Saturday, September 30, 2006

Babi Yar

KIEV, Ukraine -- It is wrenching to insert Babi Yar into any "good news" framework. Yet the fact is that the 65th anniversary of one of the first and bloodiest of World War II's Nazi massacres was commemorated last week as never before in a land which still bristles with anti-Semitism.

A man lays flowers at the monument to the victims of the Nazi massacre of Jews in Ukraine's capital Kiev.

After decades of neglect, indeed for most of the time of willful obscuration, the commemoration was no longer a private Jewish affair but one in which the Ukrainian head of state and dignitaries from the world over - including Israel's president- attended.

That perhaps can be seen as at least an incipiently hopeful sign in a world again given to Holocaust denial and delegitimization of Jewish self-determination.

Perhaps if anything demonstrates more poignantly the need for the Jews to take their fates into their own hands it is that incomprehensible slaughter on the eve of Yom Kippur, 1941.

Kiev's Jews were ordered to report for evacuation, with documents, valuables and even warm clothes and undergarments. The deception was perpetrated to the last, with small groupings led separately to the huge pit prepared in advance.

Driven through a narrow corridor of Nazi Einsatzgruppen executioners with the assistance of local collaborators, they were brutally beaten, commanded to undress and then machine-gunned. In a mere two days of bestiality 33,771 Jews were murdered - more than all the casualties Israel has suffered in all its decades of struggle to survive.

To this day only 10% of Babi Yar's victims have been identified. Worse yet, Ukraine is scarred by many hundreds - perhaps thousands - of mass graves of Jews. Most such sites remain unidentified and unmarked.

This August another mass grave - with the remains of some 2,000 Jews - was discovered near Lvov. Searches for mass graves are conducted privately and even at some risk, without cooperation from the Ukrainian population or authorities.

Babi Yar itself would have been just as forgotten were it not for Yevgeny Yevtushenko's 1961 epic poem. Yevtushenko shamed the Soviets into erecting a monument at the site, though it didn't mention Jews (a commemorative menorah was put up by Jewish groups in 1991).

Previously the Soviets dammed and flooded the ravine with mud and runoffs from nearby quarries. Other eastern European killing fields remain largely out of mind because nobody immortalized them in verse.

Last week's memorial - though well attended by Ukrainian higher-ups - wasn't a local initiative. It was the brainchild of Russian Jewish businessman Moshe Kantor, who was appalled that so few of Babi Yar's neighbors admit to knowing what happened there, that youths play football over the mass grave, nowadays also a picnic ground.

Indeed no major government-sponsored commemoration took place there in the 15 years of Ukrainian independence. Responding to accusations about Ukrainian callousness, President Viktor Yuschenko announced that the massacre site would be turned into "a state historical and cultural reserve, which would include a museum dedicated to the Jewish victims."

This wasn't an easy announcement in a country where it is still de rigueur to equate (if not justify) the Jewish bloodletting with the Stalin-instigated 1932-33 Ukrainian famine.

Anti-Semitism remains ever-virulent in Ukraine. The number of physical attacks on Jews is on the rise, as are anti-Semitic publications. If in 2001 160 anti-Jewish articles saw print, last year's figure rose to 660.

The Holocaust, tragically, put Ukraine and Eastern Europe on the sidelines of existential Jewish concerns. Today Nazism's torchbearers reside closer to home - among them Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who denies the Holocaust, while in the same breath calling for its extension, i.e. wiping Israel off the map. He seeks nuclear firepower to enable him to implement genocidal schemes.

Nevertheless, again the world seems bent on appeasement and apathetic to the danger. Worse yet - Russia, heir to the USSR, now supplies Iran with nuclear reactors.

This is perhaps the time to reflect on what Kantor said moved him to organize the memorial: "The world's thundering silence in Babi Yar's wake crucially emboldened Nazi Germany to push ahead with more atrocities and industrialize mass-murder. The Holocaust was fueled by indifference to Jews."

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Yanukovych Goes After Yushchenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday demanded the sacking of five regional governors loyal to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in a move decried by the pro-Western leader's allies as an attack on his powers.

Yushchenko (L) will regret choosing Yanukovych (R) as Prime Minister

Yanukovych, appointed in August, has engaged in a power struggle with his long-standing rival Yushchenko for a dominant political role in Ukraine.

Constitutional changes, introduced at the height of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution, made the prime minister nearly equal in power to the president.

In just two months, Yanukovych installed his allies to all key posts in financial, energy and economic sectors and poured cold water on Yushchenko's plans to win fast-track entry to NATO.

On Thursday, he took the battle for power to the regions.

A draft document, distributed at a government meeting, demanded the governors of the Poltava, Ternopil, Kharkiv, Kherson and Chernihiv regions -- all of them Yushchenko loyalists -- be sacked for "unsatisfactory solutions to problems that hamper social and economic development of the state."

Hiring and firing governors is the prerogative of the president.

"The political reasons behind such actions are obvious," Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party said. "We see such actions as another attempt of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to overtake the president's powers," it added.

Source: Reuters

Blokhin Has Task To Lift Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Unkraine assistant coach Andriy Bal admits that Oleg Blokhin faces a tough task to lift his players following poor club results in the Champions League.

Coach Oleg Blokhin

Coach Blokhin takes his national side to Italy on 7 October before facing Scotland in Kiev four days later.

And Bal said: "One of the problems is the psychological mood of players whose clubs have had bad results.

"We need to start with a psychological rehabilitiation and restoring the form of players presently in a rut."

Dynamo Kiev suffered a 5-1 hammering by Real Madrid in midweek, while Shakhtar Donetsk were held at home by Olympiakos.

That followed opening Champions League defeats for both clubs.

Bal was talking as Blokhin named a 23-man squad for Euro 2008 Group B double header.

Kiev's Serhiy Rebrov and fellow midfielder Serhiy Tkachenko, of Shakhtar, are out injured.

Arsenal Kiev defender Olexander Romanchuk has received his first call-up.

Source: BBC Sport

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ukraine Defense Minister Denies British Journal Report Kiev Sold Radar System To Iran

KIEV, Ukraine -- The defense minister on Friday denied allegations in a British defense journal that Ukraine sold sophisticated military radar systems to Iran.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko

Jane's Defense Weekly, citing unidentified sources, reported that Ukraine sold an unknown quantity of Kolchuga radar systems to Iran, saying that deliveries were either recent or imminent.

The accusations "will lead to nothing, it's just negative information," Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko said, according to his spokesman, Andriy Lysenko. "I think it's all false."

Earlier, the office of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko also denied the allegations, saying such a sale "didn't happen and wouldn't."

Hrytsenko suggested the allegations were aimed at discrediting Ukraine's military industry, according to Lysenko.

In 2002, the United States accused former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma of approving the sale of Kolchugas to Iraq despite U.N. sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime. Kuchma denied it, and the radar systems were never found in Iraq.

After the Soviet breakup in 1991, Ukraine inherited a sizable weapons industry and it remains a major producer of arms including missiles, aircraft and tanks.

According to Jane's, the Kolchuga is used to detect the takeoff and formation of aircraft groups at distant ranges, and can determine the course and speed of targets.

Citing sources, Jane's said that each system costs about $25 million.

Source: AP

Look Who’s Talking

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych recently visited NATO, the European Commission and Moscow all within the space of one week, sowing widespread doubt about Ukraine’s stated goals of Euro-Atlantic integration and WTO membership.

Yushchenko is loosing power by the day.

The Kremlin must have had trouble restraining its delight.

But it did a good job anyway.

During the Moscow visit, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov noted that the price Gazprom would charge for its blue fuel in the last quarter of this year is still under consideration.

All statements on the issue from the new and previous governments in Kyiv hadn’t even considered that Ukraine would pay more until next year at the earliest.

For its part, the reaction of the pro-Western team of President Viktor Yushchenko was only to mumble feeble assurances of the country’s unchanged course after the fact.

But the former governor of Donetsk didn’t stop there, questioning Yushchenko’s right to issue decrees and continuing to push for more “reforms”, which would effectively cancel Yushchenko’s right to appoint governors.

Following the controversial constitutional amendments that came into effect in January, the president has already lost significant influence to his former foe from the Orange Revolution that brought Yushchenko to power.

Yanukovych and his team from the Donbass control parliament and the cabinet as part of a coalition with two leftist parties that only a few months ago looked destined to breathe their last breath in the halls of power.

Yushchenko spoke a lot during the Orange Revolution, but can’t seem to muster the vocabulary now.

Ukrainians were promised bandits would be put in jail.

Now, at least three prominent political figures who were reported to have fled to Russia to escape justice in Ukraine look unlikely to be further sought by the prosecutor’s office.

