While these oligarchs are the biggest media owners, they are not the only ones. A disturbing trend is that most newly established media are also linked to politicians. Espreso.tv has been linked to former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and the NewsOne TV channel is linked to MP Vadym Rabinovych (also an oligarch) and his business partner MP Yevhen Murayev. The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders notes that Channel 112 “often broadcast[s] pro-Russian interpretation of events” and many regard the station as connected to the funds of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s close entourage. However, the channel’s official ownership documents show no such links and the channel denies any relationship to any political party.
Yet the picture isn’t entirely hopeless.
It worked. The bills passed, and are now seen as some of the country’s most notable reform measures.
New reports allege that there’s a hidden scheme to support pro-Russian president Zeman—at least 8 million Czech koruna has been provided by the secretive organization Friends of Miloš Zeman—in the tight race. The whole scheme is organized by Zeman’s chief adviser, who has direct Kremlin links.
Zeman is an anti-immigration populist who aims to win voters by supporting a referendum on the country’s continued membership in the EU and NATO, and by presenting himself as the only defender of the nation. He is well known for his vulgarity, and above all for his support of stronger ties between the Czech Republic and China and Russia. Jiří Drahoš, meanwhile, presents himself as an anti-populist candidate who intends to return dignity and a pro-Western orientation to the Prague Castle. He largely defines himself in opposition to Zeman.
For Russia, this is an important election.
Lavrov’s and his government’s continuing mendacity are so relentless that many have come to take for granted that Russia as a state is defined by its habitual lying. And along with it goes the never-ending refrain that Russia is always the victim of others’ nefarious activities, never the author of its own misfortunates. But my purpose is not simply to point out that the Russian government and media lies, but to show that this recourse to mendacity and self-absolution betrays the fact that despite negotiations with the US representative on Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, and the Normandy Four (Ukraine, France, and Germany), Moscow has no intention of getting out of the Donbas or returning Crimea.
Initial analysis of the incident identified Russia as the likely guilty party. A major multinational investigation has since confirmed these conclusions, with Russia now accused of supplying the BUK anti-aircraft missile system responsible for the tragedy. Court proceedings against individual suspects could proceed in the Netherlands this year.
In mid-November, Hanna Solomatina, the former head of the financial control department within the National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP), alleged that she was fired after disclosing that the organization’s chairwoman forged Ukrainian members of parliament’s income statements, prevented the investigation of specific judges’ tax returns, and illegally enriched herself. According to Transparency International, further disclosures revealed that at least five other high-level NACP members were guilty of similar misdeeds and were part of a crime ring allegedly linked to President Petro Poroshenko’s administration.
While Solomatina’s case is well known in Ukraine, she is not alone.
Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, clearly described the crux of this fight: “Ukraine is far too transparent and open to stay so corrupt. Ukrainians are also far too educated to stay so poor.” This is not to say, he clarified, that Ukraine is poised to become rich and open. On the contrary, if the economy doesn’t start growing rapidly, the quality of education will decline. And, if it stays corrupt, its openness will also diminish.
Ukrainians have been fighting daily for at least thirty years, maybe even the last one hundred years. The fight is still in the manner of “one step forward, two steps back.” 2018 is likely to be more of the same.