UkraineAlert

On New Year’s Eve, Ukraine’s top comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced that he will run for president.  

The timing of the announcement was curious: Zelenskiy’s short spot aired before President Petro Poroshenko’s annual address on the second most popular TV channel “1+1,” which belongs to Ihor Kolomoisky. The order caused many to speculate that the Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky is backing the forty-year-old comedian.

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The experience of the past four years shows that in Ukraine, it is far easier and more effective to shrink the space for corrupt practices than to deter corruption by punishing guilty individuals. To this extent, Ukraine’s anti-corruption reforms have been working.

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Ukraine is back on the front pages of the world’s top newspapers. Twice in the past three weeks Ukraine featured on the cover photo of the Financial Times. The headlines read: "US Backs Kyiv in Naval Clash with Kremlin" and "Kyiv Splits from Russian Church." The news headings highlight the U-turn that Ukrainians have made shifting away from Russia and turning to the West ever since the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity.

The same shift is also happening in business.  

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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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