Movies. Money. Mysticism. Defining National Cinema In Ukraine
Professor at Columbia University Yuri Shevchuk and producer at Directory Films Ihor Savychenko explain what Ukraine can show to the Hollywood
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of Ukraine Calling. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. We’re reviving our news section this week and have an interview that film buffs will really enjoy. It’s about cinema in Ukraine. And, of course, a new song for you.
FEATURE INTERVIEW: PARADIGM SHIFT IN UKRAINIAN CINEMA? COLUMBIA PROFESSOR YURI SHEVCHUK AND UKRAINIAN FILM PRODUCER IHOR SAVYCHENKO SPEAK TO MARTA DYCZOK
Dyczok: People love going to the movies. But making movies is expensive. Many of the films in playing in cinemas around the world are made in Hollywood. Ukraine’s government wants to change this and have more-Ukrainian made movies showing in Ukrainian cinemas. So this year it allocated a record one billion hryvnias, which is the Ukrainian currency, to support the national film industry.
To speak to us about this we have two experts today. We have Professor Yuri Shevchuk, who teaches at Columbia University and has also set up a Film Club there. He shows Ukrainian films to various audiences. And Ihor Savychenko, who is the producer at Directory Films in Kyiv, and his latest film, Brama, just premiered in Kyiv. And it hit the commercial cinemas this week. It’s one of the films that I believe has received some of this, not the whole billion hryvnias, but part of the funding. Thank you both very much for joining us.
Shevchuk: Hi, thanks for inviting me.
Savychenko: Hi, hello.
Dyczok: Let’s start with the big picture. Why is the Ukrainian government now funding cinema in this large amount. They’ve always been funding, but in very small amounts. Suddenly, there’s a billion hryvnias. Why is this happening? Ihor?
Savychenko: First of all, all this funding started in 2011, the initiative of the government started in 2010, when the State Agency for Film was separated from the Ministry of Culture. So Ukrainian cinema started to rise, which is rather unusual since Victor Yanukovych was the President [he is usually viewed as pro-Russian]. And after this, year by year, it [funding] was going down and down. Only this year it went up significantly. But this one billion is not, let’s say, exactly one billion. Half of that money will go to the Ukrainian State Film Agency, which is the national film body.
Dyczok: Ah, so they’re subsidising state production.
Savychenko: Not exactly subsidising, finally they own the rights. They’re introducing a new law which should be implemented by the end of the year, so there will be subsidies, or grants. Before, they owned the rights for films. But hopefully, starting in the new year, hopefully they will give subsidies. And other new funding suddenly appeared from the Ministry of Culture. That’s targeted for, or has been mentioned that will target let’s say ‘hurrah patriotic’ films, mostly, not for patriotic but it should be extremely patriotic. But in the end it looks like its more for television, TV series, and so on, which is not our cup of tea.
Dyczok: So you’re saying that this money is designed to promote patriotism through cinema?
Savychenko: What I’m saying is not even cinema. It looks like it’s going to television. And this one billion is divided, half goes to the State Film Agency and half goes to the Ministry of Culture patriotic films programme. They don’t have another name for this yet. So, this will be the first contest in the Ministry of Culture.
Dyczok: So, the way the money is allocated is through a competition? People put in proposals and then they go through some sort of selection process?
Savychenko: They are pretty much copying the system of the State Film Agency, but the commission was gathered mainly from television people. And this for sure will influence the results very, very much. The results are mostly not predictable. Right now we are in the process of the contest, and the results should be announced tomorrow. Finally. But they have two rounds.
And even the second round had really a very limited number of very good projects. They cut a number of extremely good, talented projects. Maybe they are not ‘hurrah patriotic.’ But patriotic films, that a very strange definition. How do you define that at all?
Dyczok: Is that how it’s defined? Or is that just the casual name, how people call it?
Savychenko: I don’t know. They have a very strange definition, it’s quite long, and, for example, it consists of articles that could be ‘inclusion.’ And, for example, I applied with a project about the Asperger Syndrome. This is about inclusion. And it’s a very good project, should be a very good film, it was selected to the Torino Film Lab, which has the best script development programme in the world. But for them [the state] it’s not patriotic. It’s inclusion. It’s in the list of their definitions. But it is not patriotic. I don’t know what is patriotic. So,
Dyczok: Yuri, did you want to jump in?
Shevchuk: Yes, if I may. In the larger scale of things, the Ukrainian government, consecutive Ukrainian governments starting from independence, were marked from any other post-Soviet government by their peculiar lack of understanding of the importance of national cinema for consolidation of their nation, state-building, the entire project of building a new state.
