Ukraine

Transitional or Hybrid Regime
39
100
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 39.29 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 3.36 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
39 100 Transitional or Hybrid Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic. See the methodology.

header1 Score changes in 2022

  • Independent Media rating declined from 3.75 to 3.50 due to the imposition of sanctions on several domestic journalists and outlets on national security grounds, leading to three TV channels being taken off the air.
  • Local Democratic Governance rating improved from 3.25 to 3.50 due to the success of administrative-territorial decentralization reforms, which have made local self-government units more trusted, transparent, and inclusive.

As a result, Ukraine’s Democracy Score remained the same at 3.36.

header2 Executive Summary

Ukraine, which marked its thirtieth anniversary of independence in 2021, cannot be described as a stable, consolidated democracy. But the country demonstrates dynamism in making active moves backward and forward in its democratic development. Even during the year, there were both achievements and pitfalls in Ukraine’s core areas of democratic transit. For example, the adoption of laws and strategies respecting civil society, ethnic minorities, and human rights was accompanied by the imposition of sanctions on a record number of Ukrainian citizens, businesses, and media. Such unusual measures were initiated by the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), which, in performing its consultative and coordination functions, gained more influence over interior affairs in 2021.

In September, a new law on countering oligarchs was hastily passed by the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament. Meanwhile, the opposition and civil society experts were critical of initiatives empowering the president and the NSDC in procedures for identifying said oligarchs. In response to his apparent wariness of the legislation, Rada Chairmen Dmytro Razumkov, who had previously opposed some sanctions as an NSDC member, thus putting his role as parliamentary speaker before party affiliation, was formally removed from his leadership role by the ruling Servant of the People majority in October.1

Razmukov’s removal was a stark example of concerning trends in Ukrainian national governance: first, the desire of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to control the parliament and have a loyal speaker willing to turn on the legislative “turbo-mode” if needed, as in 2019; second, the perception of opposition and critical voices within the president’s own team as potentially harmful and not above punishment for disloyalty. These trends could be seen in the government’s reshuffling of 10 ministerial positions during the year.2 Similar personnel policy was applied to regions, where the highest officials—heads of regional state administrations—could be easily dismissed by the president for lack of loyalty or for poor results from Servant of the People candidates in the 2020 local elections. Impacted by the pandemic lockdowns and the decline of public support in regions, 14 heads among the 25 regional administrations were removed since the previous local elections, while 7 more were appointed in 2021.3

Zelenskyy’s fight with oligarchs, which began in February with sanctions and the May arrest of People’s Deputy Viktor Medvedchuk, continued in the form of a public confrontation with Rinat Akhmetov, the wealthiest person in Ukraine. In the fall, Akhmetov-owned media outlets were critical of the ruling party, and on November 26, the president alleged Akhmetov’s participation in plotting a December coup d’état that failed to materialize. The prosecutor general announced plans to launch numerous investigations, including against former president Poroshenko, who was accused in late December of treason and financing terrorism.4

“Deoligarchization” efforts led to changes in Ukraine’s media landscape: outlets affiliated with Medvedchuk were sanctioned, and Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky formally transferred ownership of their TV channels; meanwhile, the public broadcasters disclosed instances of government pressure and attempts at reorganization, and owners of private media like Bukvy and Kyiv Post fired entire editorial offices. However, the journalistic community remained committed to providing critical yet accurate reporting on domestic events.

The Pandora Papers—revelatory files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and published in early October—claimed that President Zelenskyy and his partners, including the president’s adviser Serhiy Shefir and Security Service leader Ivan Bakanov, had established a network of offshore companies in 2012. After publishing the leaks, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) began examining financial declarations by Zelenskyy and Bakanov, and NAPC Chairman Oleksandr Novikov stated that the agency would take into account the information published in the Pandora Papers.5 Zelenskyy claimed that there was nothing new to be found out from the Pandora Papers as reported by the Ukrainian investigative journalists of Slidstvo.info, and he denied that companies had been used for money laundering. Yet it was hard for the president to deny the uncomfortable fact that former owners of his off-shored companies had received high-level posts in his administration.6 Dismissing the “Offshore 95” investigation, Zelenskyy commented, “To be honest, the story is not good enough.”7

Another scandal, “Wagnergate,” brought to light in mid-November by Bellingcat investigative journalists, involved special operations of the Main Intelligence Directorate and the delivery of dozens of mercenaries from the paramilitary group Wagner PMC into the country.8 Featuring accusations of misusing state residence and emergency-service helicopters for private purposes,9 these investigations negatively affected the positive image of Zelenskyy10 and his administrative chief Andriy Yermak, and led to mass protests demanding their resignations in early December.11 While support for Zelenskyy and his Servant of the People party had significantly declined since the triumphal elections of 2019—by 17 and 11 percent, respectively, as of December 2012 —their popularity nevertheless remained the highest among Ukraine’s political forces.

