Thursday, June 30, 2005

Yushchenko Poisoners' Lab is Found

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's authorities know who was behind the attempt to poison President Viktor Yushchenko and have traced the substance used in the plot to a laboratory for banned chemical weapons, it emerged yesterday.

The former Soviet state's security services had also deployed the same poison to kill others, Mr Yushchenko said in an interview.


A number of people suspected of involvement in the assassination attempt last September are on the run, he went on, adding that he was "certain that everybody will be caught" eventually.

The disclosure that the poison was made in Ukraine went some way to dispel suspicions that Russia was involved in the plot to get rid of Mr Yushchenko when he was leader of the country's opposition last autumn.

However, Petro Poroshenko, the head of Ukraine's security services, refused to rule out the possibility. He said the attempt to kill the president, who fell ill after a dinner with Ukrainian security chiefs, involved "specialists belonging to an existing or former secret service".

Mr Yushchenko said a "lot of new information" had recently come to light that would lead to the arrest of the culprits.

The president, whose body and bloated face bore the deep scars of the attempt on his life, said he was proud to have overcome the effects of a poison that had killed "a number of others". He refused to be drawn on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Mr Yushchenko said the remains of the poison were discovered in a Ukrainian laboratory where they were created "in apparent violation of international laws" banning the development of chemical weapons.

In fact the assassination attempt only steeled Mr Yushchenko's determination to defy the pro-Moscow regime of Leonid Kuchma - and encouraged the "Orange Revolution" on the streets of Kiev when there was an attempt to fix last winter's elections.

Mr Yushchenko, widely seen as a pro-western figure, was eventually elected president in December and rapidly set about building bridges with allies in Europe.

Apparently unfazed by the European Union's crisis over its further expansion, Mr Yushchenko said he was convinced that Ukraine would inevitably become part of the "European family''.

He said: "Ukraine is a part of Europe and we all have very similar beliefs. Without the Ukraine Europe is incomplete.

"I am convinced that during my period in office we will move closer to Europe and that, with the help of others, especially that of Britain, we will become part of Europe not only geographically but politically and economically."

Source: Telegraph UK

Ukraine Presses Russia Over Fugitive

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is demanding an explanation from Russia about the release this week of a former high-ranking Ukrainian official wanted in connection with the loss of state funds, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko said Thursday. Lutsenko said Ihor Bakay, who under former President Leonid Kuchma headed a powerful department responsible for state property, was detained in Moscow, then freed.

Ukraine issued an international arrest warrant for Bakay earlier this year in connection with the loss of 500 million hryvna ($99 million) in state funds.

Lutsenko said on Ukrainian television that Ukraine was given no formal explanation of why Bakay was freed after about four hours of questioning at a Moscow police station on Tuesday.

Ukrainian police say Bakay was freed 30 minutes after an unidentified person arrived at the station with a Russian passport bearing Bakay's name.

He is widely reported to have obtained Russian citizenship after former opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko won last year's presidential race, defeating Kuchma's handpicked candidate.

The Interior Ministry said it had been assured by the Russian immigration service that Bakay had not received Russian citizenship, and it called on Russia to fulfill its international obligations and hand him over.

Bakay is one of many former Ukrainian officials believed to have sought refuge in Russia, which actively supported the losing presidential candidate last year.

Also on Thursday, the Interior Ministery issued an international arrest warrant for Volodymyr Rudenko, former deputy head of the Sumy region. Rudenko is wanted on charges of misappropration of state property and abuse of power. Rudenko's whereabouts are unknown.

Source: AP

Ukraine Simplifies Visas for U.S. Citizens

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine said on Thursday it was making it easier for U.S. nationals to obtain visas, part of liberal President Viktor Yushchenko's plan to move the ex-Soviet state closer to the West.

A presidential decree posted on the government Web site said visas would no longer be required by U.S. citizens making a second trip within six months, provided the new stay in Ukraine did not exceed 90 days.


It said the measure was intended to develop a "strategic partnership" with Washington.

Citizens of EU states and Switzerland have been allowed visa-free entry to Ukraine on an experimental basis from May to September.

The president has said he hopes that move will prompt EU nations to lift their visa requirements for Ukrainians.

But the 25-nation bloc, anxious to maintain secure borders along its new eastern frontier and deter trafficking of people and drugs into member states, is highly unlikely to lift its visa restrictions in the near future.

Yushchenko, elected last December on a wave of mass protests against electoral fraud and revulsion at his predecessor's administration, has linked virtually every policy decision to a long-term plan to join the EU.

Source: Reuters

Ukraine Will Not House Nuclear Weapons If It Joins NATO: Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine will not allow the deployment of nuclear weapons on its territory by NATO members if it joins the alliance, Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko said June 30.

”If someone is convinced that after Ukraine joins NATO there will be nuclear weapons on our territory, I want to assure them: there will be no nuclear weapons on our territory,” Interfax quoted Hrytsenko as saying.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko

The administration of President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power last year vowing to steer ex-Soviet Ukraine toward membership in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, has been struggling to overcome deep public mistrust of the Cold War-era alliance.

A May opinion survey showed that 55.7 percent of the Ukrainians were against their country joining NATO, up from 48 percent in February.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who visited Kiev earlier this week, sought to reassure skeptical Ukrainians, saying that the alliance had changed since its Cold War-era beginnings.

”I know that many people here in Ukraine still think of the Cold War when they think of NATO,” Scheffer said June 27. But the alliance today “is a different NATO than the NATO of the Cold War... Today’s NATO is designed to help provide security in a new world.”

Separately, Hrytsenko said that NATO members were ready to give Ukraine up to 10 billion euros toward a program to decrease its weapons stockpiles and that Kiev hoped to destroy up to 20,000 tons of weapons with the funds.

Details of the program were still being worked out and would have to be approved by the Ukrainian government, he said.

Source: Defense News

Picking Up The Trash

KIEV, Ukraine -- It takes only a few minutes walking down Khreshchatyk after a weekend of festivities and general merrymaking to know that Ukrainians don’t share the same sense of responsibility, obligation and duty that other Europeans or Americans do. That litter underfoot doesn’t belong to them; never did. As soon as whatever piece of trash left their hands, it became someone else’s responsibility. Someone else has the job to clean up that mess. Ukraine is a society of thought without consequence.


If the Soviet Union gave anything to Ukraine, it was the robotic mentality of a socialist worker. Everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to do – and that’s all they did. No thinking outside the box. Thus the socialist paradise on which modern Ukraine was founded absolved people of responsibility. The prodovshchitsya will not sell you milk at the next counter over – she’s only responsible for bread and baked goods. The beat cop has no idea where the nearest gastronome is – his job is to keep law and order. The average Ukrainian doesn’t think about carrying his empty plastic bottle to a garbage can a further thirty feet away because he doesn’t have to – it’s someone else’s job to pick it up wherever he dropped it.

Today, Ukraine’s socialist past imposes upon it consequences more serious than that of failing to secure foreign investments or acceding to the World Trade Organization: a lack of responsibility. And without that, there is no hope for the future and modernity, let alone for WTO accession this year. To Ukrainians, everything from economic prosperity to traffic problems to putting away the trash is for someone else to deal with, not them. The problem with this way of thinking is it relies on the Soviet logic that the government or someone else will always be there for them. Kyiv pensioners picking through the trash to put food on the table or to supplement their income know this fallacy better than anyone. Ukrainians must reshape their minds and take the country into their own hands so that they can fashion their own future and go beyond this mere robotic existence.

Put another way, Ukraine needs leaders to emerge. This can mean even one person who carries his trash a little farther to put it away properly. It means getting a buddy to pick you up in the morning rather than taking the car to work. It means doing a job, like putting trash in its place, though you haven’t been told to do it. It means thinking independently, showing leadership. That’s where the likes of President Viktor Yushchenko should come in.

Of all Ukrainians, Yushchenko should espouse and embody leadership. Instead, time and again, he has dragged his feet and spoken not as a leader, but as a follower.

When speaking, anyway, Yushchenko – whether in front of big American investors in Washington or international financiers here in Kyiv – has only offered platitudes to his audiences as to why they should invest here: Help us. We need the money. It’s a great time to be in Ukraine. He’s pandering to them like children. There’s no rationale behind it; it’s just a lot of hot air.

Investors, and Ukrainians themselves, want to know what exactly Yushchenko is prepared to do to lead them – to convince them why they should bring their investment dollars into Ukraine, to tell them what everyone needs to be do to build the country’s future. Save the bleeding heart stuff for Hallmark, Mr. President. To quote an old campaign slogan of yours, “Ni slovom, a dilom.” (Not words, but actions.)

Yushchenko’s leadership role has all kinds of trickle down effects. His prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, seems content to play the populist by holding the line on price increases in key sectors of the economy. And the average citizen throws trash on the ground rather than putting it away. All of these people play a role in building and reshaping Ukraine’s future. The trash doesn’t get put away by itself, nor should it be only for others to do so. Picking up after yourself is not only about esthetics, it’s about pride, decency, respect and responsibility. So is helping a blind man to cross the road. So is making it on one’s own. So is making an informed choice at the ballot box.

Yet Ukrainians still look to others to do virtually everything for them, be it to put away the trash, to provide them with a job, or for their politicians to provide them with money and a home and even more besides. All of this forms a conscious thought process in Ukraine whereby no one looks to themselves for the answers. I’ve heard many arguments to counter my attacks: There aren’t enough trash bins for the trash. It’s too hard to start a small business here. Why work if I don’t have to? There’s an excuse for everything around here, it seems.

But what is their excuse? What is Ukrainians’ excuse for not wanting to take personal responsibility for their future? The government? The government, and the president, has a huge say in the future of this country, true, but so do ordinary people. The government doesn’t force anyone to litter.

Ukrainians are often fond of pointing out that they are not truly Western European; they are somewhat eastern-oriented as well. Given that attitude, it might also help them to take some lessons from the East. A well-worn Chinese proverb goes “A journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s own feet.”

The people of Ukraine have a job to do. They must take the future into their own hands. It is for them to decide whether Ukraine remains a trash heap or retools itself to become part of a modern Europe.

Source: Kyiv Post

The Communist Party of Ukraine Promises to Fight on Three Fronts

KIEV, Ukraine -- The popularity of Communist Party in Ukraine is decreasing in arithmetical progression. They even lost to socialists at the last presidential elections. According to sociological data they can expect 7% of votes instead of 19% they had in 2002. On Saturday and Sunday, having gathered for XXXIX congress, the communists had an excellent opportunity to think about that miserable situation they’re in. But the hope for the better future has won.

