Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.
Ukraine’s Friend of the Week: David Sassoli, president of the European Commission
The financial crisis induced by the global pandemic already took its toll on Ukraine’s economy.
The country is in the midst of an economic downfall. J.P. Morgan expects a 5.1% decline in Ukraine’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, and the country’s Ukraine’s GDP has already fallen by 1.2% in the first quarter of the year.
Ukraine has entered the first stage of easing lockdown this week, starting on May 11, two months after the government imposed nationwide quarantine measures to slow the spread of the pandemic.
But despite the partial ease of restrictions, as of May 5, over half a million Ukrainians have lost their jobs, an increase of 48% since the previous year. Up to 2.8 million Ukrainians — or 15% of the working-age population — may be unemployed today.
However, the European Commission understood that “a friend in need is a friend indeed,” and voted to accelerate the allocation of 1.2 billion euros to Ukraine, as part of an emergency fund already adopted on April 22.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky praised this unprecedented amount of macro-financial assistance back then and called the EU’s decision “a manifestation of solidarity in difficult times.”
It is also a good omen for Ukraine’s European aspirations, and another step out of the Kremlin’s toxic sphere of influence.
“This is a testimony that Ukraine made no mistake in making the European choice,” Zelensky said.
With over 600 voices approving it, the European Commission overwhelmingly voted to accelerate the procedure, a result announced by the President of the European Commission, David Sassoli on May 13.
This fund is part of a 3 billion euros aid package to 10 EU’s neighboring countries to fight the crisis caused by COVID-19.
And, as there is not enough room in one picture for every European lawmaker who voted in favor of boosting the aid package, David Sassoli is Ukraine’s friend of the week and deserves the Order of Yaroslav the Wise.
Ukraine’s Foe of the Week: Karin Kneissl, former Austrian foreign minister
Kremlin’s propaganda outlet Russia Today (RT) found a new face to propagate Russian disinformation, giving former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl a new job.
She now officially works for RT as a columnist for the TV channel, information confirmed by the outlet’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan on Twitter, on May 8.
“The same former Austrian Foreign Minister, Karin Kneissl, with whom Putin danced at her wedding, will now write columns for us,” Simonyan wrote.
In August 2018, Kneissl made it to international headlines for her wedding where the guest of honor was none other than Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Being the only channel allowed, RT published the video in which the then foreign minister danced with Putin and bowed in front of him.
At the time, images of the then Foreign Minister’s reverence before Putin at the end of a waltz unleashed strong criticism in Austria and abroad.
She had the responsibility of Austria’s foreign portfolio from December 2017 to June 2019, and was nominated by the ultra-nationalist Liberal Party (FPÖ), a minority partner in the previous ruling coalition, allied with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
In 2019, Austria’s government fell into a corruption scandal involving the then vice-chancellor and leader of the ultras, Heinz-Christian Strache, which caused early elections and renew support for Kurz.
This new recruit in RT’s newsroom confirms a worrying trend: Kneissl join the ranks of the retinue of Russian President Vladimir Putin, alongside high profiles such as Larry King, who joined the channel in 2016, or Alain Juillet, former French secret services director in February 2020.
As if show business personalities repeating Moscow’s false narrative was not enough, Putin eyes former high-ranking officials with access to state secrecy, which creates a dangerous precedent and threatens Western democracies.