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Ukraine moving towards more active society and reform-centered politics

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Li Bennich-Björkman is Professor at Department of Government and Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden.

What is your opinion on the Ukraine’s development in the last couple of years? Do you see positive dynamics?

I see positive dynamics such as increasing role of civil society organizations and movements which have significantly strengthened since the Revolution of Dignity took place in 2014. Overall, Ukraine has been quite a pluralistic society for a long time but its more steady progress has been precluded by paternal political system that developed during 1990s. Specifically, oligarchic power and its grip over state officials and politicians sitting on a lot of resources have made it highly problematic to break the spine to corruption and pave way towards more democratic Ukraine.

Do you think Zelensky has been a positive force of change for Ukraine?

Yes, I think in a way, as there have been partial reforms implementations by his team. For instance, steps to reform judiciary system to ensure proper rule of law in Ukraine. Nevertheless, I am not sure that Zelensky can lead to more comprehensive democratization or that he can change the current state of things and adverse impact of oligarchs on Ukrainian state building and genuine transformation.

Do you think there could be any reconciliation with Russia in the foreseeable future?

I believe there is a possibility to achieve peaceful agreement. However, Ukraine needs to realize that Crimea is gone de facto and parts of Donbass are lost in a way as well. This is the price Ukrainian leadership have to pay in order to become more independent actor in foreign policy and implement genuine independent democratic changes on its current territory.

Do you think Ukraine still has a chance to move closer to the EU and NATO?

I think that there is very low likelihood for Ukraine’s membership in the EU as of now. However, I do not rule that it might take place in 5 years or later on. I think that with transformation of Ukrainian economy and more pluralistic and democratic development, as well as support from friends and allies within the EU, Ukraine could move closer to the EU.

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