Ukrainian interest. Comforting summit, prospects in the Hague and Kremlin’s Yanukovych move
The Ukraine-EU summit was marked by political statements of European Union leaders but not by a long-awaited visa liberalization for Ukraine. Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko tried to build bridges with the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The Kremlin has rather expectedly made its yet another "Yanukovych move".
The European Union will try to grant Ukraine a visa-free regime in the near future. Such a conclusion can be drawn from public statements by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk at the Ukraine-EU summit. It was clear that the precise date of the introduction a visa waiver will not be voiced but Juncker’s calls to make a decision before the end of the year, as well as Tusk’s confirmation of the fact that Ukraine had met all the necessary requirements to obtain a “visa lib” sounded loud enough.
However, there was also a hustle around the issue of round timber, causing outrage in UAnet. It should be reminded that the Carpathians have been “getting bald” lately despite the moratorium on timber exports introduced earlier. So the point here is not about the European interest and a EUR 600 million aid package promised in exchange for lifting the moratorium – it’s about Ukrainian violators and chronic mismanagement, because after all, forest resources are in fact renewable. At the same time, the EU has allocated more than EUR 100 million for Ukraine on increasing salaries of officials, which gives a timid hope of attracting quality staff to the public service.
Interestingly, Ukraine and the EU renewed their memorandum of understanding and cooperation in the energy sector, which recognized Ukraine as a strategic gas transit state to the European Union on the eve of the anniversary of Naftogaz of Ukraine’s refusal to buy gas from Russian Gazprom. Of course, rapprochement with the EU in this area should take into account the Ukrainian interests as well, in particular, in terms of exploitation of OPAL gas pipeline and the possible construction of Nord Stream-2.
Ukrainian visa-free expectations were brilliantly exploited by Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orban. On the day of the Ukraine-EU summit, he met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and announced the cancellation of fees for the Ukrainians who obtain Hungarian national visas. Orban has shown its fellow citizens the ability to distance himself from the policies of Brussels and reminded about Hungary as a center of attraction for some Ukrainians.
The European Parliament’s Resolution on countering Russian and Islamist propaganda is something worth noting, indeed. The European politicians showed they are aware of not also the Russian propaganda but also Moscow's support of various political projects in the EU. For Ukraine, the EP resolution makes it possible to translate to its partners more actively a unique experience in combating hybrid aggression.
Yuriy Lutsenko, visited the Hague, where he handed over to the International Criminal Court materials on Russian aggression against Ukraine. It should be reminded that relations between Ukraine and the ICC are quite complex: the Verkhovna Rada did not dare to ratify the Rome Statute, at the same time giving the ICC the right to investigate events of the EuroMaidan indefinitely. After the statement voiced in a report by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stating that the annexation of the Crimea is, in fact, a military conflict, the Ukrainian government and the public cheered up considerably. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Ukrainian law enforcers need to objectively prove the criminal intent of Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian curators, who had established control over Ukraine during his presidency, in order to tie together the EuroMaidan events, the annexation of Crimea, and the unfolding of the Donbas conflict. The task is difficult, but solvable.
Meanwhile, Viktor Yanukovych played an already familiar role of the Kremlin puppet. Interrogation of the ousted ex-president of Ukraine via Skype was not held Friday, and he decided to compensate for this fact with holding a press conference in Rostov-on-Don. There Viktor Yanukovych reiterated an updated set of theses, first tested on public when he still claimed a status of "legitimate" president, not adding anything new. His speech should be viewed in conjunction with a number of events: the ransacking by a group of thugs of Russia’s Sberbank subsidiary branch office in Kyiv on the Day of Dignity and Freedom and a statement by Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kyrill that the ROC will never allow Ukraine to create its own local Orthodox church. The Kremlin uses all means possible to ultimately discredit in the eyes of world.
Another interesting point was a hysterical comment of the Press and Information Department on readiness of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to establish a working group to assist Ukraine in peaceful reintegration. The Kremlin after the failure of the attempted coup in Montenegro is experiencing phantom pains of the past glory in the Balkans, besides trying to set off its own non-constructive position on the establishment of a road map of settlement in the Balkans. At the same time, Ukraine should not count on any serious diplomatic breakthrough at a Normandy Four meeting scheduled for next week.