Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Between us “Americans”

MINNESOTA, USA -- The scandal surrounding the educational documents of Minister of Justice Roman Zvarych is gaining even broader international resonance and naturally is tainting the global image of Ukraine as a democratic state. But let’s return to that issue a little later. First, I would like to try and clarify the deliberate or unintentional confusion regarding specific educational terms to which Zvarych has resorted.

I belong to those Ukrainians whom Mr. Zvarych addressed during his speech on May 10 with the following contemptuous words: “Can they with their college diplomas and degrees of candidate and doctor of sciences, be given even a teaching position in American high schools if not at American universities?”

I tried this and succeeded. With a candidate of physics and mathematics degree, over 60 published works and the academic title of associate professor in my portfolio, I left for the U.S. in 1994, where I’ve been working as a teacher for more than ten years in American higher learning institutions. Having extensive experience in teaching at Ukrainian and American institutions of higher education, helping students from my place of birth to set off on their studies in the U.S. and having a clear understanding of the definitions of the equivalents of Ukrainian and American educational terms, I believe I have a moral right to express my expert opinion regarding the education of Mr. Zvarych. Unfortunately, he has not shown to journalists or the Ukrainian public the documents verifying his education. Therefore, one can only pass judgment on him based on his rather disputable statements.

Let’s start from the fact that Zvarych graduated from high school. This term can be interpreted in Ukrainian as higher educational institution. Though, the equivalent of this term in Ukrainian is actually secondary school. According to Zvarych, he received his bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College. A bachelor degree means an additional four years of study after graduating from high school and, according to modern Ukrainian education terminology, it corresponds to Ukraine’s baccalaureate.

A four-year higher education in Ukraine was considered and is still considered incomplete higher education. Unfortunately, Mr. Zvarych is not saying what he majored in. Regardless of this, he does not have an education in law, since the college he graduated from does not offer courses in law on its curriculum.

Meanwhile, Zvarych’s statement that he “enrolled in one of the best higher educational institutions — Manhattan College” is also quite arguable. According to the information of Princeton Review, this educational institution is not on the list of the 357 best colleges in the U.S. The next place in Zvarych’s education was Columbia University, which is considered a truly prestigious educational institution.

According to Zvarych, the “education he received at Columbia University is the equivalent of a Master’s Degree”. But this is a false statement, to put it mildly. In fact, according to the prerequisites of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, a student needs to earn 54 academic credits in order to be conferred a master’s degree, which corresponds to 12-15 courses. The courses that Zvarych attended amount to 30 credits at best. By the way, courses at the 4000-6000 level are considered graduate courses required for receiving a master’s degree, not the post-graduate level that Zvarych claims.

These are courses for earning a PhD, which is also known as a doctorate. But this seems to be a minor inaccuracy compared to other mistakes and slip-ups he has committed. But for some odd reason it seems as though Zvarych is committing errors in his favor. Just like a sales clerk in a Soviet shop weighing his fingers together with the candies to up the price and miscalculating the change owed. I think that the majority of Ukrainians would like to be confident in the complete honesty of the current minister of justice and that he does not “weigh his fingers on the scales of justice” in favor of his family interests.

Further in his speech, Zvarych asserts that “without having the recognition of the level of his knowledge equal to that of a master’s degree he would not have received a position at New York University, where students referred to him as professor”. Mr. Zvarych worked at New York University from September 1989 (and not from 1987 as he asserts) till May 1992 as a part-time adjunct lecturer. This is the lowest ranking position in higher learning institutions in the U.S. and which in the Ukrainian educational system is the equivalent of a part-time lecturer. Certain universities, including the one I’m working at, employ people with a bachelor’s degree in such positions taking into account financial expediency. Students may have really called Zvarych a professor, but it is not ethical for him to refer to himself that way without having a PhD and without holding the position of professor.

And there’s one more thing. Mr. Zvarych said that even without having a law education, “he feels like a lawyer”. But even an inexperienced lawyer knows that when giving an interview to any newspaper, a politician must demand from the journalist the final laid-out version for approval. Then, after the article is published, the author must read it once again and request that any erroneous or false information be retracted.

Everyone must review any document they sign, especially if it is a job application form so that in the future this person does not have to call a lie a mere mistake. As for me, all these facts cast doubt on Zvarych’s qualifications as a lawyer. At the same time, there are serious doubts that such a minister of justice is capable of fostering the process of introducing to Ukraine real, rather than declarative, accountability after providing false data on official forms. By the way, such accountability is common practice in many democratic states.

To sum it up, one can draw the conclusion that Mr. Zvarych either deliberately (if it really is deliberate, then it qualifies as fraud) or unintentionally (if this is the case then it is major legal illiteracy) has his terminology mixed up. Instead of saying that he has a bachelor’s degree from an American college, he uses the Ukrainian term “higher education”, which is practically not used in the U.S. In reality, he has an incomplete higher education.

Zvarych’s personal assessment of his knowledge, being equivalent to that of a doctorate or master’s degree, combined with statements that he considers himself an expert, have no legal effect and simply look unethical. Such statements can be made to enhance one’s image in family circles, but not at the level of official post in a country’s ministry.

I know many cases where students of U.S. universities for one reason or another abandon their master’s studies. None of them admitted that they quit their studies due to the inability of coping with their level of difficulty, but at the same time none of them referred to themselves as a master or professor. Indeed, for such a false statement one can be thrown in jail in America. As it turns out, in order to fulfill one’s ambitions and give oneself a pat on the back for having knowledge that doesn’t exist, it appears that one only needs to leave U.S. borders and travel to some poorly developed country.

And, finally, back to the issue of image. Can a person without a law education and with an incomplete higher education in a field that is far from law, occupy the post of the minister of justice? Especially if this person spreads false information about having a law education, a master’s and doctor’s degree and experience working as a professor before being appointed to such a high position. The answer is evidently yes. And needless to say, when the international mass media got hold of this information the rest of the world painted for itself a corresponding image of a country like Ukraine.

Not so long ago, the former president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, impudently ignored the so-called “tape” scandal, which would have resulted in the resignation of any other politician in a democratic country. Kuchma managed to retain his presidential post for a couple of more years and tarnished the image of Ukraine, which for some time now has been described as a semi-dictatorial country of thieves and prostitutes, where the government kills journalists. Fortunately, the “orange” revolution laid the foundation for cardinal changes in the global perception of Ukraine.

The positive image of Ukraine is not just special receptions and honors during visits by the country’s government officials abroad, but also respect for the average Ukrainian citizen, for business and a guarantee of the attraction of major investments into the country’s economy. Naturally, it is for President Viktor Yushchenko to decide whether he should dismiss one of his allies, who unfortunately proved to be unworthy of those principles of honesty and openness proclaimed on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or should he continue to refrain from commenting on the numerous publications in Ukrainian and international mass media about the country’s current Minister of Justice.

Mr. Zvarych does not have an education that corresponds to his post and is thereby sacrificing the image of the highest authority in Ukraine, the president, who is now laying a democratic path of development and bears responsibility before those who elected him and gave him victory.

Source: Kyiv Weekly

Chernobyl Reactor's Shelter in 'No Danger of Collapsing'

KIEV, Ukraine -- The crumbling concrete and steel shelter hastily erected over the destroyed nuclear reactor at Chernobyl is in no danger of collapsing, a senior Ukrainian official has said.

Fears have been growing that the shelter built 19 years ago after Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 exploded and caught fire is deteriorating, which could lead to the release of dangerous radiation. Earlier this month, the West offered more money to the cash-strapped government to help fund a replacement.

Chernobyl Reactor No. 4 After Explosion in 1986

David Zhvania, head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, told Ukraine’s Channel 5 in an interview yesterday that construction work would begin within 18 months.

In the meantime, he insisted that the current shelter is safe.

“There is no danger that the shelter we currently have may break apart and cause a catastrophe,” he said. “Such a thing can’t happen. It’s excluded.”

Zhvania said that work will begin only after all preliminary plans are complete. The European Union and the Group of Eight industrial nations pledged a combined £101.5 million towards the project at a conference in London earlier this month. Ukraine has also promised to pay £12 million.

More than £329 million had been pledged earlier by 28 donor governments. Total costs are estimated at £550 million.

The protective shelter is meant to contain remnants of the reactor, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986. The explosion spewed radiation over much of northern Europe. Some 4,400 people died and about seven million people in the former Soviet republics are believed to have suffered from radiation-related health problems.

Yuriy Andreev, the head of the Chernobyl Union action group, said that danger levels are still high because used fuel remains stored in the ground under reactor No. 4. Chernobyl’s remaining reactors were closed in 2000.

Officials say the proposed confinement structure – a 328ft-high steel arch spanning some 853ft – could be the largest moveable structure ever built. It is expected to be complete by 2009 and to last 100 years.

Source: Scotsman

Ukraine to Build New Sarcophagus Over Chernobyl Reactor

KIEV, Ukraine -- The construction of a new sarcophagus over the reactor of Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant will be begun in one and a half years, Ukrainian Emergency Situations Minister David Zhvania said.

“There is no danger that the facility Shelter that we have at present can destroy and a catastrophe can happen. There can be no such thing, this is excluded,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Existing Chernobyl Sarcophagus

The new facility that is to bury the reactor that exploded on April 26, 1986, for 100 years will be 257 meters long, 150 meters broad and 108 meters high.