Decentralization, which showed positive results in 2021, still needs to be completed through the decomposition of authorities on regional and sub-regional levels. In March, new draft constitutional amendments on local state administrations were approved in the parliament, and then numerous public consultations and regional discussions were held with the broad involvement of stakeholders, the expert community, and local activists. Similar broad consultations were held to discuss laws on national or local referendums, youth policy, and transitional justice, as well as the creation of a strategy to promote civil society development and action plans for human rights and Roma minorities, with the wide-ranging engagement of think tanks and activists. This legal framework, newly adopted or significantly revised in 2021, promises to empower civil society with public funds and instruments of direct and deliberative democracy.

Economic decline and healthcare issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic forced the digitalization of public services and e-democracy development at the central and local levels. In July, marketing of agricultural land through the e-auctions platform ProZorro, thereby delivering services to decentralized communities, was a long-awaited step. The tax amnesty begun in September, however, was a much disputed move that may legalize as much as $20 billion in shadow capital and raise an additional $1 billion.13 Critics argue that such measures could negatively affect established anticorruption policies, foster money laundering, and discourage law-abiding taxpayers. Economic fallout from the pandemic hastened Ukraine’s need for supplementary IMF loans and dependence on foreign macro-financial assistance,14 which were granted on the grounds of intensifying reforms, specifically in the areas of justice and anticorruption. As a result, the Rada backed legislation to relaunch changes in the judiciary that would engage foreign professionals in selecting members to Ukraine’s judicial self-governance bodies. In the fall, this process of cleansing was sabotaged by the Council of Judges and the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, which led to the increasing standoff between the executive and judicial branches. On November 2, the Ethics Council of the High Council of Justice was finally established after months of stalled nominations. The Ethics Council will consist of three international experts and three Ukrainian judges, and represents an important step in the Judicial Reform Strategy approved by Zelenskyy in June; it is also required by the Law on the Reform of the High Council of Justice passed by the parliament in July.

In 2021, Ukraine still suffered from the ongoing violent conflict in its eastern regions and threats of Russian aggression, which claimed 315 to 5.916 percent of GDP in military expenditures according to different assessments. The consequences of the conflict—reflected in more than 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs)17 and 400,000 veterans18 —are a tremendous burden on the country’s humanitarian and socioeconomic policies. Meanwhile, progress was made during the year towards a strategic vision for the reintegration of Crimea; economic development of Donbas, which has suffered from the conflict; and drafting the transitional justice and legal status of Crimean nationalities. The launch of the “Crimean Platform” diplomatic initiative with an inaugural summit in Kyiv on August 23 gathered representatives of 47 countries and organizations, providing a positive message of international support for Ukrainian territorial integrity.

The European Union (EU)–Ukrainian Summit, held on October 12, confirmed progress in the normative harmonization and growing mutual economic ties of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and the positive effect of decentralization. The Treaty on Open Skies for civic aviation was signed to unite Ukrainian and European airspace, and the EU’s Horizon Europe and Creative Europe programs were prolonged for Ukraine for another cycle. While support for EU and NATO integration remains high in Ukrainian society,19 it decreased somewhat during the year despite mounting threats of a military invasion by Russia in late December.20 The current government is committed to the geopolitical orientation set in 2014, while also attempting to apply these aspirations in practical terms, on the ground, through financial and military assistance from allies, participation in the Digital Single Market and joint programs funded by the EU, export expansion, and diplomatic support.

Ukrainians face many challenges, but they continue to demonstrate enthusiasm for civic engagement and their commitment to a democratic future: in a 2021 poll, 76 percent admitted that it is important to them that Ukraine become a fully functioning democracy, with equal justice for all and human rights protection. That sentiment is high in every region of the country and has been stable over time,21 which shows that the democratic transition of Ukraine may be debated in the particulars but not as a general ambition.

