Open unemployment has been quite low in Ukraine, but the 2008 economic crisis pushed up the figure. In recent years, the official level has been around 9-10 percent. However, the statistics are uncertain as many provide themselves in the unofficial, black sector.
According to various estimates, between 30 and 60 percent of the economy is black. Many of the official employees are underemployed. There is a shortage of skilled workers, while a long-term trend is that employment in the basic industries is declining. Many college educators are without a job.
A large proportion of Ukraine’s working population is found abroad, mainly in Russia and in EU countries. Many of them lack paper and have low-paying black jobs. Estimates vary, but it may be between two million and three million people. About one million Ukrainians are believed to be working in Poland. The exact number is difficult to determine as it is in many cases seasonal work, especially in agriculture. The Ukrainians have replaced Polish labor that has moved to other EU countries since Poland joined the Union in 2004. The Polish business community is worried that the Ukrainians will also be given greater access to EU countries where wage levels are higher.
Despite legislation, safety is often neglected in the large mining industry. Ukraine has the second most fatal accidents in China in the world; over 4,000 have been killed in two decades.
The majority of union members belong to one of the unions that are heirs to those who existed during the Soviet era. A smaller proportion have joined new, independent unions. The largest national trade union association KVPU is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation (IFS).
- COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Ukraine, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.
The working week is 40 hours and the holiday right 24 days. The retirement age for women is on the rise, from 55 to 60 years. For men, the retirement age is 60, but the retirement age of public employees should be increased to 62 years.
FACTS – LABOR MARKET
9.3 percent (2019)
19.7 percent (2019)
Prison exchange with separatists
The Government of Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatist slaves in the east exchange prisoners. A total of about 200 prisoners are exchanged under the supervision of the OSCE. Apart from a prisoner exchange during the autumn (see 9 September), no prisoners have been exchanged since 2017. Among those released now are people who have been detained for several years. Concern is expressed that President Zelenskyj is being forced to pay a high price for the agreements. The distribution is uneven, the Kiev government releasing almost twice as many prisoners as the rebel pianos.
Russian train traffic to Crimea
Russia, which has previously built a bridge to the annexed Crimea, is now also launching train traffic to the peninsula. President Putin inaugurates the railway line by taking the driver’s cab at the premiere. In Ukraine, which considers trains to cross the Ukrainian border illegally, a criminal investigation is initiated.
Agreement on Russian gas
Ukraine and Russia agree, in principle and with the EU as a third party, on a new supply agreement for Russian natural gas to Europe; the old agreement expires at the new year. A few days later, it is also reported that the state-owned Russian energy company Gazprom will pay $ 2.9 billion to its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz, thereby completing a 2018 arbitration award on previous transit charges through Ukraine (see February 28, 2018). In the US, sanctions aimed at the construction of the Russian-German gas pipeline Nordstream 2 through the Baltic Sea are approved. Management is controversial both for environmental reasons and because Ukraine, when completed, loses transit fees for gas transported on land, but the main reason, according to analysts, is that the US wants to make Russian gas exports more difficult to win its own customers in Europe to US shale. The shale gas is produced by hydraulic cracking (“fracking”) which also causes environmental damage.
Corruption hunters felled for bribery
13th of December
Artem Sytnyk, the head of Ukraine’s anti-corruption authority, has been fined for bribery for several years. It is a conviction which is set by an appellate court. The court has concluded that Sytnyk received gifts worth approximately SEK 20,000, which is more than the allowable value.
Yes to self-government in enclaves
Parliament approves a plan that gives the Russian-backed rebel pianos Donetsk and Luhansk limited self-government for a year to come. Local self-government is part of the plans discussed by Presidents Zelenskyj and Putin (see December 9), but there is strong opposition to the idea in Ukraine, both politically and popularly.
Russian passports to 125,000 in the east
Since Russian citizenship was promised to people in eastern Ukraine, Russia has granted 125,000 people in rebel-controlled areas Russian passports, the country’s interior minister announces (see April 24 and August 13, 2019). 160,000 applications have been received, submitted in a region bordering Ukraine. Not everyone has been treated.
Summit agreed on a ceasefire
President Zelenskyj and Russian President Putin meet in Paris, with France and Germany as mediators. The aim is to build trust between the parties so that agreements on the conflict in Ukraine concluded in Minsk can be implemented as early as 2015. If the fighting in eastern Ukraine ends, a political solution could be put into effect around the Moscow-backed separatist pianos Donetsk and Luhansk. The day before the summit, around 5,000 people in Kiev demonstrate a feared “capitulation” from the Ukrainian side. The message from the summit is that a ceasefire should prevail before the New Year and that all prisoners should be exchanged. Troop retreat from three conflict zones in eastern Ukraine is due March, 2020; which three conflict zones have not yet been agreed. More border crossings should be opened to civilians.
IMF support packages on the road get ready
In principle, the International Monetary Fund and Ukraine have agreed on a new three-year support package worth $ 5.5 billion to the Ukrainian economy. The IMF believes that the Government of Ukraine is making progress with planned reforms, but as before, highlights the need for combating corruption, especially in the banking system. When the Ukrainian parliament approved the state budget for 2020 in November, sharply increased appropriations, plus 16 percent, for defense and security agencies. But the budget, with an estimated deficit of 2.09 percent, remains within the limits set by the IMF. Growth in the economy is expected to be 3.7 percent.