Communist Symonenko (2nd from left) at this year's May Day parade

"Do you know where the entrance is" - asked some grandpa in a nice suit, approaching KPI concert hall. Indeed, the congress took place without special tokens – no flags, no music; just a greeting at the entrance and bags with a red stick “XXXIX CPU congress” and Lenin’s portrait on them indicated the cause of meeting.

A babushka in shabby breeches and a beach hat, with a cigarette stuck in her teeth, sold “the last books on Marxism” – “Modern Stalinism in Europe”, “Marxism nowadays” and “Labor Russia”. Young fellows in Che Guevara T-shirts were selling “New Monday”.

There was a lot of similar garbage at the entrance and in the corridor of the concert hall. People looked it through but never bought. This literature could hardly make the long 14 hour meeting more exciting.

Having gone through the ritual of various secretariats and account commissions, the Communists could listen to their party leader.

Mr. Symonenko briefly and self-critically told about the last two years in party’s life.

“Despite political repressions, problems within the party and insane pressure from outside, severe class struggle during presidential elections, hesitation of certain comrades, the Communist Party of Ukraine has survived and kept promoting socialistic values…”, he started.

He underlined that pre-election campaign showed: the Communist party is now a brand new, powerful dynamic political force that has a scientifically worked out program…”

According to Symonenko, “the party took up the only correct decision to run for the president alone”.

“Unmistakably, we have foreseen that Kuchma, under US government pressure, will do everything possible to make Victor Yushchenko the president of Ukraine. Yanukovych was kind of a technical candidate”, CPU leader repeated his hackneyed thesis.

The rest is rhetoric. All the same for a hundred years already. Just changing the names:

“Ruling regime, personified by Kravchuk at first, then by Kuchma and Yushchenko now has concentrated unlimited authority in its hands and now, in fact, has reached total monocracy”…

“Kuchma has retired (with the full board though) but Kuchmism is still alive, moreover it has mutated and is still developing in this political system”….

“…new authorities obediently fulfill commands of their foreign masters selling property that has been constructed for years by our long-suffering people”…

“…the government is the most “business oriented” Cabinet of Ministers ever”…

“The screenplay of colored revolutions worked out by western spin doctors under ideological cover-up of banana revolt of millionaires against billionaires was just another rotation of teams of the same formation. The trough is the same, the pigs are different!”…

“Orange revolutionists gave people hope by their populist promises; they presented illusion of quick recovering, thus preserving inertia of people’s unjustified trust”…

“…pre-election babbling about fighting corruption and organized crime, bringing back illegally privatized enterprises and other important issues still remain just babbling”.

The key point of Symonenko’s report was the fact that Ukraine is going to be turned to NATO bridgehead and the place of showdown between comprador Ukrainian bourgeois and Russian oligarchs.

The term “comprador Ukrainian bourgeois” was repeatedly substituted by “nashists” or “fascist sonder-team”.

And of course, the immortal phrase of communists for the last 100 years: “Existing social-political system is decaying. It should be broken and altered”.

Symonenko also mentioned his brothers-in-arms in left front. CPU leader even set a problem of fighting those “werewolves” and exposure of “collaborationist” tops of SPU and Vitrenko’s PSPU.

“Today, SPU representatives neglected their voter’s interests. In terms of ideology they tend to veiled SDPU politics and collaboration with chauvinistic-anti-Semitic like Rogozin’s “Motherland”. SPU fraction in parliament openly defends interests of capital, having accepted Kuchma’s relatives and Lazarenko team’s members to their fraction”, Symonenko denounce SPU.

According to CPU leader, his party will fight on three fronts at the parliamentary elections: against “American nationalists”, “right-wing oppositionists” and “opportunists” from SPU and SPPU.

Symonenko is going to change old slogans (he didn’t specify them) and will work with youth. He warned that “Our Ukraine”, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Block and SPU “had secretly divided CPU votes”.

Thus, under clan dictatorship, to achieve maximal representation of workers’ class in local councils and the Verkhovna Rada, Symonenko is going to nominate 230 000 candidates. He warns that “victory or defeat in every region will determine the future of Ukraine”.

Symonenko’s report lasted for almost two hours and consisted of 67 printed pages. CPU members, being unable to take it, often dozed off. The 26th minute was a critical one for them when even the front row fell into light sleep. Presidium board members were a bit more enduring.

The chairman Adam Martynuyk pretended he was busy – he constantly looked through some papers. Valeria Zaklunna openly read party press and the guest from Moscow Gennady Zuyganov read some book. Mr. Grach propped up his head and Politburo just discussed their problems.

Hardly had Symonenko finished his report when people rushed to have a bite. And that’s clear – they were brought there at 7 AM and Symonenko was done at 1 PM. In general, people were eagerly waiting for each of the eight breaks during the two days of congress.

- Oh, I see our folks gladly seep beer, - said Politburo member to his friend.
- Huh, as well as vodka. You have in Balaklava that nice cafe, they have real meat there, - the switched to cuisine topics, which, together with impressions form Kyiv, were predominant talks at the breaks.

At the sittings it was rather difficult to get what almost 30 foreign guests from Moldova, Russia, Cuba, France and other countries were trying to say.

Mostly local party members confessed less people entered CPU; some of them confessed some CPU members served two masters (Symonenko and Yanukovych). They requested transportation and means of communication so that people’s deputies visited villages.

Socialists and Nasha Ukraina were repeatedly cursed. The latter was mentioned more often. Some grandma organized hunting for a 18 year old lad, who, having entered SPU, came to communist congress with a friend. Having written 7 notes to presidium she didn’t calm down till the “spy was asked to leave”.

“They stole our slogans”, somebody uttered complain. “We don’t need any real program, we do need social revolution”, the man persuaded the audience.

Comrade from Luhansk was really bothered with Yushchenko’s proposal to reconcile UPA and Red Army veterans. He offered to count UPA victims as the answer to accusations of communists’ guilt of starvation in 1933.

“They accuse us of starvation – we have UPA”, he offered without realizing that the number of victims can’t be even compared.

Another ordinary communist offered “to correct mistakes in history textbooks” and “oppose Bologna process to recognize Ukrainian diploma abroad”. Although, he supported fighting bribery in higher educational establishments.

Recognizing the work of central party committee satisfactory and approving report of controlling council was a must for each speaker.

Despite Symonenko’s work was not praised, his brothers-in-arms do not have alternative to him. Leonid Grach, having spent three years in parliament has lost his authority. That’s why his speech criticizing CPU tops, who came down to collaboration with Nasha Ukraine in 2002, was frostily met.

“Yeah, you criticize, and what have YOU done?”, sounded from the back of the hall.

Having dismissed about two thousand members for collaboration with Yanukovych and Yushchenko (the latter was especially popular in Donetsk and Crimea), communists don’t rush to carry out reforms within the party.

The main specialty of the congress – people’s deputy Kateryna Samoylyk, whose work in the Ministry of Youth and Sport, in unlikely to be included in the Central Committee.

As to the party leader, he should be re-nominated at the closed party meeting after the congress. The procedure was to go off smoothly and without excesses.

So, for 12 years Petr Mykolayovych will run the party and maybe just defeat at the election might shake his positions.

For the time being ordinary communists estimate their chances as from 5% to 50%. At the same time they do realize that their only chance is that either the “new administration will undermine its authority” or the old regime will restore authority it never had”.

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

TeliaSonera International Carrier Delivers IP Solutions to Ukraine

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- TeliaSonera International Carrier has once again been selected by Ukrtelecom, the leading provider of telecommunications solutions in Ukraine, as their provider of global IP transit services. The agreement strengthens TeliaSonera International Carrier's position as one of the leading IP solution providers in Eastern Europe.


Ukraine is one of Europe's fastest growing countries in terms of economic growth. The need for IP solutions is increasing as a result of this. The multi-million Euro agreement signed with TeliaSonera International Carrier will provide Ukrtelecom with fully diverse and geographically redundant IP solutions to access the Internet. This will allow Ukrtelecom a direct connection to e.g. Russian IP content.

"A fruitful and long-run cooperation with TeliaSonera International Carrier enables us to meet the needs of the most pretentious Ukrainian customers in advanced, high-quality Internet services and thus enhances the integration of Ukraine in the information space of the united Europe and the whole world," says the Deputy Chairman of the Board on Marketing and Sales Mr. Igor Syrotenko. "Today Ukrtelecom is the number one Internet-provider in Ukraine and to the great extent we owe this to our partnership relations with TeliaSonera International Carrier."

"We are very pleased about the renewed confidence that Ukrtelecom has shown in TeliaSonera International Carrier," says Magnus Sjolund, VP and Head of Sales at TeliaSonera International Carrier. "With this agreement we strengthen our relationship with Ukrtelecom. It is an honour for us to be a part of the IP expansion in this very interesting region and to contribute to the continued growth."

Source: TeliaSonera Press Release

Kasparov’s Political Gambit to Bring Down Putin Regime

MOSCOW, Russia -- Former chess champ and chairman of the Russian Opposition Organization Committee 2008 - Free Choice, Garry Kasparov has announced that he is going to set up a united civil front in Russia. Following is an interview he gave to MosNews.

Garry Kasparov

Why did you form the United Civil Front? Are you waging a war?

The ruling authorities have declared a war on the people. The number of people dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the country is growing. After the country’s second presidential election, or rather after Putin’s appointment, this tendency has been increasingly apparent. The regime is toughening its policy line. True, the majority of these people are still showing only passive dissatisfaction, but whereas during Putin’s first term in office, their discontent could not be measured mathematically, now it is there for everyone to see.
Today, the dividing line in Russian society should not run traditionally between rightists and leftists; it should point to the extent to which people are ready to make tough demands upon the current regime. All of today’s political organizations have a narrow focus; it is useless to talk now about the political program we will have in 2007. When the results of elections are falsified, it doesn’t matter who is five degrees more to the left or to the right.

Who will be your followers?

There is great potential both from the left and from the right. That is the rank-and-file activists who are not always content with their political leadership. Negotiating with the Kremlin is always part of the political game of that leadership, part of the political process. We don’t think there is any sense in holding such talks. The Kremlin accepts an opposition political organization only if it fits its current plans and its general conception.

What harm has the ruling establishment done to the people?

It has abolished gubernatorial elections, sharply toughened legislation regarding the registration of political parties and holding of processions and demonstrations. It has virtually banned referendums. Voting in elections is becoming a rubber stamp for decisions made elsewhere.

How does the presidential appointment of governors affect you personally?

At first glance, it is hard to see the link between worsening living standards and the abolition of gubernatorial elections. But just consider this: first, the people are stripped of power — they can no longer elect governors and they can no longer vote for single-mandate candidates. Next, the people are stripped of money. More and more people are beginning to see the connection.

