HJS VIRTUAL EVENT: Ukraine: Coronavirus, Conflict, and Corruption
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HJS VIRTUAL EVENT: Ukraine: Coronavirus, Conflict, and Corruption
28th May 2020 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
All event times are in BST
Ukraine is used to fighting crises – and at the moment it is fighting three. The country currently has had around 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, in a population of almost 42 million. It has the lowest testing rate in Europe, and the health care system is dilapidated after decades of underfunding. As if dealing with the localised impacts of a global pandemic were not enough, Russia’s war in the Donbas continues. More than 13,000 people have now been killed since the beginning of hostilities in 2014. On top of this, President Volodymyr Zelensky – still in his first year in office – has overhauled his government on a number of occasions in an effort to overcome his country’s deep-rooted shortcomings in governance, not least endemic corruption.
The Henry Jackson Society welcomes you to join this online panel to debate how Ukraine is dealing with COVID-19, conflict, and corruption.
Adrian Karatnycky is a member of the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council in the United States and director of its Ukraine-North America Dialogue. From 1993 until 2003, he was President of Freedom House, during which time he developed programs of assistance to democratic and human rights movements in Belarus, Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine and devised a range of long-term comparative analytic surveys of democracy and political reform. For twelve years he directed the benchmark survey Freedom in the World and was co-editor of the annual Nations in Transit study of reform in the post-Communist world. He is a frequent contributor to Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, and many other periodicals. He is the co-author of three books on Soviet and post-Soviet themes.
Vladislav Davidzon is the Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Odessa Review and is Tablet Magazine’s European culture critic. His literary criticism and reportage have appeared in Bookforum,The American Interest, The New York Observer, World Affairs Journal, Foreign Policy, The Forward, and the Atlantic Council’s Atlanticist. He holds a degree in human rights from the EMA program in Venice, Italy. He has reported widely from Eastern Europe, France, and Ukraine, and was previously Ukraine Today’s Paris correspondent.
Orysia Lutsevych is manager of the Ukraine Forum in the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House. Orysia’s research focuses on social change and the role of civil society in democratic transition in the post-Soviet region. Her most recent research is about building resilience in Ukraine and safeguarding society from Russian aggression. In 2017 she coordinated and co-authored a major Chatham House report The Struggle for Ukraine, which assessed changes since Euromaidan and provided policy recommendations. She is the author of the Chatham House publications Agents of the Russian World: Proxy Groups in the Contested Neighbourhood (2016); and How to Finish a Revolution: Civil Society and Democracy in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine (2013). Orysia served as a senior regional expert for USAID CSO Sustainability Index (2014-2018).
She also provides consultancy services on programme development and evaluation, citizen engagement and high-impact strategies. She has provided consultation services to the USAID Office for Transition Initiatives in Ukraine, Council of Europe, the European Endowment for Democracy, the UK FCO, USAID, the PACT Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. Her media work includes contributions to the BBC, CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times and Open Democracy. Before joining Chatham House, she led the start-up of Europe House Georgia and was executive director of the Open Ukraine Foundation. She has a master’s degree in international relations from Lviv State University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In ‘Ukraine: Coronavirus, Conflict, and Corruption’, Dr. Andrew Foxall chaired a panel of Adrian Karatnycky from the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, Orysia Lutsevych from Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Programme, and Vladislav Davidzon from The Odessa Review and Tablet Magazine. The panel discussed the state of President Zelensky’s government after a turbulent first year in international affairs. Karatnycky began by claiming in order to understand Ukrainian affairs it is important to understand President Zelensky as he entered office with an unprecedented mandate. While President Zelensky has not necessarily failed, he has not accomplished many of his campaign promises. Karatnycky and Lustevych offered that this is partly due to a series of crises into which Ukraine has been thrust such as US impeachment, the Iranian downing of a Ukrainian airplane, and Coronavirus. Davidzon confirmed this, saying whenever he would speak to the Zelensky administration regarding impeachment, a pained look would appear on their faces. However, the panellists agreed that President Zelensky’s record is in part also due to a lack of sound political philosophy. Indeed, the panellists agreed that Mr. Zelensky’s small inner circle lacks experience and accordingly this has contributed to an incoherent strategy. This is underscored twofold. On the one hand, President Zelensky’s reshuffling of the government has inadvertently kicked out the handful of politicians who have a record of opposing corruption. Furthermore, the administration’s political disorganisation has been confounded by a lack of direction within President Zelensky’s party in general, as they claim to be a union of libertarian and social democratic ideas.
Davidzon added further context to Ukrainian affairs by offering his insights into President’s Zelensky’s character and his personal experience of receiving coronavirus testing. On President Zelensky’s character, Davidzon claimed that during a two-hour meeting immediately prior to elections, Mr. Zelensky came across as fiercely independent, as physically and mentally strong, and as comfortable using force. He crouched this statement by offering that this is neither a positive nor a negative, but that it has manifested in his policies. This is best showcased by the inward-looking nature of the Zelensky administration, which in some ways is a departure from the previous Poroshenko administration.
On Coronavirus, Davidzon offered that from his experience of seeking out testing, it appeared to him that the Ukrainian government has handled this situation as best as could be expected. Lutsevych was less optimistic and offered that it is likely Ukraine will experience a second spike as the lockdown is eased. Her basis for this was that Ukraine has imposed lockdowns in the past for influenza during the winter and consistently there has been a spike in infections after the lockdown is lifted. Davidzon countered that Ukraine made the sensible decision after witnessing Coronavirus’ impact on the Italian health care system which is more sophisticated than the current healthcare system in Ukraine.
The panellists also considered the issue of corruption in Ukraine. Lutsevych pointed out how President Zelensky has made deals with Ukraine’s oligarchs. She argued that in many ways President Zelensky has taken the same positioning as Poroshenko, of whom he was critical during the campaign. Karatnycky contended that President Zelensky’s dealings with the oligarchs may not be as straightforward but affirmed that President Zelensky has adopted a similar positioning to the Poroshenko administration by dealing with one oligarch at a time. Such a strategy is more manageable because to cut out the oligarchs would be to cut out a sizable portion of Ukraine. He was clear to state that he believes President Zelensky is far from being compromised by his dealings with the oligarchs, to which Lustevych did not disagree. Fundamentally, the panellists agreed that the Zelensky administration would be well served by developing a more comprehensive approach to policymaking based off of political and economic principles. In this way, Ukraine can better form its own national identity.
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