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13 October, 2021

Digest of Ukrainian news: 4.10 – 10.10.2021

The world through the prism of Ukrainian interests

Trends

  •   Foreign policy and international agenda

    The foreign policy context around Ukraine last week was eventful. The following list concerned both regional initiatives and broad international cooperation formats.

    First of all, the news about the new meeting of the Heads / Deputy Heads of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine within the framework of the Lublin Triangle is noteworthy. The parties discussed ways to strengthen security in Central Europe, including energy, joint counteraction to the threats of Nord Stream 2, the situation in Belarus, and support for Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

    The completion of another bureaucratic step towards the signing of the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Goods ("industrial visa-free regime") between Ukraine and the EU should also be noted. The European Mission has completed one of the stages of the preliminary assessment of the standardization and metrology system of Ukraine.

    Last week, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution calling on the European Union torecognize the prospect of Ukraine’s membership in the EU. MPs instructed the Chairpersonof the Ukrainian Legislature to address such a request to the European Parliament and to individual colleagues from EU countries.

    Finally, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova voiced the joint statement on behalf of 40 states on the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea during the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

  •   Domestic policy

    Highlighting the main events of last week in Ukraine's domestic policy was a challenge, as this area was saturated with discussable news. They concerned changes in senior state positions, journalists' investigations, anti-corruption reform, the death of the politician, and a new case from the Security Service of Ukraine.

    First of all, it is worth mentioning the Pandora Papers investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Its participants were the current President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and his entourage, as well as other former officials or businessmen from Ukraine (separately): Borys Lozhkin, Oleksandr Tkachenko Hennadiy Boholyubov, Serhiy Kivalov, Rinat Akhmetov, Oleksandr Gerega, and Oleksandr Yaroslavsky. The Office of the President of Ukraine did not refute the published information about Kvartal 95's offshores (the company was founded by Mr. Zelensky) but explained that this format of work was caused by "market peculiarities" in 2012.

    During the recording of the interview with Yevhen Metsger, the director of the state-owned "Ukrexmibank", the journalists of the "Schemes" program from "Radio Svoboda" were attacked by employees of the institution. Those people forcibly seized media equipment and tried to erase the recorded data. The film crew was preparing an investigation into the granting of a loan by this financial institution to a company that allegedly operates in the occupied part of the Donetsk oblast and pays taxes to the occupying forces.

  •  

    The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted for the recalling of the Chairperson of the Parliament Dmytro Razumkov and elected Ruslan Stefanchuk to his post. In the interviews after the resignation, Dmytro Razumkov said that he did not rule out creating his party and running for President of Ukraine.

    Three members of the commission, which is to elect the head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, did not appear at the meeting and did not complete a quorum. Therefore, the appointment has been postponed indefinitely. The need to elect the head of this body was one of the key issues during the meeting between US President Joseph Biden and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.

    On Friday morning, police found Anton Polyakov, an MP from the "For the Future" group ("Za Maybutnye"), unconscious while riding in a taxi. He soon died without regaining consciousness. The circumstances of the death are being investigated by the investigation.

    The Security Service of Ukraine has announced a new official suspicion to the MP from the "Opposition Platform "For Life" ("Opozytsiyna Platforma "Za Zhyttya") Viktor Medvedchuk on state treason and assistance to the activities of a terrorist organization. He is accused of undermining Ukraine's energy independence.

    •   Security

      The security domain was quite eventful last week with a major focus on internal security developments. Thus, prevention of terrorist attacks, the introduction of modern information and analytical system, the situation in Crimea as well as the start of bilateral military exercises were among the biggest news.

      First of all, the Security Service of Ukraine has prevented terrorist attacks in the Zakarpattia region aimed at a Consulate General of one of two Ukrainian neighbors - Hungary or Slovakia. A terrorist that had been recruited by Russian special services planned to commit an arson attack on the Consulate General and kill a local public figure.

      In addition, the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine has introduced theinformation and analytical system “SOTA”. It will be used as a tool for risk analysis and management in Ukraine’s national security and defense based on BigData.

      At the same time, Ukraine and Great Britain are carrying out a joint military exercise “Warrior Watcher 2021”. The aim of the exercise this year is to increase the level of interoperabilitybetween units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and units of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.

      Moreover, the situation in Donbas was stable with a decreasing number of ceasefire violations. Pro-Russian separatists breached the ceasefire regime 48 times last week.

      However, the situation in Crimea is deteriorating due to another illegal conscription campaign held by Russia. It was revealed that more than 34 thousand Crimeans had been forced to serve in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation since 2015.