One should also understand that, having liquidated elections in Russia, the regime will not stop. We will see how it guarantees its self-reproduction. The Khodorkovsky case is a landmark we have passed. The regime has developed a grasping conditional reflex. A regime that uses its administrative lever not to falsify election results but to steal an oil company must fight for its self-preservation.

If we have a pyramid of power in which officials of all levels are appointed, then the top cannot be elected as well. Once the regime has decided on self-reproduction, it won’t consult anyone. But if the regime breaks the law, it must be dismantled.

You want to dismantle the present regime. But Putin has the support of the majority. Does it really matter if his supporters amount to 60% or 65% of the population?

We are in the year 2005, not 2004. Today we are witnessing regular demonstrations that demand Putin’s resignation. The tendency is obvious: 70 percent of the citizenry used to support Putin; now the figure is 40 percent. One more point: if you ask people about their attitude toward the war in Chechnya, the growing crime rate, and the state of the economy, then the rating of the present regime becomes quite different. Either people don’t look upon Putin as a politician who wields real influence on the country’s life, or they don’t want to be frank on this matter.

What exactly are you going to do?

There is a wide variety of possible protests — walkouts, hunger strikes, demonstrations. It’s difficult to incite a hunger strike — that’s a measure people resort to when they can’t bear to be downtrodden any longer. But we can unite all these people into a broad anti-regime front. They must feel that they are not alone.

We want to unite all of them — from the radical activists of SPS, who denounce the party leadership’s conciliatory policies, to Limonov’s followers, who exist in the form of “free radicals” and go by the principle of “protest for protest’s sake.” The problem with the Communist and Rodina parties is that they simply can’t get rid of their Kremlin birthmarks. Rodina chairman Dmitry Rogozin uttered many nice words at his party congress but he hasn’t yet learnt to say “Down with Putin!”

Apart from everything else, we will help people who are dissatisfied with the present regime by giving them advice or doing something practical for them. We intend to organize an alternative system of information so that people have a single informational space.

What do you expect to achieve after doing all that?

We could hope for a miracle of course — that life will suddenly become wonderful, with the ruling establishment suddenly changing its mind and building a paradise on earth for us. If that comes true, nothing will be left for us to do, and we’ll let Putin proclaim himself tsar and rule the country for ever.

But we believe there will be no miracle. A social protest will start turning into a political one involving 40-50 percent of the population rather than 5-10 percent. In response, the ruling authorities will toughen its regime, revealing its true face, and start gradually losing its supporters.

Who funds all your programs?

Alas, we live in a country where the lives of our sponsors would be in danger if we named them. All well-known right-wing liberal sponsors of the past are now either abroad or in jail. I can only tell you that we are short of funds. We will not even hide the fact that we have far less money than the amount needed to get our movement going, far less than the democrats spent. However, we are learning to work in such conditions, trying to get the best returns on our investments, counting every kopek.

The tougher the Kremlin’s actions, the greater are our chances of getting help — the number of discontented people grows and more of them wish to help us. In fact, the main potential of our Front is that it exists while the regime is what it is, as long as it engenders discontent.

Why do you think that in fighting the Kremlin you stand a better chance of winning than others?

Unlike the majority of players on the Russian political scene, I have a reputation, and I will retain it in any case. Many politicians found our manifesto too tough for them to sign. They all need to consult someone before making a decision, since they all have so-called “political partners of priority.” As for me, I always make decisions by myself, and no one can make me change my mind once I have made a firm decision. My decision as to the present situation is this: with the present regime, we can only negotiate its capitulation.

Will you also participate in the parliamentary — not street — battle?

We will take part in it with pleasure when it makes sense to do so.

Source: MosNews

Ukraine Moves toward the European Economy

GDASNK, Poland -- The VIII Ukraine–Poland economic forum opened yesterday in Gdasnk, where the presidents of Ukraine and Poland, Viktor Yushchenko and Alexsander Kwasniewski, will arrive today to take part. Kiev is pinning particular hopes on cooperation with Poland, relations with which have significantly strengthened since the Orange Revolution, which received support from Warsaw.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (R) and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniwski

Last year's Ukraine–Poland economic summit was held in Yalta two months after Poland's entry into the EU. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma took part in the proceedings. At that time, relations between the two countries were difficult. However, this past year, Ukraine and Poland have become close allies. The new Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko, who said his ultimate goal during his term in office was see Ukraine join the European Union, is steadfastly counting on Poland's help in this. Talks between Yushchenko and Kwasniewski are planned within the framework of the present summit. The presidents last met a week ago when they opened a memorial in the Polish military cemetery in Lviv; in Kuchma's time, the opening was repeatedly postponed due to political differences.

The recent strengthening of ties between Kiev and Warsaw has already had a favorable effect on Polish public opinion. Results of the latest polls published just before Yushchenko's visit to Poland show that Poles have started to think better of Ukraine. For the first time since Ukraine became independent, Poles have a greater liking for it than Germany (8 percent more). However, Poles consider Czechs and Slovaks their best neighbors, and Russia and Belarus as their worst.

Working meetings went on yesterday as part of the forum, which was organized by the Polish Chamber of Commerce. The concluding documents and agreements will be signed today; the most important of these is an agreement on the privatization of the Warsaw auto plant FSO (Fabryka Samochodow Osobowych) by the Ukrainian corporation AvtoZAZ. The Polish plant, set up in 1948, first put out the Polish versions of the Pobeda (Warszawa and Syrena) and then produced cars under license of the Italian company Fiat (Polish Fiat and Polonez). Today, the plant produces mainly Daewoo products. According to Kommersant's information, after the plant is modernized in 2007, a new car model will be introduced. This will be a cross between the Zaporozhets and the Tavria costing up to 8000 zloty (€2000) each. There are plans to output 150,000 cars, which will be sold in Ukraine, Central Asia, and maybe even Poland itself.

Source: Kommersant

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ukraine: Country's Biggest Steel Mill, Re-Nationalized, Prepares To Be Re-Privatized

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The Ukrainian government plans to sell some 93 percent of the shares in the country's biggest steel mill, Kryvorizhstal, which was re-nationalized earlier this month. Kryvorizhstal, Ukraine's most profitable mill, was sold last year to a consortium owned by the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma -- amid complaints about the artificially low price.

After coming to power, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko pledged to reverse the sale. This month a Ukrainian court upheld an earlier ruling nullifying the mill's privatization. Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko says the new privatization of the mill will be the first transparent sale of state property in the country.

The Kryvorizhstal story is a complicated affair.

Even as the Ukrainian government moves to re-privatize the mill, courts are continuing to mull legal challenges to the step that came before -- Kryvorizhstal's re-nationalization.

Courts had already ruled in favor of a decision to nullify the mill's first sale to private owners. But the Supreme Commercial Court is currently considering an appeal.

Serhiy Vlasenko, a lawyer representing Kryvorizhstal's former owners, told RFE/RL the government is being too hasty in putting the mill on the auction block.

"I don't agree with the government that all the legal matters are finished, Vlasenko said. "The legal matters are far from being finished. The Ukrainian prime minister allows herself to make a declaration [on privatization] as if knowing what decision the Supreme Commercial Court will make. I personally have no idea what decision the Supreme Commercial Court will make."

In addition, Vlasenko said a Ukrainian Supreme Court decision in late December upholding the legality of the first privatization has yet to be annulled.

He says the government should wait for all legal matters to be concluded before they take any further steps toward privatization.

Kryvorizhstal's controversial first sale took place last year.

Rinat Akhmetov, considered one of the wealthiest businessmen in the Donetsk region, paired up with Vikor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma, and purchased the mill for $800 million.

The government says the sum was significantly lower than those offered by other bidders.

Viktor Yushchenko and other leading figures of last year's Orange Revolution pledged to investigate shady privatization deals. One of the new administration's first steps was to re-nationalize Kryvorizhstal earlier this month.

But some outside observers aren't impressed.

Stuart Hensel of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, says Kryvorizhstal is not a success story for the Yushchenko administration:

"I think the obvious thing about this is that the government has handled this very badly," Hensel told RFE/RL. "I think it's taken far longer than anyone expected. The government has proved far less able to send out a coherent, timely message about what its intentions are regarding re-privatization. And this has turned out to be a major distraction for the government, and a significant source of concern for potential investors."

The government has so far failed to specify which pre-Yushchenko privatization deals it intends to investigate. This uncertainty has left many potential investors nervous. In the end, Hensel says, the Kryvorizhstal affair may backfire:

"I think [the government], unfortunately, hasn't gone about it in a very good way," Hensel said. "So that even though putting Kryvorizhstal back in private hands will boost budget revenues and will be seen by many as increasing social justice, I think the government has created as many problems as it is solving by going about it in the way that it has."

But Volodymyr Horbach of the Kyiv-based Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation says the government has no choice but to look into dubious privatization deals from the past.

Ukrainians supported Yushchenko and Tymoshenko precisely because they pledged to instill a sense of justice, Horbach said. A majority of the public was in favor of the mill's re-nationalization.

"The public thinks that it is normal to return the property back to the state," Horbach said. "They see it as an objective and fair process."

Horbach says that with parliamentary elections due next year, many politicians are keen to stay on good terms with their electorate, and therefore may back more re-nationalization plans.

But would Kryvorizhstal's re-privatization prove an equally popular move?

Horbach says no. After a decade of rampant corruption and nepotism, he says, most Ukrainians feel a deep distrust for private business.

A recent poll by the Ukrainian Institute of Economics indicated that only 20 percent of Ukrainians support privatization. A majority of respondents said they would prefer to work in a state-owned company.

Source: Radio Free Europe

U.S. Businessman Regrets Showing Diamond Ring After Putin Pockets It

MOSCOW, Russia -- Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots football team claims he may have lost a priceless keepsake when he handed his Super Bowl ring to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in the Kremlin on June 25.

President Vladimir Putin (C), at right is head of the Kraft group of companies Robert Kraft

Kraft reportedly showed his diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring to Putin at a meeting of American business executives in Russia, and after trying on the ring the Russian president pocketed it and left the meeting, Associated Press reported.

It was not immediately clear whether Kraft intended for Putin to keep the ring. A Patriots spokesman said the owner is still traveling in Europe and was not available for comment.

Kraft handed out Super Bowl rings to players and coaches during a gathering at his Brookline home two weeks ago. The team would not say how much each ring is worth, other than it cost much more than $15,000.

Source: MosNews

Where Eaglets Lie

POZNAN, Poland -- After 87 years, thousands of young Polish soldiers may finally be truly able to rest in peace following a ceremony in which the Polish and Ukrainian presidents tried to bury a controversy that says much about the two nations’ tortured and deeply entwined histories.

