Democracy and rights
Ukrainian nationalism has grown in recent
years and it plays an increasingly important role in the
everyday life of the population. Freedom of the press is
guaranteed by law, but a propaganda war is ongoing
between Ukraine and Russia and makes it difficult to
navigate the media landscape. Corruption is widespread
and prevents the development of a rule of law.
In important respects, Ukraine has become a more
democratic country in recent years, although it has been
amended several times. The country's history as a Soviet
republic until 1991 still makes it important for a
Ukrainian to clarify who they want to be, and what
society they want. For example, Ukrainians have been
able to choose between new trade unions, which call
themselves independent, and old ones who are heirs to
organizations that were in the centrally controlled
Soviet system, where it was ultimately Moscow that
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As war is now raging in several countries (see
Current Policy), ethnic belonging has become the most
important dimension. In everyday life it sometimes
decides what can be said and what is allowed to do. The
orthodox Christian must in practice define whether the
religious affiliation is Ukrainian or Russian (see
A language battle also sets boundaries in school and
culture. Teaching from grade five onwards will only take
place in Ukrainian from 2020. There are several
linguistic minorities in border areas. For them,
teaching minority languages is an important issue.
Censorship can stop films in Russian. In the fall of
2018, the Lviv regional parliament banned Russian
language in culture, such as books and music.
Moscow-friendly artists can be stopped at the border,
and nationalist markings have even been made in the
Eurovision Song Contest.
The 2019 presidential election was won by a candidate
who grew up with Russian in the family. Perhaps this is
a sign that large groups of Ukrainians do not like
polarization. A new law makes it mandatory for civil
servants to speak Ukrainian, but Russian-speaking
President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has promised that the law
will be reviewed.
The hard-nosed nationalist groups are socially
conservative. A law against discrimination was passed in
2015, but LGBTQ activists point out that their rights
are not respected. Amnesty International has also
highlighted that women's organizations risk violence
from right-wing extremist organizations.
Ukraine has not adopted the Council of Europe Convention
on the Prevention and Control of Violence Against Women
and Domestic Violence.
Corruption is a widespread and difficult problem -
within politics, administration, and even within the
school system. Western countries and international
organizations use, with varying degrees of success, loan
pledges and grants to persuade Ukraine's government to
take action. Individual citizens who engage in
mosquitoes are at risk of reprisals from people who
serve at foam speed (see Calendar). Among leading
politicians, many have either themselves been
"oligarchs" (wealthy businessmen) such as the chocolate
magnate Petro Poroshenko, or, like the new president,
linked to oligarchs (see Calendar).
On Transparency International's list of corruption
rates in the countries of the world, in 2019 Ukraine was
ranked 126 out of 180, see list here.
Suspected vote purchases, according to the OSCE,
resulted in 125 criminal investigations after the 2019
parliamentary elections, although the election itself is
considered to have been well conducted. The OSCE also
criticizes the lack of transparency in Ukraine's party
Freedom of expression and media
In 2020, Ukraine was ranked 96th in Reporters Without
Borders Press Freedom Index, see list here. It was
better than the year before and much better than Russia,
but worse than many African and Asian countries. It was
also worse than states like Hungary and Poland where
freedom of the press has been crowded in recent years.
Media freedom increased significantly after the
"Mayan Revolution" in 2014, but many problems remain.
One is that the media is largely owned by oligarchs,
whose own economic and political interests control the
news reporting. Independent media is difficult to
sustain financially. In addition, there is a shortage of
In the Russian-backed separatist pianos Donetsk and
Luhansk in the east, the opportunities to conduct
independent news reporting are small. But the Ukrainian
state has also been criticized for undemocratic methods.
Russian radio and TV broadcasts are blocked, Russian
books and magazines are banned and journalists who have
worked in Russia or Russian-backed breakout areas have
sometimes not been admitted into the country. In 2018,
the Russian news agency RIA Novosti was banned from
working in Ukraine, a three-year ban. In connection with
the 2019 presidential election, journalists from Western
countries also found it difficult to obtain entry
permits. Since 2014, the Internet site Myrotvorets, with
links to the government and the security service, has
designated people who have been active in
Russian-supported areas as "enemies of Ukraine". In
2015, two people, including a journalist, were murdered
after their names were published on the site.
