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Putting an End to the ‘Wild West Pharmo-Mafia’ in Ukraine

07 July 2017 - 23:36 287
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Dr. Ulana Suprun, Ukraine’s Acting Health Minister, talks to Marta Dyczok about Putting the Patient First, Successful Reforms and Challenges

Hello and welcome to Ukraine Calling, your weekly review of what’s been happening in Ukraine with a focus on a main issue. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv, and here’s a look at some of the stories that were in the news this week.

HEADLINES

CULTURE and MUSIC

LOOKING FORWARD

Hromadske Radio is independently funded. We are appealing for funds through a crowd funding initiative. Should you feel inclined to donate, you can do so here using Wayforpay.

FOCUS INTERVIEW: Dr. Ulana Suprun, Ukraine’s Acting Health Minister, talks to Marta Dyczok about Putting the Patient First, Successful Reforms and Challenges

Marta Dyczok: Our guest today is Dr. Ulana Suprun, who is Ukraine’s Acting Health Minister. And she is spearheading a package of reforms that, I believe, will be voted on in Parliament this week. Thank you very much for finding the time to speak to us during this busy time. Something our listeners may know about are the health care reforms we’ve been reporting on our program. But something they may not know is this Minister is actually US born. She’s a medical doctor, from the United States, born in Detroit, was practicing medicine, and Dr. Suprun will tell us where she was practicing. She is also a Professor of Pathology. And now she’s in Ukraine. So I’d like to start by asking you: What brought you to Ukraine? What made you stay? And how did you become Acting Health Minister?

Ulana Suprun: Thank you for the invitation to come and speak to you and your audience. I practiced medicine in the United States for about 15 years before I moved to Ukraine. I was born in Detroit, as you said, from Ukrainian parents. They left, they were forced to leave Ukraine after World War II, with their parents. They spent half of their lives in the United States and I was born in Detroit. However, as I was growing up I went to Ukrainian schools, Ukraine church, I belonged to Ukrainian youth associations. And I really felt very close to my Ukrainian background. Back in 2013, my husband and I decided to move to Ukraine on a permanent basis. We had been always planning on moving to Ukraine, but something would always get in the way. We would have school to finish, jobs, parents were ill. And finally in 2013 we decided to put all our stuff in storage and to move to Ukraine on a permanent basis. We happened to be in London when the Revolution of Dignity began here in Kyiv. And after about 3 or 4 days in London we chose to come to Ukraine earlier than we had anticipated, so we could take part in what was going on with the Revolution of Dignity.

The two of us arrived in Ukraine on November 29th, which was the day the students were beaten up on the Maidan. And after that we took part in the Revolution of Dignity.

Then, when the war started, we started helping the military with humanitarian aid and with teaching tactical medicine. That’s battlefield First Aid. Teaching combat medics, providing them with first aid kits and medical equipment. And then eventually we started to teach physicians, doctors, how to perform surgery and how to help those who had been involved in battlefield and non-battlefield trauma.

After about a year and a half of being in Ukraine, the President awarded myself and my husband Ukrainian citizenship in the interest of the nation. And a year later, I was asked by the Prime Minister to become the first Deputy Minister, and the Acting Minister of Health of Ukraine.

So we’ve had a long road, getting us to where we are, but one of the things that’s very important about being here at this time is that really Ukrainian independence didn’t begin in 1991, when there was a referendum, when there was a Declaration of Independence of Ukraine.

But really Ukraine became most independent and chose its path, in the direction of the West and of civilization and of Europe, after the Revolution of Dignity. And in the last three years there’s been quite a few changes that have occurred in Ukraine. We have chosen our path. We’ve chosen that we want to go into the civilized Western world and I believe that part of this is also changing the medicine, changing the health care system in Ukraine, which is a left-over of the Soviet system. Ukraine is one of the few countries that still has the Semashko system of medicine, which is a way of financing the actual infrastructure of medicine, the existence of hospitals, and the number of hospital beds. But it doesn’t pay for the services provided in those hospitals or in the medical facilities. So one of the big changes, one of the transformations that is happening in Ukrainian medicine now with the reform package, is that we’re changing the way that we’re financing medicine. We’re going to a national health insurance, where we’ll be paying for services rather than the existence of a hospital. We’ll be paying for operations rather than walls.