    •   Bilateral relations

      The bilateral track of Ukrainian foreign policy was marked with numerous developments last week. The most prominent encompassed the further development of Ukrainian-Israeli relations, deepening the Baltic track and potential improvement of research interactions dueto the arrival of the “James Clark Ross” icebreaker to Ukraine.

      Relations between Ukraine and Israel were marked with the first state visit of Isaac Herzog, the President of Israel. Presidents of the two countries held a meeting and signed a joint statement afterward.

    •  

      The Baltic track was fruitful last week. Estonian and Latvian delegations visited Ukraine and carried out several meetings with representatives of the Ukrainian government andparliament. One of the most prominent news was about Latvia’s intention to hold aninternational conference on Crimea.

      In addition, a delegation of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine visited Vilnius where a broad range of bilateral topics was discussed including cyber security. Finally, the icebreaker“James Clark Ross” that Ukraine had purchased in Great Britain arrived at the port of Odesa. The icebreaker opens numerous research perspectives as well as prospects of developing bilateral relations. Thus, the Republic of South Africa expressed its interest in deepening research cooperation with Ukraine, especially in the domain of joint research of the Antarctic.

      Foreign policy and international agenda

      The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Zbigniew Rau and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Mantas Adomenas within the framework of the Lublin Triangle platform. The conversation took place in Warsaw during a security forum.

      According to the Ukrainian minister, the development of the partnership within the Lublin Triangle is important, as it is increasingly difficult for large alliances to maintain international peace and security. In such a situation, flexible regional formats become important.

      Representatives of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine discussed ways to strengthen security in Central Europe, including energy, joint countering of Nord Stream 2 threats, the situation in Belarus, and support for Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The parties paid special attention to countering disinformation.

      EU experts have completed the preliminary assessment of standardization and metrology systems of Ukraine required for the signing of Agreements on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Goods (ACAA) with the EU. The policy of the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine and all other responsible bodies in the field of standardization and metrology of the three priority sectors of industrial products was monitored. Globally, this preliminary EU evaluation mission would determine whether Ukraine's institutional infrastructure is ready to operate based on European norms and rules and open the door to a final evaluation before the signing of the agreement.

      At the same time, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishina said in the interview that Ukraine could expect entry into force of the ACAA in 2023. For this in 2022 Kyiv should complete all negotiations and coordinate all the procedures with the EU. She reminded that there is already an agreement on the industries that will be the first to join "the industrial visa-free regime": low-voltage equipment, electromagnetic compatibility, and machines/equipment operating under pressure. In addition, according to her, the next will be cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, as well as medical equipment.

      The Verkhovna Rada called on the European Union to recognize the prospect of Ukraine’smembership in the EU. In the resolution adopted on 8 October, Parliament called in particular for Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, which declared: «Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union». The Verkhovna Rada instructed the Chairperson of Parliament to immediately address that appeal to the European Parliament and the parliaments of the EU member states.

       

      During the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova voiced the joint statement on behalf of 40 states on the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea. The main signals of the message were:

      •   Condemnation of violations of human rights by the Russian Federation in the temporarily occupied Crimea;

      •   Support of Crimean Platform;

      •   Call on Russia to abide by its obligations under international law and condemn any attempt

        by Russia to legitimize the annexation of Crimea;

      •   Condemnation of the holding of elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation

        (September 17-19) on the sovereign territory of Ukraine without the consent of the Ukrainian side and non-recognition of the results of the mentioned elections; Strong condemnation of politically motivated searches and detention of Crimean Tatars;

      •   The need for the Russian Federation, as the occupying power, to comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law and in the field of human rights, in particular, to restore the human rights of all residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea;

      •   Support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, political independence, and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders.

        Also, last week, it became known that the Russian occupation authorities had transferred the previously detained first deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Nariman Dzhelal, from a pre-trial detention centre to a psychiatric hospital. The lawyer of the activist Nikolay Polozov reported that there were no bases for such a step and the Russian security officers wanted to apply punitive measures to his client.

        Domestic policy

        The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has determined that in the Pandora Papers investigation, Ukraine was the leader by the number of stakeholders involved in the stories – 38 out of 336 people mentioned. One of them was the current President of the state, Volodymyr Zelensky. Because of this leak of documents it became known, that in 2012 his entourage created a network of offshore companies to hide incomes. In addition to them, the investigation opened the information about other well-known Ukrainian businessmen or politicians, such as Borys Lozhkin, Oleksandr Tkachenko, Hennadiy Boholyubov, Serhiy Kivalov, Rinat Akhmetov, Oleksandr Gerega and Oleksandr Yaroslavsky.