In late April, Ukraine called on the work community to come with more substantial technical and financial assistance for overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, in particular increasing donations to the Shelter Foundation, as donor countries had promised.

Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov said Ukraine needs increasing the bankrolling of the Shelter Foundation from 758 million dollars to 1.1 billion dollars.

The plan of action at the Shelter facility includes 93 contracts worth 326 million dollars, 241 million of which have been spent since the beginning of the shelter construction, Plachkov said.

The US promised to issue 45 million dollars and G-7 countries 160 million dollars to the Shelter Foundation.

Russia will contribute five million dollars in 2005 and five million in 2006

Source: ITAR-Tass

Russia Suffers Money Transfer Disappointment in Ukraine

MOSCOW, Russia -- The National Bank of Ukraine introduces a license system for money transfer before the end of this year, closing a key business profile for Russian banks. To get license in Ukraine, a paying system is to submit a certificate of its registration by place of establishment. This document is beyond the reach of Russian systems, as its is not required and, therefore, not issued under the laws of the country.

Justice Ministry of Ukraine sealed early May the ruling of the National Bank that requires from the banks operating with any international money transfer system to get registered with the said bank before close of this year. This move of Ukrainian bank followed FATF requirements, which added Ukraine to the list of countries favoring money laundering in 2002-2003.

National Bank of Ukraine

In particular, the banks are to submit to the National Bank of Ukraine documents confirming that their payment systems identify the clients transferring over $10,000. The banks also have to provide a copy of the registration certificate or any other certifying registration document issued by the foreign authority.

The above innovation can severely handicap the better part of the Russian money transfer systems. Under the Russian laws, the business of money transfer calls for no license, therefore, such systems are unable to provide registration certificates to their Ukrainian partners.

In Russia, all local money transfer systems, but for STB-Express that has a separate license, could be viewed as the bank product. Operating under clearing banks, they hold no licenses of the kind, said Igor Klyuchnikov, deputy chairman at Eurotrust and head of Migom system.

The loss of Ukrainian market will be quite sizable, like the loss of any key revenue. Ukraine could be called one of the most advantageous and profitable markets, specified Alexey Abromiitsev, head of the interbank ties department at Impexbank.

Source: Kommersant

Visas for Ukraine

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- “President Viktor Yushchenko has instructed the Foreign Ministry to see to it that Ukrainian nationals, who wish to travel to EU member-countries and Switzerland, enjoy simplified visa procedures,” said Deputy State Secretary Markian Lubkivskiy. According to Lubkivsky the task must be completed by September 2005 and should mean multiple five-year visas for Ukrainian citizens.

“Visa facilitation is a key priority. I believe that it will send a strong signal to Ukraine’s people,” said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy. “I want to see an end to the frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive processes that make it so difficult for Ukrainians to visit us,” continued the Austrian EU Commissioner.

Speaking late last month in Brussels Ferrero-Waldner noted progress in talks: “We have already held several meetings with Ukraine to prepare the mandate for negotiating visa facilitation, and I hope the member states will also act quickly. This way we show that we really do see Ukrainians as our close partners and friends.” Visa regimes are expected to form part of the agenda at the Ukraine-EU Cooperation Council in Luxembourg on 13 June.

On 1 May, Ukraine unilaterally introduced a visa-free regime for EU nationals and Swiss citizens, partly to facilitate travel before and after the Eurovision song contest held in Kyiv. Although, the visa-free regime remains in effect until 1 September 2005, President Yushchenko wants to further extend the visa-free regime. Ukraine's State Statistics Committee has noted an increase in foreign tourists of 17 percent since visa rules were relaxed for EU and Swiss citizens.

According to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko the measure underscores "... the truly open nature of Ukrainian society, implement the policy of integration into European society and create proper conditions for attracting investment." But keeping free travel for EU citizens will eventually mean allowing Ukrainians to enter the EU without visas.

The EU will need to beef up its border management, especially in new Member States, to meet the growing demands from its larger neighbors in the east, Russia and Ukraine, for visa-free travel. For more than ten years, borderless travel in 12 EU Member States, and now Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland, has been a fact of life following the Schengen Agreement. But whilst freedom of movement is one of the most basic rights for citizens of the EU, MEPs accuse Member States of failing to settle upon a common policy on migration and managing EU borders.

Assisting new members in adapting the future external borders, is the EU's so-called 'Schengen facility' with a budget of €960 million for the period 2004-06. "These funds are efficient and sufficient to implement the Schengen agreements before the end of 2007," notes Robert Rybicki, Justice and Home Affairs Counsellor at the Polish Representation to the EU. Additionally, an EU 'burden-sharing fund' of €2.5 billion could be shared among Member States according to criteria such as the length of their borders and how many visas are issued annually.

"EU citizens want freedom of movement. They should have minimum checks in the Schengen area," said MEP Michael Cashman. The UK socialist's report on the management of the EU's external borders will be voted upon in the European Parliament Strasbourg session in June. Cashman feels citizens from the new EU members may travel freely but still do not have full rights of free movement. "Border guards and third country nationals wishing to enter EU borders also need clarity. That's why the amendments I presented bring forward clarity, focus, certainty and accountability."

Whilst freedom of movement is one of the most basic rights for citizens of the EU, MEPs accuse Member States of failing to settle upon a common policy on migration and managing EU borders. The European Commission would like to see a 'principle of burden sharing' for border controls. An EU 'burden-sharing fund' of €2.5 billion could then be shared among Member States according to criteria such as the length of their borders and how many visas are issued annually.

For more than ten years, borderless travel in 12 EU Member States, and now Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland, has been a fact of life following the Schengen Agreement. Temporary restrictions on movement, though, remain in place for citizens from the ten new countries. They should, in theory, die out by the end of 2007, when the new members join the Schengen area of free travel. By then the new members should be ready to ensure common provisions on border management and to implement the new generation of the Schengen Information System.

Assisting new members in adapting the future external borders, is the EU's so-called 'Schengen facility' with a budget of €960 million for the period 2004-06. "These funds are efficient and sufficient to implement the Schengen agreements before the end of 2007," notes Robert Rybicki, Justice and Home Affairs Counsellor at the Polish Representation to the EU.

UK Socialist Cashman also wants a more human touch to third country nationals: "Third country nationals should have the right to enter the EU if all the entry conditions are met. First and second line checks should be done in a respectful and dignified manner by the border guards." He said national authorities should inform those rejected of the reasons for refusal, where possible in their own language.

The EU also needs to beef up its border management with growing demands from its larger neighbors in the east, Russia and Ukraine, to allow for visa-free travel. Ukraine last week scrapped visa requirements EU and Swiss citizens, at least until the end of September. According to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko the measure underscores "... the truly open nature of Ukrainian society, implement the policy of integration into European society and create proper conditions for attracting investment." But keeping free travel for EU citizens will eventually mean allowing Ukrainians to enter the EU without visas.

In 2003, the Commission proposed the creation of a European Agency for External Borders to encourage cooperation between national border surveillance agencies. This was to have started work in January 2005, but this had been delayed as Member States could not agree on where the agency should be established - Budapest, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Valetta or Tallinn.

Source: Euro Reporters

Enlargement Risks Being Biggest Casualty of Vote

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Future enlargement of the European Union to include Turkey, the Balkan states and even Ukraine could become the highest-profile casualty of France's No vote to the EU constitutional treaty, according to political and diplomatic observers in several member states.

Doubts about the enlargement process emerged as a central theme fuelling opposition to the treaty in both France and the Netherlands in recent weeks. This included not only hostility to the prospect of Turkish membership, but also criticism of the social and economic effects of last year's EU enlargement from 15 to 25 members.

'No' vote supporters celebrate after France voted against the ratification of the European constitution

As a result, the EU's plans for accession talks with Croatia, Turkey, Albania and the rest of former Yugoslavia have been thrown into varying degrees of doubt.

Bulgaria and Romania, which have already signed accession treaties to join in 2007, still have strong hopes of entering, although officials admitted yesterday they were facing "the most difficult phase of the process" requiring ratification by all 25 present members.

Ukraine, which was biding its time before making a formal application to join is in an even more tenuous position, as are long-shot hopefuls such as Georgia and Moldova. During the referendum campaign, many French voters expressed fears about central European workers with low wages taking French workers' jobs and factories moving from France to eastern Europe.

Yesterday, the European Commission tried desperately to disentangle worries about enlargement and the constitution. "The ratification of the constitution and future steps in enlargement policy are two separate procedures," said a spokeswoman for José Manuel Barroso, Commission president. But officials acknowledge the prospects for the continued expansion of the Union are looking poor.

Germany's Christian Democrats, favourites to win the federal election expected in September, have already indicated they may try to block the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, widely regarded as ill-prepared for the burdens of membership. The Christian Democratic Union also opposes Turkey's eventual membership.

Croatia, which was to have begun entry talks in March, is in a limbo of its own, after the EU said it had not co-operated enough in finding Ante Gotovina, an indicted war criminal. Nevertheless, Berlin and a group of central European states champion Zagreb's cause.

Meanwhile, the countries of the western Balkans - Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania - risk becoming forgotten even though their small size could make them easier to accommodate than Turkey or Ukraine.

