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Ukraine

Yearbook 2019

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.

2019 Ukraine

According to 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 with Moscow.

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 investigations.

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 vacant.

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 government.

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 court.

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.

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