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Zelenskiy’s election proves Ukraine is a healthy democracy. Putin hates that

On the night of Ukraine’s presidential election last weekend, Vladimir Putin did not pick up his phone to congratulate the winner. Nor has he since. Putin is in waiting mode. Perhaps that’s because what Ukraine has achieved – a free and fair, genuinely pluralistic election, and the prospect of a democratic transfer of power – is something the Russian president has trouble getting to grips with in his own country.

But surely nothing will have struck Putin more than the words Ukraine’s new president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, uttered on the night of his victory: “To all countries of the post-Soviet Union: look at us. Anything is possible!” That particular call for change, and for an overhaul of old power structures, even beyond Ukraine, will not have gone down well in the Kremlin.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/25/zelenskiy-ukraine-putin-russian

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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Europe

 

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Ukrainian election and thorny politics of language

As Ukraine fast approaches its March 2019 presidential election, nationalist and populist politics are heating up. Recently, President Poroshenko signed a new law on education stipulating that all secondary education should be taught in Ukrainian. In a period of heightened tensions with Moscow over Donbas, the law seems patently designed to shore up the Ukrainian language in opposition to Russian speakers. However, in seeking to bolster Ukrainian, politicians could alienate not only the Russian minority but also other groups such as Hungarians. What is the mood on the ground and how does the public perceive Kyiv’s more assertive moves? Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine where I interviewed political experts, Ukrainian speakers, and minorities to get a handle on such matters.

In light of previous efforts to impose the Russian language in Ukraine, it is entirely understandable that Kyiv would seek to reform its language policies. For more than two centuries and continuing on into the Soviet period, Ukrainians were forced to learn Russian. Today, Ukrainian speakers represent the majority in the country, followed by Russian speakers, Hungarians and Romanians respectively. To get a sense of the Ukrainian “mood on the street,” I caught up with Gennady Kanishchenko who used to own a café, Bar Baraban, located just a stone’s throw away from Maidan square. 

http://neweasterneurope.eu/2019/02/11/the-ukrainian-election-and-the-thorny-politics-of-language/
 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Europe

 

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The Guardian view on Ukraine: a forgotten crisis flares up

Russia’s attack on and seizure of Ukrainian navy ships and personnel in the Sea of Azov is an alarming escalation of an ongoing but neglected crisis. Now it has decided to charge crew members. Though Sunday’s events took people by surprise, Moscow has been attempting to destabilise Ukraine and consolidate its control of Crimea since illegally annexing it in 2014 after Ukraine’s pro-western Euromaidan protests. It has increasingly flexed its muscles at sea, particularly since the Kerch strait bridge connecting the Russian mainland to Crimea opened in May. Whatever the precise chain of events, this fits into a clear pattern.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/27/the-guardian-view-on-ukraine-a-forgotten-crisis-flares-up

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2018 in Europe

 

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Here’s A Totally Incredible Story About Pro-Russian Mercenaries And A Close Aide To Italy’s De Facto Leader

A close aide to Italy’s hard-right de facto leader has links to mercenaries fighting alongside pro-Russian and neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, according to court documents seen by BuzzFeed News that will increase concerns about the Italian government’s relationship with Moscow.

The documents say that Gianluca Savoini has had contact with one of 10 people Italian prosecutors have accused of recruiting and supporting far-right mercenaries in Donbass, a region in Eastern Ukraine.

As previously reported by BuzzFeed News, Savoini is a longtime aide to Matteo Salvini — who in June became Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister — and accompanied him on an official government visit to Moscow in July in an unclear capacity.

European diplomats have already expressed concern about the relationship between Italy’s new government — a coalition between the nationalist Lega party, which Salvini leads, and the populist antiestablishment Five Star Movement — and Russia.

Russian-backed militias have occupied Eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region since 2014, in a war with Ukraine that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, and which followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea. The conflict is still ongoing, and Donbass is home to two separatist republics, neither of which are recognized internationally.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/albertonardelli/matteo-salvini-russia-gianluca-savoini

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Europe, European Union

 

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The Killers of Kiev: How Putin Created an Assassin’s Metropolis

Adam Osmayev—his hand on the wheel, his gaze out the window—was trying hard to make sense of where he was headed. As he nosed his car down a quiet street on the industrial outskirts of Kiev, he noted the tableau of blight: grim warehouses, hulking Soviet-era apartments. In recent weeks, he’d begun adjusting to life in the city, to life far from the battlefield. But he still carried a soldier’s sense of unease. Something out here felt strange. Of course, in Kiev, nothing ever feels quite right.

In the backseat, his wife, Amina Okuyeva, studied the hardscrabble neighborhood too. Like Adam, she wasn’t expecting trouble, though she’d been trained to stay alert to its potential. The couple was due soon at an appointment at the French Embassy, but they couldn’t possibly be headed in the right direction, she thought. Why would an embassy be way out here?

