Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Health Ministry Says 500 Ukrainians Poisoned By Inedible Mushrooms In 2 Months

KIEV, Ukraine -- More than 500 Ukrainians sought medical treatment in the past two months after eating poisonous mushrooms, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

Poisoned mushroom

Altogether, 614 Ukrainians have been poisoned by mushrooms since the start of the year, a 55 percent increase over last year, the ministry said.

Forty people have died, including three children. In the last two months alone, 511 Ukrainians sought treatment.

Gathering mushrooms is a favorite pastime in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations.

Health officials blame the large number of poisonings on people confusing inedible mushrooms for the edible kind, and of improperly cooking mushrooms before eating them.

The poisonings were spread across the country, with the biggest number in the densely populated Kiev region.

Last year, health officials said that 397 Ukrainians were poisoned by mushrooms up to Oct. 30 last year.

Source: AP

Kiev Rejects Proposal On Sevastopol Lease

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine on Thursday rejected President Vladimir Putin's proposal to extend the Russian military's lease on the Black Sea port of Sevastopol.Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko said his country would uphold the 1997 agreement that allows the Russian navy to remain in Sevastopol until 2017.

Russian sailors in Sevastopol

But when that expires, Ukraine would expect Russia's Black Sea Fleet to leave, Hrytsenko said, according to his office.

"I am convinced that there shouldn't be and won't be any permanent foreign military base on Ukrainian territory, whether it be members of NATO, members of the Tashkent agreement or the Commonwealth of Independent States collective security agreement," Hrytsenko said.

During a televised call-in show Wednesday, Putin said Russia would be interested in discussing an extension of the Sevastopol lease.

Russia pays Ukraine $93 million per year to base its fleet in Sevastopol. The presence of Russian troops in Ukraine has sparked anger among Ukrainian nationalists and given rise to a number of disputes between Ukraine and Russia over who has ownership of lighthouses and other property in the region.

Analysts had suggested that in exchange for promising Ukraine a below-market rate for gas imports for several years, Ukraine might agree to extend the port's lease to the Russian navy. Hrytsenko, however, insisted that no such talks were underway.

"If someone is carrying out such talks, they are behind the scenes, secret, and ultimately, illegal," Hrytsenko said.

Hrytsenko is an appointee of Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who was in Helsinki on Thursday in advance of an EU-Ukraine summit scheduled for Friday.

Yushchenko reiterated the importance of closer integration with Europe. "We hope that the discussions tomorrow will present us with a good initiative, with a clear mandate ... for our role in the future negotiations with the EU," Yushchenko said. "One of the strategic goals is to get a European perspective in our foreign policy."

On Friday, the Ukrainian leader will participate in a summit with EU officials, which is expected to launch negotiations on an economic and political cooperation agreement.

Ukraine hopes for eventual membership in the EU but the bloc is noncommittal amid growing wariness over expansion as it prepares to take in Romania and Bulgaria and is engaged in negotiations with Croatia and Turkey.

Source: The St. Petersburg Times

Nigerian Pastor Finds New Flock In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Inside one of Ukraine's biggest sports halls a band pumps out deafening music surrounded by pom pom-waving dancers in shiny blue outfits.

Sunday Adelaja

Thousands of people are on their feet enthusiastically singing and clapping along, as if at a pop concert.

A Pentecostal church called the Embassy of God is sweeping across the country.

It claims to have 25,000 members in the capital alone.

For many people here a church service that has a feel-good factor is something new.

"First of all I liked the music and I liked the girl who was singing on the stage. Maybe that's why I went back again. Then I understood that there's a God and he loves us," says maths teacher Roman Bazhok, who has been a member of the church for two years.

Political devotees

One of the main reasons the Embassy of God attracts so many people is down to its charismatic leader Sunday Adelaja.

He left Nigeria to escape witchcraft and to study in the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of communism Pastor Sunday, as he is known, started his own church with just handful a of fellow African students in the capital.

Now politicians and even Kiev's mayor Leonid Chernovetsky are regulars.

Wearing a striking green suit, Mr Adelaja charms the audience with tales about the temptations he has turned down.

Speaking in accented Russian he tells the youthful congregation they should abstain not just from sex but also kissing before marriage.

Then looking close to tears, with his hands in the air, he says a prayer.

Today he is preaching to more than 10,000 people at the same place in Kiev that was used to host the Eurovision Song Contest last year.

The Embassy of God hires this venue once a month.

Normally services are held at a dilapidated hall in an industrial part of the capital and at other churches throughout the country.

Uncertain response

Pastor Sunday says he has faced a lot of hostility in Ukraine.

"Can you imagine a black man coming from Africa, in this society; here you are lucky if you are white because if you are black you will feel the difference," claims Mr Adelaja.

"Here there are not too many black people. Even the Orthodox priests say to me go and play basketball, go and play soccer but don't try to teach us how to live."

Church leader Sunday Adelaja with Kiev mayor Leonid Chernovetsky
Critics are wary of the church's links with politicians like Kiev's mayor

The Orthodox Church is still the main religion in Ukraine despite the Embassy of God growing in popularity.

Golden-domed churches dominate the skyline of Kiev.

Inside St Michael's Cathedral priests in purple and red robes conduct an early morning service led by Father Superior Yevstratiy Zorya.

Ancient icons glow in the candle-light as women wearing headscarves kneel on the cold stone floor.

Nothing like the Embassy of God has ever been seen before in Ukraine.

Some critics are suspicious of this evangelical movement and its close relationship with powerful politicians.

'No brainwashing'

The Orthodox Church feels threatened. It says Embassy of God is a cult.

"The followers become like zombies - they are fully devoted to the leader of the organisation, ready to fulfil any of his desires," says Father Superior Yevstratiy Zorya, spokesman for the Orthodox Church in Kiev.

"It also has an impact on political life, because these people help to campaign for the politicians loyal to their church."

The Embassy of God says there is no brainwashing. Instead it targets people who feel rejected by society.

It runs a homeless shelter in the capital which helps prostitutes, drug addicts and members of the mafia like Alexander Skrypin.

"Before my encounter with God I was quite a rich person, but it didn't save me from being drunk in the gutter and living in brothels. After coming to Embassy of God I know that my life is for living," says Alexander, a former bank robber.

Many people have become alienated following the end of the Soviet Union.

There is poverty, unemployment, and a state which is no longer able to care for everyone.

Perhaps the reason that this new church is so popular is that it offers a sense of community, something which has been in short supply for many Ukrainians.

Source: BBC News

Top Chinese Adviser Starts Official Visit To Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Top Chinese adviser Jia Qinglin arrived in Kiev Monday, beginning his official goodwill visit to Ukraine, the last leg of his four-nation Europe tour.

Chinese adviser Jia Qinglin

Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said upon his arrival that China and Ukraine have exchanged frequent high-level contacts, enhanced mutual understanding and increased mutual trust since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.

During the past 14 years, cooperation between the two countries has been broadened with fruitful results in the areas of politics, economy, science, technology, education and culture, Jia said in a written statement released at the international airport in Kiev.

"During my visit to Ukraine, I will exchange views with Ukraine leaders over further development of bilateral relations and deepening of exchange and cooperation in various fields.

I believe that China and Ukraine friendly cooperation relations will reach a new level under joint efforts of the two sides," said the leader of CPPCC, China's top advisory body.

Ukraine is the last leg of Jia's Europe tour from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3, which has taken him to Britain, Lithuania and Estonia.

Source: Xinhua

Ukraine Shot Down On EU Entry Hopes

HELSINKI, Finland -- Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko continued to hammer on enlargement as the EU-Ukraine meeting in Helsinki drew to a close on Friday (27 October) afternoon, but got zero political commitment in return.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (L) and Finland's President Tarja Halonen (R) in Helsinki

The dioxin-scarred Orange Revolution veteran told press he was "occasionally worried about the intention to determine EU borders" adding "we hope these discussions will not result in the creation of some new Berlin Wall along the EU borders."

Ukrainians "need to see the European doors open" the president stated, warning that unless the new EU-Ukraine treaty for post-2007 relations contains explicit recognition of Kiev's accession hopes "the political chapter of the agreement will have no sense."

Mr Yushchenko assured Brussels there would be no rerun of last year's winter gas crisis and said he would co-sponsor new pipelines to bring Caspian oil and gas to Poland under the "Brody" project and to Austria under the "Nabucco" scheme.

"The integration of the Ukrainian energy system into the European energy network is a part of Ukraine's strategic ambition to join the European Union," he said, having previously suggested membership talks could start in 2008.

But European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso gave a blunt response to the president's call, saying "Ukraine is not ready, and we are not ready [for discussions on enlargement]," AP reports.

"Ukraine still has reforms to do...and today in the European Union, member states are not ready to assume new membership obligations," Mr Barroso stated, adding that his words are not a "negative signal" but a spur to work on the new pact.


