Editor’s Note: The following is the Dec. 29 edition of the Kyiv Independent’s newsletter, Ukraine Daily. If you would like to receive news about Ukraine in your mailbox six days a week subscribe here.
Pandemic in Ukraine
Kyiv reports first cases of Omicron Covid-19 variant. The capital has detected its first cases of Omicron, the new extremely virulent strain of Covid-19. Ukraine reported its first Omicron case on Dec. 18. Omicron is a highly mutated form of coronavirus that spreads and multiplies quicker and may be more resistant to vaccines, although booster doses can increase an organism’s defense against it.
Last two oblasts leave ‘red’ quarantine zone. Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers Oleh Nemchinov said that starting Dec. 30, the last two Ukrainian regions, Volyn and Zaporizhia oblasts, will move to the “yellow” quarantine level. As a result, the entire country will be in the yellow zone, the second least strict level that requires having at least one vaccination dose for attending public events and venues, including restaurants.
Russia’s war against Ukraine
U.S. confirms meeting with Russia on Jan. 10. The two countries will hold talks amid the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border, according to Reuters. The U.S. and Russia are also expected to engage in talks during Russia’s meeting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Jan. 13. NATO will meet Moscow on Jan. 12.
Biden signs defense bill that includes $300 million for Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden signed a $768 billion annual defense spending bill that allocates $300 million to Ukraine. This includes $75 million for lethal weapons. Even so, lawmakers wiped two Russia-related clauses from the bill — sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project and a ban on the purchase of Russian sovereign debt.
US will give $20 million to strengthen Ukraine’s border. The U.S. government agreed to provide aid to strengthen Ukraine's border with Russia and Belarus. Under the project, the border will be equipped with video cameras and drones, and guards will be provided with protective gear, transport and communications equipment. Ukraine expects another $4.5 million from the U.S. for further border infrastructure development.
Antonov rolls out new An-178 aircraft. The legendary aircraft manufacturer known for building the world’s largest and heaviest cargo jet, An-225 Mriya, completed its first of three new cargo aircraft for the Ukrainian military. These An-178 planes will be the first aircraft produced entirely on Ukrainian soil that the Air Force will buy since 1991.
Ukrainian war prisoner in occupied Donbas develops mental health issues. Ombudsman Ludmila Denisova said that Ihor Myronchuk, imprisoned by Russian-led militants in Donetsk Oblast, has developed mental health problems and is in critical condition. According to Denisova, Myronchuk was rewarded with multiple medals for his military service in 2014-2019 before he was captured and sentenced to 12 years in prison by the occupiers.
Zelensky’s party lawmaker buys nationwide television channel. The family of Oleksiy Kovalov, a lawmaker from President Volodymyr Zelensky's Servant of the People party, bought Channel 4, a nationwide TV network. Media experts believe the move may be part of Zelensky's plan to expand control over the media, something Kovalov has denied.
Deputy minister investigated after altercation with police. The State Bureau of Investigation has opened two criminal cases against the recently-resigned Deputy Interior Minister Oleksandr Gogilashvili. He was forced to step down after a video of him screaming rudely at police who had been trying to check his credentials went viral. Gogilashvili is suspected of abuse of office, as well as forgery.
Poroshenko’s party strikes back at Zelensky. Ex-President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party registered a complaint with the Security Service accusing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government of buying coal from Russia. Poroshenko was recently charged with high treason for allegedly making deals to buy coal from Russian-occupied territories, which he denied. The party said that by buying electricity and coal from Russia, Zelensky's team was buying coal extracted from illegally occupied areas in the Donbas.
EU will give 5 million euros to Ukraine for radioactive waste management. Ukraine and the European Commission signed a joint agreement to develop an EU-funded project to improve the safe handling of radioactive waste. The funds will be used to develop technological solutions for the Pidlisny waste disposal site within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone and its hazardous contents.
Canadian company dismantles solar plant, blames Kolomoisky. Canadian energy company TIU was forced to dismantle its solar plant in the city of Nikopol, saying it's impossible to work in Ukraine due to raider attacks by oligarchs, Voice of America reported. TIU operated on the territory of the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant belonging to oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. Two years ago, the company was disconnected from the factory's electrical network over supposed repairs.
Government announces large-scale state enterprise reform in 2022. Minister of Economy Yulia Svyrydenko reportedly said that the government plans to implement a public property reform that will leave the country with less than 100 state enterprises. The state owned more than 3,340 enterprises as of July. The rest of the enterprises will be liquidated or put up for privatization.
Ukrainian documentary ‘Home Games’ now available on Netflix in Europe. The film’s director Alisa Kovalenko said this is the first documentary by a Ukrainian filmmaker in Netflix’s library.