The hope is that the ceremony in Lviv’s Lychakivske cemetery will transform the soldiers’ graveyard from a symbol of national heroism for some Poles and a symbol of subjugation for some Ukrainians into a symbol of reconciliation.


At the heart of the controversy is the complex history of Lviv itself. Before World War I, Lviv was a Polish town surrounded by Ukrainian villages, ruled from Vienna by the Habsburg emperor. In November 1918, the same month that Poland re-emerged as an independent state, the Ukrainian National Council declared Ukraine an independent country and laid claim to Lviv. Nearly 3,000 Poles died successfully defending the city in a brief but fierce battle. Lviv remained part of Poland through the interwar years and the burial site of the Lviv’s Polish defenders – the grandly designed Eaglets Cemetery, so named because many of the dead were teenagers – became one of Poland’s most prominent symbols of patriotism. For Ukrainians, it became a symbol too, though of a lost cause and of Polish supremacy.

After World War II, Lwow became Lviv (or, in Russian, Lvov) after the Soviet Union extended its borders far to the west. The Soviet authorities – who had no time for nationalism in Poland, a key satellite state, or in Ukraine, a key republic – deliberately neglected and in 1971 bulldozers flattened much of the cemetery. But for Poles, the graveyard remained a symbol and in 1989, in the era of glasnost introduced by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet authorities began to protect the site from further ravages.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Poland swiftly recognized Ukraine as an independent state. An opportunity for reconciliation seemed to open up and, in 1994, the Ukrainian and Polish governments agreed to rebuild the cemetery. However, as the years passed, the disputes seemed to increase, rather than decrease. The problem – in essence, how to commemorate Polish fighters who fought Ukrainians and ultimately helped foil the idea of an independent Ukrainian state – centered on the inscription on the cemetery’s main monument. In 1997, Ukrainian officials halted renovation work on the cemetery, arguing that the Polish-only inscriptions on the graves glorified the Polish past by saying the Polish soldiers died heroically. In 2000, the city council suggested alternative wording, reading simply (in Ukrainian as well as Polish): "For the unknown Polish soldiers who died for Poland in 1918-1920." Polish officials refused to step down, demanding the word "heroically" be re-inserted, as the Polish and Ukrainian governments had agreed. However, Lviv’s city council stood firm, forcing Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski to cancel the re-opening of the cemetery.

His Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, blamed the impasse on local officials, apologizing to Kwasniewski for the delay.

THE REVOLUTION AND RECONCILIATION

Despite Kuchma’s stance, many commentators believe it was the defeat of Kuchma’s supporters in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, in December 2004, that ultimately made reconciliation possible. In an interview for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, the Ukrainian historian Bohdan Osadczuk argued that “without the Orange Revolution … the controversies [about history] would still be dragging on. Since then, new values and new possibilities have emerged.”

Echoes of past disputes emerged just days before the ceremony, when a nationalist member of the Ukrainian parliament, Oleh Tiahnybok, managed to persuade fellow MPs to pass a resolution calling for the ceremony to be cancelled until the Polish words on the monument were removed. Yushchenko and his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, persuaded parliament to annul the resolution on 23 June.

After years of debates in which single words could often cause nationwide controversies, the final inscription says straightforwardly (in Ukrainian as well as Polish): “Here lie Polish soldiers who fell for their homeland.”

In another corner of the cemetery lie the bodies of some of the Ukrainians whom they killed during the struggle for Lviv, a point highlighted in his speech by President Yushchenko. "This cemetery holds the remains of former fellow students, schoolchildren, neighbors and relatives,” he said. “Some of them [fought under] the Ukrainian trident, others under the Polish eagle. One people's defeat never was another people's victory.”

The opening ceremony itself attracted thousands, most of them Poles, and was broadcast live on Radio Polonia, Poland’s national broadcaster. The local press in Lviv, though it described the event as a crowning moment in efforts to bring the two nations together, also indicated that it was more of a Polish ceremony than a Ukrainian or joint Polish-Ukrainian event. Still, Ukrainian papers welcomed the official stance of the Polish government, that the event could not be seen as anyone’s victory. “Peace, not truce” was one Lviv daily’s summary of the importance of the occasion. Polls revealed 75 percent of Lviv inhabitants welcomed the ceremony.

Though the ceremony marks the symbolic start of a new partnership between Poland and Ukraine, in Ukraine as a whole the response was muted. That may partly be because the start of the real partnership came late last year, when Poland was in the vanguard of international efforts to mediate in the revolution that brought Yushchenko to power. The rationale for Poland’s engagement during the Orange Revolution was echoed in Lviv by Yushchenko, who said that "there can be no free Poland without a free Ukraine, and there can be no free Ukraine without a free Poland."

Warsaw swiftly dubbed 2005 the Year of Ukraine, arranging a range of events to bring the two countries together. But Poland’s most important, self-appointed role since December has been to act as Ukraine’s main advocate as it seeks to gain membership of the European Union.

Poland’s own admission to the EU in May 2004 has affected day-to-day contacts between Poles and Ukrainians, obliging Ukrainians to apply for visas to enter Poland. However, both countries are anxious to prevent the border from becoming too sealed. Ukrainians can get Polish visas free of charge, while Poles can travel to Ukraine without visas. Lviv is a particularly popular destination.

Accession to the EU has also posed obstacles to cross-border trade, but economic ties between the countries are gaining rapidly in strength. In 2003, trade was greater than in any year since 1990, and in 2004 trade rose by another third, to $3 billion. Major new investments are also pending, with Ukrainians set to take over the Polish carmaker FSO and the steelmaker Huta Czestochowa. Alongside the United States, Poland is the biggest foreign investor in western Ukraine. There is plenty of scope for further investment. In total, Poland is estimated to have invested roughly $200 million in Ukraine, a fraction of the accumulated $8.8 billion in foreign direct investment that Ukraine has attracted. The volume of foreign investment in Ukraine is low by the standards of the region.

THE CHURCHES AND RECONCILIATION

The cause of healing historical rifts has also recently been taken up by the institution with perhaps the greatest single cross-border influence, the Catholic Church. On 19 June, the leaders of the Polish Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches called for reconciliation. "Let us go beyond politics and history, beyond our religious denominations, even beyond our Polish and Ukrainian nationalities, and remember that, first of all, we are children of God,” Polish and Ukrainian bishops wrote in a letter read out to an audience of roughly 500 priests and chiefly intended to encourage parishioners to lay aside any animosity. The letter was expressly designed to echo a similar call for mutual forgiveness made by German and Polish bishops in the 1960s.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – also known as the Uniate Church – follows the rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church but recognizes the Catholic pope in Rome as its head.

For historian Bohdan Osadczuk, settling the controversy about the Eaglets Cemetery is a watershed. “The question of the cemetery is the last unresolved problem of our historic disputes and the whole issue is now coming to an end,” he told Gazeta Wyborcza. In recent years, there have been similar acts of reconciliation on a number of thorny issues. In 2002, Poland expressed “regret” over a post-war resettlement program, known as Operation Vistula, in which Poland’s communist government uprooted roughly 150,000 Ukrainians and Lemkos from southeastern Poland and settled them in northern and western areas formerly populated by Germans. In 2003, Kwasniewski and Kuchma commemorated the killing in the Volhynia region of many thousands of Poles by Ukrainian forces fighting for an independent Ukraine during World War II.

A number of sore points in the 20th-century history of Poland and Ukraine remain outstanding. The hope now, though, is that these issues will now become a focus of attention for historians rather than politicians. First, however, Poland may need to live up to its promise to help renovate and reopen graveyards of Ukrainian soldiers in Poland. There are many of them, though none as controversial as the Eaglets Cemetery, and efforts to improve their condition have only really begun to make headway in recent years.

Source: Transitions on Line

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ukraine's Uphill EU Struggle

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- "Ukraine is clearly committed to reform and shares our fundamental values. There is still a lot of work to do to promote democratic and economic reforms. Ukraine and the EU know that this won't happen overnight," said European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas ending a two-day visit to Kiev.

Following the rejection of the Constitution by French and Dutch voters, a growing number of politicians from richer old EU Members, the latest being French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, have called for enlargement to be frozen. "We must hold up enlargement at least until institutions have been modernised. Europe cannot enlarge for ever," Sarkozy said on Monday after meeting newly installed French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. The meeting was aimed at fleshing out a new EU strategy following the rejection of the Constitution.

As for Kallas, he is the fifth European Commissioner to travel to Kiev in the six months following the election of President Viktor Yushchenko. That shows the level of commitment by EU institutions to implementing cooperation plans framed in an EU-Ukraine Action Plan and signed in February. Hailing from a former Soviet republic himself, Estonian Kallas is fearful that the EU's drawing a line on further enlargement may encourage new democracies in eastern and south-eastern Europe to backslide.

But despite the amount of flying between Brussels and Kyiv, the EU door is definitely closed for Ukraine. "Yushchenko was very wise not to send a premature application for membership," admitted Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, speaking last week at a breakfast event organized by the Brussels-based think-tank, the European Policy Center.

"Enlargement has been stretched to its limits," said Rehn. "We want to bring the Ukraine closer to the EU by concrete measures like free trade, market economy status, enhancing market functioning, better dialogue, improving the opportunities for Ukrainians to study and work in the EU," continued Rehn. "The Ukraine is indisputably a European country. The Treaties say that any European country that respects European values may apply to join."

In Kyiv, Kallas also concentrated more on practical steps. "The Commission fully supports Ukraine in its efforts step by step to implement the EU Ukraine Action Plan and the complementary conclusions on Ukraine of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 21 February," said Kallas. "I am confident that Ukraine’s government and people will rise to challenges that include reform of the administration and the judiciary, in particular with a view to ensuring the rule of law and to strengthening the confidence of investors."

Kallas, who is responsible for administrative reform, audit and anti-corruption in the Brussels administration also met with Deputy Prime Minister Roman Bezsmertnyi in charge of administrative reform, Interior Minister Jury Lutsenko, and other top officials. Ukraine is facing an uphill struggle to maintain a clear separation between business and politics and ensure security of domestic and international investment. Extensive administrative reform is needed in the former Soviet Union republic as well as stronger policy aimed at fighting corruption and eliminating red tape.

Earlier this month top Ukraine officials were in Brussels for the Ukraine-EU Council. "Now is the moment to get down to work and this is the goal of the Action Plan," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told them at the time. "We want to see the Ukraine get closer to the EU. An important question is visa facilitation. I can say a mandate will be given before the summer."

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, Yushchenko wants to further extend the visa-free regime.