France's No vote creates particular problems for Poland, which is to keen to promote stability in the former Soviet republics on its border.

The Polish concern is that failure of the constitution would leave Europe too absorbed by its internal problems to use the lure of eventual membership to influence its neighbours.

Marek Belka, Poland's prime minister, said it would be difficult in the near future to conceive of any EU expansion: "That is so obvious you do not need diplomatic language to say so."

Ukraine's government played down the importance of the French vote, although Boris Tarasyuk, foreign minister, admitted it could delay further EU expansion. "The situation shouldn't be over-dramatised," he said. "The EU still exists and develops, and it hasn't become less attractive."

Source: Financial Times

Monday, May 30, 2005

Police Say Yanukovych Fails to Appear for Questioning

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian police said May 30 that former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had failed to appear for questioning in connection with alleged mishandling of government funds, but Yanukovych's camp said he had not received a proper summons.

Yanukovych was summoned last week to testify as a witness about alleged illegal government donations amounting to some 4.8 million hryvnas ($950,000, 740,000 euros) for the overhaul of the airport in his eastern Ukrainian hometown, Donetsk.

"Yanukovych was summoned through media, including news agencies and all TV channels," said Valeriy Geletey, a police official. "We are waiting for an explanation."

Vyacheslav Chornovyl, a key Yanukovych ally, said Yanukovych had refused to appear before the investigators because "he and his lawyer did not receive a proper subpoena."

"The police move was a clear violation of Ukrainian laws. When and if he receives a proper subpoena he will testify," Chornovyl said.

Yanukovych's Party of Regions accused police of persecuting the government's political opponents.

"The authorities want to present the opposition as the people's enemy, and they are using the Internet and TV to summon opposition leaders for questioning," the statement said.

Olena Lukash, a Kyiv-based legal expert, described the police move as "abuse of power and apparent legal illiteracy of law enforcement bodies."

"Authorities can summon someone only through a subpoena and the ways and means of delivering it (the subpoena) are clearly defined by law," she said.

Yanukovych lost a bitterly-contested presidential election last year after the Supreme Court annulled his victory on grounds of massive fraud and ordered a revote that was won by pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian prosecutors questioned Yanukovych over the business dealings of Boris Kolesnikov, a jailed regional official, but no charges were brought.

Yanukovych and Viktor Medvedchuk, a former chief of staff of ex-President Leonid Kuchma, were also summoned to appear as witnesses in a land misappropriation case on June 1 before investigators in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

Yushchenko has pledged to root out corruption and alleged government links with organized crime that plagued Kuchma's decade-long rule.

Yushchenko has pointed to the pro-Russian Donetsk region, where hostility to him runs highest, as a stronghold of organized crime and corruption.

Source: Kyiv Post

Yushchenko Says Investigators Have Found More Evidence About Gongadze’s Death

KIEV, Ukraine -- Investigators have found more evidence in the death of journalist who crusaded against corruption during the tenure of Ukraine's former leader Leonid Kuchma, President Viktor Yushchenko said in comments televised May 29.

Yushchenko said investigators discovered "new and important evidence" about the death in 2000 of Georgy Gongadze, an Internet journalist whose headless body was found after he went missing nearly five years ago. He also claimed authorities were "closing in" on a suspect.

Kuchma's opponents have accused him of involvement in the slaying. Yushchenko, a former opposition leader who beat Kuchma's favored successor in a divisive election in the former Soviet republic last year, has said solving the case is a top priority for his government.

Yushchenko did not describe the evidence, but he and lawmaker Hrihoriy Omelchenko, a parliamentary deputy who has focused public attention on the killing, said they hope investigators will find the journalist's severed head soon.

Opponents of Kuchma have accused him of giving the orders that led to Gongadze's abduction and killing, which sparked months of protests. Kuchma has repeatedly denied any involvement.

A key witness, former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, committed suicide hours before he was to be questioned about Gongadze's slaying in March.

Also in March, two former police official were detained and charged with murder. Another former police official suspected of involvement remains under orders not to leave Kyiv, and a fourth, Oleksiy Pukach, is being sought on an international warrant.

"Before this case goes to the court we must arrest Pukach ... we're closing in," Yushchenko said in comment broadcast on television networks May 29.

Source: Kyiv Post

VimpelCom Moves to Ukraine Cutting Norwegian Corners

MOSCOW, Russia -- Having masterminded another scenario to approach Ukraine and upstage Norwegian Telenor, VimpelCom bosses announced Friday the company will get Ukrainian Radiosystems (URS) via a certain private investment fund and authorize URS to use BeeLine brand in Ukraine. The experts expect such move to exacerbate the conflict between Alfa Group and Telenor to such extent that the withdrawal of one of them from VimpelCom will be the only way out.

Ukrainian Radiosystems (or URS; Wellcom, Mobi brands) that has been operating since October 1998 is licensed to render GSM 900/GSM 1800 cellular services in the whole territory of Ukraine. URS had 51,200 subscribers, 0.31 percent of the cellular market, as of May 1, 2005, Ukrainian Communication Department said.

VimpelCom’s scenario to approach Ukraine despite Telenor’s ban was unveiled Friday. According to VimpelCom GD Alexander Izosimov the company is looking for a private investment fund to buy out URS especially for VimpelCom, granting a long-term option to the cellular operator. The money to construct and develop URS network will be raised with equipment makers via commercial loans, Izosimov specified. The experts estimate the required investments at between $300 million and $400 million. VimpelCom top managers point out URS may get the right to use BeeLine brand in Ukraine.

This scenario is expected to take effect already this year, meaning although not final but still a sizable victory of Alfa in the joint stock contest of the latter and other VimpelCom major – Norwegian Telenor. Alfa that holds 32.9 percent in VimpelCom has been long advocating its foray into Ukraine but always rebuffed by Telenor (29 percent). Telenor has a Ukrainian subsidiary and blocks URS acquisition in the VimpelCom BOD. As to the decision to make an agreement with an investment fund and assign the brand, it could be taken by the company’s top managers with no Telenor authorization required. But Telenor still may block the future purchase of URS by VimpelCom and it doesn’t ease the talks with a potential buyer, Izosimov pointed out.

Telenor shrugged off Izosimov’s statement and made no comments concerning the new scenario Sunday. In Alfa Telecom that is in charge of the telecom assets of Alfa Group, they embrace any ways empowering VimpelCom to enter Ukraine.

The experts speculate Bee Line’s appearance in Ukraine will lead the conflict between Alfa Group and Telenor into a deadlock that could be broken only if one of the holders decides to dispose of its share in VimpelCom.

Source: Kommersant

Chernobyl Plant Denies Accident Has Occurred

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine -- The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has denied allegations in the media that an accident has occurred at the plant.

"The controlled parameters of the Shelter facility are within limits set by the technological regulations," the plant's public relations department said in reference to a concrete encasement built over the Chernobyl unit that in 1986 became the scene of the world's worst ever nuclear accident.

"No transgression of the control levels of the parameters of the state of the Shelter facility have been recorded," the department said.

It said radiation had stayed at an average of 70 microroentgens per hour this week in the area of the plant's management premises and at 1.51 milliroentgens per hour in the area of Shelter's sighting pavilion.

The department said routine maintenance operations were in progress at the Shelter.

The plant is a Ukrainian state enterprise.

Source: Interfax

Sunday, May 29, 2005

National Assembly Chairman Welcomes Ukraine's University Delegation

HA NOI, Viet Nam -- National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An on May 29 received a delegation from the Ukraine's Donetsk University Managing Board led by its Deputy Rector Napka Ilia.

As a former student in the Ukraine, NA Chairman An expressed his thanks to Ukrainian universities, including Donetsk, for having helped Viet Nam in personnel training during the past struggle for national independence.

NA Chairman Nguyen Van An spoke highly of the cooperation in training between Viet Nam and the Ukraine, which he said he believed, would continue to develop alongside with the traditionally cooperative and friendly ties between the two countries.

On behalf of the delegation, the University Deputy Rector briefed NA Chairman Nguyen Van An of the results of and potentials for educational cooperation between Ukraine and Viet Nam. He also expressed his hope that more Vietnamese students would enroll at Ukrainian universities in the future.

Source: Viet Nam News Agency

Those Who’ve Gone Too Far

MOSCOW, Russia -- The main mistake made by the ex-leaders of the countries of “colour” revolutions was not that they had oppressed their people. Quite on the contrary, Ukraine under Leonid Kuchma, Georgia under Eduard Shevarnadze and even Kyrgyzstan under Askar Akaev were quite democratic states (compared to other former USSR countries) with political parties, more or less independent mass media and some institutions of civil society.

The main mistake was of a different kind. Former Ukrainian, Georgian and Kyrgyz rulers upset the balance of elites, the power being concentrated in the hands of one clan among others deprived of it (that’s what we call Family in the contemporary Russian history). The experience of any communities, let it be a kindergarten or a mafia clan, shows that when appetites of one person or a small group of people rise too high, all other people unite and take actions. Some go to the teacher, others clash and kill the opponents who went too far.

The same is in the politics. “A revolutionary upsurge of working people” was once some spontaneous force that experienced leader made use of, the way a yachtsman uses the wind, and a surfing-rider uses the surf. Everyone was against the clan that had assumed too much. Opposition was often led by those who had earlier been in office but had been ousted as a result of inter-clan fights.

