Friday, April 26, 2019

UN to mark 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster

April 26, 2019 ( A ceremony marking International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day will be held at the United Nations in New York today. On this day in 1986, a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine with devastating consequences. Today’s event at the United Nations will be co-hosted by the Irish Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne-Nason and will be addressed by Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children International. A message from President Michael D Higgins will be read and a minute’s silence will be observed.
31 plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident in 1986

The UN ceremony, will also recognize a new TV drama about the Chernobyl disaster, which has been made by HBO and Sky. The five part mini-series is due to air next month and stars Irish actors Jessie Buckley and Barry Keoghan. There will be a screening of the TV drama at today’s commemoration and some of the cast and crew are due to attend the ceremony. Speaking ahead of the event, Adi Roche said the upcoming mini-series portrays Chernobyl as never seen before. "It is helping us to see Chernobyl with fresh heart, fresh understanding, fresh compassion - retelling the story to a new and wider audience," she said.
Young people in Ukraine attend a memorial at the Chernobyl victims monument in Slavutych, where the power station's personnel lived

In the early hours of 26 April, 1986 a safety test at the Chernobyl nuclear plant went wrong. Reactor number four exploded unleashing a massive cloud of radiation that spread across Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and parts of Europe. Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident. There are estimates that thousands more later died directly or indirectly as a result of exposure to the radioactivity but there are no agreed statistics on the total number of lives lost. More than 30 years on, many communities in Belarus and Ukraine continue to struggle with the medical, environmental and economic consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
A massive protective shelter now covers the site

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Washington Post: Enough Ukraine fatigue. The new president will need our help

April 24, 2019 (UNIAN) The West must stop acting as if it has no stake in the outcome and move quickly to help the newly elected president lead his compatriots toward a more democratic, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine.

It's a moment of truth for Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky has won a landslide victory in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election, vanquishing the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko. Most Ukrainians know Zelensky as a fictional TV character on the hit show "Servant of the People," where he plays an ordinary citizen fed up with Ukraine's pay-to-play political system. On the show, Zelensky's character miraculously gets elected president after one of his rants against corrupt politicians goes viral. Now fiction has become fact as Zelensky prepares for a real-life inauguration later this spring. Having run a campaign light on policy specifics, Zelensky is now about to show Ukrainians what kind of leader he will really be. In contrast to his carefully scripted TV persona, Zelensky is not exactly an ordinary citizen. He is, rather, a member of the elite, one who reportedly owns a lavish Italian villa and has close personal ties to at least one of Ukraine's wealthiest – and most controversial – oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoisky, senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement Michael Carpenter wrote in an article for The Washington Post.
"While we don't yet know what sort of president Zelensky will be, it is clear what sort of president Ukrainian citizens want him to be. Opinion polls consistently show Ukrainians want three things from their political leadership. First, they want a statesman who will stand up to Russian aggression and restore Ukraine's sovereignty. Second, they want a reformer who will take a battering ram to the oligarchic system that corrupts Ukraine's politics and economy. Finally, they want someone who will strengthen economic growth, boost wages and create jobs," he said. Those things are easier said than done. Yet if Zelensky truly wants to be a "servant of the people," he at least knows what his strategic priorities ought to be. And his campaign rhetoric seems to reflect an awareness of these priorities. To counter Russia's continuing aggression in Ukraine, Zelensky has called for the United States and the United Kingdom to apply greater leverage on Moscow and get off the sidelines of the diplomatic process, which has been monopolized by France and Germany. To fight corruption, he has called for insulating Ukraine's law enforcement agencies – especially its National Anti-corruption Bureau and nascent anti-corruption courts – from political interference. To boost the economy, he has recognized that investment is key but that it crucially depends on rule of law and respect for property rights. Read also Member of Russia's opposition explains why Ukraine's new president "scares Kremlin" According to the author, if Zelensky is to succeed with an agenda that matches this campaign rhetoric, he will need both domestic and international support. Domestically, he will need a parliament and civil society willing to back reforms. While the current parliament will likely be too fragmented and gridlocked to get much done, parliamentary elections this October offer a near-term opportunity to bring in a strong bloc of reformers. Ukrainian civil society is already a staunch advocate of reforms and will be a key ally if Zelensky chooses to engage it.
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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Zelenskiy wins second round of Ukraine's presidential election – exit poll

April 21, 2019 (The Guardian) Petro Poroshenko has conceded defeat in Ukraine’s presidential election as exit polls suggested an overwhelming victory for Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an actor and comedian who has no political experience other than playing the role of president in a TV series. “I’m leaving office, but I want to make it clear that I’m not leaving politics,” said Poroshenko, after acknowledging his failure to win a second term on Sunday.

Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat in Ukraine’s presidential election as his wife, Maryna, looks on. Photograph: Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Zelenskiy appeared in front of a crowd of journalists at his campaign headquarters as the polls closed, and flashed an impish grin as he pushed his way on to the stage, while the theme tune to his television show played.v “We did it together,” he said, thanking his wife, parents and campaign team. “Thanks to all the Ukrainian citizens who voted for me, and to all who didn’t. I promise I won’t mess up.”

Volodymyr Zelenskiy greets supporters at his headquarters in Kyiv after the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election. Photograph: Sergei Grits/AP

The poll suggested the 41-year-old Zelenskiy had won the presidential runoff with 73.2% of the vote against Poroshenko’s 25.3%. Official results were due to come in gradually throughout Sunday night, but the exit poll showed a humiliating defeat for Poroshenko, and was in line with a series of polls over past weeks that have suggested Zelenskiy would win the runoff with ease.

Ukraine Starts Voting In 2nd Round Of Presidential Election

April 21, 2019 (Ukrainian News) On Sunday, April 21, at 08:00 a.m., voting in the second round of presidential election started in Ukraine. Voting will last until 08:00 p.m., Ukrainian News Agency reports. 30.3 million citizens will be able to vote, including almost 0.5 million Ukrainians abroad. Two candidates were included on the ballot: Volodymyr Zelenskyi (head of the Kvartal 95 studio) and Petro Poroshenko (incumbent President). The one who gets more votes than the competitor wins.

The voting results are calculated on the number of valid ballots, respectively, ballots without marks, with several marks or intentionally spoiled will not affect the outcome of the election. If the voter makes a mistake when filling out the ballot, he is allowed to ask the commission to exchange it for a new one, but not more than once. The Central Election Commission is obliged to establish the election results not later than May 1. The inauguration of the President-elect must take place not later than May 31. He will officially take up his duties when, at a solemn meeting of the Verkhovna Rada, he will take an oath to the Ukrainian people. As Ukrainian News Agency earlier reported, the parliamentary election is scheduled for October 27.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Ukraine presidential rivals trade barbs in stadium debate

April 19, 2019 (BBC News Europe) Ukraine's rival presidential candidates have held a long-awaited head-to-head televised debate at Kiev's giant Olympic stadium. Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky and incumbent president Petro Poroshenko shook hands before launching scathing attacks on one another. Mr Zelensky is the clear favourite for Sunday's second-round vote, polls say. But Mr Poroshenko argues that he is a political novice unfit for such a demanding job. Mr Zelensky has relied on a slick social media campaign to tap into the frustration of many younger Ukrainians with establishment politicians, cronyism and corruption.
The debate in the capital's 70,000-seat stadium - where Mr Poroshenko's supporters appeared to outnumber Mr Zelensky's - was the first and only direct clash between the two rivals in the campaign. The stadium had been divided into two halves for the debate, with a stage for each candidate to speak from at each end of the pitch - but Mr Poroshenko and Mr Zelensky ended up speaking on the same stage.
"I am not a politician," said Mr Zelensky, who spoke first. "I am just a simple person who has come to break down this system." Addressing Mr Poroshenko, he said: "I am the result of your mistakes and promises." Mr Poroshenko responded by accusing his rival of avoiding active-duty military service and said he would not be able to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr Zelensky is a dollar millionaire, thanks to his popular comedy series and other acting roles, while Mr Poroshenko is a billionaire who got rich through confectionery and TV businesses.
Mr Zelensky's links to billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky - a leading opponent of Mr Poroshenko - have led some to question the comedian's credibility as a true "outsider" candidate.
Mr Poroshenko took power in a 2014 election following an uprising that overthrew the previous pro-Russian government. His supporters credit him with bolstering the army, making Ukraine's orthodox church independent of Russia and securing visa-free travel to Europe. However concerns over corruption remain.

Kremlin to watch Zelenskyi, Poroshenko presidential debates

April 19, 2019 ( Spokesperson of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov does not know whether Vladimir Putin is going to watch the debates of the candidate for the presidency in Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskyi on April 19. However, Peskov intends to watch them.

"As far as I know, tomorrow 7 p.m. (the time of the beginning of the debates of the candidates for the Ukrainian presidency) will be 8 p.m. here. I cannot say whether President of Russia Vladimir Putin will watch the broadcasting of the debates. I am going to figure out, where it is possible to watch them. it should be an interesting show," Peskov said. On April 3, Zelenskyi replied to Poroshenko's invitation to participate in debates and put forward his conditions. He wanted to hold debates at Olympiiskyi Stadium. Poroshenko’s team said, "the President does not perform at stadiums". A few hours later Poroshenko changed his mind and agreed to participate in the debates.
On April 7, Poroshenko stated that he waits for Volodymyr Zelenskyi on April 14 at Olympiiskyi Stadium. Zelenskyi stated he wanted to hold the debates with Poroshenko on April 19 at Olympiiskyi Stadium. On April 10, Olympiiskyi Stadium reported that it got two applications for holding debates from two presidential candidates Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Petro Poroshenko.

