Adrian Karatnycky

  • Why the Russian Fuss over “Fascist” Salute at World Cup Backfired

    “Glory to Ukraine!” saluted Domagoj Vida in a video message last week to his Ukrainian fans following Croatia’s victory over host Russia in the quarter finals of the World Cup. Vida, a Croatian defender who had played for five years with Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, was pumped up from a heady goal in a dramatic victory over Russia on July 7.

    It was natural that he would salute the millions of Ukrainian fans who had followed his exploits for five years in Kyiv. And it was normal that—as someone who had lived in Kyiv during the Maidan protests, the killing of more than one hundred protestors, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ten thousand deaths it has brought—he would have great sympathy for Ukraine.

    Shouting “Slava Ukraini!” or “Glory to Ukraine!” would hardly seem a matter for FIFA, the international football authority. But Vida’s utterance created a major international kerfuffle with FIFA initially threatening to disqualify the offending Croatian footballer and his mate, Ognjen Vukojevic, an assistant coach. Later, the Croatian team would dismiss Vukojevic, who, likewise had played for Ukraine’ s Dynamo club.

    The FIFA kerfuffle revealed a string of paradoxes about the international community, football, money, power, and double standards.

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  • 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?

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  • Is This the End of Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine?

    Today opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili was deported to Poland. For months he has been leading protests outside of Ukraine's parliament, urging President Petro Poroshenko to resign. The Saakashvili drama has been ongoing; last year he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and then reentered the country illegally. In December, he was arrested and then broke free.

    We asked Atlantic Council experts and UkraineAlert friends the following questions: Have we seen the end of Saakashvili’s days as a Ukrainian politician? What does the process of deporting an opposition politician after stripping him of citizenship say about the health of Ukraine’s democracy? Is Saakashvili a special case, or does his deportation send a signal to opposition leaders and civil society groups that they are next? 

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  • Karatnycky in POLITICO: The Rise and Fall of Mikheil Saakashvili


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  • What Ukraine Urgently Needs Isn’t What You Think

    In a recent article the talented journalist Vitaliy Sych, editor of Ukraine’s reformist weekly Novoe Vremya, posits the emergence of a war between old Ukraine and new Ukraine.

    He is right. Recent months have seen the escalation of a fight that pits anticorruption institutions and activists against segments of the state and ruling elite.

    But this is understandable and predictable.

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  • Q&A: What Does Saakashvili's Detention Mean for Ukraine?

    Former Georgian President and Odesa oblast governor Mikheil Saakashvili was taken into custody in Kyiv on December 5. His supporters eventually freed him and he addressed a large crowd outside of the parliament. Later in the day, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told parliament that Saakashvili accepted money from a fugitive oligarch to fund antigovernment protests that have waxed and waned since mid-October. The situation remains tense and ongoing. What does the detention of Saakashvili mean for Ukraine, its democratic prospects, and its relationship with the West? We asked our experts and a number of commentators and politicians to explain the significance of today’s events.

    Michael Carpenter, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Senior Director at the Biden Center:
    The conflict between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian authorities only benefits Russia. Saakashvili entered Ukraine under dubious circumstances but his case needs to be adjudicated according to the rule of law, not through force.

    Aivaras Abromavicius, former Ukrainian Minister of Economy and Trade: I think there has been a good amount of progress made by the last two governments. Yet many of those achievements are at risk of being eroded by the recent blunt attacks on the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine by unreformed law enforcement agencies. In light of the total absence of sentencing of extremely corrupt current or former top officials, accusations against Saakashvili will always seem politically motivated. The West is going to be puzzled yet again and disappointed about where the priorities of Ukraine's leadership lie.

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  • Ukraine Politicians Embrace Extreme Rhetoric

    Ukraine has experienced some major reforms, particularly the ProZorro electronic procurement system, the restructuring of corrupt banks, and fundamental reforms in the gas sector. Nonetheless, the country still suffers from widespread corruption and a malfunctioning court system that has delayed major cases against allegedly corrupt officials.

    In this environment, politicians on all sides have been rushing to claim that they are the true leaders in the fight for corruption. That isn’t a bad thing; their efforts illustrate a healthy political competition that is occurring within constitutional, parliamentary, and electoral bounds. It is likely to lead to progress in creating a new anti-corruption court and in improving the effectiveness of the procuracy, the police, and the recently established National Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Bureau of Investigation.

    Ukraine is home to a combative, highly competitive political environment where political leaders are often prone to exaggeration and populism. By no means is the reform process easy and clear-cut. But it is broadly occurring within the context of legitimate democratic discourse, much of it critical of the government and the president.

    Increasingly, however, politicians, who were once regarded as responsible voices, are drifting toward extremist rhetoric that is disproportional to the serious problems that exist in Ukraine’s political system.

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  • Why There’s More to Alex Ovechkin’s Team Putin Movement than Meets the Eye

    Hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin’s November 2 announcement that he is creating a social movement to support Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be an ill-considered PR move by the Washington Capitals captain.

    In the capital of a country awash in anti-Putin sentiment, Ovechkin is defiantly flaunting his loyalty to a leader who has supported military aggression in Ukraine, is implicated in assassinations of his political enemies, and approved massive subterranean interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

    Ovechkin’s action is earning him scorn both among Washington Capitals fans and spectators around the NHL.

    One can understand why many Russians who live in an information bubble of Kremlin-manufactured propaganda would support Putin. But Ovechkin has now spent the better part of the last thirteen years living, working, and getting rich in the United States. This means he has access to the truth about his president, and this makes Ovechkin's views especially deplorable. He knows about the Russian military’s direct engagement in eastern Ukraine, he has been exposed to evidence that it was a Russian military unit that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 passengers aboard, and he knows of the vast network of corrupt cronies that surround the Russian president.

    Nor does Putin really need his help. How can a person living the United States and in the middle of a challenging hockey season be of domestic help to the Russian president’s March reelection bid?

    Ovechkin's act is far more than a sign of loyalty and obeisance.

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  • Why Ukraine's Week of Protests Quickly Fizzled

    A week of protests on behalf of needed reforms in Ukraine have rapidly fizzled having made limited headway in pressing for legislative action while discrediting a segment of liberal reformers with its populist rhetoric and aggressive tactics.

    The protest outside parliament, which some organizers had expected would bring at least 10,000 to the streets, peaked on October 17 at around four thousand.

    By October 20, the fourth day of mass action, the ranks had fallen to a few hundred, and the tent city they had constructed was largely empty, with almost as many tents as protestors. On October 22, crowds gathered again, peaking at 1,500, around a third of those who had come out at the onset of protests; on October 23, a small band of protestors remained in the tent city around the parliament.

    The demonstrators had three demands: lifting parliamentary immunity, changing the electoral system to an open-party list, and creating a National Anticorruption Court.

    But these demands were lost amid the insurrectionist tenor of the protests, including some acts of violence by some in the crowd. The creation of a gauntlet of shame for the degradation of one pro-government parliamentary leader and the pelting of another with eggs further detracted from the message.

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  • Trump and Poroshenko: The Billionaire Boys Club

    Petro Poroshenko scored a prized diplomatic plum for which most heads of state and government aggressively vie: a one-on-one meeting with President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    In addition to Ukraine’s president, Trump held only nine other private meetings with the heads of state or government of Afghanistan, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

    For Poroshenko his September 21 meeting was no small accomplishment coming just eight months after Ukraine appeared on the outs with Trump.

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