Ukraine. At the beginning of the year, fighting in
eastern Ukraine intensified between the Russian-backed
separatists and Ukrainian government forces. The Ukrainian
side reinforced at the front, and according to Kiev,
thousands of Russian soldiers fought with tanks and other
heavy weapons on the separatists' side. After prolonged
fighting, the Ukrainian army lost control of Donetsk
airport, and the city of Debaltseve was captured by the
In February, the leaders of France and Germany tried to
negotiate a peace plan. At a summit in Minsk, the day after
some of the toughest battles during the war, Ukraine, the
Russian Federation, the separatists and the European
Cooperation Organization OSCE signed a new ceasefire with
the participation of Germany and France. A buffer zone and
heavy weapons withdrawal were agreed. Local elections would
be held in the areas the separatists controlled, but the
Kiev government would then gain control of the border with
the Russian Federation. Later, the Kiev parliament approved
increased autonomy for the territories of the separatists
when elections were held under Ukrainian law. Ukraine
claimed to have made huge losses in the days following the
agreement in fighting in which the separatists received
Russian reinforcements, which were condemned from the West.
The country's economy was in free fall with a GDP decline of
more than 17% in the first quarter. In February, the central
bank let the hryvnia hryvnia float, which led to a valuation
of close to one-third against the dollar. The policy rate
was gradually increased to 30% and the currency rate was
halted. From the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), Ukraine was granted the equivalent of approximately
SEK 150 billion as the first phase of an international
support package of approximately SEK 350 billion. In
exchange, the IMF demanded painful budget cuts. During the
year, the Ukrainian state got a fifth of its debt written
off and installments deferred.
Digopaul, both Ukraine and the separatists were accused by Human
Rights Watch of violating the laws of war through the use of
so-called cluster bombs. Amnesty accused the separatists of
executions of prisoners of war.
In the spring, President Petro Poroshenko appointed
Georgia's former President Micheil Saakashvili as adviser
and then governor of the Odessa region, after Saakashvili
obtained Ukrainian citizenship. The Chief of Defense Staff,
in turn, appointed the leader of the High Sector as its
advisor. The right-wing movement provided the army with
volunteers in the war against the separatists. Parliament
voted in April for a controversial recognition of the role
of the Ukrainian nationalist movement in World War II, a
movement that cooperated with the German Nazis against
Stalin's Red Army.
The government explained that the country's security
policy must aim for a future NATO membership as a protection
against the Russian threat. The regime marked its ties to
the west also when Poroshenko spoke at the 70th anniversary
of the end of the Second World War about precisely the
Second World War instead of the old Soviet description, the
Great Patriotic War. US support for the Ukrainian military
increased. In the spring, hundreds of American soldiers came
to train Ukrainian counterparts. In July, an international
exercise began in western Ukraine with a number of NATO
countries present, and drills continued during the summer.
The US also led the training of a new Ukrainian police
force, a step in combating the severe police corruption.
The Russian-Ukrainian gas price negotiations failed, and
at the end of the year, Ukraine canceled its Russian gas
purchases. Gazprom stopped its deliveries and accused Kiev
of unpaid bills. Since the regime change in Kiev in 2014,
Ukraine had to pay higher gas prices than before.
In July, the Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadezhda Savchenko
was brought to trial in the Russian Federation. She had
participated in a Ukrainian volunteer force on the ground
and was accused of interference when two Russian journalists
were killed in grenade shooting in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Savchenko risked 25 years in prison, and the trial against
her was symbolically important because in Ukraine she was
considered innocent and hailed as a hero. She was also
accused of illegally crossing the border into the Russian
Federation, while, according to Ukraine, she was captured by
separatists and taken there. EU Foreign Ministers called for
release when she carried out a long hunger strike at the
beginning of the year.
The United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF warned in July
that residents of eastern Ukraine were threatened by severe
water shortages due to the war, some rain and a hot summer.
According to UNICEF, more than 5 million people needed
humanitarian assistance, 1.7 million of whom were children.
Over a million people had left their homes because of the
war, but UNICEF had received only a fifth of their financial
needs for the area.
After many violations of the ceasefire, talks were held
in Minsk between the parties, and in early September the
fighting subsided. Assessors assumed that Moscow was behind,
as the Kremlin needed to focus on the new military
battlefield in Syria.
Ultranationalists led by the Svoboda Party protested
outside the parliament in Kiev, when the people elected in
August voted to change the constitution so that the
separatist-controlled areas and other regions could gain
greater autonomy. A grenade was thrown at the police,
demanding the life of three National Guard. More than 100
people were injured, most of them police. Many protesters
were arrested. It was the worst violence in Kiev since the
old regime was overthrown in 2014. Svoboda and the Right
Sector blamed Poroshenko and the government for the
violence, but they accused the nationalists of opening a
second front against the government under attack by Russian
forces. One of the right-wing parties, the Radical Party,
left the coalition government in protest of increased
self-government for the regions.
According to analysts, the militarization of society
through the war led to increased radicalization among
nationalists. Among other things, violent attacks on the
participants in this summer's Pride Parade in Kiev.
In the autumn, separatists banned Doctors Without
Borders, the UN Food Program and several UN agencies from
operating in their areas. MSF had provided important care to
patients in critical situations.
The Donetsk and Luhansk separatists did not participate
in the Ukrainian local elections in October, but planned to
hold their own elections a week later. Kiev responded with
stepped-up sanctions against individuals and businesses in
eastern Ukraine, prompting separatists to postpone their
local elections to the following year.
Kiev and Moscow stepped up the sanctions against each
other. Moscow threatened to boycott Ukrainian food from New
Year, the airspace was closed to each other's airlines and
the state railways interrupted freight cooperation.
After several votes against, the Kiev parliament in
November voted in favor of a change in labor legislation
that prohibits discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians,
bisexuals and transsexuals in the workplace. The law also
prohibits discrimination on grounds such as race, skin
color, political or religious beliefs. The EU had demanded
such a law as one of the conditions for granting visa
freedom to Ukrainian citizens.