Monday, April 30, 2007

Ukraine PM Signals Consent For Early Polls

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's prime minister signaled Saturday he might agree to early elections after a fresh presidential order to disband parliament and call early elections for June 24 threatened to prolong the political crisis in the country.

Viktor Yanukovych with Constitutional Court in the background

Viktor Yanukovych, locked in a lengthy power struggle with the president, said: "Politicians should sit down at the negotiation table.

If a decision to hold early elections cannot be made through the courts, we could adopt it through political discussions."

President Viktor Yuschenko signed a decree Thursday, which amended the previous April 2 order setting early elections for May 27 and dissolving parliament.

The move came shortly before the Constitutional Court issues a decision on his initial decree, which is widely expected to be unfavorable.

The premier said amendments had to be made to the budget to finance elections, and the Supreme Rada's powers had to be reinstated to achieve this.

He added he hoped to meet with the president soon to relay the proposals.

The 18-judge Constitutional Court said Saturday it had not started looking into the new decree yet, and were still hearing the original decree.

"[The legislature's] request for this [new] inquiry is being studied at the moment," the court said.

The standoff, triggered by the defection of 11 pro-presidential lawmakers to the majority parliamentary coalition backing the premier in late March, has plunged the ex-Soviet nation into its worst political crisis since the 2004 "orange revolution."

Thousands of Yanukovych and Yushchenko backers have been rallying in central Kiev, bringing back memories of mass protests that swept Yushchenko to power after Yanukovych lost the presidential poll over vote rigging accusations.

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel, who is currently holding the EU rotating presidency, discussed the current situation in Ukraine over the telephone.

The Kremlin press service said Putin and Merkel said it is essential to resolve all matters within the bounds of law and the country's Constitution, underlining the importance of the upcoming ruling by Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

Source: RIA Novosti

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Party Of Regions Member: Attempt On Tymoshenko's Life Being Plotted

KIEV, Ukraine -- Volodymyr Sivkovych, a member of the Party of Regions in Ukraine, claimed he possess information indicating that a "provocative" attempt on the life of main opposition leader Yulya Tymoshenko might be in the works.

Is an attempt on Yulya Tymoshenko's life being plotted?

"I have asked the president to instruct the Security Service to appoint security guards for opposition leaders, in particular, Yulia Tymoshenko," Sivkovych said.

"I have information that an attempt on Yulya Volodymyrivna [Tymoshenko]'s life or something of the sort could happen," Sivkovych, a deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for legislative support of law enforcement activities, said in an interview published last week in Komsomolskaya Pravda.

"This information comes from abroad," and "it can be trusted," he said.

"This will be exactly a provocation. The suspicions will be on her political opponents. But these opponents will have nothing to do with this," he said.

The provocation that is being plotted "will benefit some foreign countries," which are not CIS members, Sivkovych said. He called on Tymoshenko "to take a closer look at her entourage."

Sivkovych also said later that he had received the information from sources in Ukraine as well.

Source: Interfax

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Khrushchev And Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Nikita Khrushchev, a bulky man with a provincial face and a wart on his cheek, led Ukraine's Central Committee of the Communist Party for eight years, including the period of the Great Patriotic War.

Nikita Khrushchev

When he was a Kremlin official, his actions affected Ukraine as well. Of all the Soviet leaders, Khrushchev was the most unpredictable and impetuous "helmsman of the party."

Unlike the more reserved Stalin, he impulsively and resolutely demonstrated the country's military might, plunging the world into the Cuban missile crisis. However, Khrushchev, unlike his reclusive predecessor, traveled abroad widely and often welcomed "imperialistic" leaders to Moscow for talks.

It was Khrushchev who energetically resolved the housing problem by building primitive but much needed five-story apartment blocks, the so-called khrushchovkas.

Khrushchev rudely forced writers and artists to fit the procrustean bed of communist ideology, instructing them on how to write books and paint pictures.

It was during his rule that peasants shook off the yoke of serfdom and were given passports. Hundreds of thousands of energetic Ukrainians born in rural areas headed for cities and towns. They soon renounced their rural Ukrainian and began speaking the urban Russian language.

There were lots of mystical and strangely odd episodes in Khrushchev's career.

For example, clay pits above the district of Kurenivka in Kyiv had accumulated loess, a loamy deposit formed by wind, for years. The Kremlin was going to use this dirt to flood Baby Yar, the site where more than 100,000 Kyiv residents, mostly Jews, had been exterminated by Nazi-directed but mostly Ukrainian death squads.

The Soviet leaders hoped this would help the nation forget the Zionist idea of erecting a monument to the victims of the mass killings. In the spring of 1961, thousands of tons of that watery clay broke through a dam and flowed down, covering a nearby village, not Baby Yar. The tragedy left 1,500 people dead.

A few days after the disaster, the planet's first cosmonaut, Yuriy Gagarin, flew into the space. Khrushchev kissed this immaculately honest guy many times upon his arrival from the orbit. He must have been asking humanity to forgive his blasphemous intention to blanket Baby Yar in clay waste.

A memorial to the Baby Yar tragedy was unveiled in 1976 after Moscow had been stubbornly reluctant to honor the Jewish Holocaust for years.

It was under Khrushchev that farmers chopped down their fruit orchards to protest against fruit tree taxes. It was Khrushchev who ordered a demonstration of starving workers in the provincial town of Novocherkassk dispersed with rifles.

Khrushchev's attempts at ideological futurology resulted in a shattering fiasco. His slogans, "We will outrun America in the per capita production of milk and meat," and "This generation of the Soviet people will live under Communism," proved impractical, idealistic and unachievable.

Khrushchev was not a typical Soviet leader; he was mobile and public. Working as a regional reporter in the southeast of Ukraine, I rarely saw the Kremlin ruler but popularized his economic innovations in my articles.

Nevertheless, I had first seen Khrushchev before the war broke out.

Meeting the people in an old raincoat

It was May 1, 1941. I was 11 years old. I remember standing on a sunlit Khreshchatyk, holding a little red flag. People gathered downtown to watch the Labor Day military parade. After it, industrial workers marched in columns.

Soviet newsreels made me unusually politicized for my age. I immediately recognized Khrushchev on a government platform. He was gesticulating merrily, wearing a peaked cap, a so-called stalinka.

The demonstrators left Khreshchatyk, taking away the sounds of brass bands. Khrushchev went down from the platform immediately. He will now walk into the crowd, someone said, both with approval and blame.

When I grew up, I appreciated Khrushchev's bravery. When Lazar Kaganovich, Stalin's closest ally, was flying to Bandera's Ukraine one day, he was accompanied by a squadron of fighter planes.

When Khrushchev, a member of the Military Council of the First Ukrainian Front, visited the liberated capital of Ukraine on November 7, 1943, he rode along the ruined and smoldering Khreshchatyk in an open-topped convertible limousine.

Khrushchev's "crowd walking" on May 1 resulted in a startling discovery made by my aunt, who was hosting my mother and me that day. My aunt, whose husband was one of the big bosses in Kyiv, was standing near Khrushchev that day, and saw that he was wearing "an indecently shabby raincoat."

She even advised her husband to dress more modestly, so as to avoid contrasting with Khrushchev's shabby dress. However, he did not heed her advice. The war started a month later, and both Khrushchev and my uncle were sent to different fronts.

Stalin's personal case

In 1956, I was a member of the Soviet Union's only party. My skepticism prevented me from becoming a devout communist. I did not appreciate the bureaucratic falsity of public party meetings. A notice about a closed gathering contained at least some intrigue.

We often considered personal cases of some communists during such meetings. Usually we were discussing those who had committed adultery, or reprimanded poets for "wrong and inappropriate" poems or journalists for "distorting the Soviet reality."

At one of such meetings we were considering Joseph Stalin's case. The debate was very nervous.

Everything started in February 1956, when Khrushchev delivered his historic Secret Speech to the 20th Communist Party Congress. He read the Report on the Personality Cult and Its Consequences quickly and anxiously. Then all the secretaries of local party organizations throughout the country were made to read it to their "congregants…"

Our retired communists were unanimous: "You can criticize him [Stalin], but there should be some limit." The young demonstrated their awareness and presented sensational details. Here is one of them.

Once Khrushchev came to Stalin's office late and sat quietly at the corner of the table. Stalin looked at him gloomily and asked him rudely why he was hiding.

"Don't be afraid. I will not execute you," he promised sinisterly…

Delegates of the 20th Congress demanded Khrushchev remove this episode from his report but it still became known.

Khrushchev hated Stalin. Embarrassment reinforced his hatred: this apparently decent man had been compelled to carry out Stalin's atrocious orders. Many of Stalin's allies were also afraid and therefore hated him. But they could not dare to be morally vindictive. Khrushchev did.

In 1946, the country celebrated the 20th anniversary of Stalin's constitution. On that day, Khrushchev unveiled a monument to Lenin in Kyiv without asking Stalin's permission. Stalin, who had wanted to have his own statue erected in Kyiv for years, remembered this surprise for the rest of his life.