National Sport Complex (NSC) Olimpiyskiy preparing to political debates between Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky. Facebook Ihor Zhdanov

Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskyi reported that free tickets for the fan zone at NSC Olimpiysky stadium are now available. Thus, some viewers will be able to watch the debates between Zelenskyi and the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko on the stadium for free. The debates are to take place on Friday, April 19. Later it was reported that Olympiyskiy NSC will not sell tickets for the debates of the presidential candidates Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Petro Poroshenko.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Presidential election in Ukraine: Five reasons Zelenskiy is likely to win the second ballot

April 17, 2019 ( There is less than a week left until the next and decisive second round of elections which will determine the future president of Ukraine. However, the already available results of the first round of voting, as well as some additional sociological data, give a good reason to assume that the winner of the first ballot – Volodymyr Zelenskiy – will be able to confirm the winning result also in the second round.
Mobile ballot box in the 2019 Ukrainian presidential elections 

There are at least 5 key reasons which could provide for the respective result of the presidential election in Ukraine.
Firstly, the margin of victory of the first-round winner Volodymyr Zelenskiy (30.24 per cent) over his rival Petro Poroshenko (15.95 per cent) is quite noticeable – more than 14 per cent – and can hardly be bridged in the remaining few days before the final voting on April 21st. A comparable gap between the two main contenders of the first round happened only during the presidential elections in Ukraine of 1999, when then-incumbent President Leonid Kuchma confidently defeated the leader of the Communist Party Petro Symonenko, both in the first and in the second round. The only case in the contemporary history of Ukraine, when the second-placed candidate of the first round was able to win the presidency during the final vote, was the election of 1994. But the margin of victory in the first round during that election was only half of what it is now between Zelenskiy and Poroshenko.
Secondly, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to the pre-election opinion polls, was consistently in the lead in the rating of the “second choice” candidates for Ukrainian voters. Some 8.1 per cent of respondents claimed that they would support his candidacy, if their preferred candidate (“first choice”) does not partake in the election. At the same time, the candidacy of Petro Poroshenko would be preferred as a “second choice” by no more than 3 per cent.
Thirdly, the very logic of Ukrainians’ voting in the second round rather “against” a certain candidate than “for” somebody might play in favor of the candidate Zelenskiy. This logic, also known as the principle of voting for the “lesser evil”, can by itself mobilise quite many voters against a candidate with high disapproval-ratings to prevent him from winning the presidential election. In this paradigm of electoral behavior, the incumbent President Poroshenko has a clearly losing position. The latter, as the most recent opinion polls show, is among the politicians with the highest level of public distrust (69 per cent do not trust him). Besides, virtually half of voters in Ukraine (49.6 per cent) will under no circumstances vote for him, which also significantly limits the potential for him to expand his support base. On the contrary, at least some 43 per cent of Ukrainians claim to trustcandidate Zelenskiy and only 13.3 per cent of voters are definitely not ready to vote for him.
Fourthly, the candidate Zelenskiy has a significantly more uniform geography of electoral support. If Poroshenko managed to come first only in two regions (oblasts) of Western Ukraine (Lviv and Ternopil oblasts), Zelensky gained majority of votes in almost all major macro-regions of Ukraine, with the exception of the regions of Donbas (where he came second) and Halychyna. With such a comprehensive geography of electoral support, Zelensky’s position seems to be much closer to Ukraine’s “middle voter” than that of his rival Poroshenko. It is precisely the proximity of the politician to the “middle voter” position that can predetermine the possibility of obtaining a majority vote during the elections.
Last but not least, the  above mentioned arguments are well reinforced by the results of the latest post-election public opinion poll which clearly shows the continuing and even somewhat increasing lead of the candidate Zelenskiy over his main contender Petro Poroshenko. 71,4 per cent of the respondents (who are planning to attend election on April 21 and decided upon their choice), according to the poll, will support Zelenskiy while Poroshenko is supported by only 28.6 per cent of voters respectively.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ukraine presidential favorite Zelensky skips live TV debate – but it doesn’t matter, experts say

April 16, 2019 (CNBC) The favorite to win Ukraine’s presidential election this weekend caused a stir on Sunday by skipping a live televised debate with incumbent Petro Poroshenko – but even that isn’t expect to damage his chances of winning the upcoming final round of voting.
Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and actor and the favorite to win a run-off round in the election this coming Sunday, had agreed to face the more seasoned politician and incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a televised debate from Kiev’s Olympic Stadium but the pair had disagreed on a date.
That left Poroshenko to speak on his own for 45 minutes while standing next to an empty lectern for his political opponent. Zelensky had not said that he was going to attend the debate, instead agreeing to attend a televised debate on Friday, April 21.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko holds a news conference at Olympiskiy Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Kiev, Ukraine. Zelensky, a television comedian making his first run for political office, challenged President Poroshenko to a debate at the stadium ahead of the April 21 vote, but due to a disagreement over dates, Zelensky did not show up to the event organized by Poroshenko. Brendan Hoffman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

It’s not the first bizarre episode in an election race that has enlivened Ukrainians who appear to have tired of the country’s old political guard. Zelensky accepted Poroshenko’s invitation to hold debates with three conditions, one of them being that both candidates take live drug and alcohol tests to, as Zelenksy put it, “show the Ukrainian people that neither is an alcoholic or drug addict.” Experts say Zelenksy’s “no-show” has not affected the likelihood that he will become president at a final run-off vote next on April 21.
“I still cannot see Poroshenko winning - he (Zelensky) is just too far ahead,” Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, told CNBC on Monday. “Poroshenko’s negative ratings are just too high. He lost this election months ago,” Ash added.
Unsurprisingly, Poroshenko used his uninterrupted platform on Sunday to criticize an absent Zelensky and his apparent lack of concrete manifesto. “If he hides from people again, if he is afraid, we will invite him again. We will invite him every day to every live show for the whole country to see who it is going to elect for the next five years,” Poroshenko told the audience Sunday, according to news reports.

Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky seen talking to the media during his visit to the medical center for a test. On April 3, 2019 presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared his readiness to go to the debate before the second round of presidential elections with Ukrainian President and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko, however, he voiced a number of conditions, in particular, the debate should be held at the Olympiyskiy stadium in Kiev, and candidates must pass a test for alcohol and drugs. SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Preliminary Results Suggest Zelenskiy Wins First Round of Ukraine Presidential Election

April 3, 1019 (HROMADSKE UA) Showman Volodymyr Zelenskiy rushes into the second round of the presidential election with a comfortable 13.66% lead over the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko. Thus exit polls turned out to be accurate in predicting the final standings. Similarly, most pre-election polls were not far off the mark. As of 09:10 am April 1, 54.70% of the ballots have been processed with 30.23% of the voters supporting Zelenskiy and 16.57% giving preference to the current president Poroshenko. Third place was expectedly taken by the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Batkivshchyna party leader received 13.10% of the votes. 
This year’s election witnessed a relatively high turnout of 63.49%. By comparison, in 2014, 60.29% of the eligible voters made it to the polling stations to fulfill their civic responsibilities. The highest turnout was in the western regions of Lviv and Volyn, whilst Zakarpattya region was the least active. Poroshenko expressed a desire to participate in a debate with his opponent before the second round, which is scheduled for April 21. Zelenskiy accepted the offer. Zelenskiy played up to his reputation by incorporating several quips about his rival Poroshenko in his speech after the exit poll results were announced. To find out more about how things unfolded on the day, take a look at our election day coverage. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry registered hundreds of cases of election violations with the greatest number allegedly happening in Kyiv, the Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions. The Central Election Commission (CEC) says no systemic violations were found. Final results are expected in the near future, although, by law, CEC has until April 10 to announce the outcome.

Tennessee Guardsmen visit local Ukrainian orphanage for children with special needs

April 3, 2019 ( Ukraine-U.S. Troops, along with Lithuanian Soldiers visited the local orphanage for children with special needs as part of an ongoing humanitarian support project and celebrated International Women’s Day, here, Mar. 4. The visit included performances from the children, gift exchanges, outdoor games, and a traditional Ukrainian lunch.
It is always nice of you to visit and spend some time with you guys because spending time with our American family is always a precious time,” said the orphanage director, Natalia Frankiv. The Soldiers and children interacted through outdoor games such as tug-o-war, relay races, and soccer.
Later, they toured the orphanage's newly renovated agricultural program, which is an ongoing charity funded project.  Natalia Frankiv plans to incorporate a program which teaches the children the basics of farming and agriculture. This program is intended to prepare children for future job opportunities.

 After the tour, Tennessee Guardsmen, Maj. Terry Bell thanked Frankiv and highlighted the importance of International Women’s Day and the tremendous accomplishments of women in everyday life. “Whatever it is you are doing, whether it be leading in the workforce or leading at home with your families, we love you and appreciate everything you do,” stated Bell. This is the first time Lithuanian Soldiers, who are deployed in Ukraine, joined in visiting this orphanage, and the Soldiers plan to return later this month to view the progress of the agricultural program. The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment is currently deployed in Ukraine supporting the development and modernization of the Yavoriv Combat Training Center.