Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poll: Yushchenko, Tymoshenko Groups Could Form Government After Vote

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party would score the most at election and jointly with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's group would be able to form the government, an opinion poll showed Tuesday.

President Viktor Yushchenko (L) and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Our Ukraine would score 20% of the vote, while Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna would collect 10.5%, according to the poll, released by the Razumkov Center, an independent think tank.

Since many parties would fail to overcome the 3% barrier, their scorings will be spread among those groups that eventually get seated in Parliament.

This means Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's parties, although collecting an overall of 30.5% of the votes, would jointly get 52.1% of seats in Ukraine’s 450-seat Parliament.

"Today's scoring still guarantees the pro-government groups to create the majority in the new Parliament," Yuriy Yakimenko, an analyst with Razumkov Center, said. "However, their strength is decreasing and that opens ways for new political combinations."

Our Ukraine enjoyed 31.6% popularity in May, while Tymoshenko's party had 15.5%, which shows that popular support for the two parties has been dwindling, apparently due to skyrocketing prices of gasoline and sugar, and some other factors, analysts said.

The next general election is due in March 2006 and the winner would be able to claim the post of the prime minister according to changes to the constitution that come into force no Jan. 1, 2006.

The Party of Regions, an opposition group led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, is the second most popular party and would score 14.2% of the vote, according to the poll. The party had 16.4% support in May.

Other parties that may successfully clear the 3% barrier include the Communist Party (5.5%), the Socialist Party (4.2%) and the People's Party, led by Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, which would collect 4.1%, according to the poll.

Tymoshenko has been seeking to set up a majority in Parliament as soon as in September to approve a number of important economic and political reforms.

Tymoshenko will seek to push Parliament to pass her 2006 budget and also to approve a bill that would increase the barrier to 5% from 3%, barring weak parties from the next Parliament.

Increasing the barrier would put pressure on the Communists, the Socialists and Lytvyn's group as their ratings are hovering at between 5% and 4%.

This pressure would probably fuel opposition to the bill and create challenges for Tymoshenko in herdrive to set up the majority and could also effect debate over the budget, analysts said.

Some 2,011 respondents throughout Ukraine were surveyed by the Razumkov Center between Aug. 5 and Aug. 12 for the opinion poll, whose margin of error is 2.3%.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Has One Problem More Than Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Unlike Russia, which has two main problems - fools and roads, Ukraine traditionally has three - fools, roads and Russia itself.

The last news from Moscow confirms that even in 14 years since independence was proclaimed in Ukraine, Russia is not going to yield and become a friendly neighbour.

Walls of the Kremlin

Under information of the Russian state news agency RIA NOVOSTI with reference to the Kremlin, "new Russian policy pursues the goal to resume its influence, lost as a consequence of "the orange revolutions". The goal of Moscow is to establish civilized relations with Washington and European agencies on the territory of former USSR. The first in history Russia and China have carried out common large-scale military exercises, but the Russian Federation plans to hold negotiations with the Western countries as well as the USA", RIA NOVOSTI quotes a high-ranking source from the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Grigory Karasin declared, that Moscow aimed to "make the CIS an arena of respectful and stable partnership" with the West.

In essence, it means that Moscow will try to play with the West "over the head" of Ukraine. Threatening to cut off power supply and to consolidate with China, Russia will try to get from the West a connivance to interfere in home affairs of post-soviets countries, not even asking for their permission.

The task of Russia is facilitated by the fact that today the West is involved into conflict with Moslem countries and solves its home problems.

Long enough such policy of "ignoring" was successful in relation to Poland, when Germany and France were sole real negotiators for the sake of Russia in Europe. Possibly, only after a credible failure of Putin’s German "friend" Gerhard Schreder on elections this autumn, Poland will breathe freely.

At this the countries of Western Europe, immersed into personal problems, experience the betrayal of other democratic European countries in exchange of the petty egoism. Therefore any actions or absence of actions are only a reaction to rough blackmail. In such a way western countries behaved, in particular, during the Munich plot in 1938, and nowadays nothing has changed, as leaders of France, Germany and Italy regularly act in Putin's favour and do not see what Russia is doing either on its territory or in post-soviet countries.

To date, according to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Moscow supports "an honest competition of ideas and concepts, but not force pressure on the post-soviet countries".

Notably, it was spoken after Moscow’s failure to impose Yanukovich during presidential campaign-2004 in Ukraine, pursuing the policy of force pressure, more intensive, than the western influence.

"We oppose against the methods of violent "democratization" at the post-soviet area, both by means of the "coloured revolutions" or by information-political pressure onto incumbent government", the Deputy Minister of MFA of Russia declares. Meanwhile the Russian Federation carries out "information-political pressure" on the countries which have just set free from the Kremlin’s vassalage.

Vladimir Zhirinovskiy is more outspoken that should obviously help Ukraine to see Russia in a different light.

The Vice-Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation called the Ukrainian politicians "not to forget Russian language for they will possibly be interrogated in Lubyanka (Russian jail)". “All of you will be sent to Siberia, but not shot, as we need Ukrainians to be frozen exhibits", told Zhirinovskiy.

By the way, Zhirinovskiy is spoken to be the voice of the Kremlin. Chief of the President’s Administration for Inter-regional and Cultural Relations with Foreign States, and in essence, the chief of intelligence service of Russia in CIS countries Modest Kolerov is more intellectual person.

He once said that "Russia symbolized freedom at the post-soviet area", but as Oreul reads "freedom was slavery".

However, under the utterances of this official one can guess the real Kremlin moods: "The Crimea as a part of Ukraine make Russia contest the inviolability of its boundaries... Russia insists on giving to Crimea a special status as to Russia. Strategic interests of Ukraine and Russia are intersected in Crimea, and this will last for ever".

We need to exercise to live next to Russia, the country which becomes more and more Asiatic; for which China appears to be nearer than Slavonic Prague, Warsaw, and Kiev as well.

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Leonid Kuchma’s Mobile Connections Arrested in Germany

KIEV, Ukraine -- As it became known yesterday, the law-enforcements of Austria and Germany arrested the accounts of Swiss company E.C. Venture Capital S.A., which belong to Russian politician and businessman Vladimir Kishenin. The courts of both countries ordered “to freeze” $160 million that was received from the sale of 23.8 percent of the stocks of Ukrainian company Storm. This company owns 47.5 percent of Kievstar - a mobile connections operator. The experts attribute the arrest of the accounts of E.C. Venture Capital to the redistribution of assets.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (L), and his daughter Yelena

This redistribution started in Ukraine after the “orange revolution.” The market participants remind that the family members of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma are co-owners of the Storm.

Kievstar (trade mark Kyivstar GSM) is second largest Ukrainian operator of the cell connections. It services about 9.8 million of subscribers. The Kievstar’s network covers 92 percent of Ukrainian territory. Total sales of Kievstar in 2004 were $640.7 million. Norwegian operator Telenor owns 56.6 percent of Kievstar and Storm owns 43.5 percent. In 2004 holding company Alfa-Telekom became a single owner of the Storm after purchasing 49.9 percent of stocks from the minority shareholders. Another 50.1 percent was purchased by Alfa-Telekom already in the summer of 2002.

Yesterday the representatives of National Central Bureau of Interpol of Ukraine announced that the law-enforcement organs of Austria and Germany arrested $160 million that belong to the Swiss company E.C. Venture Capital S.A. Kirill Kulikov, head of the Ukrainian Interpol office said that these accounts belong to the “off-shore company owned by Russian citizen Vladimir Kishenin.” Kulikov also said that $120 million was seized in Austria and $49 million – in Germany.

According to the head of the Ukrainian Interpol, the law-enforcements of Austria and Germany got interested in the ownership of the accounts and the funds movements in there. However, Kulikov did not give any further details.

Austrian law-enforcements confirmed yesterday the fact of the arrest of the E. C. Venture Capital accounts. Brigadier Gerhard Lang, which represents Federal Department of Austrian Criminal Police, told Kommersant that Land Court of Vienna issued the arrest warrant.

The market participants think that authorities arrested the assets received by E. C. Venture Capital after the sale of 23.8 percent of Storm’ stocks to Alfa-Group. In 2004, when the stocks were sold, the owner of the E. C. Venture Capital was Vladimir Kishenin.

Vladimir Kishenin was born in 1955. He graduated from the Military-Technical College of Bagration and Leningrad’s Academy of Communications of Budenny. In 1996 he organized industrial group Lanrusinvest. In 1999 and 2003 he was running for Duma from the Vyazemsky District (Smolensk Region). In July of 2003 he headed Party of Social Justice, which was participating in 2003 December elections to Duma in one bloc with Russian Party of the Pensioners (the bloc gathered 3.2 percent of the votes). In September 2004 he was elected as the Chairman of Social Democratic Party of Russia.

According to the sources, who are close to the deal, Alfa also purchased 16.9 percent of Storm’ stocks from American Euroquest Commerce and 9 percent – from Cyprus off-shore company Mobile telecom Finance LLC (the names of the owners were not disclosed). As a result, the Alfa’ share in the Storm grew from 50.1 percent to 100 percent.

