Without the Euromaidan, Russia and the West would still be engaged in business as usual and everybody would be far too busy making money to dwell on the ugly realities of the Putin regime. Without the Kremlin’s hybrid war, it is entirely plausible there would be no Trump presidency and no Brexit.
That characteristic has been on display since Tymoshenko announced her intention to run for the presidency. Tymoshenko’s claim to be a supporter of NATO and European Union membership is at odds with both the voting record of her Batkivshchina (Fatherland) parliamentary party and her own populist campaign rhetoric. In fact, Tymoshenko has little love for IMF-driven reforms and there is little chance she will enact them if elected. This would bode very badly for Ukraine’s European hopes.
The United National Movement (UNM) presidential candidate Grigol Vashadze achieved an unexpectedly strong showing (37.7 percent) against the ruling Georgian Dream party backed candidate (38.6 percent) Salome Zurabishvili. The outcome belies the current level of one-party rule and presents a surprise proxy rematch between political personalities which have defined the national landscape since 2011. Six years after defeating Misha Saakashvili’s UNM in parliamentary elections, Georgian Dream grey cardinal and oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili may be losing his Midas touch.
The fabrication of these cases has been refined in Russia's courts. There a court does not need real evidence, just an order from above. The evidence and all other case-related elements can be carelessly thrown together, as the details don’t matter. Moreover, Russians can hold people in pre-trial detention centers for years without trial.
The number of political prisoners in Russia has been growing in recent years, and this is unlikely to change. More interference and pressure from the international community is necessary, as this has proven to be the only factor which secures the rare and occasional release of political prisoners.
Below are ten political prisoners—Ukrainian, Tatar, Russian, and Danish—whose cases should be followed.
It is uncertain how many people live in Ukraine today. Following Russia’s 2014 invasion and a subsequent significant labor migration outflow, the number has contracted by at least 10 million over the past two decades.
Approximately five million Ukrainians, roughly 25 percent of the country’s economically active population, work abroad. Around two million live in Poland. I visited Warsaw this summer; out of six Uber rides that I took, four of the drivers were Ukrainian.
A key reason for this hefty flight is that Ukraine has the lowest average monthly salary in Europe, a meager $320. The workforce in Poland earns four times more.
In 2018, Ukrainians will send home $11 billion in remittances, a whopping 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
As Ukrainians continue to leave, the toll in the motherland is being felt.
For Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, it’s a do-or-die race. Both have been in politics nearly twenty years and the loser will find it difficult if not impossible to recover.
Describing her hopes for the speed of change in Ukraine, Anticorruption Action Center executive director Daria Kaleniuk said that she and her colleagues now see the project of fixing Ukraine as a generational one. And after nearly five years of intense hand-to-hand combat, civil society is exhausted.
Fortunately, some of the country’s top activists and leaders are taking much-needed breaks, logging off their devices and cracking books. Increasing numbers of US organizations are providing fellowships to help Ukraine’s leaders regroup and renew their energies.
One is the Center for European Policy Analysis, a small think tank in Washington, DC, that houses the James Denton Transatlantic Fellowship. In late September, CEPA brought three leaders to Washington for a three-week fellowship. The Ukraine fellows include an IT guy who unexpectedly became a national fundraiser for Ukraine’s army, a top lawyer and city councilman, and a brilliant strategist who is helping civil society mature.
The standard logic of economic transition goes like this: reforms are unpopular. There are short-term losers. People will lose jobs in inefficient industries and will have to pay higher market prices on utilities and groceries. There are also long-term winners. The entire population and especially future generations will benefit from a better, more efficient, and prosperous economy. But the losers—pensioners, state employees, miners—are better organized than the winners. The losers will resist the reforms. The weak “populist” politicians will listen and reforms will stall.
This appears to be the tale of Ukraine’s reforms, too.