UkraineAlert

Western democracies are under threat from outside meddling, and Ukraine is the testing ground for this interference. Former Assistant Secretary of State David J. Kramer looks at why Ukraine’s position on the frontline of freedom has led to increase foreign interference in Ukraine and why the West must pay attention to possible influence operations in the upcoming March 2019 presidential elections.

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Russia is desperately trying to prevent the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from finally freeing itself from Moscow, and its tactics aren’t working.

Having gotten used to enjoying influence over the hearts and minds of some believers in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) through its puppet body, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), has naturally resisted the process of Ukraine breaking free of Russia's "religious" claws.

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As Ukraine’s 2019 elections approach, Moscow’s interests have come into greater focus. Despite the pro-European momentum delivered by the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, parties more closely aligned with Moscow’s interests may see a more realistic path to power than is widely assumed.

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Western democracies are under threat from outside meddling, and Ukraine is the testing ground for this interference. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s persistent efforts to influence the domestic politics of his neighbors and countries well beyond Russia’s borders have posed enormous challenges in Europe and across the Atlantic.

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After the 2013-2014 Euromaidan Revolution, hopes were high for the introduction of the rule of law in Ukraine.

But five years later the demand for justice is still unfulfilled.

Judges implicated in corruption and political cases have tended to be promoted, and those few known for their integrity and independence have been demoted and fired.

To create an island of justice in Ukraine’s corrupt judiciary, civil society and the nation’s Western partners have demanded the creation of the High Anti-Corruption Court, whose members are being selected now.

But members of the Public Integrity Council, the judiciary's civil society watchdog, say the authorities have all the tools at their disposal to block the selection of the most professional, independent, and impeccable candidates.

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Eight-year-old Nina never wanted to be a star on Russian state television. Nevertheless, the Kyiv native was the subject of a one-hour discussion on Russia’s First Channel, a popular national show. The topic was hot: a Ukrainian family wanted their daughter to be taught music in Ukrainian.

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Ukrainians were granted the most residence permits of any non-EU nationals in the EU last year. Approximately 662,000 Ukrainians received such permission in 2017 alone. Ukrainians are now integrating into Europe at an annual number roughly equal to the population of Montenegro, an official EU accession candidate and new NATO member.

For hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, European liberties such as the freedom to work legally and the ability to live long-term and sell their services in the EU are becoming reality. These rights include the right of residence for persons of independent financial means.

However, this type of European integration is still largely a one-way street. There is very little movement of people from the EU into Ukraine.

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The parliament renewed Ukraine’s highest election body, the Central Election Commission, ahead of the crucial 2019 general elections.

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In response to Russia’s aggressive actions in the Sea of Azov, Ukraine has gone on high alert to boost its coastal defense positions and build up its naval presence.

Since April 2018, under the pretext of protecting its illegally constructed Kerch Bridge and fighting what it calls Ukraine’s “state piracy,” Russia has been brazenly conducting ad hoc inspections of merchant vessels headed to and from Ukraine. The unreasonably low clearance of the bridge combined with inspection delays hurts Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, already costing the economy over a billion hryvnias ($36 million). In addition, Russia has increased its military presence there to about 120 patrol boats and ships.

This has caught Ukraine off guard.

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On November 4, 33-year-old anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk died from injuries caused by an acid attack. Handzyuk had been attacked three months earlier outside of her home in Kherson, Ukraine, and had undergone eleven surgeries to recover from the burns.

Since 2017, at least 55 activists, journalists, and one opposition politician have been attacked. UkraineAlert asked activists and observers the following: What’s it like to be an activist in Ukraine today? Have you been threatened or attacked? Do you think the situation is getting better or worse? Who is responsible?

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