Yesterday Kishenin was not available for comments. The representatives of the Alfa-Telekom and Kievstar refused to give any comments. However, the market participants think that the arrest of the E. C. Venture Capital accounts could be connected with redistribution of the assets, which started in Ukraine after the “Orange Revolution”, especially after the expropriation of assets from Leonid Kuchma family members. The Kievstar and Storm started their business in 1997, when Storm purchased a license GSM-900 for Ukraine. Soon, Kievstar started to provide the services within the license agreement.

Earlier, Kishenin was insisting that he was directly participating in the Kievstar business development. However, he rejected any connections with the surrounding of former president Kuchma. The market participants think differently about it. For instance, they say, the ex-president’s family had a direct involvement with Kievstar. The wife of Yuri Tumanov, distant relative of Kuchma, owned less than 1 percent of the company stock before the sale to Alfa. And Elena Franchuk, daughter of the former president, was working in Kievstar as the company’s Marketing Director from the very beginning and until 2004.

“The Storm was owned by the structure directly affiliated with Kuchma. It is a known fact,” Alexei Yakovitsky, analyst with UFG, said. “For that reason, it is possible to connect arrest of $160 million with a total reconsideration of the results of Kuchma’s administration actions.”

According to Yakovitsky, the actions of law-enforcement organs of Ukraine, Germany and Austria would doubtfully touch the interests of the Storm’s current owner – Alfa-Group. “The actions of the current administrations are directed against internal conflicts within the Ukraine. Most likely, it will not touch Alfa,” Yakovitsky thinks.

Source: Kommersant

U.S., Ukraine Sign Bioterror Agreement

KIEV, Ukraine -- The United States and Ukraine signed a joint agreement here Monday designed to stem the threat of bioterrorism by placing modern safeguards on deadly pathogens and other material dating from a Soviet-era biological weapons program that now could be vulnerable to theft.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) speaks with U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, Head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during their meeting in Kiev

"The agreement has a benefit for the citizens of both countries," said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has been working several years to achieve the U.S.-Ukraine accord.

As Lugar and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., met with Ukrainian leaders and participated in a signing ceremony for the biological weapons agreement, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a rare written apology to the senators for detaining them more than three hours Sunday as they tried to leave Russia for Ukraine.

There was no immediate explanation for the delay, but Moscow officials agreed to meet with their U.S. counterparts to discuss why American planes have repeatedly encountered difficulties leaving Russia. The ministry said the U.S. plane technically had not been detained, but a spokesman added, "We regret the misunderstanding that arose and the inconvenience caused to the senators."

Lugar did not dwell on the plane incident after leaving Russia and arriving in Kiev. Instead he sought to draw attention to the freshly minted agreement that effectively expands the Nunn-Lugar Act of 1991 to allow the United States to help protect Ukraine's biological weapons.

"Huge stockpiles of weapons left over from previous times in Ukraine are dangerous for the people of this country as well as for other countries," Lugar said, calling the agreement an achievement the United States has been trying to reach for nearly four years.

Five other former Soviet republics already have signed agreements to have the United States help upgrade their facilities that store biological weapons, but Ukraine previously had resisted signing the agreement. Even after a Democratic revolution last fall swept in a new team of leaders, the reluctance continued in Ukraine, which government officials attributed to Kiev's desire not to appear too close to the United States.

During an afternoon ceremony at the Central Sanitary and Epidemiological Station, the Ukraine equivalent of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agreement was signed by lower-level deputies from the Ministry of Health in a small, out-of-the-way room. The agreement, heralded by Lugar, was barely discussed during earlier meetings Monday with President Viktor Yushchenko and other Ukrainian leaders.

But the need for the agreement was clear, Obama said after touring the dilapidated building, where viruses were locked behind thin padlocks or not at all. He said the health building, near central Kiev, could be subject to break-ins or burglaries of the deadly pathogens, including anthrax, diphtheria and cholera.

"This agreement will help Ukraine improve its ability to diagnose, detect and respond to public health risks," Obama said. "When it comes to issues of security against terrorist threats and security against infectious diseases, these problems know no borders."

The agreement would provide new equipment that would significantly shorten time required to diagnose the outbreak of a contagious disease and to assess whether it is the result of a terrorist attack. The deal also allows cooperation between the countries to work together to ward off infectious diseases.

Many of the security upgrades and other improvements to the Ukraine national heath center are subject to congressional approval. Lugar said he did not know how much the program would cost or when it would be completed.

"I had hoped the agreement might have been signed at the same time a year ago when I visited the laboratories, but that was not possible then," Lugar said. "It is possible now."

Dr. Lubov Nekrassova, a director of the Ukraine national heath center, said the security upgrades and new technology were desperately needed to keep lab materials from being stolen.

"The common sense finally will be put higher than the political difficulties that prevented us from signing this agreement," Nekrassova said.

Lugar and Obama are on a weeklong tour of Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, inspecting destruction sites for nuclear weapons that fall under the Nunn-Lugar Act. While neither senator wished to revisit the fact that their plane that was detained one day earlier in Russia, the curious incident was the opening question at a morning news conference.

"We are not certain why or what was the particular activity that caused that delay," Lugar said. "We are pleased that our flight was able to continue to Kiev, albeit three hours later. We still had a good night's sleep."

Source: Chicago Tribune

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ukrainian Official Wants Russia’s Black Sea Fleet out of Crimean Waters

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presence in the Crimea may be illegal, the first deputy foreign minister of Ukraine, Anton Buteiko, said in an interview Monday.

Russian Fleet in the Crimea

According to a bilateral agreement between Russia and Ukraine signed in 1997, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will remain in Ukrainian territorial waters for 20 years, until 2017.

At the same time, the Ukrainian Constitution does not allow foreign military bases in the country.

Some lawyers, Buteiko said, think 20 years is too long for the agreement in question, because transitory statements of the Constitution usually have a validity period of up to seven years.

“This is why the agreement should have been signed for this period (up to seven years), not longer. This point can be regarded as a statement contradicting the Constitution,” he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

At the same time, only the Constitutional Court could make a final decision on the subject, Buteiko added.

Source: MosNews

A Russian Apology

KIEV, Ukraine -- U.S. officials said they received a formal apology early today from the Russian Foreign Ministry for the three-hour detainment of two senators and an American delegation at a remote Russian airport on Sunday.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (L), shakes hands with U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, and Barack Obama, D-Ill., during their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

"We heard from our embassy that an official of the foreign ministry in Moscow had issued an apology this morning," said Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is making his first international trip as a senator, was detained with Lugar at the Russian city of Perm after visiting a nuclear weapons destruction site. The detainment, while peaceful, sparked outrage from the U.S. ambassador to Russia, who received the formal apology in Moscow.

Ranking authorities in the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret about the incident Monday, U.S. officials said, and agreed to sit down with the United States to discuss the larger issue of border security and a reoccurring lack of cooperation with visiting government delegations. Military officials said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) also was briefly detained Sunday when trying to leave Russia.

Lugar, who has traveled to Russia at least once a year for more than a decade of working on nuclear disarmament, said he has been detained before. He said he was befuddled why such incidents keep occurring.

"I have had three other incidents in 10 years," Lugar said. "You attempt to be patient wait out what the problem is until you get a resolution"

After being permitted to leave Russia, Lugar and Obama arrived in Ukraine to continue their weeklong European tour. The senators met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and other dignitaries today in Kiev.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Obama Part of Group Locked Up at Russian Airport

WASHINGTON, DC -- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) were not allowed to leave a Russian airport Sunday and were locked in a room briefly.

The incident prevented their departure for about three hours, but Obama told the Sun-Times "it ended up not being a very big deal."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

The senators had their passports seized by local officials at an airport in Perm. Obama said the officials demanded, unsuccessfully, to inspect the DC-9 military aircraft being used by the congressional delegation for the trip.

'It wasn't the gulag'

"We were in a lounge with a locked door at one point," Obama said. "It wasn't the gulag.''

Obama, who will meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko today in Kiev, is on his first foreign visit as senator. He said he was never concerned that the group would be taken into custody, because after all, "we are a couple of U.S. senators."

Although he was on a first-time diplomatic mission, Obama has traveled extensively, spending part of his youth in Indonesia and visiting Kenya, where his father was born. He noted that as a back- packing college student he had "a lot less leverage than this time."

Obama, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Lugar, its chairman, left Wednesday for a trip to inspect sites where nuclear and biological weapons are slated to be destroyed in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. On Sunday, the U.S. group was scheduled to fly from Perm to Kiev, Ukraine. But border guards wanted proof that the group's aircraft -- which Obama said looked like a "mini-Air Force One" -- was really an official U.S. government plane, which would be exempt from an inspection.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's spokesman traveling with him, said in an e-mail that "the border guards took our passports and demanded to inspect our aircraft, which we refused. We were moved to a room to wait."

"At one point they were demanding to inspect virtually everything, including the gifts their representatives at the missile facility had given us." The border guard said "they were acting on the authority of the FSB," the Russian intelligence agency.

While the delegation waited, there were calls between Washington, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow and the Russian Foreign Ministry, Obama and Gibbs said.

Obama said local officials at first were not convinced the United States had obtained proper permission for an international flight to depart from Perm.

'Blagojevich of Perm' helps out

"The Russian Federation only allows [international] departures from three airports in the country, not from Perm," Obama said.

Documentation that the senators had permission "had not trickled down" to Perm, Obama said. He said the matter was resolved with the intervention of the region's governor, the "Rod Blagojevich of Perm."

