Day of Unity

On Jan. 22, Ukraine observed National Unity Day, marking the first declaration in 1919 of the unification of Ukrainian lands into a single independent state.

On that same day President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a historically significant decree that calls for an action plan to examine the situation of ethnic Ukrainians in historically Ukrainian lands within the borders of the Russian Federation since 1992, and before that within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic

The decree calls for Ukrainian authorities to gather evidence of rights violations and destruction of Ukrainian national identity on the territory of Russia in areas historically inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians – such as the Kuban, around the city of Krasnodar, and the areas around Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, and Rostov-on-Don.

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“We must take steps today not only to strengthen the unity of Ukraine and our people but also to act for the unity of rights and freedoms, the truth about Ukrainians, the truth about us, and our history,” Zelensky declared.

He also explained that this decree is “the return of the truth about the historical past for the sake of the Ukrainian future.

Dmitry Medvedev, former President of Russia and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council, reacted to Zelensky’s decree with one of his now-standard Telegram tirades.

He stated that “Ukrainians are Russians, and Malorossiya [or Little Russia, as Russians pejoratively call Ukraine] is a part of Russia.”

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Russia’s deputy foreign minister said that Ukraine’s “peace formula” is a “dead-end” and complained about the deliberate “ignoring of other initiatives” to end the war in Ukraine.

You can read a detialed analysis of this here.

Arrest of Hrynkevych

On Monday, law enforcement officers detained Roman Hrynkevych, a businessman suspected of supplying low-quality clothing to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a member of a family at the centre of a much larger scandal.

His father, Ihor, a Lviv businessman, was detained earlier on December 30.

Ihor was accused of taking a bribe to regain seized property from his companies during a criminal investigation.

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As part of this investigation, law enforcement discovered that Hrynkevych's companies won 23 tenders to supply clothing to the Ministry, totaling more than Hr. 1.5 billion ($42 million).

However, several contracts were allegedly left unfulfilled, some were only partially implemented with delays, and orders were processed by enterprises lacking sufficient capacity.

Roman was reportedly arrested on Monday while trying to escape from Ukraine through the Odesa region.

You can read a detailed explainer on the case here.

Ukrainian business pressures

At the same time, other business representatives who have not had problems with law enforcement agencies, met with the authorities to talk about the pressure on entrepreneurs.

The meeting was prompted by the arrest of investment banker Ihor Mazepa, who was suspected of embezzling state land.

The meeting was held on the initiative of the President's Office. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Yuliya Svyrydenko, Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov, and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk met with representatives of large businesses and "listened to their anger."

Entrepreneurs discussed the pressure from law enforcement officers and demanded that the authorities solve this issue.

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Svyrydenko said that "the economic bloc of the government and business are on the same side" and "I am ready to fight personally for every entrepreneur."

All comments were submitted to the president and considered at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council. Shortly, the Entrepreneurship Support Council will be established, which will include business representatives.

The next step should be to reform the Bureau of Economic Security and change the legislation, which will make it impossible to put pressure on entrepreneurs.

Svyrydenko said that inspections of businesses by law enforcement agencies will be limited.

Fico in Ukraine

This week, the head of the government of Slovakia, Robert Fico, visited Ukraine. His meeting with the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal took place in Uzhhorod, Zakarpattya.

The meeting was controversial before it even began after Fico said that there is no war in Kyiv and “life is normal there” – yet his visit did not include a trip to the capital.

Despite the constant ambiguous statements of Slovak politicians regarding the war in Ukraine, pro-Russian views, and calls to abandon the territories occupied by Russia to end the war, the Ukrainian government is trying to build a constructive dialogue with Slovakia.

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Shmyhal said that as a result of the meeting, the parties reached an agreement on a number of issues and have specific agreements.

In particular, the Slovak government will not block Ukraine's purchase of weapons and equipment from Slovak businesses; Ukraine and Slovakia will establish cooperation in the issue of supplies from the Slovak company of equipment for the construction of defense lines; Slovakia will support the Ukraine Facility program, which provides for the allocation of 50 billion euros from the EU to Ukraine, the Prime Minister said.

He also added that Fico supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Embezzlement scheme

Ukrainian defense officials and corporate leaders sought to steal about $40 million through a fraudulent arms procurement scheme, the country’s main intelligence and security agency said on Saturday.

The corruption allegations were confirmed by Ukraine’s defence ministry, which has served implicated officials with notices of suspicion.

They come as Republicans in the United States resist President Joe Biden’s efforts to send more aid to Ukraine, and as former president Donald Trump, who has spoken out against US military support for Kyiv, appears to be on a glide path to the Republican nomination.

Ukraine’s SBU security service said that current and former senior officials of the defence ministry and heads of affiliated companies “attempted to steal almost UAH 1.5 billion ($40 million) from the budget by purchasing 100,000 mortar rounds for the Armed Forces.”

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