Tag Archives: Ukraine

EU Eastern partnership ambiguity

Dr Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann – OPINION –  There have been no celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership project between the European Union and the former Republics of the USSR.  Officially  launched as a joint policy initiative which “aims to deepen and strengthen relations” between the European Union Member States and its six Eastern neighbors: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, with time it failed to clarify its strategic goals.

In reality the ambivalence of the aims the EU pursues, namely in the frame of the Enlargement policy, the obscurity of perspective of the membership for, at least some of the six, – are the elements which plague the endeavor for participants from both sides. 

Ten year after the EU narrative on the Eastern Partnership is partially biased since it does not explain the complete picture and maintains ambiguity about future relations between the EU and Eastern neighbors.

Previously on the occasion of the 5th Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Brussels,  24 November 2017, EastStratCom, a unit within the European External Action Service (EEAS) of the EU, set up to address Russia‘s ongoing disinformation campaigns, published a document on its website, entitled “Myths about the Eastern Partnership”  supposed to counter false information about this policy. 

According to its website, the East StratCom Task Force “develops communication products and campaigns focused on better explaining EU policies in the Eastern Partnership countries“. The document pretends to counter the myth that participation in the Eastern Partnership (Eap) leads to EU membership. It underlines that this claim is false” and that the Eastern Partnership initiative “is not a EU accession process“, however its aim is to build “a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased cooperation“.

In reality the situation is even much more ambiguous, than its reflection in the document, which omits to mention that although the accession is not mentioned in EU or other Eastern Partnership documents, further EU Enlargement to the East is an objective of some members in the bloc.  The EU Enlargement has to be approved by Member States at unanimity and Member States are today divided on the issue. However, the pro-enlargement countries think the situation can change in the future.

Subsequently Ukrainian think tanks in Brussels are promoting future enlargements after a process of Europeanisation through the Eastern Partnership program. East StratCom omits to inform about the implicit sides of this policy. The EaP policy is from its origins, used both by the EaP countries and some EU Member States to push for further EU enlargement in the longer term.

Geopolitical analysis is about highlighting the implicit objectives of actors. In this respect, the former EU ambassador to Russia has unveiled his support for EU enlargement to the Ukraine. The Lithuanian Vygaudas Ušackas, declared in October 2017 that “we need not only to acknowledge Ukrainians’” European aspirations but at some point grant them a path towards EU membership.

We know from experience that the prospect of membership works as a stimulus for reforms. Uncertainty about Ukraine’s geopolitical position also leaves it exposed to further destabilisation by Russia, which in turn has a negative impact on EU-Russia relations. A successful Ukraine will contribute to stability in our region and represent a powerful example for the Russian people.”

Unsurprisingly, this is in  line of Poland and Baltic countries, but also more recently Romania and Croatia, who are openly in favour of further EU enlargement and this is precisely why they support the Eastern Partnership policy. The President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul also underlined we must offer concrete European prospect to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. And we must offer them the hope that one day they can join our family“. 

The EU narrative on the Eastern Partnership is therefore partially biased since it does not explain the complete picture and maintains ambiguity about future enlargement. This ambiguity is reducing trust, not only with Russia, but also with EU citizens. To resolve this crucial problem, as part of this reform, the EU needs to fix its frontiers in order to preserve its cohesion, strengthen its identity and facilitate the identification of its interests.

 

Ukrainian minister plagued by lions abuse scandal

Ukrainian animal welfare and animal rights groups demand the resignation of the Minister of Ecology and Natural resources Ostap Semerak (pictured), after the international scandal broke out regarding the horrendous systemic abuse of wild animals in a private Zoo in Pokrovsk. The minister did not respond to an ongoing international campaign for liberation of the lions and bears from torture conditions in Igor Padalko private zoo, in Donetsk region. After three month of relentless efforts, more than 600 hundred complains from the Ukrainian citizens, the requests of renown international wildlife charities, Members of the European Parliament, and stars,  Mr.Semerak did not do anything to save the animals from the horrendous abuse, and ensure an adequate veterinary care.

The animal rights groups were indignant to discover that the lions jammed into rusty self-made cages, freezing to their own urine and feces, were fed by grain, and well as all the other animals in the zoo, disrespectful to their natural needs.

Mr.Semerak broke his promise to the citizens, and did not order the evacuation of the abused, exhausted animals to specialized sanctuaries, and rehabilitation centers, while they were ready to receive the lions and bears, and even organize the transport themselves.

Till present one more lion died, while denied treatment in a veterinary clinic, one more lion from Padalko zoo vanished, as some others, including two bears, who were sitting in cages without a possibility to stretch themselves.

Ukraine does not need the Minister of Nature, indifferent to it, tarnishing the image of Ukraine abroad, unresponsive to citizens, and disrespectful to European values, the activists say in a petition launched online, collecting signatures for resignation of Ostap Semerak.

The Minister does not comment or react to the appeals of the animal rights groups, deleting all the requests and comments on the Ministry sites. “It is useless to write to him, because he is useless. He does not want to serve Ukrainian people, he simply does not care. Semerak should resign!” activists write in Twitter micro blog.

