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President Zelensky’s evolution: One step forward, two steps back

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President Zelensky’s course is levelling off – it is evolving to match the “traditional Ukrainian reality.” However, Zelensky started his presidency by swimming against the current, which became clear from his election statements.

From the very outset, the voices of those who believed in him, who admired the novelty of his program, were louder than those of the skeptics. This was because Zelensky did inspire a hope which was essential for most Ukrainians, so tired of economic problems, of the conflict in the southeast and the never-ending hysteria on the Ukrainian political scene.

Minsk Agreements

In order to secure implementation of all the declared changes in foreign policy, which focused, first of all, on the pursuit of the Minsk Agreements, Zelensky had to go against the nationalist mainstream in the country, as well as against the policy of his Western sponsors regarding Russia.

Consequently, we can assume that while making high-profile promises to settle the conflict in the Donbass, to “reintegrate the Donbass”, Zelensky knew only too well that in the conditions of Ukrainian political reality the only thing he could achieve was a truce and an exchange of prisoners. Although we cannot rule out political romanticism and lack of experience, which inspired hopes for more. 

In September 2019, it became clear that Zelensky was determined not to ignore the Minsk Agreements, like his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, who, nevertheless, had signed these agreements, but to revise them. It was this revision that the efforts of the Ukrainian side in the contact group were set on at meetings of political advisers to the heads of state of the Normandy Four. At first, Zelensky mentioned the “Steinmeier Formula”, then came the “Zelensky Formula”, which was not articulated properly.

The much-anticipated meeting of the Normandy Four in December 2019 was approached by Zelensky with a rhetoric which was based not so much on the rejection of the “Steinmeier Formula” as on the revision of the Minsk Agreements. In the course of the summit the parties came to agreement on:

• the implementation of the “Steinmeier Formula”;

• further steps towards the withdrawal of troops;

• expanding the OSCE mandate – 24-hour ceasefire monitoring

• the exchange of hostages.

The parties to the talks failed to agree:

• on amnesty;

• on how to control the border despite the agreement on the “Steinmeier Formula”;

• on what it means to grant special status to the republics of Donbass;

• on the need for a direct dialogue between Kiev and the republics of Donbass. 

The positions on which the managed to reach agreement comprise relations between Ukraine and other states, foreign policy, whereas what they could not agree on is Zelensky’s domestic and anti-Russian maneuver.

What makes this maneuver particularly strange is that it is at odds with a Steinmeier Formula paragraph on border control. As it turns out, Zelensky agrees to act on all of the formula’s provisions except one key point without which it loses its meaning.

On another point – what a special status of the republics of Donbass means – Ukraine began diplomatic, or rather, domestic political games before the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group ahead of the H4 summit. Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadim Pristayko said that Donbass should not expect any special status, while the special status of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) as part of Ukraine could take effect only within the framework of a decentralization policy and without amending the country’s Constitution. Later events confirmed Ukraine’s intention to sabotage the Minsk Agreements regarding a special status for the DPR and LPR.

The reasons for this position on the part of Zelensky, his administration and ministers are that Ukraine is so affected by the peculiarities of the internal political process that its leadership is not ready to take action on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. In addition, despite the majority in parliament and the opportunity to use national resources to cement power, it fears that there will appear nationalists, who, as has already happened before, can become an instrument of political struggle.

Economy

The economic sphere did not become a breakthrough area in solving Ukrainian problems. Many of Zelensky’s campaign promises remained unfulfilled for  resource-related, political, or other reasons. Pledges such as “long-term low-cost loans,” “building roads in line with European standards,” “providing all citizens with access to high-speed Internet,” etc. ,  will apparently remain only words on his election program, as they run counter to the interests of Ukrainian oligarchs. There were also statements that, being ever-greens for presidential programs in Ukraine, nevertheless, each time caused battles but were not translated into life by any of the predecessors. Zelensky’s program included a provision on the “formation of a free land market”, which turned into a land reform, which had already been  voted on in the first reading and the pursuit of which will make it possible to obtain external resources to support the Ukrainian economy and secure the fulfillment of social commitments by the state. What is meant is the IMF loans. After voting on land laws, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Alexey Goncharuk outlined plans for the future openly expressing hopes for financial assistance: “Ukraine has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate the rapid and successful implementation of the reforms declared by the president, our government, and parliament. In recent weeks, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill on trade in agricultural lands and approved in principle a bill on “unbundling”, which has already been signed by the president. Therefore, we hope to agree on a new long-term program of extended financing [from the IMF-D.B.], which will back our efforts to accelerate economic growth. ”

The land reform will create, on the one hand, the conditions for providing Ukrainian agro-holdings with more land plots, while, on the other hand, it can lead to foreign expansion into the Ukrainian land market, which will fall under the control of foreign companies. These companies will be able to determine the range and fate of Ukrainian agricultural products not only in foreign markets, but also in the domestic one.

