Georgian Parliamentary Delegation Official visit to Ukraine
The Georgian parliamentary delegation pays an official visit to Ukraine on April 19-21. The visit is led by the chairman of Georgian Parliament.
Delegation members are meeting Ukrainian lawmakers during the visit in Kiev. A meeting between the Speakers of the two countries is also planned. The sides will discuss issues of deepening cooperation and relations between the legislative bodies. The discussions on implementation of the Association Agreement and regional security issues are also scheduled.
Georgian Parliamentary delegation will meet Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk on April 21st.
The two sides will discuss important issues such as European integration, bilateral relations, future cooperation and the crisis of Ukraine.
Georgian Parliament’s representatives, Tedo Japaridze, Tinatin Khidasheli and Giorgi Vashadze also attend the meetings with the chairman David Usupashvili.
The Embassy of Switzerland welcomes the adoption of the constitutional amendments
The Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia welcomes the adoption of the constitutional amendments and trusts that the new electoral system will increase the representation of the different layers of society, including the minorities, within the new Parliament. Switzerland will assist Georgia to set up a fair and transparent electoral campaign, based on mutual respect and constructive compromise, and calls on all political actors and media to refrain from personal attacks, including against the members of the diplomatic corps.
Azerbaijan celebrates Republic Day: Relying on the roots and confidently looking to the future
Republic Day is a significant date in the life of Azerbaijan. On May 28, 1918, the Declaration of Independence of Azerbaijan was proclaimed in the historical Viceroy’s Palace in that time Tiflis. Thus, the centuries-old tradition of statehood of the Azerbaijani people was revived in a new form of secular democratic republic. Becoming the first republic in the Muslim East, Azerbaijan affirmed the equal rights of all its citizens, regardless of gender, religious, ethnic or social affiliation. In the country, earlier than among many leading European nations, women's suffrage was guaranteed. All ethnic groups were represented in the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).
Noteworthy is such an important circumstance as – ADR closely coordinated its efforts in the foreign policy arena with the Georgian Democratic Republic. So, in 1919, our countries concluded a defensive pact against the common threat posed by Denikin’s troops. The independence of both states was de facto recognized by the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers under a decision of January 11, 1920. It is truly symbolic that the sketch of the ADR coat of arms, taken as the basis of the current coat of arms of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was proposed by Prince Alexander Shervashidze, who was then in Baku.
Alas, that time global political situation did not allow Azerbaijan to maintain its independence. In April 1920, Baku was occupied by the Red Army. And less than a year later, the Georgian Democratic Republic fell under the blows of the Bolsheviks. All this once again demonstrated that the destinies of our countries are intertwined with history. The successes of one lead to the good of the other. And vice versa, the trouble of one is reflected in the next.
Being a part of the USSR, Azerbaijan also strove to develop friendly contacts with Georgia; outstanding representatives of the intelligentsia of both countries were connected by warm and close relations. Our peoples continued to crave for each other. The crown of this cooperation was the friendship between the leaders of the republics – Heydar Aliyev and Eduard Shevardnadze, whose activities laid the foundations for the restoration of the countries’ independence.
Returning to the leadership in Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union and taking the country away from the edge of the abyss in 1993, Heydar Aliyev began to systematically strengthen the foundations of statehood. He became a true architect of the today’s Republic of Azerbaijan, identifying key areas and a strategy for its development. It is no coincidence that the main export pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, the construction of which through the territory of Georgia became the triumph of Heydar Aliyev’s oil diplomacy, is inextricably linked with his name.
Relying on the strong foundation of modern effective statehood, the Republic of Azerbaijan, under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, has developed successes in all areas: reducing poverty from almost 45% in 2003 to less than 5% by now, developing social infrastructure, technological modernization, stimulating the non-oil sector, ensuring dynamic stability within the country and strengthening its prestige in the international arena. In this connection, it’s enough to recall at least such momentous events as the election of Azerbaijan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from a group of Eastern European states for 2012-2013 and the country's chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement, uniting 120 states, which began in 2019.