Language teams receive European criticism
The Venice Commission, which consists of European constitutional experts, criticizes Ukraine for the language law that came into force during the year. The time limit for Russian-language schools to switch to Ukrainian is too narrow, the experts believe. Both Russia and Hungary have complained about how Ukraine deals with minority languages. The criticized law, which, among other things, sets language rules for the media and for the public sector in Ukraine, was adopted by Parliament in April and signed by former President Poroshenko shortly before his resignation (see April 25, 2019).
Oil agreement with Russia extended
While Ukraine and Russia continue to disagree on gas supplies, they have agreed to extend a contract for oil until 2030. Both gas and oil pass through Ukrainian pipelines from Russia partly to Western Europe and partly to Ukraine. Ukraine risks losing transit fees when gas is instead transported to Germany through the Baltic Sea (see November 1, 2018).
Russia returns ships
Russia returns three military Ukrainian vessels seized in connection with a confrontation in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. The crews were allowed to return home in September. The lifting of the seizure is one of the elements of improved relations and international attempts to reach a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia. A summit between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany is scheduled to be held in Paris in December.
German raid against smuggling of black workers
German police through raids in six states aimed at human traffickers, who primarily take in Ukrainians in the country in order to obtain cheap labor. Many travel to Germany as tourists and are then used for black jobs.
Lack of proposal for agricultural land is adopted
Agrees to allow the transfer of agricultural land from October 2020 (see 25 September); In the vote, small farmers and nationalists demonstrate outside. The bill has changed a lot since it was introduced. In particular, President Zelenskyj has promised a referendum on whether foreign citizens and businesses should also be allowed to buy land. Another vote is needed in Parliament, according to the plans before the end of the year, before the law can come into force. But as the New Year draws near, there are so many amendments that Parliament’s consideration of the bill is delayed.
Crimean Tatars doomed in Russia
Six Crimean Tatars, arrested after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014, are sentenced in a Russian military court in Rostov to long prison sentences. They are considered guilty of membership in the Islamist terrorist organization Hezb-ut-Tahrir. All six have denied the allegations, and human rights organizations claim they were sentenced on political grounds because Crimean Tatars oppose Russian supremacy.
The final phase of the promised retreat
The government army and the Russian-backed separatist forces in the east begin the final phase of the withdrawal they agreed, first in the Luhansk and now in the Donetsk region (see October 1 and October 29). Once the retreats have been completed, a summit in Paris is expected between President Zelenskyj and Russian President Putin. Time-consuming mine clearance is also required at the front sections.
Troops retreat to the east
The Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists are beginning to withdraw from a front section to the east of the city of Zolote. The recoveries are in accordance with the agreement recently concluded with the goal of reducing the conflict in Donbas (see October 1). However, the troop movements have been delayed by on-screen mediations between the Ukrainian police and war veterans who have wanted to prevent the withdrawal. OSCE observers are monitoring on site how the parties are following the agreement.
Separatists judge “spy”
A journalist from Radio Free Europe, financed by the United States, is sentenced to 15 years in prison in a separatist-controlled area on charges of espionage. The man, who also worked for Ukrainian media, was arrested by Donetsk rebels in the summer of 2017. The verdict is followed by sharp criticism from the OSCE, which calls it illegal.
Damages to kicked
The European Court of Human Rights convicts Ukraine to pay damages to five people who were fired from their jobs after the 2014 coup. With the support of a law passed at the time, the new government under Petro Poroshenko made off with people accused of links to the fugitive president Yanukovych or the Communist Party. The Court criticizes the law as too imprecise and considers that Ukraine has not been able to prove that the five people were responsible for abuse of power or abuse during Yanukovych’s time in power.
Prosecutors conduct “audits” of Biden companies’ cases
The State Prosecutor of Ukraine states that a review of about 15 cases involving the gas company associated with Hunter Biden, son of former US Vice President Joe Biden, will be conducted (see September 22). RÅ, who calls the work an audit, emphasizes that it is not certain that son Biden is present in any of the cases. On the contrary, he understands that interest is more tied to the gas company Burisma’s founder and other representatives.
Spyware accused are exchanged
Belarus President Lukashenko visits Ukraine and President Zelenskyj. In connection with the visit, it is reported that the countries have reported on two cases of espionage charges: Ukraine has released a Belarus accused of espionage 2017, while a Ukrainian journalist who in 2018 was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in Belarus.
Zelenskyj ready to give Donbas autonomy
A plan that would give autonomous autonomy to the separatists in eastern Ukraine has been approved by President Zelenskyj. The government and rebel representatives sign the agreement in Minsk, Belarus. The plan was presented in 2016 as a proposal by Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. It is based on the termination of an armistice and that the Moscow-friendly enclaves in Donbas are allowed to make their own choices during international observation by the OSCE. Several political leaders in Ukraine, including President Poroshenko, criticize the deal, which also triggers protests at the presidential office in Kiev.
Opening for purchase of agricultural property
The government is proposing a bill to allow real estate transactions in agriculture from October 1, 2020. Since 1999, both private and state owners are involved in agriculture, but in 2001 the purchase and sale of agricultural land was forbidden to protect small farmers from acquisitions. The hope is now that agricultural production and investments in agriculture will increase. The arable land occupies about two-thirds of Ukraine’s area, and the country exports wheat and maize, among other things, but agriculture still accounts for quite a small part of the total production value.
Disclosure: Ukraine was pressured by Trump
US President Donald Trump confirms parts of a disclosure made by the Wall Street Journal: In conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, Trump has requested investigation into corruption suspicions against US former Vice President Joe Biden and a son of Biden who participated in gas deals in Ukraine. The Presidents’ contact took place in July, and on September 12, the White House approved, after some time, a promised military support package to Ukraine. Whether Trump had explicitly threatened to withhold aid is unclear, but the action leads to Trump being charged with abuse of power in the United States, with the opposition suspecting that his purpose was to create trouble for Joe Biden, who may become his opponent in the next presidential election. (In the United States, the investigation of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine later leads to a civil lawsuit against the president.)
Loss in the WTO for Ukraine
Ukraine’s penalties on Russian-made fertilizers violate international trade rules, the WTO Appeals Chamber states. The decision cannot be appealed. The penalty rates were introduced in 2008, and since Ukraine expanded them in 2014, the same year Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, Russia took the dispute to the WTO. Ukraine has argued that Russia unlawfully dumps prices when fertilizers are exported. In recent years, several trade disputes between Ukraine and Russia have been torn apart by the WTO and arbitration courts, while international law conflicts have been brought to the International Court of Justice.
International law is introduced and freedom of charge is removed
Parliament approves a law allowing the country’s head of state to be dismissed through a national administration (a process in Parliament), whether the president is guilty of treason or other serious crime. Earlier this month, Parliament passed a law abolishing the Members’ legal immunity. Both legislative changes have been among President Zelensky’s election promises.
70 are released in prison exchanges between Ukraine and Russia
Ukraine and Russia conduct a prisoner exchange. There are 70 prisoners, 35 from each country, who are allowed to return to their home countries. Prison exchange is seen as a first step towards reducing tensions between countries. One of the Russians allowed to leave Ukraine is Volodymr Tsemach, who is seen as an important witness in the shooting down of a Malaysian plane, MH17, in Ukraine 2014. Pro-Russian separatists are suspected of being behind the deed. The release of Tsemach is controversial and the Netherlands has pleaded that he would be detained in Ukraine. Among those who are now allowed to return to Ukraine include film director Oleg Sentsov, Russian-Ukrainian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky and 24 Ukrainian sailors. The latter were captured at Kertjsundet in the fall of 2018 (see November 2018)). It is noted that no Crimean Tartars are included among the released Ukrainian prisoners. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj and Russian President Vladimir Putin are reported to have discussed initiating new peace talks after the prisoner exchange.
Court deals with corruption
Ukraine’s new court to investigate corruption charges will start its work. The law that lays the ground for the court was passed in 2018, at the request of the IMF, which lends large sums to the Ukrainian state.
Young lawyer becomes head of government
Parliament approves President Zelenskyj’s proposal for new Prime Minister: Oleksij Gontjaruk. With his 35 years, Gontjaruk becomes the youngest head of government ever. Gontjaruk, a lawyer, has in recent months been the deputy head of the president’s administration. Prior to that, he led a consulting firm that, with the support of the EU, would promote a better business climate in Ukraine. In his installation figures, Gontjaruk says that a new generation has now taken over and that his main goal is to overcome the corruption. At the same time, Vadym Prystaiko is appointed Foreign Minister and Andrij Zagorodnyuk is Minister of Defense. Only two ministers are allowed to keep their jobs: Finance Minister Oksana Markarova and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Russian regime critics can gain citizenship
By decree, President Zelenskyj announces that it will be easier for Russians who are politically dissimilar to obtain Ukrainian citizenship or asylum in Ukraine (see April 24, 2019).
Clear majority for president’s party
The overall result in the parliamentary elections is made public. The people’s servants receive 254 seats, with both the party and the one-man constituencies included. Twenty-six of the 450 seats may be left empty because elections have not been possible in constituencies in the east and in Crimea. In addition to the five parties that were mandated via party lists, a few more small parties are allowed to sit in parliament via one-man constituencies, as well as 46 candidates who have been elected as independent.
Soldiers die in grenade attack
Four soldiers in the government army lose their lives in a grenade attack outside the port city of Mariupol in the east. The death toll is the highest in a single day since the last ceasefire attempt was made on July 21, the same day Ukraine held parliamentary elections. Regular negotiations with the French and German mediators have dampened the fighting between the government army and Prorean separatist rebels in the east, but did not end the war permanently. Russia, as before, denies that the separatists are supported by men and equipment from the east.
The party is finished
The electoral authority publishes the result of the vote on party lists in the parliamentary elections held on July 21. Just over 43 percent (6.3 million voters) voted for President Volodymyr Zelenskyj’s newly formed party People’s Servants. Four other parties pass the five percent barrier: the opposition platform with 13 percent, Julia Tymoshenko’s party in Fosterlands and Petro Poroshenko’s European solidarity with just over 8 percent each and Svjatoslav Vakartjuks Vösten with 5.8 percent. Among those who end up outside are outgoing Prime Minister Volodymyr Hrojsmans party with 2.4 percent support. The result is for half of the 450 seats in Parliament, the rest are added in one-man constituencies or are vacant as a result of the unclear political situation in eastern Ukraine.
Russian thoughts seized
Ukraine seizes a Russian tanker in Ukrainian port near the river Danube outlet in the Black Sea. The tanker, under another name, should have had a role in the blockade of the Kerch Strait – the inlet to the Azovska lake – that Russia carried out in November 2018. The event ended with the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and the crews imprisoned in Russia. The crew of the Russian tanker is allowed to return home via Moldova.
The president’s party wins big
President Zelenskyj’s newly formed party The people’s servants will be the biggest in the parliamentary elections. The electoral system – with a mix of party lists and one-man electoral circles – takes some time before the final election results are calculated, but the party even seems to reach its own majority. With such strong support in Parliament, most of the obstacles to the president are removed to fulfill the promises he himself made last spring. Zelenskyj ruled out a coalition with the Prorussian Opposition Platform before the election. He, on the other hand, opened up for cooperation with a party leader who is almost as politically inexperienced as himself: the rock singer Svajtoslav Vakartjuk, who formed the party Voice (Holos).
The next choice will be proportional
Parliament adopts a new electoral law, which will make the country’s elections proportional to a five percent block of votes for a party to get a mandate. The law can take effect before the next parliamentary election, while the imminent election is carried out according to old rules.
Ukraine gets the keys to Chernobyl shells
Inauguration is made of a huge metal casing that has been erected around the nuclear reactor that failed in the Chernobyl disaster. The building, 108 meters high, has been funded by 45 countries through the European Development Bank EBRD. The idea is that the metal shell should be able to withstand, among other things, a powerful drum. Thirty people died immediately when the reactor exploded in 1986 and an unknown, and controversial, number later died of radiation damage. After the disaster, 350,000 people were evacuated from the area, which is still uninhabitable. It is not until 24,000 years ago that radiation is believed to have decreased so much that it would be harmless to live nearby.
Ukrainian no to election observers
Ukraine withdraws its invitation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to send observers to the parliamentary elections on 21 July. This is in protest of Russia being re-admitted to the cooperation (see June 24). On the same day, the Council of Europe confirms that Russia has now paid its contribution to the organization’s budget for 2019, EUR 33 million.
Military exercise with emphasis at sea
Ground forces, aviation and naval forces from 19 countries are participating in a large annual military exercise that Ukraine will arrange with the United States on July 1-12. This year with greater marine focus in the Black Sea.
Reduced war risk – at one point
OSCE observers confirm that both the Ukrainian army and separatist forces have backed from advanced positions at a checkpoint in the rebel cave Luhansk. The troop withdrawal at the “contact line” is the first in the Donbas conflict that the OSCE has been able to confirm. The increased distance between the opponents in the front section is highlighted as gratifying in light of the fact that many violations of the ceasefire from other places were reported in June, especially near Donetsk, Horlivka and Mariupol.
Kremlin-supported party fixes release
Four men who have been detained by separatists in the east are released and taken to Kiev. The release has been organized by Moscow-friendly politician Viktor Medvedtjuk (see February 5), whose party the Opposition Platform is running in the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary elections and has open support from the Kremlin. At the same time, President Zelenskyj and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin agree that Klimkin refused a Russian offer, which should have been about the release of the 24 Ukrainian sailors held in Russian captivity since the dramatic events of the Crimean peninsula this autumn.
Anger in Ukraine against “capitulation” for Russia
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe votes for Russia to regain its right to vote. The decision was expected, but Ukraine’s delegation is protesting. Russia lost its right to vote in the Assembly following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and reacted partly with boycotts and partly to stop paying its contribution to the organization’s budget. Since then, the member countries of the Council of Europe have tried to find a solution to avoid excluding Russia. The Government of Ukraine believes that the other countries make concessions to Russia, which can now also be included in the election of the next Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Pride parade with uniforms
For the first time, war veterans, some in uniform, participate in a Ukrainian Pride Parade. The parade in Kiev is described as the largest so far in the country. Both right-wing extremists and Orthodox activists try to stop the train, but are kept away by the police and the National Guard.
Russian critics found dead
Dmytro Tymtjuk, military analyst and MP, is found dead at home. He has gunshot wounds to his head, but it is unclear whether he himself or anyone else caused them. He was elected to Parliament in 2014 for the People’s Front party, led by former Prime Minister Arsenij Jatsenjuk. Tymtjuk, who had a background as a naval officer, has made himself known for Russia-critical comments on the annexation of Crimea and Russian involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
Suspects of shooting are named
Three Russian citizens and one Ukrainian rebel leader are suspected of murder following the shooting down of a commercial aircraft over Ukraine in 2014. Investigators present new evidence. 298 people died when the Malaysian plane was shot down over the rebel-controlled area to the east. The robot used was previously traced to an air defense regiment in Russia. The majority of the victims were from the Netherlands and the investigators hope to bring those responsible to justice there.
US military support is growing
The United States promises a $ 250 million military aid package to Ukraine. Both ground and naval forces should be strengthened. In total, Ukraine has thus received $ 1.5 billion in military US support since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and separatist insurgency broke out in eastern Ukraine.
The president of the charm offensive west
17th of June
President Zelenskyj visits Paris and the day after Berlin. While Zelenskyj is conveying the message that he (like his representative) wants to see Ukraine as a member of both the EU and NATO, a flood of criticism against him is growing at home for a statement that beautiful women belong to Ukraine’s “brand”. One of the human rights activists upset writes that “presidents change, but sexism persists.”
TV channel gets prorine owner
Five journalists and one director leave their jobs after the news that Taras Kozak, a member of parliament with ties to Russia, has bought the Zik TV channel where they have worked. Kozak, who belongs to the Prorian party Opposition Platform, already owned two TV stations in Ukraine before the purchase.
The arbitral tribunal is rejected by Russia
Russia objects to Ukraine’s attempt to get the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague to address the issue of access to the waters around the Crimean Peninsula. According to Russia, the Court does not have the right to decide on this matter. Ukraine’s notification that Russia blocks the Black Sea, the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait was made in 2016 and is one of several disputes in which Ukraine sought international rulings. Russia’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and disagreement over gas agreements torn by other legal institutions (see January 17, 2017, February 28, 2018 and May 25, 2019).
Poroshenko takes up the fight
Several of the largest parties are holding internal conferences ahead of the parliamentary elections, which are now scheduled for July 21. Former President Petro Poroshenko becomes the top candidate for his party, changing its name to European solidarity. New President Volodymyr Zelenskyj’s party is hurting politically experienced candidates, but has recruited, among other things, a wrestler with Olympic qualifications. Although the party is newly formed, it has the support of more than 40 percent of voters in surveys. Only on June 11 will the Constitutional Court begin to consider whether it was legal for Zelenskyj to dissolve Parliament.
Zelenskyj oversees the EU and NATO
Volodymyr Zelenskyj makes his first trip abroad as president. It goes to Brussels where he meets both the EU and NATO’s central figures. Zelenskyj pledges to continue cultivating Ukraine’s friendships in the west, and asks for help to increase the press in Moscow to end the war in the east. The day after, the Ukrainian army reports that three soldiers have died in the deadliest event since Zelenskyj became president.
The government remains
Parliament votes to dismiss Prime Minister Hrojsman, despite the new president calling on the government to step down. President Zelenskyj’s newly formed party has no seats in parliament yet and therefore cannot vote for the government.
Saakajsvili back in Ukraine
Micheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia and former governor of Ukraine, is back in Ukraine. Newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has decided to restore Saakashvili to the Ukrainian citizenship he was deprived of after becoming disloyal with President Poroshenko. On his return to Ukraine, Saakashvili says that he is ready to continue the work of “building the country” that he devoted himself to as governor of Odessa.
The Supreme Court supports Ukraine
The International Criminal Court, based in Hamburg, calls on Russia to immediately release the 24 Ukrainian crew members who have been detained since the collision at sea at the Crimean Peninsula (see November 25, 2018). The Court also requires the seizure of three Ukrainian vessels to be lifted. Russia considers that the Supreme Court has no right to decide the matter.
Friends of the president get key posts
When President Zelenskyj signs a decree to dissolve Parliament with immediate effect and hold new elections, it appears that the parliamentary elections will take place in the middle of summer, several months before the previously scheduled date. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, who are allied with former President Poroshenko, have announced their resignation. Zelenskyj also wants the defense minister and the prosecutor to leave their posts. He recruits former TV colleagues, including Ivan Bakanov, who becomes Deputy Director of the SBU security service. The new chief of staff raises both astonishment and criticism: Andrij Bogdan, lawyer for the disputed oligarch Ihor Kolomojskyj who has been at odds with the Ukrainian state (see December 18, 2016, also February 15, 2019). The show that made Zelenskyj known is broadcast on Kolomojskyj’s TV channel.
Zelenskyj announces new elections
Volodymyr Zelenskyj takes office and is installed as president. Already in his installation speech he announces that he is dissolving Parliament and announcing new elections. The decision is expected to go through, although there is uncertainty about the legal conditions. He also says that peace in the Donbas – between the Ukrainian state and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine – is what he will give top priority to as president. Zelenskyj keeps the speech in Ukrainian, but switches to a Russian one. Then he says that all Ukrainians who are prisoners in Russia must be returned to their home country in order for a dialogue to be established.
The public front leaves the government
The European-friendly People’s Front, Parliament’s second largest party, is withdrawing from the government coalition with Petro Poroshenko’s bloc. This increases the uncertainty ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held later this year. The newly elected president has formed his own party, but if Volodymyr Zelenskyj wants to announce a soon-to-be election, it may be too good for his own good: Voters have high expectations that he will achieve peace and fight corruption, which will not be easy when his party is still in its infancy.
Resign Zelenenskyj’s access
Parliament votes to hold Volodymyr Zelenskyj’s installation in the presidential office on Monday, May 20. The newly elected and the parliamentarians have managed to disagree greatly, at least eight different dates have been proposed. Zelenskyj wanted to be installed on May 19, but that date was rejected by members, citing that it is a memorial day for the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s sacrifice.
Power struggle in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
15th of May
The newly unified Orthodox Church of Ukraine is shaken by internal dissent. When two churches merged, and were given the position of independent from the Russian Orthodox Church (see January 5), patriarch Filaret, aged 90, was expected to be its leader. Instead, the bishops chose the metropolitan Jepifanij, 40. The filing now openly accuses, via a press conference, Jepifanij of imperial power. Since the church question – especially the independence from Moscow – is so politicized, the insanity can have effects outside the church circles. Political parties also make statements on the subject.
Red light for Ukrainians with new Russian passports
Ukraine will not accept Russian passports as valid documents for Ukrainian citizens in the areas controlled by Russian-backed rebels (see April 24). When Prime Minister Volodymyr Hrojsman leaves the message, he compares the passports with documents issued by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Court against corruption ready
Ukraine’s new corruption court will begin its work on September 5, announcing the establishment on the same day as its 38 judges have gathered and elected a president by a closed ballot. Olena Tarasevytj, who becomes Chief Justice, has previously served in the Kharkiv judiciary. The judges have been selected by Ukrainian and international experts in cooperation. The Court is one of several anti-corruption functions set up by Ukraine following demands from domestic activists and foreign lenders. The process has dragged on over time and no high-level manager has been convicted of corruption in recent years (see also February 26).
Controversy about new language law
Parliament adopts a bill that restricts the use of the Russian language and makes it compulsory for, among other things, civil servants, doctors, teachers and judges to speak Ukrainian in public, otherwise threatening fines; According to the decision, the law is only to be applied in three years; in the meantime, a system will be set up for teaching in Ukrainian. The newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, who himself likes to speak Russian even in public, promises that the law will be reviewed.
Ukrainians are offered Russian passports
It will be easier for people from the separatist pianos Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine to get Russian passports. President Putin signs a decree on the matter and calls it a humanitarian issue. The decision is seen as a challenge against Ukraine’s incoming President Volodymyr Zelenskyj. The reaction is being sharpened by the newly elected president, who calls Russia “invader state”. Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin urges Ukrainians not to accept yes. Putin later expanded the offer to include Ukrainians living in Russia. On June 14, the first passports will be distributed to 60 people from the enclaves.
Zelenskyj wins the presidential election
TV celebrity Volodymyr Zelenskyj wins a landslide victory in the presidential election with 73 percent of the vote. He has promised change and better relations with Russia, but during the election campaign has been scarce with details of what changes he wants to make, and how. Zelenskyj became known to the audience through a TV series where he plays president. On June 3, he takes over the presidential post in reality.
Oligarchs receive court support
The privatization of Privat Bank 2016 was illegal, a Kiev court has ruled. The central bank intends to appeal and President Poroshenko claims that both the state and the bank’s customers would lose huge sums if the bank had to return to private ownership. The bank, Ukraine’s largest lender, was owned by Ihor Kolomojskyj, who today is attracting interest for another reason: He owns the TV channel where Volodymyr Zelenskyj, favorite in the presidential election, has built up his celebrity. The question has been asked whether Zelenskyj as president would benefit the oligarch Kolomoysky (see December 18, 2016 and February 15, 2018).
Challenger victory tipped
TV comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyj is the favorite for the second and decisive round of the presidential election against incumbent President Petro Poroshenko on April 21. If Zelenskyj wins the election, he is still expected to be politically backed at least until the October parliamentary elections. Today’s coalition government is dominated by Poroshenko’s BPP bloc and former Prime Minister Arsenij Jatsenjuks People’s Front. The economy – not least the energy issue – is governed by the government, and the appointment of foreign and defense ministers must be approved by Parliament.
NATO tightens up action against Russia
The foreign ministers from the NATO countries, gathered in Washington in connection with the 70th anniversary of the alliance, have made decisions with reference to Russian “aggression”. The Alliance will expand its scouting operations and hold military exercises in the Black Sea in support of Ukraine and Georgia, both of which want to become NATO members and have Russian-backed separatist forces within their borders. According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, NATO will also study strategies for responding to non-conventional warfare, in the light of Russia being accused, among other things, of trying to influence democratic elections in Western countries.
Presidential election with obstacles to voting
Presidential elections are held, with 39 candidates. The law-trained TV comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyj gets the most votes, 30 percent, against 16 percent for incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. A decisive round of elections between them is expected on April 21. Just over 63 percent of voters vote. Ukrainians in Crimea and in the separatist-controlled enclaves Donetsk and Luhansk can only vote if they have registered in another place beforehand and reach a ballot box on Election Day (see also March 14). Nor can Ukrainians in Russia vote abroad: for security reasons, no polling stations have been set up on Ukraine’s diplomatic missions there.
Five years of annexation – 170 persons on the sanction list
Russia celebrates five years since the Crimean peninsula was annexed. Three days earlier, the EU, the US and Canada have coordinated and extended their sanctions against Russian military personnel linked to events in eastern Ukraine or Crimea. Both individuals and companies are added to the list, especially executives who were involved when Ukrainian vessels were deployed in Kertjsundet and the crews were captured (see November 25, 2018). The EU is now enforcing sanctions – travel bans and frozen assets – against a total of 170 people and 44 organizations. On March 21, Ukraine also extends its sanctions, now with a view to those who participated in the construction of a Russian bridge to Crimea.
Comedians lead presidential elections
TV comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyj has taken the lead in opinion polls ahead of the presidential election with 25 percent voter support. Neither President Petro Poroshenko nor former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko receive equally strong support in surveys. “When there is a storm, any port will last,” a voter told AFP News Agency. Other voters wonder if they dare to give a political novice confidence when the country is at war.