Official talks on the so-called "Enhanced Agreement" [EA] between the EU and Ukraine are tabled to start in early 2007, with a "deep free trade area" at the heart of the programme dependent on Ukraine's speedy entry into the WTO.

But the draft EA treaty contains nothing on enlargement so far, while Friday's summit conclusions foresee only a "development of stronger economic and trade relations" and "increasingly close co-operation" on foreign policy.

Politically speaking, the draft EA puts Ukraine on a par with other EU "neighbourhood" states such as Morocco or Azerbaijan at a time when Europe is suffering from post-2004 enlargement fatigue but engaging in ever-closer relations with Russia.

Meanwhile, external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters "it is a particularly difficult time for the process of democratic consolidation and the overall reform process in Ukraine."


"Political stability will be one of the key priorities that president Yushchenko has to find," she added, in reference to the recent comeback of Russia-friendly, anti-NATO politician Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine's PM.

Brussels is wary that Yushchenko-Yanukovych wrangling could slow down WTO entry and the creation of the EU free trade zone, or even damage sensitive projects such as the EU border monitoring mission for the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria.

"The importance of the continued implementation of the joint declaration by Ukraine and Moldova on customs was highlighted," the summit conclusions said on the Transdniestria customs scheme, which is deeply disliked by Russia.

Friday's summit also saw the EU and Ukraine ink a deal on cheap EU visas from 2007 onward and Ukrainian phone operator, Ukrtelecom, sign a contract to buy 3G mobile phones from Finnish giant Nokia.

Source: EU Observer

Armed Group Tries To Seize Street Market In Eastern Ukraine - Police Arrest 90 Suspects

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine -- An armed group clashed with police while trying to seize control of a public market in eastern Ukraine early Monday in what appeared to be an ownership dispute, regional police said.

Ozerka market in Dnipropetrovsk

Two police officers were injured, and some 90 people were arrested in an early morning attack on the Ozerka market in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk, the regional Interior Ministry department said in a statement.

The market, which is run by the state, was sold in a privatization deal in 2004 to a company called Regionoptservis, but the sale was later canceled due to alleged breaches, Ukraine's Unian news agency reported.

Police said that, around dawn Monday, a group of about 150 people arrived on buses to try to seize the market's headquarters, using small explosives and air-powered guns. Special police forces were called in.

Ten of the intruders were arrested at the market, and 80 others picked up later, police said.

An investigation into who was behind the attack was under way.

Ownership disputes in Ukriane sometimes lead to attacks in which armed groups are hired to seize control of a property or business.

Source: AP

Monday, October 30, 2006

Nokia Supports Ukrtelecom In Launching The First WCDMA 3G/HSDPA Network In Ukraine

ESPOO, Finland -- Nokia and Ukrainian fixed line and broadband operator, Ukrtelecom JSC, have signed a three-year frame agreement for the supply of 3G core and radio network as the operator is extending its services to the mobile domain.

Nokia 3G WCDMA Base Station

Nokia will support Ukrtelecom's Utel branch in opening the first WCDMA 3G/HSDPA network in Ukraine which will enable the operator to provide new end-user services, such as high speed data transfer for WAP, Internet access, video calls, and streaming for video and audio.

The network will be launched in the Kiev area, from where it can be rolled out to other parts of the country. The deal marks a new customer for Nokia.

Nokia will be the sole supplier of Utel's core and radio network covering the Kiev area. The contract includes Nokia's innovative 3G radio solutions, such as the modular, high capacity Nokia Flexi WCDMA Base Station, and the Nokia High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) software.

The network will be supported by the multivendor, multitechnology Nokia NetAct(TM) network and service management system. Nokia will integrate value-added services platforms and a billing solution in the network, and provide network planning, implementation and training services.

"We are proud to be the first to launch a WCDMA 3G/HSDPA network in Ukraine. Our new services will be launched first in the capital city, which means that they will be serving Ukrainian citizens, business life, as well as foreign visitors," says Stanislav Gursky, Director, Utel branch of Ukrtelecom. "Our cooperation with Nokia enables us to enhance our business, and their innovative solutions will help us provide a wide range of new end-user services with top performance."

"We are delighted to support Ukrtelecom in entering the mobile business, which will enable them to expand their service offering and bring them new revenue opportunities," says Mikko Elomaa, Country Manager, Networks, Nokia. "In addition to helping Ukrtelecom develop their business, this deal is significant also for Nokia, as it will strengthen our position as a key player in Ukraine and in the East European market."

In WCDMA 3G, Nokia has 63 customers to date. High performance Nokia HSPA is a simple software upgrade to Nokia WCDMA networks, thus enabling a fast, cost-effective rollout.

Nokia HSPA is made up of two key technologies, HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access), enabling true mobile broadband with breakthrough data speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps in the downlink and up to 5.8 Mbps in the uplink.

Nokia HSDPA offers almost 10-times faster data services than current 3G networks, generating an enhanced service experience.

Nokia is a leader in the HSDPA market, with a large number of HSDPA contracts. Many network operators have already opened their HSDPA networks with the Nokia solution.

Source: Nokia Press Release

Ukraine’s West Attracts Electronics

UZHHOROD, Ukraine -- A major international electronics manufacturer has launched construction of an electronic components plant in western Ukraine in a move that looks to capitalize on Ukraine’s inexpensive labor, tax breaks and the huge consumer market located next door in the EU.

The move could be a step toward turning Ukraine into a leading regional hub for the supply of electronics products, on par with Asian electronics manufacturing giants, but some market experts say the Ukrainian authorities are still doing too little to provide foreign electronics producers with enough incentives to enter the country.

United States based Jabil Circuit, a global designer and manufacturer of electronics components for diverse industries, announced Oct. 2 that it had launched the construction of a 26,000-square-meter electronic components plant in the western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod.

The facility, which Jabil Circuit said will employ up to 1,500 highly qualified Ukrainian specialists, is to be located in the Transcarpathian Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which enjoys tax and custom duty breaks meant to stimulate economic growth and business development in the region.

The new plant will represent a significant addition to the company’s existing production capacities in Uzhgorod, where it already employs 940 workers at two facilities. Jabil Circuit has been renting these two facilities since December 2003.

Jabil Circuit plans to put its new plant into operation by the spring of 2007.

“Our intention is to first develop a high-tech park in Ukraine in order to build a fully integrated design and manufacturing solution line for our worldwide customers in the automotive, consumer and telecommunications industries,” Philippe Costemale, general director of Jabil Circuit Ukraine Ltd., told the Post Oct. 17.

Costemale said that Ukraine’s skilled, cheap labor force, the short export distance to the rest of Europe and the availability of raw materials, could easily allow Ukraine to develop as a large electronics supply base, and potentially turn the country into a leader on the world electronics manufacturing market.

“But the clock is ticking, and this will not happen if appropriate legislation is not put into place to facilitate investment,” he said.

According to Costemale, the new leaders in the electronics manufacturing industry, such as India, Malaysia and Brazil, “are developing appropriate investment conditions to successfully attract high-tech investors that manufacture for export, and they combine that attractiveness with having a huge domestic market.”

He said that many global high-tech industry leaders have visited Ukraine in the last several years to consider investment in the country.

But “most of them have been discouraged by the lack of responsiveness from the Ukrainian authorities to provide the appropriate customs regimes and tax incentives similar to those existing in Central European countries.”

According to Costemale, frustrated by not receiving a simplified customs regime from the Ukrainian authorities, a lot of investors who were considering manufacturing electronic components for export in Ukraine froze their projects in the country or reoriented them to Romania, Bulgaria or Russia.

He said that most other global electronic products manufacturers operate in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Singapore-based Flextronics International Ltd. is Jabil’s only other competing foreign electronics manufacturer in Ukraine, according to Costemale.

Petro Reminets, the general director of an electronics plant that Flextronics is putting up in the same SEZ where Jabil is building, agrees that Jabil is his company’s only competitor.

Flextronics started building its electronics plant in the west Ukrainian town of Mukachevo in 2004, but construction works were frozen due to the government’s temporary cancellation of the special economics zone only to be restarted several months later.

According to Reminets, the facility will launch operations before the end of 2006, employing more than 2000 specialists.

He told the Post on Oct. 23 that the new Flextronics plant will produce components for such international companies such as Philips, Epson, Nokia and others, adding that all of its production will be exported to Europe.

Volodymyr Prykhodko, the general director of the Transcarpathian Regional Investment Agency, which promotes investment projects in the region’s SEZ, said that Jabil Ukraine has exported “hundreds of millions of dollars” worth of its products from Ukraine to the EU.

He said that Jabil Ukraine has already invested $29.5 million in Ukraine for construction of its new plant in Uzhgorod and plans to invest a total of $45 million to build a second plant that will employ an additional 2,500 people.