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Polish Prime Minister Targets Belarus

WARSAW, Poland -- Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka phoned his counterparts in Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia on Thursday seeking to build a group that would step up pressure on Belarus, Belka's press service reported.

Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka

The parties discussed ways of "coordinating their actions" and "exchanging information" amid attempts to launch a radio station that would specifically target Belarus with critical news programs.

The talks suggest that Poland is leading a campaign to isolate authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka, an effort that some analysts say may eventually trigger a regime change there.

The developments underscore a growing regional confrontation between Belarus and Russia on the one hand and Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania and on the other hand. When news emerged about the discussions between Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia, Belarus reacted by accusing the group of a plot to isolate Russia from mainstream Europe.

"Belarus is a bridge to Europe and their idea is to block it in order to isolate Russia," Ivan Makushok, a spokesman for the State Secretary of the planned Russia-Belarus Union, said, according to Interfax.

The European Commission has recently approved a spending €138,000 euros to be channeled to Deutsche Welle to start radio broadcasts in the Belarussian language. The broadcasts are supposed to bridge an information gap in the increasingly state-controlled media of Belarus.

Although Belka's press service did not disclose details of the talks, analysts said the parties could have discussed positioning of radio transmitters to better cover the territory of Belarus.

Independent radio broadcasts, like Radio Free Europe, financed by Western governments were one of the key elements of the Cold War between the West and the former Soviet Union.

The broadcasts were scaled down after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and independent media outlets had emerged within the former Communist nations.

The developments come as Polish-Belarus relations have reached a low point. Last month, Warsaw recalled its ambassador from Mink in reaction to a crackdown on a Polish ethnic minority by authorities in Belarus. Belarus accused Poland of encouraging an effort to spearhead regime change to oust Lukashenka.

Belarus dismissed the plans to start radio broadcasts as "useless" and said the money could have been better spent "to aid developing nations."

"The EC is wasting money on a useless project," Ruslan Yesin, spokesman for the Belarussian Foreign Ministry, said. "We're not afraid."

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Baby Theft Claims Probed

KIEV, Ukraine -- Harrowing reports of babies stolen at birth and human organ removal in an Ukrainian city are to be investigated by a top European political body. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is sending a rapporteur to Kharkiv as Ukraine's prosecutors delve into the cases of three mothers.

The mothers of the babies were said to be all in excellent health

"People are afraid to even give birth now," Kharkiv campaigner Tatyana Zakharova told the BBC News website.

The main hospital under scrutiny has dismissed accusations against it.

Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Pace) rapporteur, is to visit Maternity Hospital No 6 after her arrival on Monday and will meet local parents, Ms Zakharova and Ukrainian officials.

Her trip will also take her to the capital, Kiev, amid reports that babies may have been snatched at birth in other Ukrainian cities.

The alleged baby thefts go back to the autumn of 2002 but the case achieved wider publicity last year after MPs from across Europe tabled a motion at the Pace, which brings together 46 countries.

Underlining real concern over baby-trafficking from Eastern Europe, they pointed to newspaper adverts in Moldova encouraging single mothers there to sell a child for 3,000 euros.

Communal Grave

"There has been no concrete follow-up in these three [Kharkiv] cases," Agnes Nollinger, who is accompanying Ms Vermot-Mangold, told the BBC News website on Friday.

Prosecutors are still investigating the three cases, nearly three years after Svetlana Puzikova arrived in labour at the maternity hospital in the early hours of a November morning.

She was in her 40th week and her family were waiting to visit the new mother and child later in the day.

Only the midwife and one other woman who was not introduced to her were at hand for the birth, Tatyana Zakharova of the National Ukrainian Federation of Multiple-child Families (NUFMF) told the BBC.

The last she saw of her baby was it being passed to the stranger. After that, 20 kilos lighter after her delivery, she and her family were told it had died at birth.

According to the NUFMF, doctors' records indicated the birth of a healthy child was to be expected.

No birth or death certificates were issued as an "abortion" had occurred, and the family was told that the remains of Svetlana's baby had been consigned to a communal grave with 27 other foetuses as "bio waste".

When the family demanded an inquest, this grave was reopened the following year in the thaw of the harsh Ukrainian winter.

Inside, the NUFMF reports, were 30 sets of remains, not 28, and Svetlana's baby could not be identified among them.

First-Time Mums

In late December 2002, Lena Zakharova (no relation to Tatyana) should have given birth to her first baby at Maternity Hospital No 6. It, too, was declared dead.

A third mother, Tatyana Dormidontova, gave birth at a maternity ward of another Kharkiv hospital in her 32nd week of pregnancy in July 2001.

Her baby was declared dead but the body was reportedly that of a much bigger baby. The mother herself died soon after birth.

All three women, according to Tatyana Zakharova, were first-time mums and each was in excellent health.

This factor leads her to suspect the babies may have been stolen for illegal adoption or, even worse, for the use of their organs.

There are reports that the babies' parents - or in Dormidontova's case the grandparents - were asked to sign blank pieces of paper. In their confused and fraught state they did not refuse.

The remains in the grave had allegedly had their organs and brains removed.

"They were like gutted rabbits," Tatyana Zakharova told the BBC.

Larissa Nazarenko, head of Maternity Hospital No 6, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency that "not a single fact" had been proven.

The Council of Europe team will be in Ukraine until Thursday to compile a report that will then be handed to the Parliamentary Assembly.

Source: BBC News

Friday, August 26, 2005

Russian MP Completes Sex Movie Depicting Ukrainian PM, Georgian President

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian parliamentarian Aleksei Mitrofanov of the notorious LDPR party reported this week that he had completed shooting a 26-minute soft porn titled Yulia. The main actors in the film have the same first names and bear a striking resemblance to Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Scene from Russian political porn movie

The popular Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda has published an extensive report about the film. The article said that the producer had to abandon plans to invite Russian porn star Elena Berkova to play Yulia Timoshenko as the actress’ relatives in Ukraine had been receiving threats.

Instead, actress Elena Bond was cast to play the role. Ethnic Armenian Alen Melik-Grigoryan played Georgia’s president Saakashvili.

Ukraine and Georgia have both protested against Mitrofanov’s project, and Ukrainian media has spread a rumor that a gay porn film featuring look-alikes of Russian President Vladimir and former Ukrainian PM Viktor Yanukovich is being made.

Mitrofanov dismissed all the criticism as groundless. He told the media that the Yulia film will take foreign relations to new heights —- literally and figuratively. “Political erotics are a new genre that I have discovered,” he said. “The film is about politics. It makes a political statement, they don’t just [have sex].”

“Is the film The Interpreter propaganda or big cinema?” Mitrofanov said. “Is the film JFK propaganda or big cinema? Why is it that in America these films are considered big cinema but films like this in Russia are considered propaganda? This is big cinema and I am a great master.”

Source: MosNews

CIS: If It's So Ineffectual, Why Do Leaders Keep Meeting?

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are holding a summit today in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. They are due to discuss CIS reform, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and other issues. The meeting, hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is expected to end with agreements being signed on terrorism, fighting extremist groups, and on curbing illegal migration. But the CIS is widely considered to be ineffectual in its goal of preserving close economic and defense ties between the former Soviet states. So why do the leaders keep meeting?

Presidents Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine (L) and Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia stand together after a summit of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) leaders in Kazan August 26, 2005

Many observers believe the current summit of CIS leaders will be just as ineffectual as the ones that preceded it.

Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center told RFE/RL that the CIS has clearly failed in its mission of becoming an organization integrating the post-Soviet states. "If we measure the effectiveness in terms of organizing some kind of order in the post-Soviet political and economic space, the importance [of the summits] almost equals zero," he said.

Malashenko said the CIS has failed to hammer out a coordinated foreign policy, while little or no progress has been made in economic cooperation and other spheres.

The CIS was founded in December 1991 in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Of the 15 former Soviet republics, only the three Baltic states did not join.

Malashenko said it is difficult to guess how the organization -- which serves as a venue for personal contacts and consultations between the heads of state -- will develop in the future. "I think it will become clear what will happen with this organization during this summit or in two more summits in the future," Malashenko said. "We will see if [the CIS] disappears completely or becomes some kind of a presidential club." He added that CIS summits at least afford leaders an opportunity to reduce tensions and to consult without having to make commitments.

CIS leaders themselves offer a more upbeat analysis, at least in public. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Kazan today that the CIS "should be preserved as an organization...for the sake of economic integration and the improvement of living standards of our people."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko promised to bring proposals to Kazan on how to improve cooperation between Ukraine and the other CIS states. Yushchenko said Ukraine will put up for discussion several issues, including a mechanism for a free-trade zone within the CIS.

However, Stuart Hensel of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit said reviving the CIS isn't a priority for Ukraine. "I think [the Ukrainians] are very conscious about making it appear that they are keeping all avenues of possible links with Russia open and that they are open for discussion on any issues," Hensel said. "I think their line throughout all of this is going to be that any sort of integration that happens through the CIS or through the Single Economic Space, that this happens in ways that are in Ukraine's interest. And I don't think they are going to back off of that in any way."

Hensel said it is in Ukraine's interest to create a real free-trade area instead of a trading system dominated by Russia. Since Russia opposes the idea, this conflict of interest "will stop further integration from happening."

