and spoilers in Ukraine. In 2015, President Petro Poroshenko brought on former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to serve as governor of the Odesa region, with a young political activist, Yuliya Marushevska, selected soon after to head the customs office overseeing the notoriously corrupt Odesa ports. Their publicly declared mandate was clear: to weed out corruption and boost economic efficiency.
During their short tenure, the team succeeded in some meaningful ways, minimizing opportunities for corrupt behavior and increasing international trade through the port.