“This is a solid and transparent investment,” Prykhodko told the Post.

Jabil representatives, however, refused to provide the Post with exact sales figures, citing commercial confidentiality.

Like Costemale, Prykhodko said that Ukraine is capable of becoming a production leader in the market of electronic components.

He said that Jabil Ukraine currently imports inexpensive input components from abroad and exports very expensive output to the EU.

“Very expensive products are being manufactured by Jabil on the territory of Ukraine,” said Prykhodko.

He also said that the high educational qualifications of the indigenous labor force and proximity to European markets could give Ukraine an advantage over other, more distant regions where electronics are produced on a massive scale.

Citing “China, for example, which is very distant from the European market,” he said.

“For instance, roughly 90 percent of a mobile phone’s body is produced by Jabil in Ukraine, after which it takes only two days to deliver the goods to Finland, the Netherlands or anywhere else in Europe for final assembly as the most popular brands, like Nokia, Siemens, and so on.”

According to Prykhodko, it is unfortunate that the Ukrainian government has no policy to stimulate the domestic electronics market or the development of Ukrainian electronics brands.

Costemale said that for manufacturers that export 100 percent of their products, VAT and customs duties should be suspended for a minimum of 180 days for the temporary import of electronic components that are used for the production of the finished or semi-finished products made in Ukraine.

He also said that imports of manufacturing equipment should be fully exempt from customs duties, “because high tech requires constant investments.”

Customs duties for electronics exports, currently at 0.2 percent of a product’s value (the same as for imports), should also be canceled, he said.

According to Costemale, as of now Jabil is not enjoying any of the above benefits, except for the right on VAT suspension for 90 days, which is granted to all the businesses operating in SEZs, as per a Cabinet resolution of 2005.

However, Costemale said, even the VAT suspension now enjoyed by Jabil involves a great deal of red tape, and every export operation demands approval from the tax authorities, banks and other bodies. “We can put up with this while we are exporting our products on a relatively small scale. But when we start exporting on a large scale, such bureaucracy will be impossible for us to deal with,” said Costemale.

“Two world leaders in electronics manufacturing, Flextronics and Jabil Circuit, have decided to invest in new capabilities in Ukraine,” said Costemale. “Their success can send a very positive signal to the international investment community.”

Jabil provides electronics design, manufacturing and product management services to global electronics companies such as Phillips, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and others, and operates production facilities in 20 countries, employing a workforce of around 65,000.

Source: Kyiv Post

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ukraine's Geopolitical Predicament: While Longing For Place In United Europe It Cannot Ignore Russia's Concerns

WASHINGTON, DC -- This week’s events confirmed that Ukraine is being pulled in two directions as it faces a strategic dilemma. On the one hand, Kyiv is pushing for associated membership with the European Union and a free-trade deal with the rich bloc.

Viktor Yanukovich (L) and Mikhail Fradkov (R)

On the other hand, the country’s heavy dependence on Russia for energy compels Kyiv to accommodate Moscow’s interests. Needless to say, the Kremlin looks askance at Ukraine’s European aspirations.

Today, October 27, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko is taking part in the annual Ukraine-EU summit in Helsinki, Finland, as the Finns currently hold the bloc’s rotating presidency.

According to well-informed sources in the Ukrainian delegation, one of Kyiv’s main expectations from the summit is the beginning of negotiations on a new framework agreement on cooperation between Ukraine and the EU. Another key issue will be talks on the creation of a free-trade zone between Ukraine and the EU.

The Ukrainians hope that the new pact will include the prospect of eventual membership. For its part, Brussels remains noncommittal, reflecting what has come to be known as “enlargement fatigue.”

Following its expansion to 10 new countries in 2004, the bloc is about to take in Romania and Bulgaria and is engaged in negotiations with Croatia and Turkey. So far, the EU has been reluctant to grant Ukraine a “membership prospectus” and instead included it in its “neighborhood policy” along with Belarus, the South Caucasus countries, Israel, and several Arab nations around the Mediterranean Sea.

Kyiv is deeply dissatisfied with what it perceives as Europe’s cold-shouldering and insists that it has the right to be treated differently than the other European “neighbors.”

Prior to Yushchenko’s meetings with EU leaders in Helsinki, Ukraine’s envoy to Brussels was quite explicit about the EU’s perceived snubbing of Kyiv. “Ukraine accepts the European Neighborhood Policy but we do not welcome it,” said Roman Shpek, head of the Ukrainian mission at the EU, on October 25. “Our country is in Europe. We are not a neighbor to Europe,” he explained, adding, “For us, it is not pleasant to be in the same basket as Morocco, Libya, or Israel.”

Integration with United Europe is a priority for Ukraine, asserted Shpek. He also remarked that Ukraine might in the future apply for an association agreement with the EU.

In Brussels, Ambassador Shpek was a guest of the EU-Ukraine Business Council (EUUBC) debate on the current state of economic relations between the two sides. During the meeting, the EUUBC unveiled a special report addressed to the parties of the Helsinki meeting.

The blueprint calls on the EU and the Ukrainian government to focus their efforts on several key issues. The report suggests that the Ukrainians should concentrate on achieving better market access to the EU for its producers. Kyiv should also aim at improving legal certainty and property rights in Ukraine.

The report stresses the need for the EU and Ukraine to jointly promote and implement energy efficiency projects. Most importantly, the report urges the Ukrainian government to speed up the negotiations on the accession to the World Trade Organization and commence negotiations on a free-trade agreement.

Commenting on the delayed WTO negotiations, Ukrainian officials confirm Kyiv’s commitment to finish the talks in January 2007 at the latest. But this likely is easier said than done -- not least because of the Russian factor.

On October 24, speaking at a news conference in Kyiv after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said that Ukraine should respect Russia’s position on issues like cooperation with NATO, the EU, and the WTO. “I would say quite openly that we need to synchronize the negotiation process of our countries on WTO,” Fradkov said. He also raised concerns about the pro-Western ambitions of President Yushchenko.

Fradkov’s remarks came immediately after Ukraine cut a relatively beneficial deal on gas supplies for 2007 with Russia. Under the terms of the agreement, Ukraine will get at least 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas at no more than $130 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Kyiv appears to have willingly agreed to a 36% increase in gas price, knowing full well that it is still a good bargain: the Yanukovych government had already figured the $130 price into Ukraine’s 2007 budget.

However, the gas deal seems to come with certain strings attached, as it will likely require Ukrainian concessions that would increase the Kremlin’s influence over its Slavic neighbor.

Fradkov’s suggestion that the two countries have to synchronize their accession to the WTO is the case in point: such a move would slow or stall Ukraine’s entry and the start of a free-trade deal with the EU.

Moscow’s game is based on the two principal considerations. First, Russia fears that if Ukraine enters the WTO first, it could conceivably seek to influence the terms of Russia’s entry. Second, if Ukraine does get such leverage over Russia, the importance of Moscow’s energy leverage vis-à-vis Ukraine will likely diminish.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Luxury Kyiv Apartment Block Increasing Both Floors And Prices

KYIV, Ukraine -- The prices for real estate in the Ukrainian capital have been climbing steeply for the last couple of years, but in the case of one residential project in the center of town, they are going up faster than floors can be added to the building.

Capitol Center

The Capitol building, which is being constructed on the city’s main Khreshchatyk Street, was touted as Kyiv’s most expensive block of flats in the October issue of the Ukrainian real estate magazine Building.

And although only seven of Capitol’s planned 11 floors have been completed, developers say that all the luxury apartments have been sold and that a total of 15 floors are likely to be eventually built to meet continuing demand.

The project is being developed by 21st Century Investments, a Kyiv-based real estate investment company, which is best known for launching the Kvadrat brand of shopping centers.

21st Century’s board of directors is headed by Lev Partskhaladze, a former member of the Kyiv City Council, whose European Capital party lost its bid for the mayor’s seat in the last elections.

According to Vyacheslav Ushakov, who is managing the Capitol building project for 21st Century, apartments began selling at around $4,000 per square meter (sq. m.) in late 2003, when the Kyiv City Council allocated the 2,800 sq. m. prestigious land plot.

Now, he said, flat prices have more than doubled, exceeding the $10,000 mark. Ushakov predicts that by late March of 2007, when Capitol is scheduled for completion, the price per sq. m. will reach nearly $13,000.

The developer said that an average apartment in Capitol is around 200 sq. m., which puts the current price of a flat well into the seven-digit domain. Ushakov noted, however, that none of the 40 tenants who bought apartments in the posh residential complex have paid the whole sum upfront.

Instead, these “affluent individuals representing various groups of society, both businessmen and officials,” opted for a financing scheme that allows them to pay up within a year.

“This is definitely not the case of years-long housing loans. The clients are expected to be adequately secure financially.”

According to Ushakov, the 11-floor project’s initial projected expenditures was Hr 38 million (around $7.4 million), but this figure has increased due to rising construction and material costs.

