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25 October, 2021

Digest of Ukrainian news: 18.10 – 24.10.2021

The world through the prism of Ukrainian interests

Trends

  •   Foreign policy and international agenda

    The main events of Ukraine’s foreign policy and the international context around thecountry were primarily related to the topic of gas. Thus, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky announced his intention to offer Russia a 50% discount on the transportation of natural gas to Europe. He mentioned additional volumes that are not provided in Kyiv's current contract with Gazprom. According to Volodymyr Zelensky, this could help solve the energy crisis in Europe, which were caused, in particular, due to Russia's actions.

    In addition, Naftogaz applied to participate in the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. According to the company's executive director Yuri Vitrenko, the facility cannot be authorized for operating because the conditions of its use do not comply with EU law.

    Another important addition to last week's foreign policy trends is the statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba that official Kyiv plans to hold a meeting of the prime ministers of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine as part of the "Lublin Triangle" in the near future. According to the official, this, as well as other circumstances, indicate an increase in the intensity of Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian cooperation after the establishment of this format.

  •   Domestic policy

    Among the internal events of Ukraine last week, the news related to the spread of COVID- 19 are first worth mentioning. The country recorded the highest daily number of patients and deaths from coronavirus during the pandemic. At the same time, three more oblasts– Mykolaiv, Rivne and Sumy – moved to the "red" zone of epidemic danger. At the same time, the rate of vaccination of the population of Ukraine from COVID-19 has significantly accelerated. Last week, almost 935,000 citizens received their first dose of vaccines.

    It is also worth mentioning the draft law on energy efficiency, which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada last week. According to the Minister of Communities and Territories Development, the adoption of this document is the first step towards reducing the energy intensity of Ukraine's economy.

    Finally, we should pay attention to the statement of Myroslava Barchuk, the TV presenter of the "Zvorotnyi vidlik" (Countdown) program from the public broadcaster UA:Pershiy, that the Office of the President of Ukraine is trying to influence the work of journalists. According to her, the body seeks to control the participation of representatives of the "Sluha Narodu" (Servant of the People) party in the program and the invitation/rejection of some other participants. Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the President's 

    Office, rejected Myroslava Barchuk's accusations.

    •   Security

      The security domain was traditionally eventful last week. The main topics included the suspension of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), a weapons deal, talks on human rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, and an evacuation operation from Syria.

      The OSCE SMM could not operate in the temporarily occupied Donetsk due to pro-Russian protests at the special monitoring mission’s headquarters. The reason for suchprotests was the arrest of a member of Russian armed formations by the Armed Forces of Ukraine for espionage activities on 13 October. The protests took place from 17 to 23 October.

      At the same time, Ukraine and Great Britain hold negotiations for selling Ukraine British missiles Brimstone. In case of successful negotiations, Ukraine will become the first Eastern European country to receive such weapons from Great Britain.

      In addition, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights carried out his first visit to Ukraine where he had a number of meetings with Ukrainian top officials. He also visited the east of Ukraine where he called upon the pro-Russian separatist “authorities” to allow international monitoring of places of detention.

      Meanwhile, the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine conducted the 4th evacuation operation from Syria. It is expected that the 5th one will be the last to carry remaining Ukrainian residents from Syria.

      Moreover, the situation in Donbas remained stable with 53 ceasefire violations during 18- 24 October. As a result of the violations, 6 Ukrainian soldiers were injured.

    •   Bilateral relations

      The bilateral sphere of Ukrainian foreign policy was quite fruitful last week. The main tracks of developing bilateral interactions included the Ukraine-US track that was in the spotlight of attention as well as Ukraine-Czechia and Ukraine-South Africa tracks.

      The major event was US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s visit to Ukraine on 19October. The two countries agreed to further develop the Strategic Defense Framework whereas the US Secretary of Defence has reiterated the USA’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

      In addition,the last week was marked with delivering two consignments of US military aid to Ukraine. The last one, delivered on 22 October, included Javelin anti-tank missile systems.

      At the same time, the Ninth Meeting of the Ukrainian-Czech Joint Commission on Economic, Industrial, and Scientific-Technical Cooperation took place where the two countries discussed a broad range of areas of cooperation including perspectives of deepening energy cooperation.

    •  

      Foreign policy and international agenda

      Ukraine offered Russia a discount on gas transportation to Europe. These are liberalized conditions for the supply of fuel of more than 40 billion cubic meters per year, provided by the current contract between Ukraine and Gazprom. This was announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a media comment. According to him, this offer is valid for both European companies and Gazprom. Volodymyr Zelensky estimates a possible discount of about 50%. The President of Ukraine believes that such a decision would save Europe from excessive losses this winter and stop the crisis in the European gas market.

