Tuesday, February 28, 2006

EU Bank Opens Doors In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The European Investment Bank (EIB), a financing institution of the European Union, has launched operations in Ukraine, saying that it has 500 million euros earmarked for investment into Ukrainian and Russian markets.

European Investment Bank (EIB) President Philippe Maystadt addresses a news conference in Brussels

While preparations for the opening started last year, the bank was officially launched on Feb. 7, when Ukraine’s parliament ratified a June 2005 framework agreement.

Constantin Synadino, head of the Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine division of the EIB, said his bank will provide financing for government projects in the environmental protection, transportation, energy and telecommunications sectors.

The EIB plans to cooperate and co-finance projects in such sectors in connection with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and with other international financial institutions active in Ukraine.

In addition to the EBRD, the EIB joins two other Western lending institutions that have been active in Ukraine since the 1990s. They include the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, the private sector financing arm of the World Bank. These financial institutions have invested $7.5 billion in more than 100 projects in Ukraine since 1991.

The EBRD and IFC fund private sector enterprises; the EIB and the World Bank finance state projects.

Synadino said the EIB is already eyeing roadway development projects in Ukraine. Funding projects in this sector in cooperation with the EBRD could be approved within months, he added.

Ukraine’s state roadway administration, Ukravtodor, announced Feb. 21 that it planned to raise 100 million euros from the EBRD to finish reconstruction of the Chop-Kyiv highway, which stretches from the Hungarian-Slovak border to the capital. An EBRD official told the Post that his bank has financed two Ukravtodor Chop-Kyiv highway projects, granting 175 million euros in financing to them since 2000.

The EIB has operated in Russia since July 2004 financing three environmental protection projects in St. Petersburg region valued at 85 million euros.

Synadino said the EIB is also eager to finance projects in Moldova and Belarus, adding that the EU Commission has not yet approved work in these countries.

The EIB was set up in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Union, then known as the European Community. The EIB has since grown into an international financing institution active in dozens of countries worldwide.

Source: Kyiv Post

Isuzu To Establish Joint Sales Company In Ukraine in April+

TOKYO, Japan -- Isuzu Motors Ltd. said Tuesday it will establish a joint sales company in Ukraine in late April to increase its sales of trucks and buses in the country and neighboring territories.

Isuzu Automotive Co., Ukraine, to be capitalized at about 500 million yen, has set its sales target in 2006 at 3,500 units, the Japanese truck maker said.

Bogdan Corp., a Kiev-based automaker which has been producing small buses using Isuzu's small truck platforms since 1999, will have a 50 percent stake in the new company.

Of the rest, 30 percent will be owned by Isuzu and 20 percent by Japanese trading house Sojitz Corp.

In the future, Isuzu said the new company aims to sell about 20,000 units of Isuzu and Bogdan vehicles a year in Ukraine and surrounding countries.

Source: TMC

Ukraine, Poland Seek Pipeline Progress

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian and Polish presidents on Tuesday called for progress on getting the stalled Odessa-Brody oil pipeline up and running, saying the project could help enhance Europe's energy independence.

Odessa-Brody oil pipeline

Ukraine built the 667-kilometer (413-mile) pipeline in 2001 but it has remained largely idle because of bickering about whether to accept oil from Russia or to pump oil from Caspian Sea countries northward to Poland and on to the rest of Europe.

President Viktor Yushchenko has thrown his support behind pumping Caspian Sea oil, and recent plans have called for extending the line from the western Ukrainian town of Brody to Plotsk in Poland and, eventually, to Gdansk.

After Ukraine's dispute with Russia over gas prices earlier this year led to supply disruptions in Europe, the European Union began taking another look at its heavy dependence on Russian supplies. Poland, which receives most of its supplies from Russia, has taken a leading role in pushing for a kind of Euro-Atlantic energy security pact that would guarantee vital supplies of gas and oil. Poland has suggested the pact could encompass EU or NATO countries.

"The project Odessa-Brody and Brody-Plotsk-Gdansk could become one of the most interesting new projects in the European oil market," Yushchenko said after talks with his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski.

Kaczynski said he hoped that issues concerning extending the pipeline would be resolved within three months.

The pipeline has started generating new interest recently. Kazakhstan, which possesses the largest oil deposits in the energy-rich Caspian Sea, wants to join the project in a bid to get its oil resources to consumers in the Baltics, and Yushchenko said a deal was signed a few months ago to build a large new oil refinery in Brody.

Source: AP

New Polish President Arrives In Ukraine For First Official Visit

KIEV, Ukraine -- Poland's new President Lech Kaczynski arrived in Ukraine Tuesday for a visit aimed at reinforcing the two neighbors increasingly close ties and shoring up this ex-Soviet republic's pro-Western path.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, (R) and his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski during a press conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006.

Kaczynski was scheduled to meet with President Viktor Yushchenko on the first day of his two-day trip, which will also take him to Kharkiv in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east, where many still consider Moscow to be Ukraine's most important partner.

He told journalists at the airport that he planned to discuss Ukraine's European ambitions, questions of energy security and, possibly, relations with Russia, Ukraine's Interfax news agency reported.

Kaczynski's visit comes just weeks before parliamentary elections that could determine whether Ukraine continues to push for speedy membership in the European Union and NATO or tilts back closer to Russia.

Kaczynski's predecessor, former President Aleksander Kwasniewski, angered Moscow with his support for Ukraine's Orange Revolution protests in 2004 which helped bring Yushchenko to power over a candidate backed by Moscow.

Poland, once Ukraine's enemy, has become one of Kyiv's closest allies in Europe, pushing for its membership in NATO by 2008 and calling on the EU to leave the door open to new members.

While NATO membership is championed by Yushchenko, the majority of Ukrainians remain deeply suspicious of their former Cold War foe and fear that the involvement in the alliance would drag Ukraine into new conflicts. Entering NATO has become a top campaign issue ahead of the March 26 election with a number of parties saying they would block any effort to join.

Meanwhile, Poland has also taken a leading role in pushing for a kind of Euro-Atlantic energy security pact that would guarantee vital supplies of gas and oil. Russia's move to temporarily turn off supplies to Ukraine last month over a gas pricing dispute renewed fears in Poland that Moscow is exercising political power through energy supplies.

Ukraine and Poland are currently in negotiations about the use of the Odessa-Brody pipeline to bring the Caspian Sea oil through Ukraine to Poland and the rest of Europe.

Source: AP

Monday, February 27, 2006

German Foreign Minister Visits Ukraine

BONN, Germany -- Germany 's foreign minister visits Ukraine on Tuesday, just weeks before parliamentary elections that will determine whether this former Soviet republic pursues its Western path.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Frank-Walter Steinmeier meets with President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. The talks are expected to focus on the political situation in Ukraine before the March 26 vote and on the country's European aspirations.

Steinmeier will also deliver a speech on Ukraine 's relations with Germany and the European Union at a Kiev university. The elections are seen as a crucial test for Yushchenko as he seeks to obtain enough support in parliament to pursue his goal of Ukraine joining the European Union and NATO. But the party of his pro-Russian rival, Viktor Yanukovych, is leading in opinion polls.

Under recent constitutional reforms that weaken the presidency, the parliament will assume some of the powers held by the president, including the right to name the prime minister and some Cabinet ministers. Yushchenko, an opposition leader, came to power after mass protests over election fraud that became known as the Orange Revolution. He won a court-ordered repeat vote in December 2004 after the Kremlin-backed victory by Yanukovych was annulled because of massive vote-rigging.

After taking office last January, Yushchenko promised to nudge this nation of 47 million closer to Europe and shake off Russian influence. But the hopes of many Ukrainians have given way to disillusionment because of his failure to make rapid progress in tackling poverty and corruption.

Ukraine 's economic growth plummeted from 12.1 percent in 2004 to 2.4 percent last year, and business leaders widely condemned the government's efforts to challenge past privatization deals and manage prices. The president's position has also been weakened by a January vote in parliament to sack his government, which Yushchenko has refused to recognize, over a controversial deal that ended a gas price dispute with Russia . The agreement almost doubled the price of gas imported by Ukraine , reports the AP.

Source: AP

Crimea Puts Out Russia’s Tongue

CRIMEA, Ukraine -- For Yanukovich! election bloc of Crimea that endeavors to win the state language status for Russian in Ukraine is ready to stage civil protest rallies in Crimea.

An activist of For Motherland! movement holds a poster reading: "Crimea is the lighthouse of Russia!" during a rally staged near the embassy of Ukraine

This militant sentiment of the bloc activists stems from the protest of Crimean prosecutors against resolution of Crimean Supreme Rada re: convening the consultative referendum on the Russian language status in the republic.
In the Supreme Rada of Crimea, the issue of referendum was spearheaded by For Yanukovich! bloc of the Party of Regions and Russian Bloc. The bloc gathered around 300,000 signatures in referendum’s support from January 5 to February 5.

The issue faced severe opposition of Crimean PM Anatoly Burdyugov and the deputies of pro-president’s Our Ukraine People’s Union. Nevertheless, of 62 deputies present at that parliament’s sitting, 53 deputies voted for holding the referendum on March 26, just in time of the parliamentary elections. During the referendum, respondents will be offered to answer whether they back up assigning to Russian the status of the second state language.