He said he now expects a 70 percent profit margin.

Ushakov said city regulations for downtown residential construction require developers to give up 12 percent of their apartments to the city for distribution among the “socially vulnerable.” However, this will not be the case for Capitol’s $2 million apartments.

According to Ushakov, 21st Century has an arrangement by which the city will be given apartments in less expensive buildings built by the real estate investment company.

Ushakov denied that any members of the Kyiv City Council who were involved in allocating the land for Capitol’s construction back in 2003 will be tenants in the new building.

He said the luxury block of flats will be like a clubhouse, a closed community with hotel-like reception service to prevent trespassing.

In addition, the complex also will boast its own swimming pool, fitness center and spa – open to the public, but accessible through a separate entrance.

But the addition of more floors in the building might work against the Capitol’s clubhouse image, according to Serhiy Ovchinikov, deputy board chairman of Kyiv-based NEST, a real estate development company, which is currently developing three residential projects in the capital.

“Judging by European standards, a club-type building should have no more than seven floors.”

Ovchinikov said that a developer working on a club-type project must additionally ensure that the proper resident atmosphere is created, by carefully screening buyers and tenants to make sure they will be comfortable living next to each other.

Ushakov said that some of his tenants “might know each other” but, he acknowledged, his company never went so far as screening future residents. “The entire building is already sold out,” he said.

Source: Kyiv Post

Saturday, October 28, 2006

EU Says Ukraine Not Ready To Join

HELSINKI, Finland -- The European Union has told Ukraine it is not ready to join the bloc.

Jose Manuel Barroso

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said more reforms were required before accession talks could begin.

Ukraine's president Viktor Yushchenko met EU leaders in Finland, trying to push the case for membership talks to start by 2008.

He assured EU leaders of energy supplies over the winter, following last year's brief cut in natural gas flows after a price row with Moscow.

Mr Yushchenko has sought closer ties with the West since coming to power in the Orange Revolution of 2004.

But a BBC correspondent in Ukraine says the EU is concerned that reforms are being slowed by political divisions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is a fierce rival of the president and favours ties with Russia over those with the EU.

Closer ties

The EU has repeatedly told Ukraine that membership is not up for consideration at the moment.

"Ukraine is not ready and we are not ready," Mr Barroso said after meeting President Yushchenko.

"Ukraine still has reforms to do... and today in the European Union we are not ready, our member states are not ready, to assume new membership obligations," he said.

Instead, EU leaders are offering the prospect of closer political and economic ties, with Mr Barroso saying a free-trade area with Ukraine was the first aim.

The two parties signed an agreement that should make it easier to issue short-stay visas to Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU.

Another agreement was signed establishing procedures for repatriating illegal immigrants to Ukraine.

Energy security

President Yushchenko gave EU leaders renewed assurances over security of energy supplies.

Mr Barroso welcomed the agreement reached earlier this week between Russia and Ukraine on the prices of natural gas.

"We don't anticipate any problems, at least for this year," he said.

Much of Europe's gas comes from Russia and is piped across Ukraine.

In January gas supplies to Ukraine were briefly cut off in a price dispute - a move which affected a number of European countries.

Source: BBC News

U.N. Official Urges Ukraine To Strengthen Efforts To Combat Children Trafficking

KIEV, Ukraine -- A visiting United Nations official on Friday urged Ukraine to strengthen efforts to combat child trafficking, which he said remained a major problem for the ex-Soviet nation.

United Nations logo

"I remain concerned at the low rate of prosecution and sentencing of traffickers, authors of child pornography and other crimes against children," said Juan Miguel Petit, a U.N. official in charge of the world body's efforts to stop child prostitution, child pornography and other crimes against children.

Petit said that the government should strengthen its efforts to combat the problems. Its recommendations included creating a separate juvenile justice system, naming a special ombudsman on children's rights and setting up a national commission to protect children rights.

Ukraine remains a primary source for men, women and children trafficked to Europe, the Middle East and Russia for sexual exploitation and forced labor, according to international experts.

Low salaries and high unemployment force thousands of Ukrainians to seek employment abroad, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation, they say.

The International Organization for Migration says it has provided assistance to about 3,000 Ukrainians who were victims of trafficking since 2000, but estimates that that number is only a small portion of the victims. Petit said that 10 percent of these victims were children.

He also said that statistics on human trafficking in Ukraine — and elsewhere — belie the true scope of the problem. "It is a huge figure, but it's just the tip of the iceberg," said Petit.

Yuriy Pavlenko, head of a state agency in charge of combating human trafficking said that 103 criminal probes into alleged children trafficking were opened since 2003.

Source: AP

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ottawa’s Gone Cool On Visas For Ukrainians – MP

OTTAWA, Canada -- A Canadian member of parliament from the Liberal Party has accused the new Conservative government in Ottawa of turning a cold shoulder to visitors and immigrants from Ukraine through its visa policy at the embassy in Kyiv.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a Canadian member of parliament from the Liberal Party, accuses his country’s new Conservative government of aggressively slashing visas for Ukrainians at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who claims to be the only lawmaker with Ukrainian roots serving in Canada’s House of Commons, says that Canadian Conservatives, who took over the government earlier this year, have been placing a strain on bonds between his country’s significant Ukrainian Diaspora and their kith and kin in the mother country.

Staff cuts last summer at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, as well as an alleged drop in the number of visitor and permanent residency visas issued by the embassy to Ukrainians, reflects a negative attitude toward Ukrainians on the part of new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, according to Wrzesnewskyj.

There are more than 1 million ethnic Ukrainians living in Canada, which has a population of over 32 million.

In an Oct. 5 statement, Wrzesnewskyj said that Canada’s Conservative government was responsible for numerous visa rejections and delays at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv.

“This summer I was receiving increasing numbers of calls and e-mails from frustrated constituents and Canadians across the country, who were unable to get their relatives and friends to come to Canada for family visits, weddings, christenings and, regrettably, even funerals,” Wrzesnewskyj said in the statement.

“It turns out that this is a consequence of aggressive cuts to the staff at Canada’s Embassy in Ukraine by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. In July and September 2006, three positions, or 30 percent of the immigration section in Kyiv, have been eliminated, leaving a skeletal staff of seven.”

“The cutting of three immigration officers further demonstrates Immigration Minister Solberg’s attitude when it comes to potential immigration from Ukraine,” he said.

Embassy of Canada Political and Economic Program Officer Inna Tsarkova said that the recent personnel changes were no reason for panic, and characterized them as standard and well-considered moves.

“The changes are made based on well-established trends, not on short-term shifts, and are verified with current-year data,” Tsarkova told the Post Oct. 18.

“In this year’s [personnel] exercise, staff was reduced at 13 visa offices [around the world], and increased at 13 others, and all visa offices being trimmed will retain a sufficient number of staff to provide their current level of service in all priority categories,” she added.

“In the immigration section of the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, this review and adjustment resulted in the elimination of one immigration officer position and two clerical/support positions – a registry supervisor and a cashier.”

Tsarkova said it was too early following the staff cuts to say whether they have resulted in a tangible decrease in the number of Canadian visas issued to Ukrainians.

Bohdan Klid, the assistant director at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies in Edmonton, Canada, said he believes that “service at the immigration section in Ukraine could have been improved” and that “it’s logical to conclude that the time to process applications will now be delayed with fewer staff at the immigration section.”

Klid told the Post Oct. 17, “The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, currently Monty Solberg, is the person from the [Canadian] government and the governing Conservative Party who is ultimately responsible for policy.”

According to data provided by the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, each year the embassy receives between 6,000 and 7,000 temporary resident (visitor) visa applications and more than 900 applications for permanent residence in Canada. It issues over 5,000 temporary resident visas and 700 permanent resident visas to applicants from Ukraine.

Over the last five years, the number of temporary resident visa applications has increased, while the number of permanent residence applications has decreased, the Canadian Embassy said.

During Canada’s Jan. 23, 2006 early federal election, the Conservative Party won 40.3 percent of seats, or 124 out of 308, up from 99 seats in 2004. The liberals, headed by now former Prime Minister Paul Martin, went from 135 to 103 seats – a 23.7 percent drop from what they had in the last parliament.

Source: Kyiv Post

EU, Ukraine Reach Visa, Immigration Pacts

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union and Kiev have reached agreements on visas and readmitting illegal immigrants, which is to be initialled at an EU-Ukraine summit today in Helsinki, the European Commission said yesterday.

“I am very pleased that the agreements on visa and readmission have been agreed,” said European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.

“This means that Ukrainians will now be able to travel more freely and easily while maintaining the efforts to clamp down on illegal migration,” he added.

Under the agreement on visas, procedures for issuing short-stay visas to Ukrainian citizens are to be eased.