Dyczok: That is quite revolutionary reform. And that is actually what I wanted to hear a little bit more about. You’ve been Acting Minister for less than a year, almost a year. And in that year you have introduced a number of really radical changes to the way, as you were saying, how the health care system is delivered in this country. Because part of being a civilized country is having a good medical system, and that has been a problematic area. If I understand correctly, there’s two key pieces of legislation that you and your team have prepared, that are about to be discussed. If you could just outline, what are the key points? I think you started mentioning that one is the change in the financing. What is it that you’re trying to accomplish with these reforms, for non-experts?

Suprun: There are two bills in front of the Parliament at this time. One of them is creating financial guarantees for payment of medical services and for payment of pharmaceuticals or medicines.

Dyczok: So who’s going to be paying?

Suprun: We’re creating a national health insurance. It’s similar to the NHS system that exists in the UK, where the tax Hryvnia that are paid now into the budget will be administered differently. Right now, the taxes are distributed equally across Ukraine to pay for the infrastructure to exist. And the idea is that patients come to this infrastructure and they should be receiving services. However, at this time, there is not enough funding to pay for services. So we pay for the walls of the hospital, for the existence of the beds, and very low salaries for the medical personnel who are in those hospitals, or in those medical facilities.

But the patients don’t receive any services. They have to pay for everything themselves. They pay the doctors, they buy the medicines, they buy all the disposable materials. And they pay for everything.

Dyczok: Is this something that theoretically should be provided for by the state budget but in reality, patients are asked to pay for these. Am I correct?

Suprun: Yes, it’s a very inefficient system. Because again, you’re paying for the existence of the hospital itself without looking at how many procedures they do, how many doctors do you really need. Are they fulfilling the needs of the population or not? It’s all based on the existence of a system rather than the services provided. Since the beginning of the century, and very discretely after World War II, many countries in Europe, as well as in other parts of the world, changed from paying for generally, the existence of hospitals, to paying for hospital services.

An insurance system, whether it’s a national insurance system, or private insurance system, where payment goes as a fee-for-service, for the services provided.

And in Ukraine we haven’t had that system at all for the last twenty-five years. So what we’ve done is we’ve put forth a change in the way we’re distributing the budgetary funds already in place. We’re not asking for additional funds.

We’re saying the funds that we have can be effectively distributed by paying for services, and that we can provide better services, higher quality services and more of them for our patients, if we’re not just supporting an infrastructure.

Dyczok: So it’s a conceptual shift. Of redistribution.

Suprun: Right, that the financing follows the patient. So where the patient chooses to go, that’s where the money goes. If I choose to go to my primary care doctor in my neighbourhood, that’s where the payment will go for the services. If I choose to go to the primary care doctor across town, in a different region, because that’s where I heard the doctors are better, I make that choice, and the money will follow me. It won’t be distributed by the location where you have your registration, or ‘propyska,’ but where you choose to go.

On a primary care level, that will be a capitation, or fee-per-patient, given to each of the doctors that are chosen by the patients. When it comes to the higher level of care, specialized care or hospitalization, it will be by DRG’s or Diagnostic Related Groups, and these are more fee-for-service payments through a national health insurer.

Now we’re rolling this out over two and a half years. We begin with primary health care on January 1st, 2018, and then January 1st 2019, we start on specialized care and on hospitalization. So that by 2020, the entire system is financed differently. We already have promises from the Ministry of Finance, that every year they will help us to increase the amount of funding financing available, because the kind of change that we’re producing with the financing of the healthcare system, where we’re able to prove where the money’s going, and also that there actually are results. It’s a results-oriented manner of distributing the financing. They’re more willing to provide us more funds.