Source: Euro-Reporters

Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko to Receive 2005 Philadelphia Liberty Medal

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Viktor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine, whose courageous fight for free and fair elections inspired millions in his country and around the world and led to the end of a corrupt government, has been named the recipient of the 2005 Philadelphia Liberty Medal by its distinguished International Selection Commission. President Yushchenko will accept the Medal and its accompanying $100,000 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on September 17, America’s Constitution Day.

The Philadelphia Liberty Medal, established in 1988 to heighten recognition of the principles that founded this nation and to serve as a lasting legacy to the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, honors an individual or an organization from anywhere in the world that has “demonstrated leadership and vision in the pursuit of liberty of conscience or freedom from oppression, ignorance, or deprivation.” It is administered by the non-profit, non-political, Philadelphia Foundation, the region’s foremost community foundation.

Professor Martin Meyerson, Chairman, since the Medal’s inception, of its International Selection Commission and President Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, said, “President Yushchenko’s courageous leadership in guiding the “Orange Revolution” is reminiscent of the heroism of Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and is likely to inspire other freedom-seeking, democracy-loving people. Now, as a charismatic political leader, he is transforming his country into a modern civil society. As a shaper of a new nation, he merits being seen as the Ukraine’s George Washington.”

H. Craig Lewis, Chairman of The Philadelphia Foundation, commented, “We are delighted to make the announcement of President Yushchenko’s selection on June 28, Ukraine’s Constitution Day, and will welcome him to Philadelphia on our national Constitution Day, September 17. The National Constitution Center is an ideal venue and partner for this year’s presentation because it so ably teaches the same values of freedom and democracy that President Yushchenko stands for.”

Viktor Yushchenko was born in 1954 in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine. After studying economics at the University he began a financial career, starting as a rural accountant and progressing in 1993 to head the national bank of the newly independent Ukraine. There he played an important role in overcoming hyperinflation in the country and establishing a stable national currency. His success led to his appointment as prime minister in December 1999 by President Leonid Kuchma. Dismissed by Kuchma in 2001 because of his rising popularity, Yushchenko became head of the Our Ukraine opposition bloc, and, as Kuchma’s term ended in 2004, he announced his independent candidacy for president.

The presidential campaign was contentious. Yushchenko had great popular support, but the state-run television channels and Russian President Vladimir Putin continually touted his major rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Among the “dirty tricks” was dioxin poisoning of Yushchenko, allegedly by government officials, which left his face disfigured and pockmarked just weeks before the election. The official tally awarded a narrow victory to Yanukovych, but allegations of widespread fraud prompted Yushchenko and his supporters to refuse to recognize the results. There were massive popular protests around the country, and thousands camped out in the main square of Kiev in bitter winter weather while wearing orange as a sign of solidarity. Finally the Supreme Court overturned the election results, and Yushchenko won the repeat ballot.

As President he has begun to expose the massive corruption of Kuchma’s regime, replacing thousands of bureaucrats, and pledging financial reforms, new jobs, and a higher standard of living. He is also aggressively pursuing membership in the European Union.

Mayor John F. Street will present the 2005 Liberty Medal on Saturday, September 17 at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Mayor Street said, “Viktor Yushchenko is an inspiration to people all over the world because of his brave and powerful reform movement in Ukraine, leading to his election as President in 2004. I salute the Liberty Medal Commission on his selection as the winner of the Liberty Medal for 2005, and look forward to welcoming President Yushchenko to our city in September for the presentation ceremony.”

Past recipients of the Philadelphia Liberty Medal are: Polish Solidarity founder--and then President--Lech Walesa in 1989; former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1990; former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the French medical and human rights organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in 1991; the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1992, South African Presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in 1993; Czech President Václav Havel in 1994; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, in 1995; former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1996; the global news network CNN International in 1997; Irish Peace Negotiator Senator George Mitchell in 1998; South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 1999; Doctors James Watson and Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, in 2000; United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001; United States Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2003; and, in 2004, Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.

Six former recipients of the Liberty Medal have subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Source: PR Newswire

List of Former Ukrainian Top Officials Accused of Hiding

KIEV, Ukraine -- In the months following Ukraine's Orange Revolution, many former top officials were summoned for questioning over various abuses. Some of them failed to turn up for questioning, provoking accusations of hiding from prosecutors. In many cases, the reported reason for their failure to appear for questioning was that they were receiving medical treatment, often in Russia.

Viktor Yanukovych

This gave rise to suspicions that Russia is harbouring many Ukrainian politicians who backed Viktor Yanukovych, the defeated pro-Russian rival of Western-minded liberal Viktor Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential elections. Subsequently, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry asked Moscow to help track down several former top officials.

The list includes former chairman of the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission Serhiy Kivalov, former Ukrainian Interior Minister Mykola Bilokon, former Sumy regional governor Volodymyr Shcherban and former Odessa mayor Ruslan Bodelan.

The following are details of charges facing some of Ukraine's most prominent former top officials, as well as their reported whereabouts.

Ihor Bakay

Ihor Bakay, the former head of the Ukrainian Directorate for State Affairs under former President Leonid Kuchma, is wanted on charges of abuse of power and involvement in crime. Bakay is widely accused of mismanaging state property as head of the presidential directorate.

He is reported to be currently resident in Moscow, where he had a meeting with Ukrainian Transport Minister Yevhen Chervonenko.

It has also been reported that Bakay applied for Russian citizenship and sought to give up his Ukrainian citizenship. The Russian immigration authorities, however, said that Bakay does not hold Russian citizenship.

Mykola Bilokon

Former Interior Minister Mykola Bilokon is wanted for questioning on suspicion of abuse of office, including financial abuses committed while building a dacha in Lviv Region. He has also been accused in the media of orchestrating a clampdown on human rights and media freedoms.

It was reported that Mykola Bilokon is currently a resident of Moscow, where he has frequent contacts with Russian businessman Maksim Kurochkin and Ihor Bakay. There have also been reports that Bilokon underwent medical treatment in Moscow, although it is not clear what he was treated for.

Ruslan Bodelan

Ruslan Bodelan, who was ousted as Odessa mayor in April 2005, is wanted in Ukraine on charges of abuse of power which caused losses of about 120,000 dollars. The case involves advertising space being sold to a private company at an artificially low price. In June, a court in Odessa sanctioned Bodelan's arrest.

Following the fiercely disputed presidential election in late 2004, Bodelan underwent a heart operation at the Russian Defence Ministry's Vishnevskiy hospital outside Moscow. Subsequently, he spent at least one month there undergoing a rehabilitation course, according to his press secretary. In late May, she said that his return to Odessa "was not on the agenda".

In April it was reported that Bodelan was undergoing in-patient treatment in Odessa, which was said to be the reason why he failed to turn up for questioning at Interior Ministry's directorate in Odessa Region.

Volodymyr Satsyuk

The former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Volodymyr Satsyuk, is wanted on charges of abuse of office, forgery and causing material damage to the state in especially large amounts. He is also the owner of the dacha where Viktor Yushchenko dined immediately before being taken to hospital with poisoning which disfigured his face.

Former SBU head Ihor Smeshko told journalists on 9 June that Satsyuk had left Ukraine. In a recent newspaper interview, however, Satsyuk denied this, saying that he was still in Ukraine, where he is being treated in hospital for a heart condition. Events over the past few months have had a "negative effect" on his heart, Satsyuk said.

Current SBU head Oleksandr Turchynov said that "there is no information" that Satsyuk had fled Ukraine. Turchynov also said that Satsyuk has not been formally charged with involvement in Yushchenko's poisoning.

Volodymyr Shcherban

The former Sumy Region governor and a close ally of former President Leonid Kuchma, Volodymyr Shcherban, is wanted by Ukrainian prosecutors on charges of extortion, abuse of office and vote- rigging.

There have been reports that he is hiding in Russia or Turkey, and on 4 May, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry asked Russia for assistance in locating Shcherban and establishing his citizenship.

A Ukrainian progovernment daily also said that Shcherban may be in the USA, after being granted a US visa for "investing" 5m dollars in the American economy. Shcherban's son Artem has stayed behind and is busy selling off the family's stakes in numerous companies in Ukraine prior to joining his parents in Miami, the paper said.

Serhiy Kivalov

The former chairman of Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission, Serhiy Kivalov, was questioned over the alleged embezzlement of property at the Odessa law academy, which he heads. There have been no reports that Kivalov was put on a wanted list, or that he was charged with involvement in vote-rigging during the 2004 presidential election.

In a newspaper interview by phone in May, Kivalov said he was undergoing medical treatment for hypertension and therefore could not be questioned at the moment. Kivalov denied that he was hiding from investigators, but refused to disclose his whereabouts, saying he would turn up for questioning when he is well.

Kivalov reportedly stayed in Moscow in early 2005, but in an interview, he dismissed reports that he was seen while visiting a Moscow restaurant.

In a TV interview in May, Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko said Kivalov had returned from Russia and was questioned in Odessa. On 9 June, Kivalov was seen attending Russia Day festivities in Kiev.

Source: BBC Monitoring Service

Ukrainian General Wanted for Journalist Murder Located in Israel

KIEV, Ukraine -- Gen Oleksiy Pukach, wanted on charges of murdering journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has been located in Israel, a Ukrainian newspaper has said. It said that special Security Service and Interior Ministry groups rushed to Israel as soon as they learned the news, but extradition procedures are very complicated.

The following is the text of the article by Oleksandr Korchynskyy entitled "Gen Oleksiy Pukach found in Israel! SBU and Interior Ministry special groups are after him" published in the Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya on 23 June; the subheading is as published:

Segodnya learned that on Friday [17 June] sensational news came to Ukraine that Police Gen Oleksiy Pukach, who is on the international wanted list, has been discovered in Israel. We remind you that Pukach is sought by our country's law-enforcement agencies on charges of direct participation in the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Our paper, by the way, at one time expressed the theory that Pukach might be in hiding in Israel. And now, as far as we know, he has been found there by Israeli special services.

According to unconfirmed reports, they are just watching, not detaining him. Segodnya's sources reported that having received information about the stay of Pukach in Israel, a group of several SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] officers left for that country in haste on Saturday [18 June]. A day later, on the Sunday, a group of Interior Ministry staff left for the same destination (evidently they got the news later).

If it is going to be a question of the extradition of Pukach, then according to Ukrainian legislation, the Prosecutor-General's Office [PGO] is the only agency that can officially demand the return of the accused. However, our sources reported yesterday that neither the Interior Ministry nor the SBU told the PGO anything about their visits to Israel.

It is not being ruled out that in this case the recently heightened competition between the security departments came into play; each of them has an interest in being the first to bring President Viktor Yushchenko news of the capture (by their own forces) of the main person accused of the Gongadze murder, who may also talk about those who ordered the killing.

