Ukraine:”Away from Moscow” to Association with Europe

Sergiy Gerasymchuk, Foreign Policy Council "Ukrainian Prism" (Ukraine, Kyiv)

Subscribe for Newsletter

Download PDF

In May, the political and economical Ukrainian agenda remained closely connected to Russia. Russia and pro-Russian militants continue shootings of the government controlled areas in the east of Ukraine. Kyiv toughens its stand on the sanctions imposed on Russian businesses, and blocks the Russia’s information and propaganda influence channels, while the Western countries call on Kremlin to fulfill the Minsk agreements

Domestic Policy. St. George ribbon ban and Language quotas

On 16 May the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine approved the ban to manufacture and use for any propaganda issues in Ukraine the ribbon of St. George. 238 MPs gave their votes to support this decision. The document also includes fines for using, demonstrating or wearing St. George ribbon.

On 17 May Kyiv dealt another blow to Moscow: the decree blocking access to the “Yandex” services and the Russian social networks “VKontakte ” and “Odnoklassniki” in Ukraine (in the framework of imposing harsher sanctions against Russia) was signed by the President Poroshenko, and published. Despite the fact that this decision is not completely univocal taking into account the European standards for the freedom of speech, the Head of Press and Information Section of the EU Delegation in Ukraine Jurgis Vilchinskas said that “the protection of the national security is the prerogative of the Ukrainian government”. However, he also stressed that “the authorities should ensure that the restrictive measures do not have a negative impact on the fundamental right to freedom of expression”.

Already on 23 May the Parliament voted for a 75% mandatory quota for the Ukrainian-language content on television. 269 MPs voted to support this decision.

The decisions made by the Ukrainian President and MPs provoked a rather angry backlash from the Russian Federation. In particular, on 25 May the Russian Federation Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said  that the St. George ribbon banning in Ukraine will postpone the Minsk agreements fulfillment. This way Moscow is trying to shift the blame for the breakdown in negotiations onto Kyiv.

Yet the Russian operation in the East of Ukraine does not stop. According to the UN High Commission on Human Rights, within the period from March to 14 May the collateral damage in Donbas equalled to 178 victims, with 35 killed and 143 injured.

Economy. Further sanctions and new strategies

This May brought on some harsher economic sanctions for Moscow, in particular the work of ERP-system “1C” LLC and other IT companies was blocked, following the initiative of the President of Ukraine . The sanctions involve blocking assets, limiting trade operations and a ban for capital extraction outside the territory of Ukraine.

From March to 14 May the collateral damage in Donbas equalled to 178 victims, with 35 killed and 143 injured

Moreover, the government of Ukraine stimulates the development of the small and medium-sized businesses. In particular, on 24 May the corresponding development strategy till 2020 was approved. It is planned to provide the background for the supportive legal and regulatory, institutional and operational environment for the entrepreneurship, provide access to the small and medium-sized business representatives to financing sources under favorable conditions, and ease the tax administration. The Cabinet of Ministers expects Ukraine to enter the World Bank top 30 countries rated by the ease of doing business index, namely taxation and favorable conditions for entrepreneurship, before 2020.

Foreign Policy. Pressure on Russia remains

The Ukrainian foreign policy still considers keeping the Western pressure on Russia as a priority. In this regard May turned out to be quite a successful month for Ukraine. For instance, on 2 May the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, while speaking at the press conference with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressed the importance of the Minsk agreements fulfilling as a mandatory condition for lifting sanctions on Russia. In its turn, on 3 May the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on Russia demanding to restore the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in the Crimea. The Ukrainian issue was discussed in the course of the negotiations between Merkel and the President of the USA Donald Trump during the G7 summit in Italy. Following the results of the summit, the G7 leaders warned Russia of further sanctions, and demanded the Minsk agreements fulfillment. France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron calls on resuming negotiations within the Normandy format.

The main achievement of the month was the EU decision to grant visa-free travel to the citizens of Ukraine, published on 22 May. This means that starting 11 June Ukrainians with biometric passports will be able to visit the EU countries without a visa . And on 30 May the Dutch Senate ratified the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, thus eliminating the last barrier on the Ukraine’s way to Association.