EU Visa-Free Regime For Ukraine Passes Another Hurdle; Rada Cuts Mentions Of Gender And Sexuality From Violence Bill

November 17, 2016
Sign on the Polish border with Ukraine. Photo: Wojciech Jargilo /

Ukraine Day 1004: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. Heavy fighting continued in southeastern Ukraine today, on par with the escalation in the last week, with 6 Ukrainian soldiers wounded in Avdeyevka, northwest of Donetsk. There were unconfirmed reports of 3 Russia-backed fighters killed and 2 wounded.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


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EU Visa-Free Regime For Ukraine Passes Another Hurdle; Rada Cuts Mentions Of Gender And Sexuality From Violence Bill

Ukraine has come a step closer to a visa-free regime with the European Union today, after the European Council approved the introduction of the measure.

Peter Javorčík, Slovakia’s permanent representative to the EU and President of the EU Permanent Representatives Committee, said:

“By giving its green light today, the Council has demonstrated its commitment to visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine, taking into account that all requirements have been met. Credible reform is the right path and should be encouraged. I am also delighted that our decision is able to send a positive message in the run up to the EU-Ukraine Summit on 24 November.”

However there are still two more obstacles to overcome:

First, the European Council and Parliament must conclude negotiations on the introduction of a new suspension mechanism, allowing member states to temporarily suspend visa-free travel from certain countries in the event of an emergency or evidence of infringements.

Secondly, the measure, which the Council says should be implemented at the same time as the new suspension mechanism, must be approved by the European Parliament.

Reuters notes:

Talks on the so-called suspension mechanism have been making slow progress and diplomats say it could take weeks before it is in place.

It has been nearly a year since the European Commission announced that Ukraine had met the necessary requirements for entering into a visa-free arrangement with the EU. 

In June this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that the visa-free regime was meeting opposition from certain EU member states, predicting accurately that the measure would not be introduced until September at the earliest. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has done little to accelerate the process of bringing the country in line with European standards, having today rejected a bill classifying violence on grounds of gender or sexuality as violations of human rights.

Euractiv and AFP report

Parliament had been due to vote on the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The so-called Istanbul Convention characterises domestic abuse and discrimination based on sexual orientation as violations of human rights.

It was adopted by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe rights body in 2011 and has been ratified by more than 20 states.

MPs objected to the very mention of gender or sexual orientation in the text of the bill, as Euractiv reports:

“The bill is filled with things that are unacceptable to our society,” populist Radical Party member Igor Mosiychuk said.

Another parliament member said the mainly Christian Orthodox country should base its values on religious standards that condemn things like gay marriage.

“The only matter we should be paying attention to is the position of the Council of Churches,” the loosely pro-Russian Opposition Bloc deputy Yuriy Miroshnychenko said.

“I agree that we must accept many European values – but certainly not the ones that violate the bases of Christianity,” said Yuriy Solovey of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc party.

Translation: References to “gender” and “sexual orientation” have been removed from the draft bill on combating violence; a working group will be created, which will include the Council of Churches.

One Ukrainian Soldier has been killed and another wounded, as the OSCE reports the highest level of violence in the Donbass since the start of the year.

According to the Ukrainian military, there were 37 attacks by Russia-backed forces in the Donbass yesterday.

The Russian State Duma has approved the first reading of a bill that would legally allow Russian conscript soldiers to be deployed abroad.

The bill has clear implications for any future formalization of the deployment of Russian troops in the Donbass.

— Pierre Vaux