Ukraine In 2020: Key Events And Trends

December 18, 2020
UkraineWorld takes a snapshot of 2020 in Ukraine, analyzing key events and trends of the year in politics, the economy and society.
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What has influenced Ukraine's politics in 2020 besides the Covid-19 pandemic? What does Ukraine's political landscape look like after the local elections? What are the key trends in disinformation campaigns and how Ukraine is viewed from abroad?

UkraineWorld held an expert discussion analyzing key events and trends of the year. You can watch it in full here:

We share the key points from this event below.

Is Zelensky's popularity decreasing?

Maksym Yakovlyev, Chair of International Relations Faculty, Director of School for Policy Analysis at Kyiv Mohyla Academy:

"Perhaps, Zelensky's popularity will continue to decrease in 2021. At the same time, it is noticeable that certain so-called red lines were not crossed in 2020. Every person in power in Ukraine had to take people's thoughts into account, and politicians were more or less in touch with public opinion, which was a positive trend."

Yakovlyev: "Ukraine's democracy is backsliding in terms of populism, but this is a worldwide trend".

Local elections in 2020: what did they show?

Olha Aivazovska, head of the OPORA civil network, expert in Ukraine's election process

The "Servant of People" party received only 15% of city council seats in the local elections, while other national parties got even fewer -- under 10% each.

Aivazovska: Local elites defeated national brands in local elections.

"The results of the 2020 election have proven the undeveloped nature of parliamentary parties".  In major oblasts centres, local political leaders won elections. They decided to campaign with language of confrontation towards central authorities, and did not make the elections ideological. Thus, decentralisation reform has brought not just opportunities, but responsibilities as well".

Maksym Yakovlyev:

"No party attained overly-consolidated power after the local elections, and that's good. Local and nationwide parties operating on the local level can exist at once".

Volodymyr Yermolenko, editor in chief at UkraineWorld.org:

"The 2020 local elections 2020 proved that Ukrainians would like to get back to old -- but more experienced -- bureaucrats. Ukraine has moved radically away from last year's idea of having "new faces'' in power with little governing experience".

Does Ukraine's economy have a chance to recover after 2020?

Taras Kachka, Ukraine's trade representative and Deputy Economic Minister:

"2020 was much more challenging than previous years in terms of the economy. Why?   Mainly because of the lockdowns caused by Covid-19. At the same time, I see opportunities for Ukraine's economy to grow next year. Ukraine's co-operation with global institutions will help bring the state's public finances into good shape".

Kachka: "Ukraine's external trade has quite good prospects and Ukraine is close to reaching the same exports rates as before the pandemic".

Kachka: "Ukraine's economy is still dependent on co-operation with the EU, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Ukraine's external trade has quite good prospects, and Ukraine is close to reaching the same export rates as before the pandemic. Updating the Association Agreement with the EU would help increase access to the EU's market. Ukraine has strengthened its trade and economic co-operation with Israel, the United Kingdom, as well as Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia".

Anti-Western propaganda trends in Ukraine

Vitalii Rybak, expert and journalist at UkraineWorld:

"There are several noticeable types of players who spread anti-Western disinformation in Ukraine. The first one includes pro-Russian politicians, who enjoy financial support from Russia. A  second type is linked to Ukrainian oligarchs - some of them are not pro-Western actually. The primary goal of spreading disinformation messages is to prove that decisions in Ukraine are made from abroad.

Key narratives of this anti-Western propaganda include: "Ukraine is a western colony", "Ukrainian decision-makers are controlled by outside forces", and "Ukraine will be a testing ground for foreign Covid-19 vaccines".

EU and NATO integration

Maksym Panchenko, expert and journalist at UkraineWorld:

2020 bore mixed messages in EU-Ukraine relations. Ukraine desires to update the Association Agreements, as well as discuss its possible participation in the EU Green Deal initiative.

As of January 1, 2020, Ukraine managed to accomplish 43% of its goals for 2024 as stipulated in the Association Agreement.

Regarding NATO, it is worth mentioning that Ukraine has been recognised as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner of NATO. At the same time, thus must not be mistaken with NATO membership, as it is not a precondition of membership in the Alliance".

How human interest stories help understand Ukraine better

Iryna Matviyishyn,  journalist and expert at UkraineWorld:

"Human interest and human rights stories in particular have disappeared from the international press as they have fade into the background of the year's exceptional drama. . "Stories from Ukraine", a project by UkraineWorld and the International Renaissance Foundation, helps promote Ukraine's image as a vibrant and dynamic country.

Matviyishyn: "Stories from Ukraine" promote Ukraine as simultaneously a country of opportunities and struggles. And both parts have faces."

Watch our "Stories from Ukraine" here.

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