header3 At a Glance

Ukrainian national governance still suffers from the lack of rule of law, and it remains dependent on the will of persons or groups, such as oligarchs or political leaders, more than it is based on stable institutions and democratic practices. Over the past decades, the electoral system has been changed several times to feature more democratic and transparent processes, which are staying very competitive but are sometimes accompanied by voting buying and unbalanced media coverage. Although the media landscape is diverse, the largest national media are owned by competing oligarchs who promote their political interests; meanwhile, the public broadcaster and independent media projects draw smaller audiences, and attempts to exert political pressure on media outlets are observed. Civil society is vibrant and committed to democratic reforms, but the sector struggles to achieve financial viability and depends largely on donor support. Local self-governments demonstrate a strong impulse towards sustained and democratic development, and are obtaining the necessary autonomy, resources, and public support from the 2021 decentralization reform. However, corruption and judicial integrity, as well as the ongoing Crimean occupation, conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and the threat of Russian invasion, remain challenging issues for Ukrainian democratic transition.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 2.503 7.007
  • In 2021, Ukrainian national democratic institutions sought to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and halt the decline in public support for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s promised reforms. These attempts largely resembled a “carrot and stick” policy exercised by the President’s Office rather than from party and societal consensus, or through developing and empowering the institutions crucial for sustaining democratic reforms. Possessing a parliamentary majority—one not so much monolithic as composed of oligarch-related deputies1 —Zelenskyy and his team worked to concentrate the power of security and law-enforcement agencies under the executive’s direct control: the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), General Prosecutor, and the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
  • The NSDC became one of the most controversial and disputed institutions during the year. In addition to performing its formal consultative and coordination functions, the agency extended itself to combine prosecutorial and judicial powers, and, lacking any independent oversight, appeared selective and opaque in its decision-making. For the first time since legislation was passed in 2014 allowing the sanctioning of entities and individuals, Ukrainian authorities imposed sanctions on a wide range of domestic targets, including private and media companies owned by the parliamentarians Viktor Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak (from the pro-Russian party Oppositional Platform–For Life) as well as enterprises owned by former president Viktor Yanukovych and former prime minister Mykola Azarov. Additionally, the NSDC imposed sanctions on individuals who had not yet been convicted of any crimes, drawing a wave of criticism from human rights defenders, legal experts, and political analysts.2 Critics argued that such use of sanctions was in violation of Ukraine’s constitution and international treaties, undermined fundamental principles of the rule of law, and posed a serious threat to citizens’ rights and civil liberties.3 Later, in October, NSDC secretary Oleksiy Danilov admitted that more than 100 individuals had been added to the sanctions list “by mistake.”4 In spite of concerns expressed by experts and the opposition, the majority of Ukrainians supported such measures as sanctions.5
  • Another widely covered issue was the “deoligarchization” law,6 adopted by the parliament on September 237 and signed by Zelenskyy on November 5,8 which may further empower the NSDC and the president. The law provides for a range of measures, from the creation of a special register of persons considered by the NSDC to be oligarchs (with further restrictions on their political, media, and economic activities) to requiring public servants to report any contacts with oligarchs or their “representatives.” As a result of the dissenting opinion from Rada Chairman Dmytro Razumkov, who requested that the draft be referred to the Venice Commission and suggested it was not in accordance with Ukraine’s constitution, Razumkov was dismissed as chairman on October 7.9 He was replaced on October 8 by Ruslan Stefanchuk, First Deputy Chairman from the Servant of the People party, who was considered to be more loyal to Zelenskyy. Later, on October 19, the First Deputy Chairman position was filled by Oleksandr Kornienko, head of the president’s party.10
  • The anti-oligarch campaign, viewed with skepticism by much of the public,11 led to a confrontation between Zelenskyy and the wealthiest Ukrainian, Rinat Akhmetov, over business and media interests.12 On November 26, the president publicly accused Akhmetov of allegedly participating in plotting a coup for early December, which did not materialize.13 On December 3, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, instrumental in a number of cases involving top officials,14 announced she would step up more than 200 criminal investigations against “the owner of several well-known television channels, coal and energy companies.”15 Earlier, the Prosecutor General’s Office had opened criminal cases against People’s Deputy Viktor Medvedchuk, placing him under house arrest in May,16 and charged Ukraine’s fifth president and sitting parliamentarian Petro Poroshenko and the former energy minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn with treason in late December.17
  • Personnel issues in the government were apparent in numerous cabinet reshuffles during the year leading to the replacement of 10 ministers,18 some of whom held their posts for only a few months.19 Various heads of regional state administrations, appointed by the president and performing governmental executive power in the regions, were also reshuffled in 2021,20 mostly in regions where the Servant of the People party was in the minority.21 Critics argued that the Rada, responsible for appointing ministers, simply approved presidential nominees without discussing their programs or any debate, and largely hidden from the public eye.22 Such rapid changes could be risky for democratic institutional resilience and undermine capacity to combat the pandemic, economic issues, and security threats that escalated at the end of the year.23