      In addition, last week the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine instructed Ukraine's gas companies to provide capacity to transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Europe in addition to the current 40 billion cubic meters per year. At the same meeting, the National Security and Defense Council considered the request of the Prime Ministerof the Republic of Moldova Natalia Gavrilița to provide assistance to her country due to the stateof emergency in energy (it was formed in particular by the actions of Gazprom). It is a matter of transferring a certain amount of gas to Moldova. The National Security and Defense Council decided that Ukraine would soon be able to provide such assistance.

      Ukrainian fuel operator Naftogaz applied to participate in the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. This was announced at a press conference by the company's chairman Yuri Vitrenko. According to the executive, this decision is part of the struggle for energy security and advocacy of Ukraine's national interests. Naftogaz's position is that Nord Stream 2 cannot be certified because the pipeline does not comply with EU law.

      Official Kyiv plans to hold a meeting of the prime ministers of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine within the framework of the Lublin Triangle format. This was announced at a briefing by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba. According to him, this meeting is now the main item on the agenda of the Lublin Triangle. At the same time, the official said that Ukraine is preparing three other events within the format. On October 27, a meeting of the national youth councils of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine will take place, where a memorandum on the establishment of the Lublin Youth Triangle as an international platform for youth cooperation in the field of culture and public diplomacy would be signed. Representatives of the Ministry for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine also expressed a desire to hold a tripartite meeting with colleagues. In addition, in December 2021, the parties plan to hold a meeting of the Interparliamentary Assembly with the participation of Lithuanian, Polish, and Ukrainian MPs.

       

      Domestic Policy

      Ukraine recorded the highest number of deaths from coronavirus COVID-19 per day during the pandemic. On Friday, October 22, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine stated 614 deaths. The previous peak for deaths per day was recorded in April 2021 – 481. Ukraine also reached the highest infection rate per day during the pandemic – 23,785. These data, as well as the high level of hospitalizations, gave the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal reason to call the current wave of coronavirus the biggest challenge for the country during the pandemic.

      Over the past week, three more oblasts – Mykolaiv, Rivne, and Sumy – moved to a "red" level of epidemic danger. Restrictions on long-distance transport in the "red" zones also come into force: buses, planes, and trains can be used only by passengers with a full course of vaccination against COVID-19, a negative PCR result, or a rapid test.

      Finally, it is worth mentioning that with the extension of the epidemy and the introduction of a "red" level of epidemic danger in several regions, the rate of vaccination in Ukraine significantly accelerated. So last week, almost 935 thousand citizens received the first dose of the vaccine. This is the largest seven-day number for the entire pandemic. Denys Shmyhal stressed that the state authorities in the regions of Ukraine were tasked with providing vaccination infrastructure to reach 1.5 million doses per week throughout the country.

      The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a draft law on energy efficiency. According to the Minister of Communities and Territories Development Oleksiy Chernyshov, the implementation of this document will allow intensifying the implementation of energy-saving projects and reducing the energy intensity of Ukraine's economy. In particular, the adopted bill provides for the formation of state policy, strategy, and plans in the field of energy efficiency, the creation of new standards for energy audit and energy management in the economy.

      Journalists of the public broadcaster UA: Pershiy stated that the Office of the President of Ukraine interferes in their work. Myroslava Barchuk, the TV presenter of the evening talk show "Zvorotnyi vidlik" (Countdown), said that for a long time the team of the Head of the President's Office Andriy Yermak controlled the presence of MPs from the "Sluha Narodu" (Servant of the People) party on TV. Also, according to her, the body gives ultimatums to journalists in this regard and tries to influence the invitation of other guests of the program. Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the President's Office, rejected Myroslava Barchuk's accusations. At the same time, he hinted that the state body wants to see a "balanced" position in the channels and wants to convey to the audience the position of the authorities.

      Security

      Suspension of the OSCE SMM mission on temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine: Due to pro-Russian protests (17-23 October) at the headquarters of the OSCE SMM in the temporarily occupied Donetsk, the monitoring mission suspended its operation because of “safety concerns”.The reason for protests was the arrest of Andriy Kosiak (a member of the armed formations of the Russian Federation ) by the Armed Forces of Ukraine for espionage activities, i.e. conducting 

      photo and video recording of the positions left by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “These actionsby the member of the Russian armed formations grossly violated the additional measures to strengthen the ceasefire of 22 July 2020, which prohibit offensive, reconnaissance and sabotageoperations”, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted“The blocking of and pressure on monitors of the OSCESpecial Monitoring Mission in Donetsk are part of Russia's ongoing efforts to undermine the Minskagreements and escalate the armed conflict”.

