Sunday, November 20, 2016

First Ukrainian President Says Sanctions Not Enough, Must Negotiate For Peace

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's first president, who helped usher in the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union 25 years ago, said Ukraine's leaders today must find a similarly peaceful resolution of the separatist conflict in the east.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk says his nation must find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the east.

"We heeded our peoples then and signed the [dissolution] accords, and so why can't the country leaders today tap a solution consonant with the aspirations of their nations, which don't want a war?" Leonid Kravchuk said at an Atlantic Council event in Washington on November 18.

While Kravchuk said the West must keep up economic pressure on Russia by maintaining sanctions until it agrees to stop its aggression in Ukraine, he added that "you will not achieve order in the world only through sanctions."

Ukraine's only option in the end is to negotiate peace, he said.

"We have only one prospect ahead of us, and it implies dialogue and agreements,” Kravchuk said.

“Other prospects are nonexistent...I'm confident Ukraine has no other pathway than that of peace." 

Kravchuk has previously said that while he is ready to take up arms to defend his country, he believes Russia would quickly defeat Ukraine if an all-out war broke out between them.

Kravchuk has also said previously that Ukraine might have to accept Russia's 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian Black Sea region of Crimea in order to regain control over territory in the east that is held by Russia-backed separatists as part of a peace settlement.

"Donbass will return without fail, and we will not have to wait long," he told TASS in August.

"As for Crimea, we will have to wait for a long time...Crimea was drawn into Moscow's orbit, so it is already part of the Russian federal system."

In August, he called on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to ditch the Minsk peace process sponsored by Germany and France, which has been stalled, and instead try to negotiate a settlement directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia maintains that it is not a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, although Moscow provides military, political, and economic support to the separatist movements.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this month determined the conflict in Ukraine to be "an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation."

Also speaking at the Atlantic Council event, Gennady Burbulis, a close aide of the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who signed the 1991 agreement that dissolved the Soviet Union, said the West's harsh line against Russia has been ineffective at bringing about peace in Ukraine.

Burbulis, who said the Soviet Union was doomed to fail, called for a softer, more nuanced dialogue with today's Kremlin.

"There is no other way than consensus, but consensus implies a different understanding of politics, a different culture of relations, not guided by the principle, 'I am stronger and you are poorer,'" he said. 

Stanislav Shushkevich, who in 1991 was head of the Belarusian parliament and who also signed the agreement dissolving the Soviet Union with Yeltsin and Kravchuk, said that despite the success of the peaceful transition to a post-Soviet world back then, stubborn ethnic and territorial disputes have emerged and not all the old Soviet ways have disappeared. "

A whole range of symbols of the old Soviet Union have been resurrected because the mentality of Soviet people has been preserved," he said.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Saturday, November 19, 2016

EU Approves Ukraine Visa-Free Travel

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union member states on 17 November approved visa-free travel for Ukraine citizens, long sought by Kiiv to help cement ties as it combats pro-Russian rebels in the east.

Slovak EU Ambassador Peter Javorčík (L).

Visa-free travel was part of an EU-Ukraine partnership accord signed in 2014, when the country, a Soviet-era satellite, angered Moscow by casting its lot with the West.

In return for closer political and economic ties, the EU has demanded civil society reforms to root out corruption and ensure Ukraine rights and democratic standards match those in the bloc.

A statement said the 28 EU member states had agreed visa-free travel for EU and Ukraine citizens for stays of not more than 90 days in any 180-day period as all requirements had been met.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Twitter he welcomed this “long-awaited decision” and called on the EU to introduce the visa-free regime “without further delay”.

“Credible reform is the right path and should be encouraged,” Peter Javorčík, Slovak ambassador to the EU and whose country currently holds the bloc’s six-month rotating presidency, said in the statement.

“I am also delighted that our decision is able to send a positive message in the run up to the EU-Ukraine Summit on 24 November,” Javorčík added.

The proposal now goes to the European Parliament for approval.

Ukraine crisis has plunged EU ties with Russia into a deep freeze, with Brussels imposing a whole series of economic and other sanctions against Moscow for supporting the rebels and over its annexation of Crimea.

Source: EurActiv

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Campaign Against Sexual Abuse In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- On September 17th in Kiev, Ukrainian activists—most of them young women—marched against gender-based violence, proceeding from Maidan square to the City Administration Building on Khreschatyk Street.

Feminists protest sexual violence in Kiev, Ukraine.

With rainbow flags and slogans like “my body, my choice,” the march was a far cry from Femen’s topless (and controversial) antics of yesteryear.

Instead, it looked much like college feminist protests anywhere in the United States or Western Europe.

This was no coincidence: Viktoria Korobkina, a 23-year-old student, told me that she had learned about feminism from classmates from other countries while studying abroad in China.

The march, which included participants from Kiev’s leftist student movement FemSolution and the LGBTQ NGO Insight, built on the “I am not afraid to speak” online movement of this summer, in which Ukrainians shared their experiences of sexual assault.

The tidal wave of testimonials shocked many observers, and brought attention to the silence and shame that surrounds sexual assault in Ukraine.

Ukrainian law enforcement, and society in general, has a particularly poor track record of responding to sexual and domestic violence, often blaming the victims and making excuses for the perpetrators; it is no surprise that many assaults go unreported, and are not vigorously prosecuted when they are.

Onlookers’ response to the Kiev protest was mixed.

“Lots of women refused to take my fliers,” said Korobkina.

“One said, ‘I don’t need that—I haven’t been raped.’

But another woman came up to me and asked for information about where to get help.

She told me that her brother had been beating her for ten years.”

The war in the Donbass has added a frightening new dimension to Ukraine’s problem with sexual violence.

Human rights groups have reported increased levels of sexual violence in the conflict zone, including reports of rapes of civilians by fighters on both sides of the conflict.

Perhaps even more troubling has been the tolerant attitude of Ukrainian authorities to crimes committed by “heroes of the anti-terrorist operation.”

Several of the Kiev protesters expressed outrage over a recent case in which a man convicted of the violent rape of a minor was given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay just 3000 hryvnia ($120) in “moral compensation.”

There was no question that the defendant was guilty, but the judge ruled that his military service in eastern Ukraine constituted an extenuating circumstance— thus setting an alarming precedent.

The Kiev Oblast Prosecutor’s Office later announced that it had appealed the ruling.

One protester’s sign read, “ATO hero, patriot, Cossack, family man…that’s not an excuse for rape!”

A young woman with a bandana over her face carried a poster stating the details of the case and ending with the question, “Do heroes have the right to rape?”

That she felt the need to conceal her identity while protesting such an obvious miscarriage of justice was another indicator of the special status enjoyed by pro-Ukrainian fighters, who are too often allowed to operate above the law.

Many of the police officers providing security for the protest were young women recruited during the internationally lauded post-Maidan police reforms.

“It’s easier for a woman to talk to another woman,” said police officer Valentina Zalensko, when asked about how the presence of women in the police force might help improve the response to gender-based violence.

“But every situation is different, and it’s easier to talk about problems than to solve them,” she added.

Another officer, 21-year-old Anna, said that many women are still reluctant to report domestic and sexual violence; in these cases, she said, police offered referrals to the women’s rights center La Strada.

It is to be hoped that the new police force will support specially trained women officers in responding to gender-based violence.

But above all, Ukraine must make it clear that heroism is no excuse for rape.

Source: Pulitzer Center