UkraineAlert

“God probably has a great sense of humor,” reckons Borys Gudziak, president of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. The US-born archbishop transformed what was designed to be the Soviet communist party’s atheist ideology center in western Ukraine into a thriving catholic university.

The irony of this transformation is not lost on him. Only thirty years ago, the Ukrainian Catholic Church was the world’s largest banned religious organization. Its bishops and priests in the Soviet Union were jailed and harassed. Today the Church’s archbishop heads one of Ukraine’s top universities that many regard as the Harvard of Ukraine. Gudziak is widely respected and recognized as a key moral authority in an independent, predominately orthodox, Ukraine.

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s resounding victory in April underscored Ukrainians’ desire for change. Proclaiming his commitment to overhauling the entire system, the new president has announced five short-term priorities: change the electoral law, restore criminal liability for unlawful enrichment, and remove the parliamentary immunity of deputies, as well as reform the legal system and eradicate corruption.

The economic challenges, ranging from boosting economic growth, to paying off immense loans and staying afloat while facing social discontent, remain formidable. Other experts have offered their advice on this.

Law and order, and security, are jointly a critical dimension, and arguably the most important issues Zelenskiy faces.

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On May 25, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko and his brother jumped up and down on a smart, new glass bridge in Kyiv, Ukraine. The video went viral and thousands crowded the pedestrian bridge that connects Volodymyr Hill with Khreschatyk Park. Destined to become one of the most popular attractions in the city as a result of its prime location, magnificent landscape, and modern design, the bridge is already starting to show signs of wear. Ironically, the new panorama opens to a less celebrated bridge that puts the safety of millions in jeopardy. It’s one that the mayor and Kyiv City State Administration have ignored. To its right, the metro bridge across Rusanovsky Strait connects the left and right banks of the city. Millions use it daily to move from home to work. Experts found that the bridge needs to be closed immediately.

The new bridge is not merely a tourist attraction but also an indictment of the mismanagement of Kyiv City State Administration executives.

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy must distance himself from recent statements by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky that Ukraine should default on its IMF commitments, said wealthy and established Ukrainian businessman Mohammed Zahoor.

“He should have the balls to say this openly,” said Zahoor, former owner of the Kyiv Post, in an interview yesterday. “He must personally and strongly say that Kolomoisky is a detached oligarch and has nothing to do with us. We are running our own government and he’s not involved in any way.”

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy may be popular among Ukrainians, but he is getting the cold shoulder from its political elite. Ukraine’s new president has few friends in the parliament and government. Within days of taking office, Zelenskiy suffered a defeat in the Rada as the parliament has not considered his bill for a new electoral law. The Rada didn’t have the votes to put the president’s bill on the agenda, despite Zelenskiy claim that the bill was the result of a compromise among parliamentary factions. The government met Zelenskiy with a wave of resignations, most notably from Prime Minister Groisman, who tendered his resignation and announced plans to run for the parliament. But without support from the Rada and the government, Zelenskiy has no leverage to push his policy agenda through. Zelenskiy needs quick wins to point to before the parliamentary elections, especially given his lack of experience.  

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy won in a landslide. Ukrainian voters blamed incumbent Petro Poroshenko for two problems: the lack of significant success in combating corruption, and insufficient economic growth in the poorest country in Europe. These two problems have a common solution, which is transitioning Ukraine from a post-Soviet industrial economy to a knowledge economy.

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Wasting little time after winning Ukraine’s April 21 presidential election in a landslide, the country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, vowed in his inauguration speech on Monday to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections. After winning 73 percent of the vote in the second round, Zelenskiy may be hoping to ride the political wave, and early polls show his party in the lead, with 26 percent support.

Originally scheduled for October 27, elections for the parliament, or Rada, will now be as early as July 21, if Zelenskiy has his way. The new president also indicated a desire for a wholesale change in government appointees, and a number of officials, including the prime minister, Volodymyr Groisman, have announced their resignations. A new day may be dawning in Ukraine.

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Ukraine's domestic politics will change fundamentally in 2019. On May 20, Volodymyr Zelenskiy was inaugurated as president of Ukraine. The country’s upcoming parliamentary elections this summer or autumn will likely reconfigure much of the governing elite, and lead to deep changes in the country’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

Five major topics will keep Kyiv and its partners busy in 2019 and beyond. None are easy. They include politics, domestic reforms, gas, relations with the EU, and the Donbas conflict.

Since Zelenskiy’s inauguration four days ago, we have a slightly better picture of what is to come: the new president disbanded the parliament and called for early elections on July 21. Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman will probably resign. But many issues remain unknown. Zelenskiy wants a new election law to govern the parliamentary elections, but the parliament has refused to consider his law. The details matter and the election law will influence who enters the next parliament.

Foreign observers also wonder how many and which new pro-reform parties will compete in the elections and what the likely composition of the new parliament will be. It’s possible that Zelenskiy’s party could end up dominating a new government, and if it doesn’t, the question is which parties will form the new coalition government. And, of course, the big question is who the new prime minister will be. There are rumors that Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Naftogaz chief Andriy Kobolyev want the job, but everything is in flux.   

After a new government is formed, it will confront a host of sticky problems.

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After Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s landslide victory, Ukraine is in a regime change situation, whether we call it so or not. The previous administration carried out great economic reforms, but the country’s law enforcement and judicial system remain predatory. What Ukraine needs most of all is rule of law.

Zelenskiy has a tremendous popular mandate, 73 percent of the vote, but this is an anti-mandate against the old dysfunctional system, which has rendered Ukraine the poorest country in Europe. Ukrainians want Zelenskiy to break up this system and build something better.

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May 20 was a historic day for Ukraine and beyond. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political newcomer dismissed and denigrated by his political opponents, crowned his inauguration as president with an inspirational speech and decisive preliminary actions that have already borne results.

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