The Ukrainian society and political forces have reacted to the land reform with protests, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland faction has switched to the opposition,  Chairman of the presidential party, Servant of the People, Alexander Kornienko, has expressed fears commenting on the land reform in the second reading: “I think we will face rallies, provocations, and most likely, attacks on the deputies.”

Such fears are far from groundless. According to research by the sociological group “Rating” conducted in October 2019, 53% of Ukrainians are against the lifting of the moratorium on the launch of a free land market, 31% are in favor. Most citizens oppose the sale of land to foreigners – 69%. Deputies continue to consider the land law parallel to the continuing protests under the Ukrainian parliament building.

Law on Language

In January, the Ukrainian MPs, the majority of them being members of Zelensky’s “Servant of the People” Party, adopted a law on education that discriminates against the Russian language and minority languages. This is suggestive of Zelensky’s evolution in the direction of the so-called “Ukrainian national patriotism.” This takes place despite the fact that he became president to a large extent thanks to the support of Russian-speaking communities in the south and east of Ukraine.

History and  memory

Unlike the  onslaught on the language which can be seen, no matter how sad it may sound, as the traditional policy, the issue of historical memory takes Zelensky’s evolution to a new level and cause serious damage to the president’s image as a leader who pledged to restore peace in Ukrainian lands and in the souls of Ukrainians .

On January 27, while visiting Poland on the occasion of the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Vladimir Zelensky de facto accused the Soviet Union, as one of the parties, of unleashing the Second World War. He put the liberation of the death camp to the credit of the Ukrainians: “We will never forget Igor Pobirchenko, the commander of the T-34 tank, who, together with the crew, was the first to break into Auschwitz; all soldiers of the shock battalion of the 100th Lviv division, who entered the camp under the leadership of a Poltava resident of Jewish origin Anatoly Shapiro. Together with the soldiers of the 322nd Division of the 1st Ukrainian Front, they set it free.”

Apparently, according to the “cunning” plan by Zelensky, his advisers and speechwriters, the names of the division and of the front — Lvov and 1st Ukrainian — should be enough for the ill-informed Western public to assume that it was the Ukrainians liberated the camp. Such details as the fact that all the above-mentioned military units were part of the Red Army and included representatives of different nationalities, were ignored completely – they do not fit into the logic of his speech, particularly, his statement that the Holocaust resulted from a conspiracy plan between Germany and the Soviet Union.  That’s it – no more, no less!

This is not just a fraud or suppression of facts – it is an attempt to falsify history. There is no need to hurt the feelings of “Western democracies” and recall the Munich agreement of 1938, to recall that anti-Jewish laws were adopted in the Third Reich back in 1935, and that Jewish pogroms took place in 1938. And what Zelensky described as a “conspiracy” between the USSR and Germany in 1939 was the Non-Aggression Pact.

How can one account for such an interpretation of history from a head of state? One thing is clear: President Zelensky went through a severe reform school in Ukraine and in the West and has learned his lessons well – the Third Reich was defeated, the Soviet Union ceased to exist, so you can easily make them accountable for everything, and after diplomatic battles with Poland over honoring the “heroes” from among “Ukrainian nationalists” – make Poland a “present”- a statement that coincides with the position of Warsaw.

Apparently, this is not what a significant part of Ukrainian voters, primarily in the south-east of Ukraine, who voted for Zelensky, expected to hear from a front-line soldier’s grandson. By and large, the president of Ukraine had no political reason to make such a bow of reverence in relation to Poland.

Summary

This and other steps by President Zelensky are clear signs of an ongoing transformation. Highly unlikely that Zelensky has no idea what he is doing and saying. Nor is it likely that he does not understand the consequences of all this. Obviously, this shows his intention to worsen confrontation between Kiev and Moscow. If that is your choice, Mr. President, go ahead.