Because right now, we have a very large amount of money, over 62 million Hryvnia, that are spent on medicine, just on the  medychna subventsiya, or the financing of the hospitals and the medical facilities. And we can’t really say that that money is being used effectively, because we don’t see positive effects. At this time Ukrainians live 10 to 11 years shorter than our European neighbours.

There are several things. We have a problem with epidemic of HIV, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. We have a very high incidents of hepatitis C, we have a very high incidents, 67% of Ukrainians die from cardio-vascular disease every year – the kinds of diseases that are preventable, if we had a strong primary care service, if we could do preventative medicine, if we can have early detection of disease and do the intervention early so that it does not get to the point where you have a heart attack or where you have a stroke…

Dyczok: Because you have already been monitored in…

Suprun: Right, because we have discovered high blood pressure early and we are able to treat it by lifestyle changes and dietary changes and also by medicines, so that we never get to the point where strokes and heart attacks are occurring in 30 and 40-year-old men the way that it is now. Now, we have already started several programs which have been quite successful when it comes to the reforms. One of the things we have done is we started a program called “Accessible medicines”. It is a reimbursement programs for medicine taken on an ambulatory basis for cardio-vascular disease, bronchitis, asthma and for type 2 diabetes. Those account probably for about 70% of ambulatory care that is given to Ukrainians at this time. And what patients do is they go to their primary care doctor. They receive a prescription for the medicine. They go to the pharmacy and receive the lowest price generic at no cost. They have to pay a small co-payment if the medicine they choose is not the lowest price generic but it is one of the other brand names. They pay the difference in the prices and they get the medicines and they are able to take them.

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Ulana Suptun in a Hromadske Radio studio //
Ulana Suptun in a Hromadske Radio studio

Dyczok: Is this already in place?

Suprun: This is already in place and the first month in April, the first month of April 2017 there was a 62% increase in the use of these medicines over the same month, April of 2016, a year ago. And also because we spoke to the manufacturers and the distributors and we had them lower their prices to get into a range of reference pricing that we did with our neighboring countries, we have actually lowered the prices on these medicines by 23%. Just this one program has been extremely successful and now we would like to do more of these programs, so that we can for the medical care for patients. 640 000 families go bankrupt every year in Ukraine because of the payment for medical treatment for their own family members or their loved ones. They have to sell their cars, they have to sell their houses, they have to borrow money from people, because there really isn’t any guarantee from the government. So what we are providing is a financial guarantee that will be able to pay for these services 100%. There are some services where there will be co-pay, but everyone will know what that co-pay is. It is a single tariff across the whole country for each of the services. The amount paid will be known, it will be all transparent, the information will be given to the patients. And they will know how much they have to co-pay if there is a co-pay. And there will be programs in place for those who cannot financially afford that co-pay.

Dyczok: Subsidies…

Suprun: There will be subsidies as there are for energy now in Ukraine. There also very specifically even put into the law that the soldiers who have become disabled, permanently disabled because of injuries that they received in the Russian-Ukrainian war in Eastern Ukraine that they will have free medical care 100% for the rest of their lives. And there will be additional programs that will be provided by local authorities as well as by businesses such as Ukrzaliznytsia — the National railroad company. We are now in a discussion with them about their providing additional insurance for all of their employees to pay whatever co-pay there needs to be. So there is a lot of different areas that we can work with to help patients who can not afford to pay the co-pay so that they can. But very many Ukrainians right now can afford to pay that co-pay, and we need to stop lying to ourselves here in Ukraine – the medicine and the healthcare is not free. It is not. Everybody pays for almost everything. 640 000 families go bankrupt because of this. We need to provide financial guarantees by the government to use the money that is already paid into the tax system not only through the regular taxation of income tax, but also through PDV and sales taxes. It is already there, in our budget. Let’s use it more efficiently. Once we start using it more efficiently, we can talk about having additional private health insurance, perhaps other types of programs through the national insurance, and we will be able to provide more services to our patients. There are also several programs that continue, that we are not cutting out. We do national procuring of medicines. We buy very expensive medicines on a national level. So, for patients who have cancer, for patients who have hepatitis B and C, for patients who need treatment for tuberculosis, for orphan illnesses or very rare illnesses that children have. We actually buy these medicines on a national level. And this year, 2017, 5.9 billion UAH are going to buy these medicines. That was also one of the very successful programs that happened with reforms and as an anti-corruption program. In 2015 parliament voted for a law where we gave the national procurement to international organizations, rather than doing that within the ministry.

