European Union

April 6th, 2013Posted by admin

A Chance for Change in Ukraine.
Regarding “Ukraine can’t have it both ways” (Views, March 29) by John Herbst: A fear expressed in the denial of an association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine is that it could push President Viktor Yanukovich to join a customs union with Russia. Such action, however, could also be a catalyst for reform in Ukraine.

As noted in Herbst’s article, only a minority wishes to join the customs union with Russia. The majority would be galvanized against it and likely engage in national protests to force an early presidential election. This change could lead to the signing of the association agreement with the European Union.

The issue that would promote such moves would be to make the immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko a requirement for the signing of an E.U.-Ukraine Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. Yanukovich could not accept this. After November, with no prospect of an accord with Europe, Yanukovich would be isolated from the West. The European Union would then wait for internal Ukrainian events to bring forth positive change sherri hill prom dresses .

Conference planned

April 5th, 2013Posted by admin

The Ukrainian government is called on to allay European concerns about allegations of selective justice, EU officials said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule expressed concern that a Ukrainian court upheld a verdict against Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

Lutsenko is serving a four-year prison term on charges of embezzlement. He was interior minister under former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who’s serving a seven-year prison term after being convicted on charges of abusing her authority in 2009 deal with Russian energy company Gazprom.

Lutsenko’s family said he’s in poor health.

Ashton and Fule said they’ve expressed their “strong concern” about the legal standards in Ukraine.

“We call on the Ukrainian authorities to step up cooperation with the mission to redress the effects and remove the concerns regarding selective justice,” they said.

The European Parliament passed a resolution in March that expressed concern for the general lack of commitment to democracy and impartial justice in Ukraine.

It said it would consider signing an association and trade deal with Ukraine during a late 2013 conference planned in Lithuania if the government takes its concerns seriously.

Personal appeal

April 4th, 2013Posted by admin

Ukraine president considers pardoning Tymoshenko ally.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has submitted a request to his pardons commission to consider an appeal to free a close ally of jailed former premier YuliaTymoshenko, his office said.

The request comes after Ukraine’s high court this week rejected an appeal by former interior minister YuriyLutsenko against his four-year jail term for abuse of office and embezzlement.

He was arrested in December 2010 and is set to remain in prison until the end of 2014.

The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights ombudswoman Valeria Lutkovskaya had earlier unexpectedly appealed on Yanukovych to pardon Lutsenko.

“Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has approached the Ukrainian presidential pardons commission with a request to consider without delay the appeal by Valeria Lutkovskaya,” his office said in a statement late Friday.

Yanukovych also ordered the commission to review a personal appeal for a pardon by GeorgyFilipchuk, a former environment minister in the Tymoshenko government who was jailed for three years over abuse of office in 2012.

While Yanukovych’s request raises the prospect that two of Tymoshenko’s jailed allies may be pardoned, there is little indication that Yanukovych’s top nemesis would walk out of prison any time soon.

Tymoshenko, who lost a heated presidential election to Yanukovych in 2010, was jailed for seven years in 2011 for overstepping her authority while prime minister by agreeing a gas deal with Russia.

The imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko has led to a crisis in ties between Kiev and the European Union, which has complained that Ukrainian authorities are selectively prosecuting opponents of the president.

Ultimate

April 3rd, 2013Posted by admin

Ultimate Fighting in Ukraine.
Snowballs, parliament hijacking, eggs throwing, smoke bombs… What else Ukraine’s legislators have in their arsenal for conflict resolution?
A group of Ukrainian politicians – mostly, women, members of the ruling Party of Regions – were bombarded by snowballs after parliament’s session ended the evening of April 2nd. Behind the attacks – allegedly – were members of the opposition.

A snowball fight is of little or no surprise. Ukraine’s parliament is known for being a battlefield during sessions. The world still remembers the eggs and smoke bombs thrown while voting to allow Russia access to the Black Sea in 2010.

The recent snowball attack took place at the time when Ukraine’s parliament is about to crumble—split in two parts, holding sessions in two separate locations.

Who’s behind the snowballs that, as victims claim, had rocks and ice inside them, possibly causing serious injuries? Is this the opposition or some hooligans, or was it a sabotage attempt aiming to make the opposition look bad? There is very little chance of discovering the truth, even if the investigations are completed. But that’s not what really matters.

Opposition lawmakers

April 2nd, 2013Posted by admin

The incident is directly connected to Ukraine’s political turmoil and reflects larger problems in the country: the disrespect for the rule of law by many law and policy makers themselves, and the judicial system’s dependence on the government’s will.

Last week the ruling Party of Regions hijacked parliament and held the session in an alternative location after the opposition demanded mayoral elections in Kyiv. The country’s capital currently doesn’t have an elected mayor and has Oleksandr Popov as a de-facto mayor, appointed by autocratic president Victor Yanukovych.

Unable to come to an agreement on the subject of mayoral elections, the opposition blocked the speaker’s podium to prevent the session from starting. For a few days, the opposition continued to occupy the podium while pro-government legislators stormed out of the main parliamentary building and decided to hold their sessions in elsewhere. An act opposition lawmakers consider unconstitutional.

Why do Ukrainian legislators create such chaos in parliament? Olga Belkova, a fresh member of Ukraine’s parliament, explained the emotion – or the reason, for that matter – behind the events: “They physically try to block the breaking of the law.”

Realized

April 1st, 2013Posted by admin

Belkova is a member of the party UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform), created by Vitali Klitschko, a world heavyweight boxing champion who is now involved in his home country’s political scene and heads an opposition party that came in third during the parliamentary elections last fall. The name – UDAR – translates into English as “Punch” or “Strike”.

After starting her term in parliament, Belkova quickly realized that real life politics are different from what’s seen on TV. “Before, when I watched fights in Rada (Ukrainian Parliament), it seemed to me like a horror and nihilism within Ukrainian politicians”. Now, as an insider, Belkova understands why it happens.

Whenever anti-democratic actions take place – whether it’s illegal voting for absent members or the ruling party pushing for something that is obviously unfair and dishonest – the consolidated opposition has nothing left to do but physically fight or block the rostrum.

A mother of two, with her Master’s in Public Administration degree from Harvard University, Belkova favors intellectual methods of conflict resolution. Nevertheless, she feels the urge to punch whenever things in parliament go beyond any logic.

Belkova said she’s ashamed of the actions of Ukrainian parliamenteers but her party, UDAR, has great potential to make a change in Ukrainian politics by bringing in new, intelligent and professional people. “Old school politicians often lose their connection with reality,” she added.

While to an outsider the opposition’s choice to block the podium might seem wrongful, the actions of the ruling party and its refusal to have democratic mayoral elections in the country’s capital are suspect as well. Meanwhile, the leaders of the opposition – Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko, and Oleh Tyahnybok – have to appear in court to answer for blocking the work of parliament. Double standards are par for the course in the ultimate fighting brawl that is Ukrainian politics.

Association

March 22nd, 2013Posted by admin

Ukraine’s Thorny Road to Association.
On March 30, John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Kiev and now director of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University in Washington, wrote on these pages that the anti-democratic policies of the Yanukovich administration in Ukraine were holding up signing an Association Agreement with the European Union, and that the “most persuasive step” Kiev could take would be to free two imprisoned opposition leaders, Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko (“Ukraine can’t have it both ways”). Ukraine’s ambassador to the E.U. offers Kiev’s position. A year has passed since Ukraine and the European Union initialed the Association Agreement. It has been a difficult time and is unlikely to become any easier in the run-up to the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit in November when the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (D.C.F.T.A.) agreement, should be signed.

Following the Ukraine-E.U. summit in February, Kiev and Brussels are building upon a common understanding that Ukraine needs to demonstrate determined action and tangible progress on a number of key issues. We have already started to deliver.

Unfortunately, the E.U. remains hesitant, which raises two questions: Who will win if Ukraine and the E.U. fail to sign the Association Agreement? And will European capitals assume responsibility for the consequences of not signing the Association Agreement with 46 million Ukrainians?

Promising new market

February 12th, 2013Posted by admin

First, not signing the Association Agreement will be a clear “lose-lose” situation for both the E.U. and Ukraine. It will be an illogical and tragic missed opportunity, a huge disappointment for Ukrainians who are truly Europeans, and a significant geopolitical failure for E.U. foreign policy. If the E.U. cannot rise to the challenge in its neighborhood, how can it expect to be taken seriously elsewhere in the world?

