As horrible as the attack on Gusovsky was, it represents just the tip of the iceberg. Since the beginning of 2017, more than fifty-five attacks have occurred against anticorruption activists and now reform-minded politicians.
And to make matters worse, not only are the perpetrators rarely caught (they were in Gusovsky's case), but Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko—perhaps giving new meaning to the word chutzpah—actually blamed activists for their suffering, implying that civil society's noisy criticism of Ukraine's corrupt old guard was a major contributing factor to the violence directed against them.
For many years, I was convinced that Ukraine is an attractive and safe country for investors. I made my first investment in 1993 in the Odessa Sea Port and since then my group has invested more than $400 million into the Ukrainian economy.
I am a British citizen and the former owner of the Kyiv Post, the only independent English language newspaper in Ukraine. I owned the Kyiv Post for nine years and, without fear and favor, we strove to showcase both the positive and negative aspects of doing business in Ukraine. The newspaper frequently highlighted the pros and cons and then left it to our readers to make up their own minds.
In April 2018, I sold the newspaper but have not changed my attitude toward championing the truth.
For me, this issue is personal. In 2000, after having invested over $150 million in Donetsk Steel Works, I was told to leave. With the help of the Kyiv Post and the diplomatic community, I was able to withstand that attack. After that I had no problem until I took over the Kyiv Post. While there were requests through my Ukrainian employees to kill certain articles, we never gave in. In response, there was an effort to exert administrative pressure on my other business entities. Yet through all this we stood tall.
I believe that owning the Kyiv Post provided me with a degree of protection.
Since I sold the Kyiv Post, the vengeance has begun again.
Poroshenko’s language is more conservative. In 2014, Poroshenko was elected with an astonishing 54 percent in the first round by promising to introduce radical reforms, in line with the expectations of the Euromaidan that had just ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych. At that time, Poroshenko’s slogan was “Living in a new way.”
Now Poroshenko’s reformist and forward-looking rhetoric is much less visible.
First, opinion polls show large majorities against the election rhetoric of the Opposition Bloc, which promotes the elevation of the Russian language and integration into the Eurasian Union and opposes NATO and EU membership. Four years after Russia invaded Ukraine, only 7 percent of Ukrainians believe the war is due to the suppression of the Russian language. Support for Eurasian integration has collapsed. Russia is associated with "aggression" (66 percent), "cruelty" (57 percent), and "dictatorship" (57 percent). Backing for NATO has tripled and for EU membership solidified.
Second, Russia’s occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donbas have removed sixteen percent of voters from participating in Ukrainian elections. Paul D’Anieri’s study ("Gerrymandering Ukraine? Electoral Consequences of Occupation") published by East European Politics and Societies and Cultures shows the impact of the absence of these 3.75 million voters. Of these, 87 percent voted for Yanukovych in 2010; in other words, a quarter of Yanukovych’s voters now live under Russian occupation and cannot vote. This massively changes the landscape for the 2019 elections.
Today nothing but a hodgepodge of small memorials stands there, but with the 77th anniversary of the Babi Yar killings coming Saturday, that could change. In December 2015, Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko formed an exploratory team that spent six months researching options for Babi Yar. The result was the establishment of a private foundation to develop the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC).
To bring Klitschko's original vision to fruition, BYHMC will meet the highest international standards for historical accuracy.
One such example of sub-regional cooperation among neighbors recently took place.
Taruta, a Ukrainian oligarch from the Donbas, is trying to perform an uncanny yet common feint in Ukrainian politics. He is positioning himself as a “fresh face” in the upcoming 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections, even though he has been active in politics for twenty years.
The companies’ sanctions-busting behavior is driven by their commercial interests: they are reluctant to lose a significant share of the Russian market. According to Sergey Aksyonov, Crimea’s self-proclaimed prime minister, nearly 3,000 foreign firms are currently operating in Crimea. Aksenov has encouraged foreign companies to invest in Crimea, as there are ways companies can circumvent sanctions and conceal their identities.
In fact, there are several recurring techniques that Western companies use to avoid sanctions.
According to recent polls, Yulia Tymoshenko could expect almost 13 percent among decided voters if the election was held now, while her closest opponent, President Petro Poroshenko, is polling at 8.4 percent. In the meantime, Rabinovich and Yuriy Boyko of the Opposition Bloc are polling at 4.3 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively. Their possible agreement on a single candidate could put their politician in the second round. (No candidate is expected to win outright in the first round in March 2019.)
There are three wings in the negotiation process currently occurring in the pro-Russian camp.