Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ukraine: At The Center Of The East-West Drug Trade

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) agents this month netted 174 kilograms of heroin in a raid conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Turkish law-enforcement organizations.

Bags of poppy straw, used to make heroin, confiscated along the Ukraine-Russia border.

The haul was the latest sign that Ukraine is increasingly being used as a transit country for illegal drugs -- both for synthetic drugs making their way from Europe, and for Afghan heroin heading west.

The problem recently led the SBU to issue a statement in which it expressed its concern about Ukraine's rising role in the world of drug trafficking, including the production of drugs and "the more intensive involvement of Ukrainian nationals."

Record Hauls

The 174-kilo stash was seized on July 23 in Illichevsk, where it was discovered in the false bottom of a truck that had arrived at a southwestern Ukrainian port by ferry from Georgia.

Investigators believe the heroin was being smuggled from Iran to Western Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Poland.

A Turkish national who was driving the truck was arrested following the seizure, which was described by a spokesman for the SBU as "one of the largest hauls this year," according to RIA Novosti.

That catch came just two months another major heroin shipment was appropriated -- this time 114 kilograms netted in central Kyiv as a Turkish national was loading the drugs into an automobile.

An SBU official said in announcing the action on May 23 that it was the third and final phase of an international operation to destroy a criminal group that was transporting heroin to Europe.

That raid followed the announcement in April by the SBU that an international ring trafficking drugs from Western Europe to Ukraine had been broken up.

Four people from different parts of Ukraine were detained in that operation, which yielded $200,000 worth of ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines and led to the interception of a larger haul of 4,000 ecstasy tabs and 1 kilogram of amphetamines in Western Europe, according to Unian.

And in February, SBU, DEA, and Turkish police officials raided a house in a small village in southern Ukraine's Kherson region, where they discovered a laboratory for refining opium into heroin, along with precursor chemicals used in the process.

At the scene they arrested the driver of a minibus carrying 124 kilos of heroin destined for markets in the European Union, as well as a Turkish citizen who was charged with drug smuggling.

All in all, Ukraine's Security Service this year has confiscated more than 460 kilograms of heroin worth $32 million -- more than the total amount of heroin seized in Ukraine in the past 15 years.

By comparison, according to statistics released by the Ukrainian government just 3.7 kilograms of heroin were confiscated by Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies in 1997; in 1999, 6 kilograms were seized; and in 2001, 12 kilograms.

And while the SBU boasts of having closed nine channels for drug smuggling via Ukraine already in 2007, it is widely believed that the amount of heroin captured represents only a fraction of the amount that reaches its final destination.

According to a report prepared for the U.S. Justice Department, for instance, the estimated amount of heroin trafficked via Ukraine in 2001 was 9 to 20 metric tons.

Why Ukraine?

A number of factors appear to dictate why drug smugglers have chosen Ukraine as a popular trafficking route.

One can be found in the vast stretches of unguarded borders between Ukraine and Russia, from which illegal drugs deriving from Central and South Asia and trafficked via the Caucasus can enter the country.

Another is the largely unprotected Black Sea coastline, which provides a safe haven for boats laden with illegal drugs to dock undetected.

And the high level of corruption among Ukraine's Customs Service also plays a vital role in Ukraine's east-west drug-trafficking trade.

Smugglers, taking advantage of border crossings known to be "safe" as a result of lax security, or arrangements with corrupt inspectors, focus on those entry and exit points.

Lastly, increased vigilance by law-enforcement along the traditional "Balkan route" has led traffickers to find new routes -- making Ukraine a natural choice owing to its borders with Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova to the West, and Russia on the east.

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Donetsk Prosecutors, Courts Strike Back

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Several prosecutors and courts recently decided high-profile cases in favor of individuals who were prosecuted when President Viktor Yushchenko came to power in 2005.

Yushchenko continues to have problems with Yanukovych

At the same time, the Donetsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office and the Prosecutor-General’s Office, which is controlled by individuals hailing from Donetsk, are threatening prominent members of the Yushchenko team with imprisonment.

They have re-opened closed criminal cases involving at least two of Yushchenko’s allies. Yesterday’s plaintiffs are becoming today’s defendants and vice versa.

Yushchenko’s allies say this is political score settling.

Their opponents, however, maintain that justice is being restored.

They are using to their advantage the fact that many of Yushchenko’s allies lost their immunity from prosecution by resigning from parliament in order to make it possible for Yushchenko to call an early parliamentary election.

Ironically, a call for the full cancellation of the deputy immunity is one of the main slogans of the pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense bloc and of their allies, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

Their opponents, the Donetsk-based Party of Regions (PRU), have only grudgingly obeyed Yushchenko’s early election decree, and they are in favor of preserving parliamentary immunity.

On July 19 the Supreme Court upheld a PGO appeal against the closure of a criminal case against Oleksy Ivchenko, the leader of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN) and a long-time ally of Yushchenko.

The PGO suspects that Ivchenko embezzled state funds when he chaired the state-controlled oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrainy in 2005-2006.

The PGO opened the criminal case against Ivchenko last February.

At that time Deputy Prosecutor-General Tetyana Kornyakova told the media that top Naftohaz managers had illegally received bonuses and used charter flights for private needs.

A district court in Kyiv closed the case, but now the PGO has re-launched it.

KUN has described this decision as a “provocation.”

A political analyst close to Yushchenko’s team, Vadym Karasyov, suggested that this move was in line with the PRU election strategy of portraying Yushchenko’s people as poor managers.

Ivchenko was elected to parliament in 2006, so he only recently acquired immunity from prosecution.

Simultaneously, the PGO has resumed investigating a criminal case involving Andry Shkil, a former people’s deputy from Tymoshenko’s bloc.

Segodnya, a newspaper linked to the PRU, reported this case under the headline “Andry Shkil May Face 12 Years in Prison.”

Shkil is suspected of having masterminded a clash with police near the office of then-president Leonid Kuchma in March 2001, when he was one of the leaders of the opposition movement “Ukraine Without Kuchma.”

According to Segodnya, it was PRU member Vladyslav Zabarsky who suggested in a letter to the PGO that Shkil’s case should be resurrected as he had lost his deputy immunity.

On July 19, the Donetsk Region Prosecutor’s Office released a statement saying that businessman Viktor Pinchuk, who in 2005 accused former Donetsk Region Council chairman Borys Kolesnykov of extortion, is wanted by police.

The prosecutors said that Pinchuk is suspected of giving false testimony in Kolesnykov’s case.

Kolesnykov currently manages the PRU’s election campaign.

Pinchuk accused Kolesnykov of extortion and abuse of power.

Based on Pinchuk’s testimony, Kolesnykov was arrested in April 2005, but he was released after several months in prison as the PGO ruled there was no evidence of a crime.

Pinchuk waged a media war on the “Donetsk clan.”

He founded Anti-Corruption Fund and published a book, Donetsk Mafia, in which he accused Kolesnykov and his friend, Donetsk tycoon Renat Akhmetov, of crimes.

A court in Donetsk banned the book as libelous.

In a statement released on July 25, Pinchuk asked Ukrainian Ombudswoman Nina Karpachova for protection, complaining that Donetsk courts had seized all his property at Kolesnykov’s request.

He said that Kolesnykov was guided by “personal revenge.”

Yushchenko has lost a defamation suit against a company whose billboards carried a cartoon of him dressed in a Nazi uniform ahead of his visit to Donetsk during his presidential campaign tour in October 2003.

On July 20 a district court in Donetsk dismissed Yushchenko’s suit against the Plazma advertising company.

Yushchenko in early 2005 asked the law-enforcement bodies to investigate Plazma’s activities, and he sued Plazma last November.

Yushchenko is going to appeal, according to one judge.

Meanwhile, a “museum of Orange Revolution victims” is about to be opened in Luhansk, a PRU stronghold.

Ukraina, a TV channel linked to Akhmetov, has reported that separate exhibitions in the museum will be about former transport minister Heorgy Kirpa and former interior minister Yuriy Kravchenko, who “died tragic deaths.”

Both committed suicide when Yushchenko came to power.

The museum has plans to tour throughout Ukraine, Ukraina said.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Mexico Striker Castillo To Join Shakhtar

ATHENS, Greece -- Mexico striker Nery Castillo is set to join Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk.

