Ukraine | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Ukraine continues to recover from the disorder that surrounded the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency in 2014, as well as the related crisis sparked by Russia’s occupation of Crimea and military support for separatists in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine. The authorities’ failure to prosecute extensive high-level corruption has undermined the popularity of the government and affected reform efforts in a wide range of sectors. In the sphere of civil liberties, political pressure and attacks on journalists have threatened freedom of the press.

Key Developments: 
  • Amid extended political deadlock over reform and anticorruption efforts, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned in April at the request of President Petro Poroshenko. Volodymyr Groysman, a close Poroshenko ally, replaced Yatsenyuk.
  • The front lines in the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk remained largely unchanged during the year, with only minor outbreaks of combat between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, and significantly fewer casualties than in 2014 or 2015.
  • In July, a car bomb killed prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv, heightening concerns about the safety and freedom of journalists. Several other media professionals and organizations—in both government-controlled and separatist-held areas—faced violence, threats, and harassment during the year.
  • Strong protection from security forces ensured that a Kyiv LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) pride parade could proceed without violence in June, though some other LGBT events outside the capital were threatened or attacked.
Executive Summary: 

Political infighting consumed much of the early months of 2016. President Poroshenko requested the resignation of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk in February, but failed to gather the necessary support in the parliament, where Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front is the second-largest party. Yatsenyuk resigned in April, along with many ministers who were outspoken advocates of reform, and was replaced by Groysman. The Yatsenyuk government had achieved notable reforms in the gas and banking sectors, and Groysman moved ahead with changes in the electricity sector, eliminating some opportunities for corruption. In June, the parliament passed long-promised legislation aimed at increasing independence and reducing malfeasance in the judiciary. Nevertheless, other anticorruption efforts moved slowly throughout the year.

The Minsk II agreement, a cease-fire deal brokered by France and Germany in early 2015, remained formally in effect in 2016, but low-intensity combat continued along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine. In a December 2016 report, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted that at least 9,733 people had been killed and more than 22,000 wounded in Ukraine from the outbreak of the conflict in April 2014 to November 2016. In April, the Ministry of Social Policy reported that it had registered approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Crimea and the Donbas. IDPs continued to experience difficulties in accessing public services in 2016.

The situation in the Donbas separatist entities, the self-styled Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), remained unstable, with several killings and arrests among the rebel leadership. Following an alleged coup attempt against Luhansk leader Igor Plotnitsky in August, the separatist leaders purged dozens of political and military personnel. In October, a bomb killed Arsen Pavlov, a Russian national and one of the most prominent separatist military leaders in Donetsk. Local elections and administration in these two regions remained contentious issues. In October, despite some preparation by separatist authorities in both Donetsk and Luhansk, the regions’ leaders announced the cancelation of voting, which had been scheduled for November. Details about the framework and conduct of future elections in separatist-held areas were still unclear at year’s end.

The Ukrainian government made little progress in meeting domestic and international demands to investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the last months of the Yanukovych administration in late 2013 and early 2014, which included the shooting of protesters.

Explanatory Note: 

The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Crimea, which is examined in a separate report. Freedom in the World country reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers. Disputed territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons. For more information, see the report methodology and FAQ.

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