European Press Review

Ukraine and Corona: hug each other, and Return of the King of the Sun. Europress Review

This week the European media has been full of messages about the Chornobyl fires: the website of the Dutch TV channel NOS published “Chornobyl fires are now being fought by 1,400 firefighters”.  Austrian newspaper Krone has been following up on the fires on a daily basis: “Wind could drive radioactive clouds to Europe” it said on the 20th of April, and the headline of the next day is: “Hardly any successes in extinguishing fires around Chernobyl”. On the 22nd of April, the same newspaper writes with relief: “No increased radioactivity measurable in Austria”.

 

“Ordered in Darknet”: Krone mentioned Ukraine also in the light of drugs. Though it was the citizen of Austria who was in the focus of the news, his relation to Ukraine was his residence: “In connection with a drug order in the Darknet, investigations have been underway in Ukraine against an Austrian living in Kyiv since February. According to decisions published in the Ukrainian judicial register, the suspect, accused of “smuggling particularly dangerous psychotropic substances”, is released after paying a bail”.

Coronavirus: the biggest cargo plane of the world is coming to France with 8 mln masques. This was the announcement of the Ukrainian plane Mriya bringing to the airport Paris-Vatry 150 tonnes of sanitary materials on the Region 3 France TV. “Paris-Vatry Airport hosts “the famous and unique Antonov An-225 Mriya, which means the dream in Ukrainian”, it is stated on the Facebook page of the airport site. It is “the plane of all superlatives, the Mriya is the longest and heaviest in the world. Armed with 6 turbojets and 32 wheels, it is capable of loading on board 50 cars, or the Russian space shuttle Buran”. The readers were reminded that Mriya came to France already twice before this: in 2011 and 2014. Anticipating the interest of people in seeing the plane, the citizens were asked not to come to have a look at it because of the lockdown. The airport even proposed to follow a Facebook live stream of the arriving Mriya.

Belgian RTL site also shared positive news from Ukraine. In the article “Preply, a Ukrainian start-up that thrives on containment” it tells its readers about the “worldwide success of an online language teaching platform “Preply”. Further, it states that “the example of Preply is a rare international success story for this former Soviet republic of around 40 million inhabitants and one of the poorest countries of Europe. And the founders of the platform have the ambition “to become in three to four years a + unicorn +”, a company valued at least a billion dollars”.

As for the negative news, referring to the Belga news agency, the Belgian RTL website outlined the article “The DAU Project: Ukraine Opens Investigation on Orphan Torture”. It reads that an investigation against a Russian film director for “alleged torture” against children during the shooting of “DAU. Degeneration” was opened in Ukraine on Wednesday. The scandal happened this week in the social networks of Ukraine, “the former Soviet Republic”. The film director Ilya Khrzhanovsky has been accused of abusing the children: in several shots, young children are seen naked, tied up, or sobbing. “According to preliminary information, the children from the orphanage were used for filming,” said Mykola Kuleba, the Representative of the President of Ukraine for Children’s Rights, demanding that the police verify these facts. “The film is part of the artistic project of Khrzhanovsky, which caused a sensation last year in Paris,” the RTL website writes.

“Ukraine and Corona: hug each other” – it was the title of the German Spiegel on Easter Monday. Though some European newspapers have written also about other countries where Orthodox Easter is being celebrated, like Russia and Belarus, this particular magazine focused on the churches in Ukraine. It is being criticized that the Orthodox priests of the Moscow Patriarchate were calling people to come to the churches despite the high danger of gatherings and quarantine rules in Ukraine. The author underlines the “political reasons for the bizarre statements of the priests”. “Not all church organizations in Ukraine have acted as stubbornly as the followers of the Moscow Patriarchate. It has been under pressure in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia over the Crimea and Donbas”, the author says.

Volodymyr Zelensky made it from TV comedian to President of Ukraine. Now he has to solve a dispute to avert a state bankruptcy.

 Volodymyr Zelensky made it from TV comedian to President of Ukraine. Now he has to solve a dispute to avert a state bankruptcy, says Mathias Bruggmann in his article “The fear of state bankruptcy in Ukraine is growing” for the German Handelsblatt.  “I am an absolutely independent person. I don’t want to offend anyone, but the one who will control me is not yet born”, Zelensky had said during the campaign. Now the 42-year-old will have to prove it. Because the owner of the powerful private broadcaster 1 + 1, the oligarch Kolomoisky, is currently massively undermining the parliamentary majority of the president”. “It is the role of his life that he now has to implement in reality. And Kolomoisky, whose channel has massively promoted Zelensky’s election campaign, is changing from the sponsor to the opponent”. The author goes on to the recent case of Surkis’ brothers: “And in the midst of the relentless struggles for power over the IMF billions and banking law, football manager Surkis, along with his brother Ihor, has asserted a claim before a Kyiv court. The brothers received the equivalent of $ 259 million last week, which they lost in the wake of the nationalization of Kolomoisky’s Privatbank. At that time, their deposits with the bank were regarded as silent participation in the Privatbank and were thus confiscated. According to the court, they should now get the money back. Judges and prosecutors are particularly corrupt in Ukraine”. Mathias Bruggmann then reminds that “both brothers were accused of bribing referees in international competitions, as well as smuggling soccer money over dubious offshore companies”.