The Lenin monument was built opposite the Bessarabsky market, on the spot where a gallows, used to execute Ukrainian foes of the German Reich during the war, once stood. The stone Lenin still stands there today. "The nation will not be able to feed another party"

In the May of 1959, I came to Kyiv to attend a meeting of regional journalists, while Khrushchev, then the leader of the country, came to Kyiv to present the Ukrainian capital with the second Order of Lenin.

He was loyal to his habit and rode along Khreshchatyk in an open-topped limousine. However, it was a new Khrushchev: there was no peaked cap but an elegant hat, no old shabby raincoat but a fashionable jacket.

He was waving his hat to salute thousands of Kyiv residents. These people were brought to Kyiv's central street by their directors and stood in the scorching sun, waiting for their leader.

I felt as uncomfortable as those people when returning from Kyiv to propagandize Khrushchev's innovation in the provincial press. It infuriated party functionaries at all levels.

Maryinka was an administrative center of a rural district in Donbass. It had a tile plant, a furniture factory, a dairy, and a granary, and 45 collective farms in the area. A district party committee of 30 members controlled blacksmiths, carpenters, farmers, schoolteachers and polyclinic doctors.

When Khrushchev ordered the disintegration of the monolithic party structure, he must have wanted to make national and regional leaders control one another. But this innovation was a caricature in poor districts.

So there were two party committees in Maryinka. The number of party functionaries had doubled. They all worked in the same building and sat there like hens in a hencoop, and oversaw the same processes and projects.

They were so ashamed to hear laughs of wise local workers and farmers that they made up an anti-Soviet anecdote, which was not spoken openly but whispered.

A communist asks a communist, "Do you think we should have one more party in the country?" "No, the nation will not be able to feed another party…"

The substance of this joke is that the Communist Party by itself absorbed almost the entire national budget.

Crimea: A slap for arrogance

In the summer of 1972, the steppe Crimea saw the first artificial rain, sparkling and multicolored. The trimmed fields absorbed it greedily. The irrigation system was built on an artificial river. I was writing an article about the Dnipro River for a regional newspaper, sitting by that canal, which saved the Crimean peninsula.

My interlocutor was Petro Marchuk. He headed a collective farm growing tons of rice, wheat, grape, and watermelons.

Khrushchev's dream came true in Crimea: it had the sun and other climatic characteristics to grow his favorite maize.

Marchuk was among those who started building this canal from the Kakhovka reservoir on the Dnipro. The construction began in 1956, soon after Khrushchev had officially given Crimea to Ukraine. Geodesist Marchuk was in charge of a team of bulldozer drivers. He was crying when his native village with the graves of his relatives was being flooded, as well as dozens of other Ukrainian villages.

However, like the Soviet government, he understood that it was vital to give water to the arid Crimea. When he had built half of the canal, he started growing wheat. He had a degree in agriculture and generalized his irrigation experience in a Ph. D. dissertation.

Crimean residents no longer remembered and spoke the Tatar language in the 1970s. Marchuk was almost illegally collecting information about Crimea's indigenous population, deported in 1944 by Stalin to Siberia and Middle Asia.

Settlers from Russia occupied the territory. Their reaction to the Crimean climate was panicky, even though water was practically beneath their feet, Marchuk explained.

The banished Tatars had gathered morning dew in special pots. He showed me a copy of a report to the Ukrainian government compiled by a special commission in 1954: it said only three collective Crimean farms of three hundred were functioning properly.

The experienced agrarian Khrushchev must have understood that only Ukraine could save Crimea by helping it build a canal for irrigation. The 400-kilometer-long North-Crimean Canal took 20 years to build. It took so long because the country's new leader, Leonid Brezhnev, made Ukraine finance the project after Khrushchev's forced resignation in 1964.

Russians, both in Ukraine and Russia, as well as in Crimea, forgave Stalin for his atrocities, including the deportation of Tatars. But they still insist Khrushchev cannot be forgiven. They say Russia conquered Crimea with blood and iron but Ukraine received it as a gift, thanks to Khrushchev's generosity.

Khrushchev has been criticized for his unmotivated innovations and injustice, caused by disinformation and deliberate silence. The Izvestiya newspaper contributed to Khrushchev's oblivion. On October 14, 1971, this official media outlet published a short obituary "on the demise of the personal pensioner Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev."

No condolences from the Kremlin were presented to his family in that article. Why? Khrushchev must have been right to give away Crimea to Ukraine but his gesture has been seen as a slap in the face by the arrogant Russians since then.

Source: The Ukrainian Observer

NATO Tests Putin With Talks On Expansion

OSLO, Norway -- After tempestuous talks with their Russian counterpart on missile defenses, NATO foreign ministers on Friday turned to other issues that risk upsetting Moscow - Kosovo, the further expansion of the Western alliance and a drive to build closer relations with Ukraine.

Informal meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (L) and NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (R).

On Thursday, the NATO allies expressed concern over Russian President Vladimir Putin's declared intention to freeze compliance with a European arms control treaty.

"That message was met by concern, grave concern, disappointment and regret," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed Moscow's threat.

The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty limits the number and locations of military aircraft, tanks and other non-nuclear heavy weapons around Europe. Withdrawal would allow Moscow to build up forces near its borders.

Putin's threat was just the latest indication of a growing divide between the former Cold War foes. The U.S. plan to extend an American missile shield to central Europe is just one source of annoyance.

Western criticism of Russia's rights record, and Moscow's perception that the U.S. is dominating world affairs also have strained relations.

"Our partners are behaving incorrectly, to say the least," Putin said in his state-of-the-nation address on Thursday. "In case no progress is made during negotiations, I propose to discuss the possibility to end our obligations."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fired back by insisting Moscow should live up to its obligations under the treaty. She called Russia's concerns "purely ludicrous" in a news conference at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo, Norway.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later added to the fire in a lengthy diatribe that recalled the language of the Cold War. He accused the U.S. and its NATO allies of upsetting the security balance in Europe, creating new dividing lines and treating Russia as an enemy.

"We cannot be unconcerned by the fact that NATO military infrastructure is creeping up to our borders," Lavrov said at a news conference after a NATO-Russia meeting in Oslo. "They are still looking for an enemy."

Like Putin, Lavrov spoke of suspending participation in the arms control treaty.

However, a Kremlin spokesman said later that Russia would not pull out if it could reach accommodation with the West. And Russian military experts suggested the threat was a symbolic raising of the ante in the missile shield showdown more than a sign of impeding military escalation.

Russia has no actual interest in a buildup of forces because it faces no real military threat and has no plans to launch any attack, they said.

Lavrov was not attending the final day of the NATO talks where ministers from the 26 allied nations were due to discuss plans to further expand the Western alliance next year. Friday's discussions were expected to focus on the membership bids of Croatia, Macedonia and Albania.

Moscow has opposed successive enlargements of NATO into Eastern Europe. NATO's likely expansion into the Balkans does not please Russia, but the Kremlin has been much more concerned about the prospect that its neighbors Ukraine and Georgia also may be brought into the Western alliance.

Georgia's membership bid was not on the agenda Friday, but some NATO members are pushing for the alliance to open the door to the former Soviet republic.

Ukraine's pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has put the country's NATO membership on hold, but Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will join the NATO talks to discuss closer cooperation with the alliance.

However, the talks are overshadowed by the political standoff in Ukraine between supporters of Yanukovych and pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.

On Kosovo, de Hoop Scheffer pressed Lavrov Thursday to support a U.N. plan that would grant independence to the Serbian province under international supervision. Lavrov gave no sign that Russia would relax its support for Serbia's opposition to the plan.

The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty was signed in 1990 and amended in 1999 to reflect changes since the breakup of the Soviet Union, adding the requirement that Moscow withdraw troops from the former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia.

Russia has ratified the amended version, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to do so until Russia completely withdraws.

In his speech to parliament and government officials, Putin accused NATO members of taking advantage of the situation to build military bases near Russia's borders, and said the missile defense plans for the Czech Republic and Poland were undermining the balance of military power in Europe.

"It is high time that our partners proved their commitment to arms reductions not by words but by deeds," Putin said. "I consider it worthwhile to declare a moratorium until all NATO countries ratify (the treaty) ... and begin to strictly abide by it."

Rice repeated U.S. assertions that any defense system in Europe would be useless against Russia's enormous missile arsenal and urged Russia to accept U.S. offers to cooperate in combatting new threats, notably from Iran and North Korea. She insisted that Russia, Europe and the United States were all at risk from Iran developing long-range missiles.

She said the U.S. would continue efforts to "demystify" the plan for the Russians by pushing an offer to share data and technology with Moscow.

Source: AP

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ukraine: Reaping The Harvest Of Presidential Indecision

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Following the tumultuous Orange Revolution in 2004, Ukraine is facing its second serious crisis in just less than three years.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko

President Viktor Yushchenko on April 2 issued a decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and calling for early elections in May, but both the government and parliament refused to obey it. On April 26 Yushchenko signed another decree, rescheduling the early elections for June.

Yushchenko's new decree on early parliamentary elections effectively annuls his decree of April 2, which has been undergoing examination for its compliance with the constitution by the Constitutional Court since April 17.