Second, the D.C.F.T.A. matters not only for Ukraine but also for the E.U. For the Union, it will open a promising new market, which is of critical importance at a time of economic recovery. By rejecting the deal with Ukraine, the E.U. would in fact punish European industries, enterprises, investors and businessmen, depriving them of lucrative opportunities.

Third, the Agreement will provide instruments to start building Europe inside Ukraine. The judiciary is a good example. Would an ad hoc solution to the cases that are of particular concern to Europe bring Ukraine any closer to European standards of the rule of law?

To address a problem and prevent its recurrence one should fight its roots rather than its consequence. The Association Agreement with its binding mechanisms would provide the needed tools to eradicate systemic shortcomings that are on the Union’s wish list — including the cases of special interest, election law, corruption, the rule of law, and so forth.

Fourth, failure to sign the Agreement risks affecting the security situation in the region. The Association Agreement contains political guarantees for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Those who are against the Association Agreement challenge the notion of an independent and stable Ukraine, a key factor for regional security.

Public control

January 6th, 2013Posted by admin

Fifth, the E.U. must not ignore public opinion in Ukraine. Determination to conclude the Association Agreement has united Ukraine’s political parties, including prominent opposition leaders and the diaspora. The Agreement is also broadly supported by Ukrainian civil society, and the reason is simple: It is an instrument for public control over the government, motivating it to implement reforms.

Last but not least, the Agreement will put an end to the innuendos and speculation regarding Ukraine’s choice for the future. The scale and significance of a formal association between Ukraine and the E.U. are the reasons behind an increase in attention to the issue from both supporters and opponents.

The closer we come to signing, the more opposition we face. I believe, and I hope I am wrong, that the road to the Agreement’s entry into force will be ever thornier.

Unfortunately, so long as the European Union fails to take a decisive strategic decision on the place of Ukraine in its foreign policy priorities, there will be endless pretexts to delay bringing Ukraine closer. My words should not be interpreted as rejecting the need for Ukraine to deliver on reforms. We are committed to that — not to win praise in Brussels, but for the sake of our citizens.

With the Association Agreement in force, this transformation will take place faster and more efficiently, turning it into a catalyst for systemic reforms and the democratic transition of Ukraine from a post-Soviet to a modern European state.

We are destined to sign the Agreement this November. While today the key to the Association Agreement is in Kiev, there are duplicates in some E.U. capitals. We need to be robust, resilient and strong enough to turn these keys together, and anchor Ukraine within the Union.

Ineffective

June 18th, 2012Posted by admin

Yulia Tymoshenko’s daughter: bar Ukraine president from Olympics.

Eugenia Tymoshenko calls on David Cameron to withdraw invitation, saying Euro 2012 boycott has been ineffective.

The daughter of the jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has urged David Cameron to withdraw President Viktor Yanukovych’s invitation to next month’s Olympics.

The British government is boycotting the group stage of the Euro 2012 football championship in Ukraine in protest at the deteriorating human rights situation and the jailing of Tymoshenko, the country’s former prime minister, last year.

But in an interview with the Guardian before Tuesday’s Ukraine v England game, Eugenia Tymoshenko said the boycott by the UK and other EU countries had been ineffective. Yanukovych had ignored it, she said, with prosecutors indicating on Monday that Tymoshenko would additionally be charged with murder.

The deputy prosecutor Renat Kuzmin told the Kommersant newspaper he had enough evidence to charge her with the killing 16 years ago of the businessman and MP Yevhen Shcherban. He was gunned down at an airport with his wife and aide in a contract-style killing.

Tymoshenko denies the allegations. Her party says they are part of Yanukovych’s campaign to eliminate his political opponents. “Ukraine is ruled by a dictator who sets his servants loose against all those who have the courage to speak out against the country’s sliding towards a criminal abyss,” it said.

Olympics

June 18th, 2012Posted by admin

Given the boycott’s apparent failure, Eugenia said Downing Street should withdraw Yanukovych’s invitation to the Olympics opening ceremony on 27 July. Ukraine’s foreign ministry has confirmed he wants to attend. She also urged the UK to introduce visa bans for high-ranking Ukrainian officials who had “illegally enriched” themselves and a freeze of their UK assets.

Eugenia acknowledged Yanukovych was “getting the message” from EU leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, as well as from diplomats and EU parliamentarians, but added: “He’s closing his eyes and ears.” She said his priority was to keep Tymoshenko in jail and to ensure his ruling Party of Regions won – or “falsified” – October’s parliamentary elections. “The elections are essential for his continued political existence,” she said.

Tymoshenko is in a hospital in eastern Kharkiv, one of Ukraine’s four Euro 2012 host cities. Eugenia said her mother was “feeling a little bit better” following a 21-day hunger strike in April, but still had acute back pain and was unable to walk unaided.

She said conditions for her mother were humiliating, with guards watching her get changed and receive treatment, via video surveillance cameras. She added the two guards who allegedly beat her up in April – causing bruises on her arms and stomach – were still assigned to her, causing her immense psychological strain.

“It’s an embarrassing situation for them as well. We now cover the cameras when she gets her treatment. Staff have told us that when we see her in the meeting room there are also hidden cameras and audio devices.”

Eugenia

June 18th, 2012Posted by admin

Eugenia added her mother was watching Euro 2012 games on a small TV set in her hospital room, and would see England’s decider against Ukraine on Tuesday. She added: “It’s very painful for us that the people who made Euro 2012 a reality are now watching it from TV in prison. The whole situation has been turned upside down. She’s cheering for the Ukraine team, of course. She’s thankful that [EU] politicians understand the situation, and don’t want to legitimise Yanukovych or his cynical repressions.”

All the governments in Group D – England, France and Sweden – have boycotted matches in Ukraine. Downing Street has signalled it may send ministers to knock-out stage games, including a possible semi-final in Warsaw. With a distinct absence of EU guests, Yanukovych has filled the VIP terrace at Kiev’s Olympic stadium with his family, including his two sons, and political supporters. The only significant foreigner who has attended has been Michel Platini, Uefa’s president.

Merkel announced in May that she and her cabinet would not attend any matches played by Germany in Ukraine unless Tymoshenko was released. The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, called for Tymoshenko to be freed, while the European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, announced he was also staying away.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years last October for what western diplomats say was a blatantly politically motivated case.

Government insiders in Kiev say the decision to persecute Tymoshenko comes from Yanukovych personally. Yanukovych fails to understand how western decision-making works, they add, and believes the problem can be solved by repeatedly “explaining” Tymoshenko’s guilt.

He is also terrified of Tymoshenko, they add, believing her capable of dark plots against him.

Eugenia, who spent nine years in Britain and studied at the LSE, said she was immensely “grateful” that the government was standing up for democracy and Ukraine’s opposition, several of whose members are in jail. She added: “Our government is a mafia oligarchy. Yanukovych is treating Euro 2012 as his own private property.”

Ukraine plans

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ukraine plans to break Gazprom’s monopoly.

Ukraine plans to sign a contract with Germany’s RWE energy company to import gas through Slovakia using reverse-flow technology. Although relatively small, the project is the first attempt by Ukraine to reduce its dependence on imports from Russia’s Gazprom monopoly.

Ukraine wants to purchase three million cubic meters of gas from RWE per day, Ukraine’s Zerkalo Nedeli weekly reported.

“NaftogazUkraine plans to sign a short-term contract with Germany’s RWE to deliver spot gas, bought in Europe, through Slovak pipelines to Ukraine. The signing is likely to happen in the nearest future,” says the report on the newspaper’s website.

According to the draft contract seen by Zerkalo Nedeli and to comments by specialists, the agreement is seen as “balanced” and unlike similar deals with Russia, it does not contain “excessive” conditions.

The newspaper also reported that Ukraine held talks with Turkey and Bulgaria to deliver liquefied natural gas from Turkish storage facilities through the Bulgarian gas transportation system.

Turkey and Bulgaria see no objection to the scheme, the report says. Bulgaria has reportedly laid down a parallel gas pipeline to the one used to bring Russian gas, which could allow reverse flows to Romania. Ukraine and Romania would have to agree on pipeline route to serve the Ukrainian market.

Gas price talks between Ukraine and Russia have dragged on for more than a year without tangible results.

Previous disputes between Russia in Ukraine have briefly disrupted gas supplies to Europe, prompting both Gazprom and the European Union to look for alternative transit routes such as the Nord Stream pipeline launched last year and the planned South Stream pipeline project.

