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Ukraine’s 10 challenges in 2014

1) Russian propaganda is based on disinformation and blatant lies. For example, the new Ukrainian government has been characterized as both anti-Russian and anti-Semitic. Daily briefings from prominent Russian-speaking individuals and Jewish leaders are essential in order to counter these false claims. For instance, four Ministers in the new Ukrainian government are born outside of Ukraine, including three who were born in Russia (Oleksandr Shlapak, Lyudmyla Denisova, Arsen Avakov and Yuriy Prodan)!

2) The interim government must do more while responding to anti-Semitic propaganda by the Russian regime. Ukraine’s political leaders need to continue to work with representatives from the Jewish community in order to keep on top of the issue. Ukraine Crisis Media Centre has done a great job sharing quotes from prominent Jewish leaders in Ukraine to counter this propaganda http://uacrisis.org/is-there-antisemithism-in-ukraine/

3) To date, the interim government and National Bank of Ukraine have been unable to stabilize and prevent further depreciation of the national currency (hryvnia). The government needs to present a clear overall plan on government priorities for economic growth. Even if the current military threat recedes, Russia will continue to pressure Ukraine economically. Gas prices have already increased and trade sanctions against Ukrainian products have been enacted.

4) Tackling corruption is of the utmost importance. Corrupt officials from previous Ukrainian administrations and the civil service need to be held accountable for their wrongdoings and judged accordingly in a court of law. This process will require reforms to Ukraine’s judicial and policing systems. Ukraine’s interim government could build upon Georgia’s example (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-23231993). Going forward,one of the toughest tasks will be finding honest people who can competently carry out the duties and responsibilities expected of public servants. In fact,Western-educated university graduates have already expressed their interest in working for the new government (http://proukrgov.info)

5) Kyiv has to develop a plan to work with the United Nations and other international organizations to offer the Crimean people an alternative to Russian occupation. The interim government needs to ensure that the “hearts and minds” of Crimeans can be won, especially if Crimea is ever to return to the authority of Ukraine’s national government.

6) As recent events in the Eastern regions of Ukraine have shown, Russia will do everything to disrupt the upcoming presidential election on May 25, 2014. This election is essential for providing legitimacy and credibility. The international community needs to provide support for ensuring a free and fair electoral process and stand ready to work with the new president as soon as possible.

7) Euromaidan united disenchanted citizens who were fed up with corruption and unscrupulous politicians. Unfortunately, many Ukrainians remained indifferent and are skeptical of any new administration. As more than 100 people have lost their lives, the people of Ukraine must hold the new president accountable. With that said, the new president must also implement meaningful structural reforms, which are urgently needed.

8) The new president has to demand further concrete actions from the European Union (EU), which is often held up by inefficiencies and delays in response to Russia’s acts of aggression and occupation of Ukraine. The United States and Canada have taken great steps to help Ukraine, but the EU is Ukraine’s largest trading partner.

9) Since assuming office, the interim government has failed to put forward legislation recognizing the status of the Russian language, which is widely spoken in many regions throughout Ukraine. The Ukrainian electorate has often been faced with the notion of granting the Russian language special/official status. Many politicians have exploited this issue during political campaigns by promising to make Russian a second official language if they are elected. As per Ukraine’s constitution, the Ukrainian language could remain the sole official language, but accommodations could be made when filling out government documents in other languages, particularly for citizens living in Southern and Eastern Ukraine. Given the sensitivity of the language issue, the interim government should invite an independent Western agency to research the Russian language issue and to propose reasonable inclusive policy solutions.

10) The new government needs to invest in societal educational campaigns about core democratic values and principles. Given the perils of authoritarianism in Putin’s Russia, the short and long-term benefits of further EU integration must be better explained to Ukrainian citizens in order for them to be able to make informed decision as citizens, producers and consumers. Although Ukraine and Russia share many historical, cultural, and linguistic ties, Ukraine’s political and economic future lies in Europe. Initiatives and educational programs will not only benefit ordinary Ukrainians, but may also inspire Russian citizens to choose democracy without Putin.

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