Zelensky has failed to turn the boiling nationalist oil of Ukrainian politics into a warm bath for himself. Rather, he expects this “boiling oil” to become his “warm bath”. He came to power thanks to powerful electoral support and well-known slogans. But, unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself. Candidate Zelensky once stated that, unlike the then President Poroshenko, he intended to “sit down at the negotiating table with Russia,” bring peace to the Donbass, and much more. Now more and more events and facts add to the opinion that Zelensky may follow the political trajectory of his predecessor, whose supporters has dropped in number to the level of a “Poroshenko sect”. 

From our partner International Affairs

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Eastern Europe

Prospects of Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement

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Potential Armenia-Turkey rapprochement could have a major influence on South Caucasus geopolitics. The opening of the border would allow Turkey to have a better connection with Azerbaijan beyond the link it already has with the Nakhchivan exclave. Moscow will not be entirely happy with the development as it would allow Yerevan to diversify its foreign policy and decrease dependence on Russia in economy. The process nevertheless is fraught with troubles as mutual distrust and the influence of the third parties could complicate the nascent rapprochement.

Over the past month Armenian and Turkish officials exchanged positive statements which signaled potential rapprochement between the two historical foes. For instance, the Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said that he was ready for reconciliation with Turkey “without preconditions.” “Getting back to the agenda of establishing peace in the region, I must say that we have received some positive public signals from Turkey. We will assess these signals, and we will respond to positive signals with positive signals,” the PM stated. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara could work towards gradual normalization if Yerevan “declared its readiness to move in this direction.”

On a more concrete level Armenia has recently allowed Turkish Airlines to fly to Baku directly over Armenia. More significantly, Armenia’s recently unveiled five-year government action plan, approved by Armenia’s legislature, states that “Armenia is ready to make efforts to normalize relations with Turkey.” Normalization, if implemented in full, would probably take the form of establishing full-scale diplomatic relations. More importantly, the five-year plan stresses that Armenia will approach the normalization process “without preconditions” and says that establishing relations with Turkey is in “the interests of stability, security, and the economic development of the region.”

So far it has been just an exchange of positive statements, but the frequency nevertheless indicates that a certain trend is emerging. This could lead to intensive talks and possibly to improvement of bilateral ties. The timing is interesting. The results of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war served as a catalyzer. Though heavily defeated by Azerbaijan, Armenia sees the need to act beyond the historical grievances it holds against Turkey and be generally more pragmatic in foreign ties. In Yerevan’s calculation, the improvement of relations with Ankara could deprive Baku of some advantages. Surely, Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance will remain untouched, but the momentum behind it could decrease if Armenia establishes better relations with Turkey. The latter might not be as strongly inclined to push against Armenia as it has done so far, and specifically during the second Nagorno-Karabakh war. The willingness to improve the bilateral relations has been persistently expressed by Ankara over the past years. Perhaps the biggest effort was made in 2009 when the Zurich Protocols were signed leading to a brief thaw in bilateral relations. Though eventually unsuccessful (on March 1, 2018, Armenia announced the cancellation of the protocols), Ankara has often stressed the need of improvement of ties with Yerevan without demanding preconditions.

Beyond the potential establishment of diplomatic relations, the reopening of the two countries’ border, closed from early 1990s because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkey’s solidarity with and military and economic support for Azerbaijan, could also be a part of the arrangement. The opening of the 300 km border running along the Armenian regions of Shirak, Aragatsotn, Armavir, and Ararat could be a game-changer. The opening up of the border is essentially an opening of the entire South Caucasus region. The move would provide Armenia with a new market for its products and businesses. In the longer term it would allow the country to diversify its economy, lessen dependence on Russia and the fragile route which goes through Georgia. The reliance on the Georgian territory could be partially substituted by Azerbaijan-Armenia-Turkey route, though it should be also stressed that the Armenia transit would need considerable time to become fully operational.

Economic and connectivity diversification equals the diminution of Russian influence in the South Caucasus. In other words, the closed borders have always constituted the basis of Russian power in the region as most roads and railways have a northward direction. For Turkey an open border with Armenia is also beneficial as it would allow a freer connection with Azerbaijan. Improving the regional links is a cornerstone of Turkey’s position in the South Caucasus. In a way, the country has acted as a major disruptor. Through its military and active economic presence Turkey opens new railways and roads, thus steadily decreasing Russian geopolitical leverage over the South Caucasus.