Mexico striker Nery Castillo

Castillo, 23, traveled to Ukraine on Monday. Greek media reported that Shakhtar had offered €16 million (US$21.8 million) to break Castillo's contract with Greek champion Olympiakos which ends in 2010.

The reports said Castillo was due to sign a four-year contract with an annual salary of over €2 million (US$2.7 million).

Olympiakos has not made any comment on the reports.

Castillo scored four goals to help his country finish third in the Copa America which ended earlier this month. Brazil won the tournament held in Venezuela.

After returning to Greece, Castillo said he had failed to successfully re-negotiate his contract with Olympiakos, where he has played for seven years.

"It was my wish to stay at Olympiakos ... but I did not hear what I expected to hear from them," Castillo said last week, confirming transfer interest from Shakhtar and England's Manchester City.

Castillo helped Olympiakos clinch its 10th league title in 11 seasons, scoring 12 goals.

Source: FOX Sports

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ukraine's Elites Remain Above The Law

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s orange elites are facing a growing scandal surrounding Yuriy Lutsenko, head of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defense bloc (NUNS).

Yuriy Lutsenko

Lutsenko allegedly lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian New Telecommunications (UNTC) when he was interior minister.

Lutsenko’s wife is UNTC’s financial director, and the company was established in 2005 by members of Lutsenko’s extended family from Rivne oblast.

Lutsenko allegedly supported instructions to shift Interior Ministry cell phone contracts to UNTC.

The Lutsenko scandal suggests that Ukraine’s ruling elites remain above the law.

Since Ukraine became an independent state in 1992, only three senior Ukrainian officials have been charged and sentenced, two in Germany (Viktor Zherdytskyy and Ihor Didenko) and one in the United States (Pavlo Lazarenko).

No senior Ukrainian officials have ever been charged inside Ukraine, in part because they possess parliamentary immunity.

In a June 20 address to the country, President Viktor Yushchenko called upon parliament to revoke its right to immunity as a step toward “overcoming parliamentary corruption.”

He claimed that Ukraine’s parliament was the world’s most corrupt, a factor that negatively influenced the national interest and rule of law.

Yushchenko called for separating business and politics, saying, “People in big business should be separate from the political life of the country,” due to potential conflicts of interest.

Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc have both stated their readiness to voluntarily forfeit their immunity.

NUNS is collecting signatures to hold a referendum on ending immunity, claiming that corrupt businessmen run for parliament to hide from the law.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych criticized these calls for action and accused the president of “populism.”

He also pointed out that calls to revoke parliamentary immunity are regularly heard during election campaigns but quietly forgotten afterward.

As media restrictions have eased, the press has leveled accusations of abuse of office and corruption against the president’s son and other orange leaders.

Consequently, the orange camp has adopted a two-pronged standard response of denying the media’s right to make such investigations and claiming that the accusations are part of a political conspiracy.

NUNS member Volodymyr Stretovych, head of the parliamentary committee to combat organized crime, has claimed that the latest allegations against Lutsenko are an orchestrated conspiracy against “one of the most popular leaders of the democratic camp.”

According to him, the accusations against Lutsenko are the criminal world’s response to the prospect of losing parliamentary immunity.

However, ending parliamentary immunity is unlikely to remove Ukrainian elites’ legal privileges for several reasons.

First, Ukraine inherited this political culture of elites being above the law from the Soviet era.

Second, there is also a close link, particularly evident among the orange national democratic camp, between elites and the preservation of Ukrainian statehood.

Yushchenko and his allies who went on to establish Our Ukraine opposed efforts to impeach former president Leonid Kuchma over the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze, as they believe that the president represents the state and any undermining of his position would thereby undermine the Ukrainian state.

Third, the elites enjoy a strong degree of mutual solidarity.

When corruption accusations were made against Yushchenko’s allies in September 2005 he agreed to launch an investigation, but he outlined its pre-determined conclusion by publicly declaring their innocence.

Two examples demonstrate the difficulty of breaking with the culture of elite immunity.

First, in 2005, Yushchenko bestowed Gongadze with the “Hero of Ukraine” title as he “gave his young life for our freedom and independence.”

But then eighteen months later a presidential decree awarded a state medal to former prosecutor Mykhailo Potebenko, who reportedly covered up Kuchma’s involvement in Gongadze’s murder.

Second, Prime Minister Yanukovych has a criminal record.

Yanukovych served two prison terms: in 1967-70 for theft and robbery and in 1970-1972 for the “infliction of bodily injuries of medium seriousness.”

There were reports that a Donetsk oblast court had allegedly annulled his two convictions in 1978, but the relevant documents were found to be forgeries executed when Yanukovych first became prime minister after 2002.

Yushchenko has defended his nomination of Yanukovych as prime minister in August 2006, claiming he had little alternative.

However, Article 12 of Ukraine’s 1993 law on State Service clearly states that persons with a criminal record cannot be appointed or voted into a government post.

This seemingly would eliminate Yanukovych’s eligibility to be prime minister or president.

Polls in 2004 found that 60-69% of Ukrainians believed that a former felon should not be president.

The Lutsenko corruption scandal will tarnish the orange camp going into the September 30 parliamentary elections.

Lutsenko is close to Yushchenko, who is depending on him to improve the pro-presidential camp’s results in the 2006 elections, when it obtained only 14% of the vote.

Based on similar cases, no charges are likely to be laid against Lutsenko, and the culture of elite protection will not change even if parliamentary immunity is removed.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Government Study: Almost 40 Per Cent Of Ukraine Economy In Shadow

KIEV, Ukraine -- Almost 40 per cent of Ukraine's entire economy operates off the books on the black market, according to a government report made public on Monday.

The precise size of Ukraine's shadow economy - 39 per cent - was a dramatic jump over a 2006 estimate of 27 per cent, the Ministry of Economy report said.

Part of the increase was due to a change in how the statistic was calculated, Korrespondent magazine said.

A staggering 227 billion dollars of Ukrainian economic activity this year will never be recorded on official company books or subject to taxation, because of the public's still-massive unwillingness to declare income, the 2007 report estimated.

The most widespread means of corporate tax dodging, the study found, is payment of salaries in two parts: a small amount declared to the government, and a more substantial portion given employees under the table.

The dodge is common in Ukraine, partly because tax inspectors enjoy a wide degree of autonomy in enforcing tax law.

A strict Ukrainian tax inspector is capable of making unprofitable almost any business simply by obliging it to pay, in full, all labour and social service taxes, which are benchmarked to the size of staff salaries.

Off-the-books payment of salaries in cash is routine in practically all medium and large business, particularly in Ukraine's industrial east, where as much as 75 per cent of all business activity is conducted off the books, according to the report.

The average personal salary in Ukraine once under-the-table payments are taken into account is approximately 800 dollars a month - almost triple the current official figure of 260 dollars, the government estimated.

Industries earning the lion's share of their income in the shadow economy include agriculture (72 per cent) and construction (71 per cent), the report said.

Salary payments off-the-books are highest in agriculture (4.4 times the amount reported to the government), heavy industry (3.9 times more), and construction (2.5 times), according to the report.

The most law-abiding sector of the Ukrainian economy was services, where some 18 per cent of transactions were in the black market, and almost 45 per cent of salaries were paid on the books, the survey found.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Textbooks Rewrite History To Fit Putin’s Vision

MOSCOW, Russia -- As Russia flexes its foreign policy muscles against the West and President Putin enjoys record approval ratings, the Kremlin is turning its attention to schools to instil a new sense of nationalism in children.

Russia's ex KGB President Putin

Two new manuals for teachers have been accused of glossing over the horrors of the Soviet Union and of including propaganda to promote Mr Putin’s vision of a strong state.

One, for social studies teachers, presents as fact Mr Putin’s view that the Soviet collapse was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”.

It describes the United States as bent on creating a global empire and determined to isolate Russia from its neighbours.

Many of those behind the second book, a history of Russia from 1945 to 2006, have close links to the Kremlin.

Its final chapter is titled Sovereign Democracy, a term coined by a key Kremlin aide, Vladislav Surkov, as an ideological justification for Mr Putin’s authoritarian rule.