Perhaps sentences for former officials would create more instability, and nobody denies that Ukraine needs good relations with Russia, but it’s about time that Yushchenko speak up – and let the country know where it is going.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukraine Picks Yanukovych Over Yushchenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Adults in Ukraine are satisfied with their prime minister, according to a poll by the Ukrainian Institute of Sociology and the Social Monitoring Centre. 50 per cent of respondents have confidence in Party of Regions (PR) leader Viktor Yanukovych.

Yushchenko (L) anf Yanukovych (R)

Conversely, only 37 per cent of respondents feel the same way about Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukrainian voters renewed the Supreme Council on Mar. 26. On Jul. 11, the "anti-crisis" coalition—which includes the PR, the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU)—was formally announced.

On Aug. 4, Yanukovych, who lost in the 2004 presidential election to Yushchenko of the People’s Union-Our Ukraine (NS-NU), was confirmed as prime minister.

Yanukovych and Yushchenko agreed on a 27-point declaration, which contemplates improving Ukraine’s relations with the European Union (EU) and includes a plan to eventually join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Earlier this month, Yushchenko expressed his views on Ukraine’s eventual entry into the EU, saying, "Ukraine is making an effort to fulfil the demands for EU accession candidates and expects a confirmation of its European perspective from Brussels."

EU external relations commissioner declared: "The future is not prejudged, but at this moment clearly there is no membership perspective."

Polling Data

Do you have confidence in prime minister Viktor Yanukovych?

Yes - 50%

No - 43%

Do you have confidence in president Viktor Yushchenko?

Yes - 37%

No - 55%

Source: Ukrainian Institute of Sociology / Social Monitoring Centre. Interviews with 2,000 Ukrainian adults, conducted in mid-September 2006. No margin of error was provided.

Source: Angus Reid

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ukraine: Naftogaz On Verge of Bankruptcy

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych warned Thursday that the state-owned gas company Naftogaz is on the verge of bankruptcy, blaming earlier bad management.

Yanukovych said that Naftogaz could lose about $1.5 billion this year.

"As a result of extraordinary financial obligations and a year-and-a-half of criminal management, this company appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy," Yanukovych said during his Cabinet meeting.

Naftogaz is the state-owned company responsible for supplying Ukraine's residential and industrial consumers with gas.

Company officials were not immediately available for a comment.

Ukraine saw a nearly twofold increase in the price of gas imports in January after a bitter dispute with its main supplier Russia.

The countries reached a deal under which Ukraine would receive all of its imported natural gas from a little-known intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo, that is owned jointly by Gazprom and two Ukrainian businessmen.

As part of the deal, Naftogaz and RosukrEnergo created a joint venture to sell gas to Ukraine's industrial consumers; earlier, this market belonged to Naftogaz.

Yanukovych's party won the most votes in March parliamentary elections, and Yushchenko last month gave in to pressure to submit his nomination as premier to the legislature, which approved it.

Naftogaz previously was headed by an ally of Yushchenko, but the company's head resigned before Yanukovych became premier.

Source: AP

Chornobyl Shelter Put Off Again

KIEV, Ukraine -- The construction of a long-awaited confinement arch over the Chornobyl nuclear plant’s infamous No. 4 reactor, which exploded in the 1986 accident, is once again hanging in the air, following the plant management’s cancellation of a seemingly never-ending tender to select a contractor.

Chornobyl No. 4 reactor

According to an announcement published on the plant’s website, Chornobyl director Ihor Hramotkin decided on Sept. 14 to “annul the tender and reject all bids on a new, safe confinement project.”

In an awkward attempt at damage control, the Emergencies Ministry promptly suspended Hramotkin’s decision, while Deputy Prime Minister for Fuel and Energy Andriy Kliuev declared “mutual understanding” with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is serving as the financial administrator for the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).

Back in May of this year, Valeriy Kulishenko, the station’s chief engineer in charge of the SIP, told the Post that the tender winner of the tender had been selected in March. But, according to him, the other finalist in the bidding was appealing against the tender result, thereby preventing the signing of a contract that could be worth up to $1 billion in total.

The two finalists in the drawn out tender, which was announced in March 2004, were Novarca, a European-Ukrainian joint venture under the management of France’s Vinchi Group, and a United States-Ukrainian consortium under the management of U.S.-based CH2M Hill, according to the Chornobyl plant’s website.

According to Kulishenko, even though the winner was selected, the name of the company was never made public because of the pending appeal of the loser.

Both the EBRD and CH2M Hill told the Post last May that they couldn’t confirm whether or not a winner of the tender had been selected or not.

Oddly, despite the fact that Hramotkin had announced the cancellation of the tender on Sept. 14, his statement was not made public until Sept. 18, after Kliuev’s affirmations that all was well.

On Sept. 18, Kliuev’s press service released a statement on the results of a Ukraine-EBRD Joint Commission meeting in which the status of the shelter construction tender was discussed between Kliuev and EBRD Vice President Fabrizio Saccomanni.

“There are no problem issues in the relationships with the EBRD … mutual understanding has been reached on all issues,” reads the Sept. 18 statement.

Shortly after this annoucement, the Emergencies Ministry published its own statement. “Given that this news might spark controversy, a government commission will be created to study the reasons and motives for [Hramotkin] making this decision, which will give its conclusions and recommendations for further steps. [Hramotkin] took personal responsibility for his decision to cancel the tender,” the ministry said. However, it added that Hramotkin had the right to cancel the tender “as the contract awarding party, in accordance with legislation.”

Then, a few days later, on Sept. 22, the ministry released a statement (dated Sept. 15) on the suspension of Hramotkin’s decision.

“In order to study the reasons and basis for the decision of the Chornobyl Plant to cancel the tender for drafting, constructing and launching of the new safe confinement, the general director Hramotkin is to suspend it ... and report on it in person to the ministry,” reads the Emergency Ministry statement.

Ihor Storozhuk, Kliuev’s spokesperson, told the Post on Sept. 20 that the statement released by their press service claiming “mutual understanding on all the issues” should be considered the government’s official position.

Axel Reiserer, spokesman for the EBRD’s London office told the Post on Sept. 19 that the EBRD was planning to call a project donor assembly as early as October to announce the winner.

EBRD President Jean Lemierre is scheduled to visit Kyiv next week.

To date, around $1 billion has been allocated for the Shelter project by 23 countries, with the United States and EU being the largest donors.

The company that wins the tender would be responsible for assembling and mounting a giant 100-meter-high, 150-meter-long and 250-meter-wide arch to cover the plant’s notorious No. 4 Reactor, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. Originally, the winner was to be selected by the end of 2004.

According to information provided by the Emergencies Ministry, more than 330 million euros ($418 million) of the project’s funds had already been spent ahead of the tender’s closure. This amount, the ministry said, includes nearly 90 million euros ($114 million) in consulting fees.

Both CH2M’s Colorado headquarters and Hramotkin were unavailable for comment.

Source: Kyiv Post

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

GUAM Police Plan To Replace Russian Peacekeepers

MOSCOW, Russia -- The foreign ministers of the GUAM nations – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – have agreed to set up their own police force that is to replace the Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zones of the CIS.

Russian peacekeeper in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia

Simultaneously, the pro-Western GUAM states are lobbying the United Nations to pass an anti-Russian resolution. Kommersant has learned that the no-holds-barred offensive against Russia is related to worries that Russia is about to recognize the breakaway republics.

Military Council

The meeting of the GUAM foreign ministers took place Monday in New York during the 61st General Assembly. They met to discuss the progress of settlement of the frozen conflicts in the CIS. It is notable that, although Russia is involved in the Abkhazian, South Ossetian, Nagorny Karabakh and Transdniestrian conflicts as a guarantor of peace, no Russian representatives were invited to the meeting. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer was present, however.

After a short consultation under the observation of Kramer, the ministers unanimously decided that police peacekeeping forces from the GUAM states should replace the Russian peacekeepers in conflict zones on the territories of Georgia and Moldova. In particular, as the Georgian foreign minister elucidated, an agreement was reached that GUAM peacekeepers should participate in peacekeeping operations in the zones of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts.

Implementing the agreement has been postponed indefinitely, however. The decision to establish GUAM peacekeeping forces was made only in May of this year and the quartet of countries has yet to form the joint police force.

The ministers also conciliated a strategic plan for joint activities “to expand international support in issues of peaceful settlement of drawn-out conflicts on the territories of GUAM countries.”

The main goal of the plan was for a resolution to be passed at the current General Assembly session on the frozen conflicts. “The issue of the conflicts was placed on the agenda of the session and it is logical that some document reflecting the position of the international community would be passed after the discussion,” Moldovan Minister of Reintegration Vasile Sova told Kommersant. “Enormous efforts are now being made to get the settlement process moving. International support is needed for it too.”

GUAM's desire to rid itself of Russian peacekeepers and set a firm course toward the internationalization of the conflict regions means that the group is extremely dissatisfied with Russia's behavior in settling the crises. The decision of the GUAM foreign ministers in New York is one more step to reduce Moscow's role as much as possible in the negotiations processes of conflict settlement in those countries.

