SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC NEWS 18-24 SEPTEMBER UKRAINE

23:00 25/9/2017
Ukraine vs Eastern Europe “language battle” over new education law. Odessa children camp tragedy investigation updates. Trump meets Poroshenko. New victims of trade stall demolition policy in Kyiv. More adventures of Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine.

#Society

18 September, Chernomorsk

Illichivsk City Court (Chernomorsk, Odessa region) found innocent 19 defendants in the criminal case regarding events of May 2, 2014 in Odessa, when 48 people died and over 200 were injured. All of the former indictees (including Russian citizens Yevgeniy Mefyodov and Maksim Sakaulov) were activists of the «anti-Maidan» group based around Odessa Trade Unions Building, where most of May 2 victims sharing the same political beliefs were killed in fire. No «pro-Maidan» activists who attacked the building had been arrested. The court was not satisfied with low quality of evidence (testimonies, video and audio data) provided by the Prosecutor's Office withdrawing all accusations of mass violence instigation leading to injuries and death.

 

According to media reports, after the end of trial Security Service and Prosecutor's Office representatives entered the room asking journalists to leave the premises. After that, Mefyodov and Sakaulov were charged with separatism (par. 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

 

During the trial, nationalist radical activists protesting against the court's decision tried to break into the building and attacked the police and National Guard officers with gas and light emitting grenades in attempt to prevent the defendants` extraction. About 20 officers were injured. No protesters have been arrested.

Radicals fighting police in front of Illichivsk City Court

 

18 September, Kyiv region

National Police of Ukraine reports arrest of an organized crime group exclusively specializing in theft of Toyota vehicles. One of the cars along with documents for several others (as well as special equipment used for car theft) were found during search procedures. The group consisted of Department for Fighting Illegal Drug Trafficking (OBNON) and State Auto Inspection's (DAI) «Cobra» special squad former (before 2009) employees, who were also found guilty of 4 other theft incidents in different parts of the country.

 

19 September, Hungary

Hungarian government announced decision to seek response from UN concerning Ukraine's new education law which reportedly violates UN's official minority regulations creating a dangerous political precedent. According to the new act, secondary and higher education will only be available in Ukrainian. Commenting on the situation, head of Hungarian Ministry Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto told the press that «Ukraine stabbed Hungary in the back». Hungarian parliament has already condemned the new policy approved by Verkhovna Rada on September 5. Hungarian Human Resources Minister Zoltan Balog currently seeks meeting with the head of Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine Lilia Hrynevych «to discuss some of the fears the Hungarian authorities have regarding the new Ukrainian law». On September 22, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis canceled his October visit to Ukraine for the same reason.

 

Russia has also expressed deep concerns about new education initiative in Ukraine. Foreign Ministry of Russia claims this will «forcefully establish a mono-ethnic language regime in a multi-national state». Polish Foreign Ministry authorities followed in the steps of their colleagues saying that «the Foreign Ministry will closely monitor the implementation of the law and take all necessary steps to provide Poles in Ukraine with access to teaching in Polish».

 

New changes in education system will take force in 2020. Deputy Education Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Hobzei says in an interview that only 40% of minority school pupils studying in their native language (with Ukrainian language and literature as separate subjects) are able to pass the Ukrainian language test required to enter a university. By introducing a new approach, Ukrainian government plans to change the situation by inverting it: minority language and literature will become side-subjects during the middle and high school years (5-11 grades), but all primary school teaching will be still carried out in their native tongue. All minority school pupils who started their secondary education before September 1, 2018 will continue studying in their native languages until 2020, but with a gradual increase of subjects taught in Ukrainian. Government will also divide all school courses into «variative» and «invariative», which means that in the first case the teaching language may be chosen by the education instance, whereas the second group consists of courses taught only in Ukrainian (and for which the government provides textbooks). Hobzei also says that teaching in foreign languages encompasses only 10% of the total Ukrainian education statistics (176 Hungarian, 200 Romanian, several Moldovan and one Slovak school). Requirements for organizing classes consisting of ethnic minorities in Ukrainian schools will remain untouched: if a minimum of 8 pupils wishes to study in their native language, their right must be fulfilled (if it is technically feasible).

Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs

 

20 September, Ukraine

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has permitted unscheduled fire and technogenic security inspections in schools, kindergartens and hospitals. «We have cases in which State Emergency Service regulations concerning scheduled and unscheduled inspections were not fulfilled for six months or a year», said Hennadiy Zubko, Vice Prime Minister — Minister of Regional Development, Construction and Housing of Ukraine.

