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Ukraine Ensures Participants in Women’s Day ‘Protected from Violence’

Last year, Koval was “attacked with red paint by members of a violent group at the solidarity event and sustained burns to her eyes"

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Police clash with far-right activists after they attacked LGBT participants during a march to mark International Women's Day in Kyiv on March 8, 2018. RFERL

Amnesty International is urging the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that participants in events marking International Women’s Day on March 8 are “protected from violence.”

One of these events, dubbed The First Wreath: The Reunion Of Women’s Solidarity, is organized by activist Vitalina Koval and Amnesty International Ukraine in the western city of Uzhhorod.

For the past two years, feminist events organized by Koval on International Women’s Day have been met with violence from far-right groups, the London-based human rights watchdog said in a statement on March 7.

Last year, Koval was “attacked with red paint by members of a violent group at the solidarity event and sustained burns to her eyes,” it added.

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human rights violations committed last year against rights activists — in particular those defending the rights of women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community — political opponents, and ethnic minorities. Pixabay

The Ukrainian authorities’ “failure to ensure adequate protection” has led to “injuries to peaceful attendees at solidarity events,” said Oksana Pokalchuk, director of Amnesty International Ukraine.

“They have no excuse to fail again,” Pokalchuk added, urging the authorities to “take every reasonable measure to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and the safety of participants in events marking International Women’s Day across the country.”

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In February, Ukraine Amnesty International blasted the Ukrainian authorities’ failure to prevent or investigate “numerous” human rights violations committed last year against rights activists — in particular those defending the rights of women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community — political opponents, and ethnic minorities.

“Hate-motivated groups in Ukraine who attack human rights activists, political opponents, and ethnic minorities believe they can do so with impunity, and the authorities’ past inaction and ineffective investigations have bolstered this belief,” according to Pokalchuk. (RFERL)

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Ukraine Fears Mariupol City would be Next to Fall to Russian-Backed Rebel Forces

Moscow's detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors seized in a naval clash just offshore in November underlines the continued threat

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The Illich Iron & Steel Works factory in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 30, 2018. VOA

At the height of the conflict in 2014, the people of Mariupol, Ukraine, feared their city would be the next to fall to Russian-backed rebel forces.

The threat of annexation by Moscow has subsided for now. But the front line lies just six kilometers (3.7 miles) to the east — and the conflict continues to have a big impact on everyday life in the city.

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A Ukrainian serviceman stands on board a coast guard ship in the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Moscow’s detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors seized in a naval clash just offshore in November underlines the continued threat.

Faced with such challenges, how do the people of Mariupol view Sunday’s presidential election? And who holds the key to ending the conflict? Amid the election campaigns, frustration and exhaustion are palpable.

“I like any of the candidates, but not the one who is in power now. We need more authority for us to have peace, for our economy to grow, for us to be prosperous,” Mariupol resident Tatyana told VOA.

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Supporters attend a campaign rally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the western city of Lviv on March 28, 2019, ahead of the presidential election on March 31. VOA

Aleksandr Sidorov, a soldier on leave from the front line, believes the next president can do little about the war with Russia. He’s focused on domestic issues.

“The main issue for me is for all the corrupt people to be imprisoned,” he said.

Young mother Alina Arabadzhi plans to vote for comedian-turned-presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Why Zelensky? Because it is a new face. Because he has no vested interests. He hasn’t been in politics a single day,” she said.

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FILE – Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a Ukrainian comic actor, is a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. VOA

The war is having a huge effect on the local economy. Mariupol used to be an export hub for the Donbas region, Ukraine’s former industrial powerhouse. Most of that region is now controlled by Russian-backed separatists and has been all but cut off.

Two giant steel plants still dominate Mariupol’s skyline, bringing prosperity but also choking pollution. The products are shipped around the world from the nearby port. However, since its forceful seizure of Crimea in 2014, Russia controls shipping access to the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait — effectively giving it a stranglehold on a key artery of Mariupol’s economy.

The director of the port, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, said he is losing over $7.5 million a year in business.

“Starting in April 2018, Russia started to search all the ships which enter the Azov Sea to reach Ukrainian ports. Then after loading, they check them again when they return back to the Black Sea. The waiting time, the route time, has increased, and it’s had a great financial impact on our export clients,” Aleksandrovich told VOA.

Amid the upheaval, there has been progress in some areas. The organization, Halabuda, began as a group of volunteers taking supplies to soldiers on the front line. It has now morphed into an advice group for residents and businesses.

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Cranes are seen in the Azov Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine, Dec. 2, 2018. VOA

“A question that concerns every single citizen of Ukraine is corruption. Compared to the corruption in law enforcement that we had five years ago, now after the reforms, we nearly eradicated corruption at the level of the traffic police,” said Halabuda founder Dmitry Chichera.

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Corruption and conflict: generational challenges with no easy answers. The people of Mariupol are desperate for change and for the war to end. They know that whoever becomes president, the threat from the east is unlikely to end anytime soon. (VOA)