So, I think that there is a paradigmatic change in how the government suddenly discovers the value of cinema, of national cinema. And how important it is to support it, to finance it. This kind of change started under the old, kleptocratic Yanukovych government. And they said that it was because Yanukovych’s younger son was particularly fascinated by cinema, it was a fad for him.
But now, under this government it seems like a conscious policy. And, of course, it should be welcomed. As far as the production of so-called ‘patriotic films’ is concerned, what is important is how we talk about this. Because American films are very patriotic, a lot of them, in the sense that many of them give the viewer a sense of pride of belonging to what is considered to be an American identity. Probably they are not called patriotic, they’re called in some sort of different manner. The problem with Ukrainian cinema is that we still do not know what it means to be a Ukrainian film.
And, also, what it means to be a film that gives the viewer a sense of pride about being part of this particular culture. So, at the moment we problematise this, we say that we need a film making industry that supports our sense of belonging, to the Ukrainian nation, to the Ukrainian political project. And that’s OK. Because that’s what many other national cinemas do. The French. Russian. Polish.
Ukrainians are still kind of uneasy about the very idea of instrumentality of national cinema. It’s not only entertainment. It’s entertainment and identity creation. Twelve years or so ago, when this disastrous film, “A Prayer for Hetman Mazepa” was released, and there were voices saying, ‘well, you wanted Ukrainian national cinema, you have it. This is it. So, it was discrediting the very notion of Ukrainian national cinema.
Dyczok: Sorry to interrupt, but who is defining what national cinema is. You’ve touched on a very interesting point, and Ihor was talking about this. What is it that’s national, how is that interpreted? Presented? Is this something that film makers are doing? Because you’re right, there’s a lot of criticism of what Ihor called the ‘hurrah patriotism.’ So, who’s supposed to be defining this?
Shevchuk: I think that we need to open, start a discussion, an all-encompassing discussion on what it means to be a Ukrainian national film. The way Russians have their national cinema. Poles have their national cinema. For some reason people find it uneasy to even talk about that. They kind of prefer to avoid the issue. Nobody in their right mind would advocate this Soviet type of patriotic cinema.
I don’t think that anyone advocates the necessity of Soviet-conceived patriotic cinema. Patriotism can be very subtle. Like the patriotism that is very subtle in, I don’t know, French, or Italian, or American cinema. Hollywood is very subtly promoting Americanism in the rest of the world to such an extent that the rest of the world, in many senses, wants to be American.
Dyczok: It’s the lifestyle politics that’s being transmitted through cinema. I wonder if Ihor wanted to come in on this point?
Savychenko: I would like to explain something a bit different. There’s a huge difference between American and European cinema. We are Ukrainians, we are mostly in the system of European co-production. And in Europe there is a definition of national film in each country. And we have the European Convention on co-production in films. It’s quite well described and easy to understand what it is. It’s quite different from patriotic.
In Europe films are supported by states, by public money, we call it soft money. The reason why countries like France, or Poland, or Sweden, support their own cinema, they give them grants, because they fill the gap between commercial potential and what [making] films costs. For example, in France, an average films costs something like 2.5 million Euros [to make], but from the local market, it’s possible, if it’s art stream, let’s say, a film that went to big festivals then goes to limited theatrical screening…
Dyczok: So, who’s the target audience there?
Savychenko: The target audience is a big part of the wider audience. In different countries it’s different. For example, in Sweden, it’s 34% of the audience, is the audience that is targeted by festival films. So, it’s big. But what I mean is that if the film can collect say one million from cinemas, from television, from on-line platforms, but it costs two million to make, that’s only half.
So, the state fills the gap. That’s one point. And another point [reason] why they give money, they give money for debuts, for some experimental films, for arthouse films, to experiment. And in Ukraine it’s very, very important to have experiments. Like Yuri said, in Ukraine we don’t even have an idea of what Ukrainian cinema is. We have to find it.
For example, from my point of view, Brama, The Gateway, the film that we just made, it’s a very good start of a new wave of Ukrainian cinema. I think we will be copied in different levels. In the mass market. It the arthouse market. But this film will be copied.
Dyczok: Sorry to interrupt. This is the film that I was mentioning at the beginning, in the introduction, that Ihor Savychenko produced, the film is Brama, which means Gateway. And it is based on a novel by Pavlo Arje, and its set inside the Chornobyl exclusion zone. I don’t think our listeners will have seen the film, so tell us a little bit about why you chose to make the film, what the film is about, and why it’s important for Ukrainian audiences?