  • In 2021, reforms in other areas, such as direct democracy, political party regulations, and conflict resolution, made incremental progress. The Rada adopted the Law on the All-Ukrainian Referendum on January 26,24 which was supported by 58 percent of Ukrainians.25 The parliament also developed draft laws on local referendums26 and proposed amendments for the legislation on political parties,27 which provides for simpler procedures for party registration, emphasizes intraparty democracy, and establishes clearer and more transparent regulations for party financing.28 These changes were advanced through the direct participation of the expert community and civil society,29 accompanied by numerous public discussions.
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 4.505 7.007
  • Among Ukraine’s broader electoral reform successes, the most recent transitions of power—namely, the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019 and local elections in 2020—were peaceful, well-administered, and regarded by international observation missions as demonstrating significant progress.1 2 In 2020, a new Electoral Code was adopted and local elections in communities with 10,000 or more voters were held based on a party-list system, which will be further implemented in the 2024 parliamentary elections.
  • In 2021, there were by-elections of People’s Deputies in four single-mandate constituencies on March 28 and October 31, and early mayoral elections in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of 1.4 million. According to the civic monitoring group OPORA, there is proper and sufficient financial and organizational support for election administration. Despite unfavorable conditions for holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, election commissions at all levels ensured the stable organization and conduct of voting.3
  • Elections were held in a competitive environment, though turnout was less than 35 percent.4 According to civic monitors, some of the contests experienced serious violations of Ukrainian law and international standards for democratic elections.5 The most typical violations included the early start of campaigning, disinformation campaigns, misuse of administrative resources, attempts to agitate on election day, and violations of the secret ballot.6
  • The by-elections for People’s Deputies in three out of the four constituencies showed involvement by central-level officials in de facto support for Servant of the People candidates, as well as use of high-profile state programs for campaign purposes.7
  • Contentious elections were held in the single-mandate constituency No. 87 (Nadvirna, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast) in March and mayoral elections in Kharkiv in October. In Nadvirna, the vote tally was so tight among the three leading candidates that it required a recount, followed by police involvement and numerous judicial proceedings,8 including before the Supreme Court.9
  • In Kharkiv, protocols from at least 40 polling stations (out of 605) did not match the Precinct Election Commission’s protocols received from observers immediately after the count.10 After the election, OPORA observers appealed to both the Kharkiv city territorial election commission and the courts, which refused to satisfy these complaints.11 Kharkiv police launched an investigation into the suspected falsification of the vote-counting protocols on November 2.12
  • After the 2020 local elections, the parliamentary Committee on the Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government and Urban Planning began a dialogue on the experience of campaigning in relation to the Electoral Code. A Working Group, including representatives of analytical centers and monitoring organizations,13 was established and held its first meeting in March where proposals for new committee practices foreshadowed an early and comprehensive reform of electoral procedures.14
  • On May 20, the Constitutional Court considered a complaint filed on February 20 by 45 parliamentarians (representing single-member districts) seeking to recognize as unconstitutional the open-list proportional, multi-member system, which allows only nominees from political parties to run in parliamentary elections.15
  • In December, two draft laws were registered in the Rada that aimed to revise the Electoral Code and revert to using the previous parallel electoral system,16 which had been widely criticized for corruption and vote buying. On December 20, Davyd Arakhamia, leader of the Servant of the People faction, stated that “more than 300 MPs will support the return of Ukraine to the parallel system.”17 In response to these legislative initiatives, 27 civil society organizations, including those from the aforementioned Working Group, issued a statement demanding the continuation of the open-list proportional electoral system.18
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 5.005 7.007
  • Ukraine’s civic sector remains one of the most optimistic drivers of democratic change on the national and local levels. The country’s legal framework is largely open to civil society organizations (CSOs) to register and report their activities. In 2021, important legal acts for civil society, youth, minorities, and vulnerable groups were adopted.1 Following the principle of “no decisions for civil society without civil society,” CSOs, the expert community, and officials engaged in developing and discussing these acts both on the central and regional level.2 Additionally, civic activists, experts, and representatives of IDPs were actively involved in development, consultations, and discussions on strategic documents related to the reintegration of Donbas and Crimea, de-occupation peacebuilding, and transitional justice, which were presented or adopted during the year.3
  • Despite the increasing role of civil society in advocacy and policymaking, some attempts to overregulate nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteering were made by particular lawmakers and political factions in the Ukrainian parliament.4 For instance, the Rada attempted in a draft law to restrict volunteering and charity, especially on procedures for hosting foreign volunteers. However, thanks to unified opposition from the civic sector5 and media coverage, the planned October vote on the law was postponed.
  • According to numerous public opinion surveys, the civic sector—namely, volunteers and nonprofit organizations—is more trusted than government institutions.6 Based on 2021 data,7 Ukrainians have significantly increased their level of civic awareness, and, despite the recent hit to mutual trust caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens show a readiness to unite for important causes. Increased awareness, however, does not automatically lead to increased civic participation; the average share of those who participate in CSOs or volunteer activities on a regular basis is 8 to 10 percent.8