It is expected that the Constitutional Court, in accordance with its rules of procedure, will soon end consideration of this decree now that it is no longer valid.

The Legal Issues

Many Ukrainian legal experts and political commentators have opined that Yushchenko's April 2 decision to disband the Verkhovna Rada was poorly justified, predicting that the Constitutional Court would invalidate it.

According to them, by issuing another decree Yushchenko obviates such an unfavorable turn of events.

Yushchenko's decision to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada should have been made in July 2006, when Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party buried all chances to recreate their post-Orange Revolution ruling coalition, and the Verkhovna Rada clearly overstepped the constitutional timeframe for forming a majority.

In his first decree, Yushchenko quoted Article 83 of the constitution, which stipulates that a government majority in parliament be formed by deputy factions.

Since the ruling coalition had expanded its parliamentary representation with some 40 lawmakers from other factions in March, Yushchenko argued the coalition violated the constitution, thus providing him with the right to disband the legislature in order to put the political process in the country back on a constitutional path.

However, the moot point for Yushchenko's opponents from the ruling coalition of the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party is that the reasons for early parliamentary elections are specified in Article 90 of the constitution.

This article stipulates the president may call early elections if the Verkhovna Rada fails to form a majority in accordance with Article 83 within 30 days after its first sitting; fails to approve a new cabinet within 60 days after the dismissal or resignation of the previous one; or fails to gather for a sitting within 30 days during an ongoing parliamentary session.

None of these reasons was explicitly mentioned in Yushchenko's April 2 decree.

Yushchenko's new decree refers to Point 1 of Article 90 as a reason for the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada. It remains to be seen whether, as Yushchenko implies, the defection of more than 30 opposition deputies to the ruling coalition in March may be considered the formation of a new majority.

But at any rate, as one legal expert recently told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, the new decree at least provides the Constitutional Court with substance for discussion.

Apart from causing headaches for Constitutional Court judges, the current constitutional crisis poses the disturbing question of whether democracy, which was so joyfully celebrated on Independence Square in Kyiv during the 2004 Orange Revolution, has a chance to survive in Ukraine.

Despite ongoing street protests by both supporters and opponents of the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada, the situation in Kyiv and in the provinces has so far been under the government's control.

But it is evident Ukraine is slowly edging toward political and legal chaos, which may culminate in a violent scenario if the president, the prime minister, and parliament fail to find a solution quickly.

The Seeds Of The Confrontation

Could the current confrontation between the key institutions of Ukraine's political system -- the president and the Verkhovna Rada -- have been averted?

The seeds of a potential institutional conflict in Ukraine were sown during the 2004 Orange Revolution in a hurriedly passed constitutional reform that enabled all political players at that time to find a way out of an electoral impasse and paved the way for Yushchenko's victory over Yanukovych in the third round of the presidential election.

The 2004 political-reform package included many vague formulations and loopholes that both Yushchenko and Yanukovych tried to use to their advantage.

Yanukovych eventually took the upper hand by passing in January 2007 a law on the cabinet of ministers. This law expanded the prime minister's powers at the expense of the president even more than the constitution amended in 2004, which essentially transformed Ukraine from a presidential republic into a parliamentary-presidential one.

However, this law was not enough for Yanukovych, who launched a campaign to poach lawmakers from opposition caucuses in order to build a majority of at least 300 votes that would enable him to override presidential vetoes, amend the constitution, or even abolish the presidency in Ukraine altogether.

Had it not been for Yushchenko's decree on early parliamentary polls, Yanukovych might have succeeded in this plan.

But it would be totally wrong to put the blame for the current crisis only on Yanukovych's appetite for power. Yushchenko should also take a measure of responsibility, because on many occasions he indicated he would like to abolish the 2004 political reform and regain the executive prerogatives enjoyed by his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma.

In short, both Yanukovych and Yushchenko showed disrespect for the constitution amended in 2004 and the checks and balances that were included in it to shift the country's authoritarian political system toward a more European model.

Both Yanukovych and Yushchenko have failed to pass a test of political responsibility and moderation and have showed they are true representatives of the post-Soviet mentality, for which a "strongman" is still the ideal of a political leader.

Yushchenko's decision to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada should have been made in July 2006, when Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party buried all chances to recreate their post-Orange Revolution ruling coalition, and the Verkhovna Rada clearly overstepped the constitutional timeframe for forming a majority.

At that time Yushchenko could have recaptured political initiative and presented himself as a decisive leader of the nation. What we see now is the direct consequence of his indecision in 2006.

Tymoshenko Behind The Scenes

The current political crisis seems to have been cunningly provoked by his fervent ally in the Orange Revolution, Yuliya Tymoshenko, who helped Yanukovych overcome Yushchenko's veto on the law on the cabinet of ministers and thus goaded Yushchenko into action against Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko, for whom there has been no government role following the March 2006 elections, is the actor who most wants early elections and a new political opening.

Sociological surveys indicate that Yanukovych's Party of Regions and Tymoshenko's eponymous bloc are poised to win a new poll and effectively inaugurate a two-party system in Ukraine.

For any other country in transition such a situation could be a blessing. For Ukraine -- with Yanukovych's electorate entrenched in the east and the south and Tymoshenko's supporters grouped in the west -- such an election outcome could turn into a nightmare.

For Yushchenko, any resolution of the current standoff does not bode well. If he fails to enforce early elections, he will suffer the humiliation of being marginalized in Ukraine's political arena.

If early elections take place and, as generally expected, the results reinforce the Party of Regions and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc at the expense of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, his political stature will hardly improve.

The time when Yushchenko could impose his will on Ukraine appears to have been lost.

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Ukraine Mourns 21st Anniversary Of Chernobyl

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine mourned the victims of Chernobyl on Thursday, as President Viktor Yushchenko said much relief work remained to be done 21 years after the world's biggest nuclear accident.

People light candles placed in the form radioactive symbol in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, April 26, 2007. Ukraine marked the 21st anniversary of the deadly explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the world's worst nuclear disaster. The April 26, 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant affected about 3.3 million Ukrainians, including 1.5 million children, according to Ukraine's Chernobyl Union report.

The president and his former political ally Yulia Tymoshenko laid flowers to the victims at a solemn overnight ceremony in the capital marking the anniversary of the catastrophe in this ex-Soviet state.

In the town of Slavutich, 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear power station and home to many of its former workers, thousands of mourners lit candles and laid flowers at another monument.

"We bow our heads in sorrow before all the heroic rescue workers and the victims of the nuclear disaster that struck our land on April 26, 1986," Yushchenko said in a statement.

"As head of state I insist that all state authorities focus their highest attention on the problems of developing the contaminated territory and people's social rehabilitation," he said.

The president said that compensation and social aid for victims this year would amount to nearly 4.5 billion Ukrainian hryvnias (900 million dollars, 662 million euros).

Ukraine has spent 15 billion dollars over the past 20 years in dealing with the after-effects of the disaster, and expects to spend another 170 billion dollars by 2015.

Radioactive fallout from the accident at the plant affected five million people, including 2.6 million Ukrainians.

Source: France 24

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ukraine Parliament Rejects Amended Election Date, Crisis Drags On

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament on Thursday flatly rejected a compromise offered by President Viktor Yushchenko, allowing the country's constitutional crisis to drag on and sparking more street demonstrations by supporters of both sides in the capital Kiev.

Viktor Yushchenko (L) and Viktor Yanukovych (R)

The pro-Russia legislature voted 260 in favour out of 261 present to condemn as illegal an announcement by Yushchenko that new elections he had ordered for 27 May, would be rescheduled to 24 June.

Some 190 pro-Yushchenko MPs have boycotted the legislature since April 2, when according to Yushchenko he dissolved parliament.

The legislature has continued to meet and even pass legislation, in defiance of the order.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the leader of the Parliament majority, said Yushchenko's order rescheduling the elections to late June 'was extremely surprising.'

The parliament majority 'will act according to circumstances ... in accordance with the law and the constitution,' he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Yanukovich made the comments in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where the prime minster was on a working visit. He cut the stay short and was en route back to Ukraine early Thursday afternoon.

One of Yanukovich's key allies, parliament speaker Oleksander Moroz, likewise cut short an official visit to Lithuania, returning to Ukraine hours after Yushchenko's announcement.

Demonstrations in a central section of Kiev near the constitutional court continued, with some ten thousand protestors on hand, divided roughly half and half between the Yanukovich and Yushchenko camps.

Police presence was significant and law enforcers had erected a temporary wall between pro-Yanukovich demonstrators carrying mostly blue flags, and pro-Yushchenko demonstrators carrying predominantly orange flags.

Heavily-armed riot police were spotted in buses and in apartment courtyards some 500 metres from the demonstrators, on a side street.

Hostility between the two crowds was negligible, and individual marchers from both sides were visible wandering about the fringes of the opposing crowd without incident.

Ukraine's constitutional court on Thursday began its first full day of deliberation on the case, final arguments having been made on Wednesday.

The eighteen justices therefore had clearly not accepted an argument advanced by Yushchenko on Wednesday evening that the court case should be dismissed, as the executive order setting elections for May 27 was now null and void.