The chapter quotes Mr Surkov repeatedly and praises Mr Putin as the man responsible for “practically every significant deed” in Russia since 2000, when he became President.

Mr Putin’s most controversial actions are shown in an approving light, including the destruction of the Yukos oil company and the imprisonment of its chairman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The book describes this as an “unambiguous message” to business to “obey the law, pay your taxes and don’t try to put yourselves above the Government”, adding: “They got the message.”

Mr Putin’s support for Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine’s rigged presidential election of 2004 is also defended.

Mass protests in the Orange revolution eventually brought his pro-Western rival, Viktor Yushchenko, to power, but the manual states: “Yanukovych was the only candidate capable of truly resisting Yushchenko. So Russia’s choice was clear.”

The book describes Josef Stalin as “the most successful Soviet leader ever” and dismisses the prison labour camps and mass purges as a necessary part of his drive to make the country great.

The manuals are intended to serve as the basis for developing new textbooks in schools next year, though Education Ministry officials insisted that they would not be compulsory.

Mr Putin gave them his seal of approval at a conference he hosted for teachers at his presidential dacha last month.

He described Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937, in which 1.5 million people were imprisoned and 700,000 killed, as terrible “but in other countries even worse things happened”.

Discounting the Soviet Union’s long history of oppression, he said: “We had no other black pages, such as Nazism, for instance.”

Leonid Polyakov, editor of the social studies manual, told Mr Putin that Russia was “disarmed ideologically” after the Soviet collapse, leaving other countries to judge whether it was a democracy.

He said: “We are developing a national ideology that represents the vision of ourselves as a nation, as Russians, a vision of our own identity.

Teachers will then be able to incorporate this national ideology, this vision, into their practical work in a normal way and use it to develop a civic and patriotic position.”

Pavel Danilin, who wrote the chapter on Sovereign Democracy, told The Times that it explained the “core transformation” of Russia under Mr Putin.

“We understand that the only guarantee for our democracy is our sovereignty, our strong state, our strong army, our strong economy and our strong nation,” he said. “It is not an ideology. It is just common sense. And my intention was to explain that common sense to teachers.”

Mr Danilin, 30, is a projects manager at the Effective Policy Foundation, a think-tank with close links to the Kremlin.

He was more blunt about his intentions on his web blog in response to criticism from teachers that much of the book was simply Kremlin propaganda.

“You will teach children in line with the books you are given and in the way Russia needs,” he wrote, adding that schools had to “clear the filth and if it doesn’t work, then clear it by force”.

Alexander Filippov, who edited the history manual, is deputy head of another research institute linked to the Kremlin.

He told The Times that the book was a response to the poor quality of existing textbooks and that “sovereign democracy is not proposed as the national ideology for schools”.

Source: Times Online

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ukraine Speaker Recalls Parliament Before Elections

KIEV, Ukraine -- The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament recalled lawmakers yesterday for an extraordinary session of parliament on July 31, two months before the country holds a general election.

Speaker Oleksander Moroz

News agencies reported that Speaker Oleksander Moroz, leader of the Socialist Party allied to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, had convened the session to review regulations governing the September 30 vote.

Yanukovich, leader of the Party of Regions based in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, has been at loggerheads with pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko for much of this year and a deal to go to the polls was meant to break the impasse.

Opposition leaders accused Moroz of reneging on the pact, designed to ensure that campaigning, which starts in early August, is fair.

“Holding an extraordinary session not only poses a threat to a democratic and civilised exit from this crisis by way of elections, but also draws the attention of the international community to Ukraine,” RIA-Novosti quoted Nikolai Tomenko, deputy leader of the Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, as saying.

Opinion polls show that voters are likely to return a pro-Yanukovich majority, failing to break the political gridlock in Ukraine, a country of 47 million that falls into both the Russian and European spheres of influence.

Commentators also say that Moroz has little interest in the early polls, as opinion surveys show that his Socialists may fail to win enough votes to be returned to the Verkhovnaya Rada (parliament).

Source: Gulf Times

Friday, July 27, 2007

Work In Committees Key To Making Most Of ACC Membership

KIEV, Ukraine -- As more Ukrainian businesses venture into the global marketplace, the important role played by international business organizations has grown proportionally.

Mr. Jorge Zukoski, President of the ACC in Ukraine

Established in 1992, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine (ACC) is one of the most effective non-government business organizations working in Ukraine. The ACC provides its members with information services, assistance with establishing contacts and protecting their interests in interaction with the country’s governmental bodies.

Help in networking with other business colleagues and lobbying business interests are the primary reasons companies choose to join the ACC, according to its members. They enjoy the benefits of sharing and comparing their experiences in dealing with various business problem areas and find common approaches to finding business solutions.

“Companies want to become members of the chamber so that they can have access to the chamber’s resources, particularly for information, and for lobbying,” said James Hitch, chairman of the board of directors of ACC and a managing partner with global law firm Baker&McKenzie.

“Also, companies can raise issues and seek solutions from Ukrainian government authorities by putting them forward with the chamber, which can ‘anonymously’ raise these problems with the relevant government authority, with whom the chamber has developed good communications over the years,” said Hitch.

The ACC ensures that it represents its members in an exclusively transparent and fair manner. And while the ACC cannot lobby or represent the interests of any individual member or small group, it can promote business interests of all of its members combined, or of categories of members, including agricultural producers, food processors and others involved in the export of products from Ukraine.

“The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine lobbies fair market rules for all business players. The Chamber does not seek special privileges for member companies,” said Myron Wasylyk, a member of the board of directors of ACC.

According to members, good examples of the business networking opportunities provided by ACC are the Chamber’s committees that address specific problematic areas. Separate committees address issues of investment, legislation, taxation, intellectual property rights, labor and employment. Other committees are devoted to specific industries, such as telecommunications, banking and financial services, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

Speaking about additional benefits of ACC membership, Hitch mentioned that many Ukrainian companies join the ACC to take advantage of the unique programs that are not available from other business organizations. For example, the ACC has a Corporate Social Responsibility committee and program, under which members participate in charitable activities and projects involved with promoting good government, rule of law and ethical codes of conduct.

According to Hitch, Ukrainian companies are increasingly raising the same concerns shared by multinational corporations, including similar investment, corporate governance, and management issues. They draw benefit from interacting with the managers and employees of the other members during regular membership and committee meetings, and specials events, like the Captains of Industry series.

“The reason for any company to join an NGO, like the ACC or EBA (European Business Association), is to heighten company visibility within the business community,” said Robert Reed, vice president and external affairs director of The Willard Group (TWG), a Kyiv-based public relations and advertising agency.

With 13 years experience in Ukraine, TWG has been a member of ACC since 1999. Reed cautioned, however, that merely joining the ACC will not automatically benefit a business.

“Companies need to be pro-active in attending events, meetings, as well as participate in committees,” said Reed.

Chamber members also view the ACC as an opportunity to establish long-term relationships with Ukrainian political and business elites. This is achieved by the high level of organization that is typical for all ACC meetings and events.

“ACC has helped our company connect with stakeholders of all persuasions, particularly those from the business and political spheres. Events are well-conceived and well-executed and we have learned a great deal about Ukraine’s business dynamics through our membership,” said Antonius Papaspiropoulos, manager for communications and government affairs with Royal Dutch Shell, which has been operating in Ukraine since 1992. He added that stakeholder engagement is a fundamental business imperative for his company.

According to Boris Krasnyansky, managing partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Ukraine, the ACC is a good platform for international business, as well as for those Ukrainian companies interested in developing business and expanding into other markets. PricewaterhouseCoopers Ukraine opened its office in Ukraine in 1993 and joined the ACC in 1997.

The “ACC helps member companies consolidate their views on the most important issues for the economy’s development, and deliver those views to the decision makers,” said Krasnyansky.

Maxim Kopeychikov, partner at the Ilyashev and Partners law firm, said his firm decided to join the Chamber because the ACC is quite effective in implementing best business practices from around the world into Ukraine’s business environment and legislation.

“Actually, we were not thinking about any personal benefits. We still hope that, together with the ACC, our ideas on improving Ukrainian legislation will be implemented into law,” said Kopeychikov. Founded in Kyiv in 1997, his firm joined the Chamber in 2003.