  • The other persistent challenge for Ukrainian civil society is financial viability,9 which was partly addressed in 2021. In September, the Ministry of Digital Transformation launched the online tool VzayemoDiya10 (Interaction) for posting all grant competitions from national, regional, and local authorities. Furthermore, a new budgetary institution, Ukrainian Youth Fund, was established by the Ministry of Youth.11
  • Embracing looser quarantine restrictions in 2021, Ukrainian NGOs and initiative groups enjoyed the freedom of assembly, which translated into numerous forums, conferences, and educational and cultural activities, as well as rallies, street marches, and protest demonstrations.12 The annual marches for gender equality13 (March 8) and LGBT+ Pride returned after missing a year in 2020 due to COVID-19. These were held in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Kryviy Rih, and Kherson in July–September. The police effectively protected the participants of mass LGBT+ events.14 Other public demonstrations were similarly held without violent clashes. Yet, while activists feel relatively safe at mass actions and public events, marginalized groups often face bullying and hate speech on social media.15 Watchdog groups reported 108 cases of persecution of activists in Ukraine in 2021, slightly higher than the previous year.16 Activists, most often those who work in the fields of human rights, LGBT+ issues, environmental protection, anticorruption, and illegal construction, experienced property damage (24 incidents), threats (28), and physical attacks (20) during the year.17
  • 1Among the most important input of NGO were the participation in developing of such acts as: the National Human Rights Strategy for 2021-2023 (March, 21) and the Governmental Action Plan for it (June, 23), Law “On Basic Principles of Youth Policy” (April, 27), the Law “On the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” (July 1st), the Strategy for Promoting the Realization of the Rights and Opportunities of Persons belonging to the Roma National Minority (July, 28), The Law "On Advertising on Combating Gender Discrimination" (September, 10), the Law "On Preventing and Counteracting Anti-Semitism in Ukraine,” (September,22) and the National Strategy for Promoting Civil Society Development for 2021-2026 (September, 27).
  • 2For example, the working group that drafted the National Strategy for Promoting Civil Society Development 2021-2026 included over 200 representatives of CSOs. Also, representatives of civil society organizations and individuals were able to join the discussion via more than 40 events, which were attended by 300 participants, including at the regional level and involving local activists online. The strategy includes important tasks intended to enhance mechanisms for public financing for CSOs, civic participation, open government and local democracy. See furthermore: The President of Ukraine signed the National Strategy for Promoting Civil Society Development 2021-2026 CSO Meter for Eastern Partnership. (30.09.2021). URL: https://csometer.info/updates/ukraine-president-ukraine-signed-national…
  • 3See for example: Mapping of Dialogue and Peacebuilding Organizations and Initiatives in Ukraine / Tetiana Kyselova, Andrii Moseiko. — Kyiv, 2021. — 57 p URL: https://md.ukma.edu.ua/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Mapping-of-Peacebuild…
  • 4Most of other bills were not developed to oppress NGOs exclusively, but were related to other spheres, although some provisions of these documents will directly or indirectly affect the activities of CSOs and civil liberties in general. For example, the Bill on supervisory boards of public companies and on beneficiaries of legal entities, obliged all NGOs to resubmit personally the data of their cofounders. Furthermore see: Human Rights Activists Counted 13 Bills Threatening Civil Liberties in Ukraine. IMI (07.02.2022). https://imi.org.ua/en/news/human-rights-activists-counted-13-bills-thre… and Public Statement of Ukrainian Civil Society Organizations on the Definition and State Registration of the Ultimate Beneficial Owners of Civil Society Organizations (30.09.2021). URL: https://cedem.org.ua/news/zayava-kbv/ The list of legal initiatives, negatively affect the civil society could be find here: Activism 2021: A Monitoring Report on the Persecution of Activists and Human Rights Defenders (April-June, 2021) - pp. 9-10. URL: https://zmina.ua/content/uploads/sites/2/2021/05/activizm2021-iien_web… and here: Activism 2021: A Monitoring Report on Persecution of Activists and Human Rights Defenders in the Government-Controlled Territory of Ukraine (July–September 2021) ZMINA. – pp. 9-10. URL: https://zmina.ua/content/uploads/sites/2/2021/11/activizm2021-iiien_v01…
  • 5The position of civil society on the draft law №4521 in support of volunteering. Reanimation Package of Reforms. (13.10.2021). URL:https://rpr.org.ua/en/news/the-position-of-civil-society-on-the-draft-l… Verkhovna Rada Must Reject Draft Law № 4521 Which Harms Volunteer and Charitable Organizations – Joint Statement of The Civil Society Representatives. Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law. (11.10.2021). URL: https://cedem.org.ua/news/zajava-zakonoproekt-4521/
  • 6See, for example: Dynamics of Trust in Social Institutions During 2020-2021: The Results of a Telephone Survey. Kyiv Institute of Sociology. (January 26, 2022). https://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=eng&cat=reports&id=1093&page=1 Democratic Initiatives Foundation. State and social institutions: who do Ukrainians trust and who do not? (30 March 2021). URL: https://dif.org.ua/en/article/state-and-social-institutions-who-do-ukra…
  • 7Civic awareness, engagement and literacy in Ukraine: Trends and lessons 2017-2021. Pact Engage. (08.06.2021). URL: https://www.pactworld.org/library/civic-awareness-engagement-and-litera…
  • 8Missing out on Opportunities? Despite Potential Benefit, Citizens Are Skeptical About Engaging in CSO Activities or Supporting Them Financially. Democratic Initiatives Foundation. (November 15, 2021). URL: https://dif.org.ua/en/article/missing-out-on-opportunities-despite-pote…
  • 9Bidenko Yuliya. The Finances of Civil Society in Ukraine: Key Trends, Models and Obstacles in Achieving Sustainability (2019).URL: https://periodicals.karazin.ua/politology/article/view/15214/14144
  • 10https://vzaemo.diia.gov.ua/
