Melinda Haring

  • Ukraine’s Maidan Opposition Is Finally Getting Organized, but Will It Make Any Difference?

    On December 7, about two hundred fifty Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv for the launch of a new social movement that looks set to become Ukraine’s first liberal political party.

    People Matter is basing its platform on minimizing the role of government in the economy and reorienting the entire state around the concept of service; in American terms, it would be considered center right or libertarian. The movement is led by five prominent reformers with experience in and out of government: Kyiv entrepreneur and city councilman Sergiy Gusovsky; ProZorro founder and first deputy minister at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry...

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  • Explainer: What Just Happened Between Russia and Ukraine, and Why Does It Matter?

    On November 25, Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels as they were preparing to enter the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait. The Russian Coast Guard rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and fired on the three Ukrainian ships, injuring up to six crewmembers. Twenty-three Ukrainian sailors are now in Russian custody.

    This is the first direct naval engagement between the two countries’ militaries since the early days of the conflict in 2014.

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  • Q&A: Is This What It Looks Like to Be an Activist in Ukraine Today?

    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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  • Three More Reasons to Be Bullish on Ukraine

    Ukraine’s civil society is realizing an unfortunate fact: reforming the country is going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. Consequently, pro-reform advocates have had to adjust their expectations.

    Describing her hopes for the speed of change in Ukraine, Anticorruption Action Center executive director Daria Kaleniuk said that she and her colleagues now see the project of fixing Ukraine as a generational one. And after nearly five years of intense hand-to-hand combat, civil society is exhausted.

    Fortunately, some of the country’s top activists and leaders are taking much-needed breaks, logging off their devices and cracking books. Increasing numbers of US organizations are providing fellowships to help Ukraine’s leaders regroup and renew their energies.

    One is the Center for European Policy Analysis, a small think tank in...

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  • Three More Reasons Why I’m Optimistic about Ukraine

    If the Euromaidan was such a transformative event in Ukraine, why do we see the same old faces in high politics, I was recently asked.

    As one of the world’s most impatient people, I found myself saying have more patience and feeling like a total hypocrite. Many of my columns have urged Ukraine to move harder and faster on reform. And it should.

    Even still, there are plenty of principled, young and not-so-young people, in the pipeline. They serve in city councils, in the parliament, in bureaucracies, and run many of Ukraine’s civil society organizations.

    They do not have the name recognition that Yulia Tymoshenko does, although slowly but surely they are gaining experience and greater political maturity. Eventually they will assume greater positions of power.

    One program designed to develop new leaders is Stanford University’s Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Program.

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  • Vakarchuk Says Ukraine Needs New Leaders, But Will He Be One?

    For months now, political junkies and ordinary Ukrainians have debated whether their beloved rock star Slava Vakarchuk will run for president in 2019. He’s got massive name recognition throughout the country.

    Even more, he’s one of the only reform-minded candidates who might be able to unify Ukraine’s fractious opposition.

    Last week I caught up with Vakarchuk at Stanford to celebrate the second class of its Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Program, an intensive 10-month program with just three spots. Vakarchuk participated in the 2017-2018 program, attending classes and living in California for much of the academic year. (He even claims that he read Francis Fukuyama’s dense tomes on the nature of the political order.) 

    I’d seen Vakarchuk three weeks earlier at the Yalta European Strategy meeting and was...

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  • Why Are Ukraine’s Authorities Trying to Intimidate a Top Investigative Journalist?

    This month, the European Court of Human Rights prevented Ukraine from backsliding in a major way. On September 18, it ordered the Ukrainian government to halt its efforts to access data from the cell phone of investigative journalist Natalia Sedletska for a month to give her an opportunity to file a full complaint to the ECHR.
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  • Will Ukraine’s Presidential Candidates Ever Get Real?

    This year’s Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference, known as the Ukrainian Davos, did not disappoint. Held in Kyiv on September 13-15, the meeting featured the obligatory celebrities and A-list dazzle. Bono turned up in purple-tinted glasses. Host Victor Pinchuk unveiled a silver spaceship-like creation by Japanese artist Marico Mori urging everyone to focus on the future. The American punk band Gogol Bordello was electric.

    But the real drama took place on the second day, when BBC HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur took to the stage to interview three leading presidential candidates, one at a time. He interviewed frontrunner and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, former defense minister and leading reform candidate Anatoily Gritsenko, and rock star Slava Vakarchuk, who may or may not be running.

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  • How to Lose a Presidential Election Before It Even Starts: Ukraine’s Top Reform Party Turns on Itself

    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...

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  • How Corruption Actually Works in Ukraine

    It’s standard fare in any article about Ukraine to mention the country's enormous, overwhelming, and everlasting corruption problem. It’s also incredibly boring, because hardly anyone has examples or knows how it actually works.

    In April, I sat down over coffee and sweets in Kyiv with investigative journalist Oleksa Shalayskiy, editor-in-chief of Nashi Groshi (Our Money), who explained in detail how corruption functions in Ukraine.

    Shalayskiy knows what he’s talking about. His watchdog organization regularly uncovers examples of corruption that the top anticorruption organizations use in their public crusades.

    But Shalayskiy is anything but loud. Soft-spoken and detail oriented, I had to lean forward multiple times and ask him to speak up.

    Shalayskiy said the problem is that officials still believe they must steal.

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