UkraineAlert

It’s been six months since I’ve seen Ukraine’s most energetic minister, Dr. Ulana Suprun, and she’s been busy. Her comprehensive efforts to overhaul Ukraine’s dysfunctional health system are going well, she assures me.

It’s the first time I’ve heard this statement about any reform anywhere in Kyiv.

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Daria Kaleniuk’s rejoinder to our Foreign Affairs article, “How Western Anticorruption Policy Is Failing Ukraine,” misses our main point.

We asserted that Western anticorruption policy was failing because it had been improperly sequenced, especially with regard to judicial reform. Kaleniuk indirectly admits this by pointing to the urgent need to create an anticorruption court three years after other anticorruption prosecutorial and investigative agencies were launched. The facts are that pressure and a focus on reforming existing courts was not a top priority for the West. Clear targets were not set nor were they met with the same alacrity as those set for investigative and procuratorial anticorruption structures.

She points to over 135 cases brought by the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor and the National Anticorruption Bureau. But these agencies have managed only one conviction in three years. Such a weak record has eroded public confidence in the new anticorruption structures as well as longstanding law and justice institutions. Further confirmation that court reform should have been better sequenced.

We also argued that Western policy was excessively hostile to the country’s ruling elite, which has significantly pushed forward a reform agenda, maintained strongly democratic practices, drastically reduced the scope of corruption, solidified its military and national security structures, and fended off Russian aggression and internal interference.

These accomplishments deserve more than grudging approval; they deserve the West’s thanks. For Ukraine has borne the brunt of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Europe and democratic values.

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Last week a court in Moldova’s capital of Chișinău annulled the popular vote in local elections, which were won by pro-European opposition leader Andrei Năstase. The formal grounds for canceling the results are absurd; on election day the candidate urged people to vote on social media. This is no reason to block an elected official from taking office after the people have spoken.

On June 25, the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the ruling and its decision is ”final.” Until yesterday, Moldova was the only country in the former Soviet Union (except for the Baltic states) where all transfers of power had taken place democratically without the abuse of laws or institutions. Sadly this record was broken.

A long-awaited victory over a kleptocratic, nominally pro-European regime is being stolen from the people. The invalidation of the popular vote is just one step in an elaborate strategy to rob Moldovans of their fragile democracy.

The current government lacks the legitimacy that can only be obtained in elections.

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Protesters are taking to the streets of Moldova’s capital of Chisinau again.

On June 3, Andrei Nastase was elected mayor of Chisinau with 52.5% of the vote. Nastase, a pro-European prosecutor and anti-corruption activist, defeated Socialist Ion Ceban who favors closer ties to Moscow. On June 19, a Chisinau court struck down the election results, and the Moldovan Appeals Court upheld the decision on June 22. The case now rests with the Supreme Court of Justice.

Nastase claims that the decision to cancel the results is politically motivated. He was one of the organizers behind Moldova’s large protests in 2015 after $1 billion vanished from the banking system.

Why is an ostensibly pro-Western government in Moldova allowing a court to invalidate these election results? Are the court decisions politically motivated? Is this government really committed to democratic values? What does it mean for Moldova’s long-term prospects? We asked Atlantic Council experts and UkraineAlert contributors to weigh in.

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The World Cup in Russia is a Potemkin football extravaganza or a fancy façade designed to depict the country as advanced and civilized.

In reality, it’s neither.

Facts are that in recent international sporting events Russia’s athletes have been caught doping on a massive scale, or, alternatively, Putin has used festivities to camouflage the invasion of neighboring nation-states Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.

Since the World Cup began on June 14, Russian tanks have not rolled into any smaller countries, but the Games have been blemished by a more than month-long hunger strike by Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker unjustly sent to a Siberian prison camp. The 41-year-old has been starving himself for more than forty days to raise world opinion during the World Cup about the torture and unjust imprisonment of himself and 64 Ukrainian political prisoners.

These human rights abuses, and the fact that no one has access to him to determine how dire his health is, have led to condemnations from people and governments around the world on the front pages of newspapers, not sports pages.

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Both Germany and Ukraine have special significance for the European project. Germany is Western Europe’s economically and demographically most significant country, while Ukraine is Eastern Europe’s largest and a geopolitical pivot point. The historical links between Ukrainians and Germans run deep. And yet little attention has been paid to the nature of the relationship between the two.

While Ukrainian interest in Germany has always been high, in Germany interest in and information about Ukraine has only recently started to grow.

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What do Snapchat filters, liquid jet scalpels, Uber for yachts, and virtual reality gloves have in common? They are all decisively modern innovations that have emerged at the cutting edge of technological development—and they all demonstrate the ingenuity and economic dynamism of twenty-first century Ukraine.

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It sounds like the stuff of Kremlin propaganda, but it’s not. Last week Hromadske Radio revealed that Ukraine's Ministry of Youth and Sports is funding the neo-Nazi group C14 to promote "national patriotic education projects" in the country. On June 8, the Ministry announced that it will award C14 a little less than $17,000 for a children’s camp. It also awarded funds to Holosiyiv Hideout and Educational Assembly, both of which have links to the far-right. The revelation represents a dangerous example of law enforcement tacitly accepting or even encouraging the increasing lawlessness of far-right groups willing to use violence against those they don't like.

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On June 15, Yulia Tymoshenko launched the start of Ukraine’s presidential election season with a two-and-half hour speech in Kyiv, Ukraine. With twenty-nine percent of voters telling pollsters they haven’t made their minds up for the race slated for March 31, the field is wide open. But it’s not too soon to start worrying about the many ways in which the Kremlin may meddle in the election.

The first way to meddle is easy: support pro-Russian candidates.

Polls show that in spite of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian candidates still enjoy strong approval ratings. Among them are Yuriy Boyko, former vice prime minister and an MP with support at 9.7%, and Vadim Rabinovich, leader of the “For Life” party at 9.5%. Both have over twenty years in politics and their records strongly support the Kremlin.

If Boyko and Rabinovich were to agree on a single candidate in the 2019 presidential election, it would make for a strong ticket, and this potential merger is already drawing worrying parallels to the 2010 election when pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych returned to power six years after the pro-democratic Orange Revolution and turned Ukraine back toward authoritarianism. The Kremlin will undoubtedly press for the same scenario in 2019 by supporting one of their candidates with large amounts of cash.

There’s at least four other ways the Kremlin may try to influence the election.

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US President Donald Trump made headlines ahead of the recent G7 summit in Canada by calling on his colleagues in the group of leading industrial nations to welcome Russia back into the fold. However, it seems that this was not the full extent of his advocacy for the Kremlin. According to a report published by BuzzFeed quoting two unnamed diplomatic sources, the US president also took advantage of the opportunity presented by the traditional G7 dinner to justify Vladimir Putin’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The BuzzFeed report quotes him telling his G7 colleagues that Crimea was Russian “because everyone who lives there speaks Russian.”

If this account is accurate, it is difficult to exaggerate how troubling the American leader’s comments are.

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