      According to the OSCE SMM daily report of 23 October, pro-Russian protests at the SMM headquarters came to an end.

      Ukraine-Great Britain upcoming weapons deal: According to the British newspaper The Times, Great Britain is discussing with Ukraine the possibility of selling its surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles Brimstone. It is stated that the missile sale would represent the first time that Britain had sold weapons to the eastern European country.

      Ceasefire regime in Donbas: According to the Joint Operation Forces reports, pro-Russian militants violated the cease-fire regime 53 times as of 18-24 October. As a result of the violations, 6 Ukrainian soldiers were injured.

      Human Rights Talks with the EU: Eamon Gilmore, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, had his first visit to Ukraine starting 18 October. He held meetings with Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Ihor Zhovkva, the Deputy Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine and other Ukrainian officials. The interlocutors discussed the consequences of systemic human rights violations by the Russian occupation authorities in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea. In addition, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights visited Kramatorsk in the east of Ukraine where he stated:

      And we call on the de facto 'authorities' of these areas to allow international monitoring of places of detention. So that, in particular, United Nations human rights mission will be able to inspect these places of detention and be able to communicate with detainees directly

      Moreover, the EU Special Representative has noted that during his next visit to Ukraine he intends to visit the administrative border with the temporarily occupied Crimea.

      Ukraine’s special evacuation operation from Syria: On 19 October the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs carried out the fourth evacuation from Syria. As a result, one Ukrainian family (5 persons) was successfully evacuated from the Syrian refugee camp Roj located in the northeast part of the country. In addition, the Ministry of Defence stated that there would be one more, the fifth, evacuation operation that would carry to Ukraine 11 families from the Syrian refugee camp al-Hol.

       

      Bilateral relations

      Ukraine-US relations: US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin had a working visit to Kyiv on 19 October where he met with Minister of Defence of Ukraine Andriy Taran and President Volodymyr Zelensky.

      During a joint briefing at the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine Andriy Taran stated that Ukraine and the USA are developing a roadmap for the implementation of the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework and are introducing projects establishing fundamental modalities in order to increase defense capabilities on land, in the air, at sea, and in cyberspace. At the same time, Lloyd Ostinnoted“We reiterate our call on the Russian Federation to end its occupation of Crimea, to end the continuation of the war in eastern Ukraine, and to end destabilizing activity in the Black Seaand along Ukraine’s borders”.

      In addition, the 2nd (17-18 October) and 3rd (22 October) consignments of military aid from the US were delivered to Ukraine. They encompassed foreign security assistance from the United States government for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, worth $60 million, including ammunition, anti-tank and high-precision weapons, and medical equipment. “A consignment of Javelin anti-tank missile systems with ammunition arrived today. We also received ammunitionfor the ‘NATO caliber’ weapons we have. The weaponry will be moved to the bases and depots,properly registered and handed over to our military for further use, including to the Joint Forces,"said Mykola Shevtsov, the Chief of the Main Logistics Department at the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

      Ukraine-Czech relations: The Ninth Meeting of the Ukrainian-Czech Joint Commission on Economic, Industrial, and Scientific-Technical Cooperation took place on 19 October. A broad range of bilateral areas of cooperation was discussed with a big emphasis on energy cooperation. "Ukraine and the Czech Republic have great opportunities for cooperation of energy engineers in the development of services, production, and supply of electrical, safety, measuring, regulating and analytical equipment for surface and underground mining, chemical, and energy industries. We have agreed with our Czech colleagues to strengthen cooperation in the field of oil transportation, development of the gas transit system, improvement of energy efficiency, and reduction of the energy dependence of our economies," stressed Yaroslav Demchenkov, the Deputy Minister of Energy for European Integration.

      Ukraine-South Africa: Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba held a telephone conversation with his counterpart from the Republic of South Africa Naledi Pandor on 18 October. It was the first contact between Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the two countries since 1998.

      In addition, the Ministers agreed to renew the full-fledged bilateral dialogue, hold politicalconsultations and develop trade as well as scientific and technological cooperation. “By resuming a dialogue with the Republic of South Africa after a 23-year break, we create additional opportunities for our companies, particularly in the spheres of agriculture and food security, energy, shipbuilding, and tourism”, said Dmytro Kuleba.

       

      Foreign Policy Council" "Ukrainian Prism"


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