Dyczok: So basically changing the way…

Suprun: Changing the way it is procured. Because through the ministry there were a lot of the problems with tenders, there was a lot of corruption that was involved. So, now the ministry just forms the order, which medicines we need, and we give it to international organizations like UNICEF, UNDP and crown agents to actually do the purchasing. It has caused us to, last year, in 2015, we were able to buy 5% more medicines that we had bought in 2014 with the same amount of money and this year the savings are even greater. We already have over 17 million dollars – dollars – in savings for just the vaccine program. That allows us to buy additional vaccines and additional medicines for our patients.

Dyczok: This all sounds wonderful. You touched on the issue of corruption, when you were speaking about the procurement. From what I have been reading there has been some opposition to these reforms that you are introducing, plan to introduce, have successfully introduced. Listening to you talk this sounds amazing. That there are savings, that there are more people getting access to services they need more efficiently. Why is there opposition to what you are dealing, where is it coming from?

Suprun: Especially when it comes to procurement of medicines and procurement of medical devices, there has been a very strong lobby against the changes that we put in force, because a lot of people are making money on corrupt practices in these particular fields. In medicines, a lot of the, what is called the pharmo-mafia. Here in Ukraine there are several pharmaceutical companies and conglomerates that have pretty much been monopolizing the system for many years. And they made billions and billions of hryvni off of the illnesses of Ukrainians. Surprisingly, medicines, pharmaceuticals here in Ukraine are more expensive then in our neighbors like Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia and so on. Even though our economy is much worse off and our hryvnia is much lower in value compared to their currencies or their Euro. However, medicines are less expensive there. Because there is some regulation of prices. In Ukraine until now the pharmaceutical industry has been basically the Wild West. They could put any prices they want and they would be agreed upon.

Now we are creating competition. Just in a first year of the change in a purchasing and a procurement of medicines through international organizations, 40% more Ukrainian companies, manufacturers were able to get involved in the tender process. Because until then they have always been pushed aside and they were squeezed out by the big conglomerates. So now there is a much better chance for those honest Ukrainian pharmaceutical companies, distributers and importers to get in on what is happening and purchasing and producing Ukrainian needs for pharmaceuticals. The other thing that is a big problem is about 7% of Ukraine’s GDP is spent on healthcare. Only about 2.6% of that is through government funding. The rest is grey economy. It is all paid under the table, not taxed, not controlled, pricing is absolutely not regulated and more than 50% of what is spent on healthcare is paid in cash under the table with no control and no regulation, and we have a very difficult time even knowing exactly how much it is. It could be up to 10%, we are not really sure, that is an estimate that the World Healthcare Organization gives us with the 7%. And with that what we want to do with the new reforms with the laws and the change in the legislature, we are trying to bring this out into the open.

Dyczok: Accountability…

Suprun: So that that 7% that is spent is something that we can measure, something that we can regulate and we can also get it more results-oriented. So that we know that it is being spent for the benefit of our citizens of Ukraine, for our patients. And that it is not being spent just to help somebody make money.

Suprun: I’ll give you some…

Dyczok: One example, please, because we’re about to run out of time.

