UkraineAlert

Ukraine’s presidential campaign season has unofficially begun. Almost half a year before the presidential race in March 2019, candidates have already settled on basic strategies.

Let's analyze their messages—how they separate themselves from their competitors and try to create an attractive image, what ideas "sell," how they struggle with criticism, negativity, compromise, and ultimately, how they plan to win the elections.

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Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned by Russian forces in 2014, is on the verge of death. More than one hundred days ago, he began a hunger strike to demand that Russian President Vladimir Putin free sixty-four Ukrainian political prisoners being held in Russia.  Since then, Sentsov has lost almost 70 pounds and suffered cardiac complications. In early August, he confided to his lawyer that “the end was near” and this week he told his cousin that his limbs are going numb. Unless the international community takes urgent action, his uncompromising commitment to freedom will soon kill him.

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On September 7, Ukraine inched closer to a globally recognized international church. That day, Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I placed Ukraine under the canonical jurisdiction of US Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and Canadian Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton who head Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in both countries under Constantinople’s canonical jurisdiction. Since 1685, the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed Ukraine lies within its canonical territory, but no longer. The two appointments are preparation for granting the Orthodox Church in Ukraine autocephaly (independence) from the Russian Orthodox Church.   

It’s no exaggeration to write that the granting of autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church to Ukraine’s millions of Orthodox believers is as significant as the disintegration of the USSR for Ukraine.

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Corruption remains Ukraine’s greatest scourge. But while there are ample examples of it around the country, signs are emerging that government is heeding civil society’s cries for change. A new tax policy implemented in July 2018 is a key example: the fight to change this policy in order to directly reduce corruption is being waged and led not just by civil society—government is also responding. 

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Ukraine’s Maidan reformers had a real shot at reaching a tipping point and changing the country once and for all. In 2014, the reform-oriented Samopomich party, led by Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, performed far better than expected in the parliamentary elections just a few months after street protests ejected pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovych. The Lviv-based party took thirty-three seats and joined the governing coalition; its roster included a number of new faces from business, academia, and civil society. 

Today, the party is no longer part of the governing coalition; its parliamentarians now describe themselves as troublemakers. Their numbers in parliament have shrunk, Sadovyi’s approval ratings have dropped precipitously, and the party looks set to become a regional party rather than a national one after the 2019 elections.

And now the group has turned to infighting. On September 6, the party expelled one of its most promising politicians, Sergiy Gusovsky, the head of Samopomich faction in the Kyiv city council.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

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Reporting on the recent killing of Alexander Zakharchenko in Donetsk, Ukraine, has enraged many, and with good reason. Far too many reports from top outlets included the phrase or something similar, “Moscow denies sending regular troops and heavy weaponry to Ukraine, the rebels, or separatists.” Of course, Moscow regularly issues such denials. However, the time to simply report such claims by Moscow as if they are of equal validity to Ukraine’s claims is long past.

“Moscow denies sending troops and weapons into Ukraine” should always be followed by “despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

If a journalist does not know that there is abundant open-source evidence of Russian military involvement in Ukraine, they shouldn’t be journalists. If they repeat Moscow’s claim, in some blind commitment to the idea of “balance” or for any other reason, they are leaving their audience uninformed, and that is a disservice. Claims made by Kyiv and Moscow should not be treated equally; there is overwhelming evidence to substantiate Kyiv’s claims about the origins and continuation of the war in the Donbas, and that evidence proves Moscow’s claims to be outrageously false.

Guilty news outlets include the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The Financial Times, RFE/RL, and the LA Times.

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US Ambassador Kurt Volker recently toldThe Guardian that the United States was prepared to offer Ukraine new weapons to defend itself. There is no doubt that Ukraine needs these weapons; in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, Moscow is waging a simultaneous military and economic war against Kyiv. It has blockaded the Sea of Azov to Ukrainian ships, demands the right to inspect “foreign” vessels, and has extended a maritime exclusion zone all the way to Odesa, Ukraine.

Moscow possesses the ability to launch an amphibious operation on Ukraine’s coast to isolate Mariupol and the southern Ukrainian coast all the way to Odesa from Ukraine. It did this by steadily reinforcing its ground, air, and naval forces in and around Crimea.

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A current controversy brewing in Ukraine illustrates just how relevant the Soviet past is to Ukraine’s present and future—and just how powerful the forces are that aim to reconnect Ukraine and its former hegemon, Russia.

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Andrey Stavnitser is a second generation businessman with a clean reputation in Ukraine. He’s also young and ambitious. The bushy-bearded thirty-six-year old turned his father’s TiS company into the largest private port in Ukraine and the largest of all Ukraine’s ports by dry cargo turnover. By investing aggressively in infrastructure, Stavnitser is proving that the country’s security risks, economic turbulence, and challenging business environment are not insurmountable and that Ukraine deserves another look.

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Around two dozen high-profile journalists were recently detained in Belarus in one of the biggest intimidation campaigns in years. The details of this sudden and surprising sweep highlight growing tensions in the country, where the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenka is seeking a balance between necessary pro-market reforms and its preservation.

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