Ukraine to buy gas in Germany

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

REFILE-Ukraine to buy gas in Germany if Russia talks fail.

Ukraine will buy gas in Germany if sole supplier Russia refuses to cut the price in long-running talks, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Wednesday, adding that such purchases would be cheaper.

“He (Azarov) said that if talks with Russia are unsuccessful, Ukraine will buy gas of Russian origin from a German company, which will be cheaper than (buying) directly from Russia,” a statement by the Party of the Regions, which Azarov chairs, quoted him as saying.

Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz plans to buy gas from Germany’s RWE, Azarov said without giving any details.

RWE declined to comment.

Analysts say such supplies are possible but in very small volumes, given that Ukraine’s pipeline system is designed to pump gas in the opposite direction and is currently used to tranship Russian gas to Europe.

Ukraine has long sought to review a 2009 gas supply deal with Russia, saying it sets an exorbitant price for the fuel – $416 per thousand cubic metres in the first quarter of this year. But Moscow is reluctant to scrap the deal.

Russia has said it will cut the price of gas for Ukraine only in exchange for a stake in the Ukrainian pipeline network.

The Kiev government, in its turn, says the network should be managed by a consortium that also includes large European energy companies.

Azarov told Reuters this week his government hoped to negotiate a new price for Russian gas by July. (additonal reporting by Christ Steitz, editing by Jane Baird)

Corruption in Ukraine

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

New Customs Code Against Corruption in Ukraine.

Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, adopted the new Customs Code of Ukraine. A total of 148 amendments were made to the original document in order to make the customs procedures faster and more transparent. From now on the customs authorities among other things have limited time to perform customs control procedure, are prohibited to confiscate goods and vehicles, and are stripped of the right to independently execute court rulings. Most of the amendments were introduced by the President of Ukraine to reduce the level of corruption at Ukrainian customs service.

The new Code provides the exhaustive list of documents one is expected to submit for control at the customs. The document also provides a catalogue of items, which are considered personal belongings and cannot be taxed when taken across the border.

From now on crossing the border by the travellers will be limited to four hours for finalizing the customs control. The law provides additional guarantees to the traveling persons by stipulating personal liability of the Customs authorities for unjustified delays in customs control execution. The document also discharges the travellers from liability for unintended mistakes in their customs declaration.

Moreover, the document provides for the decriminalization of commodity smuggling, moving it to the category of administrative violations. One of the amendments increases time limit for temporary import of non-residents’ vehicles for personal use from 183 days to one year. At the same time, the amended code reduces the total cost of goods that can be imported on the customs territory of Ukraine through land and sea ports without paying taxes from EUR 1000 to EUR 500. The total amount of EUR 1000 stays unchanged for those travelling by air.

The Customs Code was first adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in November 2011, however, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych vetoed the law and returned it to the parliament with his suggestions. On March 13, 2012, Ukrainian parliament voted for the new Customs Code, featuring a total of 148 amendments. Adoption of the Code is timely for Ukraine: as a co-host of EURO 2012 football championship the country expects to receive 1.6 million international guests.

Ukrainian Internet party

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Reason for Mavrodi’s arrest is information obtained by Ukrainian hackers, Internet party says.

Leader of the Ukrainian Internet party Dmytro Holubov said that the founder of the notorious MMM pyramid scheme, Sergei Mavrodi, was arrested on the basis of information obtained by the Ukrainian computer hackers.

“Ukrainian hackers managed to get the passports of Mavrodi, which he wanted to use to move to another country, and also lists of depositors, and totals that were deposited by the members of the pyramid scheme. Soon all these findings could be on the Internet,” Holubov said at the press conference at the Interfax agency on Thursday.

According to him, Mavrodi planned to leave the territory of Russia on March 15-16 with another passport under another name. In particular, the Ukrainian hackers managed to get a copy of Mavrodi’s Lithuanian passport, with which he probably tried to leave the country. The plans were revealed by correspondence Mavrodi had with embassies of other countries.

“I handled this correspondence and the copies of the original of his Lithuanian passport to the Russian Federal Security Service,” Holubov said. He said such actions should prevent Mavrodi from being able to leave Russia.

The Internet party is also going to announce its findings about new depositors in Mavrodi’s pyramid scheme, he said.

Holubov said that in Kazakhstan there are about 250 depositors, in the Ukrainian city of Odesa about 3,000, and in Moscow from 12,000 to 15,000 depositors.

“I’ll soon gradually post the lists of depositors on the Internet, since in 1994 simple Soviet people became the victims of the pyramid, people who used to trust the television, but in 2011 80% of the depositors in MMM are just greedy people, who decided to do nothing, live at the expense of other people, and parasitize,” he said.

The leader of the Internet party predicts that now the depositors would like to return their money, otherwise they will be ‘pocketed’,” he said.

As reported, on March 14, Sergei Mavrodi, the founder of Russia’s notorious MMM pyramid scheme, was put under five days’ arrest as punishment for the non-payment of a 1,000-ruble fine.

In January 2011, Mavrodi said he had set up a financial project called MMM-2011, with the MMM acronym standing for “My Mozhem Mnogoye [We Are Capable of a Great Deal].”

At a joint meeting on January 21, the expert council for financial market competition of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) and the Federal Financial Markets Service declared MMM-2011 to be another pyramid scheme. The FAS passed over the assessment and findings of research underlying it to the police.

Naftogaz

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Naftogaz transfers about USD 1.3 b to Gazprom for gas imported in February

Lvivoblenergo

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Lvivoblenergo posts 3.3 times rise in net profit in 2011.

Public joint-stock company Lvivoblenergo, an electricity supply company, saw a 3.3 times or UAH 154.28 million rise in net profit compared to 2010, to UAH 222.341 million, reads a company report on the holding of a general meeting of its shareholders scheduled for April 20, 2012.

The company’s assets last year were 30.4% up from a year ago, to UAH 888.791 million, and fixed assets rose by 29.4%, to UAH 723.678 million. Its total bills receivable grew by 6.5% last year, to UAH 65.965 million.

Its current liabilities contracted by 16.9%, to UAH 87.161 million, while long-term liabilities rose by 4.2%, to UAH 83.02 million. The number of its employees fell by 1.3% in 2011, to 4,724.

Ukraine export

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ukraine to export up to 22 m t of grain in 2011/12 agricultural year, says UGA.

Grain exports from Ukraine this agricultural year (July 2011 – June 2012) will reach 22 million tonnes, according to president of the Ukrainian Grain Association (UGA) Volodymyr Klymenko.

“We’ll export up to 22 million tonnes of grain. We cannot load more than two million tonnes a month for export,” he told the press in Kyiv on Wednesday.

Klymenko said that potentially Ukraine could load for export up to three million tonnes of grain per month. At present, problems linked with the issue of permits and the turnover of grain carriers hinder exports of grain.

Earlier the UGA said that Ukraine will export no more than 21 million tonnes of grain this agricultural year if the state does not settle the issue of a lack of grain carriers and a problem with the issue of permits.

Recently Agrarian Policy and Food Minister Mykola Prysiazhniuk said that Ukraine in the current agricultural year would export 20-21 million tonnes of grain instead of the previously forecast 25.4 million tonnes.

According to preliminary data from the State Statistics Service, in 2011 Ukraine harvested 56.7 million tonnes of grain, which is 44.3% up on 2010. Specialists assess domestic grain consumption at 36.7 million tonnes a year.

Kyiv

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Kyiv looking for investor to place 23 tourist information centers in capital.

Kyiv City Administration has announced a tender to attract an investor to install 23 temporary facilities in the capital – tourist information centers with a gross area of 256 square meters.

The announcement was published in the Khreschatyk newspaper on Wednesday.

The installation of tourist information centers of three types worth UAH 2.04 million in seven districts of the capital will remain in ownership of the investor and will be used to do business later.

Kyiv city tourist information center municipal enterprise ordered the project. Under the requirements, the investor is to provide 35% of the advertising area on the facades of the centers for the needs of the city.

The investor is to advise visitors in Ukrainian, Russian, English and other languages free of charge. He is to provide taxi-calling services and give other tourist information to visitors.

Among the paid services are the sale of tickets for cultural events, souvenirs, provision of current exchange services, servicing of payment cards, travelers’ checks, services in booking rooms in hotels, the provision of tour guide services, access to the Internet, phone communications and sale of mobile phone SIM cards.