Straight after voting, Crimean Prosecutor Viktor Shemchuk lodged a protest to the parliament of Crimea, saying “determining and changing the constitutional system in Ukraine is the exclusive right of the people,” and that holding the local referendum on any changes in the state language is beyond the authority of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and that results of such referendums will be acknowledged invalid.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko talked over the referendum in the phone conversation on February 23. Yushchenko said Ukraine has no problems with development of languages and emphasized that the state language in Ukraine is exactly the Ukrainian language.

Source: Kommersant

Ukraine's Supreme Court Starts Considering Appeal by Victims Of 2002 Air Show Crash

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Supreme Court on Monday began hearing an appeal filed by relatives of those killed in a 2002 air show seeking harsher sentences for the pilots of a plane that crashed and demanding adequate compensation, officials said.

Lviv, Ukraine Air Show Tragedy July 27, 2002

Seventy-seven people were killed when the pilots' Su-27 jet fighter sliced into the crowd on the ground at a Lviv air field and exploded.

Last June, a military court sentenced the pilot and co-pilot, who ejected and survived, to prison terms of eight and 14 years, and ordered them to pay a total of some US$2 million (-1.6 million) to be used for compensation.

However, the average military pilot earns the equivalent of just US$100 (euro80) a month and there appears little chance they could meet the payment order.

The victims' families have received no compensation and filed an appeal in August, seeking harsher sentences for the pilots and demanding compensation of US$200,000 (-180,000) for each fatality.

The court started hearing the case on Monday, said court spokeswoman Natalia Sarapyn.

Source: AP

Official Says Russian Accused Of Weapons Smuggling Extradited To Ukraine By Czech Republic

BORYSPIL, Ukraine -- A Russian national wanted on illegal weapons trading charges, was extradited Saturday to Ukraine from the Czech Republic, Ukrainian authorities said.

Oleg Orlov arrived on a flight to Boryspil airport outside the capital, Kyiv, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olena Melnyk said.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Orlov of smuggling an unspecified number of missiles of at least two types to China in May 2000, using falsified documents. In January 2002, he allegedly also smuggled at least one radar system to Eritrea using fake documents which stated the recipient should have been Romania.

In both cases, Orlov allegedly delivered the weapons with state-run company Ukrspetseksport, Ukraine's weapons exporting agency.

Orlov was arrested in the Czech Republic in 2004, shortly after a warrant for his arrest was issued in Ukraine. His request for asylum was rejected, and a court ruled last year that he could be extradited.

Source: AP

A Ukraine-Georgia Split?

TBILISI, Georgia -- The Georgian and Russian media is currently speculating about a kind of a "splitting" in the revolutionary friendship between Ukraine and Georgia.

Yushchenko (L) and Saakashvili (R) - can old frienships survive politics?

Analysts observe that it seems as if President Yushchenko of Ukraine, on the eve of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine, is trying not to further irritate Russia and in doing so he is trying to keep a distance from Georgia. The Georgian media has observed that President Saakashvili seems to have become a little upset about this.

However, hurt feelings over that the fact that Ukraine seems to be keeping its distance from Georgia has no basis in common sense as every country acts according its national interests and politics is not a field for personal sentiments.

Against the background of Georgia's and Russia's deteriorating relationship, brought on by Georgia's demand for the removal of the Russian peacekeepers from the Tskhinvali, the Ukrainian foreign ministry expressed its readiness to deploy Ukrainian peacekeepers in the conflict zone. However, this prospect remains in the realm of fantasy as Ukraine has stated that it would require an official UN mandate to carry out such activities (while Russian peacekeepers are operating under a CIS mandate). In order for a UN mandate to be activated it would need to be approved by the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member with a veto right. Changing the existing CIS mandate is even less likely as Russia is undoubtedly the dominant power in this organization.

Meanwhile Russia constantly tries to provoke a confrontation between Georgia and Ukraine. Russian political scientist Sergey Markov has suggested that the purpose of Saakashvili's slated visit to Ukraine that was postponed last week would be to gauge the level of Russophobia among Ukrainian politicians. According to Markov, Ukrainian political circles would be wise not to play to the Georgian president's caprices, because those who forge anti-Russian bonds with Georgia could do irreparable damage to their relations with Moscow. Sakartvelos Respublica has also quoted Markov as saying that both Yushchenko and Saakashvili are failed politicians and their friendship is based on a mixture of democracy tainted with Russophobia.

This pressure from Moscow seems to be working to an extent as according to the newspaper Rezonansi representatives of Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" party in the Rada/Parliament recently announced that they would not support the idea of sending Ukrainian peacekeepers to Tskhinvali region during the hearings.

Clearly Ukraine has decided to choose a softer approach for carrying on its relationship with Russia than the Saakashvili administration has. This has several reasons. First of all the nature of the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia is not of the same character as the one that is currently being played out between Georgia and Russia. Moscow and Kyiv may have broader economic issues at stake, but Russia's presence in the Caucasus has always been volatile and the situation in the conflict zones poses a very real threat of violence. Secondly the president of Ukraine is very different from President Saakashvili. Yushchenko is more moderate, less straightforward, and does not wear his emotions on his sleeve. The third argument is that before the forthcoming parliamentary elections Yushchenko does not need to further irritate Russia.

As Georgian analyst Paata Zakareishvili points out, if Yushchenko feels that, at the moment, a relationship with Saakashvili will irritate Russia he will keep his distance. Moreover, Zakareishvili believes that the Georgian president's recent bluster make him something of an international political liability. According to him, Saakashvili's recent stance has been so inflammatory that most probably Yushchenko feels uncomfortable next to him. Some observers speculate that maybe Yushchenko is, at this point, not so happy to be constantly reminded by Saakashvili of his extreme role in the Orange Revolution. "At the moment, standing alongside Saakashvili is somewhat discrediting," Zakareishvili explained in an interview with Rezonansi.

Saakashvili had high hopes for enlisting Ukraine as a staunch ally after the Orange Revolution. He speculated about the possibility of establishing a new geo-political reality. He wanted to use Ukraine as an engine to help fulfill his plans for Georgia and to integrate the country into European structures. However, it seems clear at this point that Europe is not willing to place Ukraine and Georgia in the same boat and that, from the European perspective, the two countries actually belong to different geo-strategic entities.

Georgian media has commented on a certain personal tension between Yushchenko and Saakashvili. Ukraine's retreat on the peacekeeping issue so irritated Saakashvili that he decided to cancel his trip to Kyiv and did not congratulate Yushchenko personally on his birthday on February 23. Georgian analysts predict a further rise in tension between Georgia and its current friends as Tbilisi's call to arms against Russia becomes increasingly cacophonous. "The more we confront Russia, the more our friends will turn their backs on us," said Ramaz Sakvarelidze in an interview with Rezonansi.

We must hope that it hasn't come to that and that our good friends will not forsake us in order to curry favor with Moscow; however a common sense approach on the part of our government would be much appreciated by our friends. The Georgian administration should start measuring its statements and actions and work to make sure that we do not get left out in the cold metaphorically, because physical cold is bad enough.

Source: The Messenger

Sunday, February 26, 2006

An Explosive Gas Deal

WASHINGTON, DC -- Sometimes the stumbling blocks in international affairs are glaringly obvious -- such as the victory of Islamic fundamentalists in Palestinian elections, which has at least temporarily paralyzed the Bush administration's policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Sometimes, though, they are complicated, confusing or simply opaque, and thus barely reported on by the press or understood beyond a small circle of experts.

That might explain why there has been so little discussion in Washington of a gas deal between Russia and Ukraine this winter that, in its own way, may be as significant as the Palestinian vote.

Here is a terribly dense tangle of a half-dozen contracts that involves hidden partners, disputed pricing arrangements, and esoteric side agreements about transit fees and storage facilities. It is mind-numbingly boring -- and it may tip the balance against democracy in much of the eastern half of Europe.

The story surfaced briefly at the beginning of January, when Russian President Vladimir Putin made the mistake of partially halting gas deliveries to Ukraine -- and to much of Western Europe, which receives Russian supplies through a Ukrainian pipeline.

Chastised by big customers such as Germany, Putin -- who had been trying to force Ukraine to accept a 400 percent price increase -- quickly turned the gas back on. A couple of days later a deal was announced in Moscow and Kiev that appeared to resolve the dispute more or less equitably: The nominal price of Ukraine's gas rose by a mere 90 percent.

It was not until more than a month later that the Bush administration and other key allies of Ukraine's pro-Western government -- elected after the popular Orange Revolution of 2004 -- learned more about what was in the Russian-Ukrainian contracts. When they did they were stunned. Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, and Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov had agreed to purchase Ukraine's gas through a Swiss trading company whose owners and beneficiaries are publicly unknown -- but are rumored to include senior officials and organized crime figures in both Russia and Ukraine.

They granted this same shadowy company a 50 percent share in the business of delivering gas to Ukrainian consumers. They accepted a price deal on gas delivered to Ukraine lasting only a few months but guaranteed that rock-bottom rates charged by Ukraine for the storage and transit of Russian gas to the West would be frozen for 25 years.