As mentioned, both Ankara and Yerevan will benefit from potential rapprochement. It is natural to suggest that the potential improvement between Turkey and Armenia, Russia’s trustful ally, would not be possible without Moscow’s blessing. Russia expressed readiness to help Armenia and Turkey normalize their relations, saying that would boost peace and stability in the region. “Now too we are ready to assist in a rapprochement between the two neighboring states based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said. Yet, it is not entirely clear how the normalization would suit Russia’s interests. One possibility is that the Armenia-Turkey connection would allow Russia to have a direct land link with Turkey via Azerbaijan and Armenia. However, here too the benefits are doubtful. The route is long and will likely remain unreliable. For Russia trade with Turkey via the Black Sea will remain a primary route.

Presenting a positive picture in the South Caucasus could however be a misrepresentation of real developments on the ground. The Armenian-Turkish rapprochement is far from being guaranteed because of ingrained distrust between the two sides. Moreover, there is also the Azerbaijani factor. Baku will try to influence Ankara’s thinking lest the rapprochement goes against Azerbaijan’s interests. Moreover, as argued above, Russia too might not be entirely interested in the border opening. This makes the potential process of normalization fraught with numerous problems which could continuously undermine rapport improvement.

Thus, realism drives Turkish policy toward Armenia. Ankara needs better connections to the South Caucasus. Reliance on the Georgian transit route is critical, but diversification is no less important. The results of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war present Turkey and Armenia with an opportunity to pursue the improvement of bilateral ties. Yet, the normalization could be under pressure from external players and deep running mutual distrust. Moreover, the two sides will need to walk a tightrope as a potential blowback from nationalist forces in Turkey and Armenia can complicate the process.

Author’s note: first published in caucasuswatch

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Tighter Ties with China Signal Ukraine’s Multi-Vector Foreign Policy

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine is eager to cut deals with China as it confronts the West’s moves to allay Russian concerns. Whether Kyiv’s moves are a sign of a larger foreign policy adjustment or just a bluff aimed to mitigate faltering ties with the EU and the US, they could beget big consequences.

‘Chinese Card’

On June 30, Ukraine touted an agreement with China, which proposes revamping the country’s decrepit infrastructure. The decision comes following a US-German resolution to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite longstanding concerns of Kyiv and other CEE nations. Yet, perhaps the biggest motivation was the growing unwillingness in the West to advance Ukraine’s NATO/EU aspirations.

The current state of affairs pushes Ukraine to find alternatives in foreign policy. China, with plenty of cash and political clout, comes as an obvious choice resulting in the signing of the bilateral agreement in June. The document outlines China’s willingness to invest in railways, airports, and ports, as well as telecommunications infrastructure across Ukraine. But otherwise, the agreement details few specifics.

The available details from the deal fit comfortably into the pattern China has been following across Eurasia. For example, China signed similar deals with Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia among others, demonstrating its willingness to penetrate those states’ vital infrastructure. Still, the documents can be also characterized as an umbrella agreement that serves as a roadmap rather than an accord listing concrete details and commitments.

The China-Ukraine agreement is all the more surprising as Kyiv rebuffed earlier this year a Chinese proposal to buy a Ukrainian aerospace company, Motor Sich.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons behind the rapprochement. First and foremost, it is about Ukraine adjusting its foreign policy stance to the state of economic relations. China is now Ukraine’s biggest single-country trade partner outstripping Russia and having a 14.4 percent share of the country’s imports and 15.3 percent of its exports. Perhaps fearful of possible Chinese countermeasures over the Motor Sich decision, Kyiv has been open to mending ties with Beijing with the June agreement.

Secondly, it paves the way for a more active role in China’s near-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims at connecting China with the European market across the heart of Eurasia. Ukraine was among the first to endorse the initiative but has avoided signing memorandums on cooperation similar to what China has done with many others.

More immediately, the tilt toward China follows Kyiv’s decision to remove its name from an international statement about human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang. While Ukraine initially joined the initiative, together with 40 other states, Kyiv abruptly changed its mind on June 24. It has been confirmed that the withdrawal followed Chinese threats to limit trade and deny access to COVID-19 vaccines for which Ukraine had already paid.