The tender documents are to be issued to potential bidders within 14 days.

Kyiv Investment Agency is to order preparation work for the project – feasibility studies and pre-project proposals.

EBRD

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

EBRD approves provision of EUR 10 m to upgrade water and sewage systems in Yalta.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will provide a loan of EUR 10 million to a water and wastewater systems’ operator that belongs to Crimea to rehabilitate the water and sewage systems in Yalta, Anton Usov EBRD Principal Adviser has told Interfax-Ukraine.

He said that the bank’s board of directors approved the decision on March 13.

“Today the project was approved. This is a first large project we’ll finance in Crimea. I think that the financing will be provided by the end of spring,” Usov said.

He also said that the total cost of the project will reach some EUR 15 million.

Tigipko

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Tigipko says increase in pensions planned for May not linked to elections

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and Social Policy Minister Sergiy Tigipko has said that pensions are being increased because of improvements in the financial situation in the country, rather than because an election campaign is soon to start.

“I think that we now are very keen on elections, and, perhaps, some people might think UAH 103 – the planned average increase [in pensions] – is a bribe. We can laugh about it… But I want to remind you that 7.5 million Ukrainian retirees receive pensions of less than UAH 1,000 and UAH 10 is significant assistance for them,” he said during an “hour of questions for the government” in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Friday.

While commenting on allegations that the increase in pensions is politically motivated because of upcoming parliamentary elections, Tigipko said: “If we all have such great political advisers, then why would we start making payments in May? A month later some of our retirees will forget about it, [before the elections].”

“There’s the same logic here: we have the financial ability, we studied the dynamics of two months and we immediately start solving social problems,” he said.

The elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are to be held in October 2012.

Euro 2012 have Ukraine

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Many who volunteer for Euro 2012 have Ukraine in their blood.

Europe’s top soccer governing body says that approximately 150 of the 2,750 volunteers – around 5 percent – that will help it run Euro 2012 in Ukraine have Ukrainian roots.
Russia, home to the largest Ukrainian diaspora, will supply the biggest contigent of volunteers.
Their chief motivation for signing up, a Union of European Football Associations official said, is the chance to be a part of the largest sporting event that Ukraine has ever hosted with the added benefit of getting in touch with their roots.
“They want to get in touch with their family. It is a long awaited, meaningful homecoming,” said Andriy Bantser, UEFA volunteer manager for Ukraine.

American citizen Taras Stoikevych who emigrated from Chortkiv, Ternopil Oblast in 2004 said he decided to volunteer when making plans to spend the summer in Ukraine.
“Ukraine is making history now by hosting possibly its biggest event ever, and I’d like to be a part of it,” said Stoikevych, 24, whose job will be to drive UEFA guests, officials and VIPs in Lviv. “This is a great opportunity, and besides, I was raised playing football, which is why I wanted to be a part of the tournament.”
Volunteer manager Bantser said that one of the common traits that all the UEFA volunteers share is the realization that this is a “lifetime opportunity … either you’re in or you’re out.”
He said the younger volunteers joined up to gain experience and make connections. Young professionals largely view this as an opportunity to gain lateral experience and broaden their horizons, while older volunteers want to share their experience with others.

There are 20 different job categories ranging from event logistics and VIP services to hospitality and media services and operations with more than 60 specific assignments.
Altogether, UEFA selected 5,500 volunteers out of a pool of 24,000 applicants from 152 countries – its largest volunteer drive to date. Half the volunteers will serve in each co-host country of Poland and Ukraine, roughly 85 percent of whom are residents of their respective countries.
The Swiss-based non-profit organization is spending 8 million euros, or 1,450 euros per volunteer, to cover insurance, training, catering and other costs. Volunteers must pay for airfare and accommodation for the duration of their stay.

In Ukraine, Bantser said, the North American-Ukrainians will be based mostly in Lviv where they could put their Ukrainian-language and cross-cultural skills to use. Likewise, the Russian-Ukrainians will be sent to predominantly Russian-speaking Donetsk. Volunteers of Ukrainian extraction also will arrive from Germany, France, and Australia, among other countries.

Donetsk and Lviv will have the highest percentage of non-resident volunteers. Kyiv will have around 120 foreigners from as far away as Peru, China and Ghana and as close as Georgia, Latvia and Belarus.
Meanwhile, Kyiv’s city administration has five diaspora Ukrainians providing translations services for host city operations.
German Michael Hamalij, an adviser to Kyiv’s Euro 2012 department who is of Ukrainian descent, has recruited a German, Canadian, American, Russian and Sweden, all with Ukrainian roots to provide translation services to the host city’s website and other event-related materials.
“They have Ukrainian hearts who want to be a part of the hugest Ukrainian event ever,” Hamalij said about their motivation for helping.
Hamalij added that he’s recruiting more diaspora volunteers and expects at least an additional do-gooder to work during the event in June.

Oxana Makar

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

High-profile Ukraine men accused of raping, burning woman alive.

Three Ukrainians have been accused of raping, attempting to strangle and burning a young woman alive in the Ukrainian town of Nikolayev, Hürriyet reported on its website today.
Two of the suspects were sons of Ukrainian officials, one being Maxim Prisyjnikov, 23, the son of the regional administrator, and the other Artyon Pogosyan, 21, the son of the regional prosecutor. The third suspect was their friend, 23-year-old Yevgeniy Krasnoshek.

It was claimed that the trio met 18-year-old Oxana Makar at a café and invited her to a house party. They allegedly raped Makar after taking her home; after becoming aware of the crime they had allegedly committed, the suspects allegedly panicked and strangled Oxana Makar with an electrical wire.
The suspects waited for an hour before being convinced that Makar was dead and took her body to a construction site. There they allegedly wrapped her body in a blanket, poured gasoline on her and set her on fire.
Oxana Makarwas found conscious by the police the next day after locals heard her moans. She was burned beyond recognition with bones on one of her hands molten due to heat, the report said.
The victim told police the names of her assailants as she could still talk. Police promptly apprehended the three suspects but they were released only two hours later due to “lack of evidence.” It was claimed the suspects’ fathers pressured the local authorities into releasing their sons and their friend.
The release of the suspects caused an uproar among Nikolayev residents, who took to the streets and surrounded the prosecutor’s office.

President steps in
The increasing public disturbance in Nikolayev caused Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to step in and order the arrest of the suspects. Prosecutors from Ukraine public prosecutor’s office were dispatched to Nikolayev to investigate the incident.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said “two of those who committed this horrendous crime were sons of high-ranking officials, which we call ‘golden youth.’ They will be punished with the heaviest means possible by law.”
The children of top-ranking civil servants are called “golden youth” in Ukraine.

Organs failing
Makar remains in critical condition in Nikolayev, the report said. One of her hands and her feet were amputated due to gangrene as her internal organs failed one by one.
Doctors said the victim was suffering from poisoning and that her kidneys and liver had stopped working.
A country-wide donation campaign was launched to help Makar receive better treatment.

Ukraine and Poland

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

For Ukraine and Poland, Euro 2012 no longer scores any political goals.

The narrative that brought the two nations together in a 2007 bid to host the football tournament has petered out.

‘In 2005, Ukraine’s new president, Viktor Yushchenko (right), eagerly supported Euro 2012, and the new Polish president, Lech Kaczyński, eagerly supported Yushchenko and the orange revolution.’ Photograph: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

Every major sporting event contains a political narrative, usually a story about emerging or enduring strength that leaders hope to sell to populations both at home and abroad.

Sometimes, such stories are universal and easy to spot. For example, the favoured narrative of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was China’s symbolic arrival as a global superpower, a story that was accepted with varying degrees of enthusiasm both in China and abroad. At other times, the story that emerges is more relevant to local audiences. This was the case in 2006, when the Fifa World Cup in Germany marked the beginning of a new era with enthusiastic displays of national pride breaking half a century of taboos.

The narrative of Euro 2012 taking place in Poland and Ukraine this summer is far more muddled. Despite the fact that the upcoming tournament marks the first time since the end of the cold war that an event on this scale will be hosted in eastern Europe, the obvious story about post-communist societies moving toward the western mainstream no longer applies, especially after Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison, in a case condemned across the EU as politically motivated.