Azerbaijan is successfully building up cooperation in all significant vectors: from the European Union to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the Council of Europe, from NATO to UNESCO, etc. Of course, the strengthening of strategic partnership with neighboring countries occupies a special place in the system of priorities, and among them Georgia traditionally plays the role of our closest good neighbor, whose brotherhood has passed the test of the long history and the collisions of the present stage.
Our countries, like a hundred years ago, continue to coordinate their activities, invariably provide mutual support to each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Like a hundred years ago, we have similar problems, we feel common pain. One fifth of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan is under occupation. A fifth of Georgia’s territory has also been occupied.
The people and the state of Azerbaijan are determined to restore international law and justice, to ensure the violated rights of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing in their own country and forcibly expelled from their homes. Strengthening the Azerbaijani state’s power significantly increased the ability to assert its rights and eliminate the consequences of the illegal use of force against it. And everyone can be sure that the success of Azerbaijan in this direction will create conditions for improving the situation in the region as a whole.
Today, celebrating Republic Day, the Azerbaijani people rely on their own strengths and actively use the potential of international cooperation. We are convinced that only by developing a mutually beneficial partnership it’s possible to confidently continue forwarding on the path of progress and prosperity. In its turn, the progress and prosperity of Azerbaijan will always benefit its good neighbors and Georgia, of course, in the first instance.
Press Service of the Embassy
of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Georgia
Unprepared Ukraine must learn from Chornobyl firesAs war-torn and pandemic-hit Ukraine entered April 2020, the last thing the country needed was more drama. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
For much of the month, the coronavirus crisis and the ongoing conflict with Russia were both temporarily overshadowed by a spate of forest fires in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone that generated lurid international headlines and plunged Kyiv into apocalyptic gloom. These blazes exposed Ukraine’s unpreparedness for such emergencies and served as a grim warning of what may lie ahead during the long summer months in a country parched by an abnormally warm winter season that saw record high temperatures and virtually no snow.
When news of forest fires in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone first started to emerge in the days following April 4, it took more than a week for it to become a hot topic on Ukrainian social media (no pun intended). With most Ukrainians already stuck at home in the fourth week of coronavirus quarantine, images began spreading of woodland blazes along with satellite maps indicating proximity to the infamous atomic energy plant. For many in nearby Kyiv, the fires brought back memories of the 1986 nuclear disaster and sparked fears of a new atomic threat as acres of radioactive woodland went up in flames.
When the wind changed direction and began blowing directly towards Kyiv, a dense and ominous smog almost completely enveloped the sprawling Ukrainian capital. With trademark gallows humor, some Ukrainians likened the grim scenes to the advent of a biblical plague and wondered whether the River Dnipro would soon turn red. The accompanying air pollution, however, was no laughing matter. By the middle of April, Kyiv had risen to first place among the world’s most polluted cities according to global air pollution ranking IQAir.
Kyiv’s scores of 380 and 429 on April 16-17 were more than double the pollution levels registered in Indian capital Delhi and other cities more traditionally associated with chronically poor air quality.
The Ukrainian Health Ministry responded to the smoky scenes by issuing somewhat redundant guidelines for Kyiv’s already quarantined residents to remain indoors and close their windows. While the smoke shrouding the city posed obvious health risks, authorities were quick to downplay fears of a radiation threat. Officials from Ukraine’s State Emergency Service assured that radiation levels remained within the normal range everywhere except for the areas closest to the fires inside the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone itself. These claims were corroborated by numerous independent third parties monitoring the situation including tour guide Kateryna Aslamova, who was taking radiation readings in Kyiv’s picturesque riverside Podil district at the height of the wildfires on April 15.