If we look at the present leaders, we will see that people who could have opposed each other under other circumstances became allies. Mikhail Saakashvili and Zurab Zhavia, Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, Kurmanbek Bakiev and Felix Kulov. The gap of contradictions between some of them is as wide as that between each of them and prior authorities. Besides, “second players” of these pairs may have as well claimed the leading role.

But they stepped aside. Many foresaw here the future split. But in spite of all evident indications that the predictions would hold true, the ringing clique remains in fact united. Zurab Zhavania’s team is still in office afte his death; the public bickering between Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymosheko did not prevent their announcement of running for the 2006 parliamentary elections together.

All this testifies to one fact. Seemingly unnatural unions of such different politicians reveal an ever-increasing understanding of political elites that a time has come to share powers and keep the political groups from rising above others. Otherwise, all those hurt will sooner or later create their own coalition, and the country’s current leaders will turn into the heads of Families, like those they had once so vehemently otherthrown from the pedestal.

Source: Kommersant

Gongadze Case Not Resolved Yet – Ukrainian President

LVIV, Ukraine -- The investigation of journalist Georgy Gongadze’s murder has not brought sufficient results, but “I have done my best for its soonest completion,” Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told the press in Ternopol on Sunday.

He is visiting Ternopol to attend a meeting with 1975 graduates of the Finance and Economy Institute.

The investigators “still need to collect evidence and find people involved in the journalist murder,” Yushchenko said. He said the police are detaining suspects with a high social status. “The head of the murdered journalist may be found only after the arrest of Police Gen. Pukach,” he said.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun said on Saturday they still need to find former head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s Surveillance Department Alexei Pukach (who is the crime’s suspected perpetrator), question former major of the State Guard Service Nikolai Melnichenko who currently lives in the United States, and finalize the body’s identification by request of the family.

The body is under an international examination, which involves specialists from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ukraine, he said.

Opposition journalist Gongadze disappeared in September 2000, and a decapitated body was found in the Tarashcha forest near Kiev two months later.

Source: ITAR-Tass

Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Cabinet of Ministers (Government) of Ukraine is the supreme executive authority. Its actions are based on the Constitution, laws of Ukraine and presidential orders.

The Government is responsible to the President and is controlled by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, to which it also must report. In practice, this dependency results in presidential appointment of a Prime Minister (with parliamentary consent).

The President may also suspend Prime Minister's authorities and discharge him/her. Upon Prime Minister's submission, the President appoints and discharges the members of Cabinet of Ministers and other heads of central executive authorities.

Source: Kiev City Guide

Odessa Beauty on Miss Universe Jury

ODESSA, Ukraine -- The stunning Sasha Nykolyenko has been picked to be one of the jury members at this year’s Miss Universe final, which will take place in Thailand on 31 May.

The former What’s On cover girl has won several major beauty titles, including Miss Ukraine 2001 and Miss American Dream 2001. Sasha represented Ukraine at last year’s Miss Universe contest and was actually invited back to participate this year. The actress and TV host declined citing her busy work schedule but did accept the offer of joining the celebrity jury.

Source: What's On

Country Profile: Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Sandwiched between Russia and Europe, it tries to keep on good terms with both.

Western Ukraine has close historical ties with Europe, particularly Poland. Both Orthodoxy and the Uniate (Greek Catholic) faith have many followers there. Ukrainian nationalist sentiment is traditionally strongest in the westernmost parts of the country which became part of Ukraine only when the Soviet Union expanded after World War II.


A significant minority of the population of Ukraine are Russians or use Russian as their first language. Russian influence is particularly strong in the industrialised east of the country, where the Orthodox religion is predominant, as well as in Crimea, an autonomous republic on the Black Sea which was part of Russia until 1954. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has its base there.

Crimea is also the homeland of the Crimean Tatars whom Stalin accused of collaborating with the Nazis and deported to Central Asia in 1944. Over 250,000 have returned since the late 1980s.

In 1932-1933 Stalin's programme of enforced agricultural collectivization brought famine and death to millions in Ukraine, the bread basket of the USSR. Not until the twilight years of the Soviet Union did details of the extent of the suffering begin fully to emerge.

News of another Soviet-era calamity, the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, rang alarm bells around the world immediately. About 8% of Ukraine's territory was contaminated as were large areas in neighbouring Belarus. Millions continue to suffer as a result.

The country's first president after independence, former Communist Party official Leonid Kravchuk, presided over a period of economic decline and runaway inflation. He was narrowly defeated in the 1994 presidential election by Leonid Kuchma.

The economy at first continued to fare badly under President Kuchma who became embroiled in a series of stand-offs with parliament and failed to push ahead with economic reforms. Corruption was a major problem and investors were wary. The new millennium brought economic growth for the first time, with rising industrial output, improving exports and falling inflation.

By the end of 2004, Russia was the country's largest trading partner although Ukraine was also looking to build partnership with the West.

It took an active part in Nato's Partnership for Peace programme and has declared EU membership to be a strategic objective. In May 2002 it announced that it intended to abandon neutrality and apply formally for Nato membership. The alliance has welcomed the bid but says that further political, economic and military reforms are needed before it can be successful.

Ukraine sent over 1500 peacekeepers to Iraq as part of the stabilisation force there, and has also contributed troops to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. However, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma ordered the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Iraq after eight servicemen were killed in an incident there. His successor, Viktor Yushchenko, has since confirmed that all of Ukraine's peacekeepers will be pulled out by October 2005.


Official Name: Ukraine
Capital City: Kiev (Kyiv)
Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Poland, Romania, and Moldova in the west and Russia in the east
Political Divisions: 24 oblasts (regions) and 1 autonomous republic (Crimea)
President: Viktor Yushchenko
Prime Minister: Yulia Tymoshenko
Latitude/Longitude: 49° 00'N, 32° 00'E
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian
Official Currency: Hryvnia (UAH) - 1 Hryvnia = 100 Kopiykas
Exchange Rate: $1.00 USD = 5.10 UAH (May 2005)
Religions: Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Orthodox - Kiev Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate), Protestant, Jewish
Population: 47,732,079 (2004 est.)
Land Area: 603,700 sq km (223,090 sq miles)
Independence: August 24, 1991 (from the Soviet Union)
GDP: Purchasing Power Parity - $256.5 Billion
Inflation Rate: 8.2% annual
Industries: Coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food processing (especially sugar)
Time Zone: GMT+3
Mobile Phone: GSM 900/1800 Standard
Mobile Operators: Golden Telecom, Wellcom, UMC, DCC and Kyivstar
Main Post Office: 22 Khreschatyk Street (Independence Square)
Electricity: 220-260 Volts/50 Hz Standard
Credit Cards: American Express, Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard/Euro Card, Visa, Visa Electron
Personal Checks: Non-existent
Travelers Checks: Not popular, accepted at only a few banks
ATM Machines: Readily available, accept most credit cards and dispense cash in UAH. Some locations also dispense cash in US dollars
Business Hours: 10:00 - 18:00
Express Mail: DHL, UPS, Federal Express, TNT
Country Tel. Code: 38
Kiev Tel. Code: 044
Country Visa: Required for most countries
Speed Limits: City - 60 kph/37 mph, Country - 90 kph/56 mph, Highway - 120 kph/72 mph
Driving /Drinking: Zero tolerance country

Source: BBC News and Kiev City Guide

The Black Sea - Oil Over Troubled Water

LONDON, England -- In classical times, the Black Sea was perversely known as the Euxeinos Pontos, a sea friendly to strangers, even though its notoriously turbulent waters were nothing of the kind. The hope was that if you gave the place a nice name, the invisible powers who governed its towering waves might feel placated and behave more calmly. To this day, it remains a temperamental stretch of water that can generate sudden squalls and treat outsiders in unpredictable ways, even when efforts are being made to appease its restless spirits.

In 1992, the late Turkish president, Turgut Ozal, thought he could assuage those spirits for ever and turn the sea into a zone of peace and co-operation, where ancient trade routes would thrive anew. The fruit of that post-cold war vision is the Istanbul-based organisation for Black Sea Economic Co-operation. For over a decade, its members (all the littoral states, plus near neighbours Greece, Moldova, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan and, as of recently, Serbia) have trundled along to meetings without ever realising Mr Ozal's vision. The fact that Armenians and Azeris were locked in armed confrontation, backed respectively by Russia and Turkey, has hardly helped.

About a month ago, and entirely unnoticed by the world, BSEC suddenly did something rather unfriendly to a stranger. It flatly turned down a request from the United States for observer status. While the brush-off was explained in arcane procedural terms, it was an open secret that Russia had blocked the application­to the embarrassment of the group's other ex-communist members. In fact, eight of them issued a separate statement saying Uncle Sam's presence would have been a welcome boost, and they regretted his exclusion. (If NATO members Greece and Turkey had any feelings on the matter, they did not air them.)

What America would have done if it had attained its lofty ambition may never be known. But to judge by the word on the think-tank circuit, there is a strong feeling in Washington that the Black Sea region is ripe for transformation into a new sort of security club, whose members co-operate to keep ports and pipelines safe from terrorists and other undesirables.