  • 11Ukrainian Youth Found will provide grants on a competitive basis using not only budgetary funds but also accumulate contributions from individuals and legal entities for youth initiatives and organizations. Youth NGOs were actively involved in regional discussion on the regulations and procedures of future granting during October 5-22, 2021. See more: Ministry of Youth and Sports. Regional discussions "Regulations on the Ukrainian Youth Fund" (09.09.2021). URL:https://sport.gov.ua/events/regionalni-obgovorennya-polozhennya-pro-ukr…
  • 12Mostly protests showed dissatisfaction with the court decisions (such as those in support Serhiy Sternenko and Ruslan Demchuk held in February and March), law-enforcement agencies actions or passivity about vocal cases – such as murdering of Kateryna Gandziuk (June), Pavlo Sheremeta (July), Georgy Gongadze (September), uninvestigated for years, or current violence against activists and journalists. Some demonstrations demanded for Zelenky’ and Yermak’ resignation (December 1), or were organized by the veterans and in the framework of the initiative “Against capitulation movement” or in support Crimean Tatars, Belarussian activists on September-October. Protest actions on local level in 2021 also were pretty numerous addressing decisions of regional administrations or local councils related to the heating tariffs in January, social policy and healthcare issues, quarantine restrictions for business (April) and mass vaccination campaign (November).
  • 13Women's marches and actions "for traditional values": photos from six Ukrainian cities Radio Liberty. (8.03.2021). URL: https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/news-marsh-zhinok-8-bereznia/31139988.ht…
  • 14Ukraine: Thousands march for LGBTQ rights. Deutsche Welle. (19.09.2021). URL: https://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-thousands-march-for-lgbtq-rights/a-592324…
  • 15Activism 2021: Monitoring Report on the Persecution of Activists and Human Rights Defenders ZMINA Human Rights Center. (January – June, 2021). URL: https://zmina.ua/en/publication-en/activism-2021-monitoring-report-on-t…
  • 16У 2021 році зафіксували 108 випадків переслідування за громадську діяльність [108 Cases of persecution for public activities were recorded in 2021]. UkrInform. (04.02.2022). URL: https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3397923-u-2021-roci-zafiksuvali…
  • 17Ibidem.
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 3.504 7.007
  • The media environment in Ukraine is complex, diverse, and competitive. Most of the country’s outlets are privately owned by high-profile citizens who often use them for political influence.1 The public broadcaster Suspilne, which has 2 national television channels, 3 radio stations, and 24 regional outlets, competes with national TV channels that altogether have more than 57 percent of audience share2 but remain in the hands of a few influential Ukrainian business persons and politicians. However, there are many online platforms, as well as local and regional media, that uphold high standards of professionalism and integrity and are vital to shaping the domestic political and social debate.
  • Due to the sector’s diversity and competitiveness, a balance of power has emerged in the media system. There have been few legal obstacles for registration or broadcasting. But in 2021, for the first time, sanctions were imposed on Ukrainian media outlets.3 Television providers took channels associated with parliamentarians Viktor Medvedchuk and his ally Taras Kozak (112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK) off the air and, at the request of Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, YouTube blocked their accounts.
  • This decision opened a wide debate within and outside the professional community: on one side, numerous journalists, media experts, and diplomats justified such measures,4 arguing that these channels were instrumental for Russian disinformation5 and “cannot be considered genuine media as they constitute tools of foreign influence operations, and therefore a systemic threat to information security of Ukraine.”6 On the other side, some professional unions and international organizations noted that neither the president nor the NSDC has the constitutional power to ban media, thereby paving the way for attacks on political opponents and freedom of speech in general.7 The Supreme Court is currently considering several cases regarding bans on TV media.8 The channels First Independent and UkrLive, which quickly replaced the removed programming (later purchased by the Medvedchuk associate Nestor Shufrich and using many of the same staff and journalists), were also banned under an NSDC decision enacted by President Zelenskyy on December 28.9
  • In August, the NSDC also imposed a full package of sanctions against the bloggers and politicians Anatoly and Olga Shariy and Igor Guzhva,10 editor-in-chief of the internet outlet Strana.ua. After authorities blocked Strana, the outlet quickly changed its domain name (from Strana.ua to Strana.news). But under pressure from the NSDC, internet providers began blocking the new site as well.11
  • Other than sanctions, Ukrainian media were also impacted by the “deoligarchization” law, adopted on September 23, which addresses media ownership. As a result, former president Petro Poroshenko sold two television stations (5-Channel and Pryamoy) in November to current and former employees in order to comply with the new legislation,12 and the owner of 1+1 TV, Ihor Kolomoisky, stepped down from the broadcaster’s supervisory board on December 8.13
  • In total, 197 violations of journalists’ rights were recorded in Ukraine in 2021 by the Institute of Mass Information.14 To reduce violence against journalists and promote fair investigations of such incidents, the media community, watchdog organizations, and human rights NGOs signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with the Prosecutor General’s Office on September 14. Consequently, investigations into violations of journalists’ rights increased in 2021 by 69 percent over the previous year, but only a small portion were brought to court.15
  • Journalists in Ukraine continued to face pressure or censorship from outlet owners and politicians.16 On August 23–25, more than 30 Ukrainian media published, and then deleted or changed, reporting on a serious traffic accident connected to Servant of the People deputy Oleksandr Trukhin.17 Journalists also faced threats and attacks in 2021. For example, on October 4, Yevhen Metzger, chairman of the state-owned UkrEximbank, caused a scandal when he attacked an investigative journalist from the outlet Schemes in his office.18 The incident received wide coverage, leading to protests by journalists and an international reaction.19