Be that as it may, it is unlikely that the Interior Ministry and SBU special groups will come back from the Promised Land with Pukach in handcuffs. The extradition procedure from Israel is extremely complicated, especially if Pukach has managed to become a citizen of the country, and could drag on for years. Although, theoretically speaking, the general could simply be kidnapped, brought to Ukraine illegally somehow and sort of "accidentally" discovered here (but later at a future trial juridical questions will arise).

It is no secret that our operational service in the past "treated themselves" to similar things. In this way, for example, according to this paper's information, at one time one of the contract killers involved in the shooting of people's deputy Yevhen Shcherban was brought from Russia to Ukraine in the boot of a car. True, it is easier to do this from Russia than from Israel.

In 2000 Oleksiy Pukach occupied the post of chief of the criminal search directorate (in plain speech - the visual surveillance service, "the visuals", "the seven") of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. Pukach is now in the same case with those accused of murdering Heorhiy Gongadze - police colonels Mykola Protasov and Valeriy Kostenko. The fourth accused, who on that fateful evening was driving the car that had taken Heorhiy away, police officer Popovych, is out on bail.

On 16 September 2000 Pukach and the aforementioned three took the journalist to Bila Tserkva District [Kiev Region] and killed him there. What is more, according to the inquiry's theory, the general himself allegedly strangled Heorhiy with his own belt. Then the killers buried the body and went to a cafe to "mark" the event.

We also remind you that Pukach had already been detained by the PGO on 22 October 2003. At that time the court originally authorized his arrest, but on 5 November 2003 (shortly after the dismissal of the then prosecutor-general, [Svyatoslav] Piskun) the court replaced the detention by a bail order, after which Pukach was not seen in Ukraine.

THREE MAIN QUESTIONS ABOUT PUKACH

FIRST, what importance does the capture of Pukach have for solving the Gongadze case? If Pukach admits his part in Gongadze's murder, as the ringleader of the group of killers, he may lead to the people who ordered the crime, who gave him the order to sort out the journalist. Apart from that, Pukach may say how Gongadze's body was beheaded and reburied in Tarashcha [forest where it was found] (although it is not an established fact that the general was in the know about this story).

And this, in turn, may lead to the people who ordered the "cassette scandal". Meaning the people who organized the recording of conversations in [former President Leonid] Kuchma's office on the so-called Melnychenko tapes [allegedly recorded by former Ukrainian state guard Mykola Melnychenko], and who later organized their publication.

SECOND, who can Pukach name as the person who ordered the killing of Gongadze?

There are two options. The first is that Pukach will say that he got the criminal order from former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko (now deceased) and that he does not know who gave the order to Kravchenko (so the thread leading to the real people behind the crime will be broken, perhaps forever). The second is that he will name the people who gave the orders to Kravchenko. In that case, the tangle may unravel to the end.

THIRD, how likely is it that Pukach will admit his part in the killing of Gongadze? The answer directly depends on what other proof the inquiry has about Pukach's participation in the murder of Gongadze apart from the evidence of the men already arrested in the case (after all, in theory the accused could specify both themselves and Pukach).

If there is such proof, then the inquiry will probably find it not difficult to incline Pukach to making a "frank confession". If not, then the inquiry should not expect Pukach to make a confession of his guilt and hence not get evidence from him about the people who ordered the crime.

Source: BBC Monitoring Service

Monday, June 27, 2005

Ukraine Calls for NATO Help in Destroying Outdated Ammunition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday called for help from NATO and the European Union (EU) in destroying his country's weapons and ammunition left from World War I and World War II.

According to the Ukrainian Interfax, there are 2 million tons of outdated ammunition stored in ammo depots throughout the country. However, Ukraine can only destroy 60,000 tons each year.

Ukraine is incapable of dealing with such a large amount of ammunition, said Yushchenko when meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Yushchenko said his country hopes to carry out special projects with NATO and the EU to resolve the problem and reduce accidents in the ammunition depots.

An ammo depot in Khmelnitskiaya caught fire and injured nine people in May. A year earlier, explosions in another ammo depot in Zaporozhskaya killed five people and lasted for one week. About 10,000 people living nearby were evacuated due to the accident.

De Hoop Scheffer said it is necessary for the two sides to cooperate in destroying the old ammunition, adding that NATO has a 5 million-US-dollar special fund for eliminating ammunition and missile fuel.

De Hoop Scheffer arrived in Kiev on Monday for a one-day visit. During his visit, he met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other officials, pledging NATO's full support for Ukraine's efforts to push forward the European integration process.

Source: Xinhua

Ukraine: Ghost Town An Eerie Reminder Of Chornobyl Legacy

PRIPYAT, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian town of Pripyat has been abandoned since May 1986, when its residents were hastily evacuated in the days following the Chornobyl nuclear disaster. The town, located 20 kilometers from the plant, was once home to Chornobyl workers and popularly known as the "city of roses." Now, nearly 20 years after the world's worst nuclear accident, Pripyat's only residents are dogs and wild animals. RFE/RL's correspondent traveled with a guide to Pripyat and files this report on what has become a Ukrainian ghost town.

Classroom in Kindergarten #7, Pripyat (photo by Robert Polidori).

We are in Pripyat -- once a flourishing Soviet town, but now a silent, empty place haunted by Chornobyl's nuclear legacy.

It is raining heavily as our driver parks his old Zhiguli in what used to be a children's amusement park. "It's good," he says, looking at the rain. "It will wash away some of the radioactivity."

Our guide is Serhiy Chernov, a local journalist. He lived in Pripyat as a student, and says he had hoped to make it his permanent home.

"There were flowers everywhere. Of all the cities I've seen in Ukraine -- of course, I haven't seen all of them -- it was the best. My wife and I celebrated our wedding here, and I wanted very much to be sent to work here after I graduated from Kyiv University. But half a year before I graduated, the catastrophe took place," Serhiy says.

Nearly two decades later, Pripyat is a ghost town. A gloomy atmosphere hangs over the abandoned amusement park. Grass grows through cracks in the asphalt. Raindrops splash on empty park rides.

A large Ferris wheel remains a vivid shade of yellow, as though it had been painted yesterday. Erected just days before the 26 April 1986 disaster, it has never carried a single passenger.

We get back in the car and drive through the rain to what Serhiy says was once the heart of Pripyat.

"This is the main square of the city. The regional headquarters of the [Communist] Party was based here. Look at the building over there. There was a restaurant and a hotel. It was the center of town. In the past, roses were growing everywhere. Now you see only bushes. On the top of some houses you can see birch trees growing," Serhiy says. Over the years, the town has been picked clean by thieves who took whatever they could and sold it.

We walk into the Communist Party building. Portraits of once-prominent Politburo members lie scattered on the floor. There are empty chairs, books by Lenin, and posters bearing Communist slogans.

"No souvenirs," Serhiy warns -- everything is radioactive. He says contamination levels vary from place to place. But it will be hundreds of years before Pripyat is safe to live in.

In the rush to evacuate the city, few residents had time to take more than a few small possessions with them. But over the years, the town has been picked clean by thieves who took whatever they could and sold it.

Oleksiy Dolia, an ethnographer, says people throughout Ukraine may be unwittingly living with contaminated furniture and other property stolen from Pripyat.

"There's nothing left there. The houses are empty. Nearly everything was left in these houses -- furniture, [audio and video] equipment. Everything was there. But now there's nothing left," Dolia says.

Once a year, on 26 April, onetime Pripyat residents return to the town. Serhiy says it is a chance for many to remember what their lives were like before the accident.

"Some of them haven't been here for 10 or 15 years. Some more, some less. They meet here. Sometimes they set up a table with food, they kiss one another, they take pictures, remembering what their lives were like in this town. They think back on the times they went to a certain restaurant, or to the swimming pool. There was a wonderful pool here, a wonderful stadium," Serhiy says.

As we leave Pripyat, we stop and say goodbye to a sole policeman manning the checkpoint on the road leading in and out of the town. But after a wrong turn, we find ourselves once again in the main square, with no police to stop us. It seems anyone can enter the radioactive zone and not be detected.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Open Source Battles Microsoft in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A battle for software supremacy within the public and private sectors of Ukraine has begun. Recently, the Ukrainian Parliament registered a "project of law" (the equivalent of a bill in U.S. terms) that may radically alter the manner in which the Ukrainian government procures software. If adopted, it will require government agencies, along with all state-owned or state-controlled companies, to give preference to open source software.

Microsoft Founder Bill Gates

However, the proposed legislation still offers ample opportunity for competition by legitimate proprietary software. It requires giving preference to an open source product only when the open source feature set is analogous to that of a commercial product, and justifies using proprietary products if the open source counterparts are more expensive.

The open source project contains nearly the entire OSI definition of open source, translated into the language of the Ukrainian legal system. It stipulates that all source code developed by public authorities is to be of an open nature, constrained only by the requirements of national security. And the bill does not limit itself to just software. Among its key elements is the requirement for state authorities to incorporate open standards in their work. Another provision requires public authorities to open the source code of the software they develop, except in cases when national security considerations requires the contrary.

Social and economic ramifications of an open software policy

The adoption of the open source project is more than a software issue; it is critical to the well-being of the Ukraine economy. Today, more than 90% of the million-plus computers in Ukraine run pirated software. If we assume that the average cost of the software installed on these computers runs to at least a thousand dollars each, the funds that would be required to legalize all this proprietary software would run into the billions of dollars.

In addition, there are issues that extend beyond Ukraine itself. Specifically, Ukraine has declared its willingness to join the European Union and must therefore remove the stigma of being a violator of intellectual property rights by legalizing its proprietary software. Such a move could financially strangle the country. According to estimates by the Centre for Constitutional Studies, a Ukrainian think tank, the overall expenditures necessary to legalize the currently installed government and commercial proprietary software could cost the country as much as $523 billion. Those costs include both anti-piracy campaigns and license fees. The magnitude of the problem is clear when you consider that Ukraine's state budget for 2005 is just over $100 billion.

Proponents of the open source law point out, and rightfully so, that instead of wasting money on licensing proprietary foreign software, funds could be better invested into the local IT industry. It is easy to see why this logic makes sense, particularly when you take into account the potential burden of just acquiring the necessary Microsoft licenses.

To see why software piracy has taken hold and become such a grave problem, consider the income levels of most Ukrainians. In country's capital, a salary of $500 per month is considered excellent. That number drops to between $200-300 in the regional centers. Therefore, Ukrainians simply cannot afford legal proprietary software. Until recently, their only solution has been to opt for piracy, although now some are switching to open source.