Up front sat Alex Werner, a French journalist for Le Monde, the Parisian daily, providing directions and sounding reassuring. Don’t worry, he told the couple, he knew the way. In fact, he told them, they were running a bit early. And so, Werner asked Adam to pull the car over. They could wait for a bit, Werner explained, as the car rolled to a stop on a patch of grass beside a bus stop.

https://www.gq.com/story/killers-of-kiev-putin-assassins

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Europe

 

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Ukraine proposes a law that infuriates Russia

AFTER nearly four years of war in eastern Ukraine, and more than 10,000 deaths, reports from international monitors in the region sound like a grim broken record. On January 19th: 340 explosions. On January 20th: 240 explosions. On January 21st: 195 explosions and two middle-aged civilians hit by rifle fire while travelling in a bus near a separatist checkpoint in the town of Olenivka. “One had blood covering the left side of his face and was holding gauze to it and the other had gunshot wounds in his neck and left cheek,” the monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported this week. One of the men ended up in hospital; the other died at the site of the attack.

https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21735611-legislators-bicker-diplomats-gab-and-conflict-rolls-eastern-ukraine-ukraine-proposes-law

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Europe

 

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A Bakery in a War Zone

MARIINKA, Ukraine—

It’s a very small cup: blue dotted with yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. But for Yelena, it holds a lot of history. It’s a reminder of almost thirty years’ labor, and of the day they ended in summer 2014, when an artillery shell landed on the bread factory where she’d worked all her life in Mariinka, east Ukraine.

Now, the cup sits on a table beside an Orthodox icon in Mariinka’s small, local bakery; a survivor of the on-going war in east Ukraine. “We went back [to the factory] after it was bombed,” Yelena tells me, “and I saw my cup there. I cried. And my little stool was still there… The icon too, our icon. We had a table in the workshop, like now, and it was above the table all the time.”

http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2017/bakery-mariinka/

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2017 in Europe, Reportages

 

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Tensions erupt between former allies as Mikheil Saakashvili challenges Petro Poroshenko for Ukrainian presidency

The Russians were carrying out massive war games across the border. International statesman had gathered for a conference in Kiev in which Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko warned of a possible attack by Moscow. And, at the same time, in the background, another somewhat extraordinary invasion of the country was under way.

Mikheil Saakashvili, a fugitive from corruption charges in his native Georgia, of which he was once President, is holed up in western Ukraine after forcing his way in from Poland, and threatening a march on Kiev.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/ukraine-presidency-petro-poroshenko-mikheil-saakashvili-georgia-a7951936.html

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Europe

 

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Second-hand Europe: Ukrainian immigrants in Poland

If you begin your visit to Poland from Warsaw Central Station, you may think you’ve found yourself in a western European metropolis, no different from Paris or London. Here, you can buy sushi rolls and a kale bioshake — a lunch fitting for the ride to Berlin on the hipster-filled Friday train. On the platforms, white-collar workers await their trains. When panic over air pollution gripped the city, they switched from SUVs to public transport.A few kilometres away lies Warsaw West bus station, and here it’s a different world. You can’t find any kale in this dirty pavilion that saw its last renovation under communism — instead there’s sausage with ketchup and second hand clothes. Tired faces descend from ramshackle buses: Poles coming home from Germany, Austria and Belgium; Ukrainians arriving in Poland. For many of the latter, Warsaw West is their first encounter with the “Europe” of which they dreamt.Poland, a country of 38 million (counting citizens without guest workers), is already home to over one million Ukrainians. Most of them decided to emigrate after military conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in 2014, when the currency value of the Ukrainian hryvnia plummeted and prices rose.

Source: Second-hand Europe: Ukrainian immigrants in Poland | openDemocracy

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Europe, European Union

 

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Seventy-Two Hours at the Hasidic Burning Man

Pushkin Street has been transformed into a holy bazaar, and it’s crowded. Elbow to elbow, fur hat to fur hat, loudspeakers blaring out the chance to redeem your soul, stock up on groceries, or simply dance, dance, dance to the ecstatic music proclaiming God’s—and Rebbe Nachman’s—eternal greatness.If you want any remote chance of getting to the counter at one of the makeshift falafel or shawarma stands knocked together for the benefit of the tens of thousands of pilgrims who’ve just arrived, you’ve got to bore through a morass of people waving shekels, dollars, and hryvnias like it’s 99-cent-drink night at the local dive bar. It’s a jungle out here, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, the burial place of the 19th-century Hasidic mystic rabbi known as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (in Hasidism, “rebbe” is an affectionate term for “rabbi” that also connotes a strong spiritual leadership). Nachman promised redemption for anyone who visited his grave, and for more than 200 years that grave has been the site of a fevered pilgrimage for Jews from around the world. In the past decade, the atmosphere has grown carnivalesque at times, as the followers of Nachman, traditionally Hasidim from religious upbringings, have swelled with former Deadheads, erstwhile Phish Phanatics, reformed criminals, and recovering (and sometimes not) alcoholics and drug addicts. The operative language is Hebrew, though you hear English, French, Yiddish, and Russian. The only ones speaking Ukrainian are the locals, who are allowed onto Pushkin Street if they can prove they live or work in the area, a measure meant, presumably, to ease crowding, but also to prevent violence between the native population and the tens of thousands of once-a-year religious tourists. As a result, Ukrainians are sparse, but they’re not the only ones: The pilgrims are all men. Here and there I notice posters in Hebrew slapped onto telephone poles and synagogue walls: it is forbidden in places where there are large gatherings of men for women to be found!

Source: Seventy-Two Hours at the Hasidic Burning Man – Vice

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Europe, Reportages

 

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