Yushchenko and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili are the staunchest critics of the way the CIS has been functioning, but both nevertheless continue to attend the summits. Malashenko says it easy to understand why. "Both Yushchenko and Saakashvili clearly understand that moving closer to Europe is not a sudden jump," he said. "It is a very long process, a very long one. In fact, it will take a whole generation to make it. It is not solid to ignore the CIS completely. And to pretend that they have nothing to do with it would be childish."

Both Georgia and Ukraine have made membership in the European Union and NATO priorities. Yushchenko and Saakashvili met in Georgia two weeks ago and discussed setting up a new regional alliance to champion democracy in the former Soviet space.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Ukraine Prime Minister Visits Donetsk

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Ukraine's prime minister visited the hostile Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the country's coal-mining center, and she pledged Friday to pay the workers what they are owed.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (R) embraces Yefim Zvyagilsky, director of the Zasyadko' mine in Donetsk. Tymoshenko on Friday attended the ceremonies marking the national Day of Miners in Donetsk

The visit by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko came days after reform-oriented President Viktor Yushchenko announced his plans to reshape the coal industry, which is plagued by lack of funds and widespread accidents. Nearly 4,300 workers have died in Ukraine's mines since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Some 40 people protested Tymoshenko's visit to the Russian-speaking region, chanting ``Donetsk region is not for you,'' and carrying posters that read ``Ukraine, Belarus, Russia together,'' Interfax news agency said.

Tymoshenko promised that the state would repay its mounting debt to the industry as part of the reforms.

Since Ukraine's 1991 independence, the state has amassed debts totaling $64 million to coal workers, Tymoshenko said in a televised live interview at a local TV station. ``We will pay it back.''

Under former President Leonid Kuchma, in power for a decade before Yushchenko's election in December, the previous authorities had paid part of the debt.

Tymoshenko said a reformed coal sector could be the basis of Ukraine's ``energy independence.''

Ukraine is heavily dependent on Russian gas, and the countries frequently feud over energy issues.

Nearly 4,300 workers have died in Ukraine's struggling mines since the Soviet collapse.

Tymoshenko visited Donetsk eight months ago to try to persuade voters to support Yushchenko in the election, but she was met with hostility. The region overwhelmingly supported Yushchenko's rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who advocated closer ties with Moscow.

Yushchenko is to visit Donetsk on Sunday, the miners' professional holiday, his office said.

Source: AP

Alfa Wins Ukraine Ban on Kyivstar Managers

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian court has suspended the top management of Ukraine's number two mobile phone company, Kyivstar, following a suit by Russia's Alfa Group, the smaller of its two shareholders, Kyivstar said on Friday.

It said it was preparing a legal challenge.

Alfa Group President Mikhail Fridman

A source close to Alfa said: "The management has been temporarily barred from managing the company as security for the claim."

"They can perform day-to-day tasks, but their decision-making authority is limited," the source said.

Alfa filed the lawsuit this week, and the ruling appeared to mark a victory in its escalating dispute with Norway's Telenor , the majority owner of Kyivstar, over strategy in Ukraine.

The Kiev district court barred Kyivstar Chief Executive Igor Lytovchenko and other top executives from doing their jobs while it reviews the merits of the Alfa case, Russian newspapers reported.

Kyivstar hit back, saying the court had exceeded its competence by interfering in its operations and that junior executives would maintain services for its 10 million customers.

"As these documents are legally without foundation, they can have no negative impact on the activities of Kyivstar, which will continue to operate in normal working fashion," Kyivstar spokesman Viktor Gotsulenko said in a statement.

"We will issue a challenge to these documents in the near future through legal channels. We are now preparing the legal basis for this."

Alfa said in its lawsuit that it had been discriminated against as a shareholder and that Kyivstar's founding documents did not comply with Ukrainian law.

Dag Melgaard, spokesman for Telenor, which owns 57 percent of Kyivstar, said his company was surprised by Alfa's actions.

"We thought they had abandoned such methods since they tried last in Russia," he said, referring to Alfa's aggressive way of doing business.

"We are also confident that these injunctions are without foundation and that when the Ukrainian court hears both our versions of the matter and Kyivstar's these injunctions will be lifted because they are out of proportion and without foundation."

TAKEOVER ROW

Alfa and Telenor are also partners in Russia's second-largest mobile phone company, Vimpelcom , but have fallen out over Alfa's push for Vimpelcom to take over a small Ukrainian operator.

Alfa has failed so far to muster enough support for the $200 million purchase of Ukrainian RadioSystems to go through, but has called a shareholders' meeting in mid-September and hopes to win majority backing.

"Alfa's move is simply a tactical one in a much bigger game," Moscow investment bank UFG said in a research note.

UFG speculated that Alfa wanted Vimpelcom and Kyivstar to merge, which would put a marketable value on Alfa's exposure to Ukraine, a market it sees as more promising than Russia due to its lower mobile penetration.

But a Vimpelcom-Kyivstar merger would leave Telenor with a minority stake in a merged entity, an outcome the Norwegians would not want.

"The ongoing conflict is most likely being driven by the two parties having difficulty in agreeing the price," UFG said.

Source: Reuters

Celebrate!

KIEV, Ukraine -- This year, things really are different in Ukraine. For all the talk about “post-orange depression”; and all the agonizing about how the expected windfall of Western investment has not yet materialized; and all the justified carping about how few steps the government has taken toward reforming the justice system – for all that, anybody who doesn’t sense the difference in mood between Ukraine last Independence Day and Ukraine now is insane.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko smiles as he and his daughter Khrystina participate in the celebrations on the 14th anniversary of Ukraine's independence

Last year, the country was in the middle of a presidential election campaign that was straight out of the Third World in its level of violence and skullduggery. Time and the happy outcome of the Orange Revolution have dulled the memories of that period, but it’s good to remember it. Opposition students were being savagely brutalized by the militia; disobedient newspapers were being firebombed; journalists were being beaten in the streets.

Viktor Yushchenko’s car had been forced off the road twice by now in mysterious traffic incidents and he had found himself stalked and harassed by the security services while on vacation in Crimea. The scent of political murder was in the air even before Yushchenko was actually poisoned in September. Many of us watched the approaching fall campaigning with dread. It seemed unlikely that there could be any other result to the presidential contest other than a brutal election theft by a gangster regime.

Now, for all the government’s obvious insufficiencies, no one any longer believes that Ukraine is going to become a police state again. The current authorities are a mismatched and inefficient collection of true reformers, idealists, ambitious operators, bunglers and schemers, but they’re not sinister. Things are vastly better – and on Independence Day this year, that’s reason to celebrate most loudly.

One nice sign of the changing times is the decision this year to forego the traditional Independence Day military parade down Kreshchatyk. The parade, with its goose-stepping soldiers and Soviet overtones, was a backward-looking event that rubbed us the wrong way. Given the Ukrainian military’s sorry state, it was also a pathetic show of non-existent force. This year’s more pacific festivities are more appropriate; and if the government wants to honor the decrepit military, it would do better by rebuilding it.

Source: Kyiv Post

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tough Times for Investors at Ukraine Plant

ARMIANSK, Ukraine -- Ukraine is not a rich country, and one of the poorest parts of it is Armiansk. Times are tough for just about every one here - even foreign investors pumping a cool 150 million dollars into the destitute north Crimea province.

RSJ's Chemical Factory in Armiansk, Ukraine

A German company called RSJ Erste Beteiligungsgesellschaft is, for practical purposes, the only major employer in this dusty city of some 40,000.

In contrast to Ukraine's booming metropolises, with skylines jammed with construction cranes and goods and services quite comparable with Central Europe, Armiansk appears unchanged from the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Buildings are ugly Soviet-era high-rises built of concrete panels sealed with tar. At the highway turn-off to one of RSJ's Ukraine projects, a chemicals factory called Krymsoda, a shabby store offers only fizzy water, candies, canned foods, and liquor. The selection familiar to any Ukrainian: it's what food shops offered during the days of hyperinflation in the early 1990s.

"We don't have anything here except the Germans (investors), without them there is no honest work in Armiansk at all," said Vadim Kononov, a young man hanging out in front of the store. "And now the powers-that-be are against the Germans."

Vadim's opinion is doubly worrying one for Ukraine's new government, which wants badly to attract foreign investment, and faces national parliamentary elections next march. The main issue of the campaign is already clear, and quite simple: how much do average Ukrainians think their well-being improved since the Ukraine's Orange Revolution?

"For us things got worse," Kononov said. "The 'Orangists' came to power and now they want our Crimean factories."

RSJ's top man in Ukraine, Briton Robert Shetler-Jones, has an opinion at root quite similar to Kononov's. He is, of course, more polite than Kononov when commenting on the ongoing legal problems faced by RSJ's other Ukrainian project, a plant for processing low-grade titanium called Krymskii Titan.

"We have experienced increased, and in our opinion unjustified, legal pressure on our Ukrainian businesses," he said. "We think this is inappropriate."

It is a testament to Shetler-Jones' experience in the region, dating back to the early 1990s that, unlike most large-scale foreign investments in Ukraine, both Krymskii Titan and Krymsoda are visibly functioning businesses.

Company officials in air-conditioned conference rooms rattle off statistics, generally confirmed by independent industry analysts, showing RSJ's investments are solidly profitable, and give work to nearly 10,000 Ukrainians.