Suprun: Sure, one example of this is that Ukrainian doctors have traditionally written out prescriptions for a lot of different medications, most of which don’t even have any medicinal effect. They’re not real pharmaceuticals, they’re vitamins or they’re some kind of supplements. And it’s about 70 per cent of the medicines that are written out by prescription in Ukraine really don’t have any pharmaceutical effect. But because of pharmaceutical companies come and sell this to the doctors and tell them it works. The doctors are writing it out and sometimes even getting a cut from the sale of these pharmaceuticals. So, we have to re-educate our physicians so that they’re only giving those medicines that are really necessary for patients. We need to re-educate patients so that they’re not taking medicines that are – what we would call – ‘over the counter,’ but being sold as prescription medicines that they need to take, rather than just something to treat their symptoms. And one of the ways we’re doing that is by way of another reform. We’re created a new formulary of what medicines can be bought by government agencies and that formulary of medicines has decreased from 1200 registered pharmaceuticals in Ukraine to only about 360.

Dyczok: That’s quite the cut.

Suprun: That’s quite the cut because the things we cut out are either unnecessary or unaffordable by Ukrainian government and so that smaller list is now the only medicines that are allowed to be bought by the government agencies, whether it’s local government or national government, and it will also decrease quite a bit what physicians will be writing out in prescriptions because patients won’t be willing to pay for all these medicines unless they really have some medicinal effect.

Dyczok: Thank you. This week the second law is going to be in front of parliament. Last time the vote happened one of the laws squeezed by by one vote and the other one didn’t. What do you see happening with this in the next round of voting?

Suprun: What happened was that law 6327, that’s the bill that is financial guarantees for medical services and pharmaceuticals, that law has passed through the first reading – barely passed. It got 227 votes [226 are required for a bill to pass in Ukrainian Parliament]. But now we got the pass, and now a working group is taking all of the changes that the deputies from the parliament have submitted. And this week they’re supposed to work on all of those changes, and see which ones will, or will not, be suggested when the voting is in the second reading. We anticipate that the working group will be able to finish, although there are a number of changes. Over 800 weren submitted by deputies, many of them are repeat changes (the same thing repeated over and over again) but there’s quite a number of changes. The working group should be working every day this week to narrow that down to a smaller number. Then we anticipate that the week of July 10, bill 6327 will be put up for a vote in parliament. And that no significant changes will be made to it that will change the actual philosophy of the law. So that we don’t see changes that will change the way we can implement the new financing system in Ukraine.

The other law didn’t pass and that was changes to the budget code. Now those are necessary so that we can pay for the new type of financial guarantees. However, if what we did was we resubmitted the second law, the changes to the budget code, we anticipate that the first bill will pass and become law, the second one will then be passed as a single reading without having to go through it twice, but we do have a little more time with the second law because the changes aren’t going to happen until January 1, 2018, and we will still go through the budget process so that we have some time to be able to get the second law passed. However, it would be best if we could get both of them passed because it would show that not only are the cabinet of ministers, which has 100 per cent, including the prime minister who’s been very, very supportive of all of this – he has promised us that he will fight for this law in parliament – so the prime minister and the cabinet of ministers, as well as the president and the presidential administration have shown their support for these reforms, for these changes that are happening in healthcare. So what we need to see is that we need to see that parliament comes along and proves to the Ukrainian people that it will make a choice, a civilizational choice, to change fundamentally the way we provide care for patients in Ukraine because a national, a country, can only be mature if it starts caring for each and every one of its citizens. We need to pass these healthcare reforms to show that we as a government, as a country, care for the health and wellbeing of our people in a way that will be providing guarantees, providing security, and providing that lack of fear because 97 per cent of Ukrainians are afraid of going to the doctor, of getting a diagnosis that they won’t be able to pay for their care and this is something we really need to address and the only way we can do that is by fundamentally changing the way that we provide care for our patients, and that first step is changing the financing so we can finance the services that are provided and not just pay for the existence of a hospital.