The ACC is highly valued in business circles as a promoter of investment activity. According to members, many foreign companies looking to invest in Ukraine make a point of first visiting the ACC’s offices in Kyiv to find out more about the overall investment climate and the environment in their particular fields of business and industry.

“ACC is undoubtedly an effective lobbyist and its membership list alone is testament to its foreign investment prowess. Any issue that has the weight of the ACC behind it cannot be ignored,” said Royal Dutch Shell’s Papaspiropoulos.

Source: Kyiv Post

Deputy Chief Of Staff Shlapak Accuses Government Of Incompetence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Oleksandr Shlapak, President Yushchenko’s first deputy chief of staff, has criticized the government for its social and security policies and said its performance and inability to preserve economic growth “cannot make anybody happy”, according to the President`s press-office.

First Deputy Chief of Staff Oleksandr Shlapak

Shlapak said on Thursday the country’s falling GDP and slowing industrial growth contradicted the government’s “boastful reports” and added that the cabinet of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had no action plan.

He said the country’s debt was growing (USD 15. 512 bln) and added that there was no need to take loans abroad, especially given the premier’s optimistic projections.

He said Ukraine’s VAT debt was UAH 12.8 bln, calling the situation “critical” and describing it as a “powerful source of corruption.”

He added that VAT was rebated disproportionately and hence non-transparently.

The government has also failed to ensure Ukraine has all the necessary documents to join the World Trade Organization and so the country’s accession has been put off again, he said.

He also slammed the government for its inability to control inflation and cope with last week’s chemical spill in the Lviv region and this week’s tornadoes.

Shlapak demanded that the cabinet implement President Yushchenko’s new social policies “without additional talks” and urged the prime minister to sack the ministers whose “performance is inadequate to the scale of their duties.”

Source: UNIAN

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Raise Teachers’ Salaries

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s educational system is failing the grade when it comes to producing qualified candidates for the professional workforce.

The number of bribes offered to or demanded by teachers has risen year-on-year, while the quality of education offered by the country’s institutions of higher learning has remained low.

The Constitution guarantees the right to a free education.

The reality, however, is that education is not free, as pupils, students or their parents end up paying the cost of a bribe or the price of low-quality education.

Efforts to combat corruption in the educational system have targeted the system of university admissions, but corrupt practices within the classrooms of the country’s high schools and universities remain largely unaddressed.

Several solutions are required for dealing with these problems.

One would require admitting that free universal education is something that the state does not and cannot provide.

Private institutions should be allowed to play a greater role in educating the nation’s youth.

And to boost the quality of state institutions, education should be paid for, the bribes legalized and teachers’ salaries raised significantly.

To place more power into students’ hands, a system of student loans should be developed and introduced.

Bribery would be curbed, as finances would be transferred directly from banks to universities.

The banking sector, which is vital to the country’s economic growth, would see its business increase with the new line of services.

And the students themselves would take their education more seriously, as they would have a vested financial interest in completing studies and securing gainful employment.

The temptation to demand or accept a bribe will exist until teachers are paid at a level where supplementary incomes are no longer necessary.

Salaries should be boosted, or the bribes being given and taken should be legalized.

Otherwise, low wages for teachers will continue to result in the low quality of graduates entering the country’s workforce.

Source: Kyiv Post Editorial

The Face Of Disaster

KIEV, Ukraine -- There wasn’t much the government could say following last week’s chemical spill in Lviv Region, but they could have found a better spokesman to say it.

The world learned quickly that a train had derailed, causing a fire and then a cloud of noxious gas that covered over 50 square miles of countryside.

As the specter of Chornobyl, Ukraine’s claim to infamy, slowly resurfaced in the public consciousness, a sober and intelligent statement by Ukraine’s authorities would have been nice.

Instead, we got an earful of past incompetence from an official who should have stayed in the past.

Even if someone out there in television land was willing to give the Ukrainian authorities the benefit of the doubt regarding the latter’s ability to handle the situation, the delusion was soon dispatched by Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk.

“A disaster has happened. After the Chornobyl catastrophe we are confronted with a situation that can pose a real threat to our people,” Kuzmuk said from the scene.

As it turns out, the comparison between the Lviv spill, which has yet to claim any casualties, and Chornobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident, was a huge exaggeration.

The comment spurred panic and did little to instill confidence in thousands who fled their homes in the vicinity of the spill.

As if to compensate, Kuzmuk returned to TV screens the next day to tell people in the disaster zone that they could “breathe easily” and feel free to drink from their wells and graze their livestock.

Having served as defense minister during some of the country’s worst military disasters, such as the leveling of a block of flats with a stray missile and the shoot-down of a Russian passenger liner over the Black Sea, Kuzmuk was a poor choice to break the news.

But he has returned from the scrap heap of discredited officials twice already.

If Ukraine wants to convince its citizens and others that it isn’t a disaster zone, then a good first step would be to at least find a better spokesman during catastrophes.

Source: Kyiv Post

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

French Firm Could Build Shield Over Main Chernobyl Reactor

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine could sign a contract with a French firm in September to build a giant protective shield over a damaged reactor in Chernobyl, the scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster, the emergencies minister said Wednesday.

This graffiti was made in Pripyat town, which was the first town to be affected with radiation when Chernobyl accident happened. Artists from Moscow, Minsk, Berlin went down there 20 years later to make a tribute to all those people who passed away and who are still suffering from the causes of this catastrophe. The Chernobyl reactor is on the left in the background.

"The Assembly of Chernobyl Shelter Fund Donors made a decision in London July 17 to give its approval to the contract to build the shelter with the Novarka concern, with a preliminary cost of 490 million euros (about $680 million)," Nestor Shufrych said.

The decision came after numerous delays since the fund - which comprises 28 countries, including the G8 nations and is run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - pledged in 2005 to allocate about $200 million on a new vault to contain radioactive material still inside the plant's main, fourth, reactor since the powerful 1986 explosions.

The project is a tricky one, above all because of the radiation involved. A huge steel vault, which will be made away from the reactor site and will then be slid into place on rails, will seal the plant for 100 years, and further measures are expected to reduce the radiation threat or remove radioactive material from the plant.

Much of the radioactive material inside the plant is temporarily contained by a Russian-designed "sarcophagus."

The devastating disaster in then Soviet Ukraine killed and affected nine million people across the world, according to UN estimates.

Vast areas, above all in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout of the explosion. An 18-mile zone, from which about 135,000 people were evacuated after the disaster, remains largely deserted to this day.

Source: RIA Novosti

Germany: Flossenbuerg Concentration Camp Opens As Museum On 62nd Anniversary Of Liberation

BERLIN, Germany -- Holocaust survivors on July 22 marked the 62nd anniversary of the Flossenbuerg concentration camp liberation at the opening ceremony for a museum on the site.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, right, his wife Kateryna, second right, and their children walk at the former concentration camp site in Flossenbuerg near Weiden, Germany July 22. Yushchenko and his family visited the former concentration camp where his father Andrij Andrijowytch was a prisoneer in 1944.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose father was detained at Flossenbuerg from December 1944 to April 1945, took part in the memorial service.

"For me this concentration camp has a very human dimension," Yushchenko said, adding that he had a 1944 aerial view of Flossenbuerg showing the camp and the prisoners and that "I know one of those people is my father."

An estimated 30,000 prisoners lost their lives at Flossenbuerg in the southern German state of Bavaria. Many of them were from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, including Jews from Hungary and Poland, as well as political prisoners from Germany.

From its founding in 1938 to its liberation on April 23, 1945, by American troops, more than 100,000 people were detained at the camp and its more than 90 external branches.

"I bow my head in front of you," Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber said in a speech to the 84 former prisoners who participated in the ceremony. "We will do everything to make sure that you will never be forgotten."

After World War II, parts of the camp were torn down and replaced by a factory and private homes. Only in the mid-1990s did former prisoners start returning to Flossenbuerg to push for a memorial.

Several camp barracks were restored and a research center was opened. The new permanent exhibition will focus on the suffering of individuals.