The readmission agreement sets out clear obligations and procedures for both EU and Ukrainian authorities about when and how to take back people who are illegally residing on their territories.

The two agreements, which are to be initialled today by EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Ukraine Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk, have to be approved by the European Parliament and the 25 EU member states to go into effect, which generally takes about a year.

Source: AFP

Ukraine Strives For Closer Ties To Europe At Summit With European Union

HELSINKI, Finland -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko will seek to bolster ties with European Union leaders on Friday, hoping to improve his country's prospects of eventual EU membership.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko meets Finland's President Tarja Halonen (R) in Helsinki. Yushchenko is in Finland to participate in the EU-Ukraine meeting on Friday.

"One of the strategic goals is to get a European perspective in our foreign policy," Yushchenko said on the eve of the meeting, after talks with Finnish President Tarja Halonen.

The annual EU-Ukraine summit, being held in current EU president Finland, is expected to launch negotiations on a new economic and political cooperation agreement. The two parties also will sign agreements on cross-border cooperation to ease visa requirements and the readmission of illegal immigrants.

Yushchenko said Ukraine was on the "final stretch" of talks to join NATO and was making progress on membership of the World Trade Organization. He hoped the Helsinki meeting would open the way for EU membership talks to begin, possibly in 2008.

"In these talks my aim is to make progress so that we could start some kind of accession negotiations in 2008 which would eventually lead to Ukraine's membership in the European Union," Yushchenko said at a news conference with Halonen.

But the EU has been more cautious, shying away from setting any date for staring such talks.

After admitting 10 new countries in 2004, and preparing to absorb Romania and Bulgaria on Jan. 1, there has been a growing wariness in the bloc about further expansion.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has urged Ukraine for reforms.

"The reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and improving the business climate are highest priorities, together with the finalization of Ukraine's WTO accession," Barroso said in Brussels. "This is not only crucial for Ukraine, but will also strengthen EU-Ukraine relations."

Halonen was even more blunt.

"We all know Ukraine will still have a lot to do in the future," she said. "Concerning the reforms, it's not how to please somebody else, but it's the issue of how Ukraine can become capable in international relations, in globalization and in bilateral relations."

So far, the EU has refused to grant Ukraine a "membership perspective," including the former Soviet republic in its "neighborhood policy" along with Belarus, Israel, the south Caucasus countries and several Arab nations around the Mediterranean Sea.

Governments from the 25 EU nations are currently mulling a proposal from the Commission to deepen relations with Ukraine by setting up a free trade zone, strengthening diplomatic ties and boosting collaboration in areas such as energy, justice, nuclear safety, and environment protection.

In Helsinki, the two parties are expected to sign agreements to make it easier for Ukrainians to travel, work and study in the EU and to increase cooperation in customs and border control, including easing the return to Ukraine of illegal immigrants arriving into the bloc from that country.

Source: AP

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ukraine: No Plan To Extend Russian Black Sea Port Lease

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's defense minister Thursday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to consider extending the Russian military's lease on a Black Sea port.

Russian Marines on the Black Sea in Sevastopol

Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko said Ukraine would uphold the 1997 agreement that allows the Russian navy to remain in the port of Sevastopol until 2017.

But when that expires, Ukraine would expect Russia's Black Sea Fleet to leave, Hrytsenko told reporters in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, according to his office.

"I am convinced that there shouldn't be and won't be any permanent foreign military base on Ukrainian territory - whether it be members of NATO, members of the Tashkent agreement or the Commonwealth of Independent States collective security agreement," Hrytsenko said, referring to the Western military alliance and alliances between ex-Soviet states.

During a televised call-in session on Wednesday, Putin said Russia would be interested in discussing the extension of the lease of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

Russia pays Ukraine an annual rent of $93 million to base its fleet in Sevastopol. The presence of the Russian troops on Ukrainian territory has sparked anger among Ukrainian nationalists, and given rise to a number of disputes between Ukraine and Russia over who has ownership of lighthouses and other property in the region.

Analysts had suggested that in exchange for promising Ukraine a below-market rate for gas imports for several years, Ukraine might agree to extend the port's lease to the Russian navy. Hrytsenko, however, insisted no such talks were under way.

"If someone is carrying out such talks, they are behind-the-scenes, secret, and ultimately, illegal," Hrytsenko said.

Hrytsenko is an appointee of Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who shares power with the more Russian-leaning Premier Viktor Yanukovych.

Source: AP

Yushchenko To Putin: 'Ukraine Can Defend Itself Without Russia'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko on Thursday sharply criticised his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for suggesting the Kremlin's Black Sea fleet could help regional security by protecting Ukraine from exterior threats.

Viktor Yushchenko (L) and Vladimir Putin (R)

'Ukraine is a sovereign nation and has sufficient military forces to take care of itself ... and is in no need of assistance from any other foreign nation,' Yushchenko said in Helsinki.

Yushchenko's remarks were the Ukrainian president's first public response to Tuesday comments by Putin arguing Russian naval and land forces stationed in Ukraine's Crimea province contributed to regional stability, and could if necessary defend Ukraine from outside attack.

Ukraine's Defence Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko was even more direct in his criticism of Putin's declaration, telling reporters in Kiev: 'I cannot imagine a situation where Ukraine would ask another country for help in preventing interference in our internal affairs.'

'There are no changes in plans for the (Russian) fleet to remain in Crimea after its lease runs out,' he said.

Putin's remarks came during a three-hour television call-in programme on Russian state television. The Russian leader had been responding to a question from a citizen of the Ukrainian port city Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based.

'We are prepared ... to provide assistance to our neighbour and brotherly republic Ukraine, to protect her, in case someone were to have the idea of interfering in her internal affairs,' Putin said during the televised question-and-answer session.

Putin qualified his remarks by saying he believed Ukraine should resolve its internal matters on its own.

His comments nevertheless sparked an almost immediate firestorm of rhetoric by Ukrainian commentators across the political spectrum, as one of the few things Ukraine's widely-divided ruling clans agree on is that they prefer to run the former Soviet republic without Russia's help.

The term 'brotherly republic' is a politically-loaded term in both Russia and Ukraine, implying effective subordination of Kiev to Moscow's control.

The expression 'protection from foreign interference in internal affairs' is if anything even more inflammatory, as the phrase was the standard justification given by the Soviet Union to invade its smaller neighbours.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been thorny since Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, which shifted the country's foreign policy orientation from Russia towards Europe.

Increasing Russian assertiveness in the international arena in recent years has exacerbated the conflict.

A treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows Russia to base its Black Sea fleet in the port Sevastopol until 2017.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Russia Bristles At Ukrainian Officials Push For Declaring Soviet-Era Famine As Genocide

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday bristled at Ukrainian officials' push for declaring a Soviet-era famine that killed up to 10 million people as genocide, saying it was part of Communist repressions that also affected other ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union.

Kiev memorial to famine victims

Up to 10 million Ukrainians died in the 1932-33 Great Famine, which was provoked by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as part of his campaign to force peasants to join collective farms. Ukrainian officials have called for an official recognition of the famine as genocide.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday criticized Ukrainian authorities for what it called a "unilateral interpretation" of the famine. "It was wrong to apply the notion exclusively to Ukraine, because it deals with a sad page in our common history," the ministry said in a statement.

Countries including the United States, Canada, Austria, Hungary and Lithuania have recognized the famine as genocide, but the issue remains highly charged in Ukraine, since declaring the famine as genocide would amount to an indictment of Soviet policies - something that Communists, Socialists and many pro-Russian politicians are loathe to do.

Source: AP

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ukraine Says EU Must Respect Its Membership Ambitions

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The EU must offer Ukraine the prospect of full membership than to exile it from the European mainstream along with nations in North Africa and the Middle East, the country's envoy to Brussels said Wednesday.

"We are not neighbors of Europe, we are part of Europe," said ambassador Roman Shpek, head of the Ukrainian mission at the EU. "For us, it is not pleasant to be in the same basket as Morocco, Libya or Israel," he said ahead of Friday's EU-Ukraine summit.

Shpek also rejected suggestions that a gas deal signed with Russia on Tuesday would give Moscow a say on Ukraine's aspirations to join the World Trade Organization in the coming months.

"Next year Ukraine will become a full member of the WTO," Shpek told reporters. "Russians they have their own agenda and for us it's not the issue to compete with Russia."

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko will meet European Union leaders in Helsinki, Finland, for the annual EU-Ukraine summit. The talks are expected to launch negotiations on a new economic and political cooperation agreement.

The Ukrainians hope that will include the prospect of eventual membership. The EU is noncommittal, reflecting growing wariness about expanding the bloc which admitted 10 new countries in 2004, is about to take in Romania and Bulgaria and is engaged in negotiations with Croatia and Turkey.

Shpek insisted under the treaty which underpins the Union, the EU must keep its doors open to European nations that share its values of democracy, human rights and free market economy.