Ukraine's constitutional court has been reviewing the legality of Yushchenko's 27-May order since early last week.

Yushchenko has repeatedly claimed he dissolved parliament legally, as the pro-Russia majority was violating constitutional statute by admitting MPs elected on an opposition ticket, into the ranks of the ruling coalition.

Ukrainian political observers have predicted elections will likely take place in the latter half of the summer, or as late as October.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

European Rights Body Critical Of Ukraine's Constitution, Warns Democracy Not Safeguarded

STRASBOURG, France -- European lawmakers on Thursday criticized Ukraine for what they said was a failure to carry out substantial legal and administrative reforms since President Viktor Yushchenko's rise to power three years ago.


They also said that the country's hastily adopted new constitution does not safeguard democracy.

Parliamentarians from the Council of Europe's 46 member states said the escalating political crisis in Ukraine is a direct result of insufficient constitutional reforms introduced in 2004, which they said did not fully define the competencies of the president, government and parliament.

"The political reforms that would set the rules of the game and enable law-based institutions to ... promote political competition have not been completed to date," the council's parliamentary assembly said in a resolution, after a heated debate in which both Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and President Viktor Yushchenko were criticized.

Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz told journalists before the debate that his country would resolve the crisis "by our own means," without involvement from abroad.

Yushchenko issued a controversial decree April 2 to dissolve parliament and call early elections, accusing Yanukovych of trying to usurp power. Yanukovych and his majority in parliament called it unconstitutional and appealed to the Constitutional Court to weigh in.

Both Yushchenko and Yanukovych have agreed to abide by whatever the court rules.

Yushchenko signed the dissolution decree after 11 lawmakers left pro-presidential factions to join Yanukovych's parliamentary majority, bringing him closer to the 300-seat majority necessary to override presidential vetoes.

Yushchenko called it a revision of voters' will from last year's parliamentary election, which saw Yanukovych's party come out ahead but fail to get a majority on its own.

But European lawmakers warned that Ukraine's constitution does not clearly define how and when early elections should be carried out.

"National constitutions usually contain clear provisions, a package of rules, describing how early elections can be conducted. Ukraine does not have that," Danish Liberal deputy Hanne Severinsen said.

"If there are to be early elections in Ukraine there should also be legislation to secure they are fair and free," she said.

The standoff has plunged the ex-Soviet republic into its worst political crisis since the 2004 protests that propelled Yushchenko to power and became known as the Orange Revolution.

The EU has expressed concern over the crisis and appealed to Ukrainian leaders to resolve it by legal means.

Source: Kyiv Post

Yushchenko Delays Election

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Wednesday he was delaying snap parliamentary elections for just under a month and named a new date of June 24 for the ballot.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko declares a change of date for Ukrainian parliamentary elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 25, 2007.

"With the aim of conducting the elections in the appropriate manner and for a democratic solution to Ukraine's problems, I am signing a decree setting the early election for June 24," Yushchenko said in a late-night television address.

Yushchenko, locked in a stand-off with his opponents who hold a majority in parliament, had previously issued a decree setting snap elections for May 27.

The president said at the time he was exercising his powers to dissolve parliament and call an early vote because, he alleged, his opponents were shoring up their majority in the chamber by bribing lawmakers to defect to them.

But the initial decree met fierce resistance from the opposition camp, led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

They filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court challenging the legality of the original Yushchenko decree and government ministries controlled by Yanukovich refused to provide cash to fund the May 27 vote.

In his television address though, Yushchenko said June 24 was the final date for the election.

"I want to say very firmly that these elections will take place," he said.

Source: Reuters UK

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is Compromise Possible In Ukraine?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Radicalism is apparently giving way to compromise in the Ukrainian political crisis. President Viktor Yushchenko, aware of the impossibility of holding a snap election as early as May 27, as prescribed by his April 2 parliament dissolution decree, has signaled his readiness to suspend the decree.

The battle of the Viktors - Yanukovych (L) and Yushchenko (R) - will anyone come out a winner?

The bloc of his ally Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been the most radical supporter of dissolving parliament, is apparently ready to return to parliament to take part in passing laws needed to reach a compromise.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) should probably be credited for prompting this new development.

Emotions were running especially high early in the crisis, when Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s ministers were making calls for criminal prosecution of Yushchenko, and Tymoshenko was ready for an immediate election in which only opposition parties would participate.

Early last week, more radical statements came from both sides.

Tymoshenko announced on April 16 that her bloc would not recognize a decision of the Constitutional Court if it declared Yushchenko’s decree unconstitutional.

Yanukovych, meeting PACE President Rene van der Linden in Strasbourg on April 17, said that if the Court’s decision was not in favor of Yushchenko, he could face impeachment.

As Ukraine waits for a Constitutional Court verdict, PACE, an international moral authority respected by both sides of the conflict, delivered its own, non-binding verdict on the crisis.

On April 19, the PACE passed Resolution 1549 summing up the results of its hearings on the Ukrainian crisis. The PACE was cautious enough not to take sides, but its message was clear: both parties should make an effort to respect the constitution and seek a compromise.

Resolution 1549 laid blame for the crisis both on the imperfect constitutional reform of 2004-2006 and “the personal rivalries and short-sighted fights for personal gain.”

It appealed to Yushchenko and the pro-Yanukovych parliament and Cabinet to choose one of two ways to settle the crisis: “either by calling legitimate early elections, emanating from the ruling of the Constitutional Court, or by way of a negotiated compromise.”

The PACE resolution was generally welcomed by both the Yushchenko and Yanukovych teams, although some of its provisions have been rejected.

Notably, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko did not accept the PACE recommendation to scrap the ban on parliamentary deputies swapping caucuses, as it had been a migration of deputies from the opposition factions that triggered the crisis.

Yanukovych’s team did not accept the advice that Yushchenko’s decree should be obeyed until -- and if -- the Court outlaws it.

The main message of the resolution -- the need for a compromise based on the rule of law -- was nevertheless accepted by both sides.

After a series of meetings with Yanukovych, Yushchenko told a press conference in Kyiv on April 20 that he was ready to suspend the decree on dissolving parliament “if a package of compromises” is agreed upon.

Yushchenko said that he and Yanukovych would form an expert group to improve the constitution.

In order to reach a compromise, he said, a legal mechanism should, first of all, be developed to prevent deputies from changing parliamentary factions.

Yushchenko also insists on a nationwide referendum to accept amendments to the constitution or a new version of it.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko do not conceal that they want to use the referendum as a tool to reverse the constitutional reform, which has strengthened parliament and weakened the president, and reinstate a strong presidency in Ukraine.

Another proposal made by Yushchenko on April 20 showed that he is ready to recognize the legitimacy of the current parliament -- a body that he had been ostentatiously ignoring since ruling to disband it on April 2.

He suggested that all the factions should return to parliament, albeit temporarily, in order to pass “10-12 amendments to the laws regarding the opposition, parliamentary rules of procedure, and guarantees that the political results of elections cannot be revised” in order to prepare legal grounds for a snap election.

Although Yushchenko has been constrained to recognize parliament -- as it would be impossible to amend laws without a law-making body -- this is a step forward, as the opposition has refused to return to parliament since March.

The most radical proponents of a snap election -- the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc -- have also signaled readiness for compromise.

Addressing a rally in Kyiv on April 20, Tymoshenko admitted that an early election might be postponed.

On April 21, the deputy head of the Bloc, Oleksandr Turchynov, told Channel 5 that his team was ready to come back to parliament to work on the bills necessary for a snap election.

Meanwhile, it has become perfectly clear that no snap election will be held on May 27, as Yushchenko had planned.

The secretary of the Central Electoral Commission, Maryna Stavniychuk, announced on April 23 that the deadlines for the compilation of party lists and the formation of the local electoral commissions have been missed.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Monday, April 23, 2007

Analysts See Dismal Biofuel Future In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine, rich in the various raw commodities needed to produce biofuel but short of cash to support its own production, is likely to remain solely a supplier of raw material to Europe, analysts and producers said.

Rapeseed field in bloom

The government last year adopted measures to boost biofuel production with the objective of reaching 623,000 tons annually by 2010 and increase the rapeseed harvest at the same time to 7.5 million tons.

It said Ukraine, which harvested 654,000 tons of rapeseed in 2006 and plans to increase output to 1.7 million in 2007, should build at least 20 plants to process the crop.

But producers say the high pace of rapeseed exports, caused by increased foreign demands, will leave future producers without sufficient raw material.

"We harvested about 650,000 tons of rapeseed in 2006 and have already exported about 480,000 so far this season," said Stepan Kapshuk from the Ukrainian vegetable oil producers' association Ukroliyaprom.

"Biodiesel production is not profitable for Ukraine at the present time. We are producing some rapeoil for exports to Europe. There is no reason to talk about biodiesel production in Ukraine without export restrictions for rapeseed."

Analysts and producers say local firms already operate dozens of small biodiesel plants but all of the produced fuel is uncertified and used strictly for their own needs.