Source: AP

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

EU Will Not Cope With Ukraine’s Euro Integration

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Commission Chairman Jose-Manuel Barroso in an interview, published Monday in “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, has claimed that in the foreseeable future Turkey and Ukraine will not be able to join the European Union.

European Commission Chairman Jose-Manuel Barroso

“We have taken the responsibility to hold negotiations with Turkey. The negotiations are one thing, and the accedence – is another,” the Head of the European Commission said.

Answering the question, whether Ukraine is a European country, Barosso said: “Definitely. But, neither we, nor Ukraine can cope with its joining EU now.”

As earlier reported, ex President of Poland Alexander Kvasnevsky called it quiet real the prospective of Ukraine’s joining EU in 2020.

But, as the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine Reinhardt Schafer claimed, the European Union at the official level didn’t consider the year 2020 as the possible date of Ukraine’s joining.

Source: Trend News

Monday, July 23, 2007

Accident-Prone Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The modern Ukrainian state was born from the ashes of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident. So, one might think that the young country’s leaders would be a particularly careful lot. Keep thinking.

Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk in photo as Defense Minister

Just over 20 years since the fateful Chernobyl blast, on April 26, 1986, Ukraine is still scaring its neighbors and its citizens with accidents at least partly rooted in official negligence.

A chemical spill in western Lviv Region was the latest disaster to strike, causing around a thousand people to evacuate their homes, and over 180 to be hospitalized.

A freight train carrying tanks of yellow phosphorus, which is both poisonous and flammable, derailed on its way from Kazakhstan to Poland on Monday, July 16.

A blaze ensued, followed by a noxious cloud of smoke that covered around 90 kilometers of surrounding territory, including 14 villages with 11,000 residents.

Within a few days, the government was reporting that everything was under control and that there was no danger from poisonous gas or contamination on the ground.

But it didn’t take long for people to start making comparisons with Chernobyl.

In fact, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk, himself a veteran of more than one Ukrainian catastrophe, first recalled the ghost of the nuclear nightmare in an appearance on Ukrainian television shortly after the spill.

A day later, after having visited the scene of the spill, Kuzmuk was telling his countrymen that they could feel free to drink water from their wells and graze their cattle in meadows near the scene of the spill.

Other comments by officials aired by the nation’s media only added to the feeling of uncertainty.

Thankfully, no fatalities have been reported, as of the writing of this piece.

But that’s little reason to breathe easily.

Ukraine has a history of tragic disasters, and history keeps repeating itself with alarming frequency.

In 2000, a stray missile demolished a block of flats in a small town just outside of Kyiv, killing three. It was mislaunched during a training exercise by Ukraine’s military, then headed by Defense Minister Kuzmuk.

A year later, in October 2001, the Ukrainian military mistakenly shot down a Russian passenger liner over the Black Sea, killing almost 80 people on board.

This time, Kuzmuk was forced to resign. But that didn’t prevent him from being reappointed to the Cabinet a few years later by now former President Leonid Kuchma, his political benefactor.

Then there was the Sknyliv air show disaster, another world record breaker, which saw 80 more people killed when a jet fighter crashed into a crowd of spectators in the summer of 2002.

Since then, Ukraine has witnessed explosions at military depots, in 2004 and 2006, with the first one creating a first class fire works display that wrought havoc and significant material damage in the surrounding countryside.

“What’s going to happen next?” is not an entirely unfair question to ask.

Yes, accidents, including very deadly ones, happen everywhere, and Ukraine may be particularly prone to them due to its ongoing, difficult transition since independence from the Soviet Union.

But a disturbing pattern has emerged over the years.

For one thing, few, if anyone, and certainly not anyone high up, is ever held responsible for Ukraine’s disasters. Indeed, Kuzmuk is a perfect but by no means the only example of Ukrainian officials' resilience to blame.

Now a deputy prime minister in the government of Viktor Yanukovych, Kuzmuk recently denied that the Ukrainian military was responsible for the shoot-down over the Black Sea, although Ukraine agreed to pay damages.

In the Sknyliv disaster, only the pilots were sentenced to prison terms, while the air show organizers and higher military officials got off clean.

If no one was responsible in these disasters, then no one will be responsible for preventing future ones.

But just because no one is punished doesn’t mean that plenty of noisy accusations haven’t been made.

Following last week’s chemical spill, for example, the parliamentary opposition, as well as President Viktor Yushchenko’s Secretariat have taken turns in blaming their mutual foe – the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

In particular, both BYuT and the Secretariat called for the dismissal of the country’s Transportation Minister, Mykola Rudkovsky. With elections around the corner, no one should be surprised.

However, this kind of response to disaster does little to prevent new ones.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office has also opened a criminal case, but as history has shown, the chances of anyone being tried are slim to nothing.

The chances of meaningful compensation and a transparent investigation are also lean, but President Yushchenko has promised both this time around.

The reform-minded president might even be able to keep his word, as the chemical spill has yet to claim any lives. Thus compensation should be manageable.

As for the investigation, the EU has offered to send specialists to monitor the extent of the environmental damage.

But a more burning issue is whether anything will be done to prevent such accidents from reoccurring.

Ukraine’s security service, the SBU said that after having conducted a check of the country’s rail system in May, following the derailment of a passenger train, it reported safety concerns, but they weren’t addressed.

Yushchenko has warned that he won’t tolerate any “Soviet” cover-ups.

But in the mean time, the Ministry of Agriculture has come out with a statement saying that all produce from the affected area is safe, despite warnings by independent experts urging a fuller study of the spill’s effects.

The emergency crews have put out the fire and, hopefully covered up all the spilt phosphorus with sand, but the poison might have leaked into the ground, especially during recent heavy rains.

The Emergency Ministry has boldly announced that it would send the yellow phosphorus back to Kazakhstan. But is this wise – especially considering that the government itself has been saying that the tanks in which the chemicals were being transported were the cause of the accident? What if there is another spill on the way back to Kazakhstan?

Clearly, the most important thing at this stage in the game is to figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. The same can be said for Ukraine’s other deadly disasters in recent years.

As most of these were caused by the country’s military, it is encouraging that Yushchenko put a civilian reformer in the job immediately after replacing Leonid Kuchma as president in January 2005.

Among other badly needed reforms, Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko has stepped up cooperation with NATO, which has helped Ukraine dispose of dangerously idle ammunition.

Also, the country seems to be on the right track in reforming its nuclear industry, seeking Western help to process spent fuel and seal up the deadly Chernobyl reactor.

But the reappearance of controversial figures like Kuzmuk in the government of Viktor Yanukovych raises concerns that Hrytsenko’s reforms could be reversed if the factions endorsed by Yushchenko don’t do well in the upcoming early elections. Also, the Chernobyl sarcophagus is still plodding along.

If Ukraine wants to get through its accident-prone early years in one piece, it’s going to take a marked change in attitude toward dealing with disaster.

To keep them from reoccurring, the country, especially the military, needs serious reform. And if they do happen, transparency and responsibility should be the operative words.

Accident can happen anywhere, but Ukraine’s had more than its share in these formative years of the young country.

Source: Eurasian Home Analytical Resource

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ukraine Pro-Presidential Bloc Calls For Abolishing Deputy Immunity

KIEV, Ukraine -- A sign-up campaign in support of abolishing the deputy immunity will be launched in Ukraine on Monday. The pro-presidential bloc “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence” initiated the campaign.

Yulia Timoshenko (L) and Yuri Lutsenko (R)

“The struggle for abolishing the deputy immunity is one of the main principles of the bloc’s election campaign,” the bloc’s leader and former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko emphasized.

According to him, “It is the first step in the crusade against corruption and crime in the country.”

President Viktor Yushchenko earlier called on all parties to refuse from the deputy immunity in a new parliament. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich calls only for abolishing the deputy immunity in criminal cases.

The election race in Ukraine will begin officially on August 2 and will last till September 30, when early parliamentary elections should be held.

However, the leading players on the political stage have been conducting an agitation campaign for a long time.

If the pro-presidential bloc stakes on the abolishment of the deputy immunity, Yulia Timoshenko’s bloc began agitating for holding a referendum on changes in the Ukrainian Constitution simultaneously with the early parliamentary elections.

Nine questions are offered to be put up for a referendum, including the choice on a type of government – a presidential or a parliamentary republic.