At the end of the last week the news of the Netherlands and Belgium were full of messages about Thierry Baudet – a Dutch politician who teamed up (perhaps even for a fee) with Russian propagandist Vladimir Kornilov. According to the Belgian De Morgen, Baudet told his party colleagues that Kornilov paid him. Also, Kornilov spread false theories about the cause of death of protesters in Kyiv, as well as a conspiracy theory about the presence of the Ukrainian secret service in Amsterdam. Baudet was aware that the information about the Ukrainian secret service in Amsterdam was incorrect, but that did not stop him from talking about it in the current affairs program EenVandaag.

Seeking to capitalize on the chaos and promote its own soft power, the Kremlin started love-bombing struggling nations with medical aid.

In regard to Russian influence Ukraine was also mentioned in Politico’s “Moscow’s coronavirus offensive”: “Seeking to capitalize on the chaos and promote its own soft power, the Kremlin started love-bombing struggling nations with medical aid, and stepping up its efforts to broadcast propaganda and sow disinformation on state and social media. According to the European External Action Service, the EU’s foreign policy arm, there were more than 100 cases of pro-Kremlin disinformation about the coronavirus between January and March. State-controlled media Russia Today and Sputnik have broadcast that hand-washing was ineffective against coronavirus. Some state-funded sites have also promoted bogus cures such as saline, Vitamin C, and Zinc. One Russian news agency falsely reported that the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on a ventilator. Disinformation about the coronavirus has already led to riots in Ukraine and arson attacks on 5G towers in the U.K.”

Based on the press conference of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, Euractiv informed that the first thing Borrell will do after the pandemic is to visit Ukraine. “At the end of January, Borrell unexpectedly announced his intention to visit Ukraine in the near future, including the disputed region of Donbas, which is controlled by pro-Russia separatists. His collaborators later said his plan was to visit areas close to the separatist-occupied regions” – the article reads. “The last travel that I had to cancel before the crisis was to Ukraine. The first thing I will do when the normal times come again is to visit Ukraine and pay a lot of attention to the Eastern Partnership.” – Euractiv cites Borrell.

On Thursday night journalist Florian Hassel published two articles about the situation in Ukraine in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. In the “Dauerkrieg” he writes the following: “The real progress in the peace process between Russia and Ukraine is missing. The only tangible result is the exchange actions of Ukrainian and Russian “prisoners”. During the last prisoner swap on April 16: The “People’s Republics” controlled by Moscow in Donetsk and Lugansk exchanged 20 captured Ukrainians for 16 Russian intelligence officers and separatists”, – says the author. “But the war continues. On Tuesday alone, the OSCE counted nearly 700 ceasefire violations, including 190 explosions. Representatives of Kyiv, Moscow, the “People’s Republics” and the OSCE talk weekly via video link. However, there is no progress in withdrawing Russian soldiers from eastern Ukraine, in returning border control between eastern Ukraine and Russia to Ukrainian border guards. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will talk to his counterparts from Kyiv, Paris, and Moscow next week.”

Georgia’s ex-president Mikhail Saakashvili is supposed to save Ukraine from bankruptcy.

In the other article “Return of the King of Sun” Hassel features a subtitle: “Georgia’s ex-president Mikhail Saakashvili is supposed to save Ukraine from bankruptcy”. On the basis of the Ukrainian news, the author suggests: “Saakashvili should now lead Ukraine on the course of reform as Vice Prime Minister – and help in the West to provide for badly needed billion-dollar loans”. He reminds us that “Saakashvili reformed the previously corrupt police force and reduced bureaucracy in Georgia. But Saakashvili also showed the autocratic syndrome: ministers blackmailed business people, the judiciary and the opposition came under pressure. Saakashvili had a new presidential palace built and ruled like a little king of the sun (Sonnenkoenig). In 2013, he moved to New York after the end of his presidency because, in Georgia, the prosecutor wanted to know how Saakashvili could justify the “secretly” spent just three million euros for English cashmere coats and luxury watches, rental payments for helicopters and sailing yachts, photo models and massage artists as well as hair treatments and botox injections. Saakashvili reappeared in 2015: President Poroshenko gave him a Ukrainian passport and appointed him governor of Odesa. Saakashvili presented himself again as a fighter against corruption – but there were no successes. In late 2016, he resigned as governor and opposed Poroshenko – who deprived him of Ukrainian citizenship and had him deported. Now it is President Zelenskyy who needs quick reform successes or at least their appearances – because without them there will be no billions from the IMF and the EU to save Ukraine from bankruptcy.

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