Coming on Strong

It is no coincidence that the GUAM decision has been times to the UN General Assembly session. The current session has great meaning for that quartet of countries. GUAM put up a unified front against Russia even before the session began and has already scored important victories. In spite of Russia's active resistance, GUAM lobbied successfully to have the issue of the frozen conflicts placed on the session's agenda.

The UN general committee first refused Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova's request to place the issue on the agenda. However, once they received the support of the United States and Great Britain, GUAM got the decision it wanted by one vote. The results of the vote show the tension of the fight.

Sixteen countries supported the GUAM proposal, 15 opposed, 65 abstained and about 100 were simply absent from the voting.

Novruz Mamedov, head of international relations for the Azerbaijani presidential administration, told about the diplomatic skirmishes behind the scenes at The UN. “First Russian and Armenia had the issue rejected,” he recalled. “But finally the bureau couldn't help paying attention to the insistence and pressure from the GUAM countries, and then the issue was put to a vote again… We regret that Russia has again taken such a position. It makes us think certain things.”

The placement of the issue of the conflicts on the UN session agenda was Russia's first defeat, since it was an acknowledgment of the ineffectiveness of the Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zones.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili continued the offensive against Moscow. Inspired by a NATO decision to begin an “intensive dialog” with Tbilisi, he accused Russia of the “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the podium of the UN. “Those regions,” he said, “were annexed by our neighbor to the north, Russia, which supports their inclusion as part of it, intentionally making a mass issuance of Russian passports in violation of international law…

The residents of the disputed regions live under the bandit occupation of Russia. I doubt that anyone in this auditorium would tolerate such interference on their land.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk could not resist a jab of his own against Russia. “Ukraine will reject any attempt to draw parallels between the problem of Kosovo and the unsettled conflicts on the territory of the GUAM countries,” he said, joining the polemic against Moscow, which insists that, if Kosovo is given independence, the regional conflicts in the CIS should be settled the same way.

Preemptive Strike

Moscow, having suffered a number of delicate setbacks, prefers to pretend that GUAM's successes do not upset it. Commenting on the inclusion of the frozen conflicts in the former USSR on the agenda of the 61st General Assembly session, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that it was not evidence of the UN's interest in the problem, since on 16 states voted for it, while the rest were either against it or abstaining.

The meeting of the GUAM foreign ministers did not go uncommented on either. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov said of it that “Georgia is trying to take advantage of the military potential of GUAM to replace Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The presence of additional forces on the territory of Georgia allows it to flex its muscles anytime it feels like it, as it did recently in the Kodor Gorge, and it gives it the opportunity to take advantage of them as an additional card to play in the standoff with Sukhumi and Tskhinvali.”

Ivanov made it clear that they are ready for that in Moscow. “Russia supports a settlement of the existing conflicts only through political methods and it will find adequate measures to prevent the development of a situation in that scenario,” he warned.

Moscow's patronage of the unrecognized republics is the cause of the GUAM countries aggressive rhetoric. Moldova and Georgia, which are dealing with the separatism, are seriously concerned that Russia will be able to gain recognition for the regions that reject them.

A referendum has already been held in Transdniestria in which 97 percent of the residents voted for independence and subsequent unification with Russia. South Ossetia will hold an analogical plebiscite in November. A source in the Moldovan government admitted to Kommersant that the current GUAM offensive could be considered a preemptive strike.

There have been fears in Chisinau recently that Moscow will begin procedures to recognize Transdniestria based on the results of the referendum. “Moscow's strategic goal,” the source said, “is to change the political course of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. They want those countries to coordinate all of their foreign policy steps with Russia.

That is how the Kremlin defines its influence in the former Soviet Union. They need to direct a friendly chorus of voices in the post-Soviet republics and force them to share their point of view. The frozen conflicts are an influence factor.

Source: Kommersant

Steven Spielberg Heads To Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine -- American director and producer Steven Spielberg is set to arrive in Kyiv October 18 to attend a screening of Sergey Bukovskiy’s documentary on the Holocaust in Ukraine, “Call Your Name.”

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg co-produced the movie together with Ukrainian businessman Viktor Pinchuk. The film was based on over 3000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses collected in Ukraine by the American Shoah Foundation, which Steven Spielberg founded.

The movie creators hope that the documentary evidence shown in the film will allow the viewer to conceive the scale of the tragedy experienced by Jewish people during the Second World War.

However, the movie “Call My Name,” to appear in local theatres in October, will be the first Ukrainian documentary ever to be widely released here and, therefore, it’s still unclear, even to the film’s distributors, whether the film will appeal to local audiences who mainly attend movies for entertainment’s sake.

But all that aside, it will be good to have Mr Spielberg here.

After all, with the exception of Milla Jovovich, who just happens to have been born in Kyiv, Hollywood stars hardly ever find their way to Ukraine’s capital.

It’s understandable of course – what is there for them to do here anyway?

However, those standing behind the camera – European, and sometimes American directors – do come to Kyiv from time to time to help open a festival or engage in some project.

But among them it seldom happens that a personality such as Steven Spielberg – one of the few directors known by sight worldwide graces Kyiv with his presence.

I mean, perhaps not every local viewer has seen “Schindler’s List” or even “Saving Private Ryan,” but who doesn’t know “Indiana Jones,” “Jurassic Park” or “E.T.”?

As well as their creator – the guy with a beard, glasses and a baseball cap?

Indeed, Mr Spielberg, you are very welcome!

Source: Kyiv Post

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Russia's Neighbors Splitting Gas into Atoms

MOSCOW, Russia -- The countries of the CIS are beginning a campaign to eliminate their dependence on gas from Russia. Ukraine's new energy strategy anticipates decreasing gas imports by 16.4% before 2010.

The country's increasing energy needs will be met by nuclear power stations. Almost simultaneously, Belarus declared its intentions to wean itself off gas in favor of nuclear energy.

Ukraine is expected close a deal this week with Gazprom concerning gas prices for 2007, even while the country's government is exploring ways to decrease its dependence on Russian gas.

The plan worked out by Ukraine's Energy Ministry calls for a decrease in the country's gas consumption to 71 billion cubic meters by 2009 (78 billion will be used in 2006) and for a decrease in supplies from Russia from 58 billion to 48.5 billion cubic meters.

For 2030, target gas consumption is 50 billion cubic meters, of which 30 billion are supposed to come from either within the country or from sources abroad – excluding Russia.

Ukraine is already exploring its options abroad. For example, Ukrnafta will soon be assessing and developing gas and oil fields in Libya.

To help compensate for decreased dependence on Russian gas, the country also plans to increase its generation of nuclear power to 101.2 billion kW by 2010. Ukraine's current energy production is 210.2 billion kW•hours.

The Energy Ministry's plan calls for the working lives of Ukraine's existing reactors to be prolonged by 12-15 years and for new reactors to be built after 2014 in cooperation with the American company Westinghouse Electric, which will be providing experimental fuel for the reactors.

If the experiments are successful, the Ukrainian company Energoatom will have a source of reactor fuel that is completely independent of Russia.

The idea of exchanging gas energy for nuclear energy is gaining popularity among the countries of the CIS. Belarus, whose reliance on Russian gas is almost total, is already deciding on the location where a nuclear plant will be built.

If the plan is realized, by 2010 the country will get a third of its energy from nuclear sources. Meanwhile, Georgia is following a different path: the country is anticipating the completion of a pipeline supplying gas from Azerbaijan and, possibly, Iran.

Thus, even as EU officials investigate whether Gazprom has the resources necessary to provide for Europe's gas needs, the countries of the CIS are taking a different route to energy security by turning to sources that are not associated with Russia.

Source: Kommersant

Ukraine To Mark Anniversary Of Babi Yar

KIEV, Ukraine -- When the notices went up in Kiev ordering the Jews to gather on the corner of Melnyka and Dokterivska streets by 8 a.m., they assumed the Nazis were shipping them to a ghetto.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, second left, and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, left, visit the exhibition marking the 65th anniversary of the Nazi massacre at Babi Yar

Some even arrived early for a good seat on the train. There were no trains. What met the Jews that morning was death in a ravine called Babi Yar.

The mass murder on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital 65 years ago Friday has made the name Babi Yar infamous and has come to be seen as foreshadowing the gas chambers and crematoria of the Final Solution.

Forced to undress, the Jews were herded in groups _ men, women and children _ to the edge of a ravine. For 48 hours, the Nazis gunned down the crowd until at least 33,771 Jews _ the number recorded by the German executioners _ were dead.

The bodies that toppled down the embankment would be joined in the ensuing months by at least another 70,000 dead: Jews, Soviet POWs, other Kievans.