If Ukrainians vote for the presidential power, the president should also head the government.

If a parliamentary republic is chosen, the Supreme Rada will appoint a premier and a government. Timoshenko offers to abolish the post of president.

The pro-presidential bloc took this initiative as “nonobligatory for execution,” as such issues cannot be resolved at referendums.

The Party of Regions considered an idea voiced by Yulia Timoshenko’s bloc as “political cheating at play.”

Political scientist Viktor Bozhenko links an initiative to hold a referendum with Timoshenko’s striving to invigorate interest of voters to her bloc.

Political scientist Andrei Yermolayev does not rule out that it may be a landmark deal with favorable referendum results for the president in exchange for guarantees of Timoshenko’s premiership.

Source: Itar-Tass

Ukraine: Media Riddles Around The Phosphorous Cloud

KIEV, Ukraine -- The available information about the phosphorous cloud following the railway accident in the Ukraine last Monday is becoming more and more cryptic.

Emergency staff work at the site of a poisonous chemical spill near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv

The political involvement of most media and other factors are causing contradictions among official sources that are making press work extremely hard. Moreover, nobody is permitted to reach the accident location. The site of the accident was closed to visitors following the intoxication of three TV journalists who got too close.

Location of the cloud

TV channel Novyj Kanal translated a telephonic interview with officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs during which the existence of any cloud whatsoever is firmly denied. Immediately after the interview a press conference by Kiev mayor, Mr. Leonid Chernovezkij, announces that starting next Monday a daily report about the movements of the same cloud will be available to the population. The service will be provided by the Kiev administration.

In an interview to TV channel UT-1 an officer of the ecological service admitted that they have no real data about the area closer to the accident, because not even government officers are permitted to reach it. The officer said that most data about the hypothetical movements of the cloud (if the cloud exists) are made based on computer simulations they receive from Russian vendors, because no such simulation model is currently available in the Ukraine. The closest available on spot measures are related to areas located several kilometers away from the epicentre.

Removal operation

In the same press release the Mayor of Kiev also announced that no transport of whatever dangerous material will be allowed in the town area. The removal by railway of the phosphor containers involved in the accident was originally planned for today. It’s unclear how Kiev’s transit refusal may affect the operation and whether the mayor has the authority to block national traffic on the railways.

According to the Press Manager of the Ministery for Emergency Situations, Mr. Igor Krol', four containers will be lifted and put back on the rails today. Five containers have already been lifted. Yet the weather may affect the operations, as violent storms and very strong winds are expected in the area. This is going to introduce a serious risk factor for the phosphor that still remains on the ground. The contaminating products are in fact insulated from the air by means of pillows made of air and foam; a strong wind may cause new emergencies by even just partially removing such insulation structures.

Health consequences

Various TV channels report one of the firemen who first arrived on location to be in very critical conditions. The channels give no exact figure about the number of people seeking help in hospitals, the media simply report the flux to be uninterrupted. A medical doctor in a TV interview for Novij Kanal said people are mostly in panic, but not really ill. At late evening a press release from the Ministery for Emergency Situations gives the following figures: 184 people, among them 52 children, 14 people belonging in the emergency squads who managed the accident, 3 medical operators that went to assist people in the polluted area.

Polemics are mounting about the way in which the emergency has been managed. The president of the Ozhidov village Council (the worst hit village) declared in a TV interview for Novij Kanal that they were immediately forbidden to drink water, but never were given any medicine or fresh water, neither were they told what they could use for first aid.

President says "no cloud"

President Viktor Yushchenko issued a couple of official communications about the "absence of any need to declare the accident area as ecologically damaged" and added that he has the intention to invite Polish experts on location, to have an independent verification. He invited the population of the affected area "not to frighten foreign investors". The passage of the president to the "no cloud" front may prelude to a less contradictory official information.

Yushchenko issued an official call to speed up the closure of the Chernobyl atomic power plants on July, 20. Immediately after he left the country with his family for an unofficial visit to Poland, that will be followed by an official visit to Germany. He is expected to travel to Germany on the evening of July 21.

The Ukraine Procuror General, Mr. Aleksandr Medvedenko, declares to the press that he has visited the accident site together with the President, and that all necessary measures are being taken, both for the liquidation of the accident and the defense of the civilian population. He notes that "it takes courage to work there, for the personnel af the Ministry for Emergency Situations". He announces that a complex cycle of medical care is being planned for about 1500 children of the affected area.

In the same interview the Procuror General announces that the Government of Kazakhstan will accept being returned the phosphor left (the goods were originally from Kazakhstan). Yet in the same hours the director of Kazphosphat (the vendor) declares in an interview to the newspaper Segodnja that he gathers that "the phosphor will be stocked in the Ukraine, because it makes no sense to transfer it back. Moreover, you can hardly imagine that Russia would accept the passage of such a dangerous damaged load on their railways".

Source: Afrique en ligne

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yatsenyuk Sees Ukraine-EU Summit On Sept 14 As Planned

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The Ukraine-EU summit will take place on September 14 in Kiev, as earlier scheduled, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told journalists on July 17 after a working visit to Brussels.

European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk in Brussels on July 17, 2007.

He met with EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner and European Commissioner for Trade Peter Mandelson.

The political crisis in Ukraine did not impact Kiev's relations with the European Union, Yatsenyuk said. "An important message I am bringing to Ukraine is that the summit will take place, and it will take place in September. Thus, nothing is threatening Ukrainian-EU relations," Yatsenyuk said.

The minister also confirmed that a report on progress at talks on a new Ukrainian-EU basic agreement will be presented at the summit. "I hope 2008 will be the year of signing a new basic agreement," he said.

Yatsenyuk also said that it is necessary that early parliamentary elections in Ukraine are held in line with democratic standards.

"Democratic and transparent elections are a clear sign that Ukraine is a developing society that can integrate into Europe. Thus, it is absolutely clear that the more democratic and transparent the elections are, the more progress we will achieve. This will be a test for Ukraine's political system, whether the country is ready to enter Europe," Yatsenyuk said.

Solana underlined the importance of a free and fair poll. The elections should lead to a stable government able to implement important political and economic reforms.

As regards international and regional issues, Solana and Yatsenyuk exchanged views on the efforts to solve the Transdnestria conflict in Moldova, Kosovo and the current state of play concerning the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

Following his meeting with Yatsenyuk, Mendelson said is confident that Ukraine's WTO accession will open new opportunities in bilateral relations between Kyiv and Brussels.

Europe is looking forward to Ukraine's accession to the WTO because it opens doors for other options in bilateral relations, he said in Brussels.

Mendelson said Ukraine's membership in the WTO is an matter for the near-term.

As EU commissioner he has worked closely enough with the government of Ukraine to be sure that the WTO and Ukraine would soon reach agreement on this issue and Ukraine would join the WTO soon, he said.

In response to a question, Mendelson said he was unaware of any link between Ukraine's WTO accession and Russia's.

Yatsenyuk said that Russia has its own path to WTO entry, just as Ukraine does. "We should not do anything in common with Russia in the sense of any synchronization," he said.

Source: New Europe

Ukraine Criticises Russian Pullout From Europe Force Limit Treaty

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine on Friday criticised Russia's recent rejection of a European force limitation treaty, saying the Kremlin move 'could negatively affect the European security system.'

Russian T-90 tank

Moscow last weekend suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement in seeming retaliation to a Washington plan to locate parts of a missile-defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The CFE agreement - now set to become null and void after a 150 day waiting period - froze the maximum numbers of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, combat helicopters, and artillery cannon on the European continent.

Russia's abandonment of the agreement posed a potential security threat to Ukraine that 'Ukraine reserves the right to takeall necessary and adequate steps to counter,' according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Though couched in diplomatic language, the communique is one of the most direct criticisms by Kiev of Moscow foreign policy in years. Ukraine normally avoids conflict over security issues with its giant northern neighbour, which provides Ukraine practically all its imported energy.

'The entire regime of European security could be destroyed,' the statement warned.

The Foreign Ministry statement was made public one day after an emergency meeting of Ukraine's National Security Council, held in the Black Sea resort Yalta where Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko was on Summer holiday.

Kiev's announcement called on Russia and NATO to return to CFE standards, for the sake of regional security. The present treaty now abandoned by Russia was clearly obsolete, and 'requires further diologue,' the statement said, agreeing with a key Kremlin complaint about CFE.

Ukraine's influential Korrespondent magazine, one of the country's largest news weeklies, called the Russian decision to leave CFE a strategic blunder, 'as it will inevitably drive Ukraine towards NATO.'

Though Ukraine is a regular host to NATO maneuvres, the suggestion of Ukrainian membership in NATO is highly divisive in the former Soviet republic, with between 50 and 60 per cent of Ukrainians firmly opposing the idea according to most polls.

Ukrainian suspicion of NATO is grounded in a long history of being invaded by more technologically-advanced foreign powers, and NATO operations in Serbia and Afghanistan seen by many Ukrainians as unprovoked NATO attacks against weak opponents.

NATO officials have repeatedly taken the boilerplate line that Ukrainians are not much interested in NATO, because they are poorly informed about the Atlantic Alliance.

'But if Russia rebuilds its army, many Ukrainians will see no other choice but NATO,' Korrespondent commented.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Ukraine President Tours Spill Site

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko toured the site of a massive hazardous chemical spill yesterday as numbers of local residents sickened from the accident continued to increase.

President Yushchenko (in white shirt)

The Ukrainian leader travelled to the village of Ozhidov in the country’s western Lviv province yesterday afternoon.

A Tuesday freight train derailment in Lviv cracked open six of 15 50-tonne hazardous chemical containers filled with liquid phosphorus, sparking a fire and a poisonous smoke cloud covering an estimated 90sq km of land.

At least 11,000 people are believed to have been downwind from the cloud. A total of 152 emergency workers and local residents have been hospitalised after exposure to the toxic chemical, according to a Health Ministry statement.

At least 2,000 people have received some kind of medical treatment for early symptoms of phosphorus exposure, typically including headache, dizziness and loss of appetite, the Interfax new agency reported.

Repair teams had removed three undamaged phosphorus containers from the rail-carriage debris by yesterday morning. Repair and clean-up work was continuing, but poisonous fumes from broached containers were hindering the effort.

Ozhidov’s only pharmacy had run out of most supplies by yesterday morning, and prices for basic household supplies had doubled in the region, Korrespondent magazine reported.

Ozhidov Mayor Oleksander Shakh told the Channel 5 television channel: “We no longer expect help from government, our hope is on charitable people ... we need simple help – mineral water, basic foods and detergents.”

Officials from five major Ukrainian government bureaucracies – the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Transport, the national railroad Ukrzhelesnitsia, the army, and the police – all have sent teams to the area, and since Tuesday have been vocal in asserting that the situation is under control.

Yushchenko’s decision to travel to the accident site, despite official assurances the government was doing everything possible to help, was seen by observers as additional proof that the Ukrainian leader was dissatisfied with the clean-up so far.

A Yushchenko spokesman on Wednesday called for the resignation of Transport Minister Mykola Rudolkovsky over the accident. Rudolkovsky on Thursday said there were no grounds for him to quit his job.

Prior to the trip, Yushchenko laced into Rudolkovsky in front of Kiev reporters, calling the minister “a general for weddings ... not capable of controlling any part of the Transport Ministry ... but the staff of the ministry building in the capital”.

Political finger-pointing in the wake of the accident has been intense even by Ukrainian standards.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled in the country for September 30.

Source: DPA

Ukraine’s NATO Membership Is Path to ‘Small’ Cold War

MOSCOW, Russia -- The majority of NATO proponents in Ukraine believe that the admission process may only be accelerated in 2011, when Poland - a principal (after the U.S.) driving force behind this process - assumes the EU rotating presidency.

Yet it is quite possible that Ukraine might join the alliance as early as 2008.


The "pro" party is led by President Viktor Yushchenko, the Defense Minister, and the Foreign Minister. Their goal is to cut Ukraine off from Russia forever and to ensure Kiev's early integration into Western structures.

The United States is seeking to use Ukraine as a counterweight to Russia's influence, bringing its military and political infrastructure closer to Russian borders.

U.S. allies in the EU, such as Poland and Latvia, are driven by their Russophobia complex. Furthermore, Poland without Ukraine is just an average European country, wedged in between its historic enemies - Russia and Germany. Poland with Ukraine is a great European power.

The NATO bureaucracy's motive is its subconscious institutional expansion, the desire to enlarge budgets, territories, military structures, and public outreach.


The "con" party is led by Ukraine's public opinion, driven by the reluctance to see the country become an enemy of Russia, as well as by the general distrust of NATO.

Needless to say, this is a result of years of propaganda.

The Russian authorities are nervous about the physical proximity of NATO and U.S. military-political infrastructure, continuing to pin their hopes on the restoration of a close relationship with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Constitution says that the republic is a neutral state, not affiliated with any blocs, and therefore, NATO membership is at odds with the country's Fundamental Law.

NATO and EU member countries - representatives of the so-called Old Europe, who have their own position which does not fully coincide with that of the U.S. - do not wish to fall out with Russia over Ukraine, while they have no special interest in Kiev's membership of the alliance.

Pros vs. Cons

The "pro party" is rather stable, based on common interests. Within the "con party," only Russia - its governing authorities and public opinion - has a distinct, pronounced interest, while other "party members" do not.

War Fatigue

Kiev's admission to NATO could be precipitated by elections in the U.S. and in Ukraine, as well as developments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington afford to continue these wars: American public opinion is increasingly pushing for the military pullout. The 2008 election campaign is getting into gear.

Unless the Republicans do something before then, they will lose dismally to such Democratic radicals as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The U.S. will come up with a new policy. It will gather its allies, and ask them what to do next.

Washington will admit that it was wrong to have started the war in Iraq, but that the West cannot pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan.

However, we are unable anymore to continue the war on our own, the U.S. president will say, so it is time to invoke Article 5 of the UN Charter.

Cat's Paw

So [other] NATO countries will have to enter the war. The leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands will realize that if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq or Afghanistan, they will have to fight there all the same.

He who decides to send his soldiers to this unpopular war will commit political suicide.

Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands are exactly the Old Europe that does not want to set on a collision course with Russia over Ukraine if they can help it.

But in the new conditions, the leaders of these countries will understand that Ukraine as a NATO member is their salvation - an opportunity to minimize their manpower contribution and save their political careers.

After all, Ukraine has a population of 48 million plus leftovers from the Soviet Army.

Other NATO member states will contribute what they can to this war effort - money (Japan and the U.S.) and military hardware (the U.S., Germany, France, and Italy).

The obstacle in the form of Ukrainian public opinion will be easily cleared.

A massive propaganda campaign will be launched, bankrolled by NATO.

The issue of NATO membership will, as Yushchenko promised, go before a referendum.

The question, however, will not be "Do you want Ukraine to become a member of the North Atlantic alliance and to send its soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan?"

It will be different: "Do you agree with military reform in Ukraine, which includes NATO membership and transition from conscription to a contract-based, professional army?"

The majority will vote for abolishing the draft. The conscripts' mothers will overwhelm the opponents.

No one will remember about the Ukrainian Constitution - they will only remember about the National Security Law, which now includes (at variance with the Fundamental Law) a provision about Euro Atlantic integration as a national security goal.

Later, they will say that the transition to a professional military will take time, but no one knows exactly how much - maybe 20 years or so.

But NATO membership could be granted already in the fall of 2008.

Of course, Ukrainian politicians will think that they will be able to get out of sending their soldiers to the war: they are constantly devising schemes designed to deceive everyone, and will, as always, end up deceiving everyone, including themselves.


Needless to say, the Russian authorities understand the danger of this scenario.

But today, Russia does not have any leverage over Ukraine's domestic policy.

There are no programs, funds, grants, media, institutions, and so on.

There are no systemic channels of communication with Ukrainian journalists, experts, NGOs or students.

In any event, Ukraine is not a priority: there are more pressing things to do, such as divvying up ministerial posts, state corporations, and billions of dollars.

Furthermore, presidential elections are just around the corner.

Some people think that if the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian politicians have interests in Russia, as well as personal connections within the Russian establishment, the Kremlin, has leverage to influence Ukrainian politics.