 

The new permission was approved after the tragedy in «Victoria» summer camp on September 16, where 3 children died in a massive night fire in the wooden dormitory. According to Odessa Council deputy Oleksandr Ivanitsky, during the fire, 13-year old Maksym Tychonchuk rescued 15 children sleeping in 5 separate rooms, burning his hands in the process. A teenage camp resident Ekateryna Noy rescued 8 other children (8-10 years old), which resulted in her hospitalization.

 

Prosecutor's Office of Odessa has currently searched companies involved in construction of «Victoria» camp. Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko says the camp director (who had switched off the fire alarm) has been arrested. 23-year old Nataliya Yanchik responsible for the fire security (who applied for employment termination in the beginning of August) was reported suspicion and detained. Further investigation is currently being carried out.

Nataliya Yanchik in the court

 

21 September, Kyiv

Civil demonstration «No - to police state» in front of Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) protested against the new law (pending parliamentary approval) that gives additional power to the National Guard of Ukraine. Protesters fear this will negatively affect human rights in Ukraine and turn the country into a police state. One of activists says peaceful demonstrations will become endangered as National Guard soldiers will obtain the ability to perform arrest based on civil and criminal offenses and to use force against anyone who breaks the «safe distance» required by law. Mykhailo Yanchik, one of demonstration organizers, believes the new law also forgives wider weapon use against citizens.

Partakers of the civil demonstration

 

21 September, New York

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US President Donald Trump had a meeting at Lotte New York Palace Hotel. President Poroshenko has thanked US for supporting Ukraine's military sector and economy, saying that «the turnover between the United States and Ukraine during the last seven months increased 2.5 times because of the implementation of our agreement». President Trump expressed his satisfaction with Petro Poroshenko`s presidential work in Ukraine, saying that he is «making it better and better on a daily basis. And I do hear very, very good things».

Petro Poroshenko and Donald Trump in New York

 

22 September, Ukraine

OSCE reports 1882 violations of cease-fire in the conflict zone on the east of Ukraine last week. «Three years have passed and both sides claim to obey the Minsk Protocol, but at the same time both of them violate the agreement», says Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

 

22 September, Lviv

Former Governor of Odessa region Mikheil Saakashvili did not show up at the hearing in Motysky District Court for his illegal border crossing during his return to Ukraine on September 10. The first hearing on September 18 was postponed on demand of Saakashvili`s lawyer who claimed that the administrative protocol handed to his defendant by state authorities was not appropriate. During the second two-hour session hundreds of Odessa ex-Governor's followers and rivals gathered at the court. Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko says Saakashvili will face a fine for state border violation and will not be arrested if he attends all court sessions. He will also not be deported to Georgia after his recent request to be provided official security due to his statelessness.

Mikheil Saakashvili in the court on September 18

 

22 September, Kyiv

Trade stalls and kiosks near capital's Yunist building goods bazaar were demolished by order of Kyiv municipal government in accordance with the new policy aimed at development of large trade centers. Numerous minor markets across the city were destroyed during last few years, e. g. a marketplace near «Politekhnichnyi Institut» metro station, which will be replaced with a small park. Earlier this year, a three-story building was erected on the territory of Yunist bazaar replacing the old marketplace.

Demolished trade stalls near Yunist bazaar

 

#Economy

22 September, Ukraine

Ukrainian Ministry of Finance reports 6% shadow economy decrease in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year. The current shadow economy share is 37% of the country's GDP. According to the Ministry, new changes are a result of recent stability achieved in economic growth, average salary increase, price and exchange rates, as well as financial climate improvement in the light of government's policy towards business deregulation.

 

22 September, Cherkasy

Sosnivsky District Court of Cherkasy decision to confiscate 200 mln USD belonging to Ukrainian ex-President Victor Yanukovych entered into force, says Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko on his Facebook page, adding that «the dogs bark, and the caravan goes on». Current decision was earlier announced by Lutsenko on September 20 in Dnipro city during the meeting of EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee (PAC). On April 28, Lutsenko together with National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) already reported confiscation of 1,5 bln USD from an Oschadbank (State Savings Bank of Ukraine) account related to Yanukovych and his political entourage.

Yuriy Lutsenko, Prosecutor General of Ukraine

 

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