The same logic holds true for the government. The country's budget is unable to provide the billions of dollars necessary to legalize software via licenses, given that trying to improve the social condition of its citizens has a much higher priority.

Simply enforcing harsh sanctions against the suppliers of pirated software, without giving those vendors a viable alternative, would result in the addition of thousands of Ukrainians to the unemployment rolls -- not to mention the ripple effects throughout the Ukrainian economy as falloff in demand for pirated software adversely affects peripheral industries, such as the CD recording facilities, and thereby aggravates an already difficult situation.

Switching to open source software would not only allow for a dramatic reduction in the number of intellectual rights violations, as is already happening in China and Brazil, it would also encourage the creation of new software jobs, an attribute that is in line with social policy priorities of the Ukrainian government.

The Empire strikes back

Microsoft responded promptly to the potential shift to an open source philosophy by announcing an agreement with Ukraine's Ministry of Education. Ukraine agreed to acquire 120,000 licenses for Microsoft Windows and 120,000 licenses for Microsoft Office by the end of 2006.

Needless to say, this announcement raised a lot of questions, the most important among them being the issue of why spend millions of dollars for poorly localized software when open source provides a wide range of Ukrainian-language software?

There is also the issue of secretiveness. Signed on May 1, the agreement with Microsoft was not made public until after May 20, and then only by a press release from Microsoft's representatives in Ukraine. Moreover, a copy of the agreement is available only at www.legalgovernment.org, a Web site that belongs to the software vendors' representatives.

The Microsoft agreement should attract the interest of the Ukrainian State Anti-Monopoly Committee, given that it not only creates a long-term monopoly by Microsoft, but also limits the number of service suppliers to nine official representatives of Microsoft in Ukraine.

The secretive negotiation process between Microsoft and the Ministry of Education continues to worry the Ukrainian open source community. Although the open source bill would give open source software a higher legal standing than the Microsoft agreement, it has yet to be officially adopted. Twice the open source project has been submitted to the Ukrainian Parliament and both times Microsoft's lobbyists were able to prevent its adoption.

According to the agreement with the Ministry of Education, Microsoft is to provide some significant rebates. I tried to determine the price at which Windows will be provided to state institutions, but representatives of Microsoft said that this kind of information can only be granted during a personal meeting. The only piece of information they made available upon my request is that the price for Windows XP will not drop below $150.

Among the principles set forth by the recent Orange Revolution in Ukraine were those demanding that the actions of government authorities remain in full and open view of the public. To many open source advocates, the Ukrainian government's IT policy remains veiled, thereby reminding them of the corrupt Kuchma regime.

Lobbyists and bureaucracy versus open source

Although to the Ukrainian open source community the issues involved are clearcut, the bureaucrats view the problem somewhat differently. For the most part the majority acquired their management styles during the Soviet era, and their current understanding is that computers equate to "Wintel." Another trait of the Soviet era, and inherited by the Ukrainian bureaucracy, is a fundamental lack respect for intellectual property, along with one of duplicity. For example, over 90% of the computers in government offices run pirated software. However, to appease the rest of the world, the government periodically organizes sanctions against software pirates by publicly crushing hundreds of pirated CDs.

Although the same attitudes towards intellectual property were at one time rampant within the business community, the situation has improved as a result of what is referred to as the "mask show" -- a software legality check that can result in the confiscation of all computers containing pirated software. Though not as common now as it was in 2004, the mask show still remains a threat to Ukrainian businesses using pirated software.

Many Ukrainian bureaucrats have a fear of change within their IT world because they themselves have not kept abreast of current developments. As such, they believe that they will not be able to compete with their younger counterparts and will therefore lose their jobs should the proposal to mandate open software become law.

At the same time, it's often hard to prove the existence of Microsoft's heavy lobbying against the open software bill in Ukraine. The facts stated in this article could be interpreted to be simply the result of inefficiency of government procurement policy. Yet it's also true that every public administration official involved with IT periodically receives a CD of "Microsoft solutions for government." Maybe that's just good marketing. It's harder to explain away the fact that some of the parliamentary documents opposing the adoption of the open software project contained text derived directly from Microsoft's official site.

The authors of the open source bill that may force the Ukrainian bureaucracy to make friends with Linux, Borys Olijnyk and Mykhajlo Syrota, represent the left wing of Ukrainian political spectrum. Syrota is also considered to be among the "founding fathers" of the Ukrainian Constitution of 1996. Now Syrota and Olijnyk may well become the founding fathers of a major shift in the way their country looks at IT.

Source: NewsForge

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Japan Suspects Iran-N.Korea Missile Link-Report

TOKYO, Japan -- Japan is worried that technology for a long-range cruise missile that can carry nuclear warheads may have been leaked to North Korea from Iran, a Japanese daily said on Sunday.

At issue is technology used in cruise missiles known as Kh-55s that Ukraine exported to Iran in 2001 under former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Sankei Shimbun daily said, quoting Japanese government and ruling party sources.

A TU-160 Launching a KH-55 Cruise Missile

"They are linked by a network beneath the surface regarding the development of weapons of mass destruction," Sankei quoted a Defense Ministry source as saying about Iran and North Korea.

The possible leak of technology was conveyed to Japan by a U.S. intelligence agency, said Sankei, a conservative daily.

Developed in the late 1970s in the former Soviet Union, the Kh-55s have a range of 3,000 km (1,864 miles), long enough to hit any part of Japan if deployed by North Korea, Sankei said.

The Financial Times said in March that Ukraine had acknowledged exporting 12 such cruise missiles to Iran and six to China in 2001 without any nuclear warheads.

Japan has made inquiries with Ukraine and has expressed concern to Iran about the possible leak of missile technology and urged it not to hand over such missiles to North Korea, Sankei said. The only reply from the Ukrainian and Iranian governments so far has been that the issue is being investigated by Ukrainian authorities, the newspaper said.

Japan has grown increasingly concerned about the nuclear and missile programs of North Korea, which declared in February that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Worries increased after North Korea shocked the world in 1998 by firing a ballistic missile across Japan, prompting Japan's decision in December 2003 to buy a U.S.-made missile defense system. It is expected to be partially deployed from 2007.

Such missile defense systems, however, are aimed at thwarting ballistic missiles and are not designed with low-flying cruise missiles in mind, Sankei said.

Source: Reuters

Five Coal Miners Killed in Explosion in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- An explosion ripped through a coal mine in Ukraine’s western Lviv region Sunday, killing five miners and seriously injuring three others, the Ministry for Emergency Situations said in a statement.

Three miners were killed instantly, and two others later died in a hospital. Another three miners were badly injured, the statement said.


Ukrainian Miners on a Break

The methane gas explosion at the Lesnaya mine near the town of Silets occurred when 56 miners were working 550 meters (1,800 feet) underground.

Ukrainian prosecutors launched an investigation into the accident, the ministry’s statement said.

Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, nearly 4,300 miners have died in Ukrainian coal mines, which are considered among the world’s most dangerous.

The mines are plagued by high concentrations of methane gas, safety violations, negligence and old equipment. More than 75 percent of Ukraine’s 200 coal mines are classified as dangerous.

Last week, two miners died in another incident in Ukraine’s east. Last July, a methane explosion in the eastern Donetsk region killed 31 miners in the country’s worst mine accident in years.

Source: AP

The Fairest Premier of Them All?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yulia Tymoshenko helped Ukraine’s president topple a sinister regime. Now the two are heading for a political rift. So what does the future hold for the heroine of the orange revolution?

"Starwars" Princess Leia (L) and Ukraine's PM Yulia Tymoshenko

We can expect happy endings in fairy tales. But in politics? Well, perhaps, sometimes, in snowy landscapes far, far away. Last winter, two equally heroic figures dominated Ukraine’s orange revolution, the peaceful uprising in which pro-democracy protesters overturned their country’s corrupt regime. The first, Yulia Tymoshenko, brought a mesmerising passion to events. A firebrand political orator, she addressed almost daily the demonstrators thronging the Kiev streets in support of the second, the opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. The government had tried to prevent him from winning the presidential election by organising massive fraud; it had also allegedly poisoned him, leaving his face disfigured.

The demonstrators, sometimes a million strong, draped in orange flags and clothing, fell a little in love with the beautiful Tymoshenko and the once-handsome Yushchenko, who promised to rid Ukraine, a country larger than France and with a population of 50m, of an authoritarian regime that mingled the stagnation of its Soviet past with banana-republic ruthlessness. Persevering in the cold, they forced an election that Yushchenko won.

Tymoshenko’s reward was her appointment as prime minister. To many Ukrainians, the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko partnership promised their country an inspiring new story. But fairy tales can disguise a more complex narrative. Today the pair still display a public show of harmony, declaring they will stand united in next spring’s parliamentary elections to reinforce Ukraine’s journey towards democracy. Yet tensions between them are evident, exacerbated by her rising popularity even as his support slowly ebbs. Both their parties – Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko’s eponymously named grouping – have similar agendas: strengthening democracy and human rights, economic reform, ending corruption, and joining the EU and Nato. But this political harmony is marred by personal rivalries: the premier’s position is coveted by some of Yushchenko’s political coterie, and even members of his camp are dismayed by his occasional envy of Tymoshenko’s poll ratings. This is a story in which the heroine, though she would never admit it, seems more interested in sitting on the throne than being the power behind it. But does that cast her in a good or bad light? Is she offering Ukraine a magic wand or a poisoned apple?

We begin to answer that question in her office on the seventh floor of the cabinet building in Kiev, as her team awaits her 9am arrival. An eastern European version of a West Wing team, there are 10 of them, all men, from different backgrounds – academia, business, politics, journalism and the intelligence services. Their mission is to remodel Ukraine for the better, and with over 18,000 state officials from the old regime sacked in the first weeks of the new administration, between February and April, there is much to assess. They agree privately, with comments by her opponents, that unless rifts are healed, Tymoshenko’s party may break the orange coalition and contest the parliamentary elections to secure a pivotal role for itself, one that would provide the springboard for her own bid in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2009.

It is a surprise to hear her greet staff and guests in a quiet, almost self-effacingly polite voice. With a few exceptions, as we observe her over the following days, she uses the same gracious tones with everyone. It’s a different but equally effective tone to the strident one used in public oratory, suggesting she has the strength not to strive to continually impress. She laughs easily and often blushes if given praise. Does the fairy-tale heroine have grace? Apparently so.

The friendliness is genuine but it is obvious she works hard on her image. She employs a photographer who has chronicled her looks and life for the past seven years, and likes to keep fit, usually starting her day with a run. She said: “I used to run 10 kilometres a day but I’ve had to do less since I became prime minister.” Breakfast is a cocktail of vitamins and fruit juices, and she does not seem to eat anything during her working day, which often lasts late into the night. She is often dressed in expensive designer clothes and high heels.

