Ukraine Live Day 309: Rada Abolishes Ukraine’s Non-Aligned Status

December 23, 2014
The results of today's vote in the Rada on the renunciation of Ukraine's non-aligned status: 303 for, 8 against, 2 abstentions, 56 not voted. Screenshot via @myroslavapetsa

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

A ‘Bug’ Found In Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs?

When I was in Kiev at the end of August, several members of the Ukrainian government and military complained that they believed that the Russians had spies in Ukraine’s ministries. In particular, contacts told us that the police, military, and Ministry of Internal Affairs were the most compromised.

Now, there are reports that a bug has been found inside the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

James Miller
Ukraine’s President Appoints Crimean Tatar Leader As Head of Anti-Corruption Bureau
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has appointed the leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement, Refat Chubarov, as the new head of the newly-formed anti-corruption bureau:

UA Today reports:

Poroshenko appointed Chubarov, human rights activist Yevhen Zakharov and historian Yaroslav Hrytsak to the newly formed Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Southeast European Times in Kyiv reports on another new anti-corruption effort, the creation of the Office of the Business Ombudsman, which will work to improve the business environment and attract investors while also improving transparency:

Lithuanian Algirdas Semeta, the former European commissioner for taxation and customs union, audit and anti-fraud, was named as Ukraine’s first business ombudsman.

“I am deeply convinced that by accepting this very challenging job, I will positively and practically contribute to the improvement of business climate, combating corruption and promotion of best international practices in Ukraine,” Semeta said after taking the post.

Final agreement to establish the new office was reached in November during a meeting between President Petro Poroshenko and Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The EBRD will provide 1.5 million euros a year to support the work of the ombudsman.

Combating corruption in Ukraine has become increasingly urgent because of the level of corruption makes companies less willing to invest in the country. Ukraine is ranked 96th out of 189 nations in the World Bank’s Doing Business list. This year the country was ranked 142nd out of 175 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

Government and business corruption are two deeply-entrenched traditions in Ukraine, and it may not be possible to combat corruption without tackling both simultaneously. While government corruption leeches resources out of the already-depleted state coffers, business corruption concentrates wealth and deters international investment.

But Ukraine has two imposing obstacles to combating corruption. The first is that these things require money and time, two luxuries Ukraine does not posses. The second problem is that the police, the middle-management of government, and the wealthiest businesses in Ukraine are all part of the old system. As a result it remains to be seen whether Ukraine’s fledgling government can make progress against corruption.

Investors are tentatively optimistic, though. With all of today’s news, the hryvnia has rallied in the last few hours. Of course, it’s been surfing record lows for several weeks with little sign of improvement, so this is hardly the end of Ukraine’s currency problems:

James Miller

Rail Bridge Blown And Steel Worker Killed In Mariupol

Mariupol news site reports that a rail bridge in the port city has been demolished after an explosion last night.



The Headquarters for the Defence of Mariupol announced that the explosion had taken place at 1:45 and that it was being regarded by prosecutors as a terrorist attack. 

Rail services to the port and main train station are suspended.

Ukraine’s 5 Channel has footage from the scene:

The bridge, which crossed the river Kalchik is located here.

Earlier last night, to the south-east, at the Azovstal steel plant, owned by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov’s Metinvest Holdings, one employee was killed and another wounded.

Metinvest’s press office told 0629 that, at 00:20, a group of men in camouflage uniforms, armed with automatic weapons, had fired on three Azovstal employees who were patrolling the railway line. One, a plate worker, was killed, and a repair mechanic was taken to hospital with serious injuries. The third worker was unharmed.

Metinvest said that police officers had found two sacks of TNT by bridge pillars near the scene of the shooting, which suggests that the workers had stumbled across a second planned attack.

— Pierre Vaux

Rada Abolishes Ukraine’s Non-Aligned Status

The Verkhovna Rada has voted to abolish Ukraine’s non-aligned status, opening the way to apply for NATO membership.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the parliamentary memorandum accompanying the bill said (translated by The Interpreter):

The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, their illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, waging of a so-called ‘hybrid war’ against our state, and the military intervention in the eastern regions of Ukraine, ongoing military, political, economic and media pressure from the Russian side necessitate the search for more effective guarantees of the independence, sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has already responded to the news: 

Meanwhile the Rada rejected proposed legal amendments to the status of the National Security and Defence Council. reported on the proposals contained in the bill, which has been tabled for a second reading, having received only 223 votes in favour:


The purpose of the bill is to bring current legislation in the field of national security and defense in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, and to improve legal support of the National Security and Defense Council.

In the event of early termination of powers of the President, who is chairman of the National Security and Defense Council, the duties of head of the Security Council rests with the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (previously – the Prime Minister).

In addition, the powers of the National Security and Defense Council are expanding. Thus, the article on the competence of the NSDC is supplemented with the norm that according to the functions, defined by this law, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine decides on “urgent measures to resolve the crisis situations that threaten the national security of Ukraine”.

The NSDC will also receive the right to co-ordinate and monitor the activities of executive authorities in the sphere of national security and defense, and submits to the President appropriate conclusions and suggestions.

The Rada is also due to debate and vote on a state budget for the next year. Protesters, opposed to austerity measures proposed by the government, have gathered on Hrushevsky street outside the parliament.

Translation: Hrushevsky is blocked. People are going to the Rada

UNIAN reports:

The crowd of more than a thousand people is made up of a range of groups protesting against possible health, education and pension cuts, and demanding the payment of deposits from the collapsed VAB bank, among other issues. 

According to an UNIAN correspondent, more and more people are coming to the rally, which is being held on Constitution Square next to parliament, but which has also spilled over onto the road in front of the Rada.

Several hundred policemen are guarding the parliament building, and the situation is calm there at present. The protesters are making no attempts to break through the police lines.

Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday is to debate and vote on the government’s proposed budget, which contains several unpopular austerity measures to address Ukraine’s dire financial problems. 

— Pierre Vaux