"Time can heal wounds, but it should not erase them from our memories," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said as he launched two days of commemorations attended by Israeli President Moshe Katsav and 1,000 guests representing 41 countries.

"Not only bodies were buried at Babi Yar, but also hopes, dreams and expectations," said Yushchenko, whose father, a Red Army soldier, was prisoner No. 11365 at Auschwitz.

Ukraine was a Soviet republic when the Germans invaded in 1941. It became independent with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, and hopes the Babi Yar commemoration will show the world that it has completely shaken off the Soviet-enforced silence that clung to the tragedy for decades.

The commemorations began Tuesday with the opening of an exhibit entitled "Forewarning the Future," featuring photos of naked and twisted bodies stacked together at Babi Yar. They continue Wednesday at the ravine.

The commemorations come as Ukraine's Jewish community worries about the sale of anti-Semitic books and newspapers in the capital and a series of attacks on Jews near a synagogue last year.

Before World War II about 175,000 of Kiev's 875,000 people were Jewish. Today official figures say there are 103,000 Jews in all of Ukraine, although the Jewish community says the number is several times higher.

"Every Ukrainian city has its own Babi Yar," said Roman Levith, 73, who survived because his mother managed to get new passports with Ukrainian-sounding last names that fooled the Nazis. Six of his relatives died.

"I survived only because I don't look like a Jew," said Oleksiy Volikov, 72, who witnessed the Babi Yar executions firsthand as a boy of 7. "People's bodies were thrown into the pit like dead chickens."

Valentyna Sukalo, 82, cried as she recalled the Jews passing her house on the way to Babi Yar. "They were scared, some begged my mother to take their baby," Sukalo said, her eyes filling with tears. "We had to say no. We were already hiding one Jewish family _ a mother and daughter. There wasn't room. All we could do was say goodbye."

The exact number killed was never known; as the Red Army approached two years later, Jewish prisoners were ordered to dig up the bodies and burn them.

For years, the atrocity went officially unmarked, while an expanding Kiev grew around the ravine.

Then, in 1961, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko drew international attention to the massacre with "Babi Yar:"

"... Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,

"The trees look sternly, as if passing judgment.

"Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,

"I feel my hair changing shade to gray ..."

Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich set it to music in his Symphony No. 13. Soviet authorities tried to suppress the poem and the symphony, then offered a half-measure: a towering bronze monument at Babi Yar that made no mention of Jews.

Only in 1991, with Soviet rule coming to an end, was the Jewish community allowed to raise a 10-foot menorah at the ravine.

Today, the place where tens of thousands of bodies once lay is part of a popular tree-lined park, but still has the air of a forgotten monument. Boys play soccer there, and young couples slip past the hedges to stretch out on the carefully cut grass in the ravine.

Source: AP

Six Ways For Yanukovych And Allies To Circumvent Yuschenko On Foreign Policy

KIEV, Ukraine -- The accustomed division of prerogatives in Ukraine, whereby the president handles foreign policy while the prime minister oversees the economy, is no longer operational.

Viktor Yanukovych

The constitutional reform has shifted the balance of power in prime minister’s favor. By turning down a NATO-Ukraine Membership Action Plan, and receiving the support of parliament and government against the president over this issue, Viktor Yanukovych has just demonstrated that the prime minister can and will conduct foreign policy in a hands-on style.

President Viktor Yushchenko’s team seemed not to recognize this new reality when it opted for a governing arrangement with Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. The presidency continued describing its authority to conduct foreign policy as the holy of holies of presidential powers.

However, it now seems unable to defend that authority in practice from the prime minister’s and parliamentary majority’s far-reaching forays.

Following the Cabinet and Rada resolutions in his favor, Yanukovych felt emboldened enough to tell foreign journalists in Kyiv, “Viktor Andriyovich’s [Yushchenko] wishes sometimes exceed his possibilities”.

He also cautioned the presidentially appointed ministers of defense and foreign affairs to “act more correctly,” stop mounting the “political tribunes,” coordinate their positions with him and the government, and limit themselves to expressing consensus views when going public.

Yanukovych tersely ruled out Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko’s suggestion to implement MAP reforms de facto, without a formal MAP, on the basis of presidential authority. “That can’t be and won’t be,” Yanukovych retorted, warning that he would impose “strict discipline” in that regard.

The beleaguered presidency now seems to realize that the vaguely worded National Unity Declaration -- ostensibly the basis of the governing coalition -- is no defense against Yanukovych’s and Regions’ expansion of power.

Blindsided by Yanukovych’s move in Brussels, Yushchenko initially issued a “first political warning” to the prime minister, which the latter demonstratively ignored. The presidency then considered calling a special meeting of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) to reaffirm Yushchenko’s supreme authority on foreign and defense policies and to instruct all branches of power to follow the presidential line.

Moreover, a statement by Viktor Baloha, newly appointed head of the Presidential Secretariat, rebuffed the Rada’s resolution as “provocative,” “confrontational,” and encroaching on the president’s prerogatives. However, the presidency was quick to retreat from a confrontation.

The NSDC’s session, held on September 20, introduced a note of realism to the presidency’s discourse on NATO membership and Yushchenko “would not like Ukraine to be drawn into senseless discussions about NATO membership, as the issue is not on the agenda at this stage,” he told the country after the session.

The president redefined the issue as involving a determination of whether Ukraine will be ready for MAP in a follow-up stage of cooperation with NATO. The pro-NATO ministers of foreign affairs and defense, Borys Tarasyuk and Anatoliy Hrytsenko, have fallen back on the position that Yanukovych’s renunciation of Ukraine’s MAP has no long-term consequences, but only slowed down Ukraine’s advance toward NATO for the short term.

However, the presidency’s would-be coalition partners have quickly found mechanisms to offset or bypass the president’s formal authority over foreign policy. On the legal side, these mechanisms include: the hitherto overlooked constitutional Article 85, paragraph 5; the prime minister’s responsibility to a newly empowered parliament; his ability to demand cabinet discipline; and the parliament’s ability to raise legislative obstacles to Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership.

On the extralegal side, the method just seen consists of ignoring or even excluding pro-NATO ministers from key deliberations and delegations. Not used or tested as yet is the circumvention of presidential policy by under financing military reforms (although public information funding is already threatened). This can be applied even in the absence of rhetorical opposition to NATO.

Thus, the debate needs to be substantially recast with account taken of the shift of political power in the country. It must begin by recognizing that MAP was no longer available to Ukraine this year after the thwarting of joint military exercises in early summer, the formation of the Ukrainian government in its present form, and the full if belated realization of NATO’s low popularity rating in Ukraine.

Ultimately -- as Bruce Jackson, president of the U.S.-based Project on Transitional Democracies, points out -- Yanukovych’s stance in Brussels could not have been different and becomes in that way comprehensible.

The situation underscores the need to change perceptions in Ukraine’s public opinion and, equally, to work patiently with the Party of Regions leadership, educating it to a better understanding of law-based governance and national interests.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

European Union Steps Up Investments In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- As of July 1, 2006, the volume of direct foreign investments in Ukraine from European Union countries amounted to 13,544.5 billion USD (10,678.24 Euro) or 73.7 percent of the general volume of investments.

During the similar period of 2005 the amount of direct foreign investments reached 4,967.9 bn. USD, reports Trend.

According to the State Statistics Committee of Ukraine, finances, metallurgy and metal processing, whole-sale and trade intermediary services, immovable operations, food industry and agricultural product processing were the most attractive spheres for EU investors, Cabinet's press office reported.

Main investor-countries, which invested 86.1 percent of the EU investments were reported as follows: Germany (5,503.2 bn. USD, 40.6%), Cyprus (2,42.9 bn. USD, 15.1%), Austria (1,506.3 bn. USD, 11.1%), Great Britain (1,435.5 bn. USD. 10,6%) and the Netherlands (1,178.6 bn. USD, 8.7%).

Ukraine's investments to the EU reached 61.1 mln USD, or 26.7 percent of the general amount of Ukrainian investments. Most of investments were directed to Poland (22.1 mln USD, 32.6%), Great Britain (13.9 mln USD, 22.7%), Spain (13.8 mln USD, 22.6%) and Latvia (3.3 mln USD, 5.5%).

The general sum of direct foreign investments to Ukraine, as of July 1, 2006, was 18.3 billion USD.

Source: Trend

Monday, September 25, 2006

U.S. Supports Bid By Ukraine For NATO Membership

NEW YORK, NY -- The United States told Ukraine on Sept. 25 it would back an application by the former Soviet republic to join NATO, even though the country’s new prime minister has put membership of the alliance on hold.

Condoleezza Rice (L) and Borys Tarasyuk (R)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed possible NATO membership with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

"She reiterated that the U.S. supports Ukraine’s integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions," said a senior State Department official after the meeting, referring to potential membership of NATO.

"The pace of that evolving relationship will depend on continued reforms in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government’s comfort with the pace of that evolving relationship," added the official.

Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich told NATO this month his government was putting on hold its aspirations to join the alliance because of public opposition and to preserve relations with Russia.

A day later, reformist President Victor Yushchenko said that decision was wrong and should be reversed.

Yushchenko, who came to power in the Orange Revolution after defeating Yanukovich in a flawed 2004 election, sees Ukraine’s future as being entwined with Europe and the West.

Yanukovich wants to orientate the country more towards Moscow.

Local polls show low support for NATO membership in Ukraine, where many people remember Soviet-era campaigns against the alliance. One recent survey put support at less than 20 percent.

The State Department official said Rice had made clear that the United States was ready to work closely with Ukraine’s new democratically elected government and discussed the possibility of a visit to Ukraine.

Source: Reuters

Ukraine Is Alleged Of Selling Kolchuga To Iran

KIEV, Ukraine -- Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on Monday Ukraine had sold Kolchuga radio intelligence complexes to Iran. According, to British experts, such acquirement equipment has been aimed at reinforcement of Iran’s antiaircraft defence in the light of the nuclear program.

Kolchuga Station

The Kolchuga is intended to detect the take-off and formation of aircraft groups at ranges beyond those of existing radar, as well as determine the course and speed of targets while designating them for air-defence systems.

It can identify aerial targets through their emissions and identify the mode of aircraft weapon control systems.

Three Kolchuga stations would normally operate along with a command vehicle to provide accurate triangulation on a target. The system is claimed to have a range of 600 km (narrow beam) or 200 km (wide beam) along a front of 1,000 km.

It is not known how many Kolchuga stations Iran has acquired. However, sources told Jane's that each costs about USD25 million, with deliveries either recent or imminent.

It is not the first time when Ukraine is alleged in selling of Kolchuga. In 2001-2002 the country was alleged in illegal sale of this intelligence complex to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

It was the most serious scandal in the history of the independent Ukraine. Along with Gongadze’s case, it led to the international isolation of Ex-President Leonid Kuchma.

However, having launched military operation in Iraq, the US admitted that it was false allegations against Ukraine. None of such complexes was found in the territory of Iraq, the US proved.

“The USA does not raise issues related to Kolchuga within the context of its relations with Ukraine anymore,” said the US Ex-Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst in November 2003.

Source: Forum

Ukraine Prepares To Commemorate Nazi Massacre In Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine will commemorate on Wednesday the anniversary of a massacre at Babi Yar, a grassy ravine in Kiev where Nazi forces killed 34,000 Jews in two days 65 years ago.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose father was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, will host Israeli President Moshe Katzav, as well as his Croatian and Montenegrin counterparts.

Thirty foreign delegations, including from Moscow and Washington, are expected to attend the event and an exhibition about the tragedy that is set to open on Tuesday.

The commemoration ceremonies are to start by the monument to the memory of the victims of the Babi Yar (Woman’s Ravine) massacres on Wednesday -- to be followed later in the day by an international forum entitled ‘Let My People Go.’

The forum on xenophobia and anti-Semitism is being organised jointly by Ukrainian authorities, the World Holocaust Forum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

‘The Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere, it formed gradually. It’s only by examining closely the microbes called anti-Semitism that we can understand where they come from,’ said Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress.

The massacres at Babi Yar were on a scale that defies comprehension.

Nearly 34,000 Jews, many of them elderly, women and children, were forced to gather at Babi Yar by German troops just days after the Nazi invasion. They were shot along the ravine’s edge on September 29 and 30, 1941.

Some 800,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed in the war.

Ukraine today has around 500,000 Jews -- the fourth largest Jewish population in the world after Israel, Russia and the United States.

The ravine continued to be used for executions and up to 60,000 more people -- Jews, Roma, resistance fighters and Soviet prisoners of war -- were killed there until 1943.

Before retreating from the advancing Red Army in 1943, Nazi troops exhumed and burned the corpses at Babi Yar in a last-ditch bid to hide the atrocities committed there.

But the secrets of Babi Yar became part of the accusations against senior Nazi officials at the Nuremberg trials and a monument was erected in Soviet times to the memory of the victims.

Soviet authorities, however, sought to play down the sensitive Jewish component of the history of Babi Yar. Anniversary gatherings were banned at the site and there was an attempt to build a stadium there in the 1960s.

In 1991, the Jewish community erected a menorah-shaped sculpture nearby.

Source: Khaleej Times

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ukraine, New Cabinet In Parallel

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko intends to form a new government working in parallel to the cabinet of Victor Yanukovich hoping to take the reins of the Executive, press media commented on Sunday.

Yulia Timoshenko

According to Timoshenko´s plans, the ministers appointed by the opposition political bloc will make the reserve of the future Executive, revealed the online newspaper.

Officials in charge of the ministries will be the same as those holding the seats of an authentic ministerial cabinet, assured Timoshenko confident on the prompt triumph.

Referring to the realization of her plans, she said that the "shadow government" could come into fruition after the Our Ukraine pro-governmental bloc headed by Victor Yushenko decides whether it joins the illegal adventure or not.

The paper recalls that after the fission of the "orange coalition", precisely with Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party to constitute the parliamentary majority, Timoshenko lost the opportunity to recover the coveted seat of prime minister.

She does not want to participate in the anti-crisis alliance led by Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich either as she considers him her very first political enemy.

Source: Prensa Latina

EU Welcomes Ukrainian PM's Pledge To Seek Closer Ties

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union appeared to push any misgivings about Ukraine's new prime minister into the background Thursday and gave a warm welcome to Viktor Yanukovych's pledge to reform the economy and fight corruption.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych answers reporters' questions at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels September 21, 2006.

"I believe we are going to have a very good working relationship," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Yanukovych as the Ukrainian wrapped up his second visit to EU headquarters in eight days.

Yanukovych has enjoyed a political rebirth this year in elections that brought him to power less than two years after his fraud-marred attempt to win the Ukrainian presidency in 2004 sparked the Orange Revolution protests.

Back then, many in the west viewed the Russian-supported Yanukovych with suspicion and welcomed his ultimate defeat by his pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko.

Now he's back at the head of a coalition government, Yanukovych says he wants Ukraine to be a bridge between Russia and the EU. Ukraine, he says, seeks closer political cooperation with the EU, a free-trade zone and eventual membership of the Union.

While the EU views Ukraine's membership as a step too far in its eastward expansion, it is encouraged by Yanukovych's pro-Western statements.

Asked by a reporter to assess the potential for cooperation with Yanukovych after their first meeting, Barroso gave an upbeat reply.

"What matters is not if it's party A or party B, or personality A or personality B. What is important is the commitment to our common values of democracy, rule of law and open economies," he said. "I'm very happy that the new government has stated the commitment of Ukraine to political and economic reform and its attachment to European values."

Yanukovych restated that EU membership remains a "strategic goal" for Ukraine, but acknowledged the former-Soviet republic of 47 million faces a "difficult road" to gain membership. Barroso said the EU would support economic and political reforms designed to bring Ukraine closer to the EU and improve living standards.

He also gave the EU's backing for Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organization, a step Yanukovych hopes will lead to the negotiation of a free trade zone with the 25-nation bloc.

The EU has no plans to offer Kiev membership and instead suggests an agreement to cement closer economic and political ties, including free trade. "Our objective is to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union," Barroso said.

Yanukovych said Ukraine had no plans to sign up to a customs union with Russia - a move which the EU has warned would hurt its chances of setting up a free trade zone with the European Union.

Although he has maintained a pro-EU line, Yanukovych upset President Yushchenko and some ministers in his own government last week when he told NATO that Ukraine was putting its bid to join the Western military alliance on hold because of widespread public opposition in the country.

Pressed about NATO membership again, Yanukovych said his position had the support of parliament and repeated that joining the alliance would have to be submitted to a referendum in Ukraine.

Source: AP

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Milestone Reached In Arms-Destruction Project In Ukraine

WASHINGTON, DC -- The controlled destruction of 1,000 Ukrainian shoulder-fired missiles was completed on September 20, the State Department says. Project represents collaboration between NATO and Partnership for Peace program.

The destruction of these arms, formally known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), took place outside the city of Shostka, Ukraine, according to a September 21 State Department announcement.

This is only the first installment in a project to destroy weapons and munitions that will take 12 years to complete.

Ukraine is collaborating with NATO as part of a Partnership for Peace Trust Fund initiative. It is the largest multilateral project of its kind, according to the announcement.

The Partnership for Peace program (PfP) involves practical bilateral cooperation between individual countries and NATO. It allows PfP countries to establish an individualized relationship with the alliance, choosing their own priorities for joint cooperation ventures.

The State Department identified two reasons for Ukraine's decision to pursue this project:

• Several major explosions of unstable ordnance in Ukrainian munitions depots; and

• The need to prevent weapons and munitions from falling into the hands of illicit arms traffickers, criminals or terrorists.