As steadily increasing amounts of energy flow into, and out of, the Black Sea, the stakes are certainly high. This week saw the formal opening, in Azerbaijan, of one of the world's most important energy conduits, a 1,770-km (1,010-mile) oil pipeline linking Baku in Azerbaijan with the Turkish port of Ceyhan via the mountains of Georgia. Gas from Azerbaijan, Iran and possibly east of the Caspian will soon be flowing along a similar route into Turkey, and thence to south-eastern Europe. The pipeline promises to bring a bonanza for Azerbaijan, and a modest boost to the hard-pressed finances of Georgia.

While America has taken the lead in lobbying for the construction of pipelines which bypass Russia, and therefore deny the Russians any chance to use energy as a political weapon, it is the European consumer who will be most affected by these emerging routes. On present trends, Europe's reliance on Russian energy will increase sharply, whatever happens; the new pipelines will ease that dependence.

But a complex pattern of interests is already emerging. A recently constructed gas pipeline has started bringing energy across the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey. That has reinforced a burgeoning economic relationship between those two historic competitors and made it harder for the Turks to side unequivocally with the Americans if the contest for influence in the Black Sea ever becomes a straight fight between America and Russia. Indeed one school of thought in Washington regards the "old NATO" partners, Turkey and Greece, as less reliable than the eagerly pro-American countries that have only recently emerged from the grip of communism, and are poor and vulnerable enough to be grateful for anything they get.

One reason for heightened American attention to the region is the sense that the future of many countries is still a wide-open question: they could follow Central Europe into the warm embrace of western institutions or they could slide back into authoritarianism or stagnation. Bruce Jackson, an influential American lobbyist for NATO's expansion, put the point dramatically in some congressional testimony in March: "The democracies of the Black Sea lie on the knife-edge of history which separates the politics of 19th-century imperialism from European modernity."

The very fact that some parts of the region are quite advanced on the road to "European modernity" could be a divisive factor. One of the BSEC's more effective bits is its financial arm, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, which issues credits for export finance and cross-border projects. Its strategy director, Panayotis Gavras, says much the biggest factor driving investment in the region is proximity to the European Union; investors look eagerly at Bulgaria and Romania, which stand on the Union's threshold, and view other places far more warily.

As Britain prepares to take over the EU's rotating presidency, many people are expecting a fresh Black Sea initiative: something that would give heart to countries doing "well" in western eyes without dashing the hopes of the laggards and, if possible, without alienating Russia.

As Foreign Office mandarins ponder their options, they can take heart from some of the region's pleasant surprises. On June 6th, BSEC members will gather in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, for a meeting of their affiliate bank. According to Turkish data, trade between Armenia and Turkey is precisely zero; the border is sealed, out of solidarity with Azerbaijan. As the delegates will observe, every shop in Yerevan brims with Turkish goods.

Source: The Economist

Ex-Security Chief Smeshko Still Concerned About Ukrainian President's Safety

KIEV, Ukraine -- The former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ihor Smeshko, has described the continued spotlight on his alleged involvement in the poisoning of the then presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, in 2004 as a diversion to attract attention away from two other serious attempts on the president's life.

Ex-Security Service Chief Smeshko

Interviewed by the Ukrainian tabloid Fakty i Kommentarii, Smeshko suggested that Yushchenko could still be in danger if the incidents are not investigated properly. He said: "If those who ordered those crimes went this far, what can stop them? Failure to establish the truth in this case is fraught with more than just speculation..."

As an example, he recalled the arrest of two Russian citizens with 3 kg of explosives on 21 November 2004 on suspicion of plotting to blow up Yushchenko's election HQ on polling day in the presidential election runoff.

Smeshko said that, although the detained men said they had arrived "to imitate a terrorist act against a presidential candidate to boost his rating", the threat to Yushchenko was quite real, given the large amount of explosives and a professionally made and tested radioelectronically-controlled explosive device found in their possession. He said the men also named the person who ordered the attack.

Smeshko also rejected accusations of blocking the investigation into the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000 voiced recently by Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun. Piskun had said Smeshko telephoned him in 2003, telling him to slow down in investigating the murder. Smeshko said he had never phoned Piskun about the Gongadze probe.

He said he wants Piskun to apologize and has already filed a lawsuit against Piskun. He described Piskun's statement as a publicity stunt intended to earn him "political dividends". Meanwhile, it was the SBU that played a key role in gathering key evidence against Gongadze's murderers, Smeshko said.

Source: BBC Monitoring Service

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Yushchenko Promises to Cut Bureaucracy

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday urged dialogue between the government and business leaders, promising to cut down on bureaucracy and end the corrupt ties that flourished under former President Leonid Kuchma's regime.

"I want to start dialogue with business from scratch," Yushchenko said at a meeting with leading business executives and government officials in downtown Kiev. Those hidden connections between officials and some businesses were preventing the state from moving ahead with its reform plans, Yushchenko said.

The Ukrainian leader also said the government would reconsider its tax policy to balance the burden on businesses.

Yushchenko who became president following last year's bitterly contested presidential vote, pledged that the partnership between government and business would be a key priority.

He vowed to "drastically reduce contacts between entrepreneurs with state bodies" and to curb bureaucracy.

At the meeting, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced that the government had created a new council of entrepreneurs that meets each Monday to consider problems of business and said that the government would not adopt any new decree without approval of the new body.

"I want you (business people) to trust the new government," said Tymoshenko.

However, Andriy Dashkevych, the head of the state committee on entrepreneurship, claimed that many governmental moves involving small and medium-sized businesses were made "in violation of the law."

"Our government makes one step forward and two steps back ... it is high time to start a dialogue," said Aleksandra Kuzhel, a businesswoman.

Source: MSN Money

Tymoshenko, Yushchenko Settle all Disputable Issues

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko have overcome all misunderstanding over the government’s work.

“I had a nice conversation with the president. We settled 99% of issues and planned our joint work in a way designed to remove all facts of disharmony in the work of the new authorities,” Tymoshenko told reporters after the Cabinet of Ministers meeting on Thursday.

“We want the society to feel that it can rely on us. Nothing can prevent us from doing our jobs even if meteorites start falling down from the sky,” the Ukrainian premier went on to say.

Tymoshenko explained that frictions inside her government had been prompted by the fact that “the change of the old guard to a new team was carried out instantly rather than in an evolutionary manner.”

The Ukrainian premier said that the government would hold a new meeting with the presence of President Viktor Yushchenko on June 1 to consider a bill “On the Cabinet of Ministers”.

“If we pass this bill, we will remove all the uncertainties concerning the distribution of powers between the branches of power,” Tymoshenko explained.

Ukrainian media outlets reported that the conflict between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko had become public after last week’s meeting with Russian oil dealers during which the president had allegedly asked Tymoshenko to resign. Witnesses claim that the row began after Tymoshenko fended off Yushchenko’s criticism that the government’s administrative measures in the oil market had produced a petrol crisis in Ukraine.

Source: ITAR-Tass

Friday, May 27, 2005

Interior Ministry Summoned Yanukovych and Medvedchuk

KIEV, Ukraine -- According to the Ministry of Interior, ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, ex-chief of the Presidential Administration Viktor Medvedchuk, ex-deputy governor of the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Myroslav Bloshchuk are due to come to the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Department of the Interior Ministry at 10:00 AM on 1 June, to explain the receipt of allotments and the embezzling of state funds.

Medvedchuk (L) and Yanukovych (R)

The Ministry wants Yanukovych and Bloshchuk to explain to police how they, and other people, received allotments and built cottages at the “Mulytsia” reserve, which is included in the nature-conservation fund of Ukraine, and is a botanic monument to nature.

In addition, they will also have to explain the building of a gas pipeline and electric mains to these cottages at the expense of state.

As for Medvedchuk, he will have to explain the illegal annexation of lands for building the “Beskyd” rest complex in the village of Myslivka, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

Medvedchuk will also have to explain whether the above-mentioned rest complex belongs to him or to his relatives, and explain how he paid for this building.

Source: UNIAN

Analysts Turn a Critical Eye Toward Yushchenko's Early Record

WASHINGTON, DC -- Ukraine watchers are abuzz about a May 25 article in Lvivska Hazeta, in which the paper's Moscow correspondent called upon Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to dismiss Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

According to an eyewitness account published in Zerkalo Nedeli, Yushchenko did call for Tymoshenko's resignation in front of Russian oil executives that same week. His request came after she had questioned his authority on three occasions during the meeting held to negotiate a way out of Ukraine's fuel crisis. Yushchenko later denied that he had called upon her to resign.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko During Orange Revolution

Whatever the particulars of this incident, Yushchenko seems to no longer be the media darling he was during the Orange Revolution.

On May 18 the Washington Post ran an editorial by Anders Aslund, head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, entitled "Betraying a Revolution." Aslund outlined his criticism further at a seminar held in Carnegie's Moscow Center. "Betraying a Revolution" comes six months after Aslund's highly optimistic articles in the Moscow Times that had applauded the Orange Revolution.

Other Western and Ukrainian commentators have provided mixed reviews on Yushchenko's first 100 days in office. One author described this mood swing as an "Orange Depression" leading to "post-revolutionary apathy". Nevertheless, Aslund's article was by far the most scathing attack to date on the record of the Yushchenko presidency and Tymoshenko government.