As Timothy Garton Ash pointed out last October, the contrast between the trajectories of Ukraine and Poland could not be sharper, yet, this was not how it began. A joint Euro 2012 bid was first mentioned in the spring of 2003 by Ukrainian Football Federation head Hryhoriy Surkis. This occurred shortly after Ukraine’s president, Leonid Kuchma, decided to move away from what he called “a multi-vector foreign policy” and asked to join Nato after feeling squeezed by increasing co-operation between the United States and Russia.

Polish football authorities jumped on board almost immediately, and both Kuchma and Poland’s president, Aleksander Kwaśniewski – a long-time advocate of Nato enlargement and continuing EU expansion – eagerly supported the bid. It fit perfectly with the broader geopolitical goal of strengthening ties between the two neighbours and ushering Ukraine into Euro-Atlantic structures.

By the time the bid was shortlisted by Uefa in November 2005, Poland had joined the EU, and Ukraine was basking in the afterglow of the orange revolution – a series of incredible events in late 2004 that saw a rigged presidential election overturned after reports of widespread fraud.

Ukraine’s new president, Viktor Yushchenko, eagerly supported Euro 2012, and the new Polish president, Lech Kaczyński, eagerly supported Yushchenko and the orange revolution. Both leaders were present in Cardiff in April 2007 to present the final bid, and both countries celebrated when they beat out Italy’s offer in the first round.

Despite the successful outcome, the Euro 2012 narrative began to lose focus the following year, once Ukraine’s Nato aspirations were placed on indefinite hold after an acrimonious summit in Bucharest.

Poland’s political and diplomatic elite maintained its love affair with Yushchenko, but with the president haemorrhaging support and the orange revolution floundering, the two countries drifted apart. Meanwhile, the focus shifted away from the political and cultural dimension of Euro 2012 towards modernising transport infrastructure and tournament-related public works, a process hindered by Ukraine’s deep financial crisis and organisational setbacks on both sides of the border.

By the time Ukraine held its next presidential elections in January 2010, Yushchenko was an afterthought, and the country’s diplomatic orientation under the new president, Viktor Yanukovych, once more resembled Kuchma’s “multi-vector foreign policy”. Ukraine dropped its Nato bid, and Tymoshenko’s arrest resulted in a diplomatic row that put Ukraine’s EU aspirations in stasis.

With Euro 2012 approaching, Ukraine is once more lurching between Russia and the EU, between the promise and the disappointment of the orange revolution, and between Russian-style “managed democracy” and a political system more closely resembling that of an aspiring EU state. Meanwhile, Poland’s approach toward its eastern neighbour mirrors Ukraine’s ongoing identity crisis, lacking in clarity and direction.

Last December, a few days after a EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev, Tymoshenko’s website featured a cheeky “letter to a dictator” addressed to Yanukovych from prison. “I’m not sure how much you know about international and geopolitical issues, but I have bad news for you: Euro 2012 isn’t an agreement on European integration, you’ve been deceived. It’s football.” Here, Tymoshenko is only partially right. For a while, it was about a lot more than football, but not any longer.

Ukraine seeks alternative to Russia gas

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ukraine seeks alternative to Russia gas: PM.

The Ukrainian government is seeking to diversify its energy sources to reduce dependence on Russian gas, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Thursday.

“We have to do it. It`s not our choice,” Azarov told the state-run First National TV channel. But he added that alternative sources could not fully replace Russian gas supplies.

Azarov said steps to promote energy independence would include increasing coal`s share in the county`s energy mix and developing domestic shale gas production.

Earlier, the Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz said Ukraine plans to purchase natural gas from Germany`s RWE energy company in an attempt to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

To ease Ukraine`s financial burden, Kiev has been seeking to slash natural gas imports from Russia, an intention that Moscow said violates their energy deal signed in 2009.

Under the contract between Ukrainian state-run Naftogaz and Russian gas giant Gazprom in 2009, Ukraine agreed to buy 52 billion cubic meters of gas per year or pay for a minimum of 80 percent of that volume, regardless of the actual amount taken.

Kiev has been negotiating for more than a year for lower prices for Russian gas, which cost 416 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters in the first quarter of 2012.

Ukrainian Communists

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ukrainian Communists take side of Syria’s Assad.

Are Ukraine’s leaders on the wrong side of history once again?

In a sign of how desperate the increasingly isolated Syrian president has become amid his deadly crackdown on the opposition, Bashar al-Assad received a delegation representing Ukraine’s marginal Communist Party, which flew in to provide moral support.

Amid international outcry at the deaths of some 7,500 people over the last year, three lawmakers from the Communist faction in parliament arrived in Damascus to meet Assad and other officials from March 3 to March 7.

“Our position as the Communist Party is full support of Syrian leadership,” Yevhen Tsarkov, one of the lawmakers, told the Kyiv Post following his visit.

While the West has censured Assad over his use of the army to suppress the opposition, Ukraine’s official position has been more cautious.

“The government should stop using force, and forceful seizure of power on the part of rebels is also unacceptable,” said Oleh Voloshyn, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

The Communists, however, have gone a step further, expressing solidarity with Assad. Since using force to crush political opposition last year, Syria’s international friends have been limited largely to countries such as China, Iran and Russia, though the Kremlin appears to have recently softened its support by calling for a ceasefire and end to the bloodshed.

But Tsarkov’s assessment of the situation in Syria chimes with that of the Syrian authorities. He said radicals, foreign agents and Western governments are plotting to destabilize the country and overthrow the government.

He said Syrian authorities are not using force against opposition and anti-government protesters.

Assad has ruled Syria with an iron fist since taking over for his father in 2000.

Communist Party lawmaker Yevhen Tsarkov

Why do Communists, who trace their roots to Vladimir Lenin’s toppling of the Russian czar, support a monarchy-styled dictatorship?

Political analyst Vadym Karasiov said it’s no surprise that Communists support Assad’s rule as “both share anti-American, anti-democratic sentiment and have common socialist roots.”

The Communists have traditionally supported the anti-American authoritarian regimes in Venezuela and Cuba.

The Communist lawmakers – Tsarkov, Alla Aleksandrovska and Serhiy Khrapov – are members of an parliamentary group on relations with Syria. Deputies from opposition and pro-presidential parties who are members of the group declined the invitation to visit Damascus.

Many Western countries have slapped Syria with an arms embargo after the bloodshed commenced last year. But Tsarkov urged Ukrainian President
Viktor Yanukovych to support Assad and improve bilateral trade

In 2010, Ukraine and Syria said they wanted to launch a free-trade zone, but that deal never came into force amid the current turmoil there. Trade turnover between Ukraine and Syria was hit hard by the economic crisis of 2008, dropping to $691 million in 2010, 41 percent down from the record high $1.17 billion in 2008.

Syria is the one of Ukraine’s biggest importers in the Middle East, buying metal, grain and sunflower oil.

Prior to the uprising in Syria, Assad was received by Yanukovych in Kyiv in December 2010. The two leaders said they wanted to deepen the countries’ relations and sign a free-trade agreement.

Syrian Ambassador to Ukraine Mohamed Said Akil last month praised Ukraine’s position of “non-interference in Syria’s internal affairs” in an interview with Gazeta 2000 newspaper.

Tsarkov warned that Yanukovych should take a clearer position in support of Assad – or potentially face the same fate of leaders in North Africa and the Middle East who have been overthrown by protests in the past year.

“Yanukovych is making a mistake by not taking a definite position toward Syria. He is afraid of the West,” Tsarkov said.

“If he continues to behave in such a conformist way, then no one can guarantee that at some point [his luxurious suburban residence] Mezhyhirya will not be invaded by people on a bulldozer who will topple him.”

Political analyst Karasiov said Yanukovych would be better served to come out “on the right side of history,” supporting people rather than authoritarian leaders.

National Bank of Ukraine

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ukrainian parliament regulates sale of shares in nationalized banks.

The Ukrainian parliament has adopted a law on the specifics of the sale of shares in banks that were capitalized by the state.

A total of 226 out of 415 lawmakers registered in the session hall supported the law.

The law defines the specifics of the sale of a state-owned stake in banks that were capitalized by the state during the financial crisis.

The document says that the shares are sold under principles of openness and competitiveness.

Under the law, strategic investors can be banking institutions or resident and non-resident bank groups that are in line with the requirements set by the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) regarding a stainless business reputation and a satisfactory financial state.

The law also says that stakes in banks are sold without being divided into parts in the following stages: the purchase of services of an advisor for the sale of the stake, the preparation of the stakes for sale, the approval of a procedure for the holding of a tender, determining the starting price of the stake, making a decision on the sale of the stake, the creation of a commission for the sale of the stake, the holding of a tender and the selection of a winner, the signing of the sale and purchase agreement with the winner of the tender, and the registration of ownership rights to the stake by the buyer.

S&P Ukraine rating

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

S&P cuts Ukraine rating outlook over loans problem.

Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency on Thursday lowered its outlook for Ukraine from stable to negative after the government said it was seeking to restructure a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

S&P said that while it kept the sovereign rating at B+, it lowered the outlook – which means it could downgrade the country in coming months – because “uncertainty about the Ukraine government’s negotiations with the IMF and (Russian energy giant) Gazprom is increasing refinancing risks.”

S&P said the new outlook reflects the country’s reluctnace to make tough political decisions on austerity measures and the risk that talks with gas supplier Gazprom might not result in lower energy prices, as the government hopes.

“Ukraine faces significant external and fiscal funding challenges,” the agency said in a statement.

Hours earlier, First Deputy Economy Minister Vadim Kopylov told reporters that the government is asking to delay repayment of its IMF loan by 10 years.

But IMF representative Max Alier said the organization has no mechanisms to restructure such repayments. He suggested instead that the government take steps to unblock a $15.6 billion loan that was frozen last spring due to the Ukrainian government’s refusal to implement unpopular austerity measures, such as raising residential gas and heating prices.

President Viktor Yanukovych is meanwhile hoping to get a discount on supplies of Russian natural gas and avoid raising prices for millions of impoverished Ukrainians ahead of parliamentary elections this fall. But talks with Moscow also have stalled.

Experts said that winning over the IMF will be a hard task.

“Ukraine’s aggressive language with the IMF over pushing a restructuring and in the same breath talking of higher social spending in advance of parliamentary elections in October is hardly likely to win friends and influence people in Washington,” said Tim Ash, head of emerging-market research at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London.

Key IMF shareholders are also upset by the apparent deterioration of democracy under Yanukovych, namely the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her top ally, former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, on charges condemned as politically motivated by the West, Ash said.

Failure to restructure the IMF loan and other debts that mature this year will put pressure on the national currency, as the central bank will be running out of its reserve to support the hryvna.

Ex-leader of Ukraine

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ex-leader of Ukraine is denied treatment.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed former Ukrainian prime minister, has not been allowed to receive treatment in a specialized clinic outside her prison, as recommended by German doctors, prison officials and supporters said Thursday.

Tymoshenko, 51, the country’s top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year jail sentence on charges of abuse of office after a verdict condemned by the West as politically motivated.

Tymoshenko has a spinal hernia and suffers from constant and intense pain, according to her daughter Eugenia Tymoshenko. German doctors concluded after examining her that she urgently needs complex treatment, which should be conducted in a specialized facility, not in prison, in observance of international standards.

Ihor Andrushko, Penitentiary Service spokesman, said that Tymoshenko has been offered medication, massages, and other procedures for her condition to be administered inside the prison. He said Tymoshenko had refused the offer.

Tymoshenko, facing a slew of other charges and investigations, denies all the accusations and claims that the criminal cases against her have been orchestrated by her archenemy President Viktor Yanukovych.

Split Naftogaz

March 16th, 2012Posted by admin

Ukraine Agrees to Split Naftogaz.

The Ukrainian government approved a bill on Friday to split the national energy company Naftogaz into production and transportation divisions and prohibit rental or privatization of the gas transportation system.

Naftogaz should be split according to the provisions of the EU Third Energy Package, which requires the separation of energy production, transportation and sales, as Ukraine is a member of the European Energy Communit, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Vladimir Makukha said.

Makukha claimed delay in reforming the country’s gas sector had prevented modernization of the Ukrainian gas transportation system, and approval of the new bill could re-start the process.

“In fact, implementation of the first pilot project to upgrade Ukraine’s gas transit system to modernize the Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod gas pipeline with funds from European financial institutions has stopped,” Makusha said. Europe has refused to grant the funds until Ukraine reforms its internal gas market.

Naftogaz expected to get over $300 million from a consortium of international banks in July 2011 to upgrade the Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline. Kiev estimates the overall cost of upgrading the whole system at $5-7 billion over five to seven years.

The bill was opposed by the opposition in the Rada, particularly by supporters of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who tried to block the rostrum in protest as it was debated.

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council head Andriy Klyuyev said the council will discuss how to manage the gas transportation system as the issue is a matter of the country’s national security.

Russia had previously proposed setting up a joint venture between Naftogaz and Gazprom, to run Ukraine’s gas transit system, as part of a settlement of its gas price dispute with Moscow.

The two countries have been embroiled in a long-running dispute over the price and volume of Russian gas purchased by Ukraine. Kiev insists the current price is too high.

In late February Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Moscow had sent a new gas proposal to Kiev stipulating a 10 percent discount in the price of gas, which Ukraine was considering.

Kiev imported over 1.8 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in January 2012, while in February it had to increase purchases to 3.1 billion cu m due to the severe cold. The annual average Russian gas price for Ukraine for this year stands at $416 per 1,000 cu m.

Ukraine claims it would be cheaper to buy gas from Germany, and has begun exploring other sources of supply.

New Year

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

By the way, where will you spent Christmas and the New Year?

“I will be here for American Christmas on December 25. My deputy is on his leave with his family. We are going to go to the States on the 29th to spend the New Year with my two daughters and their families, especially with my granddaughter who is just over one year old. We have recently watched on Skype her walking for the first time. We will have eight or nine days in Washington to spoil her and have a good time. We are really looking forward to this. For us the holidays is all about family.”

What would you wish to the readers of Den in the New Year?

“I hope that the New Year will be healthy, prosperous and successful. I wish the same for Ukraine. I hope this will be the year of the European values. I hope that the country will deal with some of its problems and be the successful country that the people of Ukraine deserve. I am proud to be the American ambassador here. My wife and I enjoy very much living in Ukraine. Hopefully, in the new year, I will travel more and get outside of Kyiv. It is not that I do not like Kyiv, I do, but it is something I should do as a part of my job and I enjoy it. I wish everyone a Happy New Year. ”

Europe

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

REACHING AGREEMENT WITH EUROPE IS AN IMPORTANT MILESTONE FOR UKRAINE

In your opinion what is the most important event that has happened this year in the world or Ukraine and has had a significant impact?

“I think reaching agreement with Europe on Association Agreement and the Deeep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Agreement is an important milestone. Obviously, a number of issues have to be addressed. President Van Rompuy and President Barroso both made those clear. But I hope that historians will look back at the year 2011 and will say that this was one of those important moments in the history of Ukraine when a decisive choice was made to be a part of Europe.”

What article or project of Den have you remarked this year?

“Every morning I have a press briefing which my staff gives me, and they go over all of the different press.We read your newspaper among others to keep informed not just about what happens but to get analysis and sense of why it is happening and what it means. We are a big believer in the freedom of the press and I am glad that there are still opportunities in the print media, the internet, and television to be able to get different views since this is really important to a democracy.”

In you first interview to Den you promised to work on your Ukrainian. How are you doing on this?

“Ya namahaiusia, ale uspikhy ne duzhe. Treba bilshe hodyn u dobi, nizh 24 (I am trying hard but my progress is slow. I need more than 24 hours in The Day). I continue to take lessons but I wish I was younger – I would be better in this. I started learning Hungarian when I was 32 and my brain was more agile at that time. My comprehension and being able to read, having learnt Russian some years ago, is improving but it is still work in progress. That is one of my New Year’s resolutions to do better, to take more time and to study more.”

NATO

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

Secretary General of NATO Rasmussen during his recent meeting in Brussels with Secretary Clinton said that Chicago, where the next year’s summit of the Alliance will be held, is built upon diversity and determination, just like NATO. On her part, Secretary Clinton, who was born in Chicago, said she would pass on this new slogan from the Secretary General to Chicago Mayor. Can you tell whether the Ukrainian president has been invited to this summit and what is expected of him? In general, what is your view of Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO?

“NATO is in the process of organizing the summit, we have our own planning, but NATO is the one who does the invitations. My understanding is that President Yanukovych will be invited. There will be a meeting or discussion there about Afghanistan. Ukraine is part of ISAF organization (International Security Force in Afghanistan), for which we are grateful, and he will certainly be invited to that. We will be hearing more about the preparations in detail, we are still half a year away from this.