        The Office of the President of Ukraine confirmed the veracity of the published data but explained that this format of work was caused by «market peculiarities» at that time (2012 and earlier). In other words, due to state pressure during the rule of Viktor Yanukovych, it was impossible to declare all incomes in Ukraine. Currently, according to the adviser to the head of the President's Office Mykhailo Podoliak, Volodymyr Zelensky is perfectly complying with all anti-corruption norms of Ukrainian legislation.

        During the recording of the interview with Yevhen Metsger, the director of Ukreximbank, which is owned by the state, the journalists of the "Schemes" program from "Radio Liberty" were attacked by employees of the institution. Those people forcibly seized media equipment and tried to erase the recorded data. The instruction for this was given by the head of the bank himself.

        At the same time, the media managed to recover the deleted data and testify that the attack and violence did take place. This reaction from Yevhen Metsger and his subordinates was caused by a journalist's question during the interview devoted to the investigation of the "Schemes" program. According to media data, Ukreximbank has issued a $ 60 million loan to the firms of a businessman whose company operates in the occupied part of Donetsk oblast and pays taxes to the occupying authorities.

        Following the attack on journalists, the Kyiv City Prosecutor's Office suspects the bank's director ofobstructing journalistic activities and depriving people of their liberty. At the time of the investigation, Yevhen Metsger resigned as director. According to the data published in the story of "Schemes," criminal cases have not been initiated yet.

        The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted for the recalling of the Chairperson of the Parliament Dmytro Razumkov and elected Ruslan Stefanchuk to his post. Both politicians were elected to the Verkhovna Rada by the Servant of the People (Sluha Narodu) party.

        Dmitry Razumkov will no longer be part of the faction of this political force. In the report on his resignation, he warned lawmakers against losing democracy, as well as usurping power. In an interview after the resignation of the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Dmytro Razumkov said that he did not rule out creating his party and running for President of Ukraine.

        Journalists and experts call the escalation of the conflict between Dmytro Razumkov and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky one of the reasons for removing this politician from the post of the Verkhovna Rada Head. It is mentioned, Dmytro Razumkov insisted on compliance with the regulations and norms of all laws during the reforms, and Volodymyr Zelensky insisted on the need to quickly adopt documents and make changes.

        Three members of the commission that is to elect the head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAP) did not appear at the meeting on Saturday. This was announced by the head of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, Vitaly Shabunin. Thus, the commission did not gain a quorum for work. Therefore, the appointment of the head of the SAP has been postponed indefinitely.

        Earlier, the US and EU embassies in Ukraine stated that further support for Ukraine depends on the election of the head of this body. This issue was also one of the key ones during the meeting between US President Joseph Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Ukrainian leader assured that the SAP would soon have a new leader.

        Following the events on Saturday, the US Embassy in Ukraine said that «the US and the EU are greatly disappointed by unexplained and unjustifiable delays in the selection of the Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Office, a crucial body in the fight against high-level corruption». Volodymyr Zelenskyi, for his part, called on the members of the selection commission not to delay the election of the head of the SAP and to complete the formation of the entire anti- corruption infrastructure.

        MP Anton Polyakov died on October 8 under unknown circumstances. Police found him unconscious during a taxi ride on Friday morning. He soon died without regaining consciousness. The Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine later reported that a forensic examination revealed that the cause of death was acute coronary insufficiency. Law enforcement agencies are waiting for the rest of the examination results soon. Anton Polyakov was elected as MP of the Verkhovna Rada from the «Servant of the People» (Sluha Narodu), but he was soon expelled from the majority faction. The deputy became a critic of the ruling party's actions and joined the «For the Future» (Za Maybutnie) group, which is linked to oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

         

        The Security Service of Ukraine has announced a new suspicion to the MP from the Opposition Platform «For Life» (Opozytsiyna Platforma «Za Zhyttya») Viktor Medvedchuk of state treason and assistance to the activities of a terrorist organization. He is accused of undermining Ukraine's energy independence. According to the investigation, Viktor Medvedchuk, in collusion with senior Ukrainian officials, prevented the supply of coal from the Republic of South Africa to Ukraine in 2014-2015. Ukrainian power plants needed this fuel. Instead, Viktor Medvedchuk, according to the SSU, organized illegal schemes to supply coal from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to state-owned enterprises in Ukraine.

        Security

        Preventing terrorist attacks: The Security Service of Ukraine has prevented terrorist attacks in the border area of the Zakarpattia region. Terrorists planned to commit an arson attack on the Consulate General of a neighboring country and organize a contract killing of a public figure. According to the Security Service of Ukraine: “the planned terrorist attacks were aimed to destabilize the social andpolitical situation in the region and discredit Ukraine at the international arena”. It is also said that anorganizer of terrorist attempts is hiding in Russia now.