Dyczok: Well, let’s hope the parliamentarians hear this interview, that they take this information on board. Dr. Suprun and her colleagues are going to England, she’s just telling about this – so you’re going to England to do what?

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Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Groysman //
Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Groysman

Suprun: The Cabinet of Ministers, the Prime Minister, and the Cabinet Ministers were invited by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary of the UK, to come to Great Britain, to come to UK, to London, and to talk about the transformation that happening in Ukraine. And basically to invite the world to come to Ukraine and see how we’ve changed. So we’re presenting the positive changes that are occurring. We’re going to be presenting several different changes, but healthcare is being highlighted as one of the successful reforms that have happened in Ukraine. The reason that we’ve been able to be successful is because we’ve gone through the entire policy cycle of how you make reforms or make transformations in a country. We didn’t start healthcare reforms 10 months ago when I came into the ministry. Healthcare reforms started many years ago with a discussion on how Ukraine needs to transform its health care system, but in 2014 a special advisory group was formed at the ministry of health. They were inviting experts from all over the world, including the World Health Organization, there were members of the USAID, members of Renaissance Foundation, of Canadian government, Ukrainian experts, and also international experts that got together and they wrote a road plan, a strategy of how Ukraine needs to change its healthcare system to improve it.

This report of the special advisory was then presented at the parliamentary hearings, it was then presented at a collegium of the ministry of health, it was presented to the cabinet of minister, and all of that was discussed over about a six month period of time. Unfortunately, there was a break of about six months were nothing much was happening. Then when we came into the ministry, we took this document and we divided it into two concepts: one, the concept on reform of financing and the other concept on the reform or creation of a public health sector, which doesn’t exist in Ukraine. We took that portion that is the healthcare financing and we went first to the prime minister and presented it to him, talked it through three-four times, long meetings, lots of discussions, it was put into a document. We then made a wider audience where we invited the parliamentarians, we invited representatives from the regions, we had discussions with them, we presented the concept of the reform, we included their suggestions, and then we went wider. We actually have traveled to all 24 oblasty and we have presented these reforms together with the Organizations Center UA which does a policy dialogue. We come with them, we talk about healthcare, the changes that are happening, we present it to the stakeholders, which is the administrative staff of the departments of health, we present it to the medical community, we present it to civil society, and to patient organizations.

Once we discuss it with them then the Center UA what they do is they further that by sitting and talking with the organizations, with civil society, with government structures and tell them how they should implement this heathcare into their own systems, and what we’re doing is using healthcare as an example to build civil society in Ukraine and to create that new contract between government and society, to tell them that they’re involved with what’s happening because really healthcare touches each and every one of us every day, every year, we either have been a patient, or will be a patient, or we know someone who has been a patient, or someone in our family who has been a patient. So, all of us have a stake in what’s happening, and what we’ve done is instead of doing reform from the top, which is the way it’s always been done in Ukraine, where laws are written in Kyiv and forced onto the local governments, what we’ve done is written a concept, we’ve gone to the regions and taken their suggestions, we’ve incorporated their suggestions and their points of view into what we’re doing and we’re coming back with both, from the top where we have experts that are giving us advice, as well as the practical portion of it which will be implemented into the regions. So this policy, this entire procedure that we’ve gone through has created a difference in the way society looks at how these reforms are happening.

Dyczok: You’re a success story. Why is it not possible for other Ministries to be successful? Your Ministry is showing that your reform is possible, if I could push you into that question a little bit. It is possible, so why is it not happening in other ministries?

Suprun: It is possible. I think that there is a traditional block in many government structures here in Ukraine that they don’t include society. They’re not open to having discussions and having a national dialogue about the issues at hand. All of it is done behind closed doors and much of it is done in a paternalistic way where ‘we know better and we’re telling society what to do.’ What we’ve done from the very first day that we came into the Ministry is we opened the doors to civil society and we include them in what we’re doing. And I think that that really bring that connection between what the people want, and what the people need, and what the experts tell us. And we put it all together into a reform that will not only be the right thing to do theoretically, but practically will work from the very top down to the level of the patient.