Savychenko: It’s a long story how this film came about.
Dyczok: Well, we only have 15 minutes.
Savychenko: I will pay attention to this. Let’s say that it came mystically, somehow. Volodymyr Tykhy, the director of the film, co-writer, called me the day after I saw this theatrical play. It’s not a novel, it’s a play in theatres. And I saw this play directed by Stas Zhirkov in Kyiv. It was called Stalkers. And the next day I went to L’viv for some conference. Volodymyr called me as I was passing by the Dramatic Theatre in L’viv, and he said that he would like to make a film from a theatrical play, ‘you probably don’t know this play.’ But when he named the play! First, I had just seen it yesterday, and second I was standing in front of a poster for…
Dyczok: It was coming to L’viv and you saw the poster?
Savychenko: No, it was a poster in front of the theatre for the production that was playing in L’viv. The play is very popular.
Dyczok: So, the play was following you. Or you were following the play.
Savychenko: Yes. It was mystical. Why is this important? Pavlo Arje, the writer, the author of the play, is a guy who seems like Gogol to me. Mykola Gogol, one of the most popular writers in the Russian Empire who wrote about Ukrainian ethnicity. It was a mixture of horror, humour and some social issues inside.
If we would talk about the Soviet films, the most popular Soviet film was based on Gogol’s books like Viy, horror with humour, mysticism, and social issues, like Propala Hramota (The Lost Letter), and Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka.
Dyczok: So, these stories are based…
Savychenko: It’s like blockbusters. Arje play is a post modernistic mixture of modern myths about Chornobyl such as there is no radiation there, it was invented by Gorbachov to clear the space as a base for aliens. Also, that they have a secret line of subway from Prypiat in Chornobyl zone to Kyiv. And lots of other myths which were created by people after Chornobyl disaster. He mixed it with typical for this region magic creations and added very strong social issues. The film goes from comedy to horror.
So, it was very typical for Gogol and in our case it’s post-modernist Gogol. I think it should be well accepted by Ukrainian audiences. It’s pity the results from cinemas are not that great. As I said if we do this film in two year later it would have much more audience. For this moment we have something like 30, 000 viewers in Ukraine.
Dyczok: So, this is like a post-modern Gogol with comedy and terror. It hit the commercial cinemas in Ukraine this week. We’ll see how well it does in the cinemas. I am wondering if you have plans to show it internationally? And a broader question, “What do Ukrainian films have to offer internationally?” Because Yurko was talking about Ukrainian national cinema. Is this only for the Ukrainian audiences, or is there a desire to reach out and show what the Ukrainian cinema is to the international audience?
Shevchuk: Speaking generally of Ukrainian film directors and film producers, they impress me as being a little bit uncertain and unsure of their own capacity to offer something that any other cinema can. I mean by that specifically Ukrainian stories that will be absolutely fascinating for the rest of the world.
Hollywood seems to be kind of fizzling out. They remake old good films because they are short on new good stories. Ukrainians are sitting on piles of fascinating stories of their experience that need to be brought out and shown to the world with Ukrainian flavour to them. By that I do not mean embroidered shirts and decorated Easter eggs.
Dyczok: I do not think there any in Brama.
Shevchuk: Well, there are some too. I think the Ukrainian film making industry needs a little bit of self-assurance that they have an incredible potential fascinating to the rest of the world with their stories. They need to turn to their own people, their own sources and address them head on, aggressively, dig them out and put them in films instead of trying to copy something from the Russian cinema or Hollywood. I think there is a huge untapped potential there.
Savychenko: I totally agree with this and that’s the films which we do, for example, our company, so we do things with international potential and, for sure, we never copy something which was before. Brama is very unique for—
Savychenko: Which will go to the silver screen in early September when the trees fall. It’s also a very new thing for Ukrainian cinema at all and of course it heads its premiere in Berlin, during Berlinale festival, and it heads to many other festivals. It will be very soon in—
Savychenko: Yes, it will be in Toronto, as well.
Dyczok: We’ll see you in Toronto.
Savychenko: It will be in Austin, Texas, USA, to talk about it, it will go to many other festivals after, so it is very, very unique and it has this… Somehow it has this coming of age [feeling]. It has a lot of passion inside which is very far from, very typical Ukrainian, you know, victim style films, or Ukrainian poetic cinema. So that’s what we are trying to do. And year by year we are more and more welcomed on the international level, but unfortunately, only at festivals. Unfortunately, sales – screenings, online platforms, and television – they don’t want to take our films.