        Let us recall that there are two Consulates General in the Zakarpattia region, namely the Consulate General of Hungary and the Slovak Republic.

        Information and analytical system “SOTA”: The National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine has introduced an information and analytical system “SOTA” that is used as a tool for risk analysis and management in Ukraine’s national security and defense. The system works with Big Data, provides storage, combination, and analysis of data from various sources to increase reliability, effective monitoring of national security in more than 20 areas, to effectively coordinate the activities of government agencies. These areas include social, domestic, and foreign policy security, developments in the Joint Operation Forces zone, the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus infection in the world and in Ukraine, spatial and functional transformation, self-government in the context of decentralization, local budgets, and community capacity, subsoil use, economic security, financial markets, threats in domestic and foreign markets, etc.

        Military exercises: Ukraine and Great Britain are holding a bilateral military exercise “Warrior Watchers 2021”

        Ukrainian-British election,exercise "WARRIOR WATCHER - 2021" is aimed at deepening the knowledge and practical skills of personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on risk assessment and planning of protection of airfields and critical infrastructure according to the procedures and standards of NATO member states. In addition, this exercise will increase the level of interoperability between units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and units of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.

        Ceasefire regime in Donbas: According to the Joint Operation Forces reports, pro-Russian militants violated the cease-fire regime 48 times as of 4-10 October. As a result of the violations, 3 Ukrainian soldiers were injured.

        The situation in Crimea: According to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic ofCrimea and Sevastopol City, Russia has carried out 13 conscription campaigns in the peninsula since 2015. As a result, 34 thousand Crimeans were forced to serve in the Armed Forces of the 

        Russian Federation. In addition, another round of illegal conscription campaigns held by Russia in Crimea started on 1 October 2021.

        Bilateral relations

        Ukrainian-Israeli relations: Presidents of Ukraine and Israel held a joint meeting on 5 October. It was the first state visit abroad for Isaac Herzog, the President of Israel. In this respect, Volodymyr Zelensky noted: "I consider this a sign of high respect, friendship and strong relations between our countries".

        The counterparts discussed potential areas of developing bilateral relations. Among them are technologies and innovations, cybersecurity, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, space programs, banking and finance, construction and agriculture, etc. In addition, the meeting resulted in signing a joint statement between the two Presidents. It reads, inter alia, that “the Parties stressed the importance of resuming the work of the Ukrainian-Israeli Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and EconomicCooperation as soon as the epidemic situation in both countries allows”.

        Let us recall that the latest, 11th, Ukrainian-Israeli Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation was held on 19 June 2018 in Jerusalem.

        Baltic track: The Estonian delegation headed by Jonatan Vseviov, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, visited Ukraine during 4-6 October. The representatives of 8 Estonian ministries conducted trips to Avdiivka, Kharkiv, and Kyiv. While visiting the front-line town of Avdiivka, Jonatan Vseviov stated: “Estonia is Ukraine's ally. That is why it is very important for us to be here, to see with our own eyes the fight for independence that takes place here every day. Ukraine is a European country, so it is a security issue not only for Ukraine but for the whole ofEurope”. In Kyiv, the Estonian delegation had meetings with the Ministry of Defencethe Presidential Officethe Ministry of Educationthe Ministry of Economythe Ministry of Digital Transformationthe Ministry of Social Policy, and the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine.

        Moreover, Dagmara Beitnere-Le Galla, the Vice Speaker of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia,conducted a working visit to Ukraine and had a meeting with Olena Kondratiuk, the Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. One of the results of the meeting was Latvia’s intention to holdan international conference on Crimea, in particular about the occupation of Crimea as an example of the violation of international law.

        Furthermore, representatives of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine took part in a seminar “NewAmbitions for Eastern Partnership: Priorities of Eastern Partnership in the area of security of theSummit of 2021” that was held in Lithuania. Within the framework of the seminar bilateral Ukrainian- Lithuanian relations we discussed. In particular, special attention was focused on a pilot project on the establishment of cyber threats analysis group with the participation of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine under the regional cyber security center in Kaunas.

        “James Clark Ross” icebreaker: The icebreaker currently entitled “James Clark Ross” that hadbeen purchased by Ukraine in Great Britain arrived at the port of Odesa on 5 October.

        Let us recall that from now on Ukraine will have its first icebreaker to conduct scientific research inAntarctica for Ukraine’s “Vernadsky Station”. The vessel can be potentially used to carry out researchin the Arctic and the World Ocean as a whole. In this context, the Republic of South Africa expressed its interest in expanding research cooperation with Ukraine and conducting joint research in Antarctica by using the Ukrainian newly obtained icebreaker.

         

        Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism


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