"You cannot change values," Shpek said. "European politicians should recognize that Ukraine has the same rights as all European states."

So far, the EU has refused to grant Ukraine a "membership perspective," including the former Soviet republic in its "neighborhood policy" along with Belarus, Israel, the south Caucasus countries and several Arab nations around the Mediterranean Sea.

Governments from the 25 EU nations are currently mulling a proposal from the European Commission to open negotiations on a new cooperation agreement to deepen relations with Ukraine by setting up a free trade zone, strengthening diplomatic ties and boosting collaboration in areas such as energy, justice, nuclear safety, and environment protection.

Meanwhile, the two sides are expected to sign agreements on the margin of Friday's summit to make it easier for Ukrainians to travel, work and study in the EU and to increase cooperation in customs and border control, Shpek said at a meeting hosted by the EU Ukraine Business Council.

The private business group said the summit should adopt five priorities for boosting economic ties: open EU markets to Ukrainian goods; fight corruption and tighten protection of property rights in Ukraine; advance private-public partnerships in energy, transport and telecoms; hasten Ukraine's WTO membership plans; and promote energy efficiency.

"We would like to see an enhanced agreement for Ukraine that recognizes the reality that Ukraine is a European market that offers outstanding business potential," said James Wilson, the council's director.

Source: AP

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

IBM Sets Up Subsidiary In Ukraine

MOSCOW. Russia -- IBM has set up a subsidiary in Ukraine called IBM Ukraine.

The presence of a world leader on the IT market in Ukraine will have a positive influence on the development of the Ukrainian IT market on the whole and will help expand the sector of supply and services to the company's business partners, Brendon Riley, IBM general director in Central and Eastern Europe, said at a Tuesday press conference.

The establishment of an IBM subsidiary based on the company's representation, that has worked in Ukraine since 2004, will help IBM offer the entire range of its services in Ukraine, said Ihor Pastushenko, general director of IBM Ukraine.

IBM is planning to implement projects in business consulting, such as designing strategies, personal management, installing integrated informational systems, and developing the network of local designers and business partners that offer solutions based on IBM programs.

Around 2,000 Ukrainian companies are currently IBM clients, Pastushenko said.

Source: Interfax

Ukraine's Ex-PM Urges Our Ukraine To Join Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's ex-Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko said Tuesday her opposition party is looking forward to cooperating with the pro-presidential alliance Our Ukraine as soon as it finally opts for the opposition.

Yuliya Tymoshenko

Our Ukraine, a member of the anti-crisis parliamentary coalition, officially announced last Tuesday that it is switching to the opposition over major differences with the pro-Russian Party of Regions. But the party said it has still to decide on an opposition format.

"The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc is prepared to cooperate within the opposition with the pro-presidential bloc Our Ukraine," Tymoshenko said, regretting that the party has not decided whether it will remain in power or join the opposition.

Tymoshenko and her eponymous bloc went into opposition in late September after its first post-election coalition with Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party collapsed, giving way to a new alliance with the Party of Regions and burying her hopes for a new premiership.

Four ministers from Our Ukraine tendered their resignations Thursday, in line with the party decision to go into opposition and possibly form a shadow Cabinet.

But Our Ukraine seems to be experiencing a serious internal crisis as it adjourned its congress for three weeks to amend its strategy and undertake drastic reform in response to President Viktor Yushchenko's fierce criticism of inactivity over the weekend.

Efforts at forming a grand coalition by President Yushchenko's six-party bloc and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions and its allies, the Socialist and Communist parties, have stalled. After two months of talks, the political forces still disagree on a series of crucial issues, including Yushchenko's drive to join NATO.

"This Mexican soap opera has to end. We are keeping our door and hands open. They only have to decide," Tymoshenko said, appealing to the former "orange" allies.

Source: RIA Novosti

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ukraine: Worries About Nation's Future

KIEV, Ukraine -- In 1995 there were 52 million Ukrainians. A decade later there are less than 47 million Ukrainians left as this former Soviet republic has hemorrhaged the equivalent of the population of Denmark to emigration, alcoholism and low birth rates.

Alcoholism in Ukraine runs as high as 50% among the adult male population

“The figure itself is not catastrophic, but the tendencies are alarming”, said Ella Libanova, deputy director of Ukraine’s Institute of Demography and Social Research.

According to official statistics, the Ukrainian population has dropped by 678,039 people in the last two years. At 6o, male life expectancy is higher than in Russia but still well below that in neighboring countries that joined the European Union in 2004 such as Hungary and Poland.

“Thirty percent of 40-year-old men will die before they are 60 and there is no hope that the situation will change soon”, said Libanova.

Mass migration adds to the demographic crisis: according to some estimates between three and five million Ukrainians work abroad illegally -- those in the east of the country head for Russia, those in the west go to the European Union.

Emigrants like Olga Dufin, a 63-year-old nurse from Kiev who has been caring for patients in Italy for four years, have no intention of returning.

The 700 euros (870 dollars) that she makes each month in the northern Italian town of Forli make it possible for her to help her two sons, one of whom is unemployed, and to pay university fees for her daughter-in-law.

“Here in Forli, I meet Ukrainians aged between 20 and 40 everywhere”, she said by telephone. “The engineers work in construction, the doctors wash dishes. Some make 1,500 euros” -- almost 10 times the average wage in Ukraine.

“The most active and dynamic leave” -- especially those from the many small towns that in Soviet times built up around single mines or factories, according to sociologist Irina Bekeshkina.

“Ageing European countries, which need labor, will continue to soften their employment legislation and this flow will only increase”, said Libanova.

For Irina Pribitkova of Ukraine’s Institute of Sociology, the crux of the problem is a falling birthrate and a mortality rate that continues to rise despite calls from the government’s critics to reform the inefficient health system.

Between January and August this year, Ukraine saw 70 percent more deaths than births, with 511,338 deaths and 301,208 births.

Over 10 years the birth rate has fallen from 1.6 to 1.2 children per woman, while the natural replacement level would be 2.2, Libanova said.

“As in Europe, Ukrainians do not want to be baby machines and children have ceased to be economically necessary”, she commented.

“Women have emancipated themselves over the last 10 years, but discrimination means that they must work twice as much as their male colleagues to build a career. They can’t allow themselves to have children”, Pribitkova averred.

Source: Monday Morning

Kyiv Meeting Real Estate Scam Victims’ Grievances

KYIV, Ukraine -- Nearly nine months following the eruption of a major real estate scam in the nation’s capital, more than 1,000 apartment buyers who were bilked out of an estimated $100 million are still waiting for the Kyiv city authorities to follow through on pledges to organize the construction of compensatory housing.

Elite-Center scam cost investors $100 million

In a recent response to the apartment buyers’ continuing protests, the city administration has said that it has compiled a list of the scam victims and planned to hold a tender to attract private investors interested in financing the compensatory housing.

However, suspicion of licensing and regulatory officials, as well as concerns for the rights of Ukraine’s emerging middle class, remain.

Starting in 2004, prospective Ukrainian homeowners invested an average of $70,000 each into apartments to be built by Elite-Center, a private development company offering eight residential projects in Kyiv.

By the beginning of this year, it became clear that they had lost their down payments, together with any housing they were supposed to get. In late January, Elite-Center’s top executives fled the country after having funneled the funds they had received from buyers through various bank accounts.

Elite-Center, which advertised heavily throughout the capital, never actually existed as a legal entity, but worked through at least 14 other companies.

The paperwork documenting the eight projects formed a trail to the administration of then Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, suggesting that top city officials were at best negligent, if not implicated in the real estate scam.

On Feb. 25, Omelchenko issued an order that designated Kyiv Investment Agency, a public utility company under the Kyiv City Administration, to take charge of attracting developers and builders to put up compensation housing for Elite-Center victims. Only one of the eight projects advertised by Elite-Center had actually been started, on the capital’s Otto Schmidt Street.

Omelchenko’s order said that construction of the housing projects was to be funded by new investments as well as money returned to Elite-Center buyers through court decisions.

On March 2, the Kyiv City Council allocated 19 plots of land for the construction of housing for the bilked apartment buyers.

On April 28, Kyiv’s Shevchenkivskiy district court held the first hearing in a case brought by victims of the Elite-Center scam, in which they accused the state financial services markets regulation commission of failing to exercise financial oversight of the investment agreements between the scam victims and Elite-Center.

On May 19, the court ruled that the commission’s inactivity was illegal, noting that there had been no proper control over the implementation of the investment agreements. The court ordered temporary administration of Elite-Center by the same state commission, with the aim of fulfilling the purchase agreements.

Earlier in May, Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko had announced that law enforcement agencies in CIS countries and the Baltic States were hot on the trail of the scam’s main suspect, the director of Elite-Center, who went under the name of Oleksandr Volkonsky.