As an example, five years ago, we did a film, Brothers: The Final Confession, which went to three class-A film festivals. It was very successful. It had very bad reviews in Ukraine, we were proposing this film – the film is based on a very well-known book, it is even a best seller. It was translated into 30-35 languages, it’s a Torgny Lindgren book. And we moved this story from Sweden to Ukraine, and it was a brilliant film. But when we proposed it to Swedish TV, STV, they said “No. No even if it is based on our book, even if it is very close to us, we don’t want to screen it.”
Only after Torgny Lindgren – I’m sorry – but he died, he was very old – only after this they proposed that they screen our film as a commemoration to him. I don’t want to look for reasons like this to screen on the international market. For example, films about Sentsov [Ukrainian political prisoner in a Russian jail] they are very welcome on the international market, but only because of the topic, so a natural way for the moment is difficult to stress, let’s say, commercial market with Ukrainian films.
Shevchuk: There’s one subject matter that absolutely asks for it to become the subject of films, in particular, Ukrainian political life. All the Italian, American films about the mafia would pale in comparison with Ukrainian real stories about political life. If you made a film like that then people would be pleading, begging for more to give them more because the way politics function in this country, and all kinds of real life detective stories happening at the same time are absolutely endlessly fascinating.
Dyczok: Well, you would be facing lots of criminal charges but Ihor wants to come in on this.
Savychenko: Another issue is the level of industry in Ukraine and the number of resources we can attach to the film. In order to do something like Godfather or any other good examples of crime stories – on the international market, we would compare it to Hollywood films.
Dyczok: So, you should do it.
Savychenko: The biggest blockbuster which I ever did, it was The Guide [Povodyr], https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3037582/ which I did six years ago and it cost 2.2 million dollars. And when we screened it internationally, and people said that the production value was something like 6.8 million but we did it for 2.2 million. But, to do this film on the same level as Pearl Harbour, I don’t know—
Dyczok: So, if you did it with the financing to do it like you want to–
Savychenko: It should be 10 times more than what we had. So, we have quite limited sources.
Dyczok: You mean income?
Savychenko: Yes, and also on the international market, big actors are very welcome to promote the film to attach the audience to the film, so we cannot pay to produce really, it’s too expensive for us.
Dyczok: But you can use Ukrainian stars.
Savychenko: But who will go to watch a film with Ukrainian stars somewhere in, I don’t know, Illinois?
Dyczok: Well, maybe there are stars of Ukrainian origin that are popular in the United States or Canada.
Savychenko: They cost the same as American stars. And it’s only one comparison, but post-production should be the same level, the number of shooting days, the amount of people on crew because we shoot days with reduced crew, so it’s half the cost.
For example, in Ukraine, right after we shot our film, several months later the guy who shot the film Bitter Harvest – the same topic, everything was the same, but it was shot with a Canadian director with Canadian money – and our film was 2.2 million and their film was 15 million.
Dyczok: So, one of the challenges you’re facing – that was another question I had – is finances?
Savychenko: It’s not because we did this film – it is really better. But in this North American way of production, it costs something like seven times more. Everything was the same, I mean, the level of post-production, the level of actors. We also had several international cast inside our film, but we spent 2.2 million, North Americans they spent 15 million.
Dyczok: So, that’s why the Ukrainian government is subsidizing film in order to make it easier for filmmakers in Ukraine—
Savychenko: No, no, I mean that if the Ukrainian government will give me 15 million then I will make something on the level as Pearl Harbour.
Dyczok: Well let’s hope that you can get that from that 1 billion.
Savychenko: It’s not possible, sorry because I see now that previous results of the contest it looks like we will go to television.
Dyczok: So you can make a made for tv film.
Dyczok: Not interested?
Savychenko: Let’s say it’s boring. Ukrainian television is not like American television. Also it’s like Yuri says, they follow the ideas from Europe, from let’s say Poland, who follow the ideas from I don’t know, Germany, who follow the ideas from UK, who follow the ideas from Hollywood. And we have sort of Ukrainian version of True Detective, we went through let’s say five or six different adaptations.
Dyczok: But perhaps this is an opportunity to introduce some innovation? If you have ideas, there’s money out there.
Savychenko: Our television is not paid tv, so it’s terrestrial tv, and there is no opportunity to let’s say make money on tv, and it means that this tv is supported by private investors who use television for political reasons.
