Editor’s Note: The following is the latest 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.
Russia’s war against Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in January. The two will discuss Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Scholz said he wants a “fresh start” with Putin. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Washington on Jan. 6, where she will discuss the conflict and other topics with her U.S. counterpart, Antony Blinken, and other politicians.
Meanwhile, political advisers to the leaders of the Normandy Format peace talk participants Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia, will hold separate meetings this week, Germany’s government spokesman Steffen Gebeshtrait announced on Jan. 3.
Top EU diplomat Borrell will visit Donbas. Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, will visit Ukraine from Jan. 4 to Jan. 6 in a show of support for Kyiv amid Russia’s military build-up along its border, the European Commission announced on Jan. 3. Borell will first visit eastern Ukraine and the front line in Donbas with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and then travel to Kyiv to meet with representatives of the government.
High-profile Ukrainian journalist flees Russia. Roman Tsymbaliuk, the Moscow correspondent of the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, left Russia, citing security concerns. Tsymbaliuk has often challenged Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at press conferences. Recently, Russian authorities opened an investigation into Tsymbaliuk, suspecting him of extremism.
Covid-19 in Ukraine
Ukrainians spend $23.5 million in vaccine rewards. As of Jan. 2, Ukrainians have spent $23.5 million of the money they received for getting fully vaccinated, according to Digital Transformation minister Mykhailo Fedorov. Under the government’s e-Pidtrymka (e-Support) program, every Ukrainian adult who is fully vaccinated is eligible to get a Hr 1,000 (about $37) gift certificate. This money can be spent on books, museums, theaters, cinemas and domestic travel tickets.
Ukrainian theater director Eugene Lavrenchuk detained in Italy on Dec. 17 after a Russian extradition request. The news broke on Jan. 3, when a Facebook group named “Free Eugene Lavrenchuk” was created to draw media attention to the director's detention. According to the group, Russia had charged Lavrenchuk with financial crimes they allege he committed during his stay in Russia prior to the war.
In Ukraine, Lavrenchuk's case echoes that of Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv, who spent 40 months in an Italian prison on a false verdict before being freed in November 2021.
Canadian court orders Iran to pay $84 million to relatives of six PS752 flight victims shot down near Tehran by Iranian military. Iran shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane enroute to Kyiv in January 2020. All 176 people onboard were killed. The lawyer representing the families said his team will now look to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad.
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Jan. 1 signed orders to create three new national parks and expand the area of several existing ones. The new parks include Kholodny Yar in Cherkasy Oblast, with an area of 6,800 hectares, Kuyalnytsky in Odesa Oblast, with 10,800 hectares and Pushcha Radzivilla in Rivne Oblast, with 24,000 hectares.
Pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk says Switzerland revoked his daughter’s student visa. He ties it to him being charged with high treason in Ukraine in November. In February, the National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions on Medvedchuk for sponsoring terrorism.
Akhmetov makes $4.5 billion in 2021. Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, boosted his considerable fortune last year, adding $4.54 billion for a combined net worth of $11.7 billion. This places him 190th on the list of the world’s 500 wealthiest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. This windfall made Akhmetov jump 125 positions from last year’s list.
National Bank increases currency interventions in 2021 by a billion. Over the course of the year, the NBU bought $3.69 billion and sold $1.28 billion. In 2020, the National Bank bought $4.93 billion and sold $3.89 billion. As of Dec. 1, Ukraine's international reserves increased by 3% to $30.5 billion.
Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv becomes first woman to direct renowned Italian opera house Teatro Comunale in Bologna. Her three-year contract begins in January, she wrote on Facebook on Jan. 2. Lyniv was previously the first female general music director of the Austrian Graz Opera as well as the first female conductor at the Bayreuth Festival, a prestigious opera event created by the famous German composer Richard Wagner.
World’s nuclear powers – Russia, U.S., China, UK and France – publish statement on preventing nuclear war. According to the statement, the five nuclear powers agree that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” while nuclear weapons should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. “We strongly believe that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented,” the statement reads.