Ukrainians were quick to praise the efforts of the firefighters working in the Chornobyl Zone, but there was also concern over an apparent lack of sufficient manpower and equipment to extinguish the blazes. Since the forest fires first began, head of Chornobyl Tour Yaroslav Yemelianenko led calls for the authorities to take stronger action. He also became involved in a volunteer drive to support the firefighters, working with the Association of Chornobyl Tour Operators to deliver much-needed provisions. According to Yemelianenko, the April 2020 blazes were the largest in the history of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. He said the severity of the wildfires underlined the need for a serious and comprehensive government response.
The global brand recognition that Chornobyl continues to enjoy meant April’s fires generated a flurry of international media coverage. Ukraine’s leaders were somewhat slower to react.
President Zelenskyy did not address the situation publicly until the tenth day of the fires following reports that the blaze was rapidly approaching the site of the former atomic energy plant. At around the same time, the Ukrainian parliament voted to significantly increase fines and penalties for anyone caught burning vegetation or breaching forest fire regulations. Meanwhile, sixteen days after the fires first began, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced the launch of an operation to combat arson in the region’s woodlands.
The exact cause of the fires remains undetermined. Some have been quick to suggest that the fires may have been started deliberately in order to create a new front in Russia’s ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine and further destabilize the situation in the country. Others have pointed the finger at more mundane arson. The widespread practice of burning crop stubble and other vegetation is the most possible contributing factor.
While the debate continues over the causes of the wildfires, the consequences are already all too clear. Yemelianenko says the impact of the recent blazes has been disastrous for nature, history and tourism. All three are deeply intertwined. In the 34 years since the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone was largely abandoned following the April 1986 nuclear disaster, it has become home to a unique collection of wildlife and fauna. This thriving ecosystem is now in grave danger.
Denys Vyshnevskiy of the Chornobyl Biosphere Reserve says valuable plant life and many smaller species may have been lost in the recent fires, which left large areas of woodland devastated.
The fragmentary nature of the blazes gives reason to hope that some animals survived, with larger species including the zone’s rare Przewalski’s wild horses along with wolves and bears managing to flee.
The ecologist argues that fires pose an unacceptable threat to the future of the zone not only because of the physical damage done to the forest, but because of the potential to cause spikes in radiation.In addition to the irreplaceable loss of Chornobyl’s unique nature, the wildfires also destroyed a number of settlements and historic buildings. “A total of 12 villages were lost in the flames, including some well-known tourist sites,” confirmed Yemelianenko. “Overall, the Chornobyl tourism industry lost about one-third of our assets, many of which were in the process of being added to UNESCO’s heritage list.”
The Association of Chornobyl Tour Operators is now raising money for firefighters and residents in and around the Exclusion Zone who lost their homes in the fires. With international interest in Chornobyl tourism currently at record highs thanks to the global success of HBO’s 2019 TV miniseries “Chernobyl”, it is hoped that routes can be adapted and restored to enable the continued expansion of the local tourism industry despite recent damage.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Ukraine is currently ill-equipped to deal with major forest fires. This is particularly alarming given the extremely dry conditions throughout the country. The Ukrainian authorities would be well advised to learn the lessons of April’s Chornobyl fires and prepare for more of the same during the coming months. Government officials should also follow up on recent EU offers to provide international assistance in combating future forest wildfires.
This article was first published by the Atlantic CouncilIRYNA MATVIYISHYNAnalyst and journalist at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine
Why Ukraine’s fight against the virus deserves a look
On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine’s fight against coronavirus. Although we don’t know what will happen next, something in Ukraine’s reaction to the virus deserves a second look.
On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine's fight against coronavirus. At this point, the country has been hit less by the virus than many other countries in Europe have. It does not even enter the top-30 in terms of the number of cases detected; its total death toll just passed 100 (with the daily toll mostly ranging between 5 and 10), compared to over 20,000 in the US, close to 20,000 in Spain, Italy and France, or over 3,000 in Germany.
Although we don't know what will happen next, something in Ukraine's reaction to the virus deserves a second look. The key thing: the country was incredibly fast to introduce a strict quarantine. It was introduced on March 11 when only 1 (!) case was detected. Ukraine closed its borders in mid-March, when the number of reported cases was below 10, with just 1 person dead from the virus.
This early action can be explained simply: Ukrainians are afraid of threats. They are used to them, they face them too often, and understand that sometimes you need to act quickly. Ukrainians enjoy little feeling of protection, a high feeling of a security vacuum and often prefer to act too early instead of too late.
Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, one of Ukraine's most wide-thinking intellectuals, likes to repeat that Ukrainians are perhaps the world's champions in survival. Security and safety values are those which Ukrainians share regardless of their region and which cross language, identity, religion and economic discrepancies.
According to World Values Survey's regular reports, Ukraine remains high in rational values, compared to traditionalist values; but low in terms of self-expression values, and much more inclined towards survival values. This means that Ukrainians, although more rational than we think them to be, will rather choose survival than development.
This is understandable given the peculiarities of Ukraine's history. Ukraine lost about 4 million people in Stalin's artificial famine in 1932-1933; about 1 million died in both the famines of the early 1920s and 1946-47. During World War II its population was reduced by a quarter: about 10 million people, of whom 3-4 million people died as Red Army soldiers; and out of 6 million Holocaust victims, 1 million come from Ukraine. Millions were also victims of the Soviet GULAG, as the Ukrainian intelligentsia was practically annihilated in the 1930s, and many prominent dissidents were sent to the GULAG after Khrushchev's short-lived Ottepel.
Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Ukrainian Donbas in 2014, and practically everyday news about deaths on the frontline ever since, merely added to this major feeling of insecurity that penetrates Ukrainian society. Add to this not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also recent forest fires in the Chornobyl area, during which Ukrainian society lived in fear that nuclear waste stores in the area would be affected.
The security vacuum is both external and internal. From outside as Ukraine lacks a security umbrella enjoyed (at least theoretically) by NATO member states, and from inside, as a Ukrainian citizen often sees law-enforcement services as an additional threat rather than protection.
There is a Ukrainian proverb that says it is better to overestimate a threat than to underestimate it. This was the logic behind the strict quarantine that was introduced so early.
Curiously, it is religion that could provoke spiraling in the number of coronavirus cases. Even more curiously, it comes from the Russian church in Ukraine (UPC-MP). Earlier, its Archbishop Pavel, head of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said that "one should not be afraid of" the epidemic and that the faithful should "hurry to church and hug one another". Not surprisingly, Lavra became one of the hot spots of the virus in Kyiv. Just recently, Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UPC-MP, said its churches will hold Easter Sunday services on 19 April -- contrary to quarantine measures and to calls made by other churches (including the newly-established Ukrainian autocephalous church) to stay home. If church attendance is not limited, crowds of people will go to churches on Easter Sunday and face huge risks of virus infection.
What happens this Sunday will also be a test as to how rational Ukrainians are, and whether survival instincts are strong enough to keep them at home.
However, if the security mindset succeeds, it might pose a global question for the future. Namely, should security logic dominate over liberty logic? Should "liberal" openness be victimized and blamed for the pandemic?
It is already being blamed by neo-authoritarian actors who see the pandemic as an additional argument to blame democracy and openness. It is increasingly used by Russian propaganda against the democratic world. With the coronavirus pandemic we are entering a new global debate, where liberal democracy will be brutally attacked.
In this situation, it is important that countries and communities make a clear distinction: more security does not mean less democracy. Limitations of freedom are tolerable when necessary for public health and public safety, but not as a tool to solve all other problems.
The need for a balance between security and freedom, which was stressed by many thinkers in Ukraine over recent years, needs to be real. A balance where freedom is the necessary and unavoidable pole, and security is regarded as the tool to protect our lives and our key values -- including freedom itself.
This material was first published by Ukraine VerstehenVOLODYMYR YERMOLENKOchief editor at UkraineWorld.org, director for analytics at Internews Ukraine
Ukrainian Online Attractions Worth Checking Out During Quarantine
Staying under quarantine due to the novel coronavirus poses challenges beyond just wearing masks and working from home. It also probably means you’re in for a lot of boredom, a lot of binge-watching, and a lot of scrolling your newsfeed. We’ve picked up the best Ukrainian online attractions that can help you to spend your quarantine time in Ukraine, wherever in the world you are!
Start with UkraineWOW, an interactive exhibition-trip around Ukraine and with Ukraine as a companion. It features a variety of rare items such as cubist works by Ukrainian-born sculptor Oleksandr Arkhypenko, silver hryvnia coins that date back to the Kyivan Rus, and much more. The virtual tour through the exhibition will not only show you why Ukraine is such a wowing country, but also give you the authentic feel of a journey by train that you may be missing during the quarantine.
- See also: Why Ukrainian Culture Is Interesting
If you are longing for outdoor activities, try going for a virtual walk through Ukrainian open-air museums. This website was created by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Google, and features seven open-air museums in different parts of the country. Guests can tour the unique ethnographic collection, learn more about their ancestors' lives, and feel the authenticity of Ukraine.
For those who can't imagine life without travel, there's the Explore Ukraine! movie by Ukrainer, where you can discover the whole of Ukraine from above in 36 minutes with. It will show you how huge, multi-faceted, and undiscovered Ukraine is. You can also take a 360° virtual bike ride in a video by the Ukrainian Institute to explore the main sites of Ukrainian cities.
Art lovers can enjoy a 3D-tour of the Khanenko Museum, the top world art museum in Ukraine. Its collection includes original artworks by outstanding European masters, such as Pieter Paul Rubens, Gentile Bellini, Juan de Zurbarán, Jacques-Louis David, and François Boucher. You can find here beautiful and rare pieces of Iranian, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese fine and decorative art, as well as small but interesting collections of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art.
The Odesa Western and Eastern Art Museum also has a large collection including works by Caravaggio, Gerard David, Jan van Scorel, Rubens, Abraham Bloemaert, Frans Hals, and others. Artwork from of China, Japan, India, Iran, and Tibet is also represented in the gallery, so you can discover the art of two continents at once while sitting on your sofa with the virtual tour around the museum.
Fans of performing arts who miss their visits to the theatre can follow the Lviv National Opera YouTube channel, which broadcasts opera and ballet every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The recordings of operas like Madame Butterfly, Nabucco, and Don Carlos are also available on the channel.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian pop musicians have followed the example of Robbie Williams and Coldplay and staged online shows, so you can listen to "home concerts" by Jamala, O.Torvald, The Hardkiss, MELOVIN, Fiolet, and NK. If you are looking for a more unique sound, also check out the Mariologia concert performed by the contemporary music vocal ensemble Alter Ratio. The concert was organised by the Ukrainian Institute in Vienna in 2019, but now you have a great opportunity to catch up.
In case your watch list is already empty, services that stream Ukrainian films can provide you with some interesting titles. The brand new online Ukrainian cinema site Takflix provides English subtitles for all the films it streams. Its movie library is not large, but already some great films on offer, including "Hutsulka Ksenya," a musical about love and discovery in the Carpathian Mountains, and "Heat Singers," a documentary about utility workers in Ivano-Frankivsk who also love to sing. If you are fond of documentaries, also check out Docuspace. The films on it tell the stories of Ukrainians trying to make positive changes in their country and communities.
The Ukrainian online-TV service OLL.tv also offers some Ukrainian movies for English-speaking audiences. One of these is the famous Ukrainian film "The Tribe" by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, which won four prizes at Cannes Film Festival in 2014. The plot of this social drama evolves in Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf people, so the story is told entirely through sign language.
There's no reason to be bored, annoyed, or angry about staying home under quarantine now - take it as a chance to learn more about Ukraine.MARIA SIDENKOjournalist at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine