UkraineAlert

On November 4, 33-year-old anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk died from injuries caused by an acid attack. Handzyuk had been attacked three months earlier outside of her home in Kherson, Ukraine, and had undergone eleven surgeries to recover from the burns.

Since 2017, at least 55 activists, journalists, and one opposition politician have been attacked. UkraineAlert asked activists and observers the following: What’s it like to be an activist in Ukraine today? Have you been threatened or attacked? Do you think the situation is getting better or worse? Who is responsible?

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Media outlets everywhere face challenges ranging from shrinking advertising budgets to getting consumers to pay for content. In Ukraine, however, they may soon face a different kind of challenge.

A draft law currently being considered by Ukraine’s parliament would require all media published in other languages to produce an identical Ukrainian version both online and in print. Radio and TV are also required to be in Ukrainian, with programs in other languages being dubbed. If passed, the law would threaten the existence of several excellent publications and potentially alienate some segments of the population.

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Since illegally annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia has drastically increased its military presence in the Black Sea region. The Kremlin’s dominance may be temporary given NATO’s greater capacities, but so far, NATO’s response has been limited.

“Russia has practically covered all of the Black Sea region,” says Hryhorii Perepelytsia, the head of the Kyiv-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. “It can destroy targets—for instance, NATO ships—right at the entrance via the straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles.”

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Having illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, Moscow lost no time in seizing Ukrainian energy assets in and around the region. The Kremlin is now conducting another experiment in economic and military operations, but this one has profound implications beyond Ukraine.

Before the seizure of Crimea, both Ukraine and Russia agreed to regard the Sea of Azov as the internal waters of each state. Thus, the states had shared sovereignty over that body of water; in the case of disputes, they would resolve them jointly.

This result held until the invasion of Crimea.

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On November 1, the Russian government imposed severe economic sanctions on 322 Ukrainian individuals and 68 Ukrainian companies. These are the most extensive sanctions imposed by any country in the tit-for-tat confrontation between Russia and Western countries over Ukraine.

Curiously, these sanctions are explicitly only economic, declaring that any assets on the territory of the Russian Federation belonging to these individuals and enterprises will be frozen, though one would presume that none of these people will be allowed to enter Russia and no trade with the sanctioned companies will be possible.

The sanctions focus mainly on two groups, politicians and businessmen.

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As Ukraine prepares to mark five years since the start of the country’s Euromaidan protests, the repercussions continue to reverberate across the globe. What began as an ordinary protest movement soon morphed into a revolution that sparked a Russian invasion and ushered in a new Cold War.

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.

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Ukrainian voters have long believed that in her drive for power, long-time politician Yulia Tymoshenko will do and say anything. This is not unusual for populists who routinely make promises that cannot be met and are flexible with the truth.

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.

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On October 28, Georgians went to the polls to elect their fifth president, possibly for the last time. Neither candidate, both former foreign ministers, won outright. An unprecedented run-off is slated for December 2.   

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. 

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Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Moscow and its proxies have put dozens of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar political prisoners behind bars. However, there are many other people in Russian prisons who have been incarcerated for their unwillingness to bow down to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

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.

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“There are 52 million of us,” went the catchphrase that was broadcast every evening on popular Ukrainian television channel 1+1 in the 90s. The numbers were based on a 1989 population census.

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.

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