What does this have to do with democracy in Europe? In effect, some U.S. experts concluded, the Ukrainians may have sold to Putin that which he was prevented from stealing: a Kremlin stranglehold on Ukraine's government. The Russian leader poured money and men into his huge neighbor in late 2004 in a blatant bid to install a pro-Moscow strongman as president and make Ukraine's political system a mirror of the new authoritarian Russian order.

His overreach triggered the Orange Revolution and the subsequent democratic election of Yushchenko, whose goals include leading Ukraine to membership in NATO and the European Union.

Putin sees the fragile new democracy in Ukraine, and an allied government in the tiny Black Sea nation of Georgia, as dire threats. If Western-style freedom consolidates and spreads in the former Soviet republics of Eastern Europe, his own undemocratic regime will be isolated and undermined. What's more, Ukraine and its neighbors are likely to integrate with Europe rather than remaining economic and political vassals of Russia.

After a turbulent year of free politics, Ukraine has another crucial election, for a newly empowered parliament, scheduled for March 26. This time Putin has avoided open intervention in the campaign. Instead he triggered the gas crisis and presented his Ukrainian enemies with a choice: Swallow a mammoth midwinter price increase for the fuel Ukrainians use to heat their homes, just weeks before the election, or hand Russia a commanding long-term stake in Ukrainian energy infrastructure -- and the ability to trigger a gas supply crisis at any time.

Yushchenko and Yekhanurov chose the second option, while also agreeing to divert some of the huge profits to undisclosed beneficiaries. When confronted by U.S. officials, they claimed that they had no choice; until now they have denied knowing who owns the shell company through which Ukraine will channel billions of dollars.

How to save democracy in Ukraine, and the chance it will someday spread back to Russia? As in the Middle East, the Bush administration faces some difficult choices. If pro-Western parties lead the next government -- something that is far from certain -- President Bush could press them to scrap the gas deal as a condition for taking the first step toward membership in NATO, a "membership action plan."

But that would probably lead to a new face-off between Ukraine and Putin, in which Kiev would require U.S. and European support -- at a moment when those same allies are pleading for the Kremlin's help with the Palestinians and Iran.

Or the administration could decide to sidestep Putin's gas-fired imperialism, leaving a complicated issue to its present obscurity. The Ukrainians might eventually find a way to free themselves from Russia's chokehold. But they also might allow one of the signal democratic breakthroughs of the Bush years to suffer a crippling reverse.

Source: The Washington Post

Ukraine To Boost Gas Output By 50% To Cut Dependency

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine, facing price increases from natural gas suppliers Russia and Turkmenistan, will seek to raise its extraction of the fuel 50 percent this year to reduce its dependence on Russia, PM Yuriy Yekhanurov said.

"We can extract at least 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year,'' Yekhanurov said Saturday in the central city of Poltava in remarks broadcast by Ukraine's Channel 5 television.

Ukraine depends on fuel imports, mostly from Russia, for about 80 percent of its energy needs.

President Viktor Yushchenko, whose election in 2004 soured Ukraine's relations with Russia, is eager to reduce his country's reliance on companies such as Gazprom and Transneft by attracting foreign investment to develop local fields and spending government money on foreign energy projects.

Ukraine wants to invest in gas and oil extraction in Libya, Egypt and the Black Sea together with international oil companies.

Ukraine will spend $100 million exploring for gas and oil this year, according to the government's budget.

Gazprom cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Jan. 1-3, forcing Yekhanurov's government to agree to pay almost twice as much for gas as in 2005. Ukraine's parliament last month voted to oust Yekhanurov's government because of the gas-price agreement. Yushchenko has asked Ukraine's Supreme Court to annul the vote and ministers have remained in their posts.

"Ukraine has at least 500 gas wells, but only 50 wells are in use," Yekhanurov said.

The government will auction licenses to extract oil and natural gas in the Black Sea on March 24, seeking $2 billion in investments, Yekhanurov said Feb. 10. Twelve companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and some Turkish companies, have already expressed interest in extracting gas and oil on Ukrainian territory, Yekhanurov said Feb. 10.

Ukraine, with 47 million people, consumes 76 bcm of gas annually. Half of that is imported from Turkmenistan through Russia, 20 bcm is extracted in Ukraine and another 16 bcm comes from Russian producers.

Source: Bloomberg

Yushchenko’s Party Demands Renunciation of Anti-Semitism

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Our Ukraine bloc, the party of President Viktor Yushchenko, has issued a demand that the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP) renounce its policy of anti-Semitism, the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported.

Yushchenko himself had previously condemned MAUP, which is the largest private higher education institution in Ukraine, with tens of thousands of students in several campuses. Not all the students share the ideas of the rector and his cronies.

According to a statement issued by the bloc and received by UNIAN, the incitement of inter-ethnic enmity, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia by individual MAUP leaders on the pages of press MAUP controls constitutes a serious violation of human rights and casts a shadow on Ukraine, which after the events of the Orange Revolution set out on the path of democratic change.

"Our Ukraine believes that such activity is inadmissible in our country, especially in a period when the creation of an open civil society is taking place," Our Ukraine's statement declared.

"After the Orange Revolution, which in the eyes of the international community confirmed Ukraine as the heart of a new democracy, anti-Semitic attacks by MAUP have a destructive influence on the image of our country and are a hindrance for relations on the basis of trust with the biggest partner countries in the world."

Source: Israel National News

Polish Ambassador To Ukraine: We Expect A New Stimulus

WARSAW, Poland -- Since the Ukrainian state emerged, relations with Poland have become very close. Poland and Canada were the first countries to recognise Ukraine's independence in December 1991.

Viktor Yushchenko (L) with Jacek Kluczkowski, Polish ambassador to Ukraine (R)

Relations were also good between the former heads of states Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski of Poland and Leonid Kravtshuk and Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine. Traditionally, lively contacts were developing between regions, university schools, educational and cultural organisations. Which all proves that the quality of our relations has not been based exclusively on events of 2004, although the Ukrainiansĺ bid for democracy in that year met with wholehearted support from the Polish people.

Have these hopes come true? It is known that people had great expectations. It is unrealistic to expect that they all could come true within a year or two. But today Ukraine is different than is was a year ago. Probably a more objective assessment will be possible from the perspective of more years.

Surely, freedom of speech is now a fact and the oligarchs do no longer have such direct power as before. Present-day Ukraine is a democratic country. It pursues the road of democracy and market economy. This is to a large extent attributed to president Victor Jushtchenko. He is a man who has his values and ideals.

General elections will shortly be held and if Ukrainian electors will be consistent, Ukraineĺs democratic progress will continue. I do not think, however, that the situation has changed radically. Almost half of the electorate still supports one camp and the second half the other.

In certain sense, this reflects the defeat of the democratic forces. For since that time they have had the task of increasing the ranks of their allies. But the result of the elections, whatever the outcome, will not be disastrous for Ukraine and it will not affect relations with Europe and in particular with Poland.

As member of the EU, Poland is the spokesman of Ukraineĺs rapprochement with Europe. In terms of so-called European standards, Ukraineĺs situation has changed last year. Ukraine has scored a big success. It has proved to the world that it is a democratic state. Those in power do not threaten the electoral process and freedom of speech.

I do not think that the international community expected more than what had happened. Admittedly, the issue of Ukraineĺs EU membership was not placed on last yearĺs agenda yet. And it will probably not be placed this year either. Ukraineĺs most important task is to bring itself closer to European standards and to raise the competitiveness of its economy.

A new stimulus in Polish-Ukrainian relations is expected from the first visit to Ukraine by president Lech Kaczyński at the end of February. The new president seeks to activate foreign policy and attaches great importance to personal contacts. Hence establishing a personal contact with Victor Jushtchenko will become one of the priorities of the visit.

The talks between the presidents will also deal with Ukraine's relations with the European Union and the coordination of tasks in energy policy.

Poland as well as the European Union are interested in energy security. Both have been content that Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement. A situation such as that of Russia stopping gas supplies should not happen again. It was undreamt of till then that gas supply might simply be cut off.

Generally, such a policy is unacceptable. Deliveries of energy carriers should not serve as instruments of political pressure. Energy security must remain beyond politics. Now we have received a second lesson, another proof that energy carriers have become part of politics.

It has never been so good that it could not be better, And although trade turnover and investments are still rising we know that the growth dynamics in recent months might have been higher if the investment climate in Ukraine was better and if not for administrative obstacles and unfavourable decisions affecting Poland and which can hardly be understood.

Such clashes of interests, so it seems, are unavoidable. The elimination of reliefs in special economic zones was not aimed against Polish investors. The move was intended to hit the grey zone, the off-share investors who manipulated the rules to avoid en masse paying taxes.

Professor Marek Dąbrowski, a Polish economist serving as advisor to the authorities here told me that this was the only successful move in the economic policy of the former government of Julia Timoshenko. Alas, the baby was emptied out with the bath, and harm was done to honest investors, including those from Poland. It is now our task to seek compensation for losses incurred. We have succeeded in that only in part.