Multi-Vector Policy

Some larger geopolitical dynamics are also at play, such as Kyiv’s attempt to acclimate to the changing world order and the growing global competition between Beijing and Washington. In this environment, Ukraine might want to carve out an equidistant place between the two powers so as to avoid possible backlash from siding clearly with either of them.

As such, Ukraine appears to be embarking on a multi-vector foreign policy. It would allow Kyiv to alleviate its dependence on the West and seek lucrative economic and political ties with large Eurasian states. Put simply, relations with the West did not deliver on the expected benefits. The country was not offered NATO or EU accession, while the collective West’s consistent concessions to Russia undermine Ukraine’s interests. Ukraine has also often tended to look at China and other Eurasian powers from the ‘Western perspective’, which limited its options.

In Kyiv’s understanding, elimination of this obstructive dependence would enable it to find new partners able to bring in investments and ideally political support in multilateral organizations. China undoubtedly can be such a partner.

Kyiv’s calculations are more understandable when taken in view of its larger diplomatic readjustment in the region. For example, Ukraine recently began building closer relations with another Eurasian power in Turkey. When Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited Istanbul in April 2021, nascent bilateral military ties were seen as a new chapter in the countries’ relations. Most indicative of this shift, a memorandum was signed on the creation of joint defense-industrial projects, which includes joint development of unmanned aerial vehicles in Ukraine.

The story of Turkey could serve as a microcosm, whereby Kyiv displayed that it is more interested in balancing the pressure from Russia and mitigating the failures in its pro-Western foreign policy course. Ukraine thus foreshadowed its increasingly multi-vector foreign policy as a solution to its geopolitical problems. In Kyiv’s understanding, rapprochement with China and Turkey could mitigate threats emanating from Russia as both Beijing and Ankara enjoy closer ties with Moscow, but nonetheless consider it a competitor.

The multi-vector foreign policy for Ukraine however does not mean abandoning its pro-Western cause. It rather involves seeing its NATO/EU aspirations as complementary with the closer economic ties with China and others. It will require an agile foreign policy and leveraging the country’s geopolitical assets.

New Type of Bilateral Relations 

Ukraine’s behavior might herald the birth of what could be characterized as a Eurasian model of bilateral relations. Across the continent, the notion of traditional alliances is being gradually replaced by partnerships. Devoid of formal obligations, China, Iran, Turkey and Russia find more space for interaction and see a larger pool of opportunities across the vastness of the supercontinent. Bigger maneuverability makes their foreign policy more agile in finding a common ground for cooperation.

The Eurasian model is a byproduct of an evolving global order in which each state with geopolitical influence recalibrates its foreign ties to fit into the post-unipolar world. Russia and China officially refuse to have an alliance – indeed, they claim an alliance would undermine their purportedly benevolent intentions toward one another. More specifically, the concept relates to how China sees the future world order. It opposes alliances – the ‘relic’ from the Cold War era.

Thus, the shift in Kyiv’s foreign policy could be part of this Eurasian trend where Ukraine seeks to construct its Asia policy which would better correspond to the unfolding China-US competition, Asia’s economic rise, and most of all, the failure to become a NATO or EU member state.

Reality Check

However, closer ties with China and most of all the dependence on Beijing’s investments also involves risks. China’s infrastructure projects are mostly financed through loans, which poorer and weaker countries are unable to repay. Often, ownership of the sites ends up in Chinese hands.

Chinese involvement in Ukraine’s critical infrastructure could also risk giving control over strategic technologies to Beijing, which would be channeled to China and successfully used to advance Chinese interests.

For Kyiv, dependence on Beijing also involves risks because of China’s close partnership with Russia. Dangers could be manifested in a concerted pressure on Ukraine in international organizations, or even China heeding Russian fears and abandoning infrastructure projects which would harm Russian interests.

The June agreement is an umbrella deal that lays out the foundation for deeper cooperation, but in no way guarantees its fulfillment. This could mean that Ukraine only sought to restore worsening bilateral relations with China following the Motor Sich saga. Alternatively, Kyiv might merely be trying to raise stakes in its stagnated relations with the West and hold Washington to account, signaling that it can successfully navigate between geopolitical poles if need be. One way or another, China looks set to play a bigger role in Ukraine‘s foreign policy.

Author’s note: first published at chinaobservers

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Ukraine’s independence: Shaping new political narratives through art

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Ukraine’s 30th Independence Anniversary brings forth a discussion on forming a modern cultural identity in the wake of political instability.  

Despite gaining independence 30 years ago, Ukraine is still facing consistent attacks on its sovereignty, both political and cultural. From the ongoing war with Russia in Eastern Ukraine, where 10,000 people have lost their lives since 2014, down to the root of oversimplification of Ukrainian issues in the media, Ukraine’s story is often being told by opponents attempting to distort the modern Ukrainian cultural identity.

My first-hand experience working with kids at the Ukrainian warzone has taught me a deep appreciation for cultural independence. For five years together with youngsters I wrote, directed and staged a performance piece titled ‘Contact Line’ about life at the warzone and personally witnessed the huge impact of arts and culture on the kids’ lives. This experience demonstrated that for too long Ukraine has let someone else present its identity to its youth, citizens and the world.

Shaking away the Soviet legacy

There’s no denying that the Soviet Union left a lasting legacy on Ukraine. The culture of Ukraine is to this day tainted by lingering ghosts of the Soviet past. Soviet authorities vigorously supressed the development of independent cultural identities in all the member states. In Ukraine’s case, simplistic rural folklore was imposed on society as a primary culture and was a means of suppressing creative or progressive thought. National collectives and one-dimensional traditional themes were presented as the essence of Ukrainian culture throughout the 20th century. Anyone who didn’t fit the Soviet mould was eliminated. A specific term, Executed Renaissance, is used to define a generation of Ukrainian artists who were repressed by the Soviet regime for their artistic non-conformism.

It has taken decades for Ukraine to regain its cultural voice and iron out its Soviet imprint. A key concept of postcolonial theory examines the creative resistance to the colonizers’ culture and the fraught slow development of a postcolonial identity. Ukraine has been struggling through this process for 30 years. However, since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity the country has been reimagining its culture, exploring its history and reconnecting with its identity. Ukraine is now striving to be on par with Western culture by ridding itself of remaining Soviet influences. Cultural institutions previously under government control or censorship are finding an independent voice and the population is discovering that authentic artistic expression is providing hope in difficult times. 

Looking at the future

Over the past 10 years, Ukraine has witnessed a robust change in the arts sector. The cultural scene has made a significant move away from a conservative ethos to a more contemporary one. Visual arts are the most progressive form of expression in Ukraine, with cinema rapidly catching up. Ukrainian filmmakers are winning awards at the Cannes Film Festival and Ukrainian artists are receiving praise at La Biennale di Venezia. The expectation is that this trend will not only magnify in the coming years, but also position Ukrainian artists as global creative trailblazers. 

Despite ballet being an extremely politicised art form during the Soviet period, it is now going through a revival and modernisation. The Ukrainain school of ballet is gaining recognition as one of the world’s best and Ukrainian ballet dancers are headlining the top ballet companies across the globe, showcasing their immense talent and training. British audiences will have an opportunity to watch the best Ukrainian ballet dancers from the world’s top theatres come together for a one-off unique performance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London on September 7th.

Georgian-American ballet choreographer George Balanchine famously said, “Ballet will speak for itself,” and the artform remains a true demonstration of the universal language of dance. The Ukrainian Ballet Gala will be a showcase of the innovation and traditions of the contemporary Ukrainian ballet school.

Global cultural promotion

In a globalised world it’s the wish of every country to promote and engage in cultural exchanges, and Ukraine is very much part of this movement. Ukraine wants to be an active player on the world stage, both politically and culturally, and to be a dynamic culture creator, particularly in Europe. Trust in soft diplomacy is growing and Ukraine’s international relations and diplomacy are benefiting from this trend. 

As a Ukrainian-born and British-educated theatre producer and director I appreciate the importance of bringing the best of Ukrainian culture to the world not just for Ukraine’s benefit, but to enrich global culture and share experiences through creative means. It is the job of people like me and my colleagues to tell Ukraine’s story through art and, thus, shape new political narratives about Ukraine internationally. We want to share our rich culture with the world and events, such as the Ukrainian Ballet Gala, are key to achieving this.

Ukrainians are now left with no choice but to stride forward – no outside force should ever again control the vibrant culture of Ukraine.

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