Hard for internally displaced people to vote
14th of March
Over one million Ukrainians who left their homes in the east as a result of the fighting there are having trouble getting their names recorded in the run-up to the March 31 presidential election. So far, only four percent of internal refugees have been registered in other electoral districts, human rights organizations say. It is unclear which of the candidates can win and who can lose in the loss of refugee votes.
Ultranationalists in bitter attacks on the president
Members of an ultra-nationalist movement clash with police in two different places. Police in the city of Cherkasy are being harmed by police protecting President Poroshenko’s car card. 15 miles away, in Kiev, a clash occurs near the presidential office. The nationalists accuse Poroshenko’s government of corruption and accuse the government of destroying Ukraine’s army (see February 26). Two of the ultranationalists are arrested. The group that acts calls itself the National Corps and was formed in 2016 as a political branch of the former paramilitary organization the Azov Battalion. The leader of the corps, who is also said to have been involved in actions against Russian interests, has also been linked to the extremist movement Higher Sector.
The president gives the corruption charge fired
4th of March
Oleh Hladkovsky, Deputy Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council, is dismissed by President Poroshenko less than four weeks before the presidential election. A corruption scandal surrounds Hladkovsky, who was previously the business partner of the president (see February 26).
Ukraine jumps off Eurovision
In a riot with political forays, Ukraine withdraws from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Maruv artist Anna Korsun, who won the Ukrainian slag final, does not want to participate, as the state ethereal media company demands that she also say no to appearances in “attacker state” Russia. The two, three and four are not prepared to take her place in the final in Tel Aviv. Thus, the company UA: Persjyj (UAP BC in English language context) cancels Ukraine’s participation.
U-turn in Ukraine’s anti-corruption fight
The Constitutional Court refuses part of the penal code that should prevent anyone who enriches himself illegally. The legislative text is aimed at corruption and the result raises concern in many places. According to the organization Transparency International, the court undermines 65 ongoing criminal investigations and four cases that have already been tried in court. The Constitutional Court, whose decision cannot be appealed, considers that the law places the burden of proof on the person who is the suspect. The current legislative text was adopted in 2015 after pressure from the International Monetary Fund, which saw a high risk that money lent to Ukraine would be wasted. World Bank and G7countries are now calling on Ukraine in a joint statement to step up their efforts against corruption. President Poroshenko wants a new bill to be adopted to close the gaps in the law.
Bribery investigation against presidential employees
Anti-corruption prosecutors are launching a criminal investigation following an excavation report that a confidant of President Poroshenko has done questionable business with defense equipment. The man, who holds a post in the National Security and Defense Council, is said to have smuggled in military equipment from Russia and sold the goods to the state-owned Ukrainian defense industry. Poroshenko is not accused of interference, but a tangle with Russian elements in his vicinity could affect his campaign for the presidential election last March.
Many alarming cases of measles
The capital city of Kiev reports its first death in measles when a 57-year-old woman dies. Since the beginning of the year, eight deaths have been registered, including two children, and about 20,000 illness cases. Throughout 2018, when around 50,000 cases were discovered, measles claimed 16 lives in Ukraine (see January 17, 2018 and February 22, 2018).
Penalties for confrontation in Azovska Lake
The EU is imposing sanctions on eight Russian citizens who are held responsible for the military confrontation that occurred when Russia summoned Ukrainian ships heading into the Azovsk Sea from the Black Sea (see November 25, 2018).
Arbitration on bank seizures in Crimea
Privat Bank, the banking company with the largest lending in Ukraine, wins a case against Russia at the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague. The bank seized its assets in Crimea when Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. The bank was then privately owned, but it was later, in 2016, nationalized by Ukrainian authorities who rated it as underfunded: much of the loan stock was classified as bad debts. In the arbitration ruling that goes in Ukrainian favor, no amount appears which Russia is considered obliged to pay.
The EU and NATO endeavors are enshrined in the Constitution
Parliament finally voted in favor of amendments to the Constitution. With 334 votes in favor and 35 against, Ukraine sets the goals of achieving membership in both the EU and NATO, making that policy a firm focus for the country’s president, government and parliament. 300 votes are needed to change the constitution.
Separatist friend suspected of treason
Prosecutors have launched an investigation into suspected high treason against a politician described as related by Russian President Putin. Viktor Medvedtjuk, in statements, has recently called for giving the prorine areas of eastern Ukraine their own governments and parliaments, which is considered to threaten Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In 2002-2005, Medvetjuk was the head of the Ukrainian presidential office. The United States has imposed sanctions on him for the role he has played in relations between the separatists and Moscow.
Comedian in leadership before the presidential election
The time has come for candidates to register for the March 31 presidential election. Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyj, who plays president of a TV series, leads in several opinion polls before former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko and incumbent President Poroshenko. But 30 candidates have registered and the outcome looks uncertain. All the top three get around 20 percent in the measurements.
Doubled Russian investment in Crimea
Russia will invest 310 billion rubles (about SEK 43 billion) in infrastructure in the Crimean peninsula within the next three years, announces the Russian Prime Minister Medvedev. He states that this is a doubling of the appropriations allocated to Crimea since the Russian annexation in 2014.
Metropolitan Jepifanij installed
The Jepifani metro is installed in the office as the head of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The “coronation” takes place at a ceremony in the Sofia Cathedral in Kiev. He is chosen by the bishops of the church.
