The heist was devised years ago by mafia kingpin Semion Mogilevich, and has been fronted by Dmytro Firtash with the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his insiders. It was simple: A foreign intermediary company was established to buy gas from Gazprom, then sell it to Ukraine’s utility Naftogaz for huge profits that would then be diverted to Russian and Ukrainian politicians and officials.
The offshore intermediary was dismantled in 2016, but Firtash immediately devised another gambit. He now controls “zombie” intermediaries, or regional gas distribution companies inside Ukraine, that Naftogaz is legally obliged to sell eleven billion cubic meters of gas (about one-third of the market) at prices that are 50 percent below market. Worse, most of these zombies never pay for the gas, and Naftogaz cannot collect the bad debts in a timely fashion or cut off gas supplies. This includes companies that supply gas to Russian-occupied Crimea and Donbas and never pay for it.
Almost four years after the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur-bound flight was shot down by a BUK missile over Ukraine, a clearer picture is emerging on the origin of the missile, its route to the firing zone in eastern Ukraine, and its return to base in western Russia.
On May 24, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT)—citing forensic and intercepted evidence—said the missile originated from the base of the Russian Federation’s 53rd anti-aircraft brigade in Kursk, not far from the Ukrainian border.
The JIT found that “all the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.”
NABU faces one huge obstacle however: Ukraine's hopelessly corrupt judicial system. A study from the Anticorruption Action Center (AntAC) and the Reanimation Package of Reforms found that judges use a wide variety of techniques—from denying search warrants to preserving official positions for people who are NABU suspects—to hinder investigations. The results are clear: Despite sending hundreds of investigations to court since 2015, NABU has been unable to obtain any major convictions.
Creating a truly independent anti-corruption court that would adjudicate NABU's cases and finally allow Ukrainians a chance to hold their corrupt politicians accountable is the final step.
We asked our Atlantic Council experts and UkraineAlert contributors what’s behind the uptick in violence. Should we expect more and more violence up until Ukraine’s March 2019 presidential election?
On Monday, as the United States celebrates Memorial Day, my family and I will visit Arlington Cemetery to remember Roman.
Four years after Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas, Roman's voice and vision are sorely missed and needed now more than ever before.
Вічна Йому пам'ять!
Herashchenko now faces an even thornier issue; she must track the fate of the approximately seventy Ukrainian citizens held as de facto hostages on Russian territory. While Herashchenko is not officially responsible for securing their release, she understands its emotional resonance in Ukraine. In an interview with the Atlantic Council, Herashchenko laid out the obstacles to freeing these hostages.
Russia remains determined to use the Ukrainian hostages as a weapon in its hybrid war against Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to make concessions on fundamental issues of sovereignty that no Ukrainian government could accept, she said.
The latest poll shows that 12.7 percent of Ukrainians who have made up their minds would vote for Hrytsenko in the first round of the 2019 presidential election. This is progress compared to his previous results. The 2019 race will be the third attempt in Hrytsenko’s political career to become president; he scored 1.2 percent of the vote in 2010 and 5.5 percent in 2014. However, at least 29 percent of Ukrainians are still undecided, so take these numbers with a large grain of salt.
Hrtysenko’s political party, Civic Position, is also enjoying the same success. It polls second with 11.5 percent support, which is a massive improvement from its performance in the 2014 parliamentary elections, when it garnered 3.1 percent.
How did Hrytsenko and his party manage to climb the polls in a few short years?
Hrytsenko has one feature which sets him apart from other major Ukrainian politicians.
Ukraine is no exception. The country’s situation with numerous security and economic hardships provides fertile ground for populists.
Over the last four years, Ukraine has embraced a number of painful structural reforms that have been partially successful. But so far they have not improved the wellbeing of ordinary citizens, although they may bring positive effects in the future. In the short-term, the poor often face worsening economic conditions.
According to a recent poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, 74 percent of Ukrainians say the country is moving in the wrong direction, and 50 percent identify higher prices with stagnant wages as the biggest problem.
Populists are seducing precisely these types of people.
While Japan felt obliged to support the international community and to impose sanctions, the geopolitical dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region forced it to take a conciliatory approach to Russia. This delicate balance resulted in Japan’s symbolic sanctions and in different narratives promoted at home and in Ukraine.