European Press ReviewSociety

Disappointment about Zelenskyy, influence of oligarchs and Poroshenko-Biden tapes: Europress on Ukraine

We make this media review every week in partnership with the Ukrainian source Mind.ua. We make it for you to help you form an idea of the image of Ukraine in the European media space.

“War and corruption continue to dominate the country. A year after the election, it became clear that President Zelensky could not keep his promises. Zelensky’s statement last year that he could end the war through personal contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed unreasonably optimistic: continuing a sluggish war and constantly weakening Ukraine remains the Kremlin’s main interest. Promises of reform, especially in areas dominated by oligarchs, have aroused skepticism: in the end, Zelensky owes much to the career of billionaire Igor Kolomoisky and became president a year ago with his widespread support. Skeptics, unfortunately, were right. Billionaires such as Rinat Akhmetov or Igor Kolomoisky and several others have remained as powerful as before. As under previous presidents from Leonid Kuchma to Viktor Yushchenko to Petro Poroshenko, Zelensky’s will for real transformation seems to have weakened, and reformers are being fired from governments’ positions again. A year ago, millions of Ukrainians hoped for a fresh start for their country. So far, there is little to suggest that her hopes will still come true under President Zelensky,” Sueddeutsche wrote in the article “Ukraine under Volodymyr Zelensky: Disappointment.”

ZelenskyyThe influence of the super-rich oligarchs seems to be as great as ever. For example, Ihor Kolomoisky and his partners are accused of stealing billions through Ukraine’s largest bank, PrivatBank. The oligarch denies the accusations. But a London court has already seen evidence of an “epic fraud.” However, in Ukraine, where Kolomoisky helped President Zelensky gain the post through his TV channel, there are still no criminal proceedings or at least no investigations. Another oligarch is “represented” in the new government: Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man who controls mines and energy. Prime Minister Dennis Shmygal worked for Akhmetov as an energy adviser. President Zelensky has already received all the oligarchs for consultations several times. The oligarchs have at least the same influence under Zelensky as they had before. The President also made no progress in the war in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv, Moscow, and its puppet regimes in Donetsk and Luhansk exchanged prisoners several times. However, there is still a lack of military and political progress. Nevertheless, Ukrainians approve of Zelensky’s actions regarding the exchange of prisoners, as well as measures to contain the pandemic. According to a poll by the “Rating” agency, two-thirds of Ukrainians consider Zelensky’s results in his first year to be “good” or at least “satisfactory.” However, they are not happy: only 32 percent of respondents believe that Ukraine’s course is correct near Zelensky. And 51 percent believe their country is heading in the wrong direction, Sueddeutsche told its readers.

Voting for the “banking law” showed that its adoption was controversial: almost one in seven deputies of the “Servants of the People” abstained or did not vote for the law at all, and the results were not met with the usual applause for Zelensky. The author of the Tagesschau article, Martha Wilczynski, analyzes Zelensky’s mistakes concerning personnel policy and closeness to the oligarchs’ entourage. And although Zelensky did not lose support, the number of his supporters decreased.

Spiegel also writes that Zelensky lacks strategy. “Some are struggling to become important in politics; and to some power is given, “like a ripe fruit.” Volodymyr Zelensky belongs to the second category: without visible efforts, the TV-comic won the Ukrainian presidential election last spring by an overwhelming majority, as if the country was just waiting for him. Ukrainians did not notice that he had no program, no party, no experience – they already knew him from the TV screen. Or thought they knew him: for years he played the president in a popular series. In addition, citizens knew very well what they did not want: the then incumbent President Petro Poroshenko or other members of the discredited political class. And 42-year-old Zelensky certainly did not turn out to be a puppet of the oligarch, as many feared.”

Oligarchs help combat coronavirus in UkraineThe President of Ukraine called on the richest men in the country to correct the shortcomings of the Ukrainian health care system, La Croix writes. Vans of “Interpipe”, a manufacturer of pipes controlled by Viktor Pinchuk, one of the richest men in Ukraine, have been transporting 10,000 gloves, almost 500 intravenous tubes and 300 liters of hydroalcohol gel, 20 oxygen concentrators to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Dnipropetrovsk in recent weeks. In the midst of the Kovid-19 epidemic, much of the private funding allowed the state hospital, which treated 99 patients diagnosed with coronavirus in mid-May, to withstand the “shock.” This phenomenon has been observed throughout Ukraine: from the beginning, it was clear that Ukraine’s corrupt, dilapidated, and severely underfunded health care system would not be able to withstand large-scale epidemics. On March 16, President Volodymyr Zelensky gathered a dozen of the country’s richest men in the presidential palace to ask them to open their wallets: “This country has fed you for a long time, now it is you who can help.” The head of state’s appeal to these businessmen, who were largely enriched by the chaos of the 1990s, sounds like an admission of powerlessness.

The Franco-German-sponsored peace summit on Ukraine and Russia, originally expected in April, will take place only after the new coronavirus pandemic subsides, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday. He also once again called for direct talks with Vladimir Putin, even if his opponents fear that the young head of state, holding office for a year, will make unacceptable concessions to Russia – RTL.