"It looks like an amateurish industry -- the fuel is produced from its own raw materials at their own facilities and for their own needs," said Yelizaveta Malyshko from UkrAgroConsult agriculture consultancy.

The consultancy said biodiesel production in Ukraine's 40 plants could total up to 32,000 tons in the 2006/07 season. Ukraine consumes 15 million tons of diesel fuel annually.

ETHANOL

Ukrainian and foreign firms have announced several projects to build bioethanol plants, which could produce 800,000 tons of fuel per year, but analysts say a lack of demand and government support have delayed their implementation.

The government has said Ukraine will build 23 bioethanol plants by 2010 which could cost about $1.4 billion, but does not plan to invest budget funds into the projects.

Analysts have said Ukraine could produce bioethanol from grains and sugar beet, but they noted that even the current high cost of the fuel was likely to rise due to a future increase in demand for either commodity.

"The energetic value of bioethanol is 30 percent lower than the energy used to produce this biofuel. The increase in grain area to cover biothanol needs will boost energy supply to the grain planting and could boost grain prices," ProAgro consultancy said in statement.

The consultancy said Ukraine, which consumes 27 million tons of petrol and diesel per year, could compensate with bioethanol, but only for up to 5-10 percent of needs.

Analysts from the Biomassa research center said liquid biofuel could cover no more than 1 percent of total energy needs.

"There is a powerful oil lobby in Ukraine which makes it best to avoid using alternative fuels. We can see a developing conflict between Ukraine's fuel and agriculture ministries," said Serhiy Sapehin from Psikheya research company.

Ukrainian legislation, unlike most European countries, does not oblige oil refineries to use ethanol as an additive in fuel further diminishing prospects for the biofuel industry.

Source: Reuters

Russian Tycoon Wants To Move To Ukraine

LONDON, England -- Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, says he wants to leave Britain for Ukraine -- a move likely to ruffle the Kremlin leader’s feathers.

Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky

Berezovsky, one of Russia’s once-mighty and hugely wealthy "oligarchs", told Reuters on Saturday the victory of Ukraine’s new President Viktor Yushchenko, a Western-leaning liberal whose candidacy Putin publicly opposed, had made up his mind.

"Yes, I want to go and live there with my family. And since it became a democratic country, there is no reason for me not to," Berezovsky, who was granted political asylum in Britain, said in an interview in London.

He said he had liked Britain during his three-and-a-half years in the country and added that he would seek new commercial opportunities in Ukraine, which neighbours Russia, once there.

"I do not have any business in Ukraine until now. Probably I will look for business there," he said.

A powerful Kremlin insider under ex-President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, Berezovsky lives in exile in London and wants to stir an opposition movement against Putin -- a man Berezovsky says he helped Yeltsin to pick as his successor.

Berezovsky said he would be making a preliminary trip to Kiev within a month to assess the practicalities of moving closer to Moscow.

"Kiev is very close to Moscow and if I miss something, most of all I miss snow!"

"RUSSIA WILL TRY TO GET ME"

He was confident Ukraine’s new leaders would not extradite him to Moscow, where he is wanted for fraud and embezzlement.

"I was granted political asylum according to the Geneva Convention. Many countries, including Ukraine, signed it and I am sure they will respect it.

"For sure, Russia will try to extradite, but I have already proved in court that everything Russia is trying to do against me is political. If Yushchenko is genuinely democratic, I have no doubt Russia will fail in its attempts to get me."

Yushchenko, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said he was unaware of Berezovsky’s aim. "One thing is sure. We will be acting in strict compliance with domestic and international laws ... in this context," he told reporters.

Yushchenko, elected in December, has pledged to work towards Ukraine’s greater integration with Western Europe while maintaining good ties with neighbouring Russia.

Putin had publicly backed his more pro-Moscow opponent in the election but later acknowledged Yushchenko’s victory.

Berezovsky sees Moscow’s campaign against him as part of Putin’s drive to subdue the "oligarchs" of the 1990s -- men who made fortunes in the privatisation of state assets after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday he had not contacted it yet to pursue a visa, Interfax news agency said.

Source: Tiscali News

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is the Orange Revolution Over in Kiev?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Just a few short years ago, what seemed to be a tidal wave swept across The Ukraine. Ukraine reformers and nationalists led by Yulia Tymoshenko and Victor Yushchenko overturned a fraudulent election and swept the Russian backed President Victor Yanukovich and his pro-Russian party out of an office they had tried to steal.

Orange Princess Yulia Tymoshenko

Putin had openly backed the Yanukovich pro-Russian party.

During the campaign Yushchenko was poisoned by political opponents, and his scarred face had become the rallying point of the Ukraine reformers. Yushchenko had learned free market principles from his American born wife, and learned from her the virtues of Ronald Reagan. Or at least had seemed to.

And for awhile it seemed to work. Yushchenko reached out to Russia and met with the Putin government. The new government in Kiev went to the West and told the US and most of the European Union that they wanted to mend fences with the Western World. The Ukraine Stock Exchange (PFTS) had a small but significant rise. Currently 220 companies trade on the PFTS.

However charges of corruption became the norm for the "Our Ukraine" party. Yushchenko accused Tymoshenko of using her position as Prime Minister (akin to our Vice-President's office) to write off $1.5 billion dollars of debts incurred by their family business.

And people close to Yushchenko said that the corruption in Kiev had only gotten worse under Yushchenko than in the previous government.

Now it looks like the tables may have turned. Last year, Yanukovich's Pro-Russian party took the largest number of seats in their Parliament, and relations between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko have so deteriorated that the two can barely be in the same room together.

And in a political move designed to put the pro-Russian forces on the defensive, Yushchenko called for the dissolution of their Parliament and has asked for the Austrian Chancellor to mediate the current political differences. Yanukovich has also asked for the Ukrainian Supreme Court to intervene. In the past few days, Yushchenko has threatened to level criminal charges against Yanukovich for trying to bring down the government.

It is a very sad state of affairs, and one that the US State Department must share in some of the blame. Condi Rice and the Bush administration were both so concerned about possibly offending Vladimir Putin and Russia that they seemed to overlook that the Ukraine could have become one of our more vital allies.

The European Union's Western countries look down on anyone not from "Old Europe" and has pretty much told the Ukraine that they have no chance to enter the EU, and to forget about joining NATO.

Most Americans tend to think of Ukrainians and Russians as the same people. They are very different with two unique (albeit similar) languages. The country that we now know as Russia was founded in the 800's and was called Kiev Rus by the Vikings.

After the Mongols sacked Kiev in the early part of the 1100's, Moscow grew in prominence and Kiev has been relegated to the sidelines. The two areas grew apart and adopted different languages and customs. Russia looks down on the Ukraine and thinks that it should be a part of Russia. The Ukraine sees itself as the original birth of the Russian nation and has little tolerance for the way that Russia looks down on the Ukraine.

December 2004 could have been the beginning of a new Ukraine. One that has Western ideals and concepts. A Ukraine that could be a stable trading partner with the US. A Ukraine that could be a military ally with us. Remember that the Ukraine did contribute over 1000 troops to the Coalition fighting in Iraq. 18 brave Ukrainians were either killed or wounded in the fighting.

We need to remember that not all democracies are born with the use of weapons. And that democracies and capitalism, especially those emerging from former communist countries, are extra fragile. It is the US and Europe's duty to assist the Ukraine people and save them from Russian domination. These people want to be our allies. It is time that we treat them as such.

Source: American Thinker

Ukraine Court Hears Arguments From MPs

KIEV, Ukraine -- Thousands of demonstrators surrounded Ukraine’s constitutional court yesterday as parliamentary deputies told judges why a presidential decree to dissolve parliament should be declared invalid.

An unidentified judge of Ukraine's Constitutional Court is escorted by riot police into the court's headquarters to start a hearing in downtown Kiev, on Saturday, April 21, 2007. Ukraine's Constitutional Court on Saturday continued considering the legality of President Viktor Yushchenko's decree on the early dissolution of parliament. Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych initiated talks Friday with his chief rival, President Viktor Yushchenko, to discuss the political stalemate that has plunged the government of this ex-Soviet republic into its worst crisis since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

For a fifth day running the court heard arguments on the legality of President Viktor Yushchenko’s April 2 decree to dissolve the legislature amid a feud with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, plunging the ex-Soviet country into a constitutional crisis.

The 17 judges of the court later adjourned until tomorrow. They still have to hear more members of parliament as well as representatives of the government and the central electoral commission.
Deputy Yaroslav Mendus told the judges that Yushchenko had exceeded his authority by claiming the constitution allowed him to dissolve parliament.

“Only the constitutional court is allowed to interpret the basic law. If the president gets involved in this, it means we have serious problems,” Mendus said.

The president has justified his move by saying that Yanukovich’s parliamentary majority had violated the constitution by luring pro-Yushchenko deputies into switching sides.

Yanukovich has opposed the dissolution and members of his majority asked the court to rule the decree illegal.

It is not clear when the court will make a decision.

On the streets outside, thousands demonstrated both for and against the dissolution amid a police presence that has grown significantly since a demonstration delayed the hearing for an hour on Wednesday.

Both sides’ supporters have held protests in the capital nearly every day since the president issued his controversial decree.

The latest round of talks between the prime minister and president on Friday failed to break the deadlock.

The stand-off is being closely watched by outside powers anxious about the political course of this country of 47mn people, located between the European Union and Nato to the west and Russia to the east.

Source: Gulf Times

Saturday, April 21, 2007

When Home Is A Blighted Land: Tales From Chernobyl

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine -- Olga Rudchenko cried every night for eight years, desperate to return home. Now she is happy, living once again in her town, Chernobyl.

Chernobyl reactor No. 4

Rudchenko’s family was among 200,000 residents evacuated after an explosion ripped through the Chernobyl nuclear power station on April 26, 1986 in the world’s worst nuclear accident.

She and her husband, Andriy, defied a government ban and returned 12 years ago to live on contaminated land.

"It was a long time ago, but it is hard to forget. It was worse than a war. We were told so many lies," Rudchenko, 71, says, outside a small, shabby house in need of a coat of paint.

"They took us away in buses and said we were leaving for three days. We came back eight years later. I cried every night. I wanted to go home. Thank God, we are here in the best place on earth."

If you didn’t know Chernobyl’s history, you might understand her delight. A town of 9,000, it now boasts several offices, three shops, a bar and a Soviet-style canteen -- despite being in an exclusion zone where settlement is banned. It is surrounded by rich, green forests, teeming with wildlife.

But for millions around the world, Chernobyl symbolises disaster and devastation, myth and controversy.

On April 26, 1986, several explosions destroyed reactor No. 4 at the plant, turning it into a radioactive inferno that sent a lethal plume into the night sky.

The Soviet government acknowledged the accident two days later -- after the fallout set off radiation alarms in Sweden.

The blaze raged for 10 days. Radioactive material was deposited as far away as Japan and the United States.

"I was at work on April 26, 1986. I worked with nitrogen to cool the fourth and third reactors in a room 150 metres (490 feet) away from the fourth bloc," Mykola Bondarenko said in his office in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.

"After about an hour we heard a sound, then a wave came, like in an earthquake. That was the first explosion. The second one came several seconds later. We saw white smoke rising into the sky. But we kept on working."

"LIQUIDATORS"

Hundreds of staff toiled through the night after the blasts which struck just after one in the morning. Tens of thousands of soldiers, firefighters and engineers were dispatched and tonnes of material ferried in to build a shelter around the reactor.

Many received huge radiation doses. Some died instantly. Others suffered agonising deaths in hospitals in Kiev or Moscow.

There were no official records of the doses received by the hundreds of thousands of "liquidators" who buried contaminated machinery and cleaned up poisoned land, forests and rivers in Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus.

"Radiation was the last thing on our minds then," said Evhen Lushkevich, a senior operator at the fourth reactor.

A nuclear industry worker since 1964, Lushkevich knew a great deal about radiation. He came to work the day after the explosion and finished his shift nearly three weeks later.

"By that time the dose was sufficiently high. I was taken to a hospital in Moscow. When I got there in May, many of my colleagues were already dead."

Lushkevich was in hospital for about two months. Bondarenko had marrow surgery requiring a hospital stay of about two years.

Two decades later, and 5 1/2 years after Chernobyl’s last reactor was shut down, the area around the plant is alive with reminders of the disaster.

The 30-km (19-mile) exclusion zone is patrolled by police and Ukraine’s Emergencies Ministry. Counters show radiation in some areas far above the norm, while other villages display levels lower than in Kiev, 80 km (50 miles) to the south.

The town of Pripyat, built to house plant workers, is still deserted -- the day after the accident, 50,000 residents were evacuated in just six hours.

In empty apartments with gaping, glassless windows, clothes, shoes, dolls, books and family photos lie scattered.

Several hundred mostly elderly people have returned to their homes in Chernobyl and nearby villages despite the ban. Authorities turn a blind eye and help with food and electricity.

Dozens of curious foreigners tour the area where animals have exploited 20 years of human absence -- wild boars, wolves and deer roam the streets. Scientists want more funds to establish a nature reserve.

HUMAN COST

Debate still rages about the human cost of the accident.

This week, environmental group Greenpeace said the eventual death toll could be far higher than official estimates with up to 93,000 cancer deaths attributable to the disaster.

The World Health Organisation puts at 4,000 the number of extra deaths in the worst-hit areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, with 5,000 in less affected zones.

Ukrainian doctors, who have observed patients exposed to radiation for 20 years, point to a dramatic rise in thyroid cancer among those who were children in 1986.

Thyroid cancer can be treated if detected early. Mobile laboratories conduct checks in villages near the exclusion zone, where unemployment is high and most residents worry more about making ends meet than about their health.

Doctors fear for the future.

"Though 20 years have passed, Ukraine will feel the consequences for a long time," said Hryhory Klymnyuk from the Cancer Institute at Ukraine’s Academy of Sciences.

"There are not only direct medical consequences but possible changes in genes. I think future generations will be under threat from various illnesses, including tumours."

The government and Western donors have focussed attention on securing the crumbling concrete and steel sarcophagus.

The actual process of making the plant safe will take many years. Officials have said the last fuel rods will not be taken away until 2008 and it will be between 30 and 100 years before the station is completely decommissioned.

Andrei Novikov, Chernobyl’s deputy technical director, says there has been too much haste in dealing with the spent fuel.

"When they closed Chernobyl in December 2000, I wrote in my diary: the power station has been shut down, but Chernobyl has only just started," he said.

Source: Tiscali News

Friday, April 20, 2007

Little Progress At Crisis Talks In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his arch-rival Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych failed to overcome key obstacles at talks on Friday aimed at ending their constitutional feud.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) and his arch-rival Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych failed to overcome key obstacles at talks on Friday aimed at ending their constitutional feud.

The president told journalists that the two had agreed on a number of issues but not the crucial one of his April 2 decision to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

"The prime minister's side is in agreement on all questions" necessary for a compromise, "with the exception of early elections," Yushchenko said.

The president has justified his attempt to dissolve parliament by saying that Yanukovych's pro-Russian coalition violated the constitution by luring pro-Yushchenko deputies into switching sides.

The crisis is being closely watched by outside powers anxious about the political course of this country of 47 million people, located between the European Union and NATO to the west and Russia to the east.

Yanukovych has resisted Yushchenko's order to dissolve parliament and both sides' supporters have held demonstrations in the capital nearly every day this month.

Yushchenko said he remained ready to suspend his dissolution decree if the government agreed to legal changes including a ban on deputies switching sides.

Yanukovych was more upbeat on the chances of agreement, as he addressed thousands of flag-waving supporters on Kiev's central square, scene of the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought his rival to power.

"We agreed to overcome all the contradictions rapidly next week," Yanukovych said.

"The president said... he was almost ready to suspend his decree and that we would find political and judicial answers to all our disputes and sign an amicable agreement."

The pair have held several meetings since the start of the crisis, with little apparent progress.

On Tuesday the constitutional court stepped in at the prime minister's request and began examining Yushchenko's decision.

The 18 judges have yet to make a ruling, amid sometimes stormy scenes outside the court.

On the fourth day of deliberations on Friday, thousands of demonstrators thronged around the building, with rival sides separated by police and a metal fence.

Yushchenko ally Yulia Tymoshenko led a demonstration in the city center of about 15,000 pro-presidential protestors, who waved the white-and-read flags of her bloc and the orange banners of the president's party.

"Are we ready to support our president so he doesn't take a single step backward?" Tymoshenko asked the crowd, drawing a cry of: "Yes!" and the chant: "Elections! Elections!"

While both sides have held protests over the past three weeks, none have matched the size of the 2004 Orange Revolution rallies that propelled Yushchenko to power on a wave of public goodwill.

That uprising was sparked by a presidential poll judged by Western observers to have been rigged in Yanukovych's favor, a conclusion the constitutional court supported.

But since Yushchenko won a new round of elections in December 2004, his popularity has plummeted. Yanukovych made a come-back as prime minister at parliamentary polls last year.

Yushchenko has made joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation a priority for Ukraine while Yanukovych favours retaining strong ties with Russia.

Source: Baku Today

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Police And Fences Keep Rival Protesters Apart In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Extra police were deployed as the Ukrainian Constitutional Court resumed hearings yesterday into the standoff between the former Soviet republic’s President and Prime Minister over the dissolution of parliament and a call for early elections.

Ukrainian riot police protect the Constitutional Court headquarters in downtown Kyiv, on Thursday, while supporters of Viktor Yanukovich hold their flags and shout slogans. Thousands of both Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and President Viktor Yushchenko blocked the entrances to Ukraine's Constitutional Court on Thursday, prompting riot police to intervene to allow judges in for the second day of hearings into the legality of a presidential decree dissolving parliament.

Thousands of supporters of President Yushchenko and the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, gathered at the court in Kiev, where police and a metal fence separated rivals to avoid a repeat of Wednesday’s chaos when judges were prevented from entering the building for an hour.

The court is to rule on the legality of Mr Yushchenko’s dissolution of parliament this month and call for new elections.

The President and Mr Yanukovych both say that they will respect the court’s decision.

Proceedings are being watched closely by outside powers, anxious about the political direction of this country of 47 million people, located between the European Union and Nato to the west and Russia to the east.

Source: Times Online

Our Ukraine And Yushchenko Revive Their Fortunes

KIEV, Ukraine -- On April 18, the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) and Our Ukraine blocs permanently withdrew their deputies from Ukraine’s parliament. Together, the factions account for 202 of the Rada’s 450 deputies.

Opposition leaders Yuriy Lutsenko (L), Yulia Tymoshenko (C) and Vyacheslav Kyrylenko at a press conference.

With no constitutional majority, the parliament -- which was disbanded by presidential decree on April 2 -- has no legal standing. A minimum of 300 deputies is required for parliament to constitutionally operate.

This move is the culmination of eight months of political fighting between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his government and the disunited and partially discredited opposition. But now the opposition has transformed into an energized political force. Reflecting this growing confidence, President Viktor Yushchenko, Our Ukraine, and Yuriy Lutsenko’s People’s Self-Defense movement no longer oppose early elections.

Opposition unity was made possible by a shift in the balance of power within Our Ukraine and an effort to reach out to the Tymoshenko bloc. BYuT had always been in opposition to the Anti-Crisis Coalition (ACC) and had never supported a grand coalition with Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Following the 2004 Orange Revolution, the “Liubi Druzi” (business cronies or “Dear Friends”) wing of Our Ukraine had dominated, and then-prime minister Yuriy Yekhanurov disastrously led it during the 2006 parliamentary elections.

The “Liubi Druzi” supported a grand coalition -- and opposed Yulia Tymoshenko -- while the national-democratic wing backed an Orange coalition. Both coalition variants were negotiated simultaneously from April-June 2006 but neither succeeded, and the ACC was established following the defection of the Socialist Party.

In August 2006 all parliamentary forces except BYuT signed a “Universal Agreement” that created a still-larger grand coalition, now including the Communists. Two months later Our Ukraine pulled out and declared itself in opposition to the ACC.

It took another four months before Our Ukraine signed an opposition alliance with BYuT. The alliance reflected the new dominance of Our Ukraine’s national-democratic wing.

The “Liubi Druzi” opposed the opposition alliance and, together with inducements such as government positions, prompted defections to the ACC the following month, led by Anatoliy Kinakh’s Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (PPPU).

A second echelon of defectors came from “Liubi Druzi” closer to President Yushchenko’s inner circle. Petro Poroshenko was offered the position of minister of finance and was reportedly considering defecting. Poroshenko had been a founding organizer of the Party of Regions in 2000-2001 until moving to Our Ukraine in 2002.

Yushchenko had called for Our Ukraine to be “radically overhauled.” The withdrawal of Kinakh’s PPPU has been followed by the marginalization of “Liubi Druzi” such as Poroshenko, and the culling of other unpopular parties and discredited members. Two of Our Ukraine’s remaining four parties have joined the Ukrainian Rightists bloc, while another has joined People’s Self-Defense. The fourth party, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, was not invited to join any bloc because its leader, former Naftohaz CEO Oleksiy Ivchenko, was discredited two years ago when it was revealed that he had purchased a $225,000 Mercedes car with Naftohaz Ukrainy state funds.

Yushchenko’s decision to dissolve parliament served as a pre-emptive strike against further defections that threatened to lead to a constitutional majority.

Yushchenko, Our Ukraine, and the People’s Self-Defense embraced BYuT’s call for early elections after Kinakh’s defections and the police raids on Lutsenko’s apartment and offices. People’s Self-Defense was established by Our Ukraine businessmen, such as Davyd Zhvannia, who had become discontented by the “Liubi Druzi.”

On March 31, the Our Ukraine congress elected Vyacheslav Kyrylenko as its head. This confirmed a national-democratic takeover, as Kyrylenko is a former member of Yuriy Kostenko’s Ukrainian People’s Party (UNP), one of three offshoots of the pre-1999 Rukh movement.

This development was matched by the change in leadership of the presidential secretariat. Viktor Baloha is the third secretariat head since Yushchenko’s election and the first with managerial skills. Baloha, like Kyrylenko, is a national democrat and closer to BYuT. The two ousted secretariat heads (Oleksandr Zinchenko, Oleh Rybachuk) and former Our Ukraine head (Yekhanurov) are aligned with the “Liubi Druzi.”

Kyrylenko has ruled out any grand coalition after the elections. “We are strong members of the united opposition and are going into elections practically as one front, and, I think, that democracy will again flourish,” he said.

Yushchenko has called for the creation of a mega center-right “pro-presidential bloc.” Baloha is seeking to unite the disparate center-right into such a bloc.

Currently the center-right is divided among Our Ukraine, the Ukrainian Rightists (Rukh, UNP, and the Republican Party ‘sobor”) and Lutsenko’s bloc (People’s Self-Defense, Christian-Democratic Union, European Platform, and Forward Ukraine!). Center-right unity would facilitate a two-pronged right-left opposition with BYuT representing the center-left wing.

The opposition more closely resembles that found in the 2002 and 2004, rather than the 2006, elections. However, in the 2002 and 2004 elections the opposition still had moderate (Our Ukraine) and radical (BYuT, SPU) wings. Now, Our Ukraine has moved from a moderate to a BYuT radical stance for the first time in its six-year history.

These developments explain both President Yushchenko’s radicalized stance and the unity of the opposition. The Party of Regions has been taken aback by this new opposition energy and unity and remains in a state of denial that Our Ukraine and Yushchenko have the same stance as BYuT. “Inside Our Ukraine and BYuT there are principled differences on tactics that its leaders are proposing,” Party of Regions faction leader Raisa Bohatiorova believes.

The ACC has sought to appease Yushchenko by dealing with many of the issues that provoked him to act and support BYuT’s call for early elections, hoping to again divide Our Ukraine and BYuT. After parliament was disbanded the ACC voted to eject deputies who had defected to it, and it has agreed to support the imperative mandate and transforming the 2006 Universal into law.

Yushchenko’s handling of the crisis, the revamped Our Ukraine, and opposition unity have ramifications for the 2009 elections, which is far enough in the future to rebuild Yushchenko’s popularity. In the last month, Yushchenko’s ratings have increased nearly two-fold from 11% to 18%.

Although Yushchenko’s ratings remain half those of Yanukovych (35%) he now has pulled even with Tymoshenko, and together the two Orange candidates have 35%. With the same ratings as Tymoshenko, Yushchenko can now argue that he should be the Orange candidate, something he could not plausibly do before the crisis.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Council Of Europe Criticizes Ukraine

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has passed a resolution criticizing Ukraine's leadership for failing to pass substantive political reforms in the years since the 2004 Orange Revolution, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported.

A session of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly

The resolution says the root causes of the current conflict between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych are "hasty and incomplete" reforms following the 2004 Orange Revolution "which failed to settle the crucial issues of separation of powers" and establish "the rules of the game."

European lawmakers urged Ukraine's leadership to resolve its political crisis in "a quick, democratic, and legitimate manner."

"We will be grateful if the necessary reforms will not only be carried out, but also implemented quickly," lawmaker Renate Wohlwend, corapporteur for Ukraine, told the assembly today.

In a heated debate before the resolution's passage, lawmakers criticized both Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

Yushchenko issued a decree on April 2 dissolving parliament and calling for new elections. Yanukovych called the move illegal and refused to obey the decision.

The issue is currently before Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Reflections On NATO – Will Ukraine And Georgia Ever Join This Alliance?

KIEV, Ukraine -- The renewed political crisis in Ukraine with rival Orange and Blue demonstrations in Kyiv once again show the regional divisions in the country that deepened in the 2004 and 2006 elections.


Georgia also has its own regional divisions with two «frozen» conflicts within its borders. These, and other domestic and geopolitical factors, could derail both nations’ drives to join NATO.

U.S. Support for NATO Membership

On March 6 and 9, the US Congress ratified the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act outlining Washington’s support for NATO enlargement to the Western Balkans, Georgia and Ukraine. U.S. support is “contingent upon their continued implementation of democratic, defense, and economic reforms, and their willingness and ability to meet the responsibilities of membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and a clear expression of national intent to do so…”

Greater optimism surrounding Georgia and Ukraine’s integration into Trans-Atlantic structures arose after the Nov. 2003 and Nov. 2004 Rose and Orange revolutions. Georgia and Ukraine are placed in the same category because they both experienced democratic revolutions; Georgian and Ukrainian Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili and Viktor Yushchenko are close friends and both are members of the CIS. However, their differences increasingly outweigh their similarities.

Four Differences

Georgia and Ukraine are different in four-strategically important ways.

First, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution led to a fundamental reform of the Constitution that moved the country away from the abused super-presidentialism prevalent under former President Leonid Kuchma to a parliamentary system. Control over the government has been transferred from the executive to the winning parliamentary coalition while the president retains key areas of control, such as foreign and defense policy. Ukraine’s reformed political system has improved democratization by leading to greater checks and balances between different branches of government.

There is a clear division within the 27 post-communist states: most are super- presidential systems that dominate the largely autocratic CIS where democracy has regressed. Parliamentary systems dominate the successful democracies of Central-Eastern Europe and the Baltic states who have joined NATO and the EU.

Super-presidential systems have emasculated parliaments and led to widespread abuse of high level power and corruption by the executive. Political machinations, abuse of administrative resources, fraudulent elections and virtual parties have been the outcome. These features were all present during Kuchma’s decade-long period in power prior to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

The US and EU supported the Rose Revolution in Georgia believing it would lead to a democratic breakthrough after a decade of stagnation under Eduard Shevardnadze. Yet, there are troubling developments that would suggest that democratic progress is under threat in Georgia.

Take the issue of the type of political system that Georgia is developing since its revolution. Among the three states that experienced democratic revolutions, namely Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, it has been Georgia that moved to a super-presidential system a month after Saakashvili’s election in January 2004.

These constitutional reforms in Georgia served to push Georgia away from its declared goal of Euro-Atlantic integration. As a consequence, Georgia’s political system is closer to the Eurasian CIS than to Europe.

Georgia’s democratization has been set back because of the move to a super- presidential system. Parliament is no longer as important an institution; checks and balances are no longer present; there is still extensive political interference in the judiciary and there are fears that the executive is behaving autocratically.

Second, domestically there are worrying signs that marginalization and repression of the opposition in Georgia is occurring. In Ukraine, the opposition returned to power in the March 2006 elections and the defeated presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, became Prime Minister in August of that year following a round-table of parliamentary forces initiated by President Yushchenko.

In the Freedom House 2006 Nations in Transit annual study, Georgia and Ukraine are considered to be “transitional” or “hybrid” regimes. Freedom House’s 2006 Freedom in the World survey upgraded Ukraine in 2006 to “Free”, the first CIS state to attain this level. Georgia remains classified as “Partly Free”.

Democratization in Georgia and Ukraine has improved in some important areas. Nevertheless, Freedom House warned about the lack of change in Georgia’s election administration, civil society, media freedom and national governance. In Ukraine, Freedom House registered a vastly improved media environment with the ending of censorship, greater transparency in government and state activities and policies and a free electoral environment.

Georgia lacks a strong opposition and its opposition parties are marginalized. The Georgian parliament lacks a strong opposition check on the executive because of the high seven percent threshold to enter parliament. In Russia a seven percent threshold has been used to marginalize the opposition from the State Duma.

Ukraine, in contrast, has only a three percent threshold, a figure more consistent with the European average of four percent. Georgia therefore again resembles other CIS states, rather than Europe, in having increased the threshold for parties to enter parliament.

The marginalization of the opposition is also a result of the selective application of the rule of law in Georgia. The judiciary in Georgia is still being subjected to political interference.

The recently-released US State Department 2006 country report on human rights in Georgia pointed to persistent pressure on the judiciary by the “executive branch and powerful outside interests”.

“Many NGOs complained that judicial authorities continued to act as a ‘rubber stamp’ for prosecutors’ decisions and that the executive branch exerted undue influence. NGOs expressed concerns that recent judicial appointees lacked experience and training to act independently,” according to the report.

Of particular concern to the US State Department was “the high number of vacancies at the trial court level resulted in long delays in scheduling of trials, which in turn required pretrial detainees to be kept in severely overcrowded detention facilities for extended periods”. Constitutional reforms transforming Georgia into a super-presidential system, “increased the Georgian president’s authority to dismiss and appoint judges”, the report stated.

Political interference in the Georgian judiciary appeared to be behind the Sept. 2006 arrest of alleged coup plotters. Only a month before local elections, a large number of opposition members were arrested and accused of conspiring to violently overthrow the ruling regime.

Not surprisingly, the alleged plot and accompanying diplomatic row resulted in Russia severing all transport and postal links with Georgia. That led to a landslide victory for the ruling United National Movement (UNM). The alleged Russian plot proved to be highly beneficial in attracting voters to the UNM. The OSCE post-election report complained of that “the blurred distinction between the ruling authorities and the leading party reinforced the advantage of the incumbents.” The OSCE was referring to the use of machine politics (i.e. abuse of state administrative resources) by the UNM.

The alleged coup plotters belonged primarily to the Justice Party led by Igor Giorgadze who has been in exile in Russia since 1995. Maia Topuria, Giorgadze’s niece and single mother of three, together with eleven others were charged with attempts to overthrow the regime. If convicted, Topuria could face up to 25 years in prison. Topiura is being tried in a closed court where the public and media have no access.

Topiura and other alleged plotters have been held without bail for more than six months. The US State Department’s country reports and annual reports by international human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, have criticised Georgia for the common practice of extended pre-trial detention. A 2007 HRW report on Georgia found that two-thirds of the prison population are pre-trial detainees who are held in overcrowded, dirty cells with poor sanitation and food.

The arrests seemed to be more a sweep against the already cowed opposition ahead of local elections, than an alleged plot. This is evidenced by the accusation linking the plotters to a 4 May meeting that many doubt ever took place. The charges claim that Topuria invited the Anti-Soros, Conservative-Monarchist and 21st Century parties to a meeting at the Justice Party headquarters to discuss a plan to be carried out in the autumn to violently overthrow the regime.

Some of the arrested alleged plotters have claimed that a meeting never took place on 4 May 2006 and others state that they have never visited the offices of the Georgian Justice Party where the meeting was allegedly held. Neighbours living in the same building accused the police of planting weapons in the basement of one of the alleged plotters, Kakhaber Kantaria. Other witnesses have produced contradictory statements.

Third, NATO has long stated with an eye to Russia that it will never give any country a veto over another’s desire to join. But a Russian veto may well exist in practice through two frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that show no sign of being resolved since Georgia’s Rose Revolution. The two regions have acted as quasi-independent states since Georgia lost both wars of secession in 1992.

President Saakashvili’s early success in reinstating central control over Ajaria is unlikely to be replicated any time soon in these two frozen conflicts. For progress to take place there has to be an improvement in relations between Georgia and Russia. Recent arrests of plotters, expulsions of diplomats and the severing of transportation and communications links have only served to worsen Georgia’s relations with Russia. According to Russian analysts, President Vladimir Putin personally dislikes only two CIS leaders, Georgia;s Saakashvili and Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus.

Fourth, Georgia and Ukraine have both declared their support for Euro-Atlantic integration and claim that their domestic policies are geared towards this goal. Georgia is in a more precarious position by virtue of both its geography and domestic policies since the Rose Revolution.

Georgia has little chance of ever joining the EU as the Trans-Caucasian republics lie outside the commonly understood definition of what constitutes “Europe”, a requirement for EU membership as outlined by the 1957 Rome Treaty. This makes NATO membership for Georgia even more important and not merely a stepping stone to EU membership, as was the case for Central-Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Ukraine’s geography makes it more likely that it might join the EU at some future date. This likelihood could be brought forward by Ukraine’s greater democratic progress than Georgia’s since revolutions occurred in both countries. But, even Ukraine may have to wait; the Enhanced Agreement under negotiation with the EU to replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement currently includes no provision for membership.

Georgia and Ukraine were upgraded in 2005-2006 to Intensified Dialogue on Membership within NATO. The alliance, with strong backing from the Bush administration, backs their eventual integration into NATO.

At the same time, NATO sources remain unclear as to when Membership Action Plans (MAP) could be granted to Georgia and Ukraine. Both countries will not be included in next year’s NATO enlargement summit which will be restricted to the three Western Balkan states that have long been inside the MAP process.

Uncertain NATO

NATO is uncertain whether to enlarge into the CIS by bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the MAP process, a step that would signify a future membership offer. Georgia has high domestic support for joining NATO but includes two frozen conflicts that would make NATO members weary of bringing the alliance into a territorial conflict with Russia. Democratic regression could also dissuade some NATO members from extending an invitation to Georgia.

Ukraine has low public support for membership of only 20 percent, down from a third during the 1990s. Donetsk, the home base of Prime Minister Yanukovych and the Party of Regions he leads, has only 2 percent support for NATO membership. The Yanukovych government and ruling Anti-crisis parliamentary coalition, which could remain in place until the next elections in March 2011, is opposed to joining NATO. During a Sept. 2006 visit to NATO, Prime Minister Yanukovych said it was “premature” for Ukraine to enter a MAP.

Georgia’s attempts to appease the Bush administration by offering to increasing the number of troops in Iraq to 2,000 (a mover that would give Georgia the third largest contingent) and to host a base for the new Defense Shield cannot paper over the threats to democratic reforms that exist. Post-communist states that have joined NATO and EU all have parliamentary systems, do not marginalize the opposition by unduly high thresholds or arrests and uphold the rule of law. Georgia is deficient in all three areas.

Ukraine’s Orange Revolution is often placed in the same category as the Rose Revolution. Nevertheless, Ukraine has clearly moved further ahead in democratic reforms; conflict between the legislature and executive are not a preserve of Ukraine as anybody who follows French politics will all too willingly testify. Ukraine has a parliamentary system and the opposition has returned to power.

Source: Kyiv Post