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EU Commissioner Urges Ukraine Not To Backpedal On Reforms

The EU's Johannes Hahn in Kyiv on November 9
The EU's Johannes Hahn in Kyiv on November 9

The EU commissioner in charge of enlargement has urged Ukraine to move forward on reforms, warning against any retreat from such efforts, especially on fighting corruption.

Johannes Hahn made the remarks in Kyiv on November 9. He was in the Ukrainian capital to deliver a fresh EU report on Ukraine to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman.

Hahn said it's "crucial to maintain the reform momentum and to make these changes irreversible" in the run-up to March's presidential vote and the parliamentary elections in late 2019.

Hahn stressed that "there can't be rollback on issues such as anticorruption efforts."

In the report, the EU noted there have been only a few convictions in high-level corruption cases in the country. However, it said Ukraine has taken steps to reform its judiciary system.

The EU emphasized that the establishment of a dedicated anticorruption court is crucial and that Ukraine's authorities must properly investigate attacks against civil society activists and punish the perpetrators.

The fresh warning comes days after a prominent Ukrainian anticorruption activist died on November 4, three months after she was injured in an acid attack.

The death of Kateryna Handzyuk sparked outrage in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Several dozen local NGOs signed a letter earlier this week criticizing the "apparent failure" of Ukraine's law enforcement system to investigate attacks on civil society activists.

INFOGRAPHIC: Ukraine's Impunity Problem: Unsolved Attacks On Journalists And Activists (click to view)

They also called on Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko to resign amid charges they have blocked the investigation.

Lutsenko on November 7 did tender his resignation, but the bloc of President Petro Poroshenko did not support the call in parliament.

Five suspects, including a police officer, have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack, but authorities have not described a specific potential motive for the attack.

In September, Handzyuk posted a video in which she urged Ukrainians to fight rampant corruption.

“Yes, I look bad now, but I’m being cured by good Ukrainian doctors. And I know this: I look a lot better than the state of Ukrainian fairness and justice today.”

A Ukrainian Activist's Deathbed Plea
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On October 3, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and Frontline Defenders said more than 50 attacks on activists and human rights defenders in Ukraine had been recorded by local human rights organizations in the the last nine months.

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