She says she does not like being photographed, yet in recent months she has appeared on the cover of some of Elle magazine’s European editions and Poland’s May issue of Playboy, where she appeared – fully clothed, of course – because readers had said she was the woman they most respected. Many view her as a sex symbol, and Tymoshenko admits she sometimes exploits her femininity, but claims her best weapons are sound and persuasive arguments.

One morning is devoted to presiding over a meeting with the French ambassador, some of the top executives from one of France’s most prestigious companies, several of her ministers and representatives from Ukrainian business. Tymoshenko is the only woman in the room with 18 men. It’s clear that her intellect and glamour hold a fascination for most in the meeting.

Another day, Tymoshenko discovers that her government’s attempt to regain control of a large smelting plant that had been auctioned off at cut-price rates to an ally of the former regime is being undermined, minutes ahead of a crucial board meeting. She telephones the state official who is scuppering her plans. Dissatisfied with his explanation, she tells him to reconsider for 10 minutes, after which time she will talk to him again: “You’re supposed to be serving the state, not helping out a crook.” During the interval she furiously works the three phones on her desk and two mobile phones to get information about him.

It emerges that the official was appointed by the former president Leonid Kuchma, the procedure for firing him has to be approved by parliament, and he is probably in league with the businessman. When Tymoshenko calls him again, he prevaricates. Without raising her voice she says: “If you continue to side with this criminal who’s been ripping off Ukraine, things will end badly for you. I’m going to adjourn the meeting for one hour to let you change your mind.”

After finishing that conversation she phones one of her staff and says of the errant official: “The man is corrupt and is not going to change his mind. Find out how we fire him.”

A conversation for our benefit? Probably not. After a few seconds she resumes our interview, perfectly composed, and talks about her early life. Does the fairy-tale heroine have a rags-to-riches story? Of course. She was born Yulia Hryhyan in 1960 in one of Ukraine’s biggest industrial cities, Dnipropetrovsk, when the republic was part of the USSR, an only child raised by a mother she adores. Tymoshenko is reluctant to talk about her father, except to say he was not around to bring her up. Even by the then prevailing Soviet standards, she says she and her mother were considered poor and able to afford few comforts in their tiny flat in a dilapidated high-rise. She did well at school and went on to study economics at Dnipropetrovsk University. And it would seem fate played a part in her story. She said the course of her life was changed by a chance phone call made by a man who had misdialled. She was pleased when he rang again, this time deliberately. After a series of conversations, the two agreed to meet. They swiftly fell in love and married in 1979. Her husband, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, was also an impecunious student. When their daughter was born the next year it was a mixed blessing. The couple continued their studies and took back-breaking jobs for paltry wages in their spare time to get money to buy food and clothes for their baby. One of Yulia’s jobs was shifting and stacking huge tyres, twice the size of a man, in the factory where they were made.

In the second half of the 1980s, things were changing as the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on his perestroika reforms to liberalise the centralised economy that had forbidden private endeavour and enterprise.

The Tymoshenkos grabbed the chance to work for themselves. They borrowed cash from Oleksandr’s father, a well-connected communist official, and set up a number of modest sites where the paying public could see videos of Hollywood films. The “video salons” gave them the cash to start trading in petrol and diesel, and the connections and money they made turned them into Ukraine’s largest electricity provider. At least, this is the tale as Tymoshenko would have it told – it clashes with the version not only provided by her detractors but also by some of her friends. One of the senior opposition politicians in the orange coalition, who is still friendly towards Tymoshenko, said of her dealings: “To ordinary people, the way she and other oligarchs conducted their business seemed crooked, and morally it probably was. But it ’s been hard to prove the deals were illegal, as they were usually done within laws that had been created to enable the chosen few to exploit them.”

The energy sector was, and still is, the most lucrative and corrupt segment of business in the former Soviet Union. Those with connections to Ukraine’s then president, Kuchma, exploited loopholes that meant the state budget paid for electricity manufacture, but Kuchma’s cronies made huge, no-risk profits by selling electricity to local authorities and nationalised industries. Tymoshenko says that as head of a company called United Energy Systems of Ukraine – once credited with an annual turnover of $10 billion – she never made more than $5,000 per month and worked with Ukraine’s interests at heart.

At that time she was believed to be the wealthiest woman in the former USSR. She was able to send her daughter to be educated privately in Britain, first at Rugby, then at the LSE. Her main residence in Ukraine remains a palatial abode she had built in her home city. Her story captured the popular imagination and the media dubbed her “the Gas Princess”. She was known for generous donations to charities and to churches. Contributions to sports charities led to a local youth football team being named after her.

Among her closest business collaborators was Pavel Lazarenko, an oligarch crony of Kuchma’s, whom Kuchma later made prime minister. Kuchma and Lazarenko became fabulously wealthy, with the latter buying luxury homes in the US, including Eddie Murphy’s Hollywood mansion. But the two fell out when Lazarenko exhibited an ambition to become president. In 1999 he fled Ukraine and was arrested trying to enter the US on a Panamanian passport. He was held in prison on accusations of money-laundering and other financial misdeeds. Lazarenko told the US authorities that Kuchma had taken a cut of every dodgy deal the former president was involved in. Lazarenko was found guilty of financial misdeeds by a court in San Francisco last year, but is yet to be sentenced.

In 1996 “the Gas Princess” decided to run for parliament and won her seat with a huge majority. “Every normal person who saw what was going on in government could not be on the same side of the barricades as Kuchma,” she says. “He was destroying our national interests. There was complete deception, complete corruption, and an absolute absence of any justice.” She said the Kuchma government used the courts and intimidation against her family and colleagues to persuade her to fall in line. Knowing Kuchma would declare war against her, she formed her own party and became one of Kuchma’s fiercest critics.

In 1999, to bring respectability to his administration, increasingly attacked by western governments, Kuchma appointed as prime minister a man who enjoyed a reputation for honesty and economic competence inside and outside Ukraine: Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko appointed Tymoshenko as his deputy. He knew that the success of his government, and his pledge to make good on hundreds of millions of dollars in wage arrears to state employees and pensions, depended on curbing rampant corruption in the energy sector. Tymoshenko was the person who had the poacher-turned-gamekeeper expertise to do that. She interrupted some of the most lucrative scams, which resulted in more than a billion dollars becoming available for back pay and pensions. But the anti-corruption campaign hurt some of Kuchma’s top associates, and the president moved to protect his friends. Tymoshenko’s husband was arrested on trumped-up fraud charges. Soon after, in 2000, Kuchma fired Tymoshenko, who was arrested on faked charges. “They put me in a filthy cell that hadn’t been cleaned for years,” she says. “I demanded a rag and bucket of water. I cleaned my cell thoroughly, then hung the rag over the spyhole. I told the wardens that if they took away that rag, I’d go on hunger strike.” The wardens obeyed her, but she stayed in prison for six weeks until a Kiev court ordered her release, saying there was no case to answer.

Soon after Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, Kuchma engineered a vote of no confidence in Yushchenko to eject him from the prime minister’s job. But in its short term in office, the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko team had gained huge popularity, and in the following years they laid the groundwork for an opposition coalition of democratic parties. Meanwhile, Kuchma’s standing at home and abroad fell after he was implicated in the murder of a journalist and the sale of weapons to Saddam Hussein. Unable to stand for president again, Kuchma first appointed as prime minister and then nominated as presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, a man twice convicted of robbery and linked to Ukraine’s wealthiest, most sinister oligarch.

In 2004, long before the coalition opposition officially chose its presidential candidate, Tymoshenko announced she herself would not stand, but would throw her weight behind Yushchenko. Opinion polls showed Yushchenko would win in a fair election, but Kuchma’s administration would never allow that to happen. It organised massive voting fraud in the first and second election round, where Yushchenko and Yanukovych faced each other in a runoff.

It was after the second round, in November 2004, that protesters took to the streets. Tymoshenko’s eloquence enthralled the crowds, and while her opposition comrades counselled restraint and negotiations, she led protesters to surround key government buildings where demonstrators faced special police with helmets, riot shields and guns. After protesters surrounded the presidential administration offices, she agreed to go inside the heavily defended building to negotiate with Kuchma. Many advised her not to go in, because they feared the regime would arrest her or worse. She walked in and everyone waited in the night as heavy snowflakes fell on riot police and demonstrators. When Tymoshenko emerged she was greeted with a great cheer. The fairy-tale heroine had displayed courage, confronting the beast in its lair and returning triumphant.

And yet there’s always another monster to slay. And some aren’t easy to pin down. Tymoshenko has stated she still wants Kuchma – who is currently lying low in Ukraine – brought to justice. Law-enforcement agencies are working to untangle what happened during his time in office, whether he has foreign accounts and where they are. In challenging Russia’s oil monopoly, she brought on a petrol crisis in May. For a few days, Russia stopped oil supplies, causing shortages throughout the country.

A fairy-tale heroine doesn’t always win universal admiration. One of her deputy prime ministers, Anatoly Kinakh, went on TV to criticise her, saying she was more interested in gaining popularity than making vital changes to the economy. Other senior members of the government encouraged stories that she was not only behaving frivolously but had engineered the fuel crisis and economic crises involving the currency and the price of meat, to the advantage of some of her corrupt associates. Another accusation levelled at her is that her eagerness to review most of the thousands of privatisations conducted during the Kuchma era has created a climate of uncertainty that has discouraged much-needed foreign investment. In May it was reported that, during an argument, Yushchenko told Tymoshenko she should resign. Both later denied this and said Yushchenko made the comment in jest. But privately, Tymoshenko’s aides say that heated exchanges between her and Yushchenko have left her shaken, and that her opponents have thwarted her plans to hit hard at corruption because some of her opponents are corrupt themselves.

The Ukrainian president holds the lion’s share of political power, but changes in 2006 will devolve much of it to the prime minister. Tymoshenko says she does not want extra power, and wants Yushchenko to continue as leader. However, Tymoshenko’s party has been growing in strength, with defectors joining from other parties. Under Ukrainian law, she cannot be forced out until she has served a year, but some predict she will resign this year to distance herself from the government before next spring’s elections.

The prospect of such a split dismays those who braved harsh weather and possible violence to support Yushchenko and Tymoshenko last year. Yet, if you close your eyes and make a wish, a fairy-tale outcome may still be possible. Why? Because the heroine believes in it herself, though in politics sincere belief is not the same as true knowledge: “My life and my faith are completely linked. I have faith in love, goodness, justice and, as in the fairy tales, I believe in the end, good always triumphs.”

Source: Sunday Times Magazine