Aslund is co-author of a Blue-Ribbon Commission report drawn up by the United Nations Development Programme and the Carnegie Endowment that proposes an extensive array of "new wave" reforms under Yushchenko. The Commission's proposals were outlined in the Financial Times under the title, "Reform in Ukraine Must be Swift and Sweeping." With constitutional reforms reducing presidential power set to go into effect in September, Yushchenko had a six-month window of opportunity to introduce a radical reform agenda.

A Stratfor commentary agreed with the main economic arguments outlined by Aslund, bluntly noting, "The government has undertaken no economic reforms." Stratfor points to divisions in the Ukrainian leadership between supporters of free market policies and state regulation. Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli places Yushchenko in the free-market category, while Tymoshenko, "is in favor of the government's dominating role in the country's economy."

The lack of economic reforms is compounded, Stratfor and Aslund believe, by high inflation, declining economic growth, fears of re-privatization, and extravagant social spending. A higher tax burden is also forcing some small and medium businesses to again operate in the shadow economy. Yushchenko has promised to deal with this issue and demanded that governors reduce regulatory measures for registering new businesses.

Ukraine's economic growth of 12% last year was the highest in Europe and was unlikely to continue at such a record pace. As polls showed during the election year, most Ukrainians did not personally feel any improvement in their living standards as a consequence of this high growth and did not therefore give credit to the Viktor Yanukovych government.

The criticism of high social spending is misplaced on political-institutional grounds. The Yushchenko team inherited very high pensions and state salaries, which the Yanukovych government had deliberately increased as an election bribe. By increasing state salaries still further the government seeks to compliment a widespread anti-corruption drive by making it no longer necessary for state officials to steal to survive.

Yushchenko's team also must take into consideration the upcoming 2006 parliamentary elections. They must secure a pro-Yushchenko parliamentary majority if the reforms at to work in the near term. This, in turn, will have a great influence on the success of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration during a second Yushchenko term, which would begin in 2009.

The authorities in eastern and southern Ukraine in particular may need higher social spending between now and the elections to secure popular support. Different polls show the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko team supported by around half the population, with only 16-24% opposed. On its own, Yushchenko's People's Union-Our Ukraine party can only muster a maximum of 30-35% of the vote. This figure is forcing him to ally with Tymoshenko and People's Party leader Volodymyr Lytvyn in the 2006 election campaign to secure a parliamentary majority.

The Orange Revolution dramatically improved Ukraine's international image. A growing number of foreign investors are interested in Ukraine but have stopped short of moving from intent to actual investment. They remain unclear about whether the threat of re-privatization is across the board or officially restricted to a limited number of companies. Yushchenko and Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh have spoken of 29 re-privatizations, a figure that Tymoshenko was publicly contesting until Yushchenko's threat to remove her.

Other areas of concern reflect impatience with certain reforms not having been undertaken yet. These include land reform, which is unlikely with a Socialist agricultural minister, and a neo-Soviet commercial code, which Justice Minister Roman Zvarych has called to be changed. These reforms are more likely to be adopted by next year's parliament; that is, if it has a pro-Yushchenko majority.

Yushchenko has launched a challenging agenda, and his second 100 days in office may determine its chances of success.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

India, Ukraine to Sign MoU for Stem Cells Research

NEW DELHI, India -- The Union Government will soon sign a Memor-andum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ukraine Academy of Medical Sciences (UAMS) to jointly work in the area of stem cell research, informed sources say.

Besides, a delegation from Denmark will soon be in India to work out collaborative agreement between the two countries for stem cell research programme.

Keen to rope in all available expertise to its planned strengthening of the stem cell research programme in the country, the Indian government has also initiated talks with select European nations such as the UK, Sweden and Germany and expects to sign fruitful deals in the next six months.

‘‘The Centre is eyeing a MoU with Denmark and a delegation from Denmark will be in the country to explore avenues of co-operation. The government also plans similar stem cell research tie-ups with the UK, Sweden and Germany,’’ official sources informed.

Under the agreement with Ukraine, the Centre plans to utilise Ukraine’s expertise in establishing stem cell banks in India and it will provide training as well as technological inputs for the planned project.

Top officials from the country during a recent visit to Ukraine has met with the UAMS authorities and the details are worked out, said sources.

The two countries are expected to sign an MoU shortly. This is in line with the National Biotechnology Development Strategy draft put in the public domain by the Science & Technology minister recently. It may be noted that the government has announced in the draft policy document that a virtual network of stem cell centres will be established, using a city cluster approach to network scientists and clinician. Two core stem cell research centres will be established together with several network sub-clusters and an umbilical cord stem cell bank will also be set up, stated the policy document.

India has plans to set up at least three stem cell banks, although the centres are yet to be finalised the possible list include top healthcare facilities like the PGI Chandigarh, AIIMS, New Delhi, CMC Vellore or KEM Hospital Mumbai. Autologous cord blood and cord blood collection for research, are the key objectives of the project.

Parents can use banks to store the umbilical cord blood upto 20 years after childbirth, which could be used in future to treat any genetic and other disorders/diseases that the child may face. However, this would be expensive as well.

Under the programme select centres across the country will also collect cord blood to be utilised for advancing basic research that will result in clinical application for complex unresolved health problems. Although earlier, cord blood was discarded as medical waste after child birth, recognising the unique qualities and potential of stem cells in therapy, countries across the globe started banking the cord blood as well as initiated aggressive research.

Stem cells are commonly used in bone marrow transplantation. Cord blood originated stem cells also find application in acute and chronic leukaemias, stem cell disorders, myeloproliferative disorders, lymphoproliferative disorders, phagocyte disorders, liposomal storage diseases, histiocytic disorders, inherited erythrocyte abnormalities, congenital (inherited) immune system disorders, other inherited disorders, inherited platelet abnormalities, plasma cell disorders, other malignancies (certain tumours/cancers) and autoimmune diseases.

Research is at different stages across the globe in these different arenas and the other emerging clinical stem cell applications are in Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, diabetes, liver disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, etc.

Source: Healthcare Management

Poll Says Russian Spin Doctors Bracing for “Velvet Revolution"

MOSCOW, Russia -- 58 percent of Russian experts, who have taken part in the latest poll, believe that the country may soon face a regime change similar to the recent “velvet revolutions” in former Soviet states, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Less than a year ago only 28 percent of analysts shared this view, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported.

Russian Demonstrators with a Banner Reading “Government Greasing, People Starving"

Center of Public Opinion Studies Glas Naroda (Voice of the People) polled 42 Moscow political scientists and 120 experts from Russian regions. Most of them said the revolution may happen even before the 2008 presidential elections, but at the same time express concern that radical nationalists may come to power after the collapse of Putin’s regime.

In December 2004, by the time Georgia’s charismatic Mikhail Saakashvili had forced former Soviet-era leader Eduard Shvarnadze to resign and Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” was in full swing, more than a half of experts from Moscow and 69 percent of regional specialists insisted that a similar developments would never happen in Russia.

But Ukraine, Glas Naroda says, has proved that the revolution is possible even in the country where economical situation is quite stable, and power clans are mighty. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan has shown that even a weak opposition can succeed.

Presenting the poll, Glas Naroda, however, underlined that it shows only the opinions of experts, but not Russian citizens.

Source: MosNews

Kiev Counts Cost of Eurovision Hosting

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Kiev authorities are clearing up after ten days that saw the city play host to thousands of followers of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Ukrainian minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Nickolay Tomenko, has instructed the National Television Company of Ukraine to report on the costs of staging the 50th contest. He said, “I have asked those in charge of Eurovision at NTU to make it public just how money was spent on the contest. I will then issue an audited report on the funding of the show.”

Tomenko feels that the investment made in new state of the art broadcasting equipment will benefit the company in coming years. He also pointed out that a large chunk of the proposed state funding was not spent, as the sums were covered by advertisers and sponsorship deals.

With the last signs of the contest being cleared away, the Ukrainian press is asking whether the contest has proven a boost for the city or been a non-event. The results, say most lies somewhere in the middle.

There are continuing concerns that things were left too late by the city council. When tourists arrived in the city, the area around the Sports Palace was still a building site.

The use of orange as a predominant colour upset many. One commentator said, “The orange ribbons and banners were already inappropriate on Inauguration Day in January, because they injected a note of factionalism into proceedings marking Yushchenko’s becoming president of what should be a united country. They were all the more inappropriate four months later. Ukraine is not a country for orange supporters only. Whoever decorated Kyiv for Eurovision should not have given tourists the idea that it is.”

The press have also singled out Ukrainian TV star Masha Efrosinina for criticism, “She sounded as if she had never studied English, but was reading her lines phonetically off cue cards. She was painful to listen to,” said the Kiev Post. The fact that President Viktor Yushchenko took to the stage at the end of the show did not please everyone, some commentators thought it undignified.

The fact that Kiev was not ready to host the numbers that wanted to come to the city has not escaped attention. When Kiev pledged to host the contest, it was agreed that several four and five stars hotels would be built. The ‘Orange Revolution’ interrupted plans and as a result, many fans could not find rooms. Those that did, were forced to pay well over the odds or consider using a camp site. The interest in ‘Eurocamp’ was dismal with just 380 out of a projected 10,000 visitors, just 70 being from overseas.