Lutsenko said, however, that due to shortcomings in Ukraine’s court system, he was unable to seize several million hryvnias discovered in accounts thought to be linked to Volkonsky in a number of foreign banks.

Meanwhile, Volkonsky remains at large.

Some individuals affected by the scam have been living in hostel accommodations provided by the Kyiv City Administration starting in late June.

According to Anna Shmidt, a member of an initiative group of Elite-Center’s victims, some duped apartment buyers have been camping out in tents around Kyiv waiting for their turn to receive a room in a hostel. Like many of the other scam victims, Shmidt said that she had been living with friends after selling her apartment to invest in a flat in Elite-Center’s Otto Schmidt Street project.

Deceived buyers turned up the pressure on the city council in mid-August, when a group of them pitched a tent camp in front of the Kyiv City Administration building, demanding that municipal authorities guarantee the construction of the compensation housing.

During a press conference held on Aug. 16, Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, elected in the general elections of March 26, told journalists that the demonstrators had been paid to try to force his hand.

“They were each paid Hr 100 for sitting there,” Chernovetsky said.

The Shevchenkivskiy district court refused to satisfy the city administration’s demand that the court ban the demonstrators from putting up their tents.

During a public hearing on Aug. 30, Chernovetsky said that due to a lack of support from the Interior Ministry, which had failed to provide the city with a list of the scam’s victims, citing investigative secrecy, the Elite-Center issue had been unreasonably drawn out.

Action finally taken

Now, nearly a year after the scam emerged, the municipal authorities have said they have finally launched their search for new developers and construction companies.

On Sept. 27, the city organized a meeting with Elite-Center apartment buyers to compile a victims list independently of the Interior Ministry.

“This is why we had to organize this meeting and invite buyers to bring their passports as well as the documents given to them by the Internal Affairs Ministry,” said Vitaly Zhurakhovskiy, the deputy head of the city administration.

According to a Sept. 28 statement by the municipal administration’s press service, the city’s victims list compiled at the Sept. 27 meeting totals 1,220 people.

Denis Bass, the deputy head of Kyiv City Administration and the head of the ad-hoc commission to provide housing for Elite-Center victims, was quoted as saying that preparations for holding the investment tender are in their final stage.

“Now we are close to the investment tender,” Bass said.

Ivan Nesin, an Elite-Center victim turned protester, said that selfish motives were behind Kyiv authorities allowing the situation surrounding the scam to drag on.

“I think they simply have their own interests in this and want to get more money using the situation. Otherwise, the problem would have been resolved long ago,” said Nesin, a pensioner who sold his house in Kryvy Rih to invest in an Elite-Center one-room apartment.

“My son-in-law was killed in a car accident and left my daughter a widow, as well as my grandson. I wanted to be closer to my daughter to help her raise her child,” he said.

Anna Levshunova is a dentist. She owned a one-room apartment in Kyiv’s historical Podil district, but because of dilapidated housing conditions where she lived, Levshunova decided to sell her flat and purchase a two-room apartment in an Elite-Center project on the city’s Left Bank.

“I wanted to improve my housing conditions because my son is growing up. Now I live with my child and my brother in his apartment,” she said.

“There are difficulties in the investigation. But it is the criminal part of the issue. The administrative part could be settled by a Kyiv Council resolution,” said Mykola Boychuk, a deputy in the Kyiv City Council with the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

He added that instead of holding public hearings on the Elite-Center issue, the city of Kyiv should try to reach some kind of compromise with every family victimized by the scam.

“I think the Kyiv city government has all the resources to do this,” Boychuk said. “This can involve [Kyiv] regional administrations and institutions that deal with social issues to work with the victims and finding a mechanism to solve the problem instead of trying to keep away from it.”

Boychuk said that the Elite-Center issue could have been resolved already and that Chernovetsky must take complete responsibility for resolving it, as he said he would.

Vladyslav Kaskiv, a leading politician in the PORA People’s Party, and a former adviser to President Viktor Yushchenko, also suffered a loss as a result of the scam, investing in the purchase of a three-room apartment in Elite-Center’s Otto Shmidt Street project. However, Kaskiv said he hasn’t taken an active part in the housing buyer protests, indicating that this could compromise his position as a political activist.

“Of course, I did not lose everything I had … But my situation is rather inconvenient. If I became too involved in the issue, it could have been understood as an abuse of my position,” Kaskiv said.

“On the other hand, of course, I have a rational wish to get my money back or receive an apartment. But I think I don’t have the moral right to interfere,” he said.

Kaskiv said he believes the fact that such a scam took place shows that the construction sector’s regulatory system is not working properly. According to Kaskiv, the construction market in Kyiv has already been formed, and many people have their interests vested in it, especially politicians and officials.

“If the system collapses, their interests would be damaged first,” he said.

Meanwhile, some Elite-Center buyers are trying to receive compensation without the city’s help.

On Aug. 30, Kyiv’s Holosiyivskiy district court ruled in favor of two Elite-Center buyers against Blagovest Pechersky, one of Ukraine’s largest real estate agencies, freezing Blagovest’s banking accounts. Blagovest acted as a broker between Elite-Center and the two buyers, who demanded Hr 600,000 [$120,000] in compensation from Blagovest in the case.

“Apparently, as a leader of the real estate market, the defendant should have had enough information about the market and market players,” reads a statement from Ilyashev&Partners, the law firm that represented the Elite-Center buyers in the case.

According to Ihor Khasin, an attorney with Ilyashev&Partners, if the court’s decision is not appealed, or the Court of Appeals confirms the Holosiyivskiy court’s decision, the buyers will be compensated Hr 492,000 [$100,000] in monetary damages and Hr 100,000 [$20,000] in moral damages.

Source: Kyiv Post

The Evil Of A Murder In Russia

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaia was murdered shortly after she entered her apartment building in central Moscow on Oct. 7. The building's security system was in working order, and she pushed the right buttons to open the door.

Anna Politkovskaia

The assassin was waiting inside. His slim figure was caught on security video.

Politkovskaia's murder was one of many. On Oct. 16, Anatoly Voronin, financial director of Russia's leading news agency ITAR-TASS, was found knifed to death in his apartment.

On Sept. 13, Andrei Kozlov, deputy director of Russia's Central Bank, was killed while exiting a sports event.

Politkovskaia has been called "the conscience of Russian journalism" by the deputy editor of Novaia Gazeta, the daily newspaper for which she wrote.

She was the only Russian intellectual seriously engaged in exposing to the world the unspeakable doings of the Russian security forces in Chechnya: routine kidnapping and torture of men, women and children whose mutilated bodies have occasionally been found by relatives.

She was universally trusted, and her mediation might have prevented hundreds of casualties during the various hostage takings in Russia. But she was not allowed to mediate.

In 2004, rushing to Beslan to avert the crisis, she was mysteriously poisoned (as President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko had been at the start of the Orange Revolution). She was probably the most fearless and noble journalist alive in the world. Her book, A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, was published in English in 2003.

Respected Russian political commentator Evgeniia Albats drew a parallel between Politkovskaia's murder and the murder of communist leader Sergei Kirov in 1934. That murder unleashed Stalin's well-known purge of the Communist Party, which culminated in the show trials of Politburo members and other party leaders.

It is significant that Politkovskaia's murder generated no more than a tone of subdued indignation in the American and European media. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Le Monde gave it a few sideshow articles that promptly disappeared from their homepages.

The Moscow online gazeta.ru removed mentions of Politkovskaia the day after her funeral. Our own media reported President Bush's subdued call for the murder's investigation, answered by President Putin's chilling assertion that an "objective" investigation would be forthcoming.

As a Russia scholar, I am not all that interested in who Putlin's police might eventually display as Politkovskaia's murderer. Whether the real murderer or someone who merely confessed to the murder, such a person will carry a lesser moral guilt than those who planned and organized the deed.

The same applies to the ongoing Chechnya atrocities that have long disappeared from the front pages of world newspapers, and with Politkovskaia's passing may disappear for good from the world's memory.

What is of interest is who stands behind the hired killer. The fact that the murder took place on Putin's birthday invites speculation about Putin's admirers in Russia (and they are many): "the strong hand," which has become proverbial in Russia and which has been desired by quite a few Russians, has again made its appearance.

And the second question: Why so little indignation and attention spent on Polit-kovskaia in Russia and abroad? Whence the restrained tone in which the Western media and politicians condemned the murder?

Let me offer a scenario. In the post-Soviet and terrorist-ridden world, the superpowers seem to be looking backward to the 19th century, when great empires ruled the world and the rest of humanity acquiesced after countless failed uprisings.

After the First World War there came an era of democracy, brutally broken by the rise of Nazism. After the Second World War, apart from the communist menace that made first world countries uncomfortable (not to speak of the hardships of Eastern and Central Europe under Soviet military domination), democracy surged forward, with more and more rights gained by more and more minorities in the noncommunist world.

