Russia’s Victory Day Parade In Moscow, 2015. Photo: screen

The VoxUkraine Brief: Victories and Losses

#VoxUkraine weekly selection of best articles on Ukraine.

By Yuriy Gorodnichenko, VoxUkraine Editorial Board, and Vita Faychuk, VoxUkraine

produced by Kseniya Alekankina


Firtash-gate

Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch connected to former Mr. Yanukovych and possibly Russian authorities, was awaiting extradition to the U.S. on corruption charges. Given the track record of other infamous Ukrainians in American courts, the prospect seemed rather dim for Mr. Firtash. Fortunately for him, his team of top-notch attorneys was able to convince an Austrian judge that the charges were politically motivated and, as a result, the extradition request was denied. During the court hearings, Mr. Firtash made a series of revelations claiming a mastermind status in Ukrainian politics. He stated that it was him who brokered the secret deal between the two top contenders for the post of the president of Ukraine in the March of 2014. He said, “We achieved what we wanted: Poroshenko became president, and Klitschko became mayor.” Those revelations were met with a wave of harsh criticism by Ukrainians who propelled Mr.Poroshenko to presidency in just one round of elections and who were tired of the backroom political deals. Mr.Poroshenko admitted that the meeting took place, but never disclosed the content. He maintained that his actions speak louder than any attempts to discredit him and signed the natural gas bill that is supposed to cut into Mr. Firtash’s business. Mr. Klitschko denied existence of any signed agreement with Mr.Poroshenko. In any case, this was the first round of the battle. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine said that the U.S. authorities will appeal the ruling and Mr. Firtash may have a trip to the U.S. with all expenses paid. See the Economist for more on the matter.

Russia’s lonely V-Day

Russian tanks rolled the Red Square again as the Victory Day is a traditional opportunity for Russia to show off its military might. Russia spared no cost trying to impress the world. Many foreign leaders typically attended the event to pay tribute to the vast losses the Soviet Union had during the WWII. Despite the 70-year anniversary of the victory, this year was different. Out of 68 world leaders invited, the vast majority — including leaders of WWII allies U.S. President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande — declined Mr. Putin’s invitation due to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

In sharp contrast, five years ago, on the 65th anniversary, troops from four NATO countries marched alongside Russians. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush watched the 1995 and 2005 parades in Moscow. Now it was Chinese troops marching on the Red Square. The Chinese leader said that the Victory Day is celebrated to “establish peace on this planet together.” In a tragic irony, Russia, that lost so many people in the bloodiest war, annexed Crimea and has been waging a war in Ukraine with sad, but clear parallels to how the WWII started. As a result, Russia is turning into a pariah state and even enormous WWII sacrifices are not enough to ignore Russia’s troops and arms in Ukraine. See Bloomberg for more coverage.

Rebels on offensive, fear of full-scale war mounts, Minsk-3

Violations of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine have reached their highest level since the Minsk-2 agreement was signed in February, and President Petro Poroshenko has warned that war could re-erupt “at any moment”. Indeed, the Ukrainian Army suffered some of the deadliest days this week since Minsk-2.

In a sign of mounting pressure, the top U.S. commander for NATO told a US Senate Committee that Russia appears to be repositioning for a new offensive in Ukraine.

Philip Breedlove, commander of NATO forces in Europe: “Russian forces used the opportunities presented by the recent lull in fighting to reset and reposition while protecting their gains. Many of their actions are consistent with preparations for another offensive.”

Yet, there is some hope for a peaceful resolution. The separatists announced a breakthrough in talks with Ukraine’s representatives. Specifically, Ukraine and the separatists agreed to set up four working groups to work out details on security, politics, refugees and humanitarian aid, and the economy. Given the poor record of separatists in observing Minsk-2, the Ukrainian side is rather cautious. Indeed, Mr. Kuchma, former Ukraine’s President and Ukraine’s representative at the talks, said at the briefing that if these groups are not successful, the only way out will be to appeal to UN or EU and to deploy a peacekeeping mission.

Parliamentary elections in the UK

David Cameron and his party scored a major victory in the UK’s parliamentary elections on May 7th. Just before the elections, VoxUkraine surveyed MP candidates on their views about Ukraine. The majority of candidates support economic aid for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. Strikingly, the representatives of the conservative party show unanimous support for these. However, Ukraine appears to be relatively low on the agenda of British politics and the Ukrainian government can do a better job at winning the minds and pounds of the British public.

Decommunization

The Victory Day is a time when we all should remember those who brought peace to Europe and the rest of the world. Totalitarian regimes — not only in Nazi Germany, but also in the communist Soviet Union — paved the way to the WWII. While Fascism was publicly condemned and Germany has been living with a sense of guilt for all the atrocities, the communism has remained “unblemished” for many people in the former Soviet Union and the socialist bloc. In an attempt to break with the terrifying past of communism — gulags, engineered famines, mass shootings, deportations, and ethnic cleansings — many countries banned or put severe limits on communist ideology. Ukraine passed the law banning Nazi and communist symbols. The law generated heated debates in Ukraine. In a recent VoxUkraine post, Oksana Shevel (Tufts University) discusses pros and cons of the law and makes recommendations on how to make it more effective.


Also this week on VoxUkraine

At the beginning of May many Ukrainians take a long break between Labor Day on May 1st and Victory Day on May 9th. How will it effect the economic growth? And will changing the number of days of vacation or holidays stimulate the economy?


Have a great weekend!

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