The levels of policing were felt to be too high for many. “This was striking, because this is, after all, a city in which even the revolutions aren’t heavily policed by beat cops. We wonder if Eurovision visitors found the uncharacteristic police presence reassuring or oppressive, “ said the Kiev Post.

Despite everything, the city feels that the Eurovision Song Contest proved that Kiev could pull off a major international event and with more development of the basic tourism infrastructures could be well placed to bid now for the Olympic games in the future.

Source: Doteurovision

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ukraine's ex-PM Questioned Over Funds

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian police say they have summoned former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych for questioning in connection with alleged mishandling of government funds.

Yanukovych was summoned to testify as a witness next Monday about alleged illegal government donations amounting to 4.8 million hryvnas ($ 1 million) for the overhaul of the airport in his eastern Ukrainian hometown of Donetsk, the Interior Ministry said in a statement posted on its official website.

Viktor Yanukovych

Yanukovych lost a bitterly-contested presidential election last year after the Supreme Court annulled his victory on grounds of massive fraud and ordered a revote that was won by pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Earlier this month Ukrainian prosecutors also questioned Yanukovych over the business dealings of Borys Kolesnikov, a jailed regional official, but no charges were brought.

Yanukovych, who heads the opposition Party of Regions was not available for comment on Thursday. He earlier described his appearance before investigators as "political persecution" of opposition leaders.

President Yushchenko, inaugurated in January, has pledged to crack down on corruption and government links to organised crime that plagued former President Leonid Kuchma's decade-long tenure.

Yushchenko has pointed to the pro-Russian Donetsk region, where hostility to him runs highest, as having one of the worst records of corruption.

Source: AAP

Ukraine: Yushchenko, Tymoshenko Clash Over Gasoline

KIEV, Ukraine -- The hottest news in Ukraine last week was not the Eurovision song contest in Kyiv -- an unusual event in this post-Soviet country by any standards. The real shocker was a report in the Kyiv-based weekly "Zerkalo nedeli" that President Viktor Yushchenko suggested that Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko should tender her resignation over her incompetence in dealing with the country's fuel crisis.

To toss even more gasoline on that fire, the report asserted that the suggestion was made "half-publicly" during a heated Yushchenko-Tymoshenko exchange at a 19 May meeting with senior executives from the Russian oil sector, including Transneft, LUKoil, and TNK-BP.

Tymoshenko-Yushchenko Campaign Poster from November 2004

Have the two heroes of the Orange Revolution already had enough of their partnership and resolved to launch an internecine war?

Soothing Words

For the time being, it appears they have not. A string of statements from Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's press services that followed the report on their 19 May meeting avowed that the relations between the president and the prime minister remain friendly and full of mutual trust. "I trust the prime minister, my generally positive assessment of the government's work is unaltered. Only those doing nothing make no mistakes," Yushchenko asserted in one statement. "We have found a formula to resolve the oil problem, because we have found courage in ourselves to conduct an open, public, and honest dialogue as well as to make hard and responsible decisions both within and outside [our] team," he stressed.

Moreover, on 22 May, during a solemn occasion at the grave of Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko in Kaniv, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko renewed their earlier pledge to form a coalition for the 2006 parliamentary elections of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine People's Union, Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, and the People's Party headed by parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. "I'm sure that the Orange Revolution and the values with which we came to Kyiv's Maydan [Independence Square] truly belong to these three political forces," Yushchenko said in Kaniv. Tymoshenko added, "I support with all my soul our union, our teamwork, our joint political activity for many years ahead."

But some skeptics in Ukraine immediately recalled another election alliance made in Kaniv, by four presidential candidates during the 1999 presidential campaign (Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko), which lasted no longer than three weeks.

Sparkling Conversation

What actually transpired between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko on 19 May? According to the influential and usually well-informed "Zerkalo nedeli," which attributed its information to four unnamed participants in the meeting, Yushchenko apologized to the Russian oil traders for Tymoshenko's cabinet, which, Yushchenko claimed, had obstructed their work. Yushchenko purportedly said he wished he had never appointed Tymoshenko as prime minister. He also is said to have suggested that she might tender her resignation and join the opposition Social Democratic Party-united and the Party of Regions in order to "blow their pipes and beat their drums." To add insult to injury, Yushchenko reportedly invited everyone except Tymoshenko to the next room to have champagne. All this purportedly took place after Tymoshenko categorically and repeatedly disagreed with Yushchenko's assessment that she had dealt with the fuel crisis by way of essentially administrative and non-market levers.

Leaving aside the shocking nature of the Ukrainian "family quarrel" under the Russian eyes, as "Zerkalo nedeli" put it, one could argue that Yushchenko was to a large extent correct. Gasoline prices began to rise in Ukraine in early April, presumably stimulated by a more than 50 percent rise in the price of crude oil, a 30 percent increase in the excise tax, and increased tariffs for rail transport. Tymoshenko ordered in mid-April that prices for gasoline be stabilized at a level below 3 hryvnyas ($0.6) per liter. Simultaneously, the Ukrainian Economic Ministry warned Russian oil companies that it would guarantee their property rights for Ukraine's refineries only if they agreed to cut retail fuel prices -- which they did. But following the cuts, some Russian-owned refineries in Ukraine significantly decreased their daily output or halted it altogether for "planned repairs." As a result, Ukrainians saw long lines at gasoline stations run by LUKoil and TNK-BP, some of which reportedly introduced rationing.

Seeking more market-oriented methods to defuse the fuel crisis, the government hurriedly drafted a bill to abolish import duties on fuel; the Verkhovna Rada equally hurriedly passed the legislation earlier this month. The aim of the legislation is twofold -- to stop fuel prices from rising, and to create a more competitive environment for fuel imports from refineries not owned by Russians, notably from Lithuania and Romania. And the law seems to be working, at least for the time being. Fuel prices have now been fixed at 3.2 hryvnyas, 3 hryvnyas, and 2.85 hryvnyas per liter of A-95 gasoline, A-92 gasoline, and diesel fuel, respectively. And some suppliers have begun looking for Lithuanian fuel.

A Russian 'Plot'?

On the other hand, Tymoshenko's arguing that the fuel crises was a "plot" by Russian oil traders to destabilize the government that is not liked by the Kremlin, seems to convince many Ukrainians as well. A poll conducted by the Razumkov Center among some 700 Kyiv residents last week found that more than 50 percent of respondents attributed the fuel crisis to "Russia's economic pressure as a means of influence on Ukraine's policy," according to "Zerkalo nedeli." That should come as no surprise, not only because of the popular belief in Ukraine that Russia is to blame for most of Ukraine's political and economic troubles but also because of the situation on the Ukrainian fuel market.

Russian oil traders control 75 percent of fuel supplies to Ukraine, which effectively creates an informal foreign cartel that can easily coordinate its pricing policies in Ukraine not only to secure higher margins but also to achieve other economic or political objectives, especially when such policies are consecrated by "market rules." Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 23 May that Russian companies need to apply market-based pricing policies in the export of energy resources. Referring specifically to Georgia and Ukraine, Putin said it is necessary to find "transparent, market tools for interaction" with these countries. But Putin singled out Belarus, saying it is an exception in Russia's market-based export policy, since, the Russian president explained, "We are trying to find a way to build a union state with Belarus." This seems to be a circuitous way of saying what Tymoshenko essentially, and less diplomatically, said about the roots of Ukraine's fuel crisis.

"There is no Russian conspiracy here [in the fuel crisis]," Yushchenko said at a business forum in Kyiv on 25 May. "I demand only one thing of the government: Learn lessons like that of oil markets." To which, according to Reuters, Tymoshenko, who sat alongside him, responded: "May my president forgive me."

But an equally essential question here is whether she has forgiven Yushchenko for his words during last week's meeting with Russian oil traders -- for what seemed to be a severe blow to her self-worth if not an outright humiliation. The answer to this question might also include an answer to the question about the viability of the current political establishment in Ukraine.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Resist Orange Depression!

KIEV, Ukraine -- A little more than 100 days have passed since the end of the Orange Revolution. Unfortunately, there has arisen an annoying fact: there are more of us than ever, but we are not together.

The Orange Revolution has choked on its own energy and is slowly turning into the “Orange Depression”: with each day the number of disappointed people grows. But in what and in whom they’re disappointed, I personally don’t know.

In principle, if you look at what’s going on in Ukraine from the sidelines, then it’s easy to convince yourself that the situation is developing in the right way. The Orange Revolution aimed Ukraine’s social and governmental development into the necessary channel. It’s another thing altogether if this channel was unused by the former authorities for so long that a lot of filth and garbage is rising to the surface.

“What did we stand on Independence Square for?” thousands of ex-revolutionaries are asking themselves today. For some reason they’re forgetting that the majority of them stood out there against Viktor Yanukovych, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Medvedchuk – against unfairness and lawlessness. And now it turns out that they were standing out there for Viktor Yushchenko and Petro Poroshenko.

There you have it – post-revolutionary apathy is understandable.

At some point in the revolution, after all, Yushchenko and the political strategists managed to change its real slogans and ideas – “for the truth,” “for freedom,” “for our rights,” “against the bandits in power” – into “Yes, Yushchenko!” That is, to change the nascent formation of a national community into a quasi-fight between “good” and “evil.”

