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Ukraine Must Rise Up to Meet Challenges


Ukrainian deputies attend a parliament session in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 16, 2016.

It is critical for Ukraine's leaders to set aside their differences and put their people and country first.

All across Ukraine, people are standing up and sacrificing for universal values such as sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights, dignity, clean and accountable government, and justice for all.

"The United States," said U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, "has a profound national interest in Ukraine's success."

Today, Ukraine's European future is put at risk as much by enemies within as by external forces such as Russia. Ukraine's oligarchs and kleptocrats who controlled Ukraine for decades know their business model will be broken if Maidan reformers succeed in 2016.

"They are fighting back with a vengeance," said Assistant Secretary Nuland, "using all the levers of the old system: their control of the media, state owned enterprises, Rada deputies, the courts, and the political machinery, while holding old loyalties and threats over the heads of decision-makers to block change."

It is critical for Ukraine's leaders to set aside their differences and put their people and country first. All those who call themselves reformers must rebuild consensus behind a leadership team and an International Monetary Fund - and European Union-compliant program - of aggressive measures to clean up corruption, restore justice, and liberalize the economy.

The 2016 U.S. assistance program for Ukraine is designed take on these challenges. Specifically it is helping Ukraine clean up its energy sector by de-monopolizing its gas market; supporting the appointment of a new prosecutor general who is committed to prosecuting corruption and asset recovery cases; and improving the business climate by streamlining the bureaucracy and moving ahead with privatization. In addition, Ukraine's judicial independence must be strengthened. Key services must be improved including healthcare, education, and transportation. And finally, Ukraine's Ministry of Defense needs to be modernized.

With strong, unified leadership in Kyiv, 2016 can and should be a turning-point year for Ukraine’s sovereignty and European future. As Ukraine’s leaders recommit to drive the country forward, the United States will be there to support them.

As Assistant Secretary Nuland said, "we must be no less rigorous than the Ukrainian people themselves in demanding Kyiv’s leaders take their responsibility now to deliver a truly clean, strong,[and] just Ukraine while they still have the chance."

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