The public service manager gets fired
The head of the state ethereal media company UA: PBC is forced to leave his post. Zurab Alasania states that the board has declared its decision with the company “politicizing news”. In concrete terms, the dissatisfaction should be that the public service company did not pay much attention to events that President Poroshenko attended, including mass meetings in support of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s liberation from the Russian church.
Poroshenko on his way west in election times
President Poroshenko launches his re-election campaign ahead of the March 31 presidential election. Under screens with his election slogan “Poroshenko or Putin”, he asks voters for mandates for “European and Atlantic integration” – full membership of the EU and NATO. Poroshenko’s low popularity figures have risen since he took the lead in the process that has liberated Ukrainian Orthodox churches from Russian supremacy (see January 5).
Hunting against hackers
House searches are being conducted at nine locations in Ukraine in connection with an international cybercrime operation. What the authorities want to access is the trading of data from IT systems that have been hacked. Data from tens of thousands of servers, with data on both companies and individuals, has been for sale. According to German police, the league’s core group has been a group of Russian-speaking hackers. In February 2018, the Ukrainian leader was arrested for a similar network, called Avalanche, following investigations in 40 countries. Ukraine has also been the target of “cyber war”, widespread attacks aimed at social interests.
Treason against deposed president
Former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced out of power by a 2014 popular protest storm, is sentenced to 13 years in prison for treason. The prosecutor’s side requested 15 years and the sentence can be reviewed. Yanukovych has participated in the negotiations in court via video link – from Moscow, because he went into exile in Russia when he was deposed. However, the allegations that Yanukovych should have participated in the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula are rejected by the court in the absence of evidence.
Presidential election favorite wants to enter the EU and NATO
Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister, confirms that she is running for president and is launching her election campaign. In opinion polls, she was a favorite even before the message, although she does not have a superior leadership over incumbent President Poroshenko. Facing party mates in the Nationalist Party of the Fatherland, she makes it clear that she wants to bring Ukraine into the EU and NATO. Domestic politics, she says, a new constitution is needed to fight corruption.
UN estimate: 13,000 dead in war
From April 2014 to the end of 2018, fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed almost 13,000 lives, according to UN observers in the country for German media. The census includes 3,300 civilians, 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers and approximately 5,500 Russian-supported separatists. The number of wounded combatants and civilians injured is believed to amount to almost 30,000.
Fire on tankers
Fire breaks out on two cargo ships in Kertjsundet and about 20 sailors lose their lives when they jump overboard. There has been refueling at sea between the vessels, which go under the Tanzanian flag but have crews from several countries. The cargo vessels are on a list from the US Treasury Department, which is suspected of being used for oil deliveries to Syria.
Observers to contentious sound
German and French observers are to monitor ship traffic through the Kerch Strait east of the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow has said yes, is the message after a meeting between Russia and Germany’s foreign ministers. The proposal is based in the autumn’s military confrontation in the strait (see November 2018). In 2014, Germany and France, together with Russia and Ukraine, formed a joint forum to discuss at a high level the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian criticism of Polish law is supported
A court in Poland intervenes against a controversial law on the Holocaust. A word that, among other things, makes it punishable to say positively about “Ukrainian nationalists” is, according to the court, so diffuse that it contravenes the constitution. From the beginning, the Holocaust Law has caused outrage in both Israel and Ukraine (see February 1, 2018). The Kiev Parliament has argued that the Polish law equates Ukrainian independence aspirations during the Second World War with Nazi crimes. Ukraine, for its part, in 2015, has made it a criminal offense to criticize the nationalists.
Moscow-friendly government lobbying
A law firm in the United States is forced to pay multi-million dollars to the US state after conducting illegal lobbying for Ukraine. The company was hired in 2012, when Ukraine had Moscow-friendly leadership. According to the US Department of Justice, the lawyers should have stated that they were working for a foreign government. The campaign assignment came via a well-known American, Paul Manafort, who was later convicted of eco-crime for several years while serving Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly regime. The scrutiny of the Ukrainian campaign is linked to the appearance of Donald Trump’s relations with Moscow. Manafort, with established Russia contacts, led Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Ukrainian sailors remain in Russian detention
The 24 Ukrainian crew members who are being imprisoned in Russia after incidents in the Kertjsundet on the Crimean Peninsula remain in custody. A Moscow court, which has devoted two days to their case, has extended the detention period to the last week of April. The navy of the Ukrainians was on their way into the Azovsk Lake from the Black Sea when Russian forces opened fire on them. The sailors risk six years in prison, as Russia considers them guilty of a border violation (see November 25, 2018).
Ukraine buys attack drones
Ukraine has decided to buy six reconnaissance and attack drones of Turkish manufacturing, reports Turkish press. The Bayraktar TB2 drones are said to be capable of flying up to 685 miles during a day with a load of 55 kilos. President Poroshenko confirms that the agreement, whose value in money is not disclosed, was made when he visited Istanbul the week before.
Independent Ukrainian Church confirmed
In Istanbul, Ecumenical Patriarchate leader Bartolomeus | In a decree (“tomos”) confirming that the unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church is now independent, autocephalous. The following day, a fair is held where the document is handed over to the metropolitan Jepifani, with President Poroshenko in place. Church Russian supremacy that lasted for more than 330 years has thus ended (see November 13 and December 15, 2018).