Ukraine

Population: 44,3 million
Area: 603 550 km2
GDP (PPP): 334,2 billion dollar (2015 estimate)
GDP per capita (PPP): 8 000 $ (2015 estimate)
Rate of growth: – 11 % (2015 estimate)
Head of state: Petro Poroshenko
Head of government: Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Eugenia Tymoshenko, daughter of the imprisoned former Prime minister and JHS-board member Walburga Habsburg Douglas at a seminar in Stockholm, September 2012

Eugenia Tymoshenko, daughter of the previously imprisoned former Prime minister and JHS-board member Walburga Habsburg Douglas at a seminar in Stockholm, September 2012

The period of former president Viktor Yanukovych is characterized by the dismantling of the democratic structures of Ukraine and an increasing totalitarian rule. Political prisoners and attacks on the political opposition became a part of the Ukrainian everyday life. The parliament became increasingly dependent on the Presidency and media censorship was extensive.

When President Yanukovych decided to postpone the signing of the association agreement with the EU and instead approached the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, the Ukrainian people got enough. On November 21, 2013 peaceful protests in favor of an in-depth Ukrainian EU integration began. Only a few days later the Ukrainian regime ordered violent attacks on the protesters.

The protests, which went under the name Euromaidan, continued to the end of February 2014. In early February, came a turning point when a sufficient number of members from the president’s Party of Regions had left their duties in parliament, so that the opposition could form a majority. On February 22, President Yanukovych fled Kiev after Parliament decided to impeach him.

The impeachment was based on abuse of powers and one reason for this was that Yanukovych had ordered the police to meet the peaceful protests with violence. The use of police force, in turn, led to several protesters taking the opportunity to take up available arms, hence violence escalated. In the end nearly a hundred were killed and several hundred wounded on both sides. The opposition suffered the biggest losses.

After Yanukovych escape separatist movements, supported by Russia, began to try to take control of strategic positions in Ukraine. It all began in the Crimea, where Putin later admitted that Russian troops had been involved, and later spread to Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast in eastern Ukraine.

After separatists seized control of Crimea, a heavily criticized referendum on whether the area would apply to become a federal subject of Russia or whether it would remain a part of Ukraine, was held on March 16, 2014. The official results, which were criticized by the international community, showed that an overwhelming majority, over ninety percent of the voters, wanted to apply to join the Russian Federation. On March 17 the separatist Parliament asked to for Crimea to become an entity of Russia and this was granted immediately.

In the eastern regions of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast, an outright war was still ongoing in December 2014, despite the so-called Minsk Protocol signed by the parties under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5. The Protocol had the intention of creating a truce between the conflicting parties. Russia has consistently denied involvement in the fights but it is reported that Russian troops as well as military equipment can be found on Ukrainian territory. In July the hostilities took even bigger proportions when Russian separatists managed to shoot down Malaysian Air flight MH17, an event heavily criticized by the international community and which is not yet fully investigated.

On May 25, 2014 presidential election was held. Because of the violent conflict in the eastern parts of the country, the campaign period became very short. Even though it was not possible to organise elections in large parts of the occupied territories, the execution of the election, according to the international observers, were transparent and largely in accordance with international standards. The winner was Petro Poroshenko with more than 54 percent of the vote.

The presidential election was followed by parliamentary elections on October 26, 2014. According to the international observers the elections was conducted in an orderly fashion, although polling stations in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and the Crimea were not able to open. The OSCE writes in its report that the election was transparent and conducted largely in good order, although there are a number of points that need improvement.

A five-party government was formed in late november consisting of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the Popular Front, the Samopomich, the Radical Party and the Batkivshchyna. They presented a comprehensive reform agenda regarding, among other things, security and defense, constitutional and economic reform. Arseniy Yatsenyuk was re-elected prime minister.

The government has, in addition to the state of war in the east of the country, to deal with a growing economic crisis, which according to international commentators is likely to be considerable if no action is undertaken. Professor Anders Åslund advocates further economic reforms and argues that the reform agenda as presented by the new coalition government is not sufficient. Professor Åslund believes that Ukraine is in its largest national and economic crisis since independence, and must act accordingly.

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