We are also speaking of bigger and spectacular actions such as the joint application to UEFA on organising European football championships, plans of extending the oil pipeline from Brody in the Ukraine to Płock, linking the wide gauge railway line connecting Silesia with Ukraine with Federal Russia's railway system which - when combined with the construction of a reloading terminal in Poland - would bring us into the Euro-Asian railway transportation system.

We are talking about that all and collaborating with Ukrainian partners.

Source: Polish Market

Ukraine Euro 2012 Bid In Doubt Over Stadium-Soccer Boss

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's bid to co-host the 2012 European Championship is in serious doubt because of a row over a construction site next to the ex-Soviet state's main stadium, the country's top soccer official said on Friday.

World governing body FIFA has told Ukraine's soccer federation it will withdraw permission for international matches to be played at Kiev's 84,000-seat Olympic stadium because of the construction of a nearby shopping and entertainment complex.

"The Ukrainian soccer federation views our bid now with serious doubt because the problem around the Olympic stadium remains unresolved," federation president Grigory Surkis said in a statement.

"The authorities are not doing everything they can to settle the future of our country's main stadium."

Ukraine's joint bid with Poland was a surprise inclusion on the shortlist of candidates to hold the 2012 tournament along with Italy and a joint entry by Hungary and Croatia.

The stadium, built in 1923, has undergone reconstruction several times and was used for the soccer tournament at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. It remains the centre of soccer in the country and draws huge crowds for major matches.

Construction has proceeded at the adjacent site despite objections from members of parliament and a restraining order by prosecutors. FIFA says the site would violate safety and public order regulations.

Surkis has demanded a halt to the project and threatened to bring soccer fans into the street to confront building workers. The project's backers deny any violation of safety regulations.

The federation president is running for parliament next month on a ticket opposed to liberal President Viktor Yushchenko -- as is national soccer team coach Oleg Blokhin.

Yushchenko last year issued an order to his government to take whatever measures are necessary to facilitate the 2012 bid.

Source: Reuters

Kiev Seals Gas Pact With Turkmenistan

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian government settled a dispute with Turkmenistan over natural gas supplies, debts and payments, allowing direct deliveries of Turkmen gas to Ukraine, which imports about 80 percent of its gas.

Turkmenistan has not directly supplied gas to Ukraine since January, said Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov. Instead Turkmen gas has come through RosUkr-Energo, a Swiss gas trader, which in turn bought it from Gazprom, Dmytro Marunich, spokesman for Ukraine's state-owned gas company, said Thursday in Kiev.

Ukraine and Turkmenistan "settled disputable questions in a natural gas agreement,'' Yekhanurov said in remarks broadcast on television.

Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Russia have been entangled in a gas dispute since last year, after Gazprom, which supplies about one-quarter of the gas consumed in Europe, decided to raise prices for Ukraine. Ukraine refused to pay, and gas supplies to some European countries fell as much as 40 percent in the first two days of this year when Gazprom stopped gas deliveries to Ukraine.

Gazprom officials said last month that Ukraine took some gas pumped through Ukrainian pipelines for clients in Europe. Gazprom ships about 80 percent of its gas exports to Europe through Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials, including spokesmen at Naftogaz Ukrainy, the state-run gas company, denied Gazprom's accusations. "There has been no unauthorized diversion of gas," Ukrainian Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov said Jan. 2. He said Ukraine was using its own gas and fuel from Turkmenistan "in strict compliance with the signed contract."

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said Feb. 17 that Ukraine owed his country $159 million for earlier gas supplies, complicating Ukraine's effort to ensure gas prices for this year.

The Ukrainian government denied it owed the money. It planned to sue Turkmenistan at the Stockholm International Court if it refused to renew direct shipments and if it raised gas prices, Naftogaz CEO Oleksiy Ivchenko said last month.

Ukraine will reduce its natural gas consumption 35 percent by 2030 and import no more than a quarter of its needs, Plachkov said Wednesday.

Source: The Moscow Times

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Death And Taxes

KIEV, Ukraine -- “Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1789. His words speak to everyone living in Ukraine today.

Benjamin Franklin on $100 banknote

While progress has been made, Ukrainians remain highly taxed. We all feel it every day, regardless of the type of taxation: VAT, import, telecommunications and the list goes on.

Taxation is so high and complicated to abide by at times that millions of Ukrainians have chosen to break the law rather than comply with the punitive nature of the tax regime in Ukraine today.

Surprisingly, there is not a single political party that has come out with a clear promise to lower taxes, letting Ukrainians keep more of their hard-earned money.

Meanwhile, influential businesses continue to bypass the complications and weight of Ukraine’s tax system using loopholes and clout, while millions of voters continue to lurk in the shadows.

Most political parties on the scene are pushing agendas appealing to emotions, not policies.

The populists and pundits in Ukraine’s political arena have failed to speak on concrete issues that affect everyday voters, opting often to focus on regional gas wars, pledging unrealistic salary and pension raises, etc.

Nice ideas and pretty pictures. But if any party wants support from the average Ukrainian, just promise to stop taking so much of their hard-earned money.

Not only will you win their votes, but if you succeed in reducing taxes, you will also clean up the country’s large shadow economy and fuel economic growth.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukraine: Timoshenko the Kingmaker?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is set to hold parliamentary elections March 26. While the results will reflect the influence of Russian interests, the West is too busy elsewhere to put up much of a struggle.

Yulia Timoshenko

At present, polls put all three parties with roughly equal shares of the vote. No matter who wins, however, the choice of Ukraine's next prime minister probably lies in the hands of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.


Ukraine will hold elections for its parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on March 26. The main competitors are familiar from the Orange Revolution. They include the Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovich and the Party of Regions, the bloc led by former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, and President Viktor Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine party. Polls, albeit with a large margin of error, show the three in a tie with about 20 percent each; many voters remain undecided.

Under the new Ukrainian Constitution, Rada deputies will be elected under a purely proportional scheme using party lists and setting a threshold of 3 percent of the national vote to gain seats. The 450-member parliament will turn over completely.

No party will gain more than half of the seats in this race, so whichever wins the most seats will not necessarily form the next government, since other two could partner against the winner to form a majority. In this case, likely third-place candidate Yulia Timoshenko will decide which party gets to name the next prime minister, via her ability to choose which party to join in a coalition.

Generally speaking, Ukraine is split between a pro-Russian east and south and a nationalist, pro-Western center and west. The Party of Regions controls the pro-Russian part of Ukraine while Timoshenko and Our Ukraine share the nationalist vote.

The Party of Regions looks likely to win the most votes, but that does not mean it will form the next government. Yanukovich and his party are backed by powerful oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who sponsored Yanukovich's 2004 presidential campaign and is believed to operate major criminal enterprises in eastern Ukraine. Akhmetov, who has ties to Russia, is on Party of Regions list.

Russia has shown that it will go far to keep Ukraine under its control to serve as a buffer, as exemplified by Moscow's recent natural gas cutoff. With increasing aggressive activity by Russia on the Crimean Peninsula, and Moscow keen on retaining control over natural gas transit, Russia will seek to influence the elections. It will go about this more quietly than it did in 2004. Whereas Putin personally supported Yanukovich's presidential candidacy before, this time Moscow is sticking to financial support, mostly routed through figures such as Akhmetov.

The Our Ukraine party does not have the votes to win, and Timoshenko's candidacy hurts rather than helps its chances. Timoshenko's popularity has fallen significantly since her denunciation of the natural gas delivery contract between Ukraine and Russia. In her concern for her personal and financial interests, Timoshenko miscalculated the degree of support for the deal, which Yushchenko backs.

Nevertheless, she is a charismatic populist, and still stands poised to pull votes away from Our Ukraine, though her party probably will not win the most votes. After the election, she will partner with whichever party gives her the best deal, despite her recent negotiations with Our Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Yushchenko's behavior, including the dismissal of Timoshenko as prime minister in September 2005, has not put him in the best light with the West. As with Russia, Western involvement in Ukraine's elections is also more circumspect than in 2004.

After the natural gas cutoff, the European Union has come to realize that seeking to pull Ukraine too far out of the Russian orbit jeopardizes its own energy supply. Washington still supports Yushchenko, but U.S. foreign policy has trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time, and has priorities beyond Ukraine at present.

The next prime minister will thus likely be a compromise candidate. And while the Rada elections could be seen as a referendum on Yushchenko and Our Ukraine's performance, they are really a contest between Russia and the West -- and the West is not trying very hard.

And while the Party of Regions may win the vote, this might not translate to the controlling the office of prime minister, unless perhaps Akhmetov is willing to make Timoshenko a very nice offer.

Source: Stratfor

The Real Secret Of Khrushchev's Speech

MOSCOW, Russia -- Many of those who were present recall the "deathly silence" that fell across the hall. It was the evening of February 25 1956. Unexpectedly, delegates at the 20th congress of the Communist party had been ushered into a final, closed session at central committee headquarters in Moscow.

Nikita Khrushchev delivering his "secret speech" denouncing Stalin

When the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, took the tribune and began to speak, some members of the audience fainted. Others clawed their heads in despair. Most could not believe their ears.

