Eastern Europe

  • How One Family Is Reviving Ukraine’s Pre-Soviet Tradition of Philanthropy

    Since the Euromaidan, we have seen extraordinary acts of volunteerism by Ukrainians. In the initial days of Russia’s invasion, citizen volunteers fought on the Donbas front to shore up the Ukrainian Army, which was on the verge of collapse. These citizen soldiers experienced high casualty rates. Volunteers organized supplies for the war and served as medics and nurses. When 1.6 million displaced fled the Donbas, it was largely the volunteers who fed, clothed, and sheltered them.

    Ukraine’s volunteerism has served as the foundation for the country’s new civic identity. It has also been seen as problematic, establishing a parallel, second state as an antidote to the weakness and ineptitude of the state.

    As the military has rapidly professionalized and attained the capacity to fight and supply the front, the activists of the Euromaidan have moved to fill another critical gap. They are now supporting combat veterans. After four years of war, there is still no systematic provision for Ukraine’s veterans beyond monetary benefits.

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  • How Corruption Actually Works in Ukraine

    It’s standard fare in any article about Ukraine to mention the country's enormous, overwhelming, and everlasting corruption problem. It’s also incredibly boring, because hardly anyone has examples or knows how it actually works.

    In April, I sat down over coffee and sweets in Kyiv with investigative journalist Oleksa Shalayskiy, editor-in-chief of Nashi Groshi (Our Money), who explained in detail how corruption functions in Ukraine.

    Shalayskiy knows what he’s talking about. His watchdog organization regularly uncovers examples of corruption that the top anticorruption organizations use in their public crusades.

    But Shalayskiy is anything but loud. Soft-spoken and detail oriented, I had to lean forward multiple times and ask him to speak up.

    Shalayskiy said the problem is that officials still believe they must steal.

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  • The Last Missing Piece to Make Ukraine Truly Independent

    One of the biggest differences between Eastern and Western Europe is the role of the church. On paper, they are separate, but in Eastern Europe, tradition trumps the law and the influence of the church is immense. In Ukraine, the church is the most trusted institution, which is a good thing, but the fact that one of its strongest branches openly sympathizes with Russia means that the secular world can’t choose to ignore this issue any longer.
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  • Good News: IMF to Return to Kyiv in September

    Last week Ukraine’s finances didn’t look so promising and a fall fiscal crisis was entirely possible. Many worried that Ukraine wouldn’t satisfy the International Monetary Fund’s three main demands in time to receive a $1.9 billion tranche before annual budget debates begin. The IMF had been demanding an Anticorruption Court, market prices on gas for households, and a budget deficit target of 2.5 percent. Ukraine passed an Anticorruption Court bill that satisfies the IMF, but it has not met the second and third conditions.

    However, things changed this week.

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  • Ukraine Passes Anticorruption Court Law. What’s Next?

    Ukraine finally got an Anticorruption Court on June 26. That day, President Petro Poroshenko signed the law which establishes the court. Importantly, the shortcomings of the original law the Rada had passed in June were later corrected. All appeals cases under the jurisdiction of the Anticorruption Court will be reviewed only in the Anticorruption Court, even those currently in general jurisdiction courts.

    The legislative work is over, and now it’s time to select judges. These are the people who will become the face of the new institution. Will the Anticorruption Court become an effective and impartial body? Everything depends on who is appointed to the bench.

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  • Why Peace in Ukraine Cannot Wait

    The war in eastern Ukraine grinds on, forgotten by many. There’s no obvious way out. The ceasefire agreements have been continuously broken, high-level dialogue between Russia and the United States stopped months ago, and the unarmed OSCE monitors in conflict zone are continuously harassed. Some analysts suspect that Moscow is waiting until March when Ukraine holds its presidential election. The Kremlin wants to see who the next president will be before taking any new steps, and time is on Russia’s side.

    But time is not on Ukraine’s or the European Union’s side.

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  • How Rejection and Time Abroad Changed One Kyiv Activist’s Life

    The Atlantic Council has been profiling some of Ukraine’s toughestbut lesser-known female activists this summer.

    When I spoke with Iryna Shyba, a leader with the DEJURE Foundationin Kyiv, Ukraine, she almost rejected the premise of the piece.

    “I don’t feel like I am doing more than any other civil society activist,” Shyba said. “There are incredible females working every day in IT and science, and to fight corruption. One day there should be no special column about women working on important issues; there should just be a column about anyone working on these issues.”

    You know you’ve found a good subject to profile when they don’t want the spotlight.

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  • The Forgotten Story Behind Crimea’s Only Displaced University

    “We could hear explosions during classes and the sound of helicopters flying overhead. But no one understood what was happening or how long it would last,” recalls Anna Gladchenko, a 23-year-old student at the Donetsk National Medical University in Ukraine.

    When war broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, 150,000 college students and 10,000 faculty and staff were thrown into an uncertain situation.

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  • Q&A: Will Ukraine Face a Serious Financial Crisis If It Doesn’t Get IMF Money Before November?

    Central bankers and economists are sounding the alarm in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Finance Ministry’s account balance has fallen to its lowest level in four years. The hryvnia is falling fast now, and fell nearly 4 percent over the last three weeks. Eurobond sales and foreign aid could remedy the cash-flow problem, but the International Monetary Fund’s next disbursement has been delayed for more than a year over foot dragging on reforms. Acting Finance Minister Oksana Markarova says that a deal is very close, but there are still differences to be worked out before the IMF releases the next $1.9 billion tranche.

    We asked UkraineAlert experts and friends the following: Will Ukraine face a serious financial crisis if it does not get any IMF money before November?

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  • In Ukraine, Attacks on Civil Society Spread to the Regions

    Just about everyone credits Ukraine’s persistent activists for almost every reform win since 2014. But four years after the Maidan, the public demand to put corrupt officials behind bars remains unanswered. Does that mean that civil society and the energy of the Maidan have reached their limits? It means just the opposite, actually. Resistance to anticorruption activity has increased as reforms needed more public engagement to proceed.

    Ukraine’s public engagement has taken various forms. Early on, experts from independent think tanks helped ministers develop reform policies. Because of Russia’s aggression in Crimea and the Donbas, a number of volunteer organizations helped thousands resettle within the country and supply Ukrainian fighters with much-needed aid that the government couldn’t supply at the time.

    Thanks to the pressure exerted by the European Union, the United States, and activists, Ukraine made significant institutional advances to fight corruption. The establishment of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine is well known, but it’s worth mentioning two less visible wins. Both the adoption of the e-declaration system that makes the incomes and assets of state and local officials transparent and the public e-procurement system ProZorro were developed with the direct assistance of anticorruption activists. But they also contributed to the political establishment’s backlash against civil society.

    The political elites also took advantage of discord within civil society.

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