And so the deception of which everybody today is accusing the new government began not with Roman Zvarych or new appointees who changed their colors. It began back when they made Yushchenko into an angel, and Yanukovych into a devil. Back then, people were aware of the deception, and took sides with him temporarily, in the interests of the revolution.

Of the new authorities, one can cite the lines from the Russian pop song: “We created it from what we had, and then we loved what we created.” And now we’re ceasing to love it.

Our problem today is not with authorities who are “amoral in the old fashion,” but in the fact that for some reason we don’t want to remember that these people were not angels, and that we – knowing that – supported them.

Revolutionaries – people who stood out on the frosty plaza and won an unequal battle with the machine-tooled Kuchma-Medvedchuk regime – are now slackening their grip, right after the first victory.

We won in an unequal battle, and now – when the moral and strategic advantage has passed from “Kravchenko’s hawks,” the supporters of Pikhovshek and the corrupt authorities to the tent people and Pora – instead of carrying on the fight we’re ready to shamefully give ourselves up to the blue and white faction, having conceded defeat.

A true Independence Square revolutionary doesn’t have the right to so much as think of the word “disappointment,” because by doing so he’s giving the Zhirinovskys, the Putins, the Yanukovychs and the Vitrenkos of the world the chance for revenge. And be certain: the Russian and our own blue and white propaganda won’t let pass the chance to take it.

We still haven’t won the first round – we only gained the right to play under fair circumstances and under independent referees.

Allow me to continue with this football analogy. Our football players (who aren’t all great, but they’re the best we have!) now need even more support and help and constructive criticism and good coaching – but the tribunes of their supporters have, from the first minute of the match, started to hoot with indignation.

Who’s to blame for this? We all are – because all of us, even though we knew that our team is weak and unprepared, for some reason counted on a fast victory. And most of all to be blamed are our social movements, who once coped very well with the task of opening peoples’ eyes to what “Kuchmism” was, and proving that “It’s time!” – but who forgot that the most complicated fight in any revolution starts after the first big battle, even if that battle is a victory.

And what should we say about the far-sightedness of our activists, if – having put into people’s hands the tools of civil resistance – Vladislav Kaskiv, the servant of the new authorities, has already issued an order to cease activity, declaring the closing of the Pora campaign? The leader of yellow Pora has already realized his goals, but it seems as if society’s goals no longer interest him.

It’s hard to fully understand the behavior of black Pora and other more socially based movements. From the very beginning, black Pora talked about how the revolution was only the first step in the struggle, and even declared the opening of the next one. But where is this second step? Just as the new government team turns out to be unprepared for the harmonious management of the country, so too did the most active citizens turn out to be unprepared. They got used to revolutionary conditions and got disoriented in a time of peace.

Why have there disappeared the stickers with which black Pora contrived to sticker every pole in Ukraine during the flourishing of “Kuchmizm” – and without one kopeck’s worth of grant money?

Why are there no stickers up with a photo of Zvarych and the heading “No to lies”? Why aren’t they working in every region to explain to people what a bad governor is? This is not the fault of Yushchenko or his circle, but of the local inhabitants, who should go out on the central squares of their own cities and not leave until they achieve victory on their own Independence Squares.

No less guilty than the civil movements are the journalists, on whose heads freedom of speech fell like snow – and they don’t know what to do with it. For the majority of them, freedom of speech is associated with criticism of the authorities, and not always objective criticism. But in fact freedom of speech is merely the opportunity to notice and openly grapple with the most important social problems.

We are all to blame for the fact that there’s no gasoline, that the price of meat is rising, and that they haven’t raised the salaries of doctors and teachers since January 1, as Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko promised to do when the budget was being amended.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen – it’s not Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, or Poroshenko who are betraying the Orange Revolution, but we ourselves, because it wasn’t their revolution, but ours. And if we took on ourselves the responsibility of naming Yushchenko good, and Yanukovych bad, and wore orange ribbons, then we ought to take our responsibility for the new authorities through to the end.

We should help them, expose them to criticism, but we should never yell about how we’re “disappointed.” We bear responsibility for the Orange Revolution if not in front of ourselves, then in front of that part of the populace that stood under blue and white flags.

No, authority has not yet become transparent, or honest, or responsible. We’ve just begun to make it that way. It’s time that we ourselves become responsible for Ukraine – and everything that happens in it.

Source: Kyiv Post

U.S., Ukraine to Safeguard Nuclear Waste

KIEV, Ukraine -- The United States and Ukraine signed an agreement Thursday to safeguard nuclear waste in the former Soviet Republic that could be used by terrorists to make a dirty bomb, pledging to work together to upgrade security at storage facilities.

The deal was signed by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman during a two-day visit in which the United States is expected to press for improved nuclear security and cash-strapped Ukraine is expected to push for more funding.

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman

The agreement "is a significant step forward in our partnership to safeguard these radioactive materials and advance the security of the region," Bodman said after signing the document with Ukrainian Minister for Emergency Situations David Zhvaniya.

A dirty bomb combines conventional explosives with radioactive material to disperse the waste over large areas. It is estimated that a medium-size bomb could contaminate several city blocks.

Under the agreement, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Global Radiological Threat Reduction will work with local officials to upgrade security at the six Ukrainian nuclear waste facilities.

Bodman said President Bush and Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko had pledged to cooperate to promote nuclear safety, security of nuclear materials, and nonproliferation after meeting in Washington earlier this year.

Bodman, who met Yushchenko on Thursday, was to also use his visit to encourage the handover of Soviet-produced, enriched nuclear fuel to Russia, the U.S Embassy in Kiev said.

He was also expected to review the conversion of Ukraine's research reactors to the use of low-enriched uranium. Such a conversion would lower the risk of accidents and possible leakage of nuclear components to terrorists.

Cash-strapped Ukraine needs additional financial resources for the expensive task of sending used fuel rods back to Russia for reprocessing and converting its reactors to low-enriched fuel.

Ukraine's Soviet-built reactors are fueled by high-enriched uranium that could also be used for the production of weapons-grade nuclear material. Ukraine doesn't have the capacity to reprocess the used fuel itself.

At a recent conference in London, Western donors including the United States pledged more funds for the upgrade of Ukrainian nuclear power plants and for the handling of nuclear waste.

The West also offered additional money for building a new structure that will cover crumbling concrete and steel shelter hastily erected over the destroyed reactor at Chernobyl, which exploded and burned in 1986 in the world's worst nuclear disaster.

Source: LA Times

Bentley Opens Car Dealership in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine — Bentley, an ultra-luxury British car brand owned by Germany's Volkswagen AG, on Thursday opened a dealership in Ukraine, its first such venture in the former Soviet republic.

Vipkar, a Kiev-based car dealer that received dealership rights from Bentley earlier this year, opened the showroom in the Ukrainian capital's plush Arena shopping mall.

2005 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

The most prominent model exhibited at the opening was a 2005 Bentley Continental Flying Spur with a $187,000 price tag.

"During the opening day we sold two cars, ... and we already delivered six others ordered before the opening," said Geoff Dowding, Bentley's regional director for Europe. He refused to identify the customers.

Dowding said the company has already developed a considerable market in neighboring Russia -- its dealership in Moscow sold 70 cars last year -- and that Bentley's sales in Ukraine should also perform strongly.

Source: LA Times

Ukraine Wants Back to the USSR

MOSCOW, Russia -- Working groups from the Foreign Ministries of Russia and Ukraine finished their consultations on Thursday on the sea border on the Black Sea, Sea of Azov and Kerch Bay. If Ukraine is unable to reach an agreement bilaterally with Russia, Kiev is prepared to defend its interests in international court.

Russian patrol on the Sea of Azov

The Ukrainian delegation's visit to Moscow came after the recent agreements between the presidents of the two countries on legal and treaty establishment of the Ukrainian-Russian border. The talks on the sea borders are a continuation of the policy of the new Ukrainian administration's policy of settling border problems with its neighbors. They were begun on March 22 of this year when Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu visited Kiev and an agreement was reached to renew consultations in the UN International Court on the sea borders of Ukraine and Romania in the Black Sea.

Dmitry Svistkov, deputy head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry press service, summed up Ukraine's position before the delegation's departure. He said that Ukraine was interested in the quickest possible delimitation of the sea borders in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov along their entire perimeters. “As for the Kerch Bay, the boundary line from Soviet times should be confirmed,” he said.

The main source of contention between Russia and Ukraine over sea borders is the methods of defining them. Moscow is suggesting defining them on the seabed, while Ukraine insists that they should run on the surface of the water.

More evidence of the attention the new Ukrainian leadership is paying to border questions can be found in the information on the first 100 days of the new government distributed by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. Among the six priorities for 2005, the third is “The borders of Ukraine: transparent for people and business, closed to criminals.” The text also mentions “significant work to settle issues concerning the state border on its whole perimeter, attracting broad international financial and technical aid to improve the border infrastructure.” The document also notes the need for greater cooperation of Ukraine with Russia and Romania in fishing, shipping and ecological security in the Sea of Azov and Black Sea and Kerch Bay.

This time, if Ukraine is unable to reach an agreement with Russia, it is prepared to defend its interests in international court. A 20-member expert group has been set up by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry for that purpose. “The group's main task is to make conclusions and evaluations and examine a number of highly specialized questions that will come up in the course of the negotiations in the UN International Court,” the document states.

Source: Kommersant