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Week’s milestones. Referendum anticipation, NABU outlaws, and juggling with impeachment

Petro Poroshenko announced an all-Ukrainian referendum on accession to NATO and the European Union. The government approved the draft budget-2018 for its second reading in parliament. In Lviv, the Security Forum turned into a spat and accusations of playing up to Vladimir Putin. Kurt Volker and Vladislav Surkov spoke in different forms of the prospects for the Donbas conflict settlement. The Prosecutor General's Office and NABU got into a serious clash around a bribe provocation in the State Migration Service. Mikheil Saakashvili increasingly resembles a lone ranger.

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Petro Poroshenko’s opponents saw the contours of the future election campaign in the president’s aspirations to hold an all-Ukrainian referendum on the issue of the country's accession to NATO and EU. Indeed, it is possible to gain a certain momentum with the help of integration rhetoric, but it is difficult to preserve the monopoly. Besides, the law "On the All-Ukrainian Referendum" was adopted with certain procedural problems back during Viktor Yanukovych's presidency, and is unlikely to be a good basis for the plebiscite. There is another important factor: such a sensitive topic gives space for Russia to seriously intensify its subversive efforts in Ukraine.

While Petro Poroshenko called on businessmen to pay more to their employees and publicly banned harsh SWAT-style action by law enforcers during searches at the premises of companies, Volodymyr Groysman was seen to be determined to ensure a rapid adoption of the Budget-2018. In the current situation, getting into budget bargaining is fraught with political complications for the premier: it's not about resigning but about the second reading of the law on Donbas reintegration, the legislation no less important than the country's main financial document. So the parliamentarians will need some dispatcher skills in the person of Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy.

Head of the Lviv Regional State Administration, Oleh Sinyutka was vigilant with regard to his former chief, now mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, who was among the organizers of the Lviv Security Forum this week. The scandal broke out in relation to the map that was supposed to illustrate Russia’s territorial appetites and marked the "Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics" in eastern Ukraine. Sinyutka decided not to lose the chance to score a goal on Sadovyi’s pitch and appealed to the SBU, where the reaction was swift. Criminal proceedings were opened under the article "Separatism", which in Ukrainian realities is fraught with political image losses for the leadership of "Samopomich" party, who were the Forum’s beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Donbas keeps rising as Kurt Volker and Vladislav Surkov exchange views in their interviews. The American diplomat noted that their last meeting in Belgrade had been a “step back”, adding that the resolution of the conflict in the east of Ukraine depended exclusively on Putin. His interlocutor, Vladislav Surkov, urged not to discuss but to adopt the Russian draft UN Security Council resolution on peacekeepers, because it is based on Russia’s "effective peacekeeping experience" as he put cynically.

The General Prosecutor's Office on the eve of its professional holiday collided in a public debate with NABU, whose entire staff of undercover agents Yuriy Lutsenko said had been working beyond the legal framework and using smuggled wiretapping gear. The case of a bribe provocation against the deputy head of the State Migration Service, Dina Pimakhova, is rapidly developing: the SMS official is trying to justify her act, the undercover agent involved is testifying to the PGO, while the SBU and PGO have blown the cover of all of his colleagues, and this entire situation does not seem too look good at all for Ukraine’s anti-corruption watchdogs. Prosecutors can boast some UAH 50 billion which they have managed to recover to the state budget, while NABU’s successes are more modest but the agency still enjoys strong support from Europe and overseas.

Mikheil Saakashvili, whose stay in Ukraine was recently extended by the State Migration Service for another 3 months, on the first Sunday of winter brought several thousand people on the march for a "popular impeachment". The beautiful and biting word in the Ukrainian political vocabulary has been used for more than 20 years, but without any applied utility. Saakashvili’s supporters have also failed to find one. Or could it be that the march’s actual consequence was the blocking by unknown activists sporting camos and balaclavas of the NewsOne TV channel headquarters, to which the law-enforcers reacted a bit too sluggishly?

Yevgeny Magda

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