Without warning, Khrushchev had launched a fierce attack on his predecessor, the revered Joseph Stalin. The great vozhd (chief) who had guided the country through the second world war and died three years earlier was a "capricious and despotic character", Khrushchev said. In a four-hour indictment he condemned Stalin for creating a personality cult and unleashing "brutal violence" on anyone who stood in his way.

Uttered 50 years ago today, this was Khrushchev's secret speech: a coruscating indictment of Stalinism that would roll out across the world; the beginning of the "thaw" and the end of terror in a country where hundreds of thousands had been shot or sent to the gulags.

In the west, the speech has mostly been interpreted as a brave and moral step that changed the fate of the country. Earlier this month Khrushchev's granddaughter Nina, a lecturer who lives in the US, lauded him in the Washington Post for "outing Stalin as a monster".

Yet in Russia, amid muted celebrations of the anniversary, there is growing evidence that Khrushchev's speech was a cynical ploy to save his skin and that of his party cronies. "Khrushchev was trying to dump all the blame on Stalin when his own hands were drenched in blood," says Yuri Zhukov, a historian from the Russian Academy of Sciences who has studied newly declassified archives on the period.

The re-evaluation comes as critics accuse President Vladimir Putin of leading a drift towards an authoritarianism that resembles the rule of the communist strongmen who dominated the 20th century. New measures have included increased state control over broadcast media and the replacement of elected governors by appointees.

While he is not actively promoted by the Kremlin, Stalin remains hugely popular, with higher approval ratings than Khrushchev. Few politicians dare criticise his legacy despite pleas to do so from victims of his oppression. A survey by the All-Russia Centre for the Study of Public Opinion found that 50% of Russians believe Stalin played a positive role, up from 46% in 2003.

In 1956 Khrushchev's speech was certainly a rent with the past. Stalin, he said, had committed "serious and grave perversions of party principles" and triggered the "cruellest repression" by inventing the concept of the "enemy of the people". In 1937 and 1938, 98 of the 139 members of the central committee had been shot on Stalin's orders, Khrushchev revealed.

Many of the 1,400 people at the congress had only heard innuendo about such events and their shock was real; as was the fury of Stalin's supporters. "My impression was very negative," says Nikolai Baybakov, 94, then head of Gosplan, the Soviet central planning agency, and whose voice is still dark with fury at the insult meted out to his hero. "Yes, negative. Compared to Stalin, Khrushchev was a zero."

No debate was allowed, however, and the delegates went home in awe. Many were sunk in depression; two committed suicide within weeks.

Almost immediately, changes began. Although the full text of the speech was not published in the Soviet Union until the late 80s, excerpts were passed to local party officials and read at meetings. Political prisoners were rehabilitated, the press was given limited freedom and ties were re-established with foreign powers such as France and the US. Khrushchev's political enemies were sidelined, but they escaped the death sentence that would have been automatic under Stalin. Abroad, the speech sparked intense interest after it was leaked by foreign communists. The Observer devoted an entire issue to the 26,000-word text.

But while Khrushchev set unstoppable changes in motion, experts say he concealed his own role in bloody repressions. Only in the past five years has the full extent of his complicity in Stalin's terror become evident.

A telegram discovered in Politburo archives by Mr Zhukov shows that Khrushchev sent a request to Moscow to kill or imprison 30,000 people when he took over the leadership of Ukraine in 1938. A brutal purge of intellectuals and "hostile elements" was soon under way.

The year before, when he was party chief in the Moscow region, documents show Khrushchev asked permission to shoot 8,500 anti-Soviet "traitors" and dispatch almost 33,000 to camps. "These persecutions were real and they were carried out on Khrushchev's orders," Mr Zhukov says.

Dima Bykov, a young Russian intellectual, says Khrushchev was a willing servant of Stalin. "When I was a teacher I explained the 20th congress to my pupils using an analogy: imagine Himmler giving an anti-fascist speech at a Nazi congress after Hitler's death."

The limits of Khrushchev's thaw were evident a few months after the speech when he sent Soviet tanks to crush the Hungarian uprising. And while he allowed Alexander Solzhenitsyn to publish a novel about the gulags, he banned Boris Pasternak's Dr Zhivago for its unsympathetic portrait of the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution.

Nikita Khrushchev, 46, a journalist who was named after his grandfather, admits the Soviet leader was not the hero he is often made out to be. "Of course, grandpa participated in the repressions," he says. "Of course, you can see his signatures on the lists of those to be dealt with. And, of course, many documents have yet to be released from the archives. But the fact that he dared to expose Stalin was his own courageous step. It was a real feat ... It meant he had overcome the Stalinist inside himself."

Mr Bykov says Khrushchev was a brave man who recognised his faults and attempted reform, but lacked the will to smash the system completely. "Khrushchev was half dictator, half liberal," he says. "Putin is just the same. The difference is that in Khrushchev's time the main movement was towards freedom. Now it is backwards. Krushchev initiated freedom. Putin is its graveyard."

Corncob Nikita

· Khrushchev was best known as "corncob Nikita" for his attempts to plant vast tracts of maize

· His Khrushchev's "secret speech" in 1956 took four hours to deliver and the full text - not published in the Soviet Union until 1989 - was 26,000 words long. In it, he said Josef Stalin had "practised brutal violence, not only towards everything which opposed him, but also towards that which seemed, to his capricious and despotic character, contrary to his concepts"

· The speech included details of a furious letter from Vladimir Lenin to Stalin in 1923 in which the former leader accused Stalin of insulting his wife

· Politburo archives show that Khrushchev concealed that he had requested permission to shoot or imprison about 70,000 people himself as a party boss in the late 1930s

Source: Guardian Unlimited

President Visits Bukovel

BUKOVEL, Ukraine -- Oleksandr Shevchenko, Director of Skorzonera, the company that owns Bukovel, told the President the resort would soon host up to thirty thousand tourists.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (2L) with his wife Kateryna (C) son Andriy (2R) daughters Sofia (L) and Khrystyna (R) and son Taras pose at the Bukovel ski resort in western Ukraine.

They plan to build new ski lifts and ski runs. The development of the resort, funded by Ukrainian and foreign investors, will help create nine thousand additional jobs.

Ukrnafta also pledges to boost employment in the region. Its director, Ihor Palytsya, presented a 2006-2015 development plan to the President.

He said the company planned to increase the production of oil and intended to introduce new technologies in order to explore new oil fields. They believe this will help reduce municipal energy prices for the poor.

Mr. Palytsya also said they were going to build more gas stations. At the moment, Ukrnafta owns 588 stations.

Source: President Yushchenko's Website

More Carrot, Less Stick

KIEV, Ukraine -- Last week, a top official from the U.S. Commerce Department came to Ukraine to announce that his country had finally recognized the former Soviet republic as a market economy.

David A. Sampson, the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in Kiev last week

Up until then, Ukraine was vulnerable to various U.S. trade restrictions, which it could not appeal in court with the argument that the country’s economy was market-oriented.

Many of these trade restrictions are still in place by the EU, Russia, the U.S. and other countries as Ukraine is still not a member of the WTO. But now Ukraine has a chance to defend its export rights to the U.S. in court without having to prove it’s a market economy.

We congratulate Ukraine on this accomplishment and welcome everything that it will mean for its dynamic economy. However, much more remains to be done before Ukraine takes the much more important step of becoming a WTO member.

Ukraine has worked hard convincing other WTO member countries one by one to accept it as a member. President Viktor Yushchenko’s administration has been active in pushing much of the necessary legislation through parliament.

The process, however, is certain to continue being painful, as a large portion of the legislature – communists and lawmakers loyal to business interests keen on keeping protection laws in place – continue to block the rostrum whenever WTO-friendly bills are discussed. “Protection of the domestic producer” is their self-serving battle cry. Spoiled by sweet inside deals which gave them monopolistic control over a large share of Ukraine’s economy, they have no desire to face competition, which fuels growth and quality in any open market.

It is probably no coincidence that the factions in parliament which oppose WTO membership often voted in line with Russian interests on issues such as an official status for the Russian language and joining a trade union with Russia.

Moscow, which has urged Ukraine to join the Single Economic Space and hammered its southern neighbor with higher gas prices, also wants to join the WTO, but doesn’t like the idea that Ukraine could get in first. Being first would give either country an enviable advantage over the other: setting conditions for aspiring members. The U.S. Commerce Department seems to be eager to avoid such a conflict by suggesting Ukraine and Russia join simultaneously.

We salute any proposal that would allow Ukraine to join at least as early Russia, which has more than once displayed its desire to pressure Ukraine into becoming more compliant to its interests.

Moving on, the U.S. and EU need to continue rewarding Kyiv’s reform efforts. And the next step for Washington should be Congress’s annulment of the Cold-War era Jackson-Vanik amendment, which authorized trade restrictions intended to pressure the Soviet authorities into letting Jews emigrate.

This goal has long been achieved. The Senate removed Ukraine from the list last November. The bill has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives. If the U.S. is serious about helping Ukraine, be it for geopolitical reasons or honest desire to aid an aspiring democracy, it should ensure that this is accomplished soon.