Dyczok: But there’s always room for change.
Dyczok: There’s always room for change. Yuri, you wanted to jump in here?
Shevchuk: Yes, I think the problem also is that, I don’t know if it’s intentionally or subconsciously but Ukrainian filmmakers are trying to emulate the patterns of film production in Hollywood or in Russia. But I think it’s more productive to try and adapt, or see what’s adaptable from Canadian filmmaking experience.
Because the filmmaking industry and the proportions are comparable where Ukraine and Canada are concerned, not Ukraine and Hollywood. And Canadian film industry is fantastically vibrant, including production of film series, tv series for television that they export all around the world. And I think Canada can teach so much Ukrainian filmmakers, and I don’t think Ukrainian filmmakers appreciate that. Ihor, am I wrong in thinking that?
Savychenko: Yes, you are.
Savychenko: First of all the question is in language, and if to compare Canada and USA in this frame it was the same. Something like five years ago between Ukraine and Russia we did a lot of things for things for Russia, we did a lot of series for Russia. So we exported films to Russia because we can do films in Russian. So it’s the same with Canada. Canadians they can do films in English, with American accent, with American stars, and this is very important. So what I mean, we have to be included and we are in this process into European scheme of production.
So the things we do, we do in co-production with Poland, with Sweden, with France, with Germany, with Macedonia, with Belgium, with Lithuania – that’s what we do for the moment. And this gives us much more opportunity because the system of production in Europe is more or less similar in all of those countries. The wealthiest country is France, for example. They have almost 1 billion euros of support from government for films. So much more than Ukraine for sure.
And it’s quite comparable system in each of countries. We have this system of this European convention, Canada is a part of creative Europe. They even have jokes that UK out, Canada in. So, Canadians and Europeans, that’s what they say.
Dyczok: Well, we are Europeans in origin.
Savychenko: Yeah, but what I mean, to copy American or Russian style of production is not our cup of tea. So –
Dyczok: I don’t know that he was talking about production, it was about ideas.
Savychenko: And ideas as well.
Dyczok: Right? Because the production you’re right, that’s –
Shevchuk: Production as well. And I didn’t mean Canada making film for American market. There is a section of Canadian film that is easily Canadian, immediately recognizable as specifically Canadian. I mean people like, this Québecois film. It’s very Canadian and it’s not like the end of the American empire –
Dyczok: Denys Arcand, and those directors, yeah.
Shevchuk: Exactly, yes. And even people like David Cronenberg, most of his films are specifically Canadian. You cannot even take them or confuse them for American. Probably Canada was not the best example, but I agree. Probably Canada was not the best example. But I agree, Europe has much more to offer us in the way of how films are made, the entire set up of film production. And, also, scale-wise. That I agree with you completely.
Savychenko: And, also, more cultural diversity, because Europe is very diverse in terms of everything. Style. Culture. Music. Film. Ways of acting. Stories. What I mean is that in Europe it’s easier to show Ukrainian films, for example, to Germans, or Swedish people, than it is to show Ukrainian films to Americans. I even talked to guys at Netflix and they told me that they were very surprised when they launched this German series, a high concept drama, dark, which is sort of a spin off from Stranger Things.
Dyczok: Yes, I’ve seen it.
Savychenko: And they said that the number one question to the call center was, the most frequently answered question was, how do I turn on sub-titles. This series showed Americans that it’s possible to watch something that is not in English.
Dyczok: Of course!
Savychenko: They were very surprised that it was the number one question. And now they say that they are very open to European high concept dramas. They even opened an office in Amsterdam. And they announced that they will spend one billion dollars on European content.
Dyczok: So there’s lots of room for growth for your company, for Ukrainian cinema.
Savychenko: This is an opportunity for us for sure. International television. Because Netflix is not exactly television. It’s like live cinema for everything. For films, for series. And for us it’s a much more interesting opportunity, than to try and go to cinemas, to try to push to distributors to take our films.
Dyczok: We could keep talking for hours, this is such a fascinating topic but we’re running out of time. So, I’m going to ask if either of you would like to say something as a last comment, or anything you’d like to add to the conversation?
Shevchuk: Well, I think we are in the middle of a kind of shift in paradigm, for the better. A sort of slow but certain appreciation of the importance of Ukrainian cinema as a way to express, to kind of speak to the Ukrainian audience. But also to the world. I think that if this tendency continues, we are going to eventually, and quite soon, to have films that we can take pride in, both artistically and commercially.