Pay in the Crimean plants - and unemployment is higher in Crimea than almost any other part of Ukraine - averages about 200 dollars a month. Thats more than enough to support a typical Crimean family.

A recent visit by a Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa reporter to both plants found the factories - though in places still equipped with lathes dating back to the Second World War - spick and span, and in obvious working order. Workers said they appreciated Shetler-Jones' efforts.

"We have to work hard but management treats people decently," said welder Antonina Sereda. "The pay is fair, and I don't want any one taking it from me."

The threat, Shetler-Jones says, is a series of legal challenges to RSJ's Ukrainian businesses, among them suits contesting rental agreements for raw materials needed to feed Krymsky Titan, punitive inspections by tax officials, and a possible listing of one or both of the state-owned firms for privatization by the Ukrainian government.

An RSJ court defeat, anywhere, could shut the business down, putting the 150 million dollars of foreign investment in jeopardy, and Sereda and thousands of others out of work.

In recent months the Ukrainian media has fingered Ukrainian Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko as being behind Shetler-Jone's problem.

Some reports claim Timoshenko has allegedly allied with Russian oligarchs wanting to take over the Crimean mills.

Others allege her government is playing to the populist vote.

Krymsoda and Krymsky Titan are successful Ukrainian big businesses, meaning - in the mind of the average Ukrainian voter - someone, somewhere cut a deal to keep the state-owned companies' profits in private pockets.

Shetler-Jones makes clear he believes his business is on the up- and-up, that he paid a fair market price to buy into the two plants, and that they operate legally. Timoshenko's office did not respond to a request for comment.

What is clear is that Shetler-Jones' legal hassles, and Sereda's worries, no matter their source, are a big headache for Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

"My goal is to make Ukraine a better place for foreign investors than it is for them at home," Yushchenko said last month. "But this will require work and members of the government looking beyond the next election."

"Frankly, I don't see things changing (in the Ukraine investment environment) until the March elections," Shetler-Jones said.

"I just hope I can keep my job," Sereda said. "I am a mother and my family depends on it."

Source: Deutsche Presse

Ukraine: After the Party

KIEV, Ukraine -- When the spotlight of the Western media was last on Ukraine, optimism was in the air. 'Our man' was in, the oligarchs were out and a new era in Eastern European politics was being predicted by journalists and politicians alike.

Viktor Yushchenko During Orange Revolution

The so-called Orange revolution - in which the opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko fought his way to the presidency despite electoral fraud, the state-controlled media and an attempted poisoning - was hailed as a shining example of the New Europe in action. It made for a good Hollywood narrative: the dioxin-scarred Yushchenko finding the strength through 'people power' to take on the dark forces of the post-Soviet world. With the colourful occasion of his inauguration ceremony and the party afterwards on Kyiv's central square, the story was given a neat climax, and the attention of the world turned elsewhere.

Since then, however, cracks have appeared in the new democracy, the origins of which lay long before the revolution was first considered a possibility. Yushchenko's Nasha Ukraina party ('Our Ukraine'), a loosely bound coalition of liberals, socialists, communists and environmentalists that he had been gathering since he was dismissed as prime minister in 2001, has shown a lack of unity in pushing through the new government's reforms, with recent parliamentary debates on key issues ending in punch-ups.

Struggles at the top have also marred progress. Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister whose high personal popularity rating gave the revolution much of its vigour, has been jealously guarding her job from the rest of the cabinet, and may consider challenging Yushchenko for the presidency if the opportunity arises. Known as the 'Gas princess' for her multibillion dollar personal fortune from natural resources and wanted for embezzlement in Russia, Tymoshenko has been accused of bringing a new oligarchy into power at the same time as condemning the actions of the previous establishment.

The prime minister's daughter's expensive lifestyle in London has also been criticised in Ukraine, where the average monthly salary is less than $90. These difficulties are becoming increasingly embarrassing for the new government, which will face its first electoral challenge in March 2006 with the parliamentary elections.

Ukraine's economy is also showing difficulties. For the first six months of 2005, growth has been at four per cent, compared to 13 per cent for the same period in 2004. A large budget deficit has been forecast, and Ukraine's rate of inflation for the first quarter of the year was the highest of all the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. The World Bank, which had been allocating loans to Ukraine with great enthusiasm, has expressed its reluctance to continue unless stricter controls are introduced.

Foreign investment, which was expected to flood in after the positive coverage of the revolution by the Western media, has only gone up by three per cent since the start of the year. With a highly educated population and low labour costs, Ukraine does represent an attractive market, but investors are wary of bureaucracy and corruption stifling their business. The government's controversial renationalisation policies, where state assets thought to have been sold off under dubious circumstances by the old government were renationalised and then resold, have also been warding off potential foreign capital.

Foreign policy reform, which was one of the most popular aspects of Yushchenko's promises during his election campaign, has proved problematic. The plans of 'Our Ukraine' to develop a closer relationship with America and further European Union (EU) integration have met with particular resistance. The majority of Western leaders, although enthusiastic in general terms about Ukraine's achievements, have given little in the way of economic concessions and support for the country's membership ambitions to Western organisations. In diplomatic terms Ukraine is on much better terms with the USA, but few changes have been made to US foreign policy.

Ukraine is still subject to the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a hostile measure implemented against the USSR during the Cold War, which prevents Ukraine from achieving Normal Trade Relations with the USA. The possibility of Ukraine's joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this year is currently under discussion, but agricultural subsidies and the enforcement of copyright law may prove significant barriers to progress. As far as European integration is concerned, after France and Holland rejected the European Constitution in their referenda, Ukrainian entry into the EU has become unlikely for the foreseeable future. This is a considerable problem for Yushchenko, who has made the opening of formal entry negotiations by 2007 a priority for his first term.

So the difficult realities faced by Ukraine's new government are odds with the heady coverage given at the time of the Orange revolution. The story was portrayed as an uprising of the people against government corruption. Could it be that the West's enthusiasm had more to do with its own agenda - with its desire to be seen taking the side of right, of the New Europe against old, Soviet-linked elites - than with the reality of Yushchenko's regime?

Source: Spiked

Religious Democracy

KIEV, Ukraine -- In an apparent effort to bolster its nationwide ambitions, Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church just moved its headquarters from Lviv to Kyiv. But not everybody’s happy about that.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexey II, warned from Moscow last week that the move was a bad idea. He intimated that it would degrade his organization’s relations with the Vatican, and create social unrest in Ukraine. Vladimir, the Kyiv Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate – a man who answers to Moscow – published on his church’s Web site a weird open letter to Pope Benedict XVI demanding that the pontiff forbid the move. He also threatened social unrest if the move goes through as planned.

The problem is political, of course. Greek Catholics comprise only about 10 percent of the Ukrainian population, but they’re situated overwhelmingly in the country’s nationalist and Ukrainian-speaking west. This region has no pre-1939 ties to Russia and tends to look upon Ukraine’s gigantic northern neighbor with something less than unalloyed love. Greek Catholicism, which looks to the Pope, is the religion of the cradle of Ukrainian nationalism.

It doesn’t help that the nationalist Ukrainian Diaspora community in the West is by and large Greek Catholic. In fact, the Russian Patriarchate actually has good reason to be nervous, because the more Greek Catholic Ukraine becomes, the less tied to Russia it is likely to be.

But that’s life these days, and Patriarch Alexey, Metropolitan Vladimir and everyone else in their bunch better get used to it. Things have changed; Ukraine isn’t run from Moscow anymore, and there’s no more imposed established religion. During the Soviet era, brave Greek Catholic priests were forced to hold secret masses in the Carpathian Mountain forests – but these days, Ukraine is a developing democracy, and the Greek Catholic Church – and any other church, for that matter – can set up shop wherever it wants. If, as the Russian Orthodox Church seems to fear, the Catholics start to proselytize and win converts, tough. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

It’s both sinister and pathetic that the Russian Orthodox Church – historically the handmaiden of Russian power – thinks it has the right to dictate terms to Ukraine, not to mention boss the Pope around. Sorry Vladimir, sorry Alexey – and sorry President Vladimir Putin, while we’re at it. The days when you could pull this stuff are over. The Greek Catholics are in Kyiv, and you can’t kick them out.

Source: Kyiv Post Editorial

PM Daughter and British Rock Star

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yevgenia Timoshenko, 25, daughter of Ukrainian Premier Yulia Timoshenko, spent time with British singer Sean Carr, 36, during celebrations of 14th anniversary of independence at Independence Square in Kiev, Wednesday night, Aug. 24, 2005.

Yevgenia Timoshenko (L) and Sean Carr

Media reports that Timoshenko and Carr are to get married soon.

Ukraine marked its 14th anniversary of independence on Wednesday, foregoing the traditional military parade for the first time for what the new leadership wants to celebrate as a peaceful holiday.

Source: AP

Yushchenko Promises More, But Ukrainians Sceptical

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko promised on Wednesday to build on achievements clinched since Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" last year helped propel him to power, but scepticism is clearly rising in the ex-Soviet state.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (L), President Viktor Yushchenko (C) and parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Litvin watch a concert in central Kiev during celebrations for Independence Day August 24, 2005

Yushchenko, marking the 14th anniversary of independence from communist rule, vowed there would be no let-up in the fight against corruption and a campaign to eliminate poverty.