Source: Kyiv Post Editorial

Friday, February 24, 2006

Top Ukraine Diplomat Says Call For Referendum On Joining NATO Is A "Provocation"

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk on Friday called opposition parties' call for a referendum on whether or not to join NATO a provocation.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk

"Given the political forces proposing the referendum, it looks like an attempt to stage a full-scale national provocation," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying during a trip to the northern city of Chernihiv for public hearings on Ukraine's Euroatlantic integration.

The hearings are part of a state program informing people about the alliance.

President Viktor Yushchenko has made NATO membership a top goal, but many Ukrainians, particularly in the Russian-speaking east, still have a negative attitude toward their former Cold War foe.

Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of the opposition Socialist Democratic Party of Ukraine United and former President Leonid Kuchma's chief of staff, has called for a referendum to let voters decide whether or not Ukraine should join the alliance.

Ukraine's NATO ambitions are strongly supported among the 10 former communist nations that have already joined the alliance. Some other NATO members insist Kyiv must first push through reforms to underpin a fragile democracy, tackle widespread corruption and streamline the outdated Soviet-era military apparatus.

The alliance has said it will help Ukraine push through the necessary reforms, but has dodged questions about when it might offer membership.

Source: AP

The First Nail In The Coffin Of Communism

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Fifty years ago this month, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered to a closed session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union remarks about his predecessor Josef Stalin and the latter's "cult of personality" that have passed into history as "the secret speech."

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev

On the basis of his later comments, Khrushchev appears to have decided to deliver that speech as both a tactical move against his opponents within the Soviet leadership and as a broader effort to enhance the legitimacy of the communist system. But whatever his intentions, his remarks on 24-25 February 1956 had a far broader and deeper set of implications. Indeed, by what he said in that speech and even more by what he left unsaid, Khrushchev, in the words of Anatoly Chubais, drove "the first nail into the coffin" of that system.

Himself one of Stalin's closest lieutenants, Khrushchev [born in Kalinovka, Ukraine] faced an impossible task, even in his own terms. In order to reassure his party comrades that there would be no going back to the arbitrary violence of the past, he had to blame Stalin for all the evils of the system over which the late Soviet dictator had presided for so long without implicating himself and his supporters in those crimes or disowning the accomplishments of the system -- the collectivization of agriculture, the construction of a powerful industrial base, and the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Khrushchev devoted almost all of his speech to the ways in which Stalin arbitrarily and brutally destroyed Lenin's legacy and the cream of the Communist Party, forcing party leaders to confess to crimes they had not committed and then executing them. All of the cases that the party had examined after Stalin's death, Khrushchev said, were found to have been "fabricated," and consequently he and the leadership were moving to "posthumously rehabilitate" them -- perhaps guaranteeing that that term will be as closely linked to Khrushchev as the phrase "enemy of the people" that Khrushchev insisted -- incorrectly -- that Stalin had invented is with him.

Throughout that part of his speech, Khrushchev repeatedly insisted that "Stalin decided everything." But as he documented the crimes of his predecessor -- the torture, the forced confessions to crimes no one had committed, and the killing of so many leading party members -- Khrushchev in 1956 was not able to avoid mentioning those who had been Stalin's henchmen: Khrushchev talks about one official who served Stalin loyally as having "the brain of a bird and being completely degenerate morally," and he describes as especially evil Stalin's secret police chief, Lavrenti Beria.

Khrushchev was obviously aware that some in his audience would be asking themselves just where Khrushchev and other members of the Politburo had been when all this was taking place. And not surprisingly, Khrushchev went to great lengths to address that as-yet unspoken question. Pointing out that Stalin was prepared to kill anyone he suspected of resisting him in any way, Khrushchev suggested that senior officials were thus put in "a difficult position" whenever they in fact disagreed with the dictator.

Another section of the speech was devoted to demolishing Stalin's efforts to promote himself as an equal of Lenin and as a brilliant wartime leader. Neither is accurate, Khrushchev said, and again he provided details about Lenin's now famous testament calling for the party to remove Stalin as party secretary because of his "rudeness," about Stalin's editing of his own biography and that of others concerning the revolution, and his failure to prepare the Soviet Union for the war with Hitler that so many people had warned him of -- and then his disastrous involvement in the planning of military actions.

And in yet a third section of his long speech, Khrushchev detailed Stalin's increasing suspiciousness and capriciousness in the postwar years, a period when members of the Communist Party and the Soviet people expected that their remarkable and heroic efforts in that conflict would be rewarded. But instead of doing that, Stalin dreamed up conspiracies that never were, from the Leningrad Affair to the Doctors' Plot, to justify a return to the kind of repression he had overseen before 1941.

In only two places, however, did Khrushchev even mention the consequences of Stalin's crimes for those other than the party and state elite itself. He did discuss Stalin's baseless and criminal decision at the end of World War II to exile entire peoples from the Caucasus to Central Asia. And he suggested that Stalin's capriciousness had unsettled many Soviet citizens and meant that they worked less effectively for the party and the common cause of building communism.

But those few remarks had the effect of calling attention to what Khrushchev had avoided talking about -- the party's lack of concern for the people in whose name it ruled and its willingness to try to defend its own members regardless of what happened to others. Thus, Khrushchev did not mention the millions of deaths from the Soviet dictator's "terror famine" in Ukraine and elsewhere. He did not talk about the millions of ordinary Soviet citizens who were swept up in the terror of the late 1930s and sent to build the factories in which Khrushchev took such pride. And he did not talk about the destruction of the culture and way of life of all the peoples of the Soviet Union, Russian and non-Russian alike.

Khrushchev was clearly aware at the time of the danger of any broader discussion of the issues he had raised and not raised. At the end of his speech, Khrushchev told his comrades, "We cannot let this matter get out of the party, especially not to the press.... We should not give ammunition to the enemy; we should not wash our dirty linen before their eyes." But within hours of the moment at which his remarks were received with what the transcript describes as "tumultuous applause," Khrushchev's "secret speech" had been leaked to the West and, thanks to the efforts of international broadcasters like Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, and the Voice of America, reached the peoples of the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union in particular.

Their reactions were rather different than those of Khrushchev's fellow party members, and as a result, the man who only a few years later would claim that Communism would "bury" the West had taken the first step on a road that ultimately meant that he, like others who tried to save that system or who now hope to revive it by posing only some questions while ignoring others, is now recognized as one of the most important gravediggers of that system.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Why English Should Be Ukraine's Second Language

KIEV, Ukraine -- On January 29 Dmytro Pavlychko again warned Ukrainians about the threat of Russian becoming the official second language.

At a time when the educated in every country in the world, including China and Russia, are learning English as a second language, because English is the de facto world-language, Ukraine's neo-soviet Russophile politicians threaten to isolate the country from the rest of the world with their Russian language legislation and throw Ukraine back culturally 100 years.

Continued use of Russian for business and in the public sphere would send the message that "capitalism speaks Russian;" it would reinforce Russophile orientations and the notion that Ukrainian is only suitable for domestic use. Russian as a second language would mean educated Ukrainians who want contact with the world would have to learn a third language.

Although the language issue is overshadowed in the domestic media by well-merited concern over poverty and corruption, and foreign neo-liberal commentators ignore cultural issues because they think them irrelevant, the economics and politics of public language-use in Ukraine should not be overlooked as language-use is related to political orientations.

Fifteen years after independence public life, business and the media is still Russian-speaking outside Ukraine's three westernmost provinces. At the beginning of this century, In a country where 20% of the population were Russian speaking Russians, 33% were Russian speaking Ukrainians and 47% were Ukrainian speaking Ukrainians; 10% of Ukraine's annual published book titles, 12% of its magazines, 18% of its TV programs and 35% of its newspapers were in Ukrainian.

The government does not enforce its language legislation. All government employees must speak Ukrainian, but most don't and continued to be paid nonetheless. Whether or not foreign corporations use Ukrainian inside their stores is ignored. MacDonald's does use Ukrainian on its menus. Baskin Robbins does not.

As of 2004, teachers still used Russian in "Ukrainian language" schools, some of which also had separate Russian language classes. Much more than the legally permissible 50% of TV programming is in Russian. The neo-soviet Russophile dominated parliament, for its part, has refused to follow the lead of the Russian government and abolish taxation on domestic publications, thus keeping Russian-language products in Ukraine cheaper than Ukrainian - or English-language products.

The fact that Ukrainian speakers buy fewer books and audio visual products than Russian speakers because they are poorer also plays a role here. Perhaps Ukraine's moguls could produce and sell Ukrainian-language audio-visual products and books for less than Russian- language products and finance a Ukrainian- language mass culture, but they do not seem to have tried.

It is thought that as much as 80% of Ukraine's media is owned either by Russians or Russophile Ukrainian citizens. Sixteen years after independence, however, no one really knows who owns Ukraine's media. In 2006 the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, funded by Soros's Renaissance Foundation, was able to reveal partial information about 10 stations.

Foreign companies, of which 3 are Russian, own all or part of at least 9, individuals unknown own all or part of 3, and one is partly owned by a Russophile Ukrainian oligarch.