It is rather dubious, however, that these personal connections or economic leverage can prevent Ukraine's admission to NATO.

Some people are betting on Ukraine's infrastructural, and above all energy dependence, but the possibilities of using this influence are even now limited by political considerations.

Should the leading Western powers really commit themselves to their scenario, the possibility of using Ukraine's energy dependence to exert pressure on it will be minimal.

In the end, Russia will just stare in amazement at the Ukrainian Armed Forces pass under American control and Ukrainian politicians swear allegiance to NATO.

And then questions will start to be asked: "Who lost Ukraine?" "Who allowed the enemy to come to our doorstep?" and finally, "Who betrayed the Motherland?"

Amid Russia's de facto encirclement by NATO, there will be a surge in anti-Western mood.

The majority of Russian politicians, including the most reasonable and responsible, will be unable to resist such pressure, which will result in a sharp turn toward nationalism.

But the West will firmly uphold its interests, responding harshly and cold-bloodedly to Russia's half-hearted, toothless threats.

Thus a ‘small' Cold War will be revived. Ukraine's admission to NATO is a red line that will create a fundamentally new geopolitical situation for Russia.

Source: Moscow News

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Profile: Boris Berezovsky

LONDON, England -- Boris Abramovich Berezovsky was born into a Jewish family in Moscow and studied forestry and then applied mathematics, receiving a doctorate in 1983.

Boris Abramovich Berezovsky

He did research on optimisation and control theory, publishing 16 books and articles between 1975 and 1989, and becoming chair of a laboratory at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He started out in business in 1989 by buying and selling cars from the state manufacturer AutoVAZ and setting up a new intermediary called LogoVaz in 1992.

Mr Berezovsky became one of the original oligarchs under President Boris Yeltsin, lending money to the state in return for valuable stakes in AutoVAZ, the state airline Aeroflot, and several oil companies which he organised into the giant Sibneft.

Among his associates was Roman Abramovich, now owner of Chelsea football club, although the two are no longer close.

Mr Berezovsky went on to buy media companies including the television channels ORT and TV6, and the newspapers Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Novye Izvestiya and Kommersant which he used to support Yeltsin's re-election in 1996.

He entered parliament himself and became secretary general of the Commonwealth of Independent States which included most of the countries of the former Soviet Union.

He supported Vladimir Putin's campaign for the presidency in 2000.

Soon afterwards he fell out with Mr Putin and moved to Britain, buying a 172-acre estate in Surrey.

He is said to have provided millions of pounds in financial backing for the "Orange Revolution" of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine.

President Yushchenko faced opposition from the country's Russian neighbours and survived an attempt to poison him.

Mr Putin launched an attempt to get Mr Berezovsky extradited from Britain over fraud allegations connected with Aeroflot but he was granted political asylum in 2003 on the grounds he had a reasonable fear of persecution.

Alexander Litvinenko alleged in a press conference in Russia that he had been asked by his superiors in the FSB (formerly the KGB) to assassinate Mr Berezovsky.

Litvinenko was later arrested and fled to Britain where he worked for Mr Berezovsky.

He was allegedly poisoned and died later in hospital.

Source: Telegraph

Number Of People Sickened By Toxic Smoke From Phosphorus Fire In Ukraine Up To 145

KIEV, Ukraine -- The number of people sickened by smoke from a chemical fire triggered by a train derailment reached 145 on Thursday, a health ministry spokeswoman said, as Ukraine's transport minister suggested the accident was caused by safety violations.

Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky suggested safety rules may have been violated

All of the 145 victims were hospitalized, including 43 children, health ministry spokeswoman Olena Titarchuk said. On Wednesday, officials reported that 69 people had fallen ill since the accident on Monday.

The accident occurred when a freight train derailed outside Lviv, near the Polish border, and 15 of its 58 cars overturned. Six tanker cars containing phosphorus ruptured and caught fire, sending smoke and noxious fumes over 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of Western Ukraine.

Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky suggested safety rules may have been violated, saying on Ukrainian television that if hazardous cargoes were transported following regulations and using appropriate equipment, accidents such as Monday's did not happen.

"If some defects appear in the technical condition of equipment, then accidents similar to the recent one happen," Rudkovsky said, without elaborating.

"The Soviet-era practice of issuing appeasing bureaucratic reports instead of taking professional measures, and concealing the actual situation instead of honestly informing the public, can no longer be accepted in Ukraine," President Viktor Yushchenko told government officials, according to a statement.

The emergency situations ministry said Thursday the situation was under control, and there was no lingering health threat, according to spokesman Ihor Krol.

But some toxicology experts warned the area may still contain hazardous levels of chemicals.

"This accident is very dangerous, and its consequence can be unpredictable. I doubt that there is no threat for people now," said Zofia Kubrak, a chemistry and toxicology specialist at Lviv Medical University.

The freight train was traveling from Kazakhstan to Poland when it derailed outside Lviv, near the Polish border.

Hundreds of people living in villages in the area were evacuated, while other families fled on their own.

The emergency ministry said authorities planned to send the tanker cars still loaded with phosphorus back to Kazakhstan. Rescuers are continuing to spray anti-fire foam on the damaged tankers to prevent new fires.

Phosphorus, which can catch fire on contact with air hotter than 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), can cause liver damage if consumed.

Phosphorus compounds are chiefly used in fertilizers, although they are important components of pesticides, toothpaste and detergents, as well as in explosives and fireworks.

About 50 million tones of cargo — 70 percent of which includes dangerous substances such as chlorine, nitrogen, ammonia and petroleum products — is transported by rail through Ukraine's territory annually.

The accident touched nerves still raw more than two decades after the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, north of the capital, Kiev.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

69 Poisoned In Ukraine By Toxic Cloud After Train Derailment

KIEV, Ukraine -- The number of people treated for exposure to toxic smoke from a phosphorus fire in Ukraine more than tripled Wednesday from 20 to 69, officials said a day after a train loaded with the chemical derailed and caught fire.

Firefighters work at the site of a fire where a freight train carrying highly toxic phosphorus derailed in western Ukraine, near Lviv.

About half of those affected, including 19 children, were hospitalized following exposure to the smoke, emergency department spokesman Ihor Krol said. He said their lives were not in danger.

Independent Channel 5 television, without citing sources, reported that 72 people were hospitalized, and some residents and experts questioned the authorities' claims that people the 14 villages in the affected area were out of danger.

Concentrations of phosphorus residue in the air over two of the affected region's 14 villages, Anhelivka and Lisove, remained 23 times higher than normal, the Nature Ministry said early Wednesday.

Later in the day, however, the ministry said concentrations over the villages had decreased dramatically in a matter of hours and were within the range considered safe.

"It has dispersed. We cannot explain processes in nature," said a ministry spokesman who refused to give his name, citing the department's policy.

Zofia Kubrak, a chemistry and toxicology specialist at Lviv Medical University, contended that such a drastic decrease was impossible in light of the weather conditions.

"We have neither wind nor rain in the region. That just couldn't have happened," Kubrak told The Associated Press.

"It is a very serious accident which can have unpredictable consequences for people," she said.

Kubrak said that some people in the Lviv region complained of discomfort in the throat and mouth, which she said were typical symptoms of phosphorus poisoning.

"In our villages, half the population suffered strange headaches, and it was difficult to breathe. People's faces were baked," a red-faced woman identified only as Lyudmila told Channel 5 from a Lviv hospital where she brought her two small grandchildren.

"I was vomiting and had headaches," her granddaughter said.

But Krol said the health threat had dissipated. "The cloud of a toxic gas dispersed and there is no threat for people's lives," he said.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, residents of the Lviv region were advised to stay inside and not to use water from wells, eat vegetables from their gardens or drink the their cows' milk.

But Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk, who traveled to the area, said on television Wednesday that tests showed it was safe to eat vegetables and drink well water.

Maria and Olexiy Moskva, a couple in the village of Ozhydiv, were not so sure.

"We don't wear gas masks, but just in case, we locked our cow in a shed and won't eat our apples or cucumbers," Maria Moskva said on Channel 5.

Emergency workers continued to sprinkle contaminated land with soda and sand.

The train, traