Tuesday, January 30, 2007

U.S. Exploring Cooperation With Ukraine On Missile Defense System

WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States is looking for ways to involve Ukraine in its plans to build a missile defense system.

A medium-range target missile rises seconds after lift-off from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. This test by the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, the maritime component of the "Hit to Kill" Ballistic Missile Defense System, being developed by the Missile Defense Agency.

The Deputy Director of the Missile Defense Agency said Monday that the U.S. has held several meetings with Ukrainian officials.

"We are exploring how we can continue to work with them," said Brigadier General Patrick O'Reilly. "They are a very adept country with a tremendous background in missile technology."

Washington announced earlier this month that it wants to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, basing a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor site in Poland.

Russia has harshly criticized U.S. plans to build missile defense sites in central Europe, shrugging off U.S. assurances that the installations would be meant to deal with a potential threat from Iran and calling them an effort to strengthen America's military might in the region.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Ukraine's Pro-Western Foreign Minister Resigns

KIEV, Ukraine -- Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, the chief architect of President Viktor Yushchenko's pro-Western foreign policy, said on Tuesday he had resigned.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk leaves the hall after a news conference in Kiev January 30, 2007. Tarasyuk, the chief architect of President Viktor Yushchenko's pro-Western foreign policy, said on Tuesday he had resigned

"The president of Ukraine has taken the decision to accept my resignation," Tarasyuk told a news conference broadcast on national television.

He said he hoped Yushchenko, weakened by constitutional amendments cutting his powers, would soon choose a successor.

Tarasyuk, one of Yushchenko's closest allies in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" protests that vaulted him to power, had been one of only two ministers still loyal to the president since his arch rival took over as prime minister last August.

He had championed the president's main policy plank of taking Ukraine out of the shadow of big neighbor Russia and seeking membership of both the European Union and NATO.

Yushchenko took office in 2005 with plans to improve ties between Ukraine and the West. But rows provoked splits among the revolution's advocates and toppled his first government.

The president's allies scored badly in a parliamentary election last year and were unable after long talks to form a government, prompting Yushchenko to name his rival, Viktor Yanukovich as prime minister.

Within weeks of taking office, Yanukovich enraged the president by telling NATO officials that public support was too low in Ukraine to embark on a fast-track membership plan.

Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko remains Yushchenko's sole cabinet ally. The president is now obliged to consult with both the government and parliament on only a handful of appointments, including the foreign and defense ministers.

Source: National Post

EU Fuels Western Ukraine Boom

TRANSCARPATHIA, Ukraine -- Dominated by the Carpathian Mountains, the region of Transcarpathia in western Ukraine looks stunning, but for years this was one of the poorest parts of Europe.

Eurocar Ukraine

Now it is being transformed.

The European Union has expanded again by taking another two countries - Bulgaria and Romania - which were once behind the Iron Curtain.

It means that Transcarpathia now borders four EU states - and business is booming.

Increased investor interest also followed the mass protests of the Orange Revolution in 2004 which brought Ukraine's pro-Western President, Viktor Yushchenko, to power.

An estimated 200m euros (£131.4m; $258.6m) has been invested in Transcarpathia, at the western tip of Ukraine.

New jobs

More than 4,000 new jobs have been created, with many more on the way.

One source is the Eurocar factory, just a 10-minute drive from the mountains.

It turns out Volkswagens and Seats, but today Sergey Zhuravel is working on the Skoda production line.

"This kind of place provides lots of permanent jobs," Mr Zhuravel said.

"It gives people prospects. They can earn their living, support their families and plan their future."

This factory will soon produce almost 30,000 vehicles destined for Europe every year.

Transcarpathia has special tax incentives and, compared to western Europe, wages are very low. But the biggest selling-point is its location.

Hungary is just a few metres away from the Eurocar factory and the region shares a border with Poland, Romania and Slovakia. All four EU countries are within just a few hours drive.

Around 700 international businesses are now working in the region.

Students hopeful

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, life here has been hard.

Many people from Transcarpathia were tempted to work abroad, often illegally.

At Uzhhorod University, a class of students are improving their English skills at a discussion club. Most of them though are not planning to leave Ukraine; instead they hope to work for international companies.

"It makes a real big difference if you have a good job, just like everywhere else," says Antonia Kanchiy, a student.

"Less people are going abroad now because more investments are coming into our region. It makes me feel good because I can see progress; I would like to work for the benefit of my country."

New 'Silicon Valley'

With a huge consumer market on its doorstep, Transcarpathia is attracting hi-tech firms.

The US-based company Jabil makes mobile phones and computer components here.

It employs more than 1,000 people and has plans to hire 5,000 more, bringing its production capacity to one million handsets a week.

"We strongly believe that this region can become a kind of Silicon Valley of electronic manufacturing in Europe," says Philippe Costemalethe, General Director of Jabil Ukraine.

"It could be the powerhouse of electronic manufacturing serving the European market."

International businesses would like to see improvements - less red tape and a more stable political climate. Compared to its neighbours, the level of foreign capital coming to Ukraine is still very low.

But already there are signs of the increased prosperity in Transcarpathia.

In the main town, rows of new houses are being built alongside the dingy Soviet-era tower blocks.

Source: BBC News

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ukraine Takes On Toxic Dumps

ZHYDACHIV, Ukraine -- As Olena Cholovska approaches the crumbling brick warehouse, she sighs. The cold wind whipping her scarf around her head blows toxic greenish powder into the nearby cabbage fields.


"A year ago we were here and all the doors were still here," says Ms. Cholovska, the director of the Lviv Plant Inspection Station in Lviv Oblast, an administrative region in western Ukraine that borders Poland.

The villagers who made off with the derelict warehouse's metal and wooden doors – most likely to burn them or sell them for scrap – may have had no idea that they were intended to protect locals from a stockpile of pesticides that date back to Soviet times.

The abundance of toxic pesticides is not unique to this rural, northwestern region of Ukraine, an hour south of the city of Lviv. In a country about the size of Texas, the United Nations estimates that about 4,000 dumps house nearly 20,000 tons of obsolete pesticides.

The potentially lethal waste hurts Ukraine's agricultural potential, especially when it comes to exporting produce to the expanding European Union (EU).

A few years ago, Cholovska says there were about 200 pesticide dumps in Lviv Oblast. Now, thanks to the efforts of about 25 Ukrainians working on behalf of universities, institutes, and local agencies, the number of dumps has been reduced to only 169.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spearheading a project to help clean up the country, but officials on the ground face numerous challenges from locals' lack of awareness and cooperation.

"Some people have tried to put fences around the sites and they just take the fences," says Margaret Jones, an EPA pesticides scientist from Chicago who has visited some of the sites. "They saw one local guy running through the woods with literally the last brick from one of the sites. That brick is going to build something else and you hope it's not in someone's home."

The EPA, working with the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, is sponsoring demonstration projects to educate Ukrainians about the dangers of harmful pesticides.

Over the past three years, some of the US government's $300,000 in aid has also gone toward computers and Internet access for Ukrainian government offices, some of which lack heat and electricity.

The bulk of Ukraine's left-over pesticides are classified by the EPA as persistent organic pesticides (POPs). These chemicals, like the famous insecticide DDT, which was banned in the US in 1972, take a long time to break down and are particularly harmful to animals and people.

Animals at the top of the food chain tend to accumulate POPs in their systems over time. which is why the insecticide DDT was so harmful to bald eagles and was eventually banned.

The vast pesticide waste is the vestige of a planned economy gone wrong. Before Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow regularly sent pesticides to the countryside – regardless of local demand.

"Now, you get pesticides by buying them," says Cholovska, whose husband sells pesticides and farm equipment in Lviv. "But back then, we got pesticides if we wanted them or not."

The Soviet Union's central economic planners often doled out more pesticides than were needed for rural areas. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the management of pesticide dumps, leaving an excess of toxic materials without supervision.

According to the United Nations, it costs about $3,500 to clean up one ton of old pesticides. The reticence on the part of the government in Kiev to clean up the sites, says Cholovska, is frustrating.

Last year, the local Oblast administration gave her agency 450,000 hryvna, or about $90,000, to manage the pesticides. Along with money from other sources, Cholovska's agency was able to dispose of about 40 tons of pesticides. Government inventory figures show about 1,000 tons in the Lviv Oblast alone.

Cleaning the sites requires placing all the chemicals into thick plastic barrels that are then shipped to incineration sites.

But simply removing the pesticides doesn't solve the problem. Cholovska and her colleagues plant mint and watermelons in the soil surrounding cleaned areas in the hopes that the plants will soak up toxic residues before villagers bring their cows into the area to graze.

Convincing locals of the danger, says Cholovska, is a major headache in the cleanup effort.

Some locals have been known to steal the pesticides, pack them into cheap plastic bags, and sell them at outdoor markets, Jones says. The informal packaging can result in fungicides sold as herbicides and herbicides labeled as pesticides.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Cracks Appear In Ukraine, Poland Bid

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Ukraine football federation (UFF) president Hrihory Surkis has accused Polish Sports Minister Tomasz Lipiec of undermining the two countries' chances of staging the Euro 2012 finals.


Last week Lipiec suspended the Polish Football Association after a match-fixing investigation, angering the world and European governing bodies.

"Mr Lipiec, with his actions, simply stabbed us in the back," Surkis said while attending a six-team invitational tournament in Israel.

The $8 million tournament, involving top teams from Russia, Ukraine and Israel, is sponsored by Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

"You would believe that in his high government position, being his country's sports minister, he should refrain from doing something that would severely damage not only his own country's bid but also ours."

Both FIFA and UEFA, which resent government involvement in football matters, have condemned Lipiec for his actions. FIFA also warned Poland that they would be banned from international competition unless the government reversed its decision.

The joint Ukraine-Poland bid is one of three being considered by UEFA along with a solo bid from Italy and a joint bid from Croatia and Hungary. "We had a very strong bid going, maybe the best of all three," Surkis said, who was elected as a member of the executive board at last week's UEFA Congress in Duesseldorf, Germany.

"I strongly believed that we were the front runners for Euro 2012 because UEFA's visiting commission was very impressed with what we have done," he added.

"We also had the government and public support. Opinion polls taken in both Poland and Ukraine have shown that 85 percent of the population supports our bid. Would you imagine how many people would be disappointed if we failed?"

Surkis said a proposal at the congress to increase the number of teams competing at Euro finals from 16 to 24 starting from 2012, could cause problems for Poland and Ukraine.

"Obviously it would add extra work, maybe cause some problems, but on the other hand, nothing is impossible," he said.

"As it is right now, Poland and Ukraine would host two first-round groups each, but if they decide to go with 24 teams, each of our countries would only have to host three groups. That's not such a huge burden."

Despite the setbacks, Surkis remained optimistic.

"I really hope that Mr Lipiec and his government would soon find a consensus with UEFA and solve the problem," he said.

"Besides some of our rivals, Hungary and Croatia, also have problems.

"In any case, I still believe in our bid and still have hope. In the next few months we must convince everyone that not only we want Euro 2012 but, more importantly, that we are very capable of staging the competition."

UEFA will announce the winning bid in April.

Source: The Moscow Times

Borshch, Blini And Bodyguards, But No Bill Gates

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Some 300 people crowded into a hotel restaurant on Friday for borshch and the chance to hear Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych make his case for his country's membership in the European Union.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn

But EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga offered only lukewarm responses during a round of speeches that lasted for about two hours.

The number of guests had dwindled to about 100 by the time the final speaker, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, stood up and waiters began serving cherry dumplings for dessert.

"I'm not sure why some challenge the sincerity of our European aims," Yanukovych told the luncheon, titled "Where is Ukraine Heading?" and hosted by powerful Ukrainian businessman Viktor Pinchuk on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

The pro-Russian prime minister extolled Ukraine's democracy and economy, and said he had no desire to displace the pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko. He and Yushchenko work under an uneasy power-sharing agreement.

As for Ukraine's chances of joining the EU, Rehn offered an unenthusiastic "never say never."

Vike-Freiberga made no secret about her critical feelings toward Russia and Yanukovych, launching into a lively speech about the Soviet "occupation" of both Latvia and Ukraine. She said her country, now an EU member, had found its identity and urged Ukraine to do the same.

"Make up your mind. Make a commitment. Do it. We're with you. The Ukrainian people deserve much better than what they have," she said to laughter and applause from the guests, who included financier George Soros, French socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn and billionaires Viktor Vekselberg, Alexei Mordashov and Rinat Akhmetov.

If the entry barriers to Russia were as low as they were to the official Russian reception, the country would have no trouble attracting foreign investment.

The government threw a glitzy reception Thursday night that it billed as an exclusive opportunity to meet with top officials and business leaders. While Medvedev, Gref and Matviyenko did schmooze at the presumably invitation-only event at a Davos hotel, a few guests did not recognize them.

"I frankly thought this was the Microsoft party," said one, the founder and CEO of a California-based organization that promotes literacy in Third World countries. His friend, a New York financial manager, bobbed his head in agreement. "We were looking for Bill Gates," he said.

Across the crowded room, the chairman of a large firm based in Munich, Germany, sipped wine with his wife as they watched Russian waiting staff gently pat black caviar onto small blinis and pour ice-cold vodka.

Metals billionaires Alexei Mordashov and Oleg Deripaska entertained small groups of businessmen at opposite ends of the room, while glamorous soprano Anna Netrebko sang in the center.

"I don't have any business in Russia," the chairman from Germany acknowledged to a reporter. "We didn't know that this was related to Russia. Do you know anyone here?"

The World Economic Forum is supposed to be a place where business leaders and politicians can have unrivaled access to one another. But organizers ran into some trouble conveying that three-decade tradition to the Russian delegation.

"Russian officials don't understand why they can't have their usual group of staff following them around," one Davos representative said.

She said organizers had repeatedly tried to explain that the forum was not a place for a retinue of associates, assistants, press secretaries and bodyguards, but the government officials still insisted on doing things their way.

At least the entourage problem this year was not as bad as when then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin visited Davos in the mid-1990s. "He flew in with a planeload of his entire supporting staff, including accountants and doctors," the representative said with a laugh.

Source: The Moscow Times

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ukraine's PM Touts Country's Credentials

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Ukraine's prime minister pitched his country's investment credentials to the world's rich and powerful on Friday -- but only got a lukewarm response from his audience which included the European Union's enlargement commissioner.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych listens during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said the country's strong democracy and potential as an economic powerhouse between Western Europe and Russia should make Ukraine a candidate for membership in the EU.

While the presentation sought to stake Ukraine's claim as this year's compelling investment story at the World Economic Forum, the unenthusiastic assessments of the ex-Soviet country's reform process from EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga ensured that Ukraine failed to engineer the splash garnered in previous years by China and India.

Nevertheless, the "Where is Ukraine Heading?" session held on the Forum's sidelines pulled in a number of major international figures including billionaire George Soros, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, Poland's ex-President Aleksander Kwasniewski, French Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a number of top Russian businessmen.

"I'm not sure why some challenge the sincerity of our European aims," said Yanukovych, who pledged huge government investment in the country's state-owned highways and utilities, and new laws to simplify regulation of business.

Yanukovych shares power in an uneasy arrangement with pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.

While the government has been plagued by a constant tug-of-war partially caused by the country's unclear constitutional division of power,

Yanukovych sought to allay fears that he was attempting to take power away from his rival.

"I am for a reasonable system of checks and balances that makes it impossible to usurp power," he told a group of about 150 people at a Davos hotel. "Neither the government nor the prime minister ever aspires to replace the president."

The glitzy presentation featured an independent report saying that Ukraine would one day become an EU country, even as the 27-nation bloc earlier this week refused to give any promise of future membership for its giant eastern neighbor.

Rehn and Vike-Freiberga were reserved about Ukraine's chances and urged the prime minister to gain consensus on a clear direction for the country.

"Make up your mind. Make a commitment. Do it. We're with you," Vike-Freiberga said. "The Ukrainian people deserve much better than what they have."

Rehn said Europe's doors remain open to new members, but made clear that membership in the EU is not defined by geography alone. On future prospects for Ukraine, he said only "never say never."

One enthusiastic advocate for Ukraine's EU bid, however, was former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

"Gaining membership in the European Union is an important and attainable goal for the Ukrainian government, that has the potential to create a stronger Europe," Clinton said in a taped video address.

On Monday, the EU agreed to begin negotiations for closer across-the-board ties with Ukraine but refused to go any further than the proposed "enhanced relationship" -- seen as a setback for Britain and Poland.

Ukraine is one of 13 members of an EU "neighborhood" program of broad economic aid and eventual free trade that specifically excludes future membership. The others are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia and -- to the east -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.

The program offers easy access to the vast EU market of 455 million consumers in exchange for economic and political reforms designed to keep the EU's fringes secure and stable. The arms-length nature of the aid program has long irked Ukraine.

Source: Business Week

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Principal Version Of Yushchenko’s Poisoning Appeared Deadlocked

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Igor Smeshko, stated in an interview to newspaper Fakts, that investigation of the case about poisoning of the current President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, on September 5, 2004, at a summer residence of ex-Deputy Chairman of the SBU, Vladimir Satsyuk, has appeared deadlocked.

Former SBU Chairman Igor Smeshko

“From the legal point of view the Yushchenko's version during two years of investigation of the case has appeared so deadlocked that, as a matter of fact, he involuntarily has become its political hostage", Smeshko said.

In his opinion, "it is impossible to claim that there are any proofs which would connect that dinner on September 5, 2004, at Satsyuk's summer residence with the fact of deterioration of Viktor Yushchenko’s state of health in the autumn of 2004".

The former head of the SBU noted that for 1.5 hours before the meeting at Satsyuk’s place, Yushchenko had dinner at a summer residence of one of the heads of Foxtrot firm, where he was even served a separate dish, a trout.

Besides Yushchenko had problems with health till September 5, 2004 and because of them Smeshko’s meeting with Yushchenko was transferred from September 4 to September 5.

Smeshko was asked for his comments on the last version of anonymous "leadership of security services", published by the newspaper Segodnya on December 28, 2006, that Yushchenko could be poisoned eating plov (rice pilaf), served by an unnamed security guard of Satsyuk, at the same summer residence on September 5, 2004.

Smeshko referred to the statement of the acting SBU Chairman Valentin Nalivaichenko at a press conference on December 28, 2006, when he personally publicly commented the given publication.

He stated that "as far in this case there is no moral right of any department to declare that it has achieved success” and called to refuse loud versions and assumptions.

Smeshko mentioned ‘a former SBU general‘ who has spent most of his service career to the struggle against ‘bourgeois Ukrainian nationalism’.

In the beginning of 2006 he "surely reported to the country’s National Security and Defence Council and to the President that the investigation, say, already knew absolutely everything that is connected with Yushchenko's poisoning.

According to Smeshko, when the law enforcement bodies requested the fact sheet, the general’s sensational report appeared a usual bluff, though, it was rather harmoniously supporting the principal version of the President.

Source: Eurasian Secret Services

Goals Lift The Blues For Rejuvenated Shevchenko

LONDON, UK -- Having solved the case of the missing goals, Andrei Shevchenko promptly turned his attention to the far thornier inquiry that surrounds his Chelsea future.

Chelsea's Andriy Shevchenko celebrates after scoring the second goal of the match against Wycombe during their Carling Cup match at Stamford Bridge stadium. Shevchenko has finally rediscovered his scoring touch but he won't be content until he has savoured success at the Millennium Stadium. Shevchenko netted twice in Chelsea's 4-0 League Cup semi-final second leg win against Wycombe to help his side book a place in next month's final in Cardiff against Tottenham or Arsenal

At face value, his Carling Cup brace against League Two's Wycombe should have represented a routine evening's work – but to listen to him yesterday was to form an impression a player revived and rejuvenated, a man for whom blue was the only colour. Strange, what a little reassurance can do.

"After more than a month, it is very important for a striker to score goals again," said the Ukrainian, downplaying his deficiencies – his goal drought, in the Premiership at least, stands at 2½ months. "It was also important to play well, and the support from the fans was incredible. Now it is all much better and I believe in the future."

Say what you will about Shevchenko, but he does not want for allies. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have both spoken stridently in his defence this week, indicating that his apparent alienation on the pitch has not extended to the dressing room, and yesterday even manager Jose Mourinho added his voice to the clamour.

"He needed the performance more than the goals," said Mourinho, whose relationship with the striker has been strained by his £30.8 million price tag and the impression that this gave of a one-eyed transfer policy at the club. "He had the effort, the commitment, the aggressiveness and the desire – all the ingredients that we want in our players."

But the uncertainties over Mourinho's future direction do not recede so easily. His position was put into renewed doubts by reports that some of his most valued coaching staff, including assistants Steve Clarke and Baltemar Brito, were set to be cast aside by Chelsea, although the club have insisted that all the contracts in question would be reviewed in the summer.

Perhaps more importantly for Mourinho, the return of the man whose injury troubles have so constrained Chelsea is imminent. John Terry has endured a complicated convalescence from back surgery, but is at last poised to resume full training next week – a prospect enhanced by the fact that Khalid Boulahrouz, another missing link in the heart of defence, is recovering quickly from knee trouble.

The timing is likely to help Chelsea just at the point that their season reaches a critical and congested phase.

Source: Telegraph

Friday, January 26, 2007

Yushchenko, Yanukovych Battle For Control Of Security Services

KIEV, Ukraine -- Last week the head of Ukraine’s parliamentary committee on national security and defense, Anatoliy Kinakh, accused the general prosecutor’s office, the Security Service (SBU - formerly KGB), and law enforcement of beginning to act on the basis of political orders.

SBU (formerly KGB) headquarters in Kiev

Kinakh’s concern was related to the tug of war and institutional conflict in Ukraine during its constitutional crisis, which is now spilling over into the field of civil-military relations.

Kinakh, head of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (PPPU), defected from the Leonid Kuchma camp to Viktor Yushchenko during the second round of the 2004 presidential elections after he himself obtained 1.98% in the first round of voting. In the 2006 elections the PPPU joined the Our Ukraine bloc, thereby strengthening the business component that preferred a coalition with the Party of Regions to one with the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc.

President Yushchenko has been unsuccessful in his attempts to place the security forces under democratic control. Under the reformed constitution, the president controls the appointments of the SBU chairman, prosecutor general, National Security and Defense Council (NRBO) secretary, and foreign and defense ministers.

Surprisingly, the first two positions have been given to individuals who turned out to be not fully loyal to the president or, in the case of Svyatoslav Piskun (December 2004-October 2005), only there to defend the granting of immunity to Kuchma and other high ranking officials.

Foreign Minister Tarasyuk was unconstitutionally dismissed in December and the NRBO was given to the head of the Industrial Union of Donbas, who has little experience in international affairs. President Yushchenko lost control over the Interior Ministry (MVS) when his candidate, Yuriy Lutsenko, was removed after Our Ukraine went into opposition to the Anti-Crisis coalition.

The SBU never fully came under Yushchenko’s control after he took office in January 2005. The SBU’s high involvement in corruption and its links to local political and business elites undoubtedly prevented this smooth transition to the Orange administration.

The presidential secretariat has understood the importance of reforming the SBU yet been unable to put forward a concrete strategy. Parliament’s ruling coalition is also proving to be obstructive to reforms. Yushchenko has called for the creation of a “National Commission on Reforming the SBU”.

In an attempt to place loyal cadres in the senior ranks of the SBU, Yushchenko appointed Hennadiy Moskal as its deputy head on January 9. This is Moskal’s fourth position in less than two years, during which he has moved from governor of Luhansk and Trans-Carpathia, to deputy head of the MVS, and most recently the president’s representative in the Crimea.

The biggest blows to Yushchenko’s authority have come in the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the government, and the MVS, where personnel changes have been approved that threaten the democratic gains of the Orange Revolution.

Nestor Shufrych, a leading member of the Social Democratic Party-United (SDPUo), whose reputation is stained by corruption, election fraud, and the use of antagonistic rhetoric against his opponents, was appointed minister of emergency situations.

Shufrych was brought back from the political wilderness as a Crimean Supreme Soviet deputy after the SDPUo failed to enter the current parliament.

Previously SBU chairman, MVS head, and NRBO secretary, Volodymyr Radchenko was appointed deputy prime minister on January 12 after five months as Prime Minister Yanukovych’s adviser.

Radchenko told parliament that he would assist in coordinating the security forces, a step that would bring him into conflict with the NRBO, which has the same function at the president’s behest.

Radchenko’s background was in the Soviet KGB, which he joined in 1972 at a time of widespread arrests of Ukrainian dissidents and purges of cultural elites following the dismissal of Communist Party of Ukraine secretary Petro Shelest.

Former dissident Volodymyr Malynkovych described Radchenko as somebody who “repressed dissidents, those who fought for human rights, democracy, and Ukraine’s freedom”.

The Socialist Party (SPU) in the governing coalition agreed to support the removal of Lutsenko as MVS head only if it obtained this ministry. Lutsenko was a long time SPU member until his resignation from the party in protest of its defection from the Orange camp to Yanukovych.

MVS head Vasyl Tsushko has installed new deputies who have poor reputations from the Kuchma era while also demanding that regional MVS chiefs with Orange sympathies be transferred to other duties.

These include Mykola Plekhanov who, as head of the Sumy oblast MVS, sent police units against students marching on Kyiv in summer 2004, and Vasyl Marmazov from the Communist Party.

The most criticized appointment as deputy head of the MVS and head of the MVS General Staff has been that of Serhiy Popkov, who was commander of MVS Internal Troops from November 2004-February 2005.

On November 28, 2004, Popkov, on the instructions of then-president Kuchma, Prime Minister Yanukovych and MVS Minister Mykola Bilokin (who remains in exile in Russia after fleeing criminal charges) dispatched MVS troops with live ammunition to central Kyiv to suppress the Orange Revolution.

MVS troops only returned to their barracks after high-level diplomatic intervention from the United States, encountering blocked roads leading into Kyiv, and open support given to the protestors by military ground forces.

In a rare display of unity the Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and Yushchenko protested the return of Popkov to the MVS. Parliamentary speaker Moroz warned that public opinion should have been taken into account when making this decision.

Prime Minister Yanukovych meanwhile, described Popkov as “an expert of the highest kind who commands great respect.” Yanukovych continued, “There was never any infringements on his part throughout his entire career during which he worked in a qualitative manner”.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Former WBC Champion Klitschko Plans Comeback

BERLIN, Germany -- Former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko is planning a comeback in April.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko speaks to the media in Kiev. Klitschko said in a statement he plans a come back in April in a fight against title holder Oleg Maskaev of Russia.

“I am returning to get my WBC championship back,” said the Ukrainian in a statement on Wednesday.

“In November 2005, due to a serious knee injury, I retired without having lost the WBC belt in the ring.

“At the WBC gala on December 20, 2005 in Cancun, Mexico, the WBC designated me as “WBC Champion Emeritus” and assured me that whenever I was ready to return, I would become the immediate mandatory challenger for the title.”

Klitschko plans to return against holder Oleg Maskaev of Russia on April 21 in Moscow.

“I’m back and I have requested the WBC sanction a bout between me and Oleg Maskaev,” he said.

“I look forward to reclaiming my title and want to thank everyone who has been so supportive during my short retirement.”

The bout will be Klitschko’s first since an eighth-round knockout win over Briton Danny Williams on December 11, 2004.

Knee and back problems prevented the Ukrainian making a title defence against American Hasim Rahman and eventually forced the champion into retirement with a 35-2 win-loss record, including 34 knockouts.

Following his retirement, Klitschko ran for mayor of Kiev.

The 35-year-old did not win the election but continues to play an active role in Ukrainian politics.

Klitschko’s brother Vladimir is scheduled to defend his IBF and IBO heavyweight titles against up and coming American Ray Austin in Germany on March 10.

Source: St. Petersburg Times

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Most Ukrainian Experts Polled Want Ukraine To Join NATO

KIEV, Ukraine -- Most Ukrainian journalists, analysts, and government officials polled by the Democratic Initiatives survey center support Ukraine's accession to NATO.


A poll of 147 respondents, including 91 journalists, 44 analysts, and 12 government officials, which the Democratic Initiatives conducted at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry request on December 4-15, 2006 showed that 130 of them support Ukraine's accession to NATO, and 82 of them believe this should be done as soon as possible.

The respondents were also invited to share their views on the ongoing information campaign regarding NATO membership.

Most experts were of the view that the efforts toward persuading the Ukrainian people of NATO membership's advantages are not efficient enough, unlike the anti-NATO propaganda.

The experts suggested that, as regards Ukraine's accession to NATO, the people are more concerned about economic implications of this step, the influence that it could have on ordinary people's living standards, and its possible effects for relations with Russia.

At the same time, they said, the people's attitudes toward NATO membership depend in large part on consolidation on this issue within the political elite and on how clearly NATO formulates its position regarding Ukraine's possible membership.

Source: Interfax

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry: Russia Must Obey Court Order To Return Crimean Lighthouses

KIEV, Ukraine: Ukraine's Foreign Ministry demanded on Thursday that Russia obey a court order and return to Ukraine control the Crimean lighthouses and navigation systems being used by Russia's Black Sea Fleet.


Russia and Ukraine have been arguing over 100 lighthouses along the Black Sea coast for nearly a decade.

After years of court battles, an appeals court in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol last year upheld an earlier decision ordering Moscow to return 77 lighthouses to Ukraine's Transport Ministry.

Moscow vowed to ignore the order, saying the 1997 agreement that divided the Soviet Union's Black Sea Fleet between Russia and Ukraine took precedence.

Under that agreement, the Russian navy was allowed to remain in the Crimean port of Sevastopol until 2017, paying an annual rent of US$93 million (€73 million).

Ukraine insists the lighthouses were not part of the deal, and the Foreign Ministry warned that it would take unspecified action "based on international legal norms" if Russia continued to disregard the court order.

On Tuesday, a Ukrainian bailiff tried to gain access to a radio navigation system on the Crimean Peninsula but was barred by officials of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Interfax news agency reported.

Last year, Ukraine also tried to take over control of some of the lighthouses, prompting Moscow to accuse Kiev of trying to seize Russian property.

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 since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said it would again raise the issue of the lighthouses at an upcoming intergovernmental meeting in Moscow next month.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Bold Highway Plans Unveiled

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Transportation and Communications Minister Mykola Rudkovsky has come up with a bold $15-20 billion plan to build a new network of modern, intercity highways in an effort to replace archaic Soviet roadways that continue to serve as the country’s main transportation routes.

Transportation and Communications Minister Mykola Rudkovsky has unveiled a bold new plan to build brand new highways across Ukraine amid calls for his ouster in connection with his alleged interferance into the country’s foreign policy agenda

The plan is to construct up to 7,000 kilometers of mostly new highway alongside existing roads within seven years. Rudkovsky’s press service said negotiations on signing a final deal could be signed as early as March, adding that a consortium would be established, bringing in the backing of Western lenders and French construction giants.

Rudkovsky, who has fallen under political criticism as of late for his role in inviting controversial oppositionist politicians from Turkmenistan to Kyiv, said the project is being supported by Ukraine’s governing coalition leadership.

Yet, some insiders caution that basic details for the badly needed and widely publicized project are still caught up on the drawing board.

Rudkovsky’s press service said the Transportation Ministry has selected two leading French construction companies for the project: Vinci Construction and Bouygues Travaux Publics.

Both companies are expected to join major Western banks, such as CitiBank and Merrill Lynch, in financing the project.

Despite enduring budget constraints, Rudkovsky said Ukraine’s government could provide some funding for the project. The consortium, which has yet to be established, would according to Rudkovsky be granted concession rights for toll fees charged on the roads for about 25 years.

While exact details, including issuance of land rights, have yet to be worked out, Rudkovsky’s ministry said the project envisions construction of new highways that would connect western and eastern Ukrainian cities such as Lviv, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Another highway envisioned would stretch from the capital city of Kyiv to Vinnytsya, near Ukraine’s border with Moldova and Romania; and further west to Lviv.

A third highway would extend from the eastern city of Kharkiv to the port city of Odessa via Dnipropetrovsk, an industrial city located in the center of the country. Yet another highway would connect Kyiv with Crimea’s capital, Simferopol.

The planned new European-standard roadways represent only a tiny fraction of the nearly 170,000 kilometers of road existing in the country, but it is intended to cut down travel time and cost along popular transportation routes.

Obstacles ahead

Though expensive, building brand new highways under concession terms can benefit Ukraine by allowing it to save its own funding for repair and reconstruction work at existing roadways, Bouygues CEO Christian Gazaignes said at a Jan. 12 press conference in Kyiv. But on the flip side, this project’s size and cost are major risks, he added.

Pierre Berger, chairman of Vinci Construction’s department in charge of large projects, expressed concern that construction could face delays due to the lack of legislation in Ukraine regulating land ownership.

“We and our partners will have to assess the risks realistically and partially share them,” Berger said.

Officials at Vinci and Bouygues declined to provide further details. Vinci is also a member of a French consortium that is bidding to build a new sarcophagus intended to prevent radiation leaks at Ukraine’s defunct Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station.

Rudkovsky, a member of the Socialist Party, tried to calm fears about possible road blocks facing the project. The country’s governing coalition, also backed by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions party and the Communists, would push legislation needed through the halls of parliament within several months, he said.

Oleksandr Romasyuk, a spokesman for Ukraine’s state roadway administration, Ukravtodor, said talks with the French construction companies have still not been held. So far, “Minister Rudkovsky is the only person who has talked to them,” he added.

Last November, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed to loan Ukraine 200 million euros for 15 years to back reconstruction of an existing highway connecting Kyiv with Hungary and Slovakia.

EBRD spokesperson Anton Usov said his bank would consider financing other road construction projects in Ukraine in the near future, but expressed reservations about massive projects of this kind masterminded by Ukraine’s Transportation Ministry.

Rudkovsky’s last days?

Transportation and Communication Minister Mykola Rudkovsky has been under pressure to step down in recent weeks after using his position in office to pressure Ukraine’s diplomatic core into allowing oppositionists from Turkmenistan into the country.

The oppositionists visited Kyiv in late December to give a press conference in connection with the battle for control of leadership in their country after the unexpected death of long-time Turkmen leader Saparamut Niyazov.

Ukraine’s Presidential Secretariat has called for Rudkovsky’s ouster, arguing that his move damaged bilateral relations with Turkmenistan, Ukraine’s key source of natural gas imports.

Source: Kyiv Post

Plaited Lady Out On The Offensive

KIEV, Ukraine -- While in Jerusalem last week, Ukraine’s chief oppositionist Yulia Tymoshenko called on her fellow politicians to visit Holy Land religious sites to cleanse themselves from the dirt of Ukrainian politics.

Yulia Tymoshenko shown meeting with vice-prime-minister of Israel Shimon Peres

The call was timely given her surprising political support to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s successful efforts to overturn a presidential veto on the law on the Cabinet of Ministers. The new law expected to go into effect soon strips the president of key executive authorities and vests them in the hands of the coalition government.

Given Tymoshenko’s opposition to the political reforms that weakened the presidency during the height of the 2004 Orange Revolution, her early January votes in the Rada caused many to question her true political motives. In fact, Tymoshenko allies openly distance themselves from any rational form of democracy and state they are interested in gaining total control of state institutions with few checks and balances.

This runs contrary to the president’s agenda of correcting the current political asymmetry and refining a reliable system of checks and balances between the presidency, parliament and coalition government.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s tactical alliance with the Party of Regions will not only bring more chaos to governing institutions in the short term, but will have grave consequences on the strategic development of Ukrainian democracy for years to come.

Luckily there are at least 11 procedural and other violations of the existing Constitution within the recently passed Cabinet of Ministers law that could be used by the courts to turn back the latest attempt to usurp political power in Ukraine without a consultation with voters.

However, until the courts hear the case, the law will have taken effect and will have the following repercussions and consequences.

First, the law on the Cabinet of Ministers overridden by parliament strips the president of almost all executive authorities and places them in the hands of the prime minister. In essence, a voter’s right to directly elect the president has been violated.

Direct elections to the presidency with one set of powers have been replaced with a presidency of limited political powers – that which former President Leonid Kuchma and his top aide Viktor Medevedchuk couldn’t get parliament to pass in the fall of 2004.

Tymoshenko’s support of the Cabinet of Ministers law now fully nullifies the guiding principles and values that formed the rationale for the hard-fought 2004 presidential election that brought about the Orange Revolution.

Second, Ukraine’s existing balance of political powers between two directly elected democratic bodies – the president and parliament – will under the new law on the Cabinet of Ministers shift completely to the governing coalition.

Given the existing make-up of the parliament and the finances concentrated in the Party of Regions, de facto all political powers shift to Prime Minister Yanukovych. The president’s earlier right to disband parliament if a ruling coalition is not formed, a prime minister not nominated, a budget and national government program not passed, is vested absurdly with the parliament itself.

The result is, again, a usurpation of power without consultation with voters.

Third, the draft law on the so-called “imperative mandate,” which Tymoshenko has fought so hard for, limits direct voter representation further by giving political parties, and not the courts, the right to remove elected council representatives. If not vetoed by the president, the new law will allow party leaders to replace those local deputies who abandoned their party lists in city and oblast councils.

Most notably, this could have an impact on the make-up of the Kyiv City Council. In effect, those elected deputies who express independent views and do not follow the central party line face expulsion from party ranks and removal from public office.

While this position may gain the support of strong party discipline advocates, the protection of individual rights as guaranteed by the Constitution will be violated and their adjudication and fair application would rest not with the courts but with the central political committees of political parties – much like the system that existed during the times of the Communist Party Politburo.

So where have the Tymoshenko Bloc’s hasty actions steered Ukraine’s nascent democratic polity?

The Jan. 12 votes were brought about by a turn of events among the radicalized political faction within the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. The latter feared their further political marginalization by a stability pact that was to be signed by President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovych and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz in mid-February.

The president’s attempts to usher in a political culture of party coexistence and political compromise as a means toward reaching agreement on refining a democratic system of political checks and balances is a direct threat to Tymoshenko.

Given her strong showing during the 2006 parliamentary election, her immediate political goal is to amass as much Orange electorate support as soon as possible. This solidifies her positions in the Orange camp and limits potential competition from rising democratic stars such as Yuriy Lutsenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Mykola Katerynchuk, Vitaliy Klitschko, and others.

To ensure she stays relevant, Tymoshenko played tactically against Yushchenko the tried and true populist trump cards of “the worse off the better.” Her only hope of achieving new parliamentary elections is to further weaken the presidency and build up an encroaching opponent in Yanukovych.

This, she hopes, will push Yushchenko to call early elections, which if held soon are likely to turn Ukraine from a multi-party democracy to a political system dominated by two highly centralized political parties with populist platforms and authoritarian tendencies: the Party of Regions and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

This turn of events would once again bring to the fore the east-west divide and put Ukraine on the road to a long-term internal struggle that could further push away prospects for Western or any other form of international integration.

Source: Kyiv Post

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ukrainian Foreign Minister In Limbo

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has become hostage to a constitutional reform that failed to clearly define the boundaries between the remits of the legislature and the executive.

Borys Tarasyuk

President Viktor Yushchenko insists that parliament’s December 1 motion to dismiss pro-Western Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk was illegal, so he has to carry on in his post.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, however, believes that the country has no foreign minister, so Yushchenko should appoint one. Meanwhile, the ministry works in a legal limbo. Not only are Ukraine’s foreign partners uncertain about Tarasyuk’s status, but so are domestic officials; even the financing of the ministry is unstable.

According to the constitutional amendments passed in 2004, the president appoints the ministers of foreign affairs and defense, whereas it is up to the parliamentary majority to appoint the rest of the cabinet. The procedure for dismissing the two ministers is evidently less clear.

Yanukovych and the parliamentary majority, which is dominated by his Party of Regions (PRU), refer to the constitutional provision that says it is up to parliament to decide on dismissing ministers. President Yushchenko, however, insists that only he, as the highest official in charge of security, defense, and foreign affairs, can dismiss the ministers he appointed.

After Tarasyuk’s dismissal by parliament, Yushchenko issued a decree instructing him to remain in place. Yanukovych ignored the decree. PRU deputies then prevented Tarasyuk from attending cabinet meetings on December 6 and 20, physically blocking him in the lobby.

On December 21, Yushchenko said that he was waiting for an interpretation of the misunderstanding on Tarasyuk by the Constitutional Court, but that meanwhile Tarasyuk would represent his ministry during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Kyiv on December 22. Yanukovych did not object, at least in public, and Tarasyuk shook hands with Putin as a minister.

Yanukovych’s attitude toward Tarasyuk’s visit to the Czech Republic on January 15 was, however, different. “It damages the state when a minister with unclear status goes on such visits,” Yanukovych said. In Prague, Tarasyuk signed two documents on bilateral cooperation.

Commenting for Segodnya, Deputy Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers Olena Lukash doubted the legal value of documents “signed by citizen Tarasyuk.” Yanukovych instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office “to take measures” in relation to Tarasyuk. It has so far remained unclear what measures were meant and whether the prosecutors have taken any of them.

Yanukovych also wrote an official letter urging Yushchenko to appoint a replacement to Tarasyuk. The letter has reportedly remained unanswered.

On January 16, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying that Yanukovych was informed on January 10 that Tarasyuk’s visit to Prague had been agreed with Yushchenko. And Czech Ambassador to Ukraine Karel Stindl was quoted as saying that “for us Tarasyuk is still the foreign minister.” Segodnya, a newspaper linked to the PRU, explained the Czech position saying that Prague had not been properly informed about Tarasyuk’s dismissal.

The State Treasury, unsure of Tarasyuk’s status, stopped financing the Foreign Ministry as of January 1. The Finance Ministry said that it opened budget funding for the Foreign Ministry as usual, but the ministry’s bills were not paid because it did not provide the proper signatures of the officials in charge of budget funds.

The Foreign Ministry did submit signatures, but those were the signatures of Tarasyuk and his first deputy Volodymyr Ohryzko, which the State Treasury did not recognize as valid.

Tarasyuk issued a statement on January 18 describing the actions of the finance officials as an “assault on Ukrainian democracy and the national interests.” The Foreign Ministry also sued the State Treasury. The financial conflict was eventually resolved, but not with the help of courts.

On January 22, Tarasyuk told TV that Yanukovych had instructed the State Treasury to unblock his ministry’s accounts following a telephone conversation between Tarasyuk and Yanukovych.

That was obviously only a temporary solution. The sides to the conflict are waiting for a verdict from the Constitutional Court. Lower courts have been so far only complicated matters. On December 5 the court of Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky District ruled to suspend parliament’s motion to dismiss Tarasyuk. One month later, on January 4, the Kyiv Court of Appeals canceled the district court’s ruling.

The situation is further complicated by uncertainty over the new law on the Cabinet of Ministers. Parliament overrode Yushchenko’s veto of the law that strengthens the cabinet and parliament vis-à-vis the president. Yushchenko has, however, vetoed the law again.

He explained that there were differences between the version of the law passed by parliament and the one sent to him for signing. In the case of Tarasyuk, the law is not on Yushchenko’s side, stipulating that parliament can both dismiss the foreign minister and appoint a new one if the president fails to do so.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Russia, Ukraine To Make Huge An-124 Planes

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia and Ukraine will jointly resume production of the Antonov An-124 cargo jet, the largest aircraft ever mass produced, a consortium said Tuesday.

Antonov An-124 aircraft

Russia`s Volga-Dnepr consortium and Ukraine`s Motor Sich have formed Flying Cargo Vehicles as a joint venture to make the An-124, whose production was halted in the early 1990s, the Russian Information Agency Novosti reported.

The joint venture will initially make two An-124 Condor heavy transport aircraft and several dozen in the next 10 years.

The aircraft -- similar in appearance to the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, but larger -- will feature advanced avionics, upgraded power units, an increased payload capacity of up to 165 tons, an extended flight range and a smaller crew, Novosti said.

The An-124 has been used to carry locomotives, yachts, aircraft fuselages and other oversized cargo. It is able to 'kneel' to allow for easier front loading.

Source: UPI

Ukrainian Government Restores Funding To Foreign Ministry

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian government has restored funding to the Foreign Ministry that was cut off in the New Year amid the premier's attempts to oust Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, an official said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk

"As of this morning ... funds have arrived in the Foreign Ministry's account," said ministry spokesman Andriy Deshchytsya.

Tarasyuk, a presidential appointee, complained last week that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's government had refused to open his ministry's bank accounts this year, leaving it unable to pay the salaries of thousands of diplomats and other employees, as well as money due to international organizations or rent on embassies abroad.

Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said in televised remarks that while funding was restored to the ministry, the government would not allow the money to be used to fund "the so-called foreign minister, and that means also his foreign trips."

Tarasyuk, whose pro-Western views strongly echo those of President Viktor Yushchenko, has been locked in an escalating struggle with the Russian-leaning coalition government run by Yanukovych, which wants him out.

Last month, Yanukovych won parliament's approval to dismiss Tarasyuk, after saying he could not work with him. Tarasyuk openly advocates policies such as NATO membership, in contrast to the views of Yanukovych's party. Tarasyuk also heads a political party that has declared itself in opposition to Yanukovych.

Tarasyuk appealed his ouster in court and won, prompting Yushchenko to reappoint him. An appeals court this month overturned the lower court's ruling, and Tarasyuk is now challenging that decision.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych share power in an uneasy arrangement that came into force last year; the Constitution is unclear about the precise division of power, prompting a constant tug-of-war between the two political rivals.

Deshchytsya said Tuesday that funds were put into the ministry's account after a conversation between Tarasyuk and Yanukovych on Monday. Tarasyuk told Ukraine's 1+1 television that the premier "agreed that the situation must be rectified, and issued a corresponding order," according to the Unian news agency.

Tarasyuk said that Yanukovych demanded no concessions from him.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukraine: The Best And The Worst List For 2006

KIEV, Ukraine -- Almost everyone has a favorite list or two this time of year: best movies, best books, person of the year. For the forth year, Oksana Bashuk Hepburn puts forward her BEST and WORST list, BaWL, dealing with things of particular interest to the global Ukrainian community.

Yulia Tymoshenko with her hair down...

This years` list is particularly critical of Ukraine`s and other governments but it includes exceptional individuals, publications, organizations, awards, that contributed to or undermined Ukrainian issues in 2006.

BEST

1. Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, for obtaining the highest number of votes in the March 2006 elections to Ukraine`s Rada, parliament among the Orange forces. And, for persistent attempts to honour the will of the people of Ukraine by cobbling an Orange power coalition for dominance in Ukraine`s parliament and attempting to form and lead a government.

2. The people of Ukraine for expressing their disapproval of President Yushchenko`s months of indecisiveness after the March parliamentary elections which led to the creation of an anti-West government by Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych .

3. Canadian of Ukrainian decent, Ed Stelmach, winner of Alberta`s provincial Progressive Conservative party leadership race. He is now the Premier of Alberta.

4. Ukraine`s media for being well on its way to meeting a global standard for independent reporting and critical analyses.

5. The Taras Shevchenko Foundation in Winnipeg, Canada for establishing the Kobzar Award to honour literary works on Ukrainian themes published in Canada.

6. Alexis Kochan, the magical Canadian singer of Ukrainian decent for her latest CD Fragmenti. Original, lyrical and beautiful.

7. Ukraine`s football team for its super performance at the World Cup in Germany this summer.

8. Heidimarie Stefanyshyn Piper, the American astronaut of Ukrainian and German decent, who flew a space mission last summer. She is the second female astronaut of Ukrainian descent in space. The first was Canada`s Roberta Bondar.

9. Jack Palance for providing prominence to his Ukrainian heritage on and off screen. Vichnaja pamjat`.

10. Canada`s Yaroslav Kokodyniak for ten years of invaluable internet services to the global Ukrainian community.

WORST

1. President Victor Yuschenko for failing to carry out the will of the people who gave the Orange forces a slight majority in the March Rada, parliament, elections by failing to call them to power for months until it was too late.

2. Victor Yanukovych , then leader of the Party of Regions, for blocking entrance to Ukraine`s Rada and denying the Orange government coalition from taking its rightful place as the nation`s government. And again, for recently blocking access to parliament to Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk.

3. Ukrainian diaspora organizations in the free world, including the World Congress of Ukrainians (Askold Lozsynskyj, President, wrote a personal denunciation of the events), Ukrainian Canadian Congress, for failing to condemn the undemocratic events in Ukraine-items 1 and 2 above—thus giving tacit consent to the anti-Ukrainian, anti-West, anti-democratic and pro-Russian developments which are contrary to the wishes and spirit of the Orange revolution which had swept the country the previous year and contrary to the mandates of such diaspora organizations.

4. Western governments who failed to use suasion to convince President Victor Yushchenko to honour the results of the March elections and offer the Prime Ministerial job to the Orange forces winner, Yulia Tymoshenko.

5. Minister of Energy Yurij Boyko for selling out Ukraine`s energy sector in favour of Russia, RosUkrEnergo, et al.

6. The author, signatories and all the eminent witnesses to President Yushchenko`s Universal of national unity, a worthless initiative as it has no consequence for non compliance.

7. Jerusalem Post for its anti-Ukrainian article written in conjunction with the grand opening in Ukraine of Stephen Spielberg`s film "Spell Your Name."

8. Dmytro Tabachnyk, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, for his public statements undermining the Ukrainian language in Ukraine.

9. The virtual lack of protest form Ukraine`s President, Prime Minister, government the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian diaspora calling for resignation, retraction, apology for abuses sited in # 7 and #8.

10. The self mutilation and suicide of Nasha Ukrajina, Our Ukraine, party and its inability to recoup losses by joining forces with Yulia Tymoshenko who continues to hold strong popular support with Ukraine`s people.

Source: UNIAN

Monday, January 22, 2007

How Labor Migration Is Changing Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Several years ago Ukraine's then-president, Leonid Kuchma, referred to Ukrainian women working in Italy as prostitutes. Ever since, the public discourse on the role of labor migrants has become more intense and splintered.

Ex-President Leonid Kuchma

In recent years, Ukraine has become one of the major labor exporting countries in Europe. This has left its mark on Ukrainian society and changed the perception of the labor migrants, the zarobitchany.

As both Russia and Ukraine's European Union neighbors developed their own policies on temporary emigration and immigration, Ukraine remained trapped in a zone of indecision. Its two biggest neighbors, Poland and Russia, see the need to attract workers from Ukraine and elsewhere to mitigate problems of aging populations and the shrinking pool of workers, but Ukraine seems unprepared to counter its own demographic crisis.

Debate on migration in the media and politics is fragmented and tendentious, as proponents of different views prefer to deliver monologues on the topic rather than engage in real dialogue.

When they do talk about it, what Ukrainian experts and politicians alike often focus on is the number of migrants actually working abroad - estimates range from 2 million to about 7 million. While most scholars put forward rather conservative estimates, politicians seem to overstate the numbers of labor migrants.

The argument over the "real" number of zarobitchany develops into a political fight, in which the zarobitchany become pieces in games played by competing forces. The political opposition uses high numbers as a hammer to bash government social and labor policies that fail to prevent people from (temporarily) leaving Ukraine, and it presents itself as the advocate of "normal" Ukrainians.

THE MODERN WAY TO MIGRATE

Under this surface, the public debate on labor migrants reveals the divergent orientations and development agendas politicians or groups have ready for Ukraine. While the Polish political and intellectual elite engages in a rather "modern" debate on the current demographic and the growing labor-market crisis, and Russia oscillates between modern and traditional ideas and politics, the dominant Ukrainian discourse is characterized by traditional and "anti-modern" elements.

People talk and think about labor migration largely in terms of people traveling west to work, yet the main recipient of such migration, Russia, hardly figures in public discussion. Official and permanent migration from Ukraine to Russia has dropped after peaking in the 1990s, but much undocumented migration continues.

These migrants can easily and legally travel to Russia thanks to a visa-free policy, but most are illegally working without a permit. Workers in this group, estimated at about 1 million, come from all regions of Ukraine. Most are men who work predominantly in construction, especially in and around Moscow and other industrial centers.

One reason for the lack of concern with migration to Russia could be its perceived and unchallenged "normality," because these zarobitchany are doing nothing new. Ukrainians have long worked in Russia on a temporary basis, mostly in the form of entire brigades, and well-established networks exist that facilitate this process.

Some of these networks have a business character and some are intertwined with organized crime. What is largely unnoticed in the media is that most Ukrainians in Russia work in the shadow economy and that the present migration often takes place under much worse conditions than in Soviet times.

In contrast, labor migration to the countries of the European Union receives much more attention, thanks not only to its considerable extent but also to its distinct features and relative novelty. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry estimated several years ago that about 300,000 Ukrainians worked in Poland, 200,000 in Italy, up to 200,000 in the Czech Republic, 200,000 in Spain, and 150,000 in Portugal.

In all these countries, they have only limited opportunities to work legally, despite some recent legal changes, legalization campaigns, and intergovernmental agreements.

Westward labor migration is more evenly balanced between women and men - in some regions, women are even over-represented - and involves disproportionately more people from central and western Ukraine.

These facts influence the tone of the discussion about westbound migration in a way that reflects Ukrainians' view of their relationship to the West, especially the EU.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST

Ukraine faces a severe demographic crisis as its population rapidly shrinks and ages. According to the last Soviet census, in 1989, Ukraine had about 52 million inhabitants. By 2002 the population had fallen to 48 million, and according to some forecasts it will keep falling to about 38 million in 2050.

Permanent emigration after the breakup of the Soviet Union contributed to the decline, but only moderately, and was partly offset as ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and other "traditional" nationalities returned to Ukraine from other parts of the fragmenting USSR. High mortality and low fertility rates are the main drivers of the crisis. In addition, HIV/AIDS is a ticking time bomb.

Concerns over demographic and social change, added to facts such as the high share of women workers in the West - in Ukraine's western regions, between 60 percent and 70 percent of labor emigrants are female - and the rural or small-town origin of many emigrants strengthen the claims of those who argue migration is helping undermine Ukrainian traditional life.

The absence of so many women - mothers and future mothers - from Ukraine is often painted by traditionalists as the main reason for the declining birthrate and as a cause of the decay of the traditional Ukrainian family. In this view, mothers abandon their children, and wives their husbands. In addition, it is bemoaned that Ukrainian women abroad are forced into prostitution, thus losing the moral right or even the physical ability to bear children.

The traditionalists often cast as irresponsible and selfish the women who leave their husbands and children at home in search of a new life.

They also blame recent labor migration for a perceived social decay in Ukraine. Many traditionalist social critics juxtapose Ukraine, represented by disenfranchised but decent labor migrants, against the - to say the least - morally suspect societies of the European Union. Behind this kind of argument lies a belief in the pernicious influence of the West that emerges from leftist and rightist thinking alike.

The leader of the Communist Party, Petro Simonenko, for example, not long ago attacked the "orange camp" that came to power with President Viktor Yushchenko for portraying labor migrants as active people and investors. Such people are damaging Ukrainian society, he claimed, accusing them of spreading alcoholism, drug abuse, and AIDS. In encouraging women migrants in particular, the government was undermining their true role - to bear and raise healthy children.

ONE-SIDED DEBATES

Survey research in Ukraine suggests that the migrants themselves have quite a different view and shows just how wide is the gap between what others say about migrants and how migrants see themselves. Although many had negative experiences abroad, labor migrants perceive themselves as much more actively involved in shaping their own lives than do nonmigrants.

What political recommendations and claims do the traditionalists derive from these arguments? While in Western Europe, and increasingly in Poland and even in Russia, regulated immigration is viewed as a means to counter the demographic crisis and "rejuvenate" both the labor force and the population at large, such opinions are exceptional in Ukraine. Instead, a number of ideas are in the air.

Some argue that the state should encourage the labor migrants to return to Ukraine by creating new jobs, if necessary from the state budget. Those concerned with the decay of the family call for all things detrimental to the flourishing of the traditional Ukrainian family to be combated: divorce, pornography, prostitution, birth control, and abortion.

At the same time, the countryside - where the largest share of labor migrants comes from - should be given a boost, again by budgetary means. While these are essentially ideas based on traditional views, the proposed means are rather technocratic and reminiscent of Soviet policies.

The traditionalists do not have a monopoly on public debate over migration and all the social processes associated with it. Other politicians and commentators see the trends and contradictions underscored by the phenomenon of labor migration as an inevitable part of modernization and globalization.

Work abroad can bring many material advantages to individuals and to wider Ukrainian society, they say. One of those advantages is sorely needed cash: by rough estimates, migrants remit several billion dollars annually to their families in Ukraine.

Even though this view does not deny the social problems caused by labor migration, it emphasizes that labor migration is an individual response to economic and social hardship. Some liberal experts and politicians favor a program to boost immigration. But this weakly developed debate has not yet resulted in political programs, let alone policy.

Missing from the public discussion of labor migration is serious debate between traditionalists and liberals. The zarobitchany become depersonalized figures in one faction or another's overall development proposals. Curiously, the views and experiences of the labor migrants themselves go largely unheard.

Source: Business Week

EU Seeks Deeper Ties With Ukraine, But Holds Off On Membership Promise

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union agreed Monday to begin negotiations for closer across-the-board ties with Ukraine but — in a setback for Britain and Poland — held off on any promise of future EU membership for its giant eastern neighbor.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner

At a foreign ministers meeting, Britain and Poland asked that the mandate to open negotiations for an "enhanced relationship" — leading to eventual free trade with Kiev — refer to future membership. But France and others keen on slowing future expansion blocked that, officials said.

In a compromise, the ministers issued a separate declaration acknowledging "Ukraine's European aspirations."

They added, "A new enhanced agreement shall not prejudge any possible future developments in EU-Ukraine relations."

Ukraine is one of 13 members of an EU "neighborhood" program of broad economic aid and eventual free trade that specifically excludes future membership. The others are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia and — to the east — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.

The program offers easy access to the vast EU market of 455 million consumers in exchange for economic and political reforms designed to keep the EU's fringes secure and stable. The foreign ministers boosted funding in 2007-2013 to €12 billion (US$15.6 billion), up 32 percent from 2000-2006.

This includes an offer of €1 billion (US$1.3 billion) to the most reform-minded neighbors and help trigger private lending for them.

The arms-length nature of the aid program has long irked Ukraine which in the past has expressed an interest in joining the EU.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she hoped to begin negotiations for an enhanced cooperation to "build on our existing agreements (and) pave the way toward ... a free trade area."

Central to the enhanced relationship, she said, will be cooperation in energy. Ukraine is both a supplier of energy to the EU and an important transit nation for gas and oil from Russia.

In the 2007-2012 period, the neighborhood program will put more focus on trade, increased cooperation in energy, migration and economic issues as well as greater financial support and more help to resolve regional conflicts.

While most neighbors have made progress in economic and political reforms, poverty, corruption, unemployment, mixed economic performance and weak governance remain challenges saddling the EU with illegal immigration, unreliable energy supplies, environmental damage and problems of terrorism. In the years ahead, the EU neighborhood program will aim for:

_ a greater EU role in resolving regional conflicts

_ more aid to bolder management of weak frontiers

_ boosting free trade efforts to cover goods and services which means helping neighbors raise their norms and standards of products and services to the EU level.

_ cutting red tape for those who want visas for legitimate official travel and people-to-people programs.

_ engaging all neighbors in debating common issues such as energy, transport, the environment, rural development, research cooperation, public health, financial services and migration or maritime affairs.

Source: International Herald Tribune

CR Promises To Help Ukraine Join EU, NATO

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The Czech Republic supports Ukraine’s ambitions to integrate into European structures, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg said after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Borys Tarasyuk on Jan. 15 in Prague.

Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg

The two ministers signed a joint declaration that their countries should cooperate in areas of foreign policy, agriculture and nuclear safety. “EU and NATO entry are Ukraine’s foreign political aims,” Tarasyuk said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tarasyuk said that Ukraine had a law that firmly set achieving these priorities as a legal obligation. However, although chief political forces in the country have agreed on those obligations, there’s still a question as to how they will be fulfilled, he added.