The threat from MANPADS is very real. The State Department estimates that since the 1970s more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing about 25 crashes and over 600 deaths around the world.

Also scheduled to be destroyed during the first phase of this NATO-Ukraine project are 15,000 tons of excess and unstable munitions, including ammunition for automatic weapons, artillery shells, mortar rounds and 400,000 small arms and light weapons.

The aim of the project, when complete, is to destroy safely 1.5 million small arms and light weapons, and 133,000 tons of munitions.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rudderless Ship

KIEV, Ukraine -- Last Friday, Sept. 15, President Viktor Yushchenko had a long chat with Premier Viktor Yanukovych, at which Yushchenko voiced his concern about the actions of the new cabinet, saying it must abide by the National Unity Pact signed between the president and the Rada majority.

President Viktor Yushchenko

In a briefing later that day Yushchenko said he gave Yanukovych his first political warning and confirmed there is a joint plan to correct the situation. We shall see if this happens.

Yushchenko described Yanukovych’s attempt to revise foreign policy at his recent meeting at NATO headquarters as unacceptable.

The previous day Yanukovych had called for a pause in plans to join NATO, but said Ukraine would continue efforts to join the EU.

Yushchenko said the opposite, reiterating that the country’s goal to join the EU and NATO would not change.

The mixed messages are a problem.

Yushchenko, not surprisingly, was supported by Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko and Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk, two of his appointees.

Hrytsenko said Ukraine will implement the NATO membership Action Plan despite Yanukovych's statements, while Tarasiuk said Yanukovych has no authority to formulate foreign policy.

Yanukovych’s argument that the people do not support NATO membership is weak because the issues have not been explained. However, that’s not the point.

Ever since Yanukovych became premier he has, with the help of the speaker, been pushing the president aside.

Most people believed that, in line with constitutional reform, foreign policy is the president’s remit. But now this doesn't seem to be so.

In practical terms, membership of NATO comes before EU membership. This was certainly the case for countries like Poland.

So who's leading the country now? It seems like a ship without a captain.

There is also a real danger that foreign policy will just stagnate and the country will go nowhere.

Source: Kyiv Post

No Morals

KIEV, Ukraine -- Last week Regions MP Eduard Prutnik was elected head of the State Committee for TV and Radio Broadcasting.

Eduard Prutnik (L)

Prutnik served as the deputy head of the Donetsk regional council and an advisor to Premier Yanukovych in 2002-05.

Formally, Prutnik has no experience of media, just PR work for Yanukovych. Yet, Prutnik’s name has been continually connected to ownership of a TV channel that has exhibited a pro-Regions bias.

He was also accused of rigging the 2004 election in favor of Yanukovych.

Such an overtly political person should not head a state body which has a say on programming on state media, particularly after the crude manipulation of the media seen when Yanukovych was first premier.

What is most astonishing is that of the 244 MPs who voted for Prutnik last week, 17 were from the supposedly opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

It is a damning indictment on the corruptibility of MPs that Yulia Tymoshenko says that one senior figure in the cabinet continues to bribe her MPs.

There is little moral fiber in Ukrainian politics.

State media appointments should be apolitical and based only on professionalism.

This appointment stinks of hypocrisy and should be condemned.

Not so long ago the Regions were telling us about the lack of professionalism in the Orange camp.

The danger is the Regions will soon get the necessary votes to amend the Constitution.

It is time for Tymoshenko to galvanize the opposition into action, otherwise there will be no counterweight to the authorities, and parliament could, if the wishes of one Regions MP materialize, shortly be electing the president, depriving voters of this right.

Source: Kyiv Post

Tymoshenko Announces Creation Of Parliamentary Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on Friday announced the creation of a parliamentary bloc that will press for Ukraine to continue its pro-Western course.

Yulia Tymoshenko

With two defectors from the Socialist Party allying themselves with Tymoshenko's bloc, the opposition has 123 seats in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament.

"We want to raise the flag that was dragged through the mud by politicians' treason," Tymoshenko declared.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, whose fraud-marred bid for the presidency sparked the 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests, put together a majority coalition this summer after an agreement between Tymoshenko and her former Orange Revolution allies fell apart.

The ruling coalition, which also includes the Communists, nominated Yanukovych to be premier, and President Viktor Yushchenko agreed to it, after making Yanukovych pledge to uphold the country's democratic advances and continue his pro-Western policies.

Yanukovych, who had the Kremlin's backing in his failed 2004 presidential bid, is seen as more pro-Russian.

During his recent visit to Brussels, Yanukovych said that Ukraine was putting its bid to join NATO on hold because of widespread public opposition in the country — a move that was sharply criticized by Yushchenko.

Yanukovych has said that Ukraine's bid to join the European Union remains on target, and he has taken the West's advice and ruled out joining a customs union with Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.

Tymoshenko, whose fiery speeches helped make her a leader of the Orange Revolution, had hoped members of Yushchenko's pro-Western party would join her in opposition, but they accepted seats in Yanukovych's government and are still holding talks on joining Yanukovych's coalition.

She has called Yanukovych illegitimate and demanded the dismissal of parliament, but she is far short of the support necessary for such an action.

"The ideas of democracy and European choice are our key priorities," said lawmaker Iosyp Vinsky, one of two Socialist Party members who joined Tymoshenko's bloc in creating the new opposition.

Source: AP

PM Sidetracks President Abroad

KIEV, Ukraine -- Despite coming to power on the wave of the Orange Revolution and having his party offered a place in a parliamentary majority following the last general election, President Viktor Yushchenko is now fighting for his and his party’s political future as the new parliamentary coalition put together by the Donetsk-based Party of Regions continues to chip away at his powers.

Yushchenko now finds himself at a crucial stage in his struggle to retain those powers he legitimately holds after losing many as a result of controversial constitutional amendments that came into effect in January.

The president is battling opponents in and beyond his Our Ukraine faction, with the coming weeks likely to force a decision as to whether the pro-presidential faction will join the pro-Russian coalition or go into opposition.

Our Ukraine, the flagship party of the Orange Revolution, is divided over its affinities. Even Yushchenko’s inner team is showing cracks, with long-time presidential ally Oleh Rybachuk being replaced as chief of the presidential secretariat last week.

At the same time, opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko, who has challenged Yushchenko’s right to head the country’s democratic movement, said she plans to make an announcement on Sept. 22 about the creation of a united opposition force.

Tymoshenko, who had stood side by side with Yushchenko during his fight for the presidency against Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych in 2004, has said that her bloc is preparing to create an inter-factional opposition association, which would be joined by lawmakers from Our Ukraine and defectors from the Regions-led coalition.

Foreign policy questioned

The political temperature rose last week when Prime Minister Yanukovych said during his official visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels that Ukraine would be taking a break in its attempts to join NATO, though it would still be striving to enter the EU. In practical terms, joining NATO has preceded EU membership.

Yushchenko has ardently supported Ukraine’s Western integration. The day after the visit, Yushchenko and Yanukovych held a long discussion. Afterwards, Yushchenko told the media that he had given Yanukovych his first political warning for things certain government executives were doing.

Yushchenko was supported by Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko and Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk, both pro-Western figures occupying positions that Yushchenko still has the right to fill. Hrytsenko said Ukraine would continue to implement the NATO membership Action Plan, regardless. Tarasiuk said Yanukovych has no authority to formulate foreign policy, since the Constitution says the president oversees its implementation.

Ever since Yanukovych became premier he has, with the help of Socialist parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz, been pushing the president aside.

On Sept. 17 Moroz told Yushchenko that he would sign laws that the president vetoed if the vetoes had been overcome and Yushchenko still refused to sign them. Moroz’s behavior during his first stint as speaker had not been so brash with the previous president.

Yushchenko has tried to draw the attention of Moroz and Yanukovych to the National Unity Pact signed last month as a condition to Yushchenko supporting Yanukovych for premier. Yushchenko told the briefing last Friday, Sept. 15, that his warning to Yanukovych was due to the latter’s violation of the pact.

Clashes on all fronts

The provisions of the Pact include ensuring the status of Ukrainian as the country’s only official language, Euro-Atlantic integration and the exclusion of the possibility of federalization. The actions of the Cabinet, which is dominated by Regions, and comments by some of the Donetsk-based party’s members, are now casting doubts over the pact.

One senior Regions lawmaker said recently that parliament should elect the president, and not the electorate. To do this, the Constitution needs to be changed, and steps are being taken by the majority to get the necessary MPs from other factions. In fact, Tymoshenko has accused a senior member of the Cabinet of bribing her MPs.

During the parliamentary vote to elect a new head of the State Committee for TV and Radio Broadcasting, 17 of the 244 MPs who voted for Eduard Prutnik were from her bloc. The prospect exists that if the coalition gets the necessary 300 MPs it would change the Constitution, and even impeach Yushchenko.

Moreover, Yushchenko announced last Friday that he had ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate allegedly discriminatory VAT export refunds made illegally in August to three large enterprises, which belong to System Capital Management, majority owned by senior Regions MP and magnate Rinat Akhmetov.

What lies ahead

The next week will be crucial to the country’s political future.

With BYuT promising an announcement imminently on creating an opposition force and two draft laws on the opposition submitted to parliament, the official status of the opposition looks likely to be decided soon. Our Ukraine will have to decide whether to work with the Regions or oppose them.

Speaking about the hold up in the coalition, Our Ukraine spokesperson Tetyana Mokridi told the Post on Sept. 20 that Our Ukraine has been waiting an entire week for Regions to take the initiative. She dismissed fears that the faction could split into anti- and pro-coalition camps.

As to BYuT setting a deadline, Mokridi said, "That was a unilateral decision by them. Our Ukraine's decision will be made on the basis of the talks in a couple of days."

Commenting on unity with Our Ukraine, Taras Postushenko, deputy head of BYuT’s press service said: “We are definitely optimistic, as there are many Our Ukraine deputies who won’t agree to a joint coalition with Regions.”

Postushenko said that in such a case, a so-called inter-factional alliance will be formed.

Yuriy Yakymenko, director of Political and Legal Programs at the Razumkov Center think tank, believes stalemate will continue.

He told the Post that “the situation will drag on, with MPs on all sides waiting to see who gets the upper hand – the president or Regions … However, not only is Regions appointing its own people and interfering in foreign policy, it also wants to give more power to regional councils.

"The president still has a strong lever in the regions through the vertical executive, or right to appoint governors, and so forth, but there are now moves to shift power to regional councils," Yakymenko said.

Source: Kyiv Post

Thursday, September 21, 2006

International Holocaust Memorial for Nazi Babi Yar Ukraine Massacre

KIEV, Ukraine -- For two days in late September, a quiet ravine deep within the forests outside of Kiev, Ukraine, will become the site of an international memorial event for one of the bloodiest massacres of the Nazi Holocaust.

Called Babi Yar, the site was witness to the murder of more than 33,000 Jews over the course of a five day period in the fall of 1941. While the event is well documented by Holocaust historians and remembered by the families of its victims, the Babi Yar massacre has become part of the "hidden Holocaust," according to Moshe Kantor, organizer of the memorial ceremonies that will include the participation of dignitaries from more than 40 nations.

"Most people today simply do not know what happened there," says Kantor, President of the Russian Jewish Congress and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Jewish Congress. "Most troubling is the fact that much of the world was tolerant of the Nazi crimes that took place at Babi Yar and that tragic permissiveness allowed more than 6,000 similar slaughters to take place over the coming years - and all this before the ‘official’ death camps were even built."

More than 40 nations, including Russia, the US and Israel have confirmed the attendance of high level government officials. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko will be joined by Heads of State from Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia. "This is a moment of truth for governments to determine what is their official position when it comes to issues of anti-Semitism and xenophobia," says Kantor.

Kantor founded and leads the World Holocaust Forum, which is coordinating the memorial, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and educating the world about its important lessons for all humanity. He believes the world today faces a critical danger if it forgets the dangers posed by hatred.

In a rare interview which, ironically, took place five years virtually to the minute after the Twin Towers were brought down during the September 11th 9/11 terror attacks in North America, World Holocaust Forum Chairman Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor, warned sharply about the dangers of intolerance.

"Anti-Semitism and xenophobia come in cycles. Some periods have more, some have less," commented Kantor from Geneva. "But the world was absolutely tolerant of the events at Babi Yar, and this single event became a defining moment in the way the Nazi Holocaust progressed from that point onwary. World apathy enabled the Nazis to move forward in their slaughter of six million European Jews."

Kantor points to disturbing expressions of hatred hatred directed toward Jews in many cities around the world. These range from recent acts of violence against Jews in Russia to the call by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for an Iran conference to deny the Holocaust. Kantor says, "Anti-Semitism on the social level is growing around the globe. Now more than ever, the symbolism and warning of Babi Yar must ring loudly, and we are ensuring that the terrible events of the past are a lesson to modern society about the frightening dangers of intolerance."

Kantor commented that "President Yushchenko has a full understanding of the World Holocaust Forum’s goals and motivations, why we are having this commemoration ceremony in Kiev and what the final result should be.” “Russia once again is facing a moment of truth," commented Kantor, referencing Russia’s decision to send a senior delegation to the events. "President Putin said in his speech at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz that he was ashamed of the anti-Semitism and xenophobia that had surfaced in Russia. Once a country declares that it should take meaningful lessons away from the Holocaust, its people can start to improve their attitude towards racial intolerance."

According to event organizers, two days of commemorations on Sept. 26th and 27th, will include a series of Holocaust exhibits, lectures and concerts to be highlighted by a somber march of participants from central Kiev to the Babi Yar site, retracing the steps of the thousands of Jews who walked a similar path to their deaths 65 years ago. It will be an emotionally charged walk on Wednesday afternoon from central Kiev to the Babi Yar killing fields.

Focused on developing original educational initiatives to better inform people about the realities of the Holocaust, the World Holocaust Forum has created a European Holocaust Education program that will train teachers to relate to Nazi crimes against the Jews to better foster tolerance between religions and nationalities.

Over the years, criticism has been levelled at several Eastern European governments as well as Russia that these countries are not doing enough to actively combat anti-Semitism. Ukraine was one of the countries mentioned. In July, the menorah-shaped Holocaust memorial at Babi Yar, erected 15 years ago by the Jewish community, was badly vandalized.

"Currently, Babi Yar is a place where kids play soccer. The games needs to stop," observed Kantor.

Source: Israel News Agency

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ukraine Seeks U.N. Resolution

UNITED NATIONS, USA -- Ukraine is campaigning for a U.N. General Assembly resolution that would declare the 1932-33 famine that killed up to 10 million people a genocide, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said.

Ukraine has the support of several nations and Tarasyuk will use the two-week annual U.N. General Assembly event now under way to canvass dozens more, he said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday. The resolution would accuse Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's regime of deliberately instigating what Ukrainians call the Great Famine.

"We expect that the delegations here at the United Nations will deplore this artificially made famine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people," Tarasyuk told The Associated Press. "We would like that the international community pay tribute to those who perished."

Stalin provoked the famine as part of his campaign to force Ukrainian peasants to give up their land and join collective farms. Cannibalism was widespread during the height of the disaster, which was enforced by the confiscation of all food by the Soviet secret police.

Ukraine has long sought international recognition of the famine as a genocide, but has been unable to overcome opposition from Russia and governments that do not want to upset Moscow. The famine was kept secret by the Soviet authorities, and it was only in 2003 that Ukraine declassified more than 1,000 files documenting it.

That same year, Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Valery Kuchinsky presented a statement signed by 30 countries that condemned the actions of Stalin's regime but stopped short of calling the famine a genocide.

Ukraine will mark the 75th anniversary of the famine in 2008, and Tarasyuk said that would be an appropriate time for a General Assembly resolution calling it a genocide.

Earlier this year, Ukraine failed in its bid for the Commonwealth of Independent States, made up of 12 former Soviet republics, to consider recognizing the famine as a genocide.

Source: AP

At Least Nine Killed, One Wounded In Eastern Ukraine Coal Mine Blast

KIEV, Ukraine -- At least nine miners were killed and one wounded when a blast rocked a coal mine in eastern Ukraine early Wednesday. Rescuers evacuated 172 miners, a spokesman for the Ukrainian emergencies ministry said.

"As of 9:00 AM Kiev time [6:00 GMT] 172 miners have been evacuated from the mine," the spokesman said. "We found 10 miners, nine of them dead and one wounded. The fate of 39 miners remains unknown."

Earlier in the day, the spokesman said 43 miners were missing.

Ukrainian television Channel Five reported different figures, saying 11 miners were killed, 10 wounded and hospitalized and 28 missing after the tragedy at the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk.

The spokesman for the ministry said earlier the blast was caused by the sudden ejection of a coal and gas mixture, and added the missing miners were working 1,078 meters [3,537 feet] below ground at the moment of the tragedy.

The spokesman said work at the mine was stopped, as 56 rescue teams work at the scene.

This incident follows another coal mine blast in eastern Ukraine when at least six miners lost their lives in August.

Source: RIA Novosti

Ukraine: Dismissal Of The Presidential Secretariat Head Oleh Rybachuk

KIEV, Ukraine -- First of all, I would not seek reasons for the dismissal of Head of the Presidential Secretariat Oleh Rybachuk in Viktor Yushchenko’s desire to strengthen the control over his team.

Oleh Rybachuk

President Viktor Yushchenko pursues other objectives through making this decision. The key objective is to strengthen the President’s political positions that have been narrowed due to the constitutional reform.

The dismissal of Oleh Rybachuk took place when Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s team was stepping up their activity and Yanukovych tried to extend his influence over the spheres that used to be the President’s prerogative.

So, Rybachuk’s dismissal can be regarded as the Ukrainian President’s counterattack on the Prime Minister.

Apart from that, the change of the Secretariat Head was caused by considerable reduction of the agency’s influence. The present Secretariat is utterly different from the Leonid Kuchma’s Administration.

Kuchma’s Administration controlled certain spheres quite successfully, while the present Secretariat lost all those functions.

It is of importance for President Yushchenko to enlarge the Secretariat’s sphere of responsibility. It doesn’t mean the return to Kuchma’s model of Presidential Administration, though. Given the current situation it is impossible, and one should not even try to do that.

President Yushchenko wants to restore the presidential status. After the parliamentary elections of March 2006 the coordination of actions of all the government branches and bodies was overset. The Verkhovna Rada could not get assembled for a long time, the regional councils made decisions neglecting central authorities, and the law enforcement agencies were engaged only in their own business.

In a word, one had an impression that the President had lost his control over the situation in the country.

That’s why the Secretariat makes a point of using the remaining presidential powers in the most effective way and making them more substantive. I believe that the first initiative will be the strengthening of the executive chain of command at the regional level through restoring the control over the human resources management in the regional Administrations.

This is one of the reason why former Minister of Emergencies and Affairs of Population Protection from the Consequences of Chornobyl Catastrophe of Ukraine Viktor Baloha, who has vast managerial experience and is considered to be an efficient manager, has been appointed the Head of the Presidential Secretariat.

This appointment may be followed by other important reshuffles. One can expect that new officials will come to the Secretariat and new Deputies of the Secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense will be appointed in the near future.

Source: Eurasian Home

Ukrainian Parliament Supports Pro-Kremlin PM’s Anti-NATO Attitude

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian parliament has thrown its weight behind the prime minister’s vision of the country’s relations with NATO Viktor Yanukovich explained during his recent visit to Brussels, ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

A total of 242 legislators voted in support of the prime minister’s statement “all specific actions regarding Ukraine’s future application for NATO membership must be decided on with reliance on the will of the Ukrainian people” and the results of a corresponding referendum.

The Ukrainian parliament instructed the government to “consistently and actively conduct a policy of ensuring the supremacy of law, enhancing democracy, political pluralism and market economy and promoting the dissemination of impartial information about the role of NATO in the modern world and guidelines for its reform.”

The parliamentary foreign affairs and national security committees were instructed to draft and submit to parliament for consideration a bill setting special rules Ukraine is to follow in seeking admission to military and political alliances.

At the session of the Ukraine-NATO commission in Brussels on September 14 Yanukovich declared Ukraine was unprepared to comply with the NATO admission action plan.

He suggested separating the question of Ukraine’s membership of NATO from that of cooperation with the alliance.

Source: MOS News

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yushchenko's Allies Say Government Insulting Ukrainians With Plan To Scale Back Family Aid

KIEV, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko's allies accused the government on Tuesday of insulting Ukrainians with its call to scale back a popular program aimed at promoting population growth.

Vyacheslav Kyrylenko

"It shows the disrespectful attitude of the new government toward our citizens. It is a crime against our future," said Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, a lawmaker and Yushchenko ally.

On Monday, the government announced that in a proposal to be included in the 2007 draft budget, only women from poor families would receive the payments that all women are currently entitled to after the birth of each child.

Yushchenko introduced the aid last year in an attempt to fight the plunging birthrate.

The government proposal was seen as the latest volley in the power struggle between the president and his former political antagonist turned prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych.

According to the government proposal, only women in families with an income of less than 5,000 hryvna (US$990; €780) over the previous six months would receive the 8,500 hryvna (US$1,500; €1,250) childbirth payments.

In drafting the 2007 budget, the government is trying to trim expenses as much as possible.

Explaining the government's position, Deputy Finance Minister Serhiy Rybak said Monday that the current program was too expensive and wasteful.

He said the state needed to do more to ensure that the money finds its way to only to poorer families that need the payments most.

Kyrylenko said that the aid, which was increased by 11 times last April, was given to more than half a million new mothers.

He pledged that his party would do everything possible to keep the program unchanged.

Yushchenko's office also expressed concern over the government move.

"Reconsidering key elements of social policy defined by the president is unjustified. The move looks strange at the least since this aid guaranteed a constant growth in the birth rate," said Yushchenko's humanitarian adviser, Markiyan Lubkivsky.

Lubkivsky said that 258,500 children had been born in the first six months of this year — 6 percent more than during the same period last year.

Expressing his support for the scaled back aid plan, Yanukovych ally Oleksandr Peklushenko said the current program was wrong because it resulted in state subsidies going to rich parents.

"I am the father of a 2-month-old child and I have a very high salary. This money will be given to those who really need it, not to me," he said.

Ukraine's population has dropped to 47 million from 53 million since gaining independence in 1991.

Even before then, it had declined: the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident generated widespread fears among women about having babies.

The economic chaos and deterioration of the public health system that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union also discouraged births, and many people have emigrated to seek a better life abroad.

Ukraine has a birth rate of 1.2 per woman, compared with the European average of 1.4.

Source: AP

Ukraine: Who Poisoned Yushchenko? The Search Continues

KIEV, Ukraine -- The case surrounding the apparent poisoning two years ago of Viktor Yushchenko remains shrouded in mystery -- so much so that even Yushchenko himself routinely uses cryptic language to describe it.

Speaking to journalists in Baku on September 8, the Ukrainian president stated the investigation into the alleged poisoning in September 2004 was "one step away from the active phase of solving this case."

Yushchenko's statement came as Ukraine's prosecutor-general, Oleksandr Medvedko, announced investigators had determined the time, place, and circumstances in which the poisoning attempt took place.

All that remains, apparently, is to find the individual, or individuals, responsible.

Dioxin Poisoning

Austrian doctors responsible for examining Yushchenko several months after the poison was reportedly administered said the Ukrainian politician had ingested a concentrated dose of dioxin.

The powerful toxin caused bloating and pockmarks on Yushchenko's face, giving his skin a greenish hue and adding a macabre note to a tumultuous political season culminating in the mass Orange Revolution protests in December 2004.

Prosecutor-General Medvedko, confirming earlier allegations, said tests on the dioxins found in Yushchenko's blood showed they were highly purified and manufactured in either Russia, the United States, or Great Britain.

He declined to divulge other details. If investigators have in fact traced the time and place of the poisoning, it would mark a significant development in a seemingly stagnant case.

Intrigues And Disinformation

The mystery began on September 6, 2004.

Yushchenko, the pro-Western presidential candidate facing off against the Kremlin's preferred nominee, Viktor Yanukovych, became violently ill, suffering severe abdominal pain and facial lesions.

When he was rushed four days later to Vienna's Rudolfinerhaus clinic, his liver, pancreas, and intestines were swollen, and he was barely able to walk.

Doctors were initially baffled. But Yushchenko's supporters already had a theory: that the candidate had been poisoned during a dinner September 5 with Ihor Smeshko, the head of Ukraine's Security Service, at the summer home of Smeshko's deputy, Volodymyr Satsiuk.

Later that month, many were surprised to read a Rudolfinerhaus press release stating doctors did not believe Yushchenko had been poisoned.

But several days later, officials at the Vienna clinic publicly objected, insisting the press release was a forgery -- an episode that conjured up images of a Soviet-style disinformation campaign.

An Easy Target?

By December, doctors had confirmed that dioxin was behind Yushchenko's ailment, and that he had received the substance from a perpetrator who allegedly intended him harm.

Yushchenko's supporters immediately pointed to Yanukovych as the likely suspect, and accused Moscow of providing the dioxin.

The Yanukovych camp vigorously denied the charges. Some questioned whether there was in fact any real evidence to suggest Yushchenko had been poisoned.

At the peak of the Orange Revolution protests in December, Yushchenko announced he would soon have proof his opponents had attempted to assassinate him. The proof, however, never materialized.

No Conclusions

Since then, an investigation by the Ukrainian Security Service and Prosecutor-General's Office has been under way. But no findings have been announced.

In the interim, many Ukrainian and Western observers have begun to express doubt the case would ever be solved.

Some questioned why it was taking so long to discover the truth -- especially when Yushchenko himself was offering frequent assurances a solution was around the corner. Was the investigation being blocked? Or have investigators simply been unable to build a solid case?

A member of the investigative team told RFE/RL that in such a high-profile matter as the Yushchenko poisoning, it is prudent to wait until the evidence is so watertight that there is no way the case can be thrown out of court.

But many of Yushchenko's supporters believe that with Yanukovych now in the prime minister's post it is unlikely the case will be solved soon -- if ever.

Source: Radio Free Europe