• Ukraine Should Remove "Stringent" Disclosure Law on Civil Society

    There has been an ominous change in the state of freedom of association in Ukraine over the last year.

    One of Ukraine’s leading activists, Vitaliy Shabunin of the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), is facing trial on criminal charges and could receive up to five years in prison. The charges are at best exaggerated and at worst politically motivated. Civil society argues that the facts of Shabunin’s incident in which he punched a provocateur posing as a journalist were intentionally distorted so that authorities could bring more severe charges against him.

    YouControl, a platform that provides free access to government data registers used by anti-corruption activists and investigative journalists, was accused of trading classified information, among...

    Read More
  • Sorry, Putin. Crimea Still Isn’t Yours

    Four years ago, Russia illegally annexed Crimea.

    Those who hoped the situation there would improve after Russia took control were wrong. There has been no economic miracle in Crimea, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s promises. The rights of the Ukrainian minority and of Crimean Tatars are constantly violated, the economy is stagnating, and hundreds of thousands of residents are voting with their feet.

    Russia is militarizing the peninsula, threatening NATO’s freedom to move forces through the region. And the construction of the Kerch bridge could cut off the Azov Sea from the Black Sea and choke off Ukrainian ports. This is happening at the same time as the Kremlin continues to sponsor its undeclared war in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

    The West has already unequivocally stated that it will never accept the illegal annexation of Crimea, but we need to go beyond declarations and focus on concrete steps that could end Russia’s aggression...

    Read More
  • One Overlooked and Easy Way the Trump Administration Can Help Ukraine

    Diplomatic relations between the United States and Ukraine are eminent. As former US Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer writes in his new book, The Eagle and the Trident, they have almost always been good. Ukraine’s outstanding sacrifice was to give up the third largest nuclear force in the world.

    An unfortunate consequence was that Russia started a war of aggression against Ukraine in 2014, annexing its southern peninsula of Crimea and occupying part of eastern Ukraine with irregular Russian troops. The United States responded with limited military supplies and eventually lethal weapons.

    But the United States should do more for Ukraine.

    Read More
  • From Crimea to Salisbury: Time to Acknowledge Putin’s Global Hybrid War

    Since Russian troops began seizing government buildings in Crimea four years ago, the international community has become accustomed to encountering new acts of Russian aggression on an almost daily basis. Whether it is masked men in eastern Ukraine, a chemical weapons attack in the English countryside, or an attempted coup in the Balkans, the process is more or less the same—faced by a fresh round of accusations, the Kremlin denies everything and declares, “You can’t prove it was us.” If the evidence pointing toward Russia is particularly damning, Moscow then insists that those involved were non-state actors operating entirely independently of the government. Vladimir Putin opted for this position during his recent NBC News interview, dismissing indictments against thirteen named Russians for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election by saying, “So what if they’re Russians? They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.” It was a similar story when an undisclosed but...
    Read More
  • Q&A: Tillerson Out, Pompeo In. What Does It Mean for Russia and Ukraine?

    On March 13, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was sacked. US President Donald Trump plans to replace him with former CIA director Mike Pompeo.

    UkraineAlert asked its experts the following: What does Pompeo think about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggressive foreign policy? What does the leadership change mean for US policy toward Ukraine and Russia? Do you expect any changes? Will he support US Special Representative for Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker’s efforts to bring peace to Ukraine?

    Read More
  • The Truth Behind Ukraine’s Language Policy

    On February 28, Ukraine’s Constitutional Court ruled the bill "On the principles of the state language policy” unconstitutional and rendered it invalid. The law in question, adopted back in 2012 and known as the “Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law,” granted Russian the status of a “regional language.” It was precisely the abolition of this law by the Verkhovna Rada on February 23, 2014, right after then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country, that Russia saw as an aggressive gesture against the “Russian-speaking population” of Ukraine and later used as a pretext to justify the annexation of Crimea and military aggression in the Donbas.

    However, neither then-acting President Oleksandr Turchynov nor the subsequent president, Petro Poroshenko, signed or vetoed the law abolishing the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law. This means it was still in force until last month.

    Read More
  • Ukraine’s Six Teams of Reformers to Watch

    Ukraine has changed in recent years. But, as is often the case, it’s two steps forward, one step back.

    At numerous meetings with international partners and journalists, I’m often asked where the latest positive dynamic in government reforms is and which groups of reformers are likely to produce positive results. Having worked in the government for exactly 500 days, I can say with confidence one man can’t win a war and that we should put our trust in reform teams, like-minded people, and agents of change.

    I can name six teams of reformers who have already achieved great success:

    Read More
  • Poroshenko’s Last Chance

    An Anti-Corruption Court is the capstone that will complete an infrastructure to eliminate Ukraine’s systemic corruption and to attract massive investments.
    President Petro Poroshenko’s current proposal misses the mark, and fails to meet the criteria stipulated by the International Monetary Fund and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission. Under Poroshenko’s bill, international experts will play only an advisory role in the selection of judges, and civil society has no role.

    Without international oversight, the process is a sham.

    Read More
  • The Right to Protest, Extremism, and the State Order

    On Sunday, March 3, Ukraine’s police dispersed more than one hundred protesters and disbanded their tent camps outside of the Ukrainian parliament amid significant criticism. Several dozen tents had stood for more than four months, blocking a major thoroughfare in Kyiv, Ukraine. Behind the protests were former opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili and former soldiers who had been demanding that President Petro Poroshenko resign. Semen Semenchenko and Yegor Soboliev, two deputies from the Lviv-based Samopomich party, had been involved in the protest movement as well, although the party never sanctioned their actions.

    When police finally broke up the tent camps, they reportedly found nine grenades, Molotov cocktails, and five smoke bombs.

    At least twenty people were injured in the skirmish, including two...

    Read More
  • Torture in Eastern Ukraine—and What Comes After It

    Oleksiy Kanarskyy, a twenty-five-year old Ukrainian, never thought he would celebrate January 1 in freedom. His hopes had faded during three years of detention in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, after endless promises of a prisoners' exchange between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists. But on December 27, 2017, the largest prisoner swap since the conflict broke out in 2014 brought him and seventy-three other Ukrainian detainees to freedom, in exchange for over 200 insurgents.

    "I did not believe them at first,” Kanarskyy says, repeating a common phrase among the prisoners.

    When Kanarskyy recollects how his little fingers were bound with bare wire and how he was tortured with electric current during his detention, he convulses. He had to lie to his torturers to tell them what they wanted to hear. He fabricated a story of his service in the Ukrainian army. In fact, Kanarskyy had never been drafted.

    Read More