“Before 2004, the aim was [hindered] by the EU’s internal policy. This was the reason why Ukraine was stagnating on the aim of entering the EU,” he said. In the past two years, Ukraine started to cooperate more with the EU on foreign political projects, which is a major shift, Tarasyuk said.

Later on Jan. 15, Tarasyuk met Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek (Civic Democrat, ODS), but the Government Office hasn’t released information about the meeting.

Tarasyuk said that this year Ukraine could sign an agreement with the EU that would simplify the visa terms between Ukraine and EU countries. “There’s also the hope that the EU will sign an agreement with Ukraine through which it will become a candidate country,” Tarasyuk said. However, there’s no consensus on the issue in the EU.

Schwarzenberg said that the Czech Republic would relate Czech experiences with EU and mediate NATO accession talks to Ukraine. “Of course we will talk to other EU countries as well in order to speed up the process,” Schwarzenberg said at a press conference, adding that Ukraine is one of the priority countries of Czech foreign policy.

“I’m happy that the first international agreement I’ve signed [as foreign minister] is with Ukraine,” Schwarzenberg said. He added that a new Czech general consulate in Donetsk, Ukraine, will open soon and the two countries’ mutual economic relations have favorably developed. “Bilateral trade turnover rose by 30 percent last year, compared to 2005,” Schwarzenberg said.

Another issue that the Czech Republic will discuss with Ukraine is oil and natural gas. “The supplies, which were long considered a matter of course, still raise certain question marks,” he said, alluding to the recent oil supply outage over a dispute between Belarus and Russia, the supplier (see “Oil cutoff pumped concern, but not crisis,” CBW, Jan. 15, 2007).

Tarasyuk, a pro-western politician and head of the right-wing People’s Movement of Ukraine doesn’t get on very well with Moscow. He’s one of the leading advocates of Ukraine’s entry into NATO and of the weakening of the Kremlin’s influence on Ukraine.

His stand sharply contrasts with that of Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, who wants closer relations with Russia.

While the joint declaration with Ukraine was the first one Schwarzenberg signed, the meeting with the Ukrainian official wasn’t his first official act. Schwarzenberg visited Slovakia Jan. 13 and met with Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs Ján Kubiš to confirm good bilateral relations.

Source: Czech Business

Austria's Christoph Sumann, Ukraine's Oksana Khvostenko Win Biathlon Titles

POKLJUKA, Slovenia (AP) - Christoph Sumann of Austria was faultless at the shooting range to win a men's biathlon World Cup 15-kilometre mass start race on Sunday, his second straight victory.

Oksana Khvostenko from Ukraine reacts in the finish area after winning a 12.5 km mass start race at the World Cup biathlon event in Pokljuka, Slovenia, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007

Oksana Khvostenko of Ukraine also hit all targets to win the women's event.

Sumann, the surprise winner of the 12.5-kilometre pursuit on Saturday, won in 38 minutes, 24.18 seconds.

He was 28.1 seconds ahead of Vincent Defrasne of France, who was also flawless on the range. Andreas Birnbacher of Germany was third, with one missed target, 49.3 back.

Germany's Michael Greis overtook Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in the overall standings by finishing in 20th place. Bjoerndalen missed the meet to train ahead of the world championships in February.

Khvostenko won the women's mass start in 41 minutes 55.9 seconds.

Defending World Cup champion Kati Wilhelm missed three targets and came in second, 13.4 seconds off the lead. Tadeja Brankovic was third, with two missed shots, 23.5 behind.

Zina Kocher of Red Deer, Alta., finished 10th.

Wilhelm missed twice in the first shooting round but rallied from 26th position. She is now top of the overall standings after the previous leader Anna Carin Oloffson placed sixth.

Wilhelm also won the 10-kilometre pursuit on Friday.

Source: Canadian Press

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Technicality Lets Ukraine President Off The Hook

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko has exploited a parliamentary gaffe allowing him to veto a law that would have seen his powers reduced, his office said yesterday.

Viktor Yushchenko

Yushchenko sent the bill – which would have handed a raft of presidential powers to the government led by pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych – back to parliament on Thursday, a presidential statement said.

Despite a parliamentary vote ruling out his veto, the president benefited from a bizarre editorial gaffe: the new document sent back was missing a clause meaning he could treat it like a new piece of legislation.

“De facto, it was a new draft of the law that was sent” to the president, said the statement from his office.

Parliament realised the mistake, which it said was a “technical” error, and offered to send back the missing page.

The president’s office objected, saying that the bill was unconstitutional and demanding the extra clause “pass through the procedures of the parliamentary vote and only after could it be” signed by the president.

Justice Minister Olexander Lavrinovych described Yushchenko’s decision to veto the bill as a “bad joke”, accusing him of “abusing his powers”.

After a meeting with the president, Yanukovych reportedly called for a compromise.

“The law must without fault be harmonised with the constitution. We do not need superfluous powers,” he said, according to the Kommersant daily.

The Western-leaning Yushchenko faces tough resistance from Yanukovych’s pro-Russian majority in parliament.

Source: Gulf Times

Shevchenko Should Be A Fox Not A Workhorse

LONDON, UK -- Another game and another clear signal that Jose Mourinho has completely lost faith in Andrei Shevchenko.


With his side losing 2-0 at Liverpool, and bearing in mind the kind of decisive manager Mourinho is, you would have expected to see Shevchenko come on at half-time, or at least with half an hour to go.

But he was given barely more than a quarter of an hour and, predictably, made little impact on the game.

Strikers go through difficult patches, but Shevchenko is in a particularly vicious circle: so keen is he to show his commitment that when he gets on the pitch he runs around like mad, closing down full-backs and tracking back to support the midfield. The more the pressure builds, the harder he works and the worse he gets.

Shevchenko is not - and should not try to be an English-style centre forward. His strength is drifting into dangerous positions and attacking with explosive bursts of acceleration.

With his age and his injury problems at the end of last season, Shevchenko needs more than ever to preserve his energy. Instead he is becoming increasingly drained and his influence continues to wane.

The answer, as I see it, is for him to get selfish. From what I understand he has been the absolute model professional, working with great intensity on the training pitch. But maybe instead of being so generous with his efforts he should focus back on himself.

He needs to bring back the goal-hanger, start hovering off the back of the last defender and get back to what he does best. Forget all the huffing and puffing - get back to the artful work in the box.

That is what made him great in Italy. They are more defensively sophisticated in Serie A and Shevchenko would only have to jog back into position when Milan lost possession, not go haring after a full-back.

Didier Drogba has got bags of energy and there should be no problem delegating some of the workload to him. If Shevchenko starts saving himself for those crucial, defining moments in the game, he will be far more effective than he is currently. He might even begin resembling the Shevchenko we all thought we knew.

When I first arrived at Barcelona I met this culture clash in reverse. Within minutes of my debut I went sprinting off to close down the opposition defence; after the game, three of the Barca players sat me down and asked me what the hell I was doing.

It was how I had always played. I can tell you it came as welcome news when I was told to save myself for running when we had the ball.

What makes Shevchenko's position more difficult is that he is seemingly part of some greater machinations behind the scenes. No one can really know what is going on, except the parties involved, but what is quite clear is that there are serious problems.

Is Shevchenko a Mourinho signing? The manager is implying not. Does Mourinho have confidence in Shevchenko? Obviously not. Is the striker's awkward position the main reason behind the apparent rift between manager and owner?

All I can say is that it is a particularly hard position for a striker to be in. Towards the end of my time with Barcelona I was in exactly the same kind of situation.

Johan Cruyff, who like Mourinho is a strong personality, was pushing me to the sidelines and playing me out of position when I did get on the field.

I can sympathise with Shevchenko because it is so bloody frustrating being deprived of the chance to show what you can do. I left Barcelona but you cannot really see Shevchenko moving on at the moment.

No one is going to come close to the £30 million Chelsea paid Milan to sign him and I'm sure his wages must be significant. So Chelsea need to find a way of getting the best out him.

Chelsea have to trust Mourinho. There has been speculation that Chelsea wanted to bring in Portsmouth's Israeli coach Avram Grant to do some one-on-one work with the striker, and that Mourinho was opposed to the idea.

The Portuguese is right: the moment you start letting in coaching from the outside, you lose your power base in the dressing room. Furthermore, anyone in football would know that this sort of thing is bound to fail. It is the sort of idea that comes from a chairman, not from a manager.

Shevchenko is 30 and a world-class striker, one of the best of his generation. There is nothing to coach. He needs to rediscover his edge and there is not a coach in the world who can help him with that.

Source: Sunday Telegraph