Dyczok: Thank you. Ihor?
Savychenko: To be honest, I’m not so positive. I see the gap in production possibilities here, because of this fighting between the State Information Agency and the Ministry of Culture. The financing will stop. So next year there will be a gap in theatrical releases for sure. And also in festivals, and so on. And this part of money allocated to the Ministry of Culture, I don’t think that something good will be done with it, based on this concept to do, let’s say patriotic films, just because they have to be patriotic.
But, on the positive side, what I can say is that a large number of Ukrainian film makers are really targeting international audiences at the moment. Not just because of commercial reasons, but they understood that this is the way not to copy something, but to create something original and to tell stories to the world. So I hope that financing will be renewed, so that those people can tell their stories to the world.
Dyczok: We’ve been listening about film from producer Ihor Savychenko, film expert, critic, professor Yuri Shevchuk from Columbia University. Two perspectives. I hope our audience will have the opportunity to see this film, The Gateway. I hope that it will be available internationally one way or another. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.
MORE US AID
The U.S. Senate passed a $716 billion defense policy bill on Wednesday, August 1. The Senate voted 87-10 supporting the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. Since it cleared the House of Representatives, the bill now goes to Trump, who is expected to sign it into law. Among other things, the bill authorizes an additional $250 million for armaments and aid to Ukraine.
MANAFORT IN THE NEWS. AGAIN.
This week we learned that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, earned more than $60 million as a political consultant in Ukraine. This was disclosed by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, on the eve of Manafort’s criminal trial. Manafort’s lawyers are trying to prevent jurors from seeing 51 exhibits that detail his work in Ukraine, where he advised former President Viktor Yanukovych, his Party of Regions and its successor, the Opposition Bloc.
MEANWHILE, EX-PRESIDENT YANUKOVYCH’S TRIAL CONTINUES
On July 31st the Obolonski District Court continued proceedings in the case of Ukraine’s ex-president Victor Yanukovych. As before, there were disputes between the prosecutors and defense. Yanukovych’s attorneys tried to disrupt the proceedings, and they all announced that they left the case. As a result, court adjourned until August 16th.
UKRAINE MARKS 1030 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko joined thousands on the streets of Kyiv on Saturday, July 28th. Ukraine was making its 1030th anniversary of Christianity. The President used the occasion to further his aim to secure independence for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Russia. Poroshenko wants to establish a so-called national ‘autocephalous’ church. He said, “Autocephaly is an issue of our independence.
This is an issue of our national security. This is an issue of world geopolitics.” Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the global spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, boosted Poroshenko’s hopes of securing approval for an autocephalous church. His representative Metropolitan Emmanuel came to Kyiv for the celebrations where he said, “The Ecumenical Patriarch cannot remain blind and deaf to the appeals that have been repeated for more than a quarter of a century.” The Moscow Patriarchate, as well as the Kremlin, oppose Poroshenko’s proposal.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is considering a $100 million loan to Ukraine. It would go the state energy firm Naftogaz to buy natural gas for winter. The decision is expected in early September. Ukraine used to meet its gas needs by importing from Russia. That ended in 2015. Ukraine now imports its gas from Europe.
A Russian Nationalist biker gang with close ties to President Vladimir Putin set up a base in Slovakia. This move alarmed the local government. Slovak President Andrej Kiska warned that the Night Wolves, who supported Russian troops during the annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine in 2014, are a security risk to NATO and the EU.
POLITICS OF SPORT
Elina Svitolina, famous Ukrainian professional tennis player, refused to take part in the Moscow River Cup tournament in Russia. The director of the tournament, Alexander Ostrovsky, explained that her decision was political.
There’s a rock band in Novovolyns’k called Цвях, which means Nail. Here’s one of their new songs called “Черевики,” (Shoes). It’s about following your own path. Enjoy!
Join us again next week. We’ll be speaking about public opinion and attitudes in Ukraine with Prof. Olexiy Haran. So be sure to tune in. And we would be happy to receive any feedback from you. Follow us on twitter, our handle is @CallingUkraine. Or write to us at: [email protected] This is Marta Dyczok in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.
Interview transcribed by Marta Dyczok, Larysa Iarovenko, Nykole King, and Caitilin O’Hare. News by Ira Zolomko. Music by Marta Dyczok. Sound engineers Andriy Izdryk and Ihor Onysenko. E-mail distribution Ilona Sviezhentseva. Web support by Andrew Kobaliia.