The 20th century gave suffrage to women. It gave American blacks a taste of real equality, and it liberated many Asian and South American countries from dictatorial regimes.

After the fall of communism, Eastern and Central Europe gained an opportunity, in Boris Yeltsin's words, to "grab as much freedom as they were able to swallow." All of them did except, as Mikhail Khodor-kovsky's imprisonment and Politkovskaia's murder have illustrated, the Russian Federation.

The fact that Russians took the path of make-believe democracy says a great deal about the Russian political culture. It may also be an indication of Russian political brilliance exemplified by President Vladimir Putin. Putin's evil brilliance consists in understanding that powerful nations once again are poised to rule the world.

The Russo-German alliance on energy defies the spirit of the European Union whose founders envisaged a united European front on major political and economic problems. Now Russia wants Germany to be its energy distributor and watchdog in the EU.

This puts the EU out of whack, as countries such as Poland and the Baltic republics are left out of the planned gas pipeline to be built at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Have the world leaders forgotten that it is crucial to the stability of Europe to guarantee stability and liberty in non-Germanic Central Europe?

The answer is yes. Winston Churchill's infamous division of the world into "giants" and "pygmies" seems to be falling in place again. The increasingly nationalistic world powers seem once again to be betting on their strength in controlling smaller nations.

International treaties and agreements are still being signed and are ostensibly honored, but unilateral actions by the great powers have become more and more frequent. The United Nations has been sidelined on too many occasions, its resolutions ignored by the strong nations and enforced only when the strong want to see them enforced.

The North Korean crisis illustrates this. The United Nations is powerless to change the course of that country. The United States has to lean on China to effect pressure on Kim Jong Il.

As Robert Kaplan recently noted, China would welcome a satellite state on the Korean peninsula, but that would not be in the interest of Russia, which has a history of strong ties with North Korea in the communist period, and is viewing the country as a potential pipeline route for its oil and gas.

Neither China nor Russia wants the rest of the world to have a say in North Korean developments. They signed off on the U.N.-imposed sanctions, but insisted that military action not be included.

Are we going back to the 19th century, when the white empires brutalized white minorities within their own borders while treating the nonwhite rest of the world as a back yard to be used as they saw fit?

To be sure, the great powers today are not the same as 150 years ago. The rise of China, the assertive voices of some of the mid-size powers such as Brazil, South Korea and Japan change the picture somewhat.

But the trend seems to be backward rather than forward. It is this trend that accounts for the relatively scant attention paid to Polit-kovskaia's murder. Like 19th century revolutionaries, she was an inconvenience to be crushed.

The great powers do not blame the Russian government, because they are getting ready — or indeed have been more than ready — to engage in liberty-reducing actions within their own borders.

They therefore studiously avoid blaming Russia for its brutality, for Russia is poised to join the concert of nations from which its own excesses dislodged it in the early postcommunist era.

Politkovskaia's murder may signal a return to the undemocratic past when the rich and the powerful openly used their might against the rest of the world.

Source: Houston Chronicle

Kids From The Ukraine Meet Potential Parents In Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, USA -- A life changing experience for a group of Utah families and children from the Ukraine.

Elizabeth Garrett was adopted from Ukraine by a Utah family

Looking to make a difference in a country with 60,000 homeless children the “Save A Child Foundation,” focuses on placing children ages 6 through 15 into homes.

24 children from the Ukraine have just arrived here at the Salt Lake City International Airport, it has been a long trip.

They were delayed by two days and while they are excited to meet their host families, this is still a pretty scary experience for some of them.

“Welcome kids...I’m excited, you will have a good experience, I love you,” says Elizabeth Garrett in Russian. Elizabeth was adopted out of the Ukraine and felt at one time much like these children do.

The Save A Child Foundation has paired up children with host families with the hopes that many will be adopted.

“We were exposed to the need over there,” says Vern Garrett from the Save A Child Foundation.

The Garrett family, who has adopted two girls and plan to adopt a third from the Ukraine, created this opportunity for the children.

“Our host families are our diamonds,” says Vern. “Without them we can’t do this.”

Some are already thinking adoption.

“We are very open to that,” says Jenae Price one of the host families. She has a family of all boys who are excited for a sister.

“Because sisters help you a lot and they aren’t messy,” says 10-year-old Tyler Price from one of the host families.

“I’m very excited,” says Elizabeth. “I don’t know them, but I’m just shaking!”

“I’ll take such good care of you!” says one potential parent.

“That’s her in the green!” says another excitedly.

“They’re so precious,” says another hopeful mother.

‘The birth of their child’ are words used to describe the feeling here.

Though most of them will face a language barrier it doesn’t matter. To simply say “family” is nothing compared to feeling it.

Elizabeth Garrett describes how it felt when she first met her parents, “It was very exciting. I was happy to have parents because it was my whole life’s dream, to have parents.”

The children will stay with the families for a couple of weeks. Then, due to legalities, they’ll have to go back to the Ukraine. But the families will then have the option to pursue adoption of the kids they met today.

The same group hosted families last year and more than 90 percent of the children were adopted after the visit.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

U.S. Alters Its Spelling Of Ukraine City

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Ukrainian capital of Kiev is now Kyiv, as far as the U.S. government is concerned. And the State Department says the spelling change has nothing to do with American hopes of wooing the one-time Soviet republic more into the Western orbit.

About half of Ukraine's 47 million people are Russian speakers, and Kiev is the Russian spelling.

Ukraine's Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko, elected on the wave of the 2004 Orange Revolution's mass protests against election fraud, has sought to take his nation out of Russia's influence and join NATO and the European Union.

"I don't think this decision has anything reflective in it," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday.

The department announced the change in a memorandum Oct. 3, instructing officials to use the Kyiv spelling in all communications regarding Ukraine.

When a reporter asked about the change Thursday, Casey said there is a U.S. Board of Geographic Names with representatives from several government departments, including the State Department, that establishes uniform geographic name usage for the federal government.

The Associated Press continues to spell the name of the capital Kiev.

Source: AP

Ukraine's President Criticizes Party's Decision To Move Into Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko on Saturday criticized his party's decision to move into opposition and urged it to resume talks with the ruling parliamentary coalition led by his Orange Revolution foe.

President Viktor Yushchenko

As the leader of Our Ukraine party, Yushchenko won the 2004 presidential campaign amid the Orange Revolution protests against election fraud.

But Yushchenko's team broke up quickly amid political infighting, which helped the party of Yushchenko's Kremlin-backed election rival, Viktor Yanukovych, win the most votes in parliamentary elections and get the prime minister's job.

After months of negotiations, no agreement was reached for Yushchenko's Our Ukraine to join the governing parliamentary coalition led by Yanukovych's Party of Regions, and Our Ukraine said earlier this month it was moving into the opposition.

But Yushchenko, who is the party's honorary chairman, said moving to the opposition was not the best strategy for Our Ukraine and urged the bloc to continue coalition talks with the Party of Regions.

"I am not sure that... the opposition is the Our Ukraine's best answer," he said, adding the focus should be on "consolidation and mutual understanding with various political forces, including the Party of Regions."

Yushchenko added that if his party fails to "find new understanding (with Yanukovych's party)" it will "undoubtedly move into the opposition."

He also said that Our Ukraine had been weakened by personal ambitions and urged it to reshuffle its leadership.

"Our Ukraine as a political organization endures a serious internal crisis," Yushchenko said Saturday at the party's congress, saying the party has been plagued by a"mistaken policy, blindness through ambition... which led to intrigues, adventurous activities."

"I don't want the (party members) to pursue their personal interests," said Yushchenko, urging the party to change its leaders and statute "dramatically."

Roman Bezsmertny, who currently leads the bloc, said that he would give up his leadership and "suggest a new candidacy" next Wednesday during the party's council session. He did not elaborate.

Source: AP

Clear The Streets

KIEV, Ukraine -- Anyone who’s been to Kyiv can attest to its pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined streets, which conveniently traverse the center of town, making a car largely unnecessary.

Traffic jam on main street Khreschatyk on a typical day

This is nice for tourists as well as inhabitants of the Ukrainian capital.

Within the last half dozen years, however, pedestrians have been crowded out by the increasing number of automobiles and construction sites.

Many find this irritating, but it is also a sign of development and a bustling economy. So be it!

But when motorists flaunt the law, driving and parking on the limited sidewalk space still available to those without cars, something has to be done.

The City Council recently took a decision to partly alleviate the situation, by allowing city evacuators to haul away the vehicles of those who think they can park them where they want.

Good for the Council! Unfortunately, on Oct. 12, Kyiv’s Shevchenko District Court canceled the Council’s decision.

If the courts don’t stand up for the rights of the authorities to enforce the law on such a local, albeit fairly clear-cut issue, what is the message for bigger offenders?

Source: Kyiv Post