UkraineAlert

Birthdays are typically lavish affairs in Ukraine. But not for Volodymyr Balukh, who will spend his third birthday in prison for the simple act of displaying a Ukrainian flag in Crimea. On February 8, the Ukrainian farmer turns 48.

His case shows how Moscow harshly punishes Ukrainians in Crimea who have the temerity to protest against the Kremlin’s illegal annexation of the peninsula.

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Less than two months before Ukraine’s presidential election, two independent-minded officials are being forced out. On February 5, Kyiv’s Regional Administrative Court ruled to suspend Detroit born physician Ulana Suprun's authority to make any decisions or sign any documents as the acting minister of health. The court pointed to a regulation that limits an acting minister’s term to one month. Suprun has held the post since 2016. On February 1, the supervisory board of Ukraine’s public broadcaster dismissed CEO Zurab Alasania two years before his contract was set to expire. Suprun has been praised as one of the leading reformers remaining in the cabinet and for championing health care reform, while Alasania received good marks as well.

Last June, parliament canned outspoken and reform minded Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk. By most counts, there’s only one reformer left in Ukraine’s cabinet.

UkraineAlert asked a range of experts what’s going on? What’s behind the sacking of Suprun and Alasania? Are the motives behind the sackings similar? Is the government trying to remove independent minded people before the elections, or are there other motives?  

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Three candidates have the most plausible chance of winning the first round in Ukraine’s March 31st presidential election: President Petro Poroshenko; former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko; and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a politically untested comedian whose popular television show, Servant of the People, portrays him as an intrepid corruption fighter. Zelenskiy’s popularity can be explained as a symbolic protest against the status quo.

Below we rated the top three candidates on two scales. One is what we think is an objective rating of their qualifications for office and is best for Ukraine; the other is their subjective attractiveness to voters.

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There are many reasons to worry about Ukraine’s elections this year. The 2019 elections may be as defining as those in 2014, when Ukraine left the Russian world for good. However, so far, most analysts have missed two factors that may play an outsized role. First, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is not only a sitting minister but also a politician who wants to remain in power. The police force, which will oversee much of the conduct around the elections, report to him. Second, decentralization created more money and players on the local level, and these actors may exert a greater role as we approach the elections.

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Moscow captured three Ukrainian navy vessels and arrested twenty-four Ukrainian sailors on November 25, 2018, near the Kerch Strait. The maritime clash indicates that the focal point of the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict may gradually switch from the Donbas to the Azov Sea and Crimean peninsula in 2019.

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Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko finally announced that he will seek reelection at a packed forum on January 29 in Kyiv.

Held on the anniversary of the battle of Kruty when students and Cossacks died defending Kyiv from Bolshevik forces in 1918, organizers were hoping to stress the symbolism: Ukraine started to move away from Russia under Poroshenko.

In his speech, Poroshenko focused on defense and foreign policy.

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Editor's note: Nadia Diuk died on January 23, 2019. She worked at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for thirty-two years. Carl Gershman, president of the NED, delivered this eulogy at the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington on January 31, 2019 

In the days since Nadia passed, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has received an incredible outpouring of messages of condolence and remembering. I’m sure that what we received was but a small part of all the online posts, emails, articles, and statements that have been written and shared about Nadia—including, of course, the presentation to her by President Petro Poroshenko, the day before her death, of the Order of Princess Olga. She touched many people very deeply, and the appreciation for her work and character runs wide and deep.

There are many common themes in the messages we received: Nadia’s immense knowledge and wisdom, her grace and composure, her ability to teach and inspire, her love of Ukraine, and her commitment to defending the freedom and dignity of people everywhere.

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There is no silver bullet when it comes to defeating systemic corruption in any country.

Despite many opportunities, Ukraine has failed to achieve economic success due to its entrenched corruption which offsets the positive effects from many of the hard-earned and difficult reforms we have implemented since independence.

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On January 23, Ukrainian-Briton Nadia Diuk passed away. This was reported on Facebook by her sister, who wrote that Nadia had died at home after a long battle with cancer.

The previous day, President Petro Poroshenko bestowed the Order of Princess Olga (III degree), one of Ukraine’s highest honors to Diuk, who had dedicated her life to serving the cause of Ukraine.

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Chechnya is at it again. Recent reports indicate that there’s another anti-gay pogrom underway in the Russian region of Chechnya. It is said to include kidnappings, secret torture chambers, and arbitrary executions. Violence against these individuals is escalating, and it’s the biggest spike of targeted attacks against gay Chechens since 2017 when 100 LGBTQ people were targeted. Only this time the torture techniques are harsher, the tactics of silencing victims are smarter, and the perpetrators are emboldened by Western inaction.

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