Apparently the Minister has forgotten that his major task is to ‘serve the people of Ukraine’, as a an executive should in a democratic country.

The manifestation for saving the animals of Porkovsk, who are between life and death, will take place in Kiev next to the Ministry  of Ecology on 24th of January at 10:30-15:00.

save pokrovsk animals

 

 

 

MEPs concerned with Ukrainian zoo cruelty

The January hearing of the Intergroup on the Welfare and the Conservation of Animals in Strasbourg chaired by Anja Hazekamp (NL, GUE/NGL)  opened the floor with the discussion of the devastating situation of lions, and bears in Porkovsk private zoo of Igor Padalko (Ukraine, Donetsk region).

The issue of Porkovsk zoo came to attention of the MEPs due to a Petition launched by Ukrainian animal welfare activists, who said they are not heard by their own government in Kiev, asking the European Parliament to take action to save animals from an ongoing horrendous abuse in Padalko private zoo. In a few days the Petition gathered 25 thousand signatures, and continues to circulate. The activists requested to freeze the EU micro-financial aid to Ukrainian government until the European values are respected, namely the Article 13 of Lisbon Treaty, stating that animal welfare is “European value“, and animals are “sentient beings.”

It has been years that Ukrainian activists have been struggling for liberation from a horrendous abuse of six lions, 11 bears and around 100 of other animals in Pokrovsk zoo , suffering in tiny filthy self-made cages, unable even to stretch their paws, stamping in their own feces, not removed for weeks.

MEPs present at the hearing were appalled by the cruelty to the wild animals, but also concerned by the inaction of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology, and the other relevant instances, who did not assume their responsibility.

padalko lion abuse

They also reminded that Stefan Eck, the vice-president of the group, has already called (5.12.2018) President Poroshenko to act in line with the European norms and save Padalko animals from abuse. So far the call remained unanswered, and Ukrainian activists informed about death of the second exhausted lion frozen alive in his urine in his cage (- 11C°). Soon after his death the corpse vanished.

Concluding the discussion the MEP sent a a letter from Intergroup to the  Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, seeking his support, and reminding that the EU and Ukraine regularly reaffirm their strong partnership based on their association agreement and pledge to strengthen the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the EU. As part of Ukraine’s ambitious reform agenda which is financially supported by the EU, “it would be desirable that also the respect of animal welfare concerns would be taken into account“.

The Intergroup has also written a letter to the Ukranian Minister for Ecology Ostap Semerak, asking him to take an immediate action to rescue and re-home the animals of Padalko zoo:  “…We call on you as the Ukrainian Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources to intervene as a matter of urgency in order to rescue and re-home the animals from this zoo. Be assured that any action you will take in this regard can be supported by NGOs who can offer help for re-homing the animals”.

The local animal welfare activists claim Igor Padalko kept animals in the abominable conditions for years with a purpose to collect money all over Ukraine via social networks: for “food for lions“, and for “cages construction“. Nobody saw any improvements for animals, however the Padalkos acquired for their son a comfortable apartment in Kiev.

The other lucrative activity was in receiving bus excursions of schoolchildren from the region, supposedly to learn about wild nature. Many teachers complained that children were crying, while looking at suffering on animals jammed in small filthy cages.

Although cruel and abusive towards animals, who had bruises and broken jaws from beatings with rods, unable even to stand up from hunger and exhaustion,  Padalko has been continuously accumulating social capital in local community – offering Ukrainian military from the front line the beautiful beach on river-side, and tea-houses for recreation on his 25-hectare territory; organising from time to time free dinners for elderly locals; and even adopting children. The remarkable social skills helped to establish connections, and even patronage, making all the attempts of the animal rights groups to liberate the lions and bears from the torture conditions ineffective.

Reportedly the adopted children were taken away from Padalko, presumably after numerous complains about his cruelty, the question remains, how such a character received the orphans in first place. Lately Padalko threatened to shoot activists, if they dare to enter the zoo. Local police asked to avoid any contacts with him, but also refused any complains of animal abuse. In spite of numerous frauds, and abuses, thanks to his connections Padalko stays “untouchable“.

Animal rights groups presume that Padalko counts on sympathy of the governor of the Donetsk region Oleksander Kuz, who send his employers to Kiev to hash up the scandal, and demand subsidies for the zoo renovation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine: freezing zoo lion in critical condition

One of the abused lions in Padalko private zoo, Porkovsk, Ukraine, is in critical condition, the local animal rights groups reported. In spite of a strong international response the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology did not react to save the abused animals from filthy conditions, and freezing winter temperatures. The inspectors confirmed the situation in the zoo does not meet a required standard, all animals are exhausted, and many of them are ill. The fences also do not meet the lowest security requirements, causing threat to public safety.

However the owner of the zoo Igor Padalko refuses co-operation with international charities, and does not allow local activists access to animals, although they reiterate their readiness to feed the animals, and also help to isolate the cages with straw, to help lions and bears to survive freezing temperatures without any shelter.