Mass-circulation Russian-language dailies like Bulvar, Kievskie vedomosti and Fakty i kommentarii are not merely sympathetic to neo-soviet Russophile politicians. They regularly belittle, ridicule and mock things Ukrainian, and highlight Russian rather than Ukrainian pop- stars, movies and television programs.

Ukrainian-language anti-Russian opinion is limited to low-run fringe publications. Russian popular newspapers and domination of the public sphere, however, does not promote political loyalty to Russia. What it does do is promote Russophile/CES orientations thereby reinforcing the old imperial Russian tie and impeding the creation of new ties with the rest of world -- which speaks English.

Logically, there is no necessary correlation between language-use and loyalties. Scots, Irish, Indians, Americans, Australians, and Canadians, have all expressed their nationalisms in English. Corsicans and Bretons have used French, and Latin Americans have used Spanish. Ianukovych and Ukraine's Communist Party leaders even speak Ukrainian when they must, and use it as a medium for neo imperial/ neo-soviet ideas.

On the other hand, no one can ignore that few of Ukraine's Russian speakers support political reincorporation into Russia and that almost none have emigrated to Russia since 1991. Ukrainian Russian- speakers can be as pro- EU as Ukrainian -speakers, Russian -speaking Ukrainians can be Ukrainian patriots, and Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainian political leaders sooner see themselves as representing a territorial region than a Russian-speaking population.

Russian-speaking Kiev voted overwhelmingly for Yushchenko in 2004 and Russian speakers were as critical of Putin's gas price-rise policy as were Ukrainian speakers. Historically, however, Russian was not a medium for Ukrainian national ideas and today Russian is rarely used to publicly promote Ukrainian national ideas or integration with the EU.

Consequently, to the degree that the correlation between Russian language-use and pro- Russian political/cultural orientations, though not political loyalties, remains high, Russian as Ukraine's second language would reinforce Russophile/CES orientations.

Russian language-use in business and the public-sphere will return Ukrainian to its pre- 1991 status a second-rate medium suitable only for folk-culture and market-place bartering.

Russian language-use, in short, impedes Ukraine's integration with the EU and the rest of the world. Teaching Russian as a second language in Ukraine's schools will isolate it from the rest of the world. Teaching English would not.

Source: The Action Ukraine Report

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ukraine's Crimea Calls Vote On Russian Language

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The parliament in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, a region populated mainly by ethnic Russians, on Wednesday called a referendum on granting official status to the Russian language alongside Ukrainian.

Swallow's Nest Castle, Crimea

But public prosecutors in Crimea said they would contest the move, the subject of heated disputes in the early years of post-Soviet independence, as unconstitutional.

A total of 53 members of the 100-seat parliament in the region, which enjoys self-government, voted to hold the plebiscite alongside Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary election.

The issue of equal status for Russian invariably becomes an election issue as does the state of relations with Russia, a focus of the 2004 "Orange Revolution" mass protests which helped propel liberal Viktor Yushchenko to power.

Opposition parties in the current campaign are demanding equal recognition for Russian while calling for close ties with Russia and opposing the president's call for NATO membership.

Under the post-Soviet constitution, Ukrainian is the sole state language, though the country remains split between its nationalist Ukrainian-speaking west and Russian-speaking east, more sympathetic to Moscow.

"A decision on holding a referendum has no grounding in law as Crimea has no jurisdiction over such issues," said Crimea's chief prosecutor, Viktor Shemchuk.

Crimea, once the playground of the Soviet elite, was under Russian control from the late 18th century until it was handed to Soviet Ukraine as a "gift" by Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, when communism's collapse was unthinkable.

Russian nationalists held power for a time in Crimea in the 1990s, but authorities in Kiev took steps to curtail calls for the peninsula to revert to Russia. Some nationalist politicians in Moscow still demand renewed control over the peninsula.

Independent Ukraine has consistently tried to promote Ukrainian in schools and the work place. But as Ukrainian was subjected to pressure in both communist and tsarist times, many ethnic Ukrainians still speak Russian as their first language.

Source: Reuters

Activists Irate Over Deportation Of Uzbek Refugees

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s decision to deport 10 asylum seekers from Uzbekistan seeking refuge in Crimea has fueled protests in the halls of the United Nations and has human-rights activities crying foul, alleging that due process was violated.

An Uzbek man covers himself with a rug in a refugee camp outside the Kyrgyz village of Barash on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, 40km from Andizhan.

Their deportation also raises concerns that the refugees will face torture back home under the totalitarian regime of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov, who last year used the military to crack down on pro-democracy protests resembling Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

The Uzbek citizens were detained by Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) on Feb. 7 in the Crimean towns of Nizhnygorsk and Belogorsk. They were put on a flight to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, a week later.

Nine of the Uzbeks had already registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as asylum seekers. The other one, according to UNHCR, was intending to register, but Ukrainian officials deported him before they could complete the procedure.

“UNHCR learned about the deportation of the Uzbek asylum seekers from the media,” said Natalia Prokopchuk, the spokeswoman for UNHCR’s Kyiv Office.

“We knew that they had been arrested, and our representatives were holding negotiations with the Security Service of Ukraine.”

Prokopchuk said SBU officials assured the UNHCR that legal procedure would be followed. The next day, the asylum seekers were deported.

SBU spokeswoman Marina Ostapenko said that the deportation was perfectly legal.

The process of obtaining refugee status involves two stages. First, a person applies to Ukraine’s Migration Service. If the migration service denies the asylum seeker, the applicant can appeal against the ruling. While the asylum seeker is waiting for a court decision, he is protected by law from deportation.

But, the Interior Ministry says, the Uzbeks waved their right to appeal the refusal and thus had no right to stay in the country.

Human rights activists disagree.

Alexander Petrov, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, said Ukraine broke at least three international agreements, including the International Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the U.N. Convention against Torture.

“This event will negatively impact the image of Ukraine,” Petrov said. “This means that Ukraine does not abide by its obligations.”

Petrov does not think that the deportations were a mistake, recalling that the last time Ukraine deported opposition politicians back to Uzbekistan was in 1999, during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency.

UNHCR officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Uzbek authorities requested extradition of the asylum seekers because of the latter’s involvement in last May’s Andijan protests, which turned violent when Uzbek police and soldiers allegedly fired on a crowds. Hundreds were allegedly killed.

The [Uzbek] government has denied all responsibility for the killings. It claims the death toll was 173 — including law enforcement officials and civilians killed by so-called attackers. The government claims the attackers were “Islamic extremists,” who initiated “disturbances” in the city.

“Uzbek authorities did everything to hide the truth behind the massacre and have tried to block any independent inquiry into the events,” according New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Home sweet home

An activist with the Uzbek opposition Birlik (Unity) Party, Ismail Dadajanov, denied that the deported asylum seekers had anything to do with Andijan.

“[The charges] are not true,” Dadajanov said.

“Eight of them came to Ukraine six months before the Andijan events,” he added.

Tolib Yakubov, the head of the Society for Human Rights Protection in Uzbekistan, told the Post in a telephone interview that the Uzbek authorities often use the Andijan incident as a pretext to persecute people.

“Many people are trying to flee the country now,” Yakubov said, “and the authorities are branding every one of them as a criminal.”

According to him, the practice is widespread, and most cases are heard behind closed doors. Even the relatives of the defendants are not informed about the outcome of the trial.

Yakubov said that of about 500 members of his organization, seven are currently in prison, all serving terms from between five and seven years.

According to Dadajanov, the SBU actually detained 11 Uzbeks, but one of them, a 29-year-old named Khanzaev, disappeared.

“Our sources in Uzbekistan say that all 10 of them were arrested when they landed in Tashkent,” Dadajanov said adding “we have no idea what happened to Khanzaev. We are afraid that something bad has happened to him.”

Dadajanov ruled out media reports that Khanzaev had managed to avoid deportation, adding that Khanzaev has a heart condition and diabetes.

Unanswered questions

Yakubov said that on behalf of his organization, he personally appealed to the Ukrainian embassy in Uzbekistan to block the extradition of four well-known Uzbek opposition figures. But he didn’t get a response, and weeks later all four were deported to Uzbekistan and are currently in prison.

“They were all sentenced to 15 years imprisonment,” Yakubov said.

“After that I gave up on Ukraine,” he added.

Dadajanov says up to 2,000 Uzbeks have fled their home country and come to Ukraine, but only around 2000 are registered officially. The rest, according to him, are too scared to apply.

“Many questions remain unanswered,” said Ihor Semivolos, Executive Director of Ukraine’s Association for Middle East Studies.

“One of them is why the Uzbeks were deported in such a hurry.”

Semivolos thinks that after the asylum seekers were registered with the Ukrainian authorities, their information was sent to Uzbekistan for verification. The Uzbek security services then opened criminal cases and requested their extradition.

But he doesn’t blame Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko or the authorities in Kyiv.

“This was decided on the level of a certain region, a certain institution, and was due to the historical ties between the security services of the former [Soviet] republics,” Semivolos said.

On Feb. 21, Vasyl Fylypchuk, the head of the press service of the Ministry of Interior, backed the deportations, arguing that the Uzbek nationals had criminal ties.

