Congratulatory Letter to the newly elected President of Ukraine

Published in World
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 20:48

On the 1st of May 2019, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has sent a congratulatory letter to the newly elected President of Ukraine Vladimir Aleksandrovich Zelenskiy on his election to the high state post.  

5th Ukrainian Film Festival “Ukraine in Focus” is starting in Tbilisi

Published in Culture
Monday, 29 April 2019 10:00

Modern Ukrainian films will be shown in Amirani during May 2-5, 2019 with English and Georgian subtitles

The 5th Ukrainian Film Festival “Ukraine in focus” is starting in Tbilisi on May 2, 2019. Modern Ukrainian movies will be shown in Amirani Cinema (M. Kostava Street No 36/1) during May 2-5 in original language accompanied with English and Georgian subtitles. Poster and event details are available at Official Facebook page of the festival .

The festival “Ukraine in focus” will be opened with a movie “The Wild Fields” (2018) by director Yaroslav Lodygin on May 2, 2019 at 8 pm in Amirani Cinema. Later, during May 3-5, the following movies will be shown in the frameworks of the festival: “The Gateway” (feature film by director Volodymyr Tikhiy, 2017), “Volcano” (Feature film by director Roman Bondarchuk, 2018), Comedy movie “Hero of My Time” (directed by Antonina Noyabrova, 2018), “When the trees fall” (directed by Marysya Nikitiuk, 2018) and selection of short films - winners of Odessa International Film Festival.

As a tradition of 5 years history of the Ukrainian Film Festival in Georgia, the special program for the young audience was prepared. Children and youth can enjoy the following modern feature movies: “Adventures of S Nicholas” (directed by Semen Gorov, 2018) and “Morshyn’s 11” (directed by Arkadii Nepytaliuk, 2019).   

Tickets for the festival movies can be purchased on, and with a symbolic price of 1 GEL. Therefore, it is highly recommended to buy tickets in advance to secure the available seats.

In addition to the main festival program, an actor’s workshop for kids from famous Ukrainian actors Irma Vitovska and Daria Polunina will take place on May 4, at 2 pm in Amirani Cinema. This activity without any age restriction will involve children in the magic world of cinema and give the possibility to step in actor’s shoes.

Maria Moskalenko, organizer of the event, states: „Ukrainian Film Festival will be held in Tbilisi for already 5th time, and every year this extraordinary event is visited by movie fans of different age and nationality. This year, modern films of various genres were selected and we hope that each attendant will have an opportunity to watch the show in which he/she is interested, familiarize with the world of the Ukrainian films and take something really special from the festival.”

Organizers of the festival are FX Film Georgia and JS Films. The event will be held with the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, State Agency of Cinema of Ukraine, Embassy of Ukraine in Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall, Georgian National Film Center and Odessa International Film Festival.


Ukraine says Russian coast guard fired on vessels in Black Sea

Published in military
Monday, 26 November 2018 10:28

By The Associated Press: Two Ukrainian navy artillery boats and a tugboat were transiting from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.

MOSCOW — The Ukrainian navy said Sunday that Russia’s coast guard opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and wounded two crew members in the Black Sea following a tense standoff off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine's navy said that two of its vessels were struck and that Russian coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat and seized them. The Russian Federal Security Service, known as the FSB and which is in charge of the coast guard, said that it has evidence that Ukraine was responsible for the clashes.

"There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations ... in the Black Sea," the FSB said in a statement. "These materials will soon be made public."

There have been growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has steadily worked to increase its zone of control around the peninsula.

Earlier Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over another incident involving the same three vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the Kerch Strait.

The Ukrainian vessels apparently wanted to travel through the strait to other ports in Ukraine, and Ukrainian authorities said they had given advance notice to the Russians.

The tensions began Sunday morning. Russia's coast guard said that the three Ukrainian vessels made an unauthorized crossing through Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine alleged that one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel.

The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water nestled between Crimea and the Russian mainland.

The incident began after the Ukrainian navy claimed a Russian coast guard vessel rammed one of its tugboats, which was traveling with two Ukrainian navy artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait.

"Russian coast guard vessels ... carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships," the Ukrainian navy statement said. It said a Russian coast guard ship damaged the tugboat's engine, hull, side railing and a lifeboat.

The statement added that Russia had been informed in advance about the planned journey.

Russia then blocked off the strait.

The Kerch Strait is the only passage into the Sea of Azov beyond it. The strait is crossed by the recently completed Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to Russia. Transit under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker ship, and dozens of cargo ships awaiting passage are stuck.

Russia has not given any indication of how long it will keep the strait blocked off, but a long-term closure to civilian traffic would amount to an economic blockade of Ukrainian cities on the Azov coast. And Russia's Black Sea Fleet greatly outmatches the Ukrainian navy.

Ukrainian cities on the Sea of Azov include strategically vital centers such as Mariupol — the closest government-controlled city to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

The FSB told Russian news agencies Sunday after the first incident that the Ukrainian ships held their course and violated Russian territorial waters. The FSB accused the Ukrainian navy of staging a provocation against Russia.

"Their goal is clear," an FSB statement said — "to create a conflict situation in the region." The statement didn't mention ramming a Ukrainian tugboat.

Though a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that Russia's actions were a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, and pledged to "promptly inform our partners about Russia's aggressive actions."

"Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region," the statement said, "and therefore require a clear response from the international community."

Dmitry Kiselyov, a commentator on the state-controlled Rossiya channel, told viewers of his Sunday evening news program that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — encouraged by the U.S. — is looking to pick a fight with Russia in the Black Sea.

The talk show host also said that the U.S. talked Poroshenko into staging a provocation against Russia as a means to disrupt the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at this week's Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

"What is happening now at the (Kerch) bridge threatens to turn into a very unpleasant story," Kiselyov warned.

-- The Associated Press


Poisonous Link - Why Russia’s Crimea Bridge Is Dangerous for Ukraine and the Black Sea Region

Published in World
Monday, 25 June 2018 02:36

On 14 March, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his last destination in the pre-election tour—occupied Crimea. The first thing he inspected there was the Crimea bridge, a project set to link continental Russia with the newly-annexed territory.