These animals continue to suffer and the government does nothing. The investigator in the case was changed so that this case can be drawn out for as long as possible. This creature “PADALKO” owner of this horror zoo is protected by someone” writes Lionel de Lange, from Lawrence Anthony Earth (LAEO) wildlife charity on his Facebook page. South African, Mr. de Lange came to save the lions from Padalko zoo horrid conditions, and evacuate them to SA sanctuary. He has previously successfully saved lions from of squalid conditions of Ukrainians circuses, transferring them to SA, to their natural wildlife park. But this time unexpectedly his plans were interrupted.

Reportedly all the evacuations of the animals was cancelled due to interference of the Donetsk governor, Alexander Kuz, who  is interested to receive solid state funds to reconstruct the zoo to offer it as an ‘entertainment’ for local children. The activists insist  that children in Donetsk region close to the front line (!), have other needs, and by no means the fading animals can stay any longer in degrading conditions.

However the question of confiscation of Padalko animals, and closure of the squalid camp, is more than about the respect of the wildlife. It is about the intention of President Poroshenko to reform Ukraine, and align the country with the European Union  (EU) norms.

The legendary Brigitte Bardot, and Stefan Eck, vice-president of the European Parliament Animal welfare intergorup (114 members) launched an appeal to President Poroshenko to keep his promise, and respect the EU  Lisbon Treaty Article 13, stating that animal welfare is a “European value‘. But their appeal stayed without response – nothing happened, 5 lions, 11 bears and around 100 other animals are dying from cold and malnutrition in Donetsk steppe icy wind, while Ukrainian authorities are ignoring their suffering, and distress of all those across the world, who care.

The reference to the European values is not a theoretical exercise, the drama of Padalko animals happens amid the reception of one billion euro of macro-financial assistance to Ukrainian government to ensure the implementation of reforms, lifting the country to European norms, and standards, also in the field of justice and public administration.

With Vice-President of the European Commission discussed the progress of reforms, the possibility of completing the current program of macro-financial assistance and providing Ukraine with a second tranche of 500 million euro in early 2019” Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman wrote in his Twitter mico blog

The question is why the European citizens should agree to transfer the second tranche of EUR500, if  the Ukrainian government,  judiciary and civil servants do not show a slightest respect the European values?

 

 

EU ‘Sanctions war’ with Russia continues

On 21 December 2018, the European Council prolonged the economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 July 2019.

This decision follows an update from President Macron and Chancellor Merkel to the European Council of 13-14 December 2018 on the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements, to which the sanctions are linked. Given that no progress has been made, the European Council took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.

The West should either recognize the results of Crimea referendum on reunification with Russia,  or stop imposing sanctions against people living in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his traditional annual news conference on December 20.

In his words, “it is a curious situation” as Russia is being accused of Crimea’s annexation or in the other words of taking Crimea by force. “But if it was annexation and forcible takeover, then people living in Crimea have nothing to do with that,” he noted. “And if it was their choice in voting, then it was not annexation whatsoever.”

However not all the political forces in the EU share the European Council point of view: since 2014 Marine Le Pen, the leader of French RN (former Front National) has not seen any reason to dispute the result of the referendum.

I see no grounds whatsoever to question this referendum,” she said. She also added that she regards Crimea as a integral part of Russia. According to TASS News Agency Marine Le Pen “hopes to visit Crimea in April” 2019.

Cyril accuses Kiev politics of invading in God realm

Patriarch Cyril  (Kirill) of Moscow and All Russia launched an appeal to heads of the the United Nations and OSCE secretary generals and the leaders of France and Germany, drawing their attention to violations of the rights of bishops, priests and parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations said in a statement.

The authorities of the secular state of Ukraine, who have been interfering in the affairs of the Church for quite a while, have recently moved to exert brutal pressure on bishops and priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which makes it possible to say that a large-scale persecution has begun,” Cyriil claims, according to TASS news agency.

Ukrainian priests will meet on December 14 to work towards an independent from Moscow church, following an Orthodox “schism”, in what Kiev authorities hope will mark a further step out of Russia’s influence.

The meeting will seek to realise a landmark decision by Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to recognise Kiev’s independence from the Moscow Orthodox Church.

October ruling sparked protests in Moscow claiming its rights on the part of Ukrainian Orthodox Church as an integral part of the Moscow Patriarch establishment, also claiming all the  historic buildings and properties.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is expected to attend the council, has made an independent Church a campaign pledge for his election campaign for the next mandate.

EU sanction policy against Russia continues

At European Union Summit in Brussels the leaders unanimously endorsed the prolongation of the economic sanctions against Russia for its actions against Ukraine for another six months with the official rollover expected next week.

The sanctions, mainly targeting the Russian banking and energy sectors, were first imposed in the summer of 2014 in aftermath of  Maidan revolution in Ukraine  and have been extended every six months since then.

EU unanimously prolongs economic sanctions against Russia given zero progress in implementation of Minsk agreements,” European Council President Donald Tusk wrote in his Twitter micro blog referring to peace accords brokered by Germany and France in the Minsk, Belarus capital, aiming to end ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

‘In a short term, the impact of oil prices is much more important for Russia than any sanctions,” said Sergey Khestanov (Сергей Хестанов), a professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) . Oil income makes up 40%  of federal budget revenues and is trading at its highest level in more than four years.

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