  • On November 8, the Kyiv Post, Ukraine’s oldest English-language newspaper, was abruptly shut down and all of the staff were fired without notification.20 While the outlet later renewed its activity under a new staff,21 many of the former personnel joined a new media venture, the Kyiv Independent.
  • In the latter half of the year, public broadcasters Suspilne22 and Dom23 voiced concerns about political pressure from the President’s Office. Further issues arose amid the reorientation of state-owned Dom and Rada-TV into news channels24 with opaque management25 enacted by the president’s team in December.
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 3.504 7.007
  • After local elections were held in October–November 2020, Ukrainian local self-government got a fresh start from the administrative and political point of view. Administrative changes adopted by the government and the parliament finalized the amalgamation of territorial communities (ATC), replacing 11,978 villages with 1,469 ATCs.1 The number of districts (sub-regional level) was also reduced from 490 to 136. From December 1, 2020, through July 1, 2021, district administrations transferred their properties and functions to the ATCs and newly elected district councils. To sustain these changes, legislation on local self-government and administrations was revised, a State Regional Development Strategy for 2021–27 was developed and adopted in 2020, and the State Fund for Regional Development was provided with 4.5 billion UAH to budget 294 regional projects in 2021.2
  • After an extended period of quarantine restrictions, economic activity in municipalities is gradually recovering.3 Compared to 2020, the volume of incomes to local budgets grew by 23 percent,4 and local funds have increased more than sixfold since 2014, when the reform was launched.5 Due to the updated Strategy, Ukraine is switching from the policy of overcoming unequal development through equalization measures (subsidy-donation system) to a policy of supporting “growth points.”6
  • Decentralization, which included reform of local self-government and the territorial organization of power, specifically aimed to ensure the capacity of ATCs to provide public services. As of the end of 2021, over 2,300 service access points were functioning in Ukraine,7 with some newly constructed or equipped thanks to foreign donor support.8 9
  • The Annual Municipal Survey10 revealed a high level of confidence in the job performance and competences of public officials at the local level. Due to annual monitoring of the 100 biggest cities over three years, the average level of transparency of Ukrainian municipalities has increased by 59.5 percent.11 Yet, despite these positive dynamics, the average level of accountability of the cities is four times as low as their level of transparency. The present autonomy of self-governments to determine particular instruments of local democracy and their level of openness mostly depends on the goodwill of local officials. But the majority of newly formed communities as well as large cities show crucial shifts in implementing participatory budgets, consultative bodies, simplifying procedures of public hearing, and applying local initiatives or petitions.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic forced the digitalization of local democracy instruments in a large number of communities. Numerous towns and villages are now able to use a single hosting platform, such as E-Dem12 (where more than 200 ATCs perform their functions, including 118 with participatory budgets, as of October 15) or the Participatory Budget–Civic Project13 (with over 90 communities); meanwhile, larger cities perform services and participatory budgets via their respective websites.
  • Decentralization appears to be making a positive mark on civic awareness, albeit not specifically mobilizing citizens toward institutional participation. Still, the number of citizens taking part in community life is reportedly growing (from 25 percent in 2017 to 33 percent in 2021), and the level of knowledge about ways that Ukrainians may engage in their communities has grown significantly over recent years.14
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 2.252 7.007
  • The year 2021 was characterized by ongoing tension between the political desire to implement judicial reforms and resistance from the judicial institutions themselves. During the year, the judiciary remained one of the least trusted institutions: 64 percent of Ukrainians believed that bribery is standard practice in the courts, and only 10 percent stated that they fully or mostly trust the judiciary.1
  • The constitutional crisis2 caused by the suspension and criminal prosecution of two judges of the Constitutional Court, Oleksandr Kasminin and Chairman Oleksandr Tupytskyi, in the previous year continued into 2021. On March 27, President Zelenskyy dismissed the judges by revoking his predecessor’s decrees regarding their appointments.3 Both judges challenged the decree in the Supreme Court. On July 14, the Supreme Court found Zelenskyy’s move unlawful and annulled the decree, stating that the president did not have the power to dismiss but only to appoint judges. Of further concern, on July 15, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) opened criminal proceedings for abuse of power against the Supreme Court judges who had rendered the judgment.4 Ignoring these legal proceedings, Zelenskyy, on August 28, created a contest commission to select candidates for replacing Constitutional Court judges,5 and on November 26, he appointed new judges6 despite warnings from legal experts and watchdogs.7 On November 30, the Constitutional Court refused to swear in the new judges appointed by the president.8
  • Concerns over government checks and balances were magnified by reforms instituted in the SSU. The security service reform was identified as much needed and intensely discussed among civil society, experts, and the international community, who pushed for an urgent vote.9 On January 28, a draft law was passed in the first reading, and in October, the second draft was published and a final vote was planned for December. However, troubling antidemocratic provisions were inserted into the draft text between the readings, which civil society pushed back against in extensive public statements,10 11 thereby preventing passage of the bill until there is further revising of those provisions. Human rights watchers warned that the new amendments might dangerously increase SSU powers and could threaten citizens’ fundamental liberties and personal data protection,12 while at the same time eliminating the power of courts in investigations related to security issues.
  • The year’s most promising developments were achieved in the integrity of judicial self-governance bodies as the cornerstone of largescale judicial reform. In July, the Rada backed legislation to relaunch the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ) and High Council of Justice (HCJ).13 The new legislation established the Ethics Council, consisting equally of Ukrainian and foreign experts, which would be responsible for a one-time assessment of compliance with criteria on the professional ethics and integrity of HCJ members. In September–October, however, there were numerous delays and setbacks in the process14 that caused negative reactions from the international community15 as well as local politicians and civil society. On November 8,16 two months after the deadline foreseen by law, the Ethics Council of the HCJ was finally formed and, on December 1, held its initial meeting to adopt core rules and regulations.17
  • In light of the Constitutional Court’s recent opposition to anticorruption and judicial reforms, these positive achievements remained fragile.18 For instance, on October 8, the Plenum of the Supreme Court approved an appeal to the Constitutional Court to verify the constitutionality of “certain provisions” of the law on the procedure for electing and appointing members of the HCJ,19 opening the possibility that the newly adopted legislative acts could be recognized as “unconstitutional.”
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 2.252 7.007
  • Ukraine’s anticorruption system, though impacted by the ongoing conflict between the executive and judicial branches from October 2020, began to be restored and reconsolidated in 2021.1 In June, the Rada approved a new bill resurrecting obligatory electronic reporting for public servants and strengthening liabilities for untruthful financial declarations. Initially, lawmakers had passed legislation that allowed for the exemption of property owned by public servants’ family members, thereby making prosecution more difficult. But after receiving critical expertise from anticorruption bodies,2 and public outcry,3 President Zelenskyy vetoed the law.4 On June 29, the law was passed with the president’s amendments,5 establishing criminal liability for data falsification.
  • Similar events transpired over legislation on political party financing aimed at reducing political corruption. The legislation was approved by the Rada on November 2, but after a negative reaction from the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) and more than 50 NGOs,6 Zelenskyy vetoed the law on November 19.7 COVID-19 quarantine measures allowed political parties to forgo submission of obligatory quarterly reports; meanwhile, parliamentary parties still enjoyed state budgeting that exceeded 700 million UAH during 2021.8 In May, the NAPC launched Politdata, a register of political party reports, and instructed parties to submit their reports electronically. But as of December, fewer than 30 parties (out of 380 registered) had submitted financial reports voluntarily.9
  • A number of high-profile corruption cases were addressed by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) in 2021,10 including those against ousted president Yanukovych and his son,11 the former CEO of PrivatBank,12 parliamentarians,13 judges,14 heads of state-owned enterprises, and local officials in Kharkiv15 and Odesa.16 The December 15 launch of eCase, an interdepartmental management system for electronic criminal proceedings, has enhanced cooperation between government agencies and stands among the year’s achievements.
  • However, since their establishment, anticorruption institutions have faced attempts to weaken their independence and institutional capacity. For more than a year, SAPO has had no full-fledged head, which has undermined the effectiveness of criminal investigations conducted by the NABU, since the center for making key procedural decisions in corruption cases moved from SAPO to the Prosecutor General’s Office.17 A competition to fill the position of SAPO head began in January but had not wrapped up by year’s end. There were attempts to reactivate the process during the year, which faced resistance from members of the selection commission at every stage of the competition18 and finally failed due to the controversial decision by the Kyiv Administrative Court on December 20 deeming the entire selection procedure illegitimate.19
  • In late September, the European Court of Auditors issued a report20 criticizing the ineffectiveness of the European Union’s anticorruption initiatives in Ukraine. Auditors stated that the “existing environment in Ukraine puts the sustainability of anti-corruption institutions at risk, as they still rely on the unreformed judicial, prosecution, and law-enforcement sectors.”21
  • Public opinion data from 2021 suggest that corruption has become the number one concern for the country (49 percent consider corruption the most important issue for the state).22 About 70 percent consider efforts by state agencies as ineffective, while citizens (67 percent), media (41.7 percent), and NGOs (39.7 percent) have the strongest perceived “willingness to overcome corruption.” At the same time, the general public’s direct experience of corruption decreased during the year. Fewer Ukrainians faced extortion in 2021 compared to 2018 (19.4 percent versus 36.8 percent, respectively) or used their personal connections (12.5 percent versus 17 percent), while the offer of petty bribes slightly increased from 11.6 percent in 2018 to 14.6 percent in 2021.23 During the year, Ukrainians appeared not to be as pessimistic about opportunities for citizens to address corruption as before. The share of those who believe that citizens “can do nothing to influence the level of corruption” shrunk twofold (from 34.8 percent in 2018 to 17.5 percent in 2021).24

Author:

Yuliya Bidenko (MA in Sociology, PhD in Political Science) is Associate Professor and chair of the Master’s program Global Studies and World Politics at Political Science Department, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University. She is the expert for the EU Delegation to Ukraine’s Team Europe Initiative. Among her research interests are the development of regimes, identities and civil society in Central and Eastern Europe, decentralization and participatory democracy, political parties, and elections.

Due to the Russia-Ukraine war since March 2022, she is temporary displaced from her home-city Kharkiv but continues to teach courses at Karazin University in a distance-learning format.

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