Ukraine: Daily Briefing – August 15, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
August 15, 2019, 5 PM Kyiv time
Ukrainian soldiers participate in multinational training exercise Combined Resolve XII, taking place in Germany. 
Photo – Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, one Ukrainian soldier was killed in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire on Ukrainian positions on the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front 13 times in total, including at least twice with heavy weapons.
2. Ukraine economy grows 4.6% in last quarter; highest since 2011
Ukraine Business News reported, “Registering the strongest quarterly growth in almost a decade, Ukraine’s economy was up by 4.6% y-o-y in the April-June period of this year, reports the State Statistics Service.
           Although Ukraine’s economy has been growing for the last 14 quarters, the Q2 growth is the highest since the start of 2011. The growth spurt was fed by several factors: record grain exports, a jump in iron ore prices and a surge in consumer confidence and retail spending following the 73% April 21 presidential vote for Volodymyr Zelenskyy. First-quarter growth was 2.5%.
          Ukraine’s foreign trade deficit hit $1.6 billion during the first half of this year, two thirds greater than during the same period last year. Exports of goods and services increased by 6%, to $29.5 billion. Imports increased by 8%, to $31.1 billion.
          Ukraine’s food trade with the EU increased by 23% during the first half of this year, compared to the first half of last year. Although EU quotas on exports of nine food products from Ukraine were filled by mid-July, Ukraine is expected to have another record year for food exports to the EU, predicts Nikolai Pugachev, deputy director of the Institute of Agricultural Economics.”
3. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, head of the UGCC – Capitulation is the imitation of peace
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav. Photo -UGCC
In an interview with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, stated, “President Zelenskyy asked me for my view of the subject of peace in the Donbas. I could see that this question is of concern to the President, and that he believes that the question of the war is his most important challenge. The question of war and peace is of concern to us as well, and we have been speaking about it for these 5 years, appealing first and foremost to the international community. […] We understand that no matter how we try to heal the wounds of war, this will not have a definitive result until the aggressor stops inflicting those wounds. […]
          Peace cannot mean capitulation and consent to the conditions of the aggressor. This would be an imitation of peace, and the effect would be even worse than the effects of war. For peace to be real, it must be just. Otherwise this will simply be a change in the methods of how wounds are inflicted on our people.
          We know from history that appeasing an aggressor fuels his appetite. It is very important to speak about the pain of our people, and even when we are negotiating with the aggressor, to remember the eyes of the mother, who lost her son in the war. We must be the voice of the people who have suffered. […] That is why I tried, in responding to Mr. Zelenskyy’s request, to speak in the name of those for whom this war is causing suffering, and to convey what a real peace must be.”
The full interview with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (in Ukrainian) is available here
4. Notorious judge awards ex-Yanukovych aide millions in damages from Ukraine
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, “Andriy Portnov, a former adviser to ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and First Deputy Head of his Presidential Administration, has been awarded almost seven million UAH in damages purportedly inflicted upon his reputation by the Ukrainian authorities. The ruling, which will presumably be appealed, was passed by Serhiy Vovk, the Pechersky District Court judge who gained notoriety under Yanukovych for the politically motivated prison sentences he passed on two members of Yulia Tymoshenko’s government, Yuri Lutsenko and Valery Ivashchenko.
            Portnov may not have fled Ukraine with Yanukovych on 21 February 2014, after the gunning down of Maidan supporters, but he did leave the country at around the same time.  Unlike Yanukovych, he only remained for a while in Russia, and then moved to Vienna in Austria, having received a Schengen visa even before the EU sanctions against him were annulled in October 2015.  He returned to Ukraine on the eve of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inauguration as President, and promptly lodged the first of many demands for criminal proceedings against ex-President Petro Poroshenko, as well as the latest of many civil suits.
           Portnov’s active role during the Yanukovych regime, and his believed involvement in the 16 January 2014 ‘Dictatorship laws’ make his current attempts to accuse Poroshenko of ‘treason’, and to present himself as a victim of defamation seem at very least startling. Unfortunately, however, the few attempts to hold him to account for his actions were half-hearted and fizzled out.  It is presumably the lack of any court ruling, or even clearly articulated charges, against him, and his undisputed legal skills, that he is now using against the Ukrainian authorities.”
The full report from KHPG is available here:
5. Ukrainian deputy minister detained over alleged $1.1 million bribe scheme
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL reported, “A Ukrainian deputy minister and his aide have been detained after allegedly taking a bribe worth $480,000, the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) said on Facebook.
            The August 14 statement names only the suspect’s title — deputy minister of temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced people — a post that Yuriy Hrymchak has held since March 2017. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), however, confirmed that Hrymchak and his aide were caught ‘red-handed’ while allegedly taking the money, NABU said.

The SBU stated the money was part of a $1.1 million bribe from an entrepreneur that the suspects demanded to ‘facilitate decision making by persons authorized to perform state functions.’ No further details were provided. Hrymchak and his unnamed aide have been charged with ‘large-scale or organized fraud,’ which is punishable by a prison term of up to 20 years, including confiscation of property.”

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