Eastern Europe

  • Complications in Tbilisi’s Friendship with Kyiv

    Georgia and Ukraine have become close political allies over the last two decades. That closeness may be currently under threat, however. Despite the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s groundbreaking autocephaly, or independence, from the Russian Orthodox Church at the beginning of 2019, the Georgian Orthodox Church has failed to congratulate Ukrainian authorities or take any official position on the move, which also reveals tensions within the Georgian Orthodox Church. Given the importance of the Orthodox Churches in both Georgia and Ukraine, Tbilisi’s lasting silence on Ukrainian autocephaly could spill over into political affairs, and create a schism in diplomatic relations and strategic cooperation between the countries. 


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  • Why the West Should Be Worried about Ukraine’s Flagging Fight against Graft

    The last week of February was a great one for corrupt officials in Ukraine. They finally got off scot-free. Ukraine’s Constitutional Court (CCU) eliminated criminal liability for illicit enrichment. This decision is a major step back in Ukraine’s struggle to fight high-level corruption. (Incidentally, the US Ambassador to Ukraine agrees with this assessment.) And the timing is not accidental either.


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  • Aslund Quoted in Bloomberg on Upcoming Ukraine Presidential Election


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  • Karatnycky in Politico Europe: Why the West loves Poroshenko again


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  • Nimmo quoted in Politico on Facebook removing accounts in UK and Romania


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  • What a $2.8 Million Scheme to Rip Off the State Says about Corruption in Ukraine

    Fictional houses, “dead souls,” but real embezzlement — it sounds like the plot of a horror film. But it’s actually a corruption scheme that ran for over eight years in Ukraine’s Kirovograd Oblast.

    From 2009 to 2017, the management of the regional gas distribution company, Kirovogradgaz, inserted hundreds of fictional addresses into its electronic billing system, according to a police filing. As a rule, the addresses were nonexistent houses with fake house numbers located on real streets. The fake houses were occupied by imaginary residents. Each fake house came with an account number, also fictional.

    In those more than eight years, these “dead souls” — named after the novel by 18th century Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol — “consumed” 9.8 million cubic meters of natural gas subsidized for household consumers and worth around $2.83 million. While it is impossible to trace where that gas went, few have any doubts: it was resold to industry at a markup.

    Energy sector specialists had long suspected that this scheme existed. However, it was only revealed after June 2017, when Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz, which owns 51 percent of Kirovogradgaz’s shares, was able to wrest control of the company from its previous management.

    This plot is the subject of my latest investigation for the Kyiv Post, and it offers a window into the type of scheme that many believe is still operating across Ukraine.


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  • Simakovsky quoted in Newsweek on Trump Administration weighing sending more lethal aid to Ukraine to combat Russia


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  • Could Zelenskiy Be a Reformer?

    Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy tops the polls in Ukraine and may be the next president. Some argue that Zelenskiy is the country’s only shot at reform and that he might be able to break the old system.    

    Could Zelenskiy be a reformer?

    The short answer is: No. Here’s why.


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  • European Involvement with Nord Stream 2 Is a Deal with the Devil

    Since having seized Ukrainian territory and energy installations in 2014, Russia and its gas company, Gazprom, have been waging systematic economic warfare against Ukraine in an attempt to destroy Naftogaz—Ukraine’s energy company and the single biggest source of state revenue—and the Ukrainian state. To date, however, Russia has failed. Indeed, Naftogaz won three arbitral awards against Gazprom in 2017 and 2018; these were about Gazprom’s efforts to divert gas using the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, blocking Central Asian gas from traveling through Ukraine. But Gazprom has refused to pay the $2.6 billion arbitration award granted to Naftogaz. Instead, Russia is blocking that award, building Nord Stream 2, and trying to use the pipeline to suffocate Ukraine’s economy and strengthen its grip on European energy supplies.


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  • Their Brand Is Crisis

    Exactly five years ago, the country’s most important independent crisis communications center was set up in Kyiv in less than forty-eight hours. It started with a text message and a series of phone calls.


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