UkraineAlert

As the year ends, I am invariably swamped with requests for our top 10 list. Without further ado, here are the best performing articles UkraineAlert published in 2018:

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Ukraine’s information technology sector has been among the country’s fastest growing industries, and IT experts from Ukraine have found international success. Its companies, however, have developed largely in service and outsourcing. IT in Ukraine may outgrow these market segments eventually, but it isn’t there yet.

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My recent article “What Would a Tymoshenko Presidency Mean?” caused indignation among numerous experts and journalists in Ukraine and indigestion among some in Washington. Obviously, there are a number of problems with Yulia Tymoshenko and her presidential bid, such as her leftish populist slogans and the financial sources behind her expensive campaign. Yet, the fact remains that the real choice in Ukraine’s 2019 presidential elections will likely be between incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, not a young reformer and a representative of the Kuchma-period elite.

Given these realities, I argued that the West should start establishing a constructive relationship with Tymoshenko as the most likely future leader.

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Vladimir Putin must be kicking himself. Four years ago, he could have invaded and seized most of Ukraine in a few weeks. Believing that Ukrainians were an "artificial" nation led by "fascists," however, he figured an invasion was unnecessary and the state would collapse on its own. Now, Ukrainians are daily demonstrating their desire to leave the Russian zone of influence forever. An invasion may be the only thing that could postpone the inevitable, but it's an extremely risky undertaking that could result in Russia's collapse.

So, what's Putin to do? He's caught between a rock and a hard place. Although war—whether big or small—would serve no Russian interests, it is all the more likely as Putin grasps at straws to sustain his declining legitimacy.

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On billboards throughout Ukraine is the phrase, “The president is the servant of the people.” But is this the teaser for a TV series with the same title—or a serious political campaign for its star, who may or may not be running for president?

On the most viewed series in Ukraine, Servant of the People, the famous Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyi plays an honest schoolteacher who becomes president and fights corruption. In real life, Zelenskyi is undecided but ranks second in recent polling among potential presidential candidates.

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Those who believe Ukraine has not fundamentally changed since the launch of Russia’s military aggression are dead wrong. In fact, the 2019 elections will clearly illustrate that pro-Russian candidates have not only lost significant support, they will barely win any national offices.

Pro-Russian candidates are hampered from achieving success in the 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections by four factors.

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Ukraine is making international headlines again. Conflict in the Black Sea, war in eastern Ukraine, new anti-corruption institutions, and the imminent independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been widely reported and hotly discussed. But one important topic has gone largely unnoticed in the West—Ukraine’s ongoing local governance reform. The transformation of Ukraine’s administrative structure may seem dull, but it has become one of the most consequential post-Euromaidan reform efforts.

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On December 7, about two hundred fifty Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv for the launch of a new social movement that looks set to become Ukraine’s first liberal political party.

People Matter is basing its platform on minimizing the role of government in the economy and reorienting the entire state around the concept of service; in American terms, it would be considered center right or libertarian. The movement is led by five prominent reformers with experience in and out of government: Kyiv entrepreneur and city councilman Sergiy Gusovsky; ProZorro founder and first deputy minister at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry Max Nefyodov; think tank executive Victor Andrusiv; open government expert Oleksiy Honcharuk; and NGO leader Oksana Nechyporenko. Its working slogan, “People Matter,” encompasses the vision for the movement, says Gusovsky, who thinks reforming the state comes down to having the right people in the right place at the right time.

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Olena Tregub spent more than two years working around the clock to help revitalize her moribund government ministry in Ukraine. As director of international aid coordination for the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, her mission was to bring some transparency to $12 billion of foreign assistance pouring into the country after 2014.

Tracking assistance, cajoling donors to coordinate, persuading prospective recipients to stop poaching each other’s projects, and following up on red flags, the work often felt like tilting at windmills.

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Vladimir Putin had a simple explanation for the wave of international condemnation that engulfed Moscow in the wake of Russia’s November 25 Black Sea attack on the Ukrainian Navy. According to the Kremlin leader, it was all Ukraine’s doing. “Kyiv is actively stirring up anti-Russian sentiment,” he lamented. “That’s all they have—and it works.”

This is far from the first time Moscow officials have sought to explain away serious accusations by attributing them to conveniently vague notions of anti-Russian bias. Indeed, the formerly moribund nineteenth century concept of Russophobia has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance since 2014, becoming the Kremlin’s excuse of choice whenever faced by a new round of allegations. Whether the crime in question is the invasion of Ukraine, an attempted coup in the Balkans, chemical weapons attacks in rural England, or electoral interference across Europe and the United States, the Kremlin has clearly decided the best form of defense is to ignore the charges completely and condemn the international community for surrendering to anti-Russian hysteria.   
Moscow’s motivation is not difficult to grasp.

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