Ukraine. When Ukraine's free trade agreement with the EU
entered into force at the New Year, Moscow halted its import
of Ukrainian food. According to
countryaah, this in turn led to Kiev banning imports
from the Russian Federation of a number of basic foods.
In February, the government crisis erupted, when the
Minister of Economy resigned in protest that he had not
undergone reforms to fight corruption. A series of scandals
had been revealed, involving ministers, among others, and
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) threatened to withhold
large loans unless corruption was fought. The Deputy State
Prosecutor resigned on charges that his boss prevented
corruption. President Petro Poroshenko intervened and called
on both the Prosecutor General and Prime Minister Arsenij
Jatsenjuk to step down to restore confidence in the
government. Jatsenjuk refused, and when Parliament voted in
disbelief, the votes were not enough to cast him.
In March, a Russian court sentenced the Ukrainian fighter
pilot Nadija Savchenko to 22 years in prison accused of
killing two Russian journalists. She claimed innocence.
Later, she was released and exchanged for two Russian
soldiers who were arrested and sentenced to prison for war
against Ukraine. Savchenko took a seat in the Ukrainian
parliament after being elected during his prison term.
In March, Parliament voted for the Prosecutor General.
This had been seen from the West as an obstacle to the fight
against corruption in Ukraine. In April, Prime Minister
Jatsenjuk gave up and left his post.
Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Hroisman, 38, described as
Western-oriented and allied with President Poroshenko, was
proposed as new Prime Minister. He was approved by
Parliament with 257 votes to 50. Hroisman's own party, Petro
Poroshenko's block, and Jatsenjuk's party the Popular Front
voted for him, but votes were also needed from
oligarch-linked opposition parties, which prompted some
critics to talk about oligarchs.
The IMF withheld the next disbursement of the $ 17.5
billion aid package pending government action. Three votes
were required in Parliament before Hroisman's reform plan
was approved. Western allies were concerned that several
experts and reformers from the previous government were not
left under Hroisman. This was mainly the case with former
Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who had a high reputation
among international lenders. New Finance Minister Oleksandr
Danyljuk, former Chief of Staff of President Poroshenko.
However, Hroisman said he saw corruption, inefficient
governance and populism as threats equivalent to "the enemy
east of our country". He also promised to continue
rapprochement with the EU, despite a Dutch referendum during
the year saying no to the EU-Ukraine cooperation and free
The demands were high on Hroisman to crack down on
corruption. Shortly before his accession, through the
so-called Panama documents, accusations had been made
against his trusted President Poroshenko for hiding assets
in mailbox companies in tax havens. Poroshenko denied that
he tried to avoid tax, but the head of the tax authority
said that the information would be examined.
Poroshenko wanted to appoint a politically allied new
prosecutor, even though he was not a lawyer. He was
criticized for this, including from the EU, and was invited
to appoint an independent lawyer who can build confidence in
the fight against corruption. However, Poroshenko's
candidate, former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, was
approved by Parliament.
In May, the OSCE accused both the military and the
separatists in eastern Ukraine of extensive violations of
the Minsk ceasefire agreements. According to the OSCE,
violence had again reached alarming levels, and many
casualties were required both among civilians and military.
Negotiations for a permanent peace agreement failed again,
and in July the death toll was more than one year, according
to the OSCE. In August, a new ceasefire agreement was
concluded, but it was broken, and in September there were a
record number of violations of the ceasefire agreements in
the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. However, the same month,
Ukraine and the separatists signed an agreement to withdraw
According to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, the
killing of civilians in the Donbass region since 2014 can be
termed war crimes.
A well-known investigative journalist, Pavel Sjeremet,
was murdered in July in Kiev with a car bomb. With its
critical reporting, the Sherem had irritated the regimes in
both Belarus and the Russian Federation as well as Ukraine.
A Deputy Minister of Information resigned and accused the
authorities of not doing enough to protect journalists who
were exposed to increasing threats. Among other things, a
site on the Internet had published information about
journalists who were accused of cooperating with
Russian-backed separatists and who were then threatened.
In August, President Poroshenko gave the military orders
for highest readiness after information on Russian troops
reinforcements with advanced anti-aircraft robots to Crimea
and increased troops at the Russian-Ukrainian border in the
east. Russian maneuvers were carried out in the Black Sea
International investigators found in September that it
was a Russian-made missile used against the Malaysian
passenger plane that was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The
missile must have been fired from the village of
Permovajskyj in eastern Ukraine, controlled by Prorian
separatists. Moscow rejected the charges.
IMF demands for greater transparency in management and
finances led to a prominent list of politicians' financial
assets published on the Internet. Prime Minister Hroisman
and other power-holders accounted for huge amounts of money
stored in cash in Ukrainian conditions without the knowledge
of the tax authorities.
Georgia's former President Michail Saakashvili resigned
in November from his post as governor of Odessa, declaring
that he would head a new political force that will drive a
change of power in Ukraine.
In November, the IMF ruled that Ukraine was not yet ready
for a new disbursement of the aid package. In order to gain
access to new loans, the government must, among other
things, increase efforts against corruption and adopt a
credible budget for 2017, it was called.