KharchenkoSuspect-MH17 detained in Donetsk“, – the Dutch channel NOS told its readers: Leonid Kharchenko, one of the four suspects in the lawsuit MH17 was detained in his hometown of Donetsk. The city is controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. It is unclear why Kharchenko was arrested. Some sources say it is due to illegal possession of weapons (an old case from 2014), others that the separatist leadership wants to prevent the Ukrainian government from kidnapping him, as happened earlier with Volodymyr Tsemakh, who is also involved in the downing of MH17. According to the Dutch prosecutor’s office, Kharchenko was involved in transporting the Buk missile, which shot down the MH17. According to the Joint Investigation Team, which is conducting a criminal investigation, Buk was brought from Russia.

The Italian newspaper Repubblica reminded of Markiv’s case, but not in order to rehabilitate him. On the cover of the Repubblica vendredi on May 15, Mario Calabresi tells the story of Andy Rockelli, who was killed in Ukraine in 2014: “It seemed that there would never be justice for the mortar shelling that killed him and his Russian companion Andrei Mironov. But thanks to the Milan prosecutor, it has been established that the person responsible for Rockelli’s death is an Italian citizen, Vitaliy Markiv, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant who was a personal trainer and DJ in Rimini but returned to his country of origin for the war. Convicted of first-degree murder, Markiv awaits appeal »

Conflict of interest in Ukraine? Republicans in the US Senate are investigating Biden’s son, – writes Stern. President Trump accuses Joe Biden of trying to protect his son from the Ukrainian judiciary as vice president of the Barack Obama administration. Trump’s lawyers have argued that Biden’s role on Burisma’s board of directors is a clear conflict of interest because his father, as vice president, was responsible for US policy toward Ukraine.

Biden - Poroshenko - BurismaUkraine opens investigation into Biden-Poroshenko tapes. This was reported by the Austrian Krone, and the Swiss Blick, and Euronews. Prosecutors in Ukraine are investigating tapes allegedly involving the former leader of the country Petro Poroshenko, discussing the terms of a billion-dollar loan with former US Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for the firing the then-Attorney General Viktor Shokin to prevent him from investigating “Burisma”, in the board of directors of which was the son of Biden. Shokin eventually stepped down in March 2016. In a Facebook statement, Poroshenko said the tapes had been fabricated and described their “leak” as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to “undermine Ukraine’s bipartisan support of the United States.” He called Biden “Ukraine’s friend and ally” and criticized Zelensky for destroying Western support for Ukraine in Moscow’s favor. US presidential candidate Joe Biden has previously explained that the loan is linked to Shokin’s removal as part of an anti-corruption effort supported by the US government, the EU, and international creditors.

Despite the virus, Ukrainians are going to save harvest in Europe, – reports the Belgian RTL. Fearing that their fruits and vegetables would rot in the fields, farmers in several countries, including the United Kingdom and Finland, booked charter flights for seasonal workers. “Wages in Ukraine are too low. There is nothing you can do about it,”- 35-year-old Yuriy, who is going to Finland for the third time, told AFP. For five months, he will harvest salads and broccoli to earn a total of 7,500 euros, which is about four times more than he would earn as a truck driver in his usual job. Yuriy is one of tens of thousands of seasonal Ukrainian workers who work on farms in Western Europe every year because they cannot find a well-paid job at home. A former Soviet republic with a population of about 40 million people, Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in Europe. The economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to exacerbate the financial difficulties of its population. Kyiv was initially reluctant to release migrant workers, arguing that such trips posed a danger to their health. Authorities also said there was enough work in the country, even for the two million Ukrainians who had returned to the country since the beginning of the pandemic. But an avalanche of raging comments on social media accusing the government of restricting its citizens to equating the situation with “slavery” has helped change Kyiv’s policies.

Surrogate mothersOnce again, the media wrote about the “stuck” children of surrogate mothers in Ukraine: there are 50 companies in Ukraine that offer women to become surrogate mothers on a commercial basis. The clients are mainly citizens of China, the USA, Mexico, and European countries. The Dutch NOS indicates that surrogate mothers earn 15,000 euros per child.

Among the positive news that reveals the cultural side of Ukraine to foreign readers, we can highlight the report of the influential Dutch monthly magazine HP / De Tijd about Brody, Lviv region, the hometown of Austrian writer of Jewish origin from Ukraine Josef Roth – author of the famous novel “Radetsky’s March”. He was born in this Galician town during the Austro-Hungarian Empire and “wrote extensively about eradication, decline, identity, nationalism and the European dream,” said Sonny Speck, a 22-year-old Dutch politician, and political science student. He decided to see Brody with his own eyes, “a marginal place that, however, can tell a lot about European history: the past of Joseph Roth, the multiethnic Habsburg Empire, the First World War, the Holocaust.” Speck recalls the history of the city, which was Polish, then Austrian, Russian, Soviet, and which eventually became Ukrainian. The Dutchman seemed shocked to see snow-covered roads, Lada without properly functioning brakes, women with braids, and guys lighting fireworks (the trip took place on New Year’s Eve). Brody Railway Station will take you back a century. An old gloomy lady at the cash register, classic but simple pillars, chandeliers and stained glass windows of red color, composed of pieces, “Speck writes. He points out that the city’s population at the end of the 19th century was 88% Jewish, “but the two world wars had their impact.” Today, the city’s Jewish cemetery is abandoned, and the large synagogue in Brody, where Roth’s parents married, is badly damaged and its roof collapsed. The politician hopes that the synagogue will be renovated and writes that its opening will be “a wonderful day for Brody, Ukraine, and Europe.”

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