Eastern Europe

  • Political Gridlock in Moldova

    Almost four months after parliamentary elections it is still unclear who will govern Moldova, a small Eastern European country and former Soviet republic. Disputes over a coalition government mean that there are now competing claims of legitimacy that have caused political gridlock.

    Although representatives from the pro-Russia Socialist Party and the pro-European Union ACUM bloc reached an agreement on June 8 to form a coalition government, the deal was challenged by the Democratic Party, which argued to the Constitutional Court that it was formalized after the official deadline, meaning snap elections needed to be called.

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  • Zelensky, Zelenskiy, Zelenskyy: Spelling Confusion Doesn’t Help Ukraine  

    It would be unfair to expect Ukraine’s novice president to take over the reins of Europe’s largest country seamlessly. However, knowing how to spell his own name in English would seem a more realistic expectation. This did not appear to be the case during the first days of his administration, or at least that was the impression created by the range of different spellings used in various government communiques and official social media accounts. This sparked a lively debate among English-language journalists and commentators covering Ukraine, with some favoring the succinct “Zelensky,” while others argued the case for the more puritan “Zelenskyi” (For the record, this author championed “Zelenskiy,” which is how the Atlantic Council has rendered his name until now). Clarity came suddenly in late May, when the presidential administration confounded everyone by adopting the previously unfancied “Zelenskyy” as the official English-language spelling of the new president’s name.

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  • How Kolomoisky Does Business in the United States

    On May 21, the nationalized Ukrainian PrivatBank filed a remarkable civil case against its prior owners Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov in the state court of Delaware. The three co-defendants are US citizens in Miami and nineteen anonymous companies.

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  • Seven Dangers of Engaging with the Occupied Donbas—and Opportunities for the New Ukrainian President

    Ukraine’s new president says he wants to end the Russian-backed war in the country’s east. However, it won’t be easy. There are at least seven dangers of engaging with the occupied territories of the Donbas. The first danger is that a class of highly educated and trained leaders is completely absent. All key positions, whether in the military or within major industrial assets, are possessed and controlled by Russians. This makes any genuine negotiations impossible, since these people represent neither the local population nor themselves: they only transmit orders from the Kremlin.

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  • Cheap Gas is Too Costly

    On May 20, Volodymyr Zelenskiy was inaugurated Ukraine’s seventh president. In his inaugural address, he demonstrated a resoluteness that should put an end to the annoying journalistic cliché of a “comedian-president.” Taking such firm actions as dissolving parliament and requesting the resignations of key officials within minutes of taking office in front of the very same people, he demonstrated a full understanding of Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite weapon, the bully pulpit.

    Transferring his communication skills to governance is surely a good thing in general, but may be particularly important on the issue of gas prices. Many voters probably hope that Zelenskiy is such a good guy that he will reward them by going back to the old days of cheap gas. Here is an opportunity to move early and explain to people why seemingly cheap gas is in fact much too costly for the country and its citizens.

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  • Zelenskiy's Golden Opportunity to Challenge the Oligarchs and Bring Real News to Ukraine's Airwaves

    Ukraine’s recent presidential election demonstrates that the country needs an effective independent public broadcaster more than ever.

    An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians get their news from TV, but all of the country’s biggest channels are owned by oligarchs. In its assessment of the Ukrainian election, the OSCE Election Observation Mission found that these privately-owned channels “provided imbalanced and biased coverage… and continued to follow their owners’ political agenda.”

    Indeed, in the first round of voting, Ukraina, a station owned by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, gave disproportionate coverage to Olekandr Vilkul of Opposition Bloc and Oleh Lyashko of the Radical Party. Ihor Kolomoyski’s 1+1 gave a majority of its airtime to Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Dmytro Firtash and Serhiy Lyovochkin’s Inter was visibly for Yuriy Boyko of Opposition Platform-For Life.

    This is nothing new for Ukraine, and the lack of high quality, impartial news is something that was supposed to be addressed by the creation of a public service broadcaster. The process was initiated five years ago but it’s hard not to view the broadcaster, UA:PBC, as a failure.

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  • Ukraine's Hard Road to Europe

    "Ukraine's Hard Road to Europe"

    Speech by Ambassador Daniel Fried
    Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council

    National Forum - Transformation of Ukraine
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    June 4, 2019

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  • The Right Man for the Right Time  

    “God probably has a great sense of humor,” reckons Borys Gudziak, president of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. The US-born archbishop transformed what was designed to be the Soviet communist party’s atheist ideology center in western Ukraine into a thriving catholic university.

    The irony of this transformation is not lost on him. Only thirty years ago, the Ukrainian Catholic Church was the world’s largest banned religious organization. Its bishops and priests in the Soviet Union were jailed and harassed. Today the Church’s archbishop heads one of Ukraine’s top universities that many regard as the Harvard of Ukraine. Gudziak is widely respected and recognized as a key moral authority in an independent, predominately orthodox, Ukraine.

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  • What Ukraine's New President Cannot Afford to Overlook

    President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s resounding victory in April underscored Ukrainians’ desire for change. Proclaiming his commitment to overhauling the entire system, the new president has announced five short-term priorities: change the electoral law, restore criminal liability for unlawful enrichment, and remove the parliamentary immunity of deputies, as well as reform the legal system and eradicate corruption.

    The economic challenges, ranging from boosting economic growth, to paying off immense loans and staying afloat while facing social discontent, remain formidable. Other experts have offered their advice on this.

    Law and order, and security, are jointly a critical dimension, and arguably the most important issues Zelenskiy faces.

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  • A Tale of Two Bridges

    On May 25, Kyiv Mayor VitalyKlitschko and his brother jumped up and down on a smart, new glass bridge in Kyiv, Ukraine. The video went viral and thousands crowded the pedestrian bridge that connects Volodymyr Hill with Khreschatyk Park. Destined to become one of the most popular attractions in the city as a result of its prime location, magnificent landscape, and modern design, the bridge is already starting to show signs of wear. Ironically, the new panorama opens to a less celebrated bridge that puts the safety of millions in jeopardy. It’s one that the mayor and Kyiv City State Administration have ignored. To its right, the metro bridge across Rusanovsky Strait connects the left and right banks of the city. Millions use it daily to move from home to work. Experts found that the bridge needs to be closed immediately.

    The new bridge is not merely a tourist attraction but also an indictment of the mismanagement of Kyiv City State Administration executives.

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