“I would just say more generally about NATO. Since the establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Charter in 1997, Ukraine has been a valued partner and has participated in the whole range of operations. NATO is assisting Ukraine in defense reform. And while the government of President Yanukovych is no longer seeking NATO membership, it has pledged that they want to cooperate with NATO. We would like to see concrete things to be done in that area; we have good exercises and there is even greater potential. This is one of the things we will be talking about in the run-up to the summit in Chicago.”

European

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

FOR MANY AMERICAN FIRMS UKRAINE IS AN EMERGING MARKET WITH A GREAT POTENTIAL

What can you say about the business climate in Ukraine? Do you see any progress? Do the conditions for investors get better?

“We talk about the potential for attracting domestic and foreign business here. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many, at the present moment, the business climate is perceived as needing significant improvement. You can see this in the international polls that track investment. Let me just give you four examples. Ukraine falls below almost every European country in each of these four. Transparency International’s perception of corruption: Ukraine is No. 152 out of 182; in the Index of Economic Freedom of the Heritage Foundation, Ukraine is 164 out of 183; the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness ranking – Ukraine is 83 out of 142; and in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, Ukraine is 152 out of 183. I could go on, but the point is that those organizations that measure progress toward the economic reforms and toward building a better business climate, do not see change – they see things falling backward. We have noted recently some changes with regard to VAT refunds and with regard to certain companies that were being attacked or not treated properly by the governing agencies. We have complained, and those have been fixed, and I am grateful for that. But, I think that the fundamental point – and I told this to the prime minister at the last meeting – is that you have to change the system. It is not just enough to change one or two or ten companies or to deal with the cases that arise when those companies are not treated properly. You have to change the entire system. I have said over and over again here that getting more foreign investment, and Ukraine desperately needs more foreign investment, requires that you treat the companies that are here well, because those who are looking to come into this market look and see how the current companies are treated, and they make their judgments. Ukraine, for many American firms, is considered an emerging market with a great potential. Forty-five million people, huge regional market right in the center of Europe. But if the companies that are here are having trouble and are not being treated properly, if they are subject to raider attacks, if they are not getting their VAT refunds back as the law requires, others who are looking at investing make judgments about that. That is what my European colleagues and I focus on, and this is the message we have been giving consistently and in detail to the government.”

Ukraine

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE, AS PRESIDENT YANUKOVYCH SAID, THAT REFORMS WILL MOVE AHEAD AND PROGRESS

Reagan’s famous phrase about the Soviet Union as the “evil empire” took many by surprise. A lot of people at the time were not pondering on the question, why Khrushchev’s son and Stalin’s daughter left for the United States. It seems that even now many people in Ukraine have not come to understand this phrase. And this is where manifestations of neo-Stalinism come from – the phantom returns, and we can see this in monuments to the “father of the people” being set up. Vaclav Havel once said that Russia struggles with the most repugnant mutation of totalitarianism. This observation can be applied to Ukraine too. As an observer from the side, what do you see in the processes underway in Ukraine and what are the risks for democracy in our country?

“I would say, first of all, that all Americans were saddened last week when we learned about the death of Vaclav Havel – as, I think, people all over this part of the world who care about freedom and democracy. He was a great and courageous man who did a lot before the end of the Soviet Union as a dissident, but also as president of his country.

“We believe in what we say, when we say that Ukraine needs to be free, sovereign, and have its territorial integrity protected. It is not just a slogan. It is real, it is important and it is the fundamental core of the American policy towards this country since Ukraine became independent in 1991. We believe very much in that. At the same time we think it is important that Ukraine have the ability to develop its own democracy, its own market economy, to build this country so that it can assume the role that it wants to play as a European country in a critical strategic part of Europe, but free to do that and to develop the skills and resources of the wonderful people of this country. This is not just platitude; this is really at the fundamental core.

“Obviously, Ukraine, like other countries of the former Soviet Union, battles with what so many people call the communist or the Soviet mentality. It has its manifestations in different parts of life. You know, I have been working in this part of the world for a long time and I have seen, despite this mentality, despite people longing to hold back, I have seen it in the Baltic countries, when I was ambassador in Lithuania, people trying to overcome problems like that. I saw it in Georgia: reform efforts that transform that country – it is not completely there yet, but I saw the kinds of things that absolutely need to be done. I have seen the things happen in this country that encourage me.

“I see a civil society that is still very vibrant. There are a lot of other things that need to be done. The United States wants to be on the side of those helping to make those reforms. We would like to see, as President Yanukovych said, that reforms will move ahead and progress, they have got to be real, effective and change the nature of the society.”

Ms. Tymoshenko

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

In a number of speeches in Ukraine you have emphasized the need to improve the judicial branch of government. In particular, at the International Conference on Strategic Planning for the Judiciary, you said that “selective prosecution… erodes people’s faith in [these] institutions, and this has a horrible impact on the international image of the country.” You probably know that Mr. Yeliashkevych had been granted political asylum in the United States because of the threats to his life here under Kuchma’s presidency. And now we have this terrible cynical process in Kuchma’s case, which Ukrainian media calls a special operation to exonerate Kuchma and project that it may end with a failure of Gongadze’s case. Do you believe in Ukraine’s judiciary resuscitation after this?

“Let me explain why I speak so often about the independent judiciary. I believe personally and the United States’ government believes that the rule of law is fundamental to the success not just of democracy but to the success of a modern nation. We believe that you have to be able to show that people can get justice when it is denied to them. We believe that you have to be able to find a way, if you are in business, to get justice. The rule of law protects the individual against the arbitrary power of the state and that is one of the fundamentals of democracy everywhere. Now, there are a lot of areas that this could cover; it is not just the perception of selective prosecution which we have spoken about with regard of Ms. Tymoshenko and other members of her party. It also applies to unequal access to courts that people complain about here. The people see that the courts are politicized, that they render political judgments rather than fair and impartial judgments. They see the courts favoring the elites over the individual, that if you got high political connections you can get judgments, or the courts can be used in the things like raider attacks. There is a whole range of these areas which need to be addressed. It is part of one of our biggest USAID programs to work on this. And it is something that political leadership and all political parties need to rededicate themselves to in this country. Without this, Ukraine cannot become the modern nation that I know that everyone wants it to become.

I would also say that we have provided a lot of assistance here, we have done this through this USAID program, we have also tried to help draft reform laws. One of the big laws that is pending out there now, before the Rada, is the criminal procedure code. This is a document developed by Ukrainians with a lot of input from us and the Council of Europe. I really think that it is one of those keys to being able to build a modern independent jurisprudent system here. I really hope that, after the Rada returns, at its next session, they will be able to pass this piece of legislation.”

Do you share the opinion of one of your predecessors, Ambassador William Miller, who said in his interview to Den, that “if the government succeeds in getting rid of criminal laws of the Soviet era and in freeing Yulia Tymoshenko, this will be a testimony to Ukraine’s ability to act democratically in its own interests”?

“My friend Bill is now in the private sector, he is no longer in the government, but I would not disagree with his judgment. And speaking as current American Ambassador and speaking for the U.S. Government, I will say: we have repeatedly expressed our concerns with politically motivated trials of Ms. Tymoshenko and members of the former government. We really believe that putting an end to selective prosecution and freeing Ms. Tymoshenko and others would be a step in the right direction. At the same time we also support the reforms of the legal system. Our issue here is that when you try people for political crimes that sets precedent for somebody else to do the same thing. The rule of law, the process of how you do this, is vitally important so that you can be precise. In the western countries, when someone makes a political bad judgment, they are held responsible by the voters, and it’s the voters who make those decisions, not the courts. This is something that we have explained to the government privately and repeatedly and something, we think, that is fundamental not just with regard of the current cases but for the future and effectiveness of the Ukrainian system.”

America

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

The article in the last issue of Foreign Affairs titled “The Wisdom of Retrenchment: America Must Cut Back to Move Forwards” calls for deep cuts in the US defense budget, reviewing the foreign policy priorities and shifting US defense burden to allies. Would this be a far-sighted policy, when so many countries see in the United States a guarantor of their independence and sovereignty, and also a champion of democracy and freedom of expression around the world?