He praised his liberal government, often riven by policy rows, and said he hoped next year's general election would produce a parliament committed to his reform agenda.

Analysts say the administration has a mixed record, citing lack of clarity on key issues and weakening economic growth.

Yushchenko, who campaigned last year on pledges to break with the "criminal" administration of his predecessor Leonid Kuchma, made clear ousting bribe-takers remained his priority.

"People still encounter officials turning a deaf ear, but I am not reconciled to that," Yushchenko told a crowd of 10,000 in Kiev's Independence Square, the hub of last year's protests.

"Anyone who thinks he has been passed over in the first wave and can carry on as before is mistaken."

Yushchenko says he has sacked 18,000 officials and has vowed to clean up the customs service and make the wealthy pay taxes.

However, ordinary Ukrainians appear unconvinced.

"I'm a small man. I don't talk to the president," said Mikhail Kondratenko, 25. "But at my level, I see the same corruption, petty bureaucrats and rotten policemen."

SETBACKS

Commentators say Yushchenko faces a mammoth task to meet the expectations of the crowd that backed after a rigged presidential election, forcing a re-run which he won.

They point to economic setbacks -- a plunge in annual economic growth to 3.7 percent, the lowest in five years, and inflation running at about 15 percent.

Investor confidence has been jolted by a dispute over proposals to review privatisations conducted under Kuchma.

And Yushchenko slapped down Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko after her bid to cap petrol prices caused shortages. The central bank has faced criticism over attempts to control currency markets.

"Progress has certainly been a little more modest than had been the promise of December and January," said Jeff Gable, senior strategist at Barclays Capital in London.

"There is definitely room for a lot more clarity. In fact, we expect things to get rather worse than better in the run-up to the 2006 parliamentary election when you will have a lot of voices vying for attention."

In his speech, Yushchenko urged a change in election rules to raise the minimum share of the popular vote needed to win seats to help create a built-in pro-government majority.

"We will then get real representative body and not a club made up of political party bosses," he told the crowd.

The president also made his trademark reference to plans to bring Ukraine into Europe's mainstream. But that has been toned down as the European Union, struggling to win approval for its constitution, has made it plain membership was not on the cards.

He has failed to achieve the first goals in the campaign -- winning market economy status and admission to the World Trade Organisation -- while trying to patch up ties with Russia, hurt by Moscow's backing for his election rival.

"I think the expectation was that this would be an orthodox reforming administration. So far it hasn't been," said Tim Ash, emerging market analyst at Bear Stearns in London.

"Ukraine has got little positive return from its European orientation. At the same time its core relationship with Russia has deteriorated and that has been felt in the economy."

Source: Reuters

Beheaded Journalist Given Ukraine's Highest Honour

KIEV, Ukraine -- Journalist Georgiy Gongadze, whose murder in 2000 jolted the administration of Ukraine's former President Leonid Kuchma, was posthumously awarded the country's highest honour on Wednesday.

Slain Journalist Georgiy Gongadze

The headless corpse of Gongadze, 31, was found in a wood a month and a half after he disappeared in central Kiev. Three senior policemen have been arrested in connection with an investigation still under way.

"I have signed a decree presenting the Hero of Ukraine award (posthumous) to Georgiy Gongadze," said President Viktor Yushchenko, who won last December's election on a wave of protests against Kuchma.

"He gave his young life for our freedom and independence," he told an awards ceremony.

The award, citing Gongadze's courage and journalistic activity, coincided with celebrations marking the 14th anniversary of Ukraine's independence from Soviet rule.

Yushchenko has accused Kuchma's administration of covering up for the perpetrators of the murder, Ukraine's most celebrated post-Communist crime.

Gongadze's death marked a turning point in Kuchma's scandal-plagued 10-year term in office and became a rallying point in last year's "Orange Revolution", which led to the re-run of a rigged presidential poll and to Yushchenko's victory.

Kuchma, who has been questioned by investigators about the murder, was linked to the death by recordings of conversations which a former bodyguard said he made in his office.

Voices similar to his and that of Yuri Kravchenko, interior minister at the time, are heard discussing how to "deal with" Gongadze. The tapes have never been admitted as evidence and Kuchma has denied all involvement in the crime.

Kravchenko was found shot dead in March, hours before he was to testify. Police said he committed suicide.

Source: Reuters

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Russia Has Lost Ex-Soviet Republics to West — Expert

MOSCOW, Russia -- The Kremlin has lost the former Soviet republics to the West, a leading political scientist told popular daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Wednesday after a high-ranking Kremlin official said the Russian leadership planned to overhaul its policy in the area and establish “civilized rules of the game” with the West.


Stanislav Belkovsky, the president of the Moscow-based Institute of National Strategy think-tank, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that when Putin came to power as prime-minister in 1999, Russia was the key player in the former Soviet republics and was the source of legitimacy for the regimes there.

These days, however, Moscow’s influence has waned considerably and Washington has become the main source of legitimacy.

“The countries that emerged by accident out of the rubble of the Soviet Union have evolved into full-fledged nations with their own new elites,” Belkovsky said. He added that the revolutions in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia happened because the Kremlin had “slept through” this nation-building process and not because the United States had conducted some underhand campaign.

He said the anonymity of the official that gave the statement showed the Kremlin was reluctant to confront Washington openly. He said it gave Putin room to refute the comments. “Putin can always say it (the statement) was not his personal viewpoint because the economic interests of Putin’s entourage are all linked with Washington,” Belkovsky said.

Russia apparently is in two minds about beginning civilized relations with the West, which can be seen in the very form of the statement, Belkovsky said. The Kremlin has not yet understood that only the president’s words can have an effect and make sense for the international community. Politics is done in the first person, he said.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta also cited Modest Kolerov, the head of the presidential department for overseas interregional and cultural ties, as saying that statements on condition of anonymity were a commonly accepted form of address in international politics.

Source: MosNews

Independence is Grandest Creation of Ukraine’s Nation – Leader

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said the formation of an independent and free state is the grandest creation of Ukraine’s nation.

Addressing the nation on Wednesday, Yushchenko said, “Maidan’s freedom don’t belong any political force. Millions of people stand through the winter and frost and defended the rights of every citizen in Donetsk and Lvov, Sumy and Crimea. Every day people see this clearer and clearer.”

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko greets the crowd in the Independence square in the capital Kiev as Ukraine marks the 14th anniversary of the its independence declaration

The president said he is convinced that the people would overcome all difficulties and carry out all tasks. “We won a victory on Maidan and we’ll have more victories. It’s the strong nation that may change the country in several months.”

Yushchenko said, “No closed topics remained for mass media. The freedom of speech and democracy became real in Ukraine.”

The president demanded the government and law-enforcement agencies introduce tough control over customs, agrarian relations and the issuance of permissions and licences. In his view, “corruption retreats slowly.” The president called for intensifying efforts to fight corruption and pledged to step up financial support for medicine and high educational establishments.

On renovating top officials, Yushchenko said, “The face of power remained unchanged. Citizens face bureaucracy and the unwillingness to listen to them. I’m going to bear with this. There are a lot of honest professionals in the country and we’ll open the way for them.”

On the country’s foreign policy, Yushchenko stressed, “Ukraine’s example proves – the peoples from the Baltics to the Black Sea can successfully modernise their countries and develop democracy.”

“Our neighbours watch the events in the country. They consider Ukraine a regional leader. Ukraine’s future is in the united Europe,” he said.

Source: Itar-Tass

Impatient Kiev Marks Independence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is celebrating its first Independence Day since Viktor Yushchenko became president.

He became the country's first pro-Western leader following mass protests late last year.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L), and first lady Kateryna Chumachenko (R), holding their son Taras, light candles during a prayer for Ukraine, attended by heads of all Ukrainian churches, at St. Sofia Cathedral in Kiev on Independence Day

Despite the promises that were made during the Orange Revolution, Ukraine remains one of the poorest countries in the European region.

Opinion polls suggest faith in Mr Yushchenko has fallen as people grow impatient with the slow pace of change.

Ukraine has always marked independence from the Soviet Union with a military parade through the capital.

But this year, 14 years after independence, that will not be part of the celebrations, because the government wants to break away from Soviet traditions.

'Difficult Task'

Instead, the main events appear to be inspired by the Orange Revolution. Thousands of people are expected to watch a concert in Kiev's Independence Square, and Mr Yushchenko will address the crowds from the same stage.

But there is likely to be a different sentiment. After last year's mass demonstrations, there were huge expectations about what the new authorities would achieve.

Seven months on from the presidential inauguration, many people are disappointed by the slow pace of change. Opinion polls show that levels of trust in Mr Yushchenko have fallen sharply over the last few months.

Analysts believe that the president is likely to use his Independence Day speech to say that improving the country is a long and difficult task, and that everyone has to work together in order to achieve this goal.

Source: BBC News

Ukraine: Official Misstatements Show Lack Of Unity In Foreign Policy

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Officials in Ukraine over the past several days have found themselves voicing different, often contradictory, opinions on the future of the country's foreign relations. The new administration has made no secret of its intention to pursue closer ties with the European Union. Beyond that, however, signals have been mixed on the course its foreign policy will take. As RFE/RL reports, it is unclear whether Kyiv has developed a united policy on several key issues.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko

The latest sign of trouble began on 19 August, when Economy Minister Serhiy Teryokhin said Ukraine would likely abandon membership in the Single Economic Space (SES) linking it to Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Teryokhin said the four economies were too different to function smoothly in a single economic bloc. Ukraine, he said, would develop bilateral economic relations with each of the countries instead.