Currently, Russians have to deliver goods and people to the peninsula only via planes, ships or ferries, as there is no connection by land. In order to change this, the Kremlin decided to build a 19-kilometer-long bridge across the Kerch Strait which separates Crimea from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai. The project was agreed in January 2015. The contract for the construction worth $3 billion was signed with SGM Group, which belongs to Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Putin.

In May 2015, construction of the bridge commenced; the road bridge is planned to open on 18 December, 2018, while completion of the rail link has been delayed until the end of 2019. Delays have increased the cost of the project significantly. As of 1 March, 2018, the project’s costs had exceeded $4 billion.

Meanwhile, even at the construction stage, the bridge causes irreversible harm to the ecology of the Black Sea and Azov Sea. Additionally, it also damages Ukraine’s economy and puts political pressure on Kyiv. Here are the major reasons why the Crimea bridge is dangerous for Ukraine and for the entire Black Sea region.


The bridge damages Ukraine’s economy

As the Azov Sea is the place where Ukrainian and Russian economic interests intersect, this Russian project will inevitably damage the economy of the region and Ukraine as a whole.

First and foremost, the project of Crimea bridge set limits on the number of ships which head to Azov Sea ports through the Kerch Strait. Konstantin Batozsky, the director of Azov Development Agency, explains to UkraineWorld that all ships longer than 160m, wider than 31m, whose draft is bigger than 8 meters, or are higher than 33 meters, will not physically be able to pass under the bridge. Panamax ships, a popular type of cargo vessels, do not fit in these limits.  “This will limit the amount and range of cargo which could be shipped to and from Mariupol and Berdyansk — Ukrainian Azov Sea ports — significantly,” says Batozsky. For instance, metallurgy products and containers will now have to be shipped through Black Sea ports. This fact means that more money will be spent on the transportation of goods by land, while the infrastructure of the ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk will degenerate. Such a scenario could lead to enormous non-receipt of profits, which would add up to those sums caused by the annexation of Crimea.

Additionally, these limits potentially do not allow Ukraine to potentially launch gas and oil field exploration in the shelf of the Azov Sea. Offshore equipment necessary for the exploration is larger than the limits set by the Crimea bridge, Batozsky points out. As a result, this option for Ukraine to strengthen its energy security is closed.

It is an instrument of Russian aggression against Ukraine

The Crimea bridge is first and foremost a political project, which is aimed to achieve several goals with one shot.

First, it is set to secure the annexation of Crimea. “For Putin, the Crimea Bridge is comparable to the Baikal–Amur Mainline [a major railroad built in the Soviet Union to connect Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East],” says Alim Aliyev, the manager of The Crimea House, in a conversation with UkraineWorld. According to him, Putin intends to use the bridge to show people in Crimea that Russia cares about them. Meanwhile, the bridge would allow Russia to move all kinds of cargo quickly to the peninsula, including military equipment, thus securing the annexation.

Second, Russia, will be able to close the Kerch Strait for all ships. Such a move would effectively turn the Azov Sea into a lake and enable a trade blockade of Ukrainian ports. Russia could use this in number of ways. For instance, the blockade could be leverage to make Kyiv resume energy and water supplies to the peninsula.

It should be noted that Russia’s actions violate the previous agreement between Ukraine and Russia on common use of the Kerch Strait. Russia also goes against the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which says that states bordering straits shall not hinder transit passage and shall inform accordingly about any known threats to navigation in the strait. This potentially gives Ukraine an opportunity to sue Russia, but this has not happened so far. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not respond to UkraineWorld comment request regarding this.

It is potentially dangerous for the ecosystem of the Black and Azov Seas

Construction works have already had an effect on the ecosystem of the Black and Azov Seas, says Alim Aliev, the manager of The Crimea House, in a conversation with UkraineWorld. When the bridge is finished, the danger will be even more real.

Due to mud volcanoes, seismic activity and a sludgy bottom, the Kerch Strait is hardly suitable for a bridge. Heorhiy Rosnovsky, a Ukrainian architect who has previously drafted two projects of a Kerch Strait bridge, tells Focus magazine in an interview that Russia has chosen the least viable option to implement the project. He says that the current project does not take all the above-mentioned problematic factors into account, so the chance of collapse is rather high.  The collapse of a massive bridge with wide piers would inevitably slow down water flows between the seas through the Kerch Strait. While construction already results in a change of the living environment for all the organisms in both seas, the bridge’s collapse would be a catastrophe. However, the full scale of the bridge’s influence on the Azov and Black Seas cannot be forecast at the present time.

Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko announced on 12 December, 2017 that Ukraine will submit an appeal to the countries of the Black Sea Cooperation for an investigation to be carried out of the potential damage of the bridge to the ecosystem. However, as of March 2018 no conclusions had been published.

Few considerations, no regards

There is no doubt that the Crimea Bridge will be completed. Pavlo Kazarin, journalist and observer at Krym.Realii, pointed out in a commentary for UkraineWorld that for Putin this project is one of those cases which prove his imperial ambitions. “It does not matter how much money it will cost, as he [Putin] is the one who allocates the funds. The construction could encounter major delays, but it will be completed eventually,” he emphasized.

Putin’s imperial ambitions and vanity have pushed him to rush the Crimea bridge project. Hopefully, haste and corruption during the construction works will not cause its destruction. However, the damage to the region of the Black and Azov Seas, as well as to the Ukrainian economy, has already been done.

Vitalii Rybak is an analyst at Internews Ukraine and at UkraineWorld, an information and networking initiative.

This article has been first published on


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Nationalism Is on the Rise in Ukraine, and That’s a Good Thing

Published in World
Monday, 18 June 2018 02:58

The Euromaidan revolution and ongoing Russian aggression have united the nation like never before. People of various origins, both Russian and Ukrainian speakers, stood up to the pro-Russian regime of Viktor Yanukovych, and now they resist Russia’s efforts to reimpose influence over Ukraine.

As a result, nationalism is a part of everyday life for the first time. Many people feel national pride and willingness to defend the nation; however, these feelings always have a tinge of ambiguity as they fluctuate between ethnic and civic conceptions of the nation.

Before 2013, the boundaries of belonging were blurred. Many were more preoccupied with economic well-being and survival. It was only before elections that politicians artificially sharpened social divisions around such issues as language, regional identification, and geopolitical orientation to mobilize the electorate.

Post-Maidan Ukraine looks different. Many think that you are Ukrainian irrespective of language or ethnic origins; it’s important that one is loyal to Ukraine as an independent state and political project. This nationalism tries to be inclusive. It attempts to promote liberal and democratic values of freedom, tolerance, diversity, and individual rights.

Civic nationalism has become stronger in recent years.

In 2015, 56 percent of Ukrainians considered the Ukrainian nation as a composite of all citizens. This is 17 percent more than in 2007, according to Razumkov Centre surveys.


Also, after the annexation of Crimea many Crimean Tatars moved to mainland Ukraine. New Muslim centers were created, and more women wear headscarves in public. All of this is perceived positively, said Vyacheslav Likhachev, an expert at the Ukrainian Congress of National Communities, “because Crimean Tatars support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and oppose Russia. The level of Islamophobia is falling significantly.”

However, not everyone agrees that civic nationalism is on the rise. “During the revolutionary upheavals in 2014 as well as in 2004, there was the impression that a new civic nation is emerging in Ukraine. But this impression soon waned. In general, Ukraine has not experienced any qualitative changes in terms of nationalism,” said Anton Shekhovtsov, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. However, he recognizes that Ukrainians have greater loyalty toward the state and a stronger civil society, though it still lacks real political influence.

Shades of blood-and-soil nationalism 

It’s almost impossible to find pure ethnic or a pure civic nationalism in today’s Ukraine. The emerging Ukrainian nation has some apparent blood-and-soil elements: some are positive, others are not.

Some ethnic elements are reinforced because of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Rejecting Russian culture, which dominated the Ukrainian space for centuries, many Ukrainians are going back to their roots.

Ukrainian culture is thriving as never before. Traditional folklore motives are more often present in modern music, fashion, theatre, and cinema.

Language is an important sign of belonging. According to the Razumkov Centre, 17 percent of Ukrainians consider speaking the Ukrainian language an important element of belonging to the Ukrainian nation, which is 2 percent more than in 2007.

More radical elements are also on the rise, which is worrisome. Far-right movements were visible during the Euromaidan. Many members of the Azov Regiment—initially a volunteer militia fighting in eastern Ukraine and now a part of the national gendarmerie—support far-right ideology. Earlier this year members of the NGO ‘The Natsionalni Druzhyny’ (National Militia Units), founded by veterans of the far-right Azov regiment, marched in the center of Kyiv.

Despite being more visible, far-right movements do not have wide support. No far-right party managed to meet the 5 percent threshold and enter the Ukrainian parliament during the 2014 elections. According to a recent survey, only around 3 percent would vote for the nationalist party Svoboda and 0.3 percent for the more radical Right Sector.

“The voice of far-right movements is now much louder than before 2013. They attract more members, especially youth. Their slogans are more popular. But they are not among decision-makers,” said Maksym Butkevych, a Ukrainian activist, human rights defender, and coordinator with the No Borders non-profit project.

Some xenophobic elements linger in Ukrainian society.  “Radical nationalism is very weak in Ukraine and does not affect the everyday lives of Ukrainians. Although racism, homophobia, and negative sentiments to Roma are quite widespread in Ukrainian society, the main problem is not individual xenophobic sentiment but the lack of responsibility for public expression of such views. At the same time, Western pressure helps to strengthen the imperative of tolerance in Ukraine,” noted Volodymyr Kulyk, head research fellow at Ukraine’s National Academy of Science’s Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies.

Even still, the new nation built after the Maidan shows many signs of inclusiveness. More citizens believe that people from different ethnic origins or those who speak other languages are their compatriots. A new impulse of affection toward their country is what shapes this greater unity. It is important, however, not to let this affection turn into new thinking that pits “us” against “them.” Nationalism can be civic and liberal, but it can easily turn into its opposite.

Ruslan Minich is an analyst at Internews Ukraine and at UkraineWorld, an information and networking initiative.

This article has been first published at the Atlantic Council

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From Medieval State to Inter-war Nationalists: the 5 Most Heated Controversies Over Ukrainian History

Published in World
Monday, 11 June 2018 02:16

Ukraine is a young polycultural state with short-term and interrupted experience of nation building. That is why Ukrainian society often lacks mutual understanding in its perception of national identity and culture. One of the consequences of this problem are the numerous conflicts and controversies over the perception of Ukraine`s past and its meaning for the present.

Controversies over history have traditionally had a huge impact on Ukrainian political and cultural life. Ukrainian politicians quite often refer to history so as to blame opponents or legitimize their own political goals. Furthermore, historical issues turn into a tool of political fighting not only inside Ukraine, but also during diplomatic conflicts with other states.

In this article, we will uncover 5 of the most controversial topics in Ukrainian history, which often fuel political and social confrontations inside or outside of Ukraine.


Heritage of Kyivan Rus’: pre-Russian or pre-Ukrainian state

Author: Alexostrov

Kyivan Rus’ – a big and influential medieval state (late 9th – mid 13th centuries) of East Slavic tribes. The battle for the political heritage of Kyivan Rus’ started right from the moment of the state`s collapse, while the struggle for cultural heritage of Kyivan Rus’ between Ukraine and Russia is still a current topic right now. Soviet historians used the highly politicized concept of the «old Russian nation» (from which the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian nations were formed later), which created Kyivan Rus’. This concept isn`t accepted now, either by Ukrainian, or by Russian historians any longer. Instead, both countries are trying to insert the ancient state into their own national historical narrative.

For instance, part of modern Russian history textbooks refused from the traditional term of «Kyivan Rus’» and moved to use the term «Ancient Russian state» (Drevnerusskoye gosudarstvo) so as to deprive this term of any associations with Ukraine. In 2016 a big monument was built in Moscow to Kyiv`s Prince Volodymyr the Great. The design and size of the monument are very reminiscent of Prince Volodymyr`s monument in Kyiv, which was built in 1853 (on photo).

In 2017 during a diplomatic speech in Paris, Vladimir Putin said that French-Russian relations date back to an 11th century French queen whom he called «Russian Anna». Ukraine`s official twitter responded to that by saying that Moscow did not yet exist when Anne de Kyiv married French King Henry I in 1051. This funny twitter feud attracted the attention of several international media outlets.


Holodomor genocide question

Author: DixonD

Holodomor – massive artificial famine of Ukrainian peasants in the Soviet Union in 1932-1933. The disclosure of information about the famine played an important role in the activities of the Ukrainian national-democratic opposition during the last years of the Soviet Union.

In independent Ukraine, President Victor Yushchenko (2005-2010) held an active campaign to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor and to raise the level of public knowledge about it. The president tried to establish the perception of Holodomor in similar status to the status of the Holocaust in Europe. For instance, he proposed to install the criminal liability for denial of the Holodomor. This idea was met by massive protests from opposition parties and sparked big political discussion in Ukraine. Besides, Yushchenko tried to make the Holodomor internationally recognized as genocide of the Ukrainian people. During 2005-2010, 14 countries proclaimed the famine of 1933 in Ukraine as genocide. It started significant diplomatic conflicts with the Russian Federation. Moscow tried to convince other states that the famine can`t be called genocide, because all Soviet nations suffered from hunger in 1932-1933.

Despite the fact that political conflicts over the Holodomor`s perceptions are not topical in Ukraine right now, they still could return to Ukraine`s political agenda. In November 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed the idea to provide criminal liability for non-recognition of the Holodomor and the Holocaust.


Ukrainian nationalist underground of WWII: fighters for independence or Nazi collaborators

Source: Wikipedia

The organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a Ukrainian inter-war right-wing radical political organization, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), controlled by OUN, seems to be the most noticeable heroes of the political and military struggle for independence of Ukraine in the 20th century. However, their radical nationalistic ideology, episodes of collaboration with the Nazis and participation in interethnic conflicts made their reputation ambiguous.

Soviet historiography portrayed OUN and UPA as «fascists» and «traitors». Appeals to OUN`s legacy are still actively used by Russian propaganda to portray Ukrainians as nationalists. The word «banderovets» (from the name of OUN(B) leader Stepan Bandera) is used in Russian public discourse as a negative label to tar Ukrainians with.

The figure of Stepan Bandera was turned into a cult one in western Ukraine (the main area of OUN`s activity). More than 40 of his monuments were installed in this region in the course of 28 years of independence.

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko promoted the idea of reconciliation of  Red Army veterans with UPA soldiers and UPA`s legal recognition as veterans of WWII. In response to this, opposition parties established monuments and exhibitions to UPA victims in eastern Ukrainian cities (where UPA actually never conducted any activities) and accused the president of nationalism.

The popularity of OUN and UPA in Ukraine rose after 2014. The veneration and honoring of the WWII nationalist underground, as the the most revealing historical example of an armed struggle by Ukraine with Moscow-led forces in the XX century, increased after the start of the Russian-Ukrainian hybrid war in 2014. In 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament legally proclaimed OUN and UPA as fighters for Ukrainian independence. OUN`s greeting of «Glory to Ukraine! – Glory to heroes!» acquired wide popularity in Ukraine after the Euromaidan events of 2013-2014, because it was actively used by protesters.

Starting from the middle of the 2010-s discussion over the nationalist underground unexpectedly turned to the Polish-Ukrainian one. In 2016 the Polish Parliament officially proclaimed the massacres of 1943 in Volhynia region as genocide of Polish people, organized by UPA. Most Ukrainian historians don’t recognize this definition and emphasize that ethnic cleansing in Volhynia was executed mutually by the Polish and Ukrainian sides. In 2018, Poland introduced criminal responsibility for denial of «the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists». As a result, Ukrainian-Polish relations significantly deteriorated.


WWII results for Ukraine: liberation or reoccupation

Author: Віктор Полянко

The concept of the Great Victory in the Great Patriotic War and liberation of Europe by Soviet army became a cornerstone of both Soviet and current Russian identities. At the same time, the majority of Central-Eastern European nations perceive their sufferings in WWII as being victims «between the flames of two totalitarian regimes» since the end of the war marked their dependence on the Soviet Union. Both described strategies of memories about WWII competed with varying success in different public spheres in Ukraine before 2014.

The start of the Russian-Ukrainian hybrid war changed the perception of WWII in Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists actively relied on the Soviet memory model of World War II for the legitimization of their actions. For example, the separatist tanks’ markings «To Kyiv!» echoed the Red Army’s slogan «To Berlin!» Moreover, the Ribbon of Saint George, the main Russian modern commemoration symbol of Victory Day, had become a main symbol of «D(L)NR» separatists, who aimed to portray their war against the Ukrainian army as another war against fascism.

This resulted in the rethinking of World War II commemorations in Ukraine. The Remembrance Poppy (British and American traditional symbol of commemoration of fallen soldiers) shaped as a gunsight with the motto “Nikoly znovu” (Never again) became the new official symbol of Victory Day commemorations from 2014. The symbol shows a will to use Europe-wide forms of commemoration and to replace the triumphal perception of the Great Victory in WWII with victim memory forms, more common in Europe. The Ukrainian National Institute of National Remembrance noted that the «perception of the Second World War as the Great Patriotic War, the revival of the Soviet traditions of celebrating Victory Day is used to restore and strengthen the ideological influence of Russia in post-Soviet space». Ukraine also started to carry out most commemorations of WWII on May 8 instead of May 9, in accordance with European traditions.

Thus, different models of the perception of WWII served the identity of belligerents of the Russian-Ukrainian hybrid war.


Soviet regime in Ukraine: occupation or common responsibility

De-Sovietization, which in Ukraine was mostly reduced to the fight against object of Soviet cultural legacy (such as monuments, holidays or street and city names), turned into one of the most noticeable trends in Ukrainian politics and culture from the year 2014. De-Sovietization received legislative implementation in March 2015 when the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the law «On Condemnation of the Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes in Ukraine and Prohibition of Their Propaganda and Symbols». The law prohibited the use of Soviet symbols, monuments and street names and introduced liability for «public denial of the criminal nature of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine, the national-socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regime».

Experts of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, a body of the central executive and the main promoter of the Law, called de-Sovietization one of the key tasks of democratic transformation. UINP Director Volodymyr Viatrovych defined the Soviet regime in Ukraine as occupational and named his main official task as transforming the Institute into a «national instrument for the overcoming of the totalitarian past».

This approach faced protests among a section of scholars and public figures. For instance, in April 2015, a group of more than 50 influential foreign and Ukrainian scholars wrote a joint letterasking President Poroshenko not to sign the law so as to keep politicization away from history. Critics of the law stressed that it doesn`t provide any recognition of Ukraine`s participation in the formation of the Soviet Union. For instance, historian Georgiy Kasianov notes that Ukraine, in fact, «was one of the builders of this Soviet empire». Critics of the law also noted that the law could complicate the analysis of achievements of Ukrainian industry, education or culture during a 70 year-long period of history, since the law accepts liability for academic works.

Despite the fact that the majority of current de-Sovietization activities didn`t receive considerable protests, conflicts over the re-naming of some cities with Soviet names (for instance, Komsomolsk) or low level of support of UINR`s initiative for cancellation of the holiday on March 8th (tradition with Soviet origin) show that Ukrainian society may not accept the full refusal and alienation of Soviet legacy.

Moreover, an important question remains whether current De-Sovietization is not only a superficial process of the fight against symbols or names, while the deep roots of communist legacies (patrimonialism in political culture; low level of development of democratic institutions; influence of former party nomenclatura; Soviet structures and approaches in science, culture and art, etc.) still remain powerful in Ukraine even today.

Prepared by Andriy Liubarets for UkraineWorld group ( Andriy Liubarets is an analyst at Internews Ukraine. 

This article has been first published on

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Fighting For Equality: What Does It Mean To Be a Woman In Today’s Ukraine

Published in World
Tuesday, 05 June 2018 12:25

8th of March is an International Women’s Day, founded 100 years ago by the feminists of New York. Although many positive changes happened since that time, the mere fact that women still have to celebrate it with marches means there are more things to fight for. Ukraine is a unique country regarding the rights of woman: soviet ideology made her socially equal to man (at least on paper, which does not always mean real equality), at the same time private life was shadowed and family became a closed bubble. Ukraine has lower rates for violence against women if compared to average European. Yet the stereotypes do not give an opportunity to see the real numbers, which might be higher. Let us take a closer look at the challenges of Ukrainian women.

In average 33% of women in Europe experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner and/or a non-partner since the age of 15, FRA reports. In Ukraine this percent is lower – 19% woman in the age from 15 to 49 experiences at least one form of physical or sexual violence, UN Women Ukraine reports.

Recent research demonstrate that 80%-90% of Ukrainians do not tolerate gender-based violence and domestic violence. 77% of respondents answered “no” to the suggestion “if husband wants sex, wife has to obey, because it is her duty” (women -88%, men – 73%). 92% of respondents think that women should not tolerate in any way inappropriate touches from strangers, (95% – women, 93% – men). 86% of respondents do not think if a woman complains that her husband is beating her, she is guilty herself (90% – women, 81% – men). 85% do not think that rape is a fault of a woman-victim (81% – women, 90% – men).

According to the same research, militarization, war and numerous acts of violence that happened since late 2013 had effect on the issue: 39% of the militaries that signed the contract after demobilization would not want police to interfere in family fights or acts of violence between the spouses. Meanwhile the majority of the veterans and militaries supported the help of the law enforcers in the violent situations in families and do not think that hursh experience in war zones is an excuse for violence at home.

This year Ukraine made a significant move towards fighting violence against women: domestic violence was criminalized by the new Law “On Prevention and Counteraction to Domestic Violence.” The document provides for the introduction of an integrated approach to combating domestic violence, according changes to the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes of Ukraine implement the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). It criminalizes domestic violence, gives a broader definition of rape in line with international standards.

“The new law gives much more powers to the law enforcers, police, in order to protect victims of domestic violence. It also introduces temporary restraining orders, enlarges a membership of the authorities who are obliged to prevent and fight against violence, those are medical and educational authorities, courts, public prosecution service, and others, who never had such obligations before,” comments to UkraineWorld Kateryna Levchenko, Governmental Commissioner on Gender Policy at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. “The new law also has negative parts, I’m pointing out on the Unified Register of Domestic Violence Cases and Gender-Based Violence, as it will become a tool for further victimization and stigmatization. This Register should also be supplied with the contacts of the person who reported on the act of violence, which might result in persecutions.”

So far new law on violence against woman does not include definition “gender”. “So far ukrainian society is far from accepting “gender” even as a word in legislation. MPs see it as a step towards legitimization of sex reassignment surgery, or same-sex marriages. The believe that that all will threat traditional Ukrainian society,” tells UkraineWorld Olga Dunebabina, La-Strada Ukraine representative. “There is an actual fear that gender equality will ruin “traditional ukrainian family”. Unfortunately, church is also on the side of the politicians.”

According to the UN Office in Ukraine 4.4 million of people are affected by the war, 1.6 are internally displaced, 3.4 require humanitarian assistance and protection. Yet, despite the fact of these numerous violations of human rights, Ukrainian women still have not had access to decision-making roles concerning conflict resolution. “Their voices are continuously silenced and marginalized in political peace dialogue process,” states UN Women Ukraine.

Yet, some positive changes do happen even in the war-torn Donbas. Earlier this year first Center for Social and Psychological Assistance to People Affected by Violence or Ill-Treatment was opened in Slovyansk. The Center will become a safe place where women who were affected by various forms of violence will get psychological, social and legal support.

UN Women Ukraine report that it will take over 50 years to achieve gender equality in Ukrainian politics. Although, temporary special measures can help expedite the process, that is positive discrimination like reserving senior positions for women. For now only 12% of MP’s are women. Yet, Ukrainian prominent politicians like Ulyana Suprun, Minister of Health, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Vice-Prime-Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Liliia Hrynevych, Minister of Education and Science, not only prove the ability for women to get the highest places in society, they also are the promoters for their rights in different aspects of life,  from medicine to education, business and politics.

Just recently magazine “Novoye Vremya” published the list of top-100 women in Ukraine, demonstrating their success in all the industries. Women also play increasingly bigger roles in business, journalism, NGO sector and activism in Ukraine, which is truly inspiring.

On December 22, 2017 Ministry of Health of Ukraine invalidated the Decree № 256 “On Approval of the List of Heavy Work and Work in Harmful and Dangerous Working Conditions Which Forbid the Use of Labor of Women” from December 29, 1993. This granted women’s access to all 450 occupations previously prohibited by the Decree.

The differences in wages, though, does exist in Ukraine. Women receive about 80% of the amount given to men on that same positions almost in all industries. This leads to the further discrimination in pensions.

In February 2018 Ukraine began its three-year chairmanship at the UN Human Rights Council. Ukrainian President tweeted, that this opportunity will be taken to protect human rights around the globe, in Ukraine and specially on the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea. In the meanwhile government and NGOs are doing their job to protect the vulnerable, all of the Ukrainian society has to face the fact of existing violence and discrimination and stand against it.

Prepared by Anna Kyslytska for UkraineWorld group (

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Why is Nord Stream 2 Dangerous for Ukraine and Europe? — Interview

Published in Interview
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 18:14

On 27 March 2018, Germany has approved the construction and operation of the Russia-built Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Russian state-owned company energy Gazprom presented this project to expand Nord Stream, a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany which is the main channel for supplying Russian gas to the EU, back in 2015. The planned new pipeline – Nord Stream 2 – is intended to strengthen Russia’s position on the gas transit market. Mykhaylo Honchar, President of the Strategy XXI Centre for Global Studies, explained to UkraineWorld why the new gas pipeline is a threat both to Ukraine and the European Union.

What Nord Stream 2 is all about

Nord Stream 2 is one of the so-called bypass projects being implemented by Russia in accordance with its energy strategy approved in 2003. One of the strategic goals is the creation of trans-border gas systems bypassing transit countries. This applies not only to Ukraine, but to other countries as well. The gas from Siberia to Europe has always flowed through the territory of Ukraine and former Czechoslovakia. In this way, it remains the same, so we are talking about the fact that one of the traditional routes for the supply of gas to Europe is the Ukrainian-Slovak one. Russia aims to minimise transit through Ukraine. They say Ukraine has a transit monopoly, but this is not true. This was in line with the realities of the 1990s. However, as Russia built new gas pipelines, this reality has changed, and there is nothing left of Ukraine’s transit monopoly.

In 2016, through Ukraine’s gas transmission system, the EU received 46% of total gas exported to Europe, while in the 1990s the volume was 100%. However, in 1999 Russia built the Yamal-Europe pipeline. The Blue Stream (2003) and Nord Stream (2011) pipelines appeared later. That is why Ukraine has no transit monopoly now. On the contrary, today there is a rather optimal balance in terms of providing Europe with gas from the east, in terms of diversification of routes. At the same time, the 100% monopoly of the gas supplier is retained, and the construction of Nord Stream 2 will only intensify this monopoly.

Why it is harmful for Ukraine

In the event of disappearance of gas transit through Ukraine we would lose USD 2- 3 billion in income annually. Russian gas becomes a commodity for Europe only due to the help of Ukraine’s gas transportation system. Thus, the German agreement on the implementation of Nord Stream 2 helps Russia to strengthen its infrastructure and undermine the Ukrainian economy.  USD 2-3 billion will not bankrupt the Ukrainian economy, but it would be a tangible blow.

So what do we have? The EU provides us with financial assistance, and Germany is the largest donor in this regard. German financial assistance to Ukraine comes to about EUR 110 million annually. Meanwhile, we would lose USD 2-3 billion thanks to German support of Nord Stream 2. The question is: what kind of partnership with the EU do we have if the EU cannot stop the implementation of this anti-Ukrainian and anti-European project, but instead allows a group of private companies to dictate policies.

The question for Ukraine is also: what should we do next with our gas transportation system? Its capacities will not be needed at the time after the finalisation of Nord Stream 2. There is a position of the German government that the transit through Ukraine should be preserved. Gazprom takes this into consideration and “generously” promises to leave 10-15 billion cubic meters transit volume per year. However, the remainder of the capacity of the Ukrainian gas transmission system in this case becomes unnecessary and raises the question of what to do with it in future. When there is a certain amount of transit, certain work is done. But if there is no transit, who will pay for the system’s maintenance?

In addition, the EU’s actions (or rather, inaction) regarding Nord Stream 2 violate Article 274 of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which provides for mutual consultations between the sides on long-term projects and programs for the development of the energy infrastructure. This article also suggests that the parties will use each other’s capabilities to secure their energy problems. Ukraine uses the means of its neighbours to reverse gas supplies. Does Europe need additional transit capacity? In fact, no, there is free capacity in the Ukrainian gas transportation system, which is roughly equivalent to the planned capacity of Nord Stream 2. Our capacity is 142 billion cubic meters per year. In 2017, 93.3 billion cubic meters of gas were transported through the Ukrainian system. Therefore, the free capacity amounted to almost 50 billion cubic meters. The logic of Brussels should be such: we will first load the Ukrainian gas transport system, and if there is a shortage and demand for gas in the EU were to grow, then let’s give the green light to the construction of Nord Stream 2.

Why it is harmful for the EU

If Ukraine is no longer a transit country, and if Russia implements the Turkish Stream pipeline (and this will happen sooner than Nord Stream 2), a 100% monopoly of gas transit to Europe will be established. All gas pipelines through which gas can be supplied to the EU will be in the hands of Gazprom. This point is underestimated in the EU and in Germany — they help Russia to build and strengthen both the supplier’s monopoly and the gas transit monopoly. Naturally, this is a security threat: when everything is in one pair of hands, there are risks of abuse. Russia will be able to disconnect any European country from the gas supply. Punish or encourage them in this way, manipulate the gas price.

Now Russia is trying to dump gas prices in order to take over a larger part of Europe’s gas market. German experts often say that Gazprom provides “the cheapest gas”. But this is not the case for Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic States. For Putin, all those things that seem to be business instruments — gas, infrastructure — are also instruments of hybrid warfare. Together with the export of gas, corruption is exported, as well as the lobbying of certain interests.

There are many alternatives to the Russian pipeline. Poland has proposed and intends to implement a project to increase the supply of Norwegian gas. For some reason, there is little enthusiasm about this in Brussels, although such a project enhances diversification, and Norway is a long-standing and proven supplier of gas that has never created any problems. The situation with Nord Stream 2 is setting up a conflict within the EU between Germany, Austria and France on the one hand and the other Member States on the other hand.

As Russia reaches these increasingly dominant positions in gas supplies, it will try to influence the Western energy market, to reformat it, to change the proportions between the types of fuel which are being used. This primarily concerns the use of renewable energy sources. Gazprom tries to say at any opportunity that biomass was not very good. They say that biomass gives the same bad emissions as coal. I have witnessed it myself when respectable scientists began to criticize the use of biomass. In this way, Russia knocks out the basis for using biomass: “Take gas, it’s cleaner than biomass.”

How construction of Nord Stream 2 could be prevented

Ukraine could be doing more. There is the tough position taken by Naftogaz regarding Nord Stream 2, but it is a corporate entity. Brussels or Vienna pay little attention to its arguments. From their point of view, a corporate entity (Naftogaz) wants to keep its business — and another entity (Gazprom) has the goal of growing its business, so there is a competition of interests. The efforts of Naftogaz are not sufficiently a priori.

There has been no shortage of statements from Ukrainian Presidents, Premiers, ministers, deputy ministers, etc. However, all these efforts are not synchronized — and there is nobody to do that. If there was a competent policy, especially in the face of Russia’s foreign aggression, the post of special Presidential Envoy on Energy Security would have been created. He would coordinate the work of the agencies and state-owned companies involved.

Ukraine should not only counteract harmful projects, but also try to retain transit at the same time, offering European partners the chance to join an international consortium and at least keep part of the gas transmission system in functional condition. Unfortunately, we understand that we do not have a responsible person to coordinate this work and, therefore, we are being little heard in Brussels.

It would also be important to engage the support of the US. The American law on sanctions from August, 2017 provides for the imposition of sanctions against Nord Stream 2. However, we do not see the White House’s activity in this area. Yes, there is a fundamental position taken by Congress that Nord Stream 2 is harmful. Yes, they imposed sanctions on Russia due to its actions against Ukraine, but these sanctions are soft and do not concern the energy sector, which is very sensitive. Europe, in essence, did not punish Russia for its brutal bombings in Syria, in the suburban area of Damascus. But all the time there are suggestions on mitigating or reviewing sanctions from Europe, from Berlin.

There are many such things which should be resolved not only through coordination at the level of Ukraine, but also coordination of the efforts of neighbouring countries, for example, Poland. The Polish example illustrates how they blocked the decision of the European Commission for the OPAL gas pipeline in 2016. Yes, temporarily, but they succeeded.

Now the only stumbling block that is left Nord Stream 2 is Denmark, because the Danish Parliament has decided to step up criteria when considering certain projects that are implemented exclusively in the marine economic zone, and in the criteria of national security. But for Russia this is not an insurmountable obstacle. In this context,  coordinated work with the US side, which has the greatest impact on this project, is also needed. If America were to propose sanctions against contractor companies, this would put an end to the campaign, because neither Russia nor Germany have experience of laying deep-water pipes. Last year, when there debates in Congress and it was clear that a sanction law would be adopted, a wave of outrage arose in Europe that the Americans did not have the right to impose extraterritorial sanctions, because they saw the danger of the implementation of such a scenario.

Prepared by Vitalii Rybak for UkraineWorld group (

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Modernized Past: How Today’s Ukrainian Culture Combines Tradition And Modernity

Published in Culture
Monday, 21 May 2018 16:45

In the 19th century Ukrainian culture was often perceived by its neighbours, like the Poles or Russians, as a land of deep-rooted folk traditions, where music, stories, and dance were driving humanity to its ancestral roots.

This is how Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s most famous poet of the 19th century, was perceived in imperial Saint-Petersburg, how Mykola Gogol was reviving demonic Ukrainian folklore for a Russian audience, and how Polish poets like Wacław Zaleski were presenting Ukrainian popular songs, or how Austrian writers like Sacher-Masoch were depicting Galicia, the borderland of his imperial motherland.

In the 20th century, the Soviet regime was busy trying to erase this “national” element. The search of national “depth” was marginalized and then openly persecuted from the 1930s. After World War II, the nostalgia for past traditions sometimes broke through the wall of censorship, creating interesting phenomena, like Ukrainian “poetic cinema” by Sergei Paradzhanov (his world famous film “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” is a classic example), Yuriy Illenko, Leonid Osyka, Ivan Mykolaychuk and others; but its creators often paid a high price for their dissidence.

After Ukraine became independent in 1991, and especially in the 2000s and 2010s, this repressed element returned with unprecedented vigour. In order to understand this phenomenon of going back to the past together with searching for modern forms of expression, one has to keep in mind an important insight of the post-independence decades. As national traditions were suppressed for decades, these traditional roots now had a strong emancipatory and freedom potential, which attracted so many artists. It was, therefore, not so much conservative as modern and looking to the future.

Let’s look at the ways in which contemporary Ukrainian culture is looking for this mixture of tradition with modern form and language.


DakhaBrakhaone of the most famous Ukrainian music projects of recent decades, is one example of this traditional-modern mix. Calling their style “ethno-chaos” music, DakhaBrakha was born from the avant-garde theatre Dakh in Kyiv in the early 2000s. It combines traditional Ukrainian song with ecstatic rhythms, bringing a substantial dose of archaism into contemporary music. It is becoming increasingly popular around the world; even David Beckham used it recently in advertising for his brand.


Contemporary Ukrainian theatre also often experiments by mixing tradition with modernity, introducing traditional dance, music or costumes into theatrical performances.

We have already mentioned the Dakh theatre, one of the most famous and influential Ukrainian theatrical projects. Launched by Vlad Troitskyi in the 1990s, it became a laboratory for many artists, music groups like DakhaBrakha and Dakh Daugthers, art festivals like GOGOLFEST, etc.

The Lviv-based Les Kurbas theatre is another interesting example of how tradition is being combined with modernityTake a look, for example, at its play Lisova Pisnya (The Forest Song), based upon Lesya Ukrayinka’s classic drama.


Ukrainian cinema began to show signs of revival in the 2000s and in the current decade,  especially after Euromaidan (2013-2014), following several decades of decline.

One of the first examples of a new cinema searching for national roots was the picture Mamay by director Oles Sanin. The film tells the story of a Cossack called Mamay (an archetypal figure for Ukrainian culture) and his love for a Crimean Tatar woman.

Ukrainian documentary cinema also pays attention to folklore. Zhyva Vatra (Living Bonfire) by director Ostap Kostyuk tells the story of a little boy by the name of Ivanko, who is involved in old hutsul traditional sheep breeding work. The  language used by peasants, their songs and traditions sound authentic and exotic even for a Ukrainian audience.

Ukrainian folklore tradition is also present in animation, in an elegant artistic animated movie based on Taras Shevchenko’s Prychynna (Причинна), set to be released in 2018.

Another interesting phenomenon is “horror animation” based upon Taras Shevchenko’s work; its authors said they tried to move away from the usual image of Shevchenko and create a modern provocative interpretation.

A more mainstream animation called Mavka, that is based on Lesya Ukrayinka’s Lisova Pisnya, is trying to use Ukrainian folkloric and literary traditions to create an animated story for a wider audience.

Fantasy cinema is also exploring old traditions; look at Storozhova Zastava (Stronghold), which tells the story of a boy who accidentally travels in time to find himself in Medieval Kyivan Rus fighting against nomadic tribes.

In the 19th century Ukrainian culture was often perceived by its neighbours, like the Poles or Russians, as a land of deep-rooted folk traditions, where music, stories, and dance were driving humanity to its ancestral roots.

This is how Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s most famous poet of the 19th century, was perceived in imperial Saint-Petersburg, how Mykola Gogol was reviving demonic Ukrainian folklore for a Russian audience, and how Polish poets like Wacław Zaleski were presenting Ukrainian popular songs, or how Austrian writers like Sacher-Masoch were depicting Galicia, the borderland of his imperial motherland.

In the 20th century, the Soviet regime was busy trying to erase this “national” element. The search of national “depth” was marginalized and then openly persecuted from the 1930s. After World War II, the nostalgia for past traditions sometimes broke through the wall of censorship, creating interesting phenomena, like Ukrainian “poetic cinema” by Sergei Paradzhanov (his world famous film “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” is a classic example), Yuriy Illenko, Leonid Osyka, Ivan Mykolaychuk and others; but its creators often paid a high price for their dissidence.

After Ukraine became independent in 1991, and especially in the 2000s and 2010s, this repressed element returned with unprecedented vigour. In order to understand this phenomenon of going back to the past together with searching for modern forms of expression, one has to keep in mind an important insight of the post-independence decades. As national traditions were suppressed for decades, these traditional roots now had a strong emancipatory and freedom potential, which attracted so many artists. It was, therefore, not so much conservative as modern and looking to the future.

Let’s look at the ways in which contemporary Ukrainian culture is looking for this mixture of tradition with modern form and language.


Ethnic traditions are also inspiring the creativity of Ukrainian fashion designers.

Some of them, like Roksolana BohutskaChernikova , SerebrovaOksana Polonets and others either produce their dresses in the traditional embroidery style (that of vyshyvanka), or create their own new collections inspired by Ukrainian decoration traditions. Handmade or mass-produced vyshyvankas are easy to buy in Ukrainian towns and cities; some projects like Zerno Fashion ( also make interesting and tradition-inspired clothes available for a wider audience of consumers.

These are just a few examples of how today’s Ukrainian culture is combining tradition and modernity. A similar trend is also present in visual arts, literature, education, design, video games and comics.

An interesting thing about this phenomenon is that it erases the difference between “archaic” and “modern”. It makes national traditions “fashionable”, taking them through a filter of contemporary or avant-garde form.

But it also performs an interesting enterprise: by re-establishing the link between the present and the past it also modernizes the past, making it less archaic than it was before.

Written by Volodymyr Yermolenko, analyst at Internews Ukraine and UkraineWorld

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This article has been published with the financial support of International Renaissance Foundation

Euro Parliament members agree on deeper EU ties with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova

Published in World
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 16:39

The European Parliament proposes new ways to intensify EU relations with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova ahead of the Eastern Partnership Summit on 24 November, the official website of the European Parliament reports. 

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are working hard to forge closer links with the EU, in spite of strong resistance from Russia. They already benefit from visa-free travel to the EU as well as increased commercial opportunities thanks to free-trade agreements.

A new Parliament report is now calling to deepen this collaboration further and find new ways to support the countries on the EU’s eastern borders. The own-initiative report has already been adopted by the foreign affairs committee and will be voted on by all MEPs during the November plenary session in Strasbourg. The main focus is on Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, three countries which have recently achieved major progress in the cooperation with the EU.

Topping the list of recommendations is the establishment of a trust fund for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. The trust fund is a development tool for quick and flexible EU response to crisis and post-crisis situations. It would pool resources from public and private donors for investment in projects aiming to improve socioeconomic structures.

The committee also recommends increased support for economic reforms and upgrading the current partnership as a way of rewarding progress on EU-related reforms by partner countries. This upgrade could provide access to the EU's customs or energy union, for example.

Lithuanian EPP member Laima Andrikienė, one of the authors of the Parliament report, said: “The creation of an Eastern Partnership Plus model for associated countries with the possibility of a future membership in the customs, energy and digital union is crucial."

These measures add to the structures and projects for cooperation and development in the region already in place by the EU. The proposal emphasises the need to maintain pressure on Russia to resolve the territorial conflicts involving these countries. This is particularly relevant at the moment as the EU sanction towards Russia will reevaluated in January 2018.

The Eastern Partnership is a framework for collaboration between the EU and eastern neighbours Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Since the launch in 2009, the political context has changed dramatically, according to Andrikienė.

“The changes are due to the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine in 2014, the annexation of Crimea and continuing occupation of Eastern Ukraine by Russian proxies, as well as Kremlin-steered frozen conflicts which remain unresolved in Moldova and Georgia," the MEP said.

She added that despite “Russian meddling” Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, three of the partner countries, now have association agreements with the EU and free trade agreements through the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

German S&D member Knut Fleckenstein, one of the other authors of the report, said the partnership was about much more than just signing agreements: “The objective is to build trust and promote cooperation between all partners in order to achieve concrete benefits for the people, such as respect for fundamental freedoms, better living standards and prospects for the future, facilitation of people-to-people contacts.”

To boost the progress of these countries, the proposal by the foreign affairs committee will be put forward to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Services for consideration at the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit on 24 November.

“We have to ensure that the outcomes of the summit are concrete and dedicated to the long-term investments and well-being of people in the countries concerned. EU support for economic reforms are of very high importance to the citizens," said Andrikienė.

Her colleague Fleckenstein added: “A successful Eastern Partnership must reduce socio-economic disparities and corruption, better connect the participating countries in the areas of transport, infrastructure and energy, allow for visa-free travel for short-term stays and increase opportunities for educational exchanges and people-to-people contacts,’’ – the European Parliament says. 

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