Dyczok: So that’s a formula that maybe could be suggested to each and every Ministry. Thank you very much.

HEADLINES

Ukraine and Reforms

 

 

Britain and Ukraine jointly hosted a major international conference in London, England, on reform in Ukraine on Thursday July the 6th. Ahead of the conference, British Ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough, explained what the conference was about. ‘Reform is absolutely vital if Ukraine is to realize her potential. Britain is hosting this important reform conference for three reasons. The first is to allow Ukraine to have a prominent platform to showcase the progress that this country has genuinely made.’ Borys Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary opened the conference, and invited Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to deliver the keynote address. There were also a few positive international media reports this week on how Ukraine’s economy has turned a corner, in the Financial Times, and how positive change is happening in Ukraine in the Wall Street Journal.

Ukraine and the International Scene

A number of other international events happened this week that are important for Ukraine. US President Donald Trump visited Poland, ahead of going to the Friday-Saturday G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. This is Trump’s second overseas trip, and he allowed his wife, Melania, to introduce him to the crown in Warsaw. 

 

 

Ukraine is only one of many items on this G20 Summit agenda. Leaders of the world’s most powerful economies will be looking at the issue of leadership, how the concept of ‘the West’ is under attack, climate change, North Korea, the migration crisis, discord in the Gulf, and more. No agreement is expected on Ukraine. But according to Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel assured him in a phone call that nothing would be decided about Ukraine without Ukraine. Many eyes will be focused on the meeting between Trump and Russia’s President Putin in Hamburg on Friday. 

War

A series of posters appeared on the streets of Hamburg ahead of the G20 Summit. They display photo portraits of Ukrainian soldiers, volunteers, medics, and others who have been fighting in various ways, in the war zone. The caption reads, ‘Look Closely at Their Faces.’ This project was launched by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center last autumn. Details about each person depicted in the photos are available on a clickable website, herofaces.org. We’ll post a link on our website. In eastern Ukraine, war continues. Although the intensity of shelling decreased, 5 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, and 19 wounded in the past week.

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‘Look Closely at Their Faces’ poster campaign in Hamburg //
‘Look Closely at Their Faces’ poster campaign in Hamburg

Yanukovych Trial

Meanwhile, back in Kyiv, the Obolonsky District court resumed proceedings against former President Victor Yanukovych on 6 July. The fugitive president is charged with high treason, violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and waging war or aggressive military actions. Yanukovych has denied all charges, called the case a sham, remains in Russia, and refuses to appear before the Ukrainian court. The court received permission to proceed with an absentee trial. This Thursday session lasted less than an hour. Yanukovych’s lawyers, Vitaliy Serdiuk and Ihor Fedorenko, announced that they had been fired, and therefore they were withdrawing. The court had to postpone proceedings, and might now provide Yanukovych with lawyers from the center for free legal assistance.

CULTURE

A new exhibit opened at the Mystets’kyi Arsenal in Kyiv this week. It’s called Art Work, and contains works of 55 Ukrainian and Polish contemporary artists. It will be on through the end of July, then the exhibit moves to Poland, where it will open Wroclaw City Gallery on August 30th.

MUSIC

There’s a band in Kyiv called Newband. Here’s a new song of theirs called, ‘Ти і Я,’ which means ‘You and Me.’ Enjoy!

LOOKING FORWARD

This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of our show Ukraine Calling. The first episode aired on July 9th 2016. Next week we’ll bring you highlights from our first year on air, as well as the latest headlines, and new feature interview. Tune in for a new episode. And we’d love to hear from you. Write to us at [email protected]. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.

Interview transcribed by Nykole King, Oksana Smerechuk, Ilona Szieventseva, Max Sviezhentsev. Headlines by Marta Dyczok. Culture and Music by Marta Dyczok. Sound engineer Andriy Izdryk. Web support Kyrylo Loukerenko.

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