Yesterday, however, President Viktor Yushchenko appeared to take an opposing view.

He said Ukraine will participate in the SES, and is bringing a series of proposals to a planned 26-27 August meeting designed to review the prospects of the Russian-led grouping.

The SES was formed in 2003, but has yet to begin functioning. It is seen by some as an attempt by Moscow to restore its dominance in the region.

Yushchenko, perhaps striving for balance, said Kyiv is eager to maintain warm ties with both the East and the West.

"Keeping in mind that both directions are crucial for us, it is important to understand our priority -- we cannot accept circumstances under which the organization of our eastern policy would block or come into conflict with the principles of our policy toward the European Union," Yushchenko said.

Oleksiy Kolomiyats, head of the Kyiv-based Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, said the SES confusion points to a wider lack of consistency in Ukraine's foreign policy that could ultimately damage the standing of the administration.

"On the whole, it indicates that there are different attitudes, all of which are voiced publicly," Kolomiyats said. "There are several aspects to this. To begin with, there are several visions of projects like the Single Economic Space, and also of some other [projects]. On the other hand, it indicates that top-level officials in the current Ukrainian administration are not coordinating their positions."

Kolomiyats said that Yushchenko opposed the SES while he was still a member of the political opposition before the Orange Revolution catapulted him to the presidency.Yushchenko opposed the SES while he was still a member of the political opposition before the Orange Revolution catapulted him to the presidency.

Now, according to the analyst, Yushchenko at times resembles the politicians of the ousted regime, who favored close ties with Russia.

Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center told RFE/RL that Ukraine's new government has become notorious for voicing contradictory opinions on key policy issues.

"There were very serious disputes over reprivatization -- reversing all those deals made while [former President Leonid] Kuchma was in power," Petrov said. "Yushchenko and [Prime Minister Yuliya] Tymoshenko had very different attitudes on the issue. They were publicly in conflict."

Petrov said the disparate opinions are the result of a ruling coalition that is composed of politicians ranging from liberals to socialists.

But he said the government remains effective and unified, at least, in its pro-European stance. But he said even this solidarity may suffer ahead of next spring's parliamentary elections, when candidates may put voters' concerns above those of the government.

"I think that the government has some kind of policy. Opinions may differ on its value, but it is more or less effective," Petrov said. "But the other problem is that in the future, at least up until the elections, this efficiency will decrease, not increase."

For the meantime, Yushchenko is trying to unite his administration behind a more coherent policy and prevent contradictory statements from reaching the public.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk announced yesterday that Yushchenko had signed a decree that would bring an end to public government misstatements.

From now on, Tarasyuk said, only three officials will have the right to voice the country's official policies regarding foreign issues.

"The official position and official statements about the state's foreign policy can be presented only by three officials -- the president, the prime minister, and the foreign minister," Tarasyuk said.

Observers said that Tarasyuk's announcement is a swift reaction to the embarrassment sparked by the SES controversy.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Milla Jovovich Opens Foundation for Disabled Children in Ukraine

CRIMEA, Ukraine -- World-famous Hollywood movie star and model Milla Jovovich participated in the press conference devoted to the 80th anniversary of the international children's resort town of Artek, in Ukraine's Crimea.

Hollywood movie star and model Milla Jovovich

Milla Jovovich, the star of "The Fifth Element" and numerous makeup TV commercials, visited Ukraine within the scope of her activity to establish a charitable foundation to help Ukrainian children, disabled children in particular. The first donation, which Milla Jovovich made, was evaluated at $80,000.

According to the actress, the foundation will work with a variety of charity programs to support children during their vacations in the international resort camp of Artek, talented children, and "to help all Ukrainian children in general" as she said.

Jovovich set out a hope that the first donation, which she made to her foundation, would be growing and that the money would be spent appropriately. The actress said that she would like Artek to become a perfect vacation place for disabled children.

Milla Jovovich sincerely enjoyed and highly evaluated the festive show to celebrate 80 years of the resort camp situated on the Black Sea coast of Ukraine. "I have not seen many of such shows even in America. It was like in space. We could only cry and rejoice," said she.

Jovovich said that she would love to play a part in a Ukrainian film, although she would have to analyze everything meticulously before she could make her final choice. "I am a strong Ukrainian girl, that is why I work a lot," said Milla Jovovich. The actress added that she enjoyed reading and playing guitar during her spare time.

Visiting Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, the Hollywood star purchased traditional Ukrainian souvenirs and evinced no interest in souvenirs connected with the "orange revolution" in Ukraine.

Milla Jovovich visited Ukraine with her mother, actress Galina Loginova, who emigrated from the USSR with her husband and daughter in 1980. "My mother and I are going to attend celebrations in Artek indeed," Milla Jovovich said before her visit to Ukraine. "I have heard so many things about this huge resort camp, but I have never been there, so now I have a good reason to visit it," the actress said. "I have never been to Kiev since my early childhood. I would like to see my fatherland beautiful, rich and happy," said she.

Source: Pravda

Ukraine Central Bank Accuses Banks of Attacking Hryvnia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Central Bank on Tuesday accused a number of banks with foreign capital of launching speculative attacks on the hryvnia currency and threatened to exclude them from the market unless they stopped.

Ukraine's Central Bank

A central bank statement accused the banks of hatching a "plot" to destabilise the market by trying to sell unreasonable amounts of foreign currency on the market it tightly controls.

But dealers dismissed the statement as groundless. Some suggested it amounted to little more than bluster.

"An analysis of events in recent months on the currency market shows that specific banks have been trying to conduct improper operations by offering to sell large amounts of foreign currency which they did not have available," the central bank said in the statement on its website www.bank.gov.ua.

"Unfortunately, such actions are mainly carried out by specific Ukrainian banks with foreign capital, in agreement with foreign banks," the central bank added. It did not name any banks.

"This can be seen as a plot aimed not so much at benefitting from speculation but rather at driving the foreign currency market into instability and fuelling inflation."

The central bank said it viewed these actions as "speculative attacks with the aim of deliberately destabilising the rate of the national currency".

Out of an overall total of 163 banks in Ukraine, 22 have foreign capital including 9 with 100 percent.

The Ukrainian central bank keeps a tight hold on the foreign currency market and has tried in recent months to prevent sharp upward movements of the hryvnia.

"This is a particularly heavy-handed way of verbally intervening," said Sonal Desai, analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Milan. "There's an escalation in rhetoric, which is trying to prevent the inflows from occurring."

DEALERS CRITICAL

Some dealers at banks in Ukraine with foreign capital were even more vocal in criticism.

"What sort of crime is this?" said one. "Every investor wants to sell dear and buy cheap."

"These words are absolutely senseless," said another. "We are breaking no regulations. Perhaps it's aimed at intimidating someone or other."

The central bank engineered a one-day three percent rise in the hryvnia in late April, sapping confidence in the market and has since intervened nearly every day to keep it steady.

In its latest intervention on Monday, it bought dollars at 5.00 hryvnias. And the bank has since last week adopted a practice of announcing early in the session parameters for possible intervention.

Some dealers said attempts to keep the hryvnia within certain limits would run up against a growing supply of dollars, particularly a probable influx of currency in response to plans to stage new privatisations of big industrial sites.

The central bank has failed to make good on promises to liberalise market operations despite appeals from President Viktor Yushchenko, dealers and the International Monetary Fund.

A government minister welcomed the resignation last week of a top bank official who wanted to maintain tight restrictions -- including a ban on buying and selling currency in the same day.

Source: Reuters

Ukrainian Police Investigate Illegal Stem Cell Therapy Clinics

KIEV, Ukraine -- A prosecutor’s office in Ukraine’s Donetsk region has launched a criminal case against several doctors at private clinics who are charged with illegally transplanting human organs, Obozrevatel reported.


“It is the first criminal case of its kind,” Alexander Egorov, the Mariupol city prosecutor, said.

He told the media that frozen material taken from the liver and brains of embryos were delivered from different regions to Mariupol.

Currently there is no law stipulating criminal liability for selling anatomical material from dead human embryos in Ukraine.

President Victor Yushchenko, however, recently ordered his cabinet to work out a state program for transplantation issues for 2006-2010.

Stem cell therapy, forbidden in a number of countries, has become very popular among the rich and famous in recent years. For example, Russian pharmaceutical magnate Vladimir Bryntsalov has injected a dose of stem cells into himself and currently says at 59 he feels like he is 20.

Source: MosNews

Monday, August 22, 2005

Democratic Youth Movements Unite Across CIS

MOSCOW, Russia -- Democratic youth movements from Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have joined forces to form the Transnational Democratic Network, the chairman of the central council of the Russian MIY (We) movement, Roman Dobrokhotov, told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Russian MIY (We) Movement

The united structure will comprise Russia’s MIY, Ukraine’s Pora, Kyrgyzstan’s Birge! and Kazakhastan’s Kakhar organizations, he said.

Dobrokhotov promised that starting from Aug. 19, marking the 14th anniversary of the 1991 coup attempt, they will coordinate their activities and stage joint actions.

According to him, the new organization will “hold political actions to exert pressure on the authorities when and where they commit crimes,” he added.

