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1 November, 2021

Digest of Ukrainian news: 25.10 – 31.10.2021

The world through the prism of Ukrainian interests

Trends

  •   Foreign policy and international agenda

    Important international news for Ukraine last week came from Europe. Thus, the European Commission allocated the second tranche of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine for EUR 600 million. This is the second and last tranche of the current program to overcome the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ukraine also began its presidency in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. It is the first non-EU country to lead the initiative.

    The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ruled that the collection of so-called "Scythian gold" from Crimean museums belonged to Ukraine, so it should be returned. The decision stipulates that the exhibits will be transferred to the National Museum of History of Ukraine in Kyiv.

  •   Domestic policy

    The most important internal events for Ukraine last week were related to the spread of COVID-19, special election and the news of privatization. Thus, on October 30, a "red" level of epidemic danger was introduced in Zhytomyr, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Khmelnytsky, and Chernihiv regions. The strictest quarantine restrictions also take effect in Kyiv on November 1. At the same time, a record rate of vaccination was set in Ukraine last week: more than 1.2 million people received the first dose of the vaccine.

    The mayoral election was held in Kharkiv after the death of the previous elected Gennady Kernes. According to an exit poll commissioned by the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, Ihor Terekhov, a former secretary of the Kharkiv City Council and a companion of Kernes won the first round with almost 54% of the vote.

    The First Kyiv Machine-Building Plant was sold at auction for UAH 1.429 billion. It is now owned by General Commerce, a company affiliated with the UFuture group of well-known Ukrainian businessman Vasyl Khmelnytsky. It is the largest property the state sold to a private investor in a decade.

  •   Security

    The domain of security last week was marked with two major trends, namely with the development of relations with NATO and the deterioration of the security situation in Donbas.

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    Ukraine has been invited for the first time to take part in the expanded format of the Conference of National Armaments Directors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Also, a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council was held on 26 October followed by the issuance on 29 October of a Joint Statement of the Parliamentarians of Ukraine and Georgia on the Security Environment in the Black Sea region where Ukraine and Georgia called upon NATO to consider a possibility of elaborating a comprehensive Black Sea strategy and expand its presence in the region.

    In addition, Ukraine took part in the multinational military exercise “Iron Wolf II 2021” held in Lithuania. The aim of the exercise was to showcase the interoperability of NATO countries and partners with each other.

    At the same time, the situation in Donbas is deteriorating. Pro-Russian separatists have violated the ceasefire regime more than 80 times resulting in 11 Ukrainian soldiers being injured and 2 killed. Given the circumstances, the Armed Forces of Ukraine used the unmanned combat aerial vehicle Bayraktar for the first time to make separatist forces stop violating the ceasefire regime.

     Bilateral relations

    The sphere of Ukraine’s bilateral relations was quite eventful last week. The keydevelopments encompassed Ukraine-Jordanian, Ukraine-Switzerland, Ukraine-Moldova, and Ukraine-Poland tracks.

    One of the intensified lines of cooperation last week was Ukraine-Jordanian relations. The two countries held political consultations and discussed the prospects of bilateral cooperation that included the spheres of IT, agriculture, and business.

    Moreover, Ukraine and Switzerland have started preparations for the 5th Ukraine Reform Conference that will be held in Lugano, Switzerland, on 4-5 July. The Conference will be focused on the topics of stability and prosperity by furthering Ukrainian reforms.

    At the same time, Ukraine provided assistance for Moldova by supplying natural gas after the latter had announced an emergency in its energy sector. In addition, presidents of the two countries have agreed to hold consultations at the level of energy ministers shortly.

    Moreover, it seems like Ukraine-Poland relations may be damaged after the Polish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs stated in his speech at the Sejm that Poles were witnessing discrimination in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is surprised by this statement.

    Foreign policy and international agenda

    The European Commission allocated macro-financial assistance to Ukraine for EUR 600 million. This is the second and final tranche of the current macro-financial assistance program to Ukraine after the first disbursement of EUR 600 million in December 2020. The disbursement is part of an emergency EUR 3 billion macro-financial assistance package for ten EU partners to help overcome the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

     

    Ukraine has started its presidency in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. Slovakia transferred this status to the state during the X Annual Forum of the countries participating in the initiative. Ukraine became the first non-EU country to chair the EU Strategy for the Danube Region.

    The Government of Ukraine identified the following presidency priorities for the period from November 2021 to November 2022:

     Sustainable development of the Danube region: decarbonization and economic transformation.

     Development of human capital and labour markets.

    The Danube Strategy is a platform for the cooperation of 14 countries in the Danube region. The Ukrainian part of the Strategy covers Odesa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, and Zakarpattia regions. Parties of the initiative cooperate in the areas of shipping, environmental protection, education, security, tourism, and the competitiveness of enterprises.

    The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ruled that the collection of so-called "Scythian gold" from Crimean museums belongs to Ukraine, so it must be returned to the Ukrainian state. The decision stipulates that the exhibits will be temporarily transferred to the National Museum of History of Ukraine in Kyiv until the situation on the Russian-occupied peninsula stabilizes. The case concerns exhibits of the Scythian era, which were formed from the collections of various museums of Crimea. They were on display at the Allard Pearson Archaeological Museum in Amsterdam when Russia began annexing the peninsula in 2014. On December 14, 2016, the Amsterdam court decided to return "Scythian gold" to Ukraine, but in January 2017, Russian-controlled Crimean museums appealed the decision. In the end, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's decision.

    Domestic Policy

    On October 30, a "red" level of epidemic danger was introduced in seven regions of Ukraine due to the spread of COVID-19. Restrictions came into force in Zhytomyr, Ivano- Frankivsk, Kyiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Khmelnytsky, and Chernihiv regions. Thus, in 16 of the 25 regions of Ukraine, the highest level of the epidemic has been declared. Also, the "red" danger regime takes effect on November 1 in Kyiv.

    Due to the deteriorating epidemic situation and increasing the number of hospitalizations because of COVID-19, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine decided to allocate an additional 242 million hryvnias to combat the spread of the disease. The funds are intended to improve the quality of citizens' testing for COVID-19 and to accelerate the pace of vaccination. Last week, Ukraine set a record for the rate of vaccination: more than 1.2 million people received the first dose of the vaccine.

    At the same time, last week the Council of the EU adjusted the list of countries that are not subject to travel restrictions due to the epidemic situation. Ukraine remained on this list. Denmark has also lifted additional travel restrictions from Ukraine: travelers do not need to do a PCR test or self-isolate but must have an EU-recognized vaccination certificate. Meanwhile, Bulgaria added Ukraine to the list of countries with a "red" level of epidemic danger. The country will allow entry only to those travelers who have the status of permanent and long-term residence in Bulgaria, and members of their families.

    The mayoral election was held in Kharkiv after the death of the previously elected Gennady Kernes. According to an exit poll commissioned by the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, Ihor Terekhov, a former secretary of the Kharkiv City Council and a companion of Kernes won the first round with almost 54% of the vote (error – 1.5%). Another election favourite, Mykhailo Dobkin, a candidate backed by the pro-Russian Opposition Platform "For Life" ("Opozytsiyna Platforma "Za Zhyttya"), won second place in the first round with more than 24% of the vote (error – 1.3%). So, most likely, the next mayor of Kharkiv was elected with one-round voting. The Kharkiv Territorial Election Commission reported that turnout in this election was only 28.29%.

    The First Kyiv Machine-Building Plant was sold at auction for UAH 1.429 billion. Now it is owned by General Commerce, a company affiliated with the UFuture group of well-known Ukrainian businessman Vasyl Khmelnytsky. It is the largest property the state sold to a private investor in a decade. The main asset of the First Kyiv Machine-Building Plant is 36 hectares of land in Kyiv near the Shulyavska metro station.

    Security

    Deepening relations with NATO: Ukraine has been invited for the first time to participate in the expanded format of the Conference of National Armaments Directors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “For the first time in more than half a century of the committee's activity, a representative of Ukraine has been invited to participate in issues that were previously theexclusive prerogative of NATO member states”, said Oleksandr Nossov, the Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine.

    Let us recall that the Conference of National Armaments Directors

    In addition, the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council and the NATO-Georgia Interparliamentary Council held a joint meeting in Odesa on 29 October. As a result, a Joint Statement of the Parliamentarians of Ukraine and Georgia on the Security Environment in the Black Sea region was adopted. One of the subject matters related to greater NATO involvement in the Black Sea region: “taking into account the importance of the secure and stable Black Sea region for the wider Euro-Atlantic security, NATO should consider a possibility of elaborating a comprehensive Black Sea strategy, which would state clearly the interests of NATO in theregion and steps towards enhancing its security”.

    Military exercises: Ukraine participated in a multinational military exercise “Iron Wolf II 2021”(12-24 October) held in Lithuania. The exercise included the participation of military personnel from Lithuania and other NATO countries - Belgium, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Spain, the USA, Latvia, Poland, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany, as well as soldiers from Ukraine. The aim of the exercise is to assess the readiness of the combat group of NATO front-line forces.

    Let us recall that “Iron Wolf” is one of the largest annual exercises in the Lithuanian ArmedForces held to maintain the combat readiness of the Mechanized Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf and showcase interoperability of NATO partners.

    Ceasefire regime in Donbas: According to the Joint Operation Forces reports, pro-Russian militants violated the cease-fire regime 85 times as of 25-31 October. As a result of the violations, 11 Ukrainian soldiers were injured and 2 were killed.
    In addition, the Armed Forces of Ukraine 
    used the unmanned combat aerial vehicle Bayraktar for the first time in order to force pro-Russian separatists to stop violating the ceasefire regime. As Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned later: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine use available weaponsonly to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and only in response to adversary's violations of the ceasefire in Donbas”.

    Bilateral relations

    Ukraine-Jordanian relations: Ukraine and Jordan held political consultations on 25 October.“Intensification of political dialogue between Ukraine and Jordan is an important element ofdeveloping all areas of cooperation between our countries, namely in the spheres of trade,investments, culture, humanitarian sphere, and IT”highlighted Dmytro Senik, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Exporters and Investors Council under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Jordanian ICT Association «Int@j» was signed in order to promote cooperation between IT companies of the two countries.

    Other meetings included the discussion about prospects of bilateral cooperation in the spheres of information technologiesagriculture as well as business.

    Let us recall that the previous round of bilateral political consultation between the countries washeld in 2011.

    Ukraine-Switzerland relations: Ignazio Cassis, the Vice-President of Switzerland and the Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, conducted a visit to Ukraine on 27-29 October. He held meetings with Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine,Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, and Denys Shmyhal, the Prime Minister. As a result, preparations for the 5th Ukraine Reform Conference (4-5 July 2022, Lugano, Switzerland) were officially announced. According to Mr. Cassis, the upcoming conference would focus on two thematic pillars, namely stability and prosperity. The first one would deal with the fight against corruption and strengthening local self-government. The second one would focus on economic reforms: encouraging privatization and corporate governance, developing environmental thinking, and investing in human capital.

    Ukraine-Moldova relations: Presidents of Ukraine and Moldova had a phone call with the main focus on energy security. The leaders discussed possible areas of further bilateral cooperation in order to prevent the energy crises. Volodymyr Zelensky assured that Ukraine was ready to further assist Moldova regarding energy supply. As a result, the counterparts agreed to hold consultations in Ukraine soon at the level of energy ministers of the two countries.

    Let us recall that Ukraine lent Moldova natural gas to balance the latter's gas transmission system after Moldova had announced an emergency, because of a critical situation in the energy field. In addition, Ukraine carried out its first commercial shipment of gas to Moldova on 29 October after the Russian Gazprom had decided to triple the gas price. As of 31 October, Moldova concluded the contract with Gazprom that provided the shipment of gas for 5 consecutive years.

    Ukraine-Poland relations: Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairsof Poland, in his speech before the Parliamentary Committee on Liaison with Poles Abroadallegedly stated that Poles in Ukraine experienced discrimination concerning the freedom of religion, the access to education in Polish and the freedom of speech. In general, he noted that“the situation with Poles in Ukraine is getting worse”. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine commented: “this statement is misleading and does not reflect the actual condition of friendly and partner relations between Ukraine and Poland”.

     

    Foreign Policy Council" "Ukrainian Prism"


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