Ukraine. In January, UN observers summed up the death
toll after nearly five years of fighting in eastern Ukraine:
at least 12,800 lives had been claimed. Of these, 3,300 were
civilians, 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 5,500
Russian-supported separatists. In addition, almost 30,000
were estimated to have been injured. Former Prime Minister
Yulia Tymoshenko declared at the beginning of the year that
she would run for president in March. In public opinion, she
already led the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.
CountryAAH, former President Viktor Yanukovych was sentenced in
January in his absence to 13 years in prison for high
treason, accused of asking for Russian military assistance
against his political opponents. Yanukovych was in exile in
Moscow and denied the charges.
The lawyer-trained comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelenskyj
decided to stand in the presidential election, and in
February he led surprisingly in the opinion before
Tymoshenko and Poroshenko. The political novice Zelenskyj
was known for his starring role in a satirical TV series,
"The People's Servant", in which a history teacher
accidentally becomes president. In the election campaign,
Zelenskyj promised to fight corruption and improve relations
Parliament decided in February to amend the Constitution
with the addition that Ukraine aims to gain membership in
the EU and NATO. The decision was taken by 334 votes to 35.
From the West, concerns were expressed about the
widespread corruption. When the Constitutional Court
rejected stricter legislation, Transparency International
said it jeopardized a large number of ongoing criminal
The 41-year-old Zelenskyj surprisingly won a clear
victory in the first round of the presidential election in
March. He received 30% of the vote against just under 16%
for Poroshenko and 13% for Tymoshenko. Many Ukrainians could
not take part in the elections. They had difficulty
registering as they fled or lived in separatist-controlled
areas in the east or in the Russian-controlled Crimea. In
the second and decisive round, Zelenskyj won big with 73% of
the vote against 24% for Poroshenko.
The newly elected president immediately got into trouble
with Moscow, which decided to make it easier for Ukrainians
living in the separatist slaves and in the Russian
Federation to obtain Russian passports. The Ukrainian
government said it did not intend to approve Russian
passports for Ukrainian citizens in the separatist enclaves.
Zelenskyj was installed as president in May, explaining
that his priority was to bring about peace in eastern
Ukraine between the state and the Russian-backed
separatists. He also announced new elections to Parliament.
Zelenskyj wanted to appoint a new government and urged Prime
Minister Volodymyr Hroisman to resign, but Parliament voted
down Zelenskyj's request. The president was criticized for
his first important appointment, when one of his friends
from TV time was named deputy head of the security service.
Zelenskyj traveled to Brussels in June for meetings with
the EU and NATO. He appealed for support to influence Moscow
to a peace settlement in eastern Ukraine, where violations
of the ceasefire continued. Zelenskyj also visited Paris and
Berlin with the message that Ukraine wants to become a
member of the EU and NATO and that the Russian Federation
should not be welcomed back to the cooperation of the
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Nevertheless, the
Assembly decided to welcome a Russian delegation, prompting
the Ukrainian delegation to leave the cooperation in
protest. Ukraine also said no to European Council election
observers ahead of the July parliamentary elections.
That election became a big victory for Zelenskyj's new
party, People's Servants, who received just over 43% of the
vote and their own majority with 254 of Parliament's 450
seats. The new Prorian party The Opposition Platform - For
Life, 43 were mandated, Tymoshenko's Motherland 26 and
Poroshenko's European Solidarity 25 were mandated. As
elections could not be held in Crimea and in some
constituencies in the east, 26 seats in parliament became
Zelenskyj appointed 35-year-old lawyer Oleksij Hontjaruk
as prime minister, the country's youngest head of government
to date. The government got many new and young faces with a
couple of ministers for 30 years. Zelenskyj kept only the
finance minister and the interior minister from the old
In September, a prisoner exchange was carried out with
the Russian Federation when 35 prisoners from each side were
allowed to return to their home country. Some were known
names, such as the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov,
sentenced to 20 years in prison in the Russian military
Zelenskyj approved a ceasefire plan to be followed by
free elections and self-government for the enclaves in
eastern Ukraine. The government and separatists signed the
plan, triggering protests from the Ukrainian opposition.
Thousands of protesters went out in Kiev and accused
Zelenskyj of surrender.
In October, the Ukrainian army and the Russian-backed
separatists began withdrawal at the front in eastern
Ukraine. The goal was peace talks and summit between
Zelenskyj and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As Zelenskyj gleamed brightly to the east, clouds towered
to the west. In the United States, it was revealed that
President Donald Trump had requested from Zelenskyj that
Ukraine should investigate suspicions of corruption against
Trump's political opponent Joe Biden and his son, who had
gas deals in Ukraine. Zelenskyj is said to have agreed to
it. The United States had withheld military aid to Ukraine
to get Trump through his will. The deal led to an
investigation into national law against Trump, and drama in
the United States meant a severe foreign political hardship
for Zelenskyj and Ukraine.
Zelenskyj and Putin met in December in Paris and agreed
on a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and the breakaway
republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. 200 prisoners were
exchanged before the New Year.