Overall, however, working conditions for journalists
have improved. During former Presidents Leonid Kuchma
(1994–2004) and Viktor Yanukovych (2010–2014), media
were often subjected to political pressures and physical
threats. Georgia Gongadze, who had revealed corruption
and abuse of power, was found decapitated outside Kiev
in 2000. A former police chief was sentenced in 2013 to
life in prison. He acknowledged the murder but also
pointed out the then President Kuchma for participation.
A lawsuit against Kuchma was filed in 2011 (see Modern
Reporters Without Borders in 2018 sharply criticized
Ukraine's security service for a strange incident when
staging a pretense murder of the award-winning Russian
exile journalist Arkadij Babchenko. There was a threat
to him, but serious media was also brought to light. The
incident also provided an opportunity for the Russian
government to criticize Ukraine for having used
Babchenko for propaganda purposes.
There are both Ukrainian-speaking and
Russian-speaking newspapers. In fact, Ukrainians are
often used to reading both languages.
In addition to the state public service channel UA:
Persjyj, there are three major TV companies with
broadcasts that basically reach the entire country and a
number of local and regional channels. Most major media
companies also have radio channels. On March 1, 2020,
Ukraine began broadcasting in a new channel aimed at
separatist areas, where viewers would otherwise mostly
watch Russian TV. The channel Dim ("Home") will offer
sports and entertainment from Ukrainian broadcasters,
but also make their own news broadcasts.
Judicial system and legal security
Formally, the courts have always been independent,
but in practice they have been sensitive to pressure
from the regime.
Political governance of the judiciary deteriorated
during Viktor Yanukovych's tenure as president
(2010–2014). He appointed a close ally to the state
prosecutor and he explicitly said it was his job to
execute the president's decision. Prosecution was
brought against 13 high ranking members of the previous
government. Most notable were the prison sentences
against former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko and
former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko (see Modern
History). Human rights organizations regarded them as
A restructuring of the judiciary began immediately
after the 2014 revolution, when Parliament decided to
reform the Prosecutor's Office. In 2016, Parliament
passed several laws aimed at strengthening the
independence of the courts and reducing the
opportunities for corruption in the judiciary. The
reform meant, among other things, that the judges
appointed by the President must have been nominated by
an independent committee and selected solely on the
basis of their professional competence. Even after the
change of power in 2014, it has blown around the justice
system. The state prosecutor who was appointed in 2015
quickly gained a reputation for protecting bats by
delaying corruption investigations. After a year at the
post, he was dismissed by Parliament, but there was
immediate criticism of the new President Poroshenko for
appointing a new state prosecutor as a loyal employee
without legal training.
Finally, in 2018, a court against corruption was set
up, which helped the EU and the IMF approve new loans to
Ukraine. In 2019, on the other hand, the Constitutional
Court handed down a new blow to the fight against
corruption by rejecting some of the criminal law that
had been designed precisely to reduce the world's
concern that money borrowed by the state would disappear
into the wrong pockets (see Calendar).
The police force was also the subject of reform and
Western financing after 2014. Patrol police forces have
since been reorganized, but almost all the country's
police officers are reported to have retained their
jobs. In 2020, allegations were made against police
officers for serious abuse (see Calendar).
The death penalty was abolished in 2000. Severe
abusive conditions still exist in detention and prisons.
The Separatists in the East agree with their own
prosecutors and courts. In October 2019, a journalist
from Radio Free Europe, financed by the United States,
was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of
The state almost bankrupt
The growing economic crisis reaches a critical position, when the state lacks
funds for salaries and pensions and to pay the bills on Russian gas supplies.
The government is forced to request extended credit from the IMF to meet the
repayments on the support loans granted the year before.
Police chief arrested for journalist murder
Former police chief Oleksij Pukatj is arrested after long suspected of the
attention-grabbing murder of regime-critical journalist Georgij Gongadze in
2000. Pukatj acknowledges participation in the bestial crime - Gongadze was
beaten, burned and beheaded. The murder has always been considered political,
and former President Leonid Kuchma is suspected of ordering it
Political problems deepen
Protests involving around 20,000 participants demand the resignation of
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, and the protesters give the latter the nickname "Mrs.
Ruin" with an indication of the deep economic crisis. President Yushchenko is
supported in opinion polls by only three percent.
Acute economic crisis
Ukraine's industrial output will fall by 34 percent in January, and there are
doubts as to whether the country will meet IMF loan terms.