“I have not actually read through that whole article, so I cannot comment on the specifics. There are lots of articles out there about America’s decline and America’s retrenchment but I am awfully careful about that and I will tell you why. I am old enough now to know that back in the mid-1980s America was going through a tough period, just as one example: our industrial base was shrinking and the Japanese were growing fast and everyone said that America was in trouble, America was in decline and America was finished. But the American industry reinvented itself in that period and in the coming years we had a few other inventions which did pretty good for America. One of them was called the Internet which transformed not just the way we do information, but think of all the things that have come out of that which had been to the benefit of not just our economy but the economies of the world. I would just caution.

“The best statement that I have seen with regard to America’s military position was made by Secretary Panetta in this testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. He said that we have to meet our fiscal responsibilities, but what this requires is a very clear setting of the strategic priorities and making some tough decisions. He said that we have and we will maintain the finest and best military in the world and he went on to say how important it is to maintain certain levels. I would argue that this strategic priority setting is an important one.

“We are in the middle of going through a process of looking again at our assistance here in Ukraine. We probably will have less dollars than we had before, but we try to make sure that what we are spending our money on here is targeted on exactly the best thing for us and for Ukraine. It means smart thinking, smart strategic choice making.”

“Occupy” action still continues in many places in the US. The organizers say that they reflect the disappointment of 99 percent of population. What is you view of this American version of the Ukrainian Maidan?

“I think that President Obama said it probably the best that this movement, just like the ‘Tea Party’ reflects the frustration in the American society. This frustration is based on fundamentally economic issues. We have just gone through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression eighty years ago. Huge numbers of Americans lost their jobs. We have just last month finally come down from 9 or 9.1 to 8.6 percent of unemployment. In America this is a huge number. I have a daughter who is 33, and many of her friends, who have started out in careers, were let go, because in America you have the seniority rule, so the last one hired is often the first one who is fired. Many of them are having hard times in getting a job. I pray that we are coming out of that now and the American business is picking up. There are more economic indicators that that’s the case. I would also be careful in comparing this to the Maidan, because I think they are pretty different kinds of phenomenon and for different purpose.”

Ukrainian

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

The United States will strongly support the process of Ukraine’s integration with the EU

At the beginning of the next year the Embassy of the United States is moving to a new building. That is why John TEFFT, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, began the conversation with The Day with the details of the moving and intrigued with surprises, which are awaiting journalists in the new building.

THERE WILL BE A GALLERY OF PICTURES OF THE PROMINENT UKRAINIAN AMERICANS IN THE NEW EMBASSY

“I am going to miss this big office, I will have a smaller one in the building we are moving into.”

Why are you moving during the leap year? In Ukraine this is considered to be a bad sign. Even our newspaper moved to its new quarters at the end of this year.

“ I don’t think the people who are responsible ever thought about leap year. We have been hoping to move to a bigger facility for so long – we have people in six different buildings. So we will be able to consolidate almost everybody.”

How did you manage to rename Tankova Street, where the Embassy’s new building is situated, into Sikorskoho Street?

“This goes back to before I was here, when Bill Taylor was here. The way I heard it, it was mayor Chernovetsky’s idea to change the name and try to come up with a name for the street that would be appropriate for the American Embassy. Ihor Sikorsky is Ukrainian from Kyiv and a great American scientist, creator of helicopters. So, the decision was made, long before I came here, that this would be the best one. The only thing that the head of City Administration, Mr. Popov, and I have talked about was getting it through the city council and approved. They did it, and we are grateful for that. We think it’s an appropriate name. One of the things we are going to do in the new embassy is have a gallery of pictures of some of the prominent Ukrainian Americans, who have distinguished themselves. We have been doing some research on this – there are some awfully famous people who have Ukrainian roots: people like Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, and lots of others. But we will keep that as a surprise for you and your readers until we move to the new building.”

Viktor Yanukovych

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

Viktor Yanukovych: Economic growth is needed to solve social issues

Economic growth is the key to a successful solution of social problems, President Viktor Yanukovych in an interview for Evenings with Vitaliy Korotych TV program, according to the Press office of President Viktor Yanukovych.

“For us to be able to solve social issues, we have to significantly raise the economic level. According to our estimates, the GDP growth should be at least 6% annually. The more, the better,” he said. He drew attention to the fact that the indicator has been improving recently: in 2010, GDP grew 4.2%, and this year the figure will be about 5%.

The President stressed that Ukraine will continue its efforts to speed up economic growth, and qualified staff will be trained to conduct the work. “If there is no forward movement and no hard work, there will be nothing. I do not believe that anything can be achieved without hard work,” said Viktor Yanukovych.

Yulia Tymoshenko

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

French Foreign Ministry urges Ukraine to put an end to judicial proceedings that don’t meet European norms

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the decision of the Kyiv Court of Appeals to reject former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s appeal of her conviction by the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv in the so-called “gas case”, according to the Official web site of Yulia Tymoshenko.

“We deeply regret the Ukrainian court’s decision to dismiss the appeal of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced in October to seven years in prison, three years of ineligibility to hold public office, and a fine of $190 million for alleged `abuse of authority` during the signing of gas agreements with Russia in January 2009,” said a statement by the Ministry.

The French ministry stressed that the appeal process, just as the original trial, “took place in haste and disregard for the basic right of defense.”

“At the EU-Ukraine Summit on December 19, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening relations with Ukraine. In return for this cooperation with Europe, as pointed out by President Van Rompuy, we expect from Ukraine a major effort in terms of respect for European values. In this regard, the consideration of Yulia Tymoshenko’s appeal, like other legal proceedings against other opposition figures, have signs that we view with great concern. We urge Ukraine to take immediate action to enforce the rule of law and put an end to judicial proceedings that are distant from European standards in this area,” the statement said.

Ukrainian opposition

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

Ukrainian Opposition Parties To Join Forces

Two Ukrainian opposition parties whose leaders are currently in jail say they will form a joint candidate list for the 2012 parliamentary elections, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reports.

The deputy leaders of the Fatherland and People’s Self-Defense parties made the announcement in Kyiv.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed in October for seven years for exceeding her authority in brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia.

And former Interior Minister and head of the People’s Self-Defense party Yuriy Lutsenko went on trial in May for abuse of office and misappropriation of funds. He remains in detention.

Both deny the charges against them and say their cases are politically motivated.

The two deputy leaders said on December 28 that their parties will merge at a still undetermined date.

The elections to the unicameral parliament are scheduled for October. President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions currently holds a majority in parliament.

Yanukovych narrowly beat Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election, 48.95 percent to 45.47 percent.

According to a poll by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center released on December 27, Fatherland is currently the most popular party in Ukraine with 15.8 percent support, while People’s Self-Defense garnered just 0.4 percent support from respondents.

The first deputy leader of Fatherland, Oleksandr Turchynov, expressed the hope that some other opposition parties will also merge with his party and People’s Self-Defense.

Ukraine earlier this year switched to a mixed electoral system, with half of the deputies to be elected under the proportional system.

Russian gas

December 29th, 2011Posted by admin

Ukraine pays Nov Russian gas bill-Ifx

Ukraine, which had to borrow money from a Russian gas industry bank to cover part of its November bill for deliveries of the blue fuel from Russia’s Gazprom, has now paid the bill in full, Interfax reported on Wednesday, citing the export monopoly.

Earlier this month, it won an extended grace period on its payments and now will settle its bill on the 28th of each month, instead of the seventh.

Ukraine’s difficulties paying for the supplies of Russian gas, on which its economy depends, have set gas consumers on edge in Europe, which is expected to receive more than half its Russian gas deliveries via Ukraine’s transit pipelines next year.

Twice in the past decade, disputes between Russia and Ukraine over pricing and payments for Russian gas have led to cuts in Europe’s supplies when the contract year turned over on Jan. 1.

But both sides have sworn no cuts will occur this year, even though negotiations on a deal for joint control of Ukraine’s transit pipelines, which might trigger price concessions by Gazprom, appear to have broken down.

On Wednesday, Turkey granted Russia permission to build the South Stream pipeline through its territory, a new export route bypassing Ukraine and potentially reducing Kiev’s leverage in the negotiations.

The Ukrainian government is feeling the fiscal strain of gas purchases from Russia at a contract price, which it then sells at a heavily subsidised discount to Ukrainian consumers.

The International Monetary Fund has said it will not resume lending to Ukraine unless the subsidies are abolished.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, speaking at a ceremony with Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz on Wednesday, said Ukraine had budgeted for an average price of $416 per thousand cubic metres next year, implying no cut was expected soon. (Writing by Melissa Akin; editing by James Jukwey)