Uzbek refugees living in Ukraine no longer feel safe here, Dadajanov said adding that they have begun asking UNHCR to find them asylum somewhere else.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukraine Threatens To Take Gas Debt Dispute With Turkmenistan To Court

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine threatened Wednesday to seek international arbitration over a gas dispute with Turkmenistan if the Central Asian country does not observe a deal on gas supplies.

Oleksiy Ivchenko, head of the state-run Naftogaz

"If they intend to talk with us outside the framework of the agreement, we will respond, including going to Stockholm," said Oleksiy Ivchenko, head of the state-run Naftogaz gas company.

He was referring to the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, which is responsible for settling such disputes if both parties agree to its mediation.

Turkmenistan on Sunday accused Ukraine of owing it US$160 million (-134 million) for past gas supplies. Ukraine's Naftogaz countered, however, that Turkmenistan owed Ukraine US$11 million (-9.2 million) because Kyiv had paid for gas it had not received.

Turkmenistan is the second-biggest gas producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia, and is Ukraine's biggest supplier. The country's gas supplies took on a greater importance last month after a bitter dispute between Ukraine and Russia over gas prices.

Under a face-saving agreement, Ukraine agreed to pay nearly double the price for gas by blending Russian gas priced at US$230 (-193) per thousand cubic meters with purchases of much cheaper Turkmen and other Central Asian gas.

The cheaper price was made possible because Ukraine was already locked in a deal to receive about 40 billion cubic meters of Turkmen natural gas this year, with the price set at US$50 (-41) per thousand cubic meters in the first half of the year and US$60 (-50) in the second half.

As part of the Kyiv-Moscow deal, intermediary company RosUkrEnergo took over responsibility for transporting that Turkmen gas to Ukraine and mixing it together with Russian and other supplies for a rate of US$95 (-80) per 1,000 cubic meters.

Ivchenko also said that Turkmenistan had accused Ukraine of being in debt to justify a gas price increase.

"We will not compromise," he said. "We believe there are no grounds to raise the price."

In January, Turkmenistan warned it may seek to nearly double the cost of its gas, sparking concern in Ukraine.

Source: AP

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Orange Camp Coalition Talks Collapse

KIEV, Ukraine -- Coalition talks between two leading political forces that backed President Viktor Yushchenko during last year’s Orange Revolution appeared to have collapsed Feb. 22, after Yushchenko rejected a call by Yulia Tymosheko’s Bloc to ink a coalition agreement she drafted.

Yulia Tymosheko

Days earlier, both sides expressed their eagerness to reach an agreement on the formation of a coalition that would appoint a new government after the March 26 parliamentary election.

Tymoshenko’s camp claimed they would no longer seek a coalition, blaming Yushchenko-loyal blocs of holding secret talks with Regions of Ukraine, led by Viktor Yanukovych, who squared off with Yushchenko in 2004.

Rising tension

On Feb. 21, the political blocs representing Tymoshenko and Yushchenko publicized their own draft versions of an agreement that was purported to bring an end to months of bickering within the so-called Orange camp, which succeeded in lifting Yushchenko to the presidency in the midst of mass protests against election fraud in late 2004.

The political bloc of Tymoshenko, who turned critical of Yushchenko and parties loyal to him after her ouster as prime minister last fall, posted a draft agreement already signed by Tymoshenko on the bloc’s website Feb. 21. Yushchenko, on Feb. 22, criticized Tymoshenko for signing it herself, calling the move a PR stunt.

The Yushchenko-loyal Our Ukraine bloc followed suit, posting its own draft agreement later on Feb. 21.

In both draft agreements, the parties pledged to form a parliamentary majority that would go on to establish a government. Constitutional reforms adopted in the midst of the 2004 Orange Revolution stipulate that a majority formed within the next parliament will select the prime minister and most members of the government, with the president to select the ministers for defense and foreign affairs.

The draft accords of the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko blocs are similar in that they include a condition that yields the coalition member gaining the highest number of votes the right to submit a candidacy for the post of prime minister, and deny other coalition members the right to veto the candidacy.

Current opinion polls show nearly 30 percent voter support for Regions of Ukraine. Our Ukraine trails with almost 20 percent of the electorate. Tymoshenko has 15 percent. About 20 percent of voters remain either undecided or express their intention to vote against all candidates.

Both draft agreements also call for the re-privatization of strategic enterprises “illegally” privatized in the past, a major campaign agenda of Tymoshenko. Some analysts have criticized the former prime minister’s mass privatization reviews, pointing to diminished investor confidence in Ukraine. Lastly, both agreements advocate Ukraine joining the European Union.

The draft agreements differ in several key aspects. Tymoshenko’s draft calls for the controversial natural gas agreement reached this year with Russia to be cancelled. Our Ukraine, whose list is topped by Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov, proposes only improving the gas agreement.

Political analysts have in recent weeks played down the chances of a coalition agreement being reached before Mar. 26.

Political analyst Andriy Yermolaev told the Post on Feb. 22 that if both sides come to an agreement it would be “largely symbolic,” expressing the intentions of the political allies-turned-foes to unite.

Voter approval for Yushchenko and Tymoshenko has dropped since early last year, as supporters became disheartened by internal bickering, which culminated in last fall’s ouster of the government.

Other parties still crucial

Meanwhile the Socialist Party, a key constituent in Yushchenko’s government, is refusing to sign any pre-election coalition accord.

Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told journalists on Feb. 21 that it was naive to sign such agreements ahead of the elections, adding that it only makes sense to bargain after voting, when it becomes clear how many seats in the legislature each political force has mustered.

The Socialists crucially expect about seven percent of votes, making it unlikely that another “Orange” coalition could be formed without their participation.

The bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn currently has almost four percent voter support, just above the three-percent barrier set for entry into parliament. Lytvyn’s bloc is also a potential member of the “Orange” coalition. For that matter, Yanukovych’s Regions of Ukraine could cut a deal with one of the major blocs as well.

Our Ukraine deputy Volodymyr Stretovych has called on other members of the former governing coalition to join for the good of the country.

“Most citizens viewed [last fall’s] split of the ‘Orange’ team as negative,” Stretovych said, adding that a coalition would guarantee Ukraine a solid future.

The Pora-PRP bloc, a tandem of the youthful “Yellow” Pora organization, which played a big part in galvanizing support for the Orange Revolution, and the Yushchenko-loyal Reform and Order Party, called for an agreement to be finalized by Feb. 23.

Political analyst Dmytro Vydrin, a candidate for the Tymoshenko bloc, predicted that a final agreement may never be signed, as Our Ukraine has refused to include key conditions in the agreement, such as the canceling of the gas supply agreement.

Source: Kyiv Post

Confusion Spreads After Tymoshenko’s Move

KIEV, Ukraine -- Confusion spread Tuesday among five groups seeing to form a future government backing President Viktor Yushchenko’s policy after former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko had unilaterally signed an undisclosed alliance agreement.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Five parties that have played a role in catapulting Yushchenko, a pro-Western leader, to the presidency last year, apparently made progress during their two-week talks over the coalition, but no one was sure which agreement had Tymoshenko signed.

“In the morning, a draft agreement has been sent to all leaders of parties holding the talks,” Tetiana Mokridi, the head of information department at Our Ukraine, a pro-Yushchenko group, said Tuesday. “I hope this is the draft that had been signed by Tymoshenko.”

Party leaders have not issued any comments on the agreement. Our Ukraine leaders have been holding a meeting late Tuesday to discuss the latest developments, politicians said.

The talks between Our Ukraine, the Tymoshenko group, the Socialist Party, Pora-PRP and the Kostenko-Pliushch bloc focused on the coalition agreement that would allow the groups to form the government after March 26 general election.

The matter became extremely important after a split of the pro-Yushchenko coalition in September 2005 had helped the Regions Party, a pro-Russian opposition group, to gain leadership in opinion polls ahead of the election.

A massive victory by the Regions Party could slow down Yushchenko’s pro-Western policy and economic reforms, analysts said. But the agreement discussed by the five groups during the past two weeks could prevent this scenario, analysts said.

The draft agreement anticipated that a group, a member of the coalition, gaining most votes at the election would nominate the prime minister, a position that has huge economic and political powers.

Most of the opinion polls indicated that Our Ukraine had been leading other potential coalition partners, suggesting that incumbent Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov could keep the post.

But one of the most controversial issues that could deal a blow to the coalition was Tymoshenko’s criticism of natural gas deal signed between Ukraine and Russia on Jan. 4.

Tymoshenko called on the deal to be cancelled and set this as a precondition for the coalition agreement. The agreement that has been signed by Tymoshenko on Tuesday apparently contained a clause promising canceling of the deal.

Our Ukraine and other likely members of the coalition as of early Tuesday have not supported the cancellation of the deal.

Pora-PRP, a group led by Finance Minister Viktor Pynzenyk, who himself criticized the gas deal, stressed the issue should absolutely not be mentioned in the agreement.

“The Tymoshenko’s statement [on the gas deal] jeopardizes not only the agreement but further democratic development of Ukraine,” Pora-PRP said. “The coalition agreement must not contain any preconditions.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal