International Leaders Came to Kyiv and Left. What’s the Take Away?
Political Scientist Olexiy Haran and NATO Envoy to Ukraine Alexander Vinnikov tell Marta Dyczok why so many international leaders and delegations came to Kyiv and what this means
Hello and welcome to Ukraine Calling, your weekly review of what’s been happening in Ukraine with a focus on a main issue. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv.
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FOCUS INTERVIEWS: Political Scientist Olexiy Haran and NATO Envoy to Ukraine Alexander Vinnikov tell Marta Dyczok why so many international leaders and delegations came to Kyiv and what this means
Dyczok: There was a flurry of high level international visitors to Ukraine this week: the US Sate Secretary Rex Tillerson, the new US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Secretary General of NATO, the President of the European Union, Council of Europe. They are all coming to Ukraine this week. To speak about what this all mean we have a very special guest Olexiy Haran, a professor of political science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Research Director at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation. He is regular commentator in Ukrainian and international media, the top in political scientist and international relations in Ukraine. Thank you very much for finding time to speak to us.
Professor Olexiy Haran: Thank you for the invitation.
Dyczok: Professor Haran, why did Ukraine became flavour of the week? After months of being not in the news, suddenly it seems like every important person is coming to visit Ukraine to meet with Ukraine’s leaders? What’s important about this week? Why are they all here?
Haran: I think it actually reflects not only the role of Ukraine in this region of Europe, but it also reflects the long way which Ukraine has come after the Revolution of Dignity. As a result of different agreements which were signed between Ukraine and international partners. It is also connected to the G20 Summit.
Dyczok: I was going to ask about that. It happened last week in Hamburg.
Haran: The conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the Minsk process… Actually we celebrated 20 years of the signing the Charter on Distinguished Partnership between Ukraine and NATO. For that there was a special session of representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO countries which happened in Kyiv in Verkhovna Rada [Parliament.] Also there was another event: the Secretary General with the Council of NATO, which means representatives to NATO from every member of NATO, held meeting here with high level Ukrainian officials. It was formally connected to anniversary of the Charter but definitely there were a lot of burning and vital issues related first of all to the Russian aggression, what Ukraine expects from NATO, what Ukraine would do for NATO.
It was a good opportunity to sum up what have been done in relations between Ukraine and the West, and what has been done within Ukraine. I would start maybe from discussing two really important issues in Ukraine-EU relations which have geopolitical meaning. We know that the annual summit EU-Ukraine just happened in the capital of Ukraine. Two very important issues and achievements. First, visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens. This is extremely important. Ukrainians were striving for that. They did a lot to achieve this. The EU confirmed that Ukraine has fulfilled all the criteria in order to receive it. Finally we got it.
Dyczok: It’s such an amazing feeling.
Haran: It is.
Dyczok: You travelled a lot. Have you travelled since the visa –free regime was introduced?
Haran: Actually not yet. I now have Schengen visa. [This visa allows free movement in the Schengen area, 26 countries, 22 EU members and 4 EFTA members.] But a lot of my colleagues and friends are planning their family travels to Europe. Now they do not need any visas. This is really important. The statistics during the first month of the visa-free regime: 100, 000 Ukrainians travelled to the EU with new biometric passports, without Schengen visas. There were cases when Ukrainians were not allowed – 50 such cases. So 100, 000 travelled and there were problems only with 50 who could not prove the aim of the trip or they stayed too long in Europe before. I mean the number is extremely low proportionally. In general, it’s successful. It shows that Ukrainians now have this wonderful possibility. I will tell you from my emotional experience. When I first received a long term Schengen visa long time ago in 1995, at that time I was based in Germany on a fellowship. It was an extremely wonderful feeling when you can go to Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam. Incredible. I also remember before our neighbouring countries – Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary – joined the Schengen agreement, we, Ukrainians, had a possibility to travel to these countries with just our foreign passports. You just buy a ticket, sit down and you go. Emotionally it is very important to feel you are a citizen of Europe and the free world. Now it is back again but we can travel not only to Poland, Czech Republic or Hungary, but to all European countries.
Dyczok: And all EU countries can travel here more easily.
Haran: Citizens of the EU could enjoy this regime immediately after the Orange Revolution. It was introduced under Yushchenko [President of Ukraine 2005-2010]. There was some discrepancy, I would say. Because they could travel and we could not. But now we are in the same boat. So that’s the first thing. Secondly, finally the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine came through, and that’s what Ukrainians were fighting for. That was the first reason why Ukrainians organized Maidan. So it came into forth formally and officially. Because de facto it was in force, but there were some problems with ratification, related to the consensus and connected to the results of referendum in Netherlands. It was not clear how formally from the legal point of view it could be. So now it’s solved and we have this Association Agreement. This is also an incredible step forward.
Dyczok: Now we have a concrete result.
Haran: Yes. The Association Agreement is a very large volume, more than 1000 pages long.
Dyczok: The EU is bureaucratic.
Haran: That’s right. They have the road map in every sector of the economy, domestic policy such as fighting corruption, Rule of Law, justice, security. Now we are to implement it. Definitely it’s a new start, a new phase.
Dyczok: I am sorry to interrupt but I would like to get back to our high level visitors that have been passing through Ukraine this week. You have been following these visits, the statements, the meeting with Ukrainian officials. What are the key messages, the key statements that you heard from Tillerson, from Stoltenberg, from any of these leaders? Anything that stands out for you?
Haran: Yes, I will concentrate on two things: first is the Minsk process, second is our relations with NATO. So, I think what was really important was that President Poroshenko met with Trump before the G20 summit, so, he could deliver Ukrainian arguments before Trump’s meeting with Putin. And after this meeting, after G20, Tillerson came to Ukraine. So, again, in order to explain to Ukraine the dynamics and this is really important that the fate of Ukraine is not decided by somebody, but not from … not by Ukraine.
Dyczok: Is this a shift in US-Ukraine relations because people were very afraid when Trump was running for President and when he was elected the massages about Ukraine?
Haran: I was also very afraid, frankly speaking. So, what we see right now? There is still a lot of uncertainty. OK, because we know that President Trump is not, in some cases, not very predictable what he can do. But what is clear is definitely that many people in Trump administration now they understand really what is going on in Ukraine. They define Russia as aggressor, they understand the reasons for the conflict and actually Tillerson, he repeated that, first of all, Russia is to withdraw from Ukraine. Full stop. By the way sanctions would not be removed. What is also important is that the United States appointed a special envoy on Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker. I pronounce his name in the German way, but Americans pronounce it as Walker. So, this is also important because that is what Ukrainian side actually demanded because we have Normandy process, right? But US formally is not part of this process. They participate, but they are not formally part of the process and we remember that the United States and the UK and Russia signed Budapest Memorandum about the security assurances to Ukraine. So, Ukrainians would like somehow to formalize the US presence in the negotiations. So, I believe that is really important that now we have the special envoy, and he would connect more closely US to Normandy process. Again that is what Ukrainian side wanted. And one of the messages during these visits wese that the US now understand more, they understand Ukrainian position better, about control of the border. Because we know that according to Minsk agreements, which are very contradictory and very complicated, Ukraine would receive control of the border only at the end of the settlement, right? But, how can we talk about security, about political issues if we cannot control the border? And Russians actually can deploy weapons and regular forces through this open border. So, the Ukrainian position is “OK, we cannot control the border right now formally, according to Minsk agreements, but what would we like? We would like to have the OSCE mission, for example, control the border. And American side now repeats this thesis. So, this is very important. Again, I am not sure how it will develop, how, you know, it was discussed with Putin. They are still a lot of uncertainty and some concerns from Ukrainian side. But there are these positive signals which are very, very important. And finally I would talk about NATO, because there was something new. You know that Ukraine strive to get Membership Action Plan (MAP). Ukraine was very close to getting it in 2006, but unfortunately …
Dyczok: Which was under the presidency of Victor Yushchenko…
Haran: Yushchenko, yes. But unfortunately Prime Minister Yanukovych suddenly changed course and said that we do not want it. In 2008 Ukraine applied again, but the situation became much more complicated. So, we did not receive it, instead we have annual… How is it called? Annual national programs, OK? Cooperation between Ukraine and NATO.
Dyczok: Sea Breeze…
Haran: Yes, this is also part of that. But there is a program on actually what Ukraine is to do in order to move closer to criteria of NATO. So, what is important now? What was raised by President Poroshenko is that he said during the closed meetings, he repeated that during the press conference that Ukraine would like to apply again for membership action plan in 2020, and now to start the dialog about that. So, to start this process. And it is not clear actually what would be the answer from the West. Because some would agree, some would not. There are concerns about Russia and so one, and so forth. What is really important that the public attitudes in Ukraine has changed. So, Ukrainians now support NATO. So, we have…
Dyczok: Could you site statistics for us? This is something you are monitoring public opinion in Democratic Initiatives. So, this is very…
Haran: Yes, so, if we have referendum on NATO, 70% of those who would come to vote would say: “Yes.”
Dyczok: And how did this compare with, I do not know, five years ago or ten years ago?
Haran: 15% were in favor of NATO.
Dyczok: So, this is gone from 15% …
Haran: This is has sky rocketed. We still have regional differences. There are many people, maybe a plurality, in East and South, who would support non-block status, which did not prevent Ukraine from Russia’s aggression. But the any idea of military union with Russia totally collapsed. The same is true about the so called Eurasian Union. So, Ukrainians do not believe in the Eastern vector right now. And there is a support for NATO now which we did not have in …
Dyczok: Five years ago.
Haran: Five or ten years ago and this give some justification for Ukraine to apply for MAP. Again MAP does not mean NATO membership immediately, but this is one step to move closer and to increase security capabilities for Ukraine to withstand Russian aggression. And you know actually again, as I have said, this would not be easy for NATO countries to decide on that. Because on the one hand we have Russian aggression, we have clear violation of territorial integrity of Ukraine and everybody in NATO agrees about that. But then comes the so called Russian factor: should be irritate Russia or not, should be support Ukraine. So, it won’t be easy, frankly speaking, it won’t be easy to have this dialog to push for membership action plan, but it is necessary to talk about that. And Poroshenko knows he has support from Ukrainian society.
Dyczok: Well, we’ll have another interview with a NATO representative and I’ll ask him.
Haran: I think he would be more… My prediction is.
Dyczok: Well, you are probably right, but we’ll have to wait and see. What are some expected outcomes from these visits, these visitors who passed through this week? Sometimes these visitors come, they speak, they make statements, and they leave. Do you see anything concrete coming out of these?
Haran: So first of all, again, like I have said, EU — we finished a very, very important process which Russia tried to undermine and we moved to the next phase of our cooperation.
Dyczok: So this will really nuts and bolts talking about how to implement the agreement?
Haran: Exactly, in very, very concrete spheres like energy, also rule of law, and all others, so this is very important. As to means process, I have said now there is much better building of Ukrainian position and, I would say, support of key Ukrainian…
Haran: Key Ukrainian, yes, positions. The sanctions were continued against Russia. So I would say, it gives weight and also more significance to what Ukraine and western partners can do together in Minsk process.
Dyczok: So more of an understanding of the Ukrainian positions at high levels in Washington and in Brussels?
Haran: Yeah, and so, there is a possibility to put more pressure on Russia within this process. Okay, we cannot predict because we cannot predict because we understand that whether Russian aggression continues depends on Russia.
Dyczok: On Russia.
Haran: But Russia would have to calculate, cost them benefits, and my feeling is that western position now is quite strong because sanctions are continued and we can hear about possibility of increasing of sanction, possibility of interference in American elections, we don’t know about that, how it would happen, but Ukraine’s position now is much stronger in this process. And finally, as I have said on NATO because on NATO we have this corporation
Dyczok: Procedures, standards, and training.
Haran: Again, politically, Poroshenko, he made another steps. And this would involve a longer negotiations.
Dyczok: One more question that just came to my mind, do you see a closening of US and EU position on Ukraine? Because in the past that’s been a concern that the EU, particularly France and Germany are involved in the Minsk process and the US is not. Now there is the special envoy, they’re all sort of speaking the same language, do you see that they are connected?
Haran: Yes, yes, I see, definitely. Again, it’s an interesting situation because we understand that first, we saw this nominating process with some suspicion because it not good understanding of what was going on in east of Ukraine. At that point, American position sanctions, the US was the model of sanction, they did a lot to have EU sanctions against Russia. With Trump election it was a period of uncertainty and at that time two women played an important role, from American and there was a male said it’s important to continue sanctions. Now we see the US now again starting to increase, I would say, increase pressure on Russia, so we see no gap now between US starting to increase pressure on Russian. Again a lot is quite complicated because there are domestic processes in each country, it’s not easy having this united voice. Macron was elected, Macron made strong statements. Poroshenko met with Macron. A good chance is that Merkel will be re-elected, probably. The position of democratic sources is also not … We see some positive in Trump Administration, so I would say now the situation looks much better than it was at the last year.
Dyczok: Absolutely. Thank you very much for that analysis and that insight and optimism. We’ve had professor–
Haran: And cautious optimistic ending. I don’t think much about
Dyczok: Cautious ending as well. Thank you very much. We’ve been speaking with Dr. Olexiy Haran from the National Kyiv Academy and the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.
The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was one of the high profile visitors who came to Kyiv this week. Alexander Vinnikov is the Director of NATO Liaison Office here in Ukraine. Mr. Vinnikov, you had a very busy week. Thank you very much for finding time to speak to Hromadske Radio’s Ukraine Calling. Ukraine and NATO have a long, and some would say complicated, relationship starting back in 1994 with the signing of the Partnership for Peace Program. This week the Secretary General visited Kyiv. Could you please explain to our listeners what the purpose of the visit was and the timing of it?
Mr. Alexander Vinnikov: Thank you first of all for the invitation. Indeed we were very busy with preparations for this visit. As you mentioned this was not just Secretary General visiting but he was leading a large delegation including 29 permanent representatives of NATO member states in Brussels, so the ambassadors to NATO. Together they form the North Atlantic Council. This is the principal decision making body in NATO and this was the first such visit to Ukraine since 2008. It’s a rare opportunity and I think the symbolism was very clear – “NATO stands for Ukraine.” The timing was specifically chosen to mark the 20th anniversary of signing of Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine, which was signed on July 9, 1997.
Dyczok: So exactly 20 years later.
Vinnikov: Yes. Exactly 20 years ago the Atlantic Council visited Ukraine. To mark this occasion and to underline the strong support of NATO for Ukraine.
Dyczok: So, what were the main accomplishments? Statements of support are very important, but was there any concrete that was discussed or accomplished during this very important high level visit?
Vinnikov: The visit contained both official and unofficial parts, such as meetings with high level representatives of Ukraine and the public outreach component. The centrepiece of the visit was the formal session of the NATO-Ukraine commission chaired by Secretary General and hosted by President of Ukraine. This was a very comprehensive meeting where allies and Ukraine discussed key issues on the agenda. This included, of course, the situation in Eastern Ukraine where the conflict was discussed and briefed on the latest situation. The Alliance expressed strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also called on Russia to withdraw its forces from the East of Ukraine and to stop its support for the militants…
Dyczok: Was there any reaction from Russia to that statement?
Vinnikov: I have not seen any reaction from the Russian side yet.
But this is a well-known NATO position. In fact, the NATO-Ukraine Commission adopted a joint formal statement in the end of the meeting, in which all of these positions are reflected. It also includes the confirmation of non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea, which NATO does not, and will not, recognize. There was also strong encouragement for Ukraine to continue on the path of reforms and acknowledgement of the progress that has been achieved so far, but also of the challenges that remain ahead.
The Secretary General also had bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Ukraine, and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada [Parliament]. And the full North Atlantic Council met with parliamentarians, with the leadership, and the heads of the factions in parliament and the key committees. So this was also an important opportunity to hear from the representatives of the people what their views were. Also, the Secretary General made a historic first address to the Rada in plenary…
Dyczok: Quoting Taras Shevchenko, if I am not mistaken…
Vinnikov: Quoting Taras Shevchenko, indeed. And also really, I think, calling on parliamentarians to lead in the struggle for reform. This is really one of the key issues, key messages of the Secretary General, particularly when it comes to the fight against corruption. He called this a cancer that must be rid of, if Ukraine is to fulfil its full potential. The public outreach elements included the opening of an exhibition at the Mystetsky Arsenal, which I would invite everyone who is Kyiv to come and visit…
Dyczok: Absolutely, it is very impressive.
Vinnikov: It is an impressive exhibition that really showcases the achievements of 20 years of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. We also organized three separate panels, where ambassadors could reach out to civil society and discuss important issues, such as reforms, such as the role of women in peace and security issues and the situation of Crimean Tatars and Crimea in general. So I think this was important also for the NATO representatives too to hear from people who are working on a daily basis on these issues.
Dyczok: There was also a number of concrete, how would I call them, not so much promises, but steps, cooperation – cyber security is something that has been very much in the international news. The recent cyber attack that crippled many countries, not just Ukraine, was there discussion on that? Or some of the other concrete sort of projects or support that NATO has been offering Ukraine or extending?
Vinnikov: Yes, practical cooperation is a very important part of NATO’s support for Ukraine and it should not be just political, as you said, there should be concrete results. I think over the past three years NATO has really stepped up its practical support for Ukraine. We do this through a number of Trust Funds and programs, ten Trust Funds, in fact, totalling about 15 million EURO.
Dyczok: Trust Fund, can you explain what that is?
Vinnikov: A Trust Fund is like a pot of money to which both allies and partners are invited to contribute, and which then implements concrete projects in partner countries, or, in this case, in Ukraine. The Trust Funds that we currently have cover a wide array of issues, including medical rehabilitation for wounded soldiers, cyber defence, which we already mentioned. And here I would note that the first phase of this trust fund has been completed last week, when we delivered state of the art cyber defensive equipment, which will help Ukraine investigate and prevent cyber incidents.
Dyczok: Could you give us an idea of how big these Trust Funds are?
Vinnikov: Well the total value is about 40 million.
Vinnikov: EURO. And I would say that the largest one is probably the Demilitarization Trust Fund, which deals with outdated and unserviceable ammunition and small arms, which pose a security risk. And NATO has been helping Ukraine for years to deal with that issue. Since the beginning of the aggression, many other trust funds have been created, including cyber, medical, but also communications. Military career transition, where we help the military service men and women transition into civilian life. And many other programs.
When it comes to cyber, the topicality of this issue was underlined by many participants. I think we all face this threat. We all face cyber incidents, be it Ukraine or NATO. We are all subject to these hybrid methods that Russia is using. Not only against Ukraine but also against some of our countries.
Dyczok: It spreads globally. Sorry to interrupt, but we have time for one more question. NATO has been cooperating with Ukraine in all the spheres you’ve outlined, but the big question, really, is about membership. And during this visit of the Secretary General and the delegation, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko said that Ukraine is now ready to start discussions about the Membership Action Plan aiming for 2020. What is the NATO position on that statement?
Vinnikov: Indeed, the President of Ukraine raised the issue of the Membership Action Plan, both during the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and also during the joint Press Conference which followed. What I can say is that the Alliance took note of the President’s proposals to discuss this. The current focus of Ukraine is on reform, and on the modernization of its security and defense sector institutions.
And NATO is supporting those efforts, through the programs, through the Trust Funds, through advisory assistance, the team of resident advisors here. All of this is contained in the Comprehensive Assistance Package. The priority now, for us, is to implement that Assistance Package. And I would also add that Ukraine has another valuable tool for getting closer to NATO, which is the Annual National Program, which outlines Ukraine’s plans for reform in a wide range of areas, not just security and defense. So we believe that the immediate focus should be on implementing the package and the Annual National Plan, and particularly fighting corruption, as the Secretary General said. I think doing that is good for Ukraine and it’s good for NATO, regardless of the membership issue.
I would add one more point, which is a strong message that the Secretary General delivered about NATO’s open door policy. You may be aware that Montenegro recently joined the Alliance as its 29th member. And this reconfirms that the open door policy very much remains a cornerstone of NATO. It is the sovereign right of any European country to seek or not to seek membership of an international organization, or of a security alliance, and therefore it is Ukraine’s right to do so. And the decision on membership is up to the applicant state and the 29 member states. And no other party should have a say or seek to influence that political process.
Dyczok: Thank you. When is the next meeting between NATO and Ukraine scheduled?
Vinnikov: Well we have meetings on a very regular basis at various levels. So we have ambassadorial meetings, we have working-level meetings, we have ministerial meetings, and of course, from time to time, Summit-level meetings. Right now, work is ongoing on the working level, and I think there will be probably the opportunity for ministerial meetings further in the year.
Dyczok: So it’s a work in progress. Thank you very much for finding the time to speak to us. We have been speaking Mr. Alexander Vinnikov, the Head of the NATO Delegation in Ukraine and I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio, Ukraine Calling.
US reaffirms support for Ukraine and its democratic transformation
On July the 9th U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Ukraine and reaffirmed U.S. support for the country. Significantly, he arrived just after the first meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Hamburg two days earlier. Tillerson met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and at a joint press conference said, “I think it’s very important to be very clear on what our goals are, the United States goals are, with respect to the situation here. First and foremost it is to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He also expressed satisfaction with the reform process in Ukraine, and encouraged it to continue and be more consistent.
On the eve of his visit to Ukraine, Tillerson appointed Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO and National Security Council director, to be special representative for finding a peaceful settlement to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. This week, Volker made a short preliminary visit to meet with top Ukrainian officials.
UN Secretary General says Ukraine not forgotten
Also on Sunday July the 9th, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made a brief visit to Ukraine. According to his host President Poroshenko, they “shared views on the opportunities of increasing the UN’s participation in resolving the situation in Donbas, particularly in the humanitarian sector.” The president expressed gratitude to the UN Secretary-General for his and the UN’s support, noting that “He (Mr. Guterres) is very well informed, and provides Ukraine with strong support, particularly in the humanitarian dimension, and in the implementation of technical assistance projects.” Guterres commented that, “The UN is following and will be ready to support all efforts, both of the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE. And to do everything possible for the solution of this crisis that has lasted already for such a long period.”
NATO-Ukraine partnership highlighted
On Monday July 10th a delegation of the North Atlantic Council arrived in Ukraine. Within its framework, a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission was chaired by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, with the participation of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. For the first time, the NATO chief also addressed the Verkhovna Rada. He also met with senior Ukrainian officials and attended the opening of an exhibition devoted to 20 years of NATO-Ukraine cooperation. Stoltenberg affirmed during the visit that, “NATO will continue to support Ukraine on the path towards a closer relationship with NATO, to implementing reforms, and to meeting NATO standards. And the message is that whether Ukraine is going to become a member of NATO or not is for the Allies and Ukraine to decide. No one else has the right to try to veto such a process.”
For his part, President Poroshenko reiterated that his country aspired to become a member of the defensive alliance as soon as the necessary conditions were in place.
On July the 12-13th an EU-Ukraine summit was held in Kyiv. The European Union was represented by European Council President Donald Tusk, and EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker. EU President Tusk said, “Yesterday the EU finalized the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. It will enter into force on the first of September. The fully ratified agreement will allow us to further strengthen our cooperation and to deepen the political association and the economic integration of Ukraine with the EU. The EU has once again made clear that we stand steadfastly behind Ukraine against Russia’s aggression and attempts to subvert your independence. We reiterated our continued support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
Ukraine’s President Poroshenko noted that “The association agreement was one of the key requirements and expectations of EuroMaidan. Although no final joint communiqué was issued, reportedly because of Dutch objections over wording that the EU “acknowledges Ukraine’s European aspirations.” Speaking on behalf of the EU, President Tusk emphasized, that the key sentence of the Association Agreement is, “the European Union acknowledges the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomes its European choice.”
Ryan Air Pulls out of Low-Cost Flights Plan
There was considerable shock and dismay this week when a leading low-cost air company, Ryan Air, announced that it was abandoning plans to begin low cost flights from Ukraine to various European cities, because of the failure to agree terms with the management of Kyiv’s Boryspil airport. By the end of the week it was unclear if this decision would remain final, or whether the Boryspil airport authorities would be encouraged by the government to review their position.
The War in the East
No good news from the front in eastern Ukraine. Shelling and attacks have continued from the Russian–backed forces, resulting in further military and civilian casualties, and destruction.
Turmoil in the Parliament
On the domestic scene, attention was focused on attempts by the Prosecutor General’s Office to persuade parliament to lift the immunity, and allow the arrest of several deputies, suspected of corruption, and the fate of several important pieces of legislation. Both produced heated debates and even scuffles in the Verkhovna Rada and more apparent deal-making between the various parliamentary factions. The results are mixed. On July 13th parliament approved, in its second reading, a law establishing a new type of Constitutional Court, which is essential for the further implementation of legal and constitutional reform. Some its proponents were disappointed that the critical principle, of having judges selected on the basis of an open, fair, and competitive selection process, was removed. On the same day, parliament adopted, in its first reading, a bill on pension reform, and managed to approve adjustments to the state budget. Between 11 and 13 July the Verkhovna Rada also stripped four lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution.
This marks the first time such a measure has been taken against members of the governing coalition, but parliament allowed law enforcement agencies to arrest only one of the legislators.
In the cultural sphere, the big event of the week in Ukraine is the opening Odesa Film festival on 14 July. It will run until 22 July. During these 9 days there will exclusive premieres of foreign and Ukrainian films, master classes of the world’s leading filmmakers, a unique open-air film-performance on Potemkin Stairs, special shows and plenty of parties. The film selection is focused on so-called “art mainstream”, or films possessing a refined artistic quality, yet accessible to the broadest possible audience. For the Odessa International Film Festival, viewers are the main focus and since 2012 the festival’s Grand-Prix is awarded by audience. Other non-competition sections include retrospectives, tributes, collections of the newest films from different countries and festival hits.
This week’s song is by a band called Kraamola, they combine power metal, Ukrainian folk, and progressive metal. This song, Molfar, is from their latest album. Enjoy!
Next week we’ll be looking at the status of Ukraine’s economy, as well as the latest headlines and analysis. Tune in for a new episode. And we’d love to hear from you. Write to us at [email protected]. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.
Interviews transcribed by Larysa Iarovenko, Nykole King, Oksana Smerechuk, Ilona Szieventseva, Max Sviezhentsev. Headlines and Culture by Bohdan Nahaylo. Music selected by Andriy Kulykov. Dyczok. Sound engineer Andriy Izdryk. Web support Kyrylo Loukerenko.