The partners intend to set up a broad network of various groups, including rights and environmental ones, which “will be based in different countries but in permanent contact with each other in virtual space,” he said.

Many people have reacted positively to the plan, Dobrokhotov said. Negotiations are being held with a number of public organizations which may join in later, he said.

The first coordinated action held in all four countries will be a fund-raising campaign for orphanages, Dobrokhotov said. In downtown Moscow money will be collected every Sunday. More coordinated actions of a social as well as a political nature are planned for the future. Members of the movement from all four countries will attend events held in a particular state, he said.

The MIY movement positions itself as liberal-democratic and Ukraine’s Pora (High Time) is a revolutionary group that supported Viktor Yushchenko in his struggle for power. Kyrgyzstan’s Birge and Kazakhstan’s Kakhar are similar to Pora, established in the revolutionary euphoria that has spread to a number of CIS states following events in Ukraine and Georgia.

Source: MosNews

Yushchenko Urges Diplomats to Advertise Ukraine’s Opportunities

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has urged diplomats to conduct a more active foreign policy.

“I would like to set the task for you all to be more active in your foreign policy efforts. Nobody has relieved you of this task yet,” Yushchenko said in his opening remarks at a meeting of the country’s leadership with Ukrainian ambassadors.

Yushchenko said that bilateral inter-government commissions for cooperation with some countries had been idle for the past three or four years. The latest business conference was held five years ago.

“Your key task is to brief the world on the new situation that has taken shape in Ukraine,” Yushchenko said. “All of us feel that we live in a different country, under a different sky, with different people and in unique circumstances.”

He believes it is the diplomats’ duty to effectively publicize these changes and to achieve a new format of cooperation.

“It is beyond doubt that the issue of the day is a new foreign policy, and fundamental changes in our foreign economic policy,” Yushchenko said. “The ideals of law, freedom and democracy proclaimed during the “orange revolution” are important to us,” he said.

Source: Itar-Tass

Searching for an Economic Space

KIEV, Ukraine -- Last weekend Ukrainian Prime-Minister Yulia Timoshenko rejected the announcement of her Minster of Economy Sergey Terekhin about Kiev’s departure from the Unified Economic Space (UES). According to the prime minister, Friday’s announcement can be considered only as a “recommendation.”

Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko (R) showed her Minister of Economics Sergey Terekhin (L) that the choice about Ukraine’s participation in UES should be made by the President

Timoshenko said that the decision about the future of the UES would be made only on the highest level. However, it looks like Kiev already made the decision to leave the UES and it is only a question of time.

The Ministers’ Conspiracy

In the end of last week, German Greg, minister of Economic Development and Trade of Russia, went to Kiev to discuss the trade-economic cooperation between two countries. Observers thought that the Russian minister would discuss with his Ukrainian counterpart routine economic issues of bilateral character. However, the sensational announcement was made in the press conference that Gref held with Ukrainian Economic Minister Sergey Terekhin after the conclusion of the negotiations.

The Russian minister offered to both presidents to take trade-economic relationship out of the competence of the security councils of both countries and to transfer it under the governments’ supervision. “We are switching to a bilateral format of cooperation with Russia. We are creating a special committee, where we are going to discuss all our mutual problems,” Terekhin followed up. He also added that “Ukraine most likely will refuse to participate in the Unified Economic Space.” Gref was not surprised at all. “We’ll have a friendships between our families,” the Russian minister joked.

Later, Terekhin said that Russia was the initiator of Ukraine quitting UES. As he said in an interview to Radio Liberty: “For the first time in the history of the negotiations with the Russian Federation, German Gref said that he and Russia see the UES project as a project for the customs union, with creation of a unified tariffs schedule for imported goods within our borders in addition to above national organ.”

In response, Terekhin reminded that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko several times underlined the importance of keeping any economical agreements within norms of the Ukrainian constitution. He also pointed out the economical structures of Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia and Kazakhstan are not the same. Ukraine, for instance, is an exporter of agricultural products, and “it would be senseless for the importer of energy products to have the same tariffs as Russia.”

“When we laid out the cards on the table, it was a Russian proposal about the new attitude to the UES project and not the Ukrainian one. Moreover, the Russian side suggested to quickly switch to the bilateral scale and to create a commission within a frame of the Yushenko-Putin committee for political economics and social politics, which would be headed by the premiers of both countries. Then it would be necessary to transfer this committee out the control of the security councils of Ukraine and Russia and give it under the supervision of the economic ministries of both countries,” the Ukrainian minister stated.

“The initiator of this proposal was the Russian side and not Ukraine,” Terekhin underlined. He also expressed the opinion that the main goal of the Gref’s visit to Kiev was “the search of this exact point in UES project.” Terekhin thinks that the proposal serves the interests of both countries. “As of today, Ukraine doesn’t see a reason to continue negotiations that have no end. For Russia, these negotiations are pretty costly too, because it finances the UES from its budget. For that matter, both sides would like to have normal mutual negotiations through this committee,” the Ukrainian minister concluded.

However, nobody publicly supported Terekhin’s proposal in Ukraine as of yet. Minister of Industrial Policy Vladimir Shandra said that he considers his colleague’s statement too emotional. “I can say that in Ukraine and in Russia the governments work very pragmatically. It has to be the government’s position and not Terekhin’s,” Shandra said. He also noted that so far the issue of Ukraine leaving the UES project was discussed. According to his opinion, the UES creation is necessary but outside the control of government organs.

Later, the Prime-Minister of Ukraine shared her vision of the problem. “These were only the recommendation theses of the ministers from two countries. And they should be considered only as theses,” Timoshenko said. “The president, the government, if such decision will be made, would examine the recommendations from both ministers.” “I think the decision about the UES concept would be made on the highest level” the prime minister suggested. She also reminded that soon there will be a summit of Russian and Ukrainian presidents.

Democratic Choice of Oil

In reality, Kiev let it be understood that it has a new vision of UES already a week ago. “We are ready to participate in aproject of Unified Economic Space to the full extent as long as it does not contradict our strategic external political goals,” Boris Tarasyuk, head of the Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, said a week ago in his interview to Kommersant-Ukraine. He also prĂ©cised that “these goals for Ukraine include joining the World Trade Organization this year and in prospective –to join the European Union.”

Kiev’s choice was the expected one. Despite its one-year-old age, UES did not became a full-fledged organization that can survive on its own. Moreover, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine did not improved for this year and that made economic problems even more difficult. Kiev saw imperial ambitions in practically every Moscow move. In the Russian capital high ranking officials were discussing the problems connected with puberty, thus hinting to the young age and inexperience of new Ukrainian authorities.

Less than two weeks ago, during the meeting in Borjomi, President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushenko announced their decision to create a new international structure --“Confederation of Democratic Choice.” This organization, according to Saakashvili and Yushenko’s design, should unite democracies of the Baltic-Black- Caspian Seas region.

Already a week after the Borjomi meeting, the leaders shared their plan with their colleagues – Alexander Kwasniewski, president of Poland, and Valdas Adamkus, president of Lithuania. The Ukrainian and Georgian proposal was met with the big interests by Poland and Lithuania. It is already evident where these leaders would try to sell their idea next. In October Azerbaijan will hold the parliamentary elections. And in December the presidential elections should be held in Kazakhstan. Both of these states are representatives of the Caspian Sea region in the new organization.

However, Baku and Astana have a long way to go to reach the necessary level of democracy. If during the elections these two potential players would repeat Georgian or Ukrainian revolutionary scenarios, then the Confederation of Democratic Choice can became a serious player on the political arena. Its main trump card, beside the democratic regimes, would become Caspian oil, which is so desirable in the West.

The West will Help Them

The chances for the success of this scenario are pretty good. According to Kommersant information, the United States would support such development of the events. The source, which is close to the State Department, told Kommersant that “Ukraine will join the WTO sooner than Russia.” In this case, the source added, Moscow would have to negotiate with Kiev its condition for the joining the organization. “It looks like the Department of State and Administration were able to pacify some influential congressmen, who were upset with Yushenko decision to pull out Ukrainian troops from Iraq,” he said.

The sources in the U.S. Congress think that exactly this move of the Ukrainian president put the brakes on the fulfilling the promises that Yushenko got from the Congress, the Department of State, and White House during his visit in Washington at the beginning of this year. These promises included lifting the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and support for Ukraine to join NATO, WTO and EU.

“It’s evident,” one of the Washington sources told Kommersant, “that difficulties in negotiations between the United States and Russia about later joining the WTO is not the only reason why the White House supports Kiev.” Beside the success of the Deputy Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Freed in Ukrainian direction, the White House administration found additional leverage to pressure Moscow.

The support of Washington to Ukraine in its WTO bid earlier than Russia will not only reinforce Kiev’s position in negotiations with Moscow, but will also let the Kremlin understand the serious irritation of the U.S. with its latest action. Among the points of irritation there are the absence of real energy dialog between Moscow and Washington, the Kremlin’s attempt to persuade Tashkent and Bishkek to remove American bases from its territories and also alarming tendencies in Russian internal politics.

“Even half a year ago,” the same expert told Kommersant, “it was possible to talk about some disagreements about the administration in its political line toward Russia. But now, it looks like Congress, State Department and the White House were able to develop a unified position toward the Kremlin.”

Source: Kommersant