The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) recently hosted a discussion with six Ukrainian journalists in Washington, here to further their understanding of the U.S. mid-term elections. The visiting journalists were Olena Blizniakova (Suspilne), Oleksii Homon (Suspilne), Oleksandr Kokhan (Hromadske TV), Ostap Yarysh (Hromadske), Viktor Ohiienko (Apostrof) and Sergiy Sydorenko (Yevropeyska Pravda).

The reporting tour is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and the Media Co-Ops Program of the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs. The delegation met with a colleague from the New York Times and after visiting USUF headed to Milwaukee. Wisconsin, to further explore the electoral environment and process.

Present were Nadia McConnell and Adrian Karmazyn of the U.S.- Ukraine Foundation, who provided insights on the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections as well as the 2019 Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary elections through the lens of the Washington policy community. Topics discussed included the U.S. perception of Ukrainian presidential candidates and the dynamics between the Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. in relation to Ukrainian affairs.

Nadia McConnell, President and Co-founder of the Foundation, delineated the mission of the organization, describing the work of the Friends of Ukraine Network task forces (which are a USUF initiative) and necessary preparation in anticipation of the new Congress.  From the viewpoint of USUF it is crucial that vibrant U.S. support for Ukraine remain a strongly bipartisan issue. Among the news stories from Ukraine that are most troubling are reports of intimidation of civil society.  Over 50 violent attacks against Ukrainian activists—many of whom were investigating corruption–have been recorded this year.

The visiting journalists were interested in discussing the public perception of Yuliya Tymoshenko and incumbent candidate Petro Poroshenko. They invoked their personal experiences when discussing voter demographics in an election that will be significant to the further development and trajectory of Ukraine. Some accredited the success of Tymoshenko with the younger generation to her refined usage of social media platforms, her charismatic personality and the reality that many younger voters do not have have memories of her past scandals. In contrast, the falterings of Poroshenko are wounds more freshly imprinted in the minds of older Ukrainian voters. Cited was a recent poll indicating Tymoshenko’s lead.

When discussing the impact of critical news stories, the delegation alluded to the role of oligarchs, who are able to sway the country’s political narrative through their influence on the newsrooms of the national television stations that they own.

During their election-period trip to the United States the Ukrainian journalists will gain a unique perspective on the role of the media in the U.S. election, which will help them in their work covering the Ukrainian elections next year.

Image at top of page: A group of Ukrainian journalists visits USUF on their way to covering the the U.S. mid-term elections in Wisconsin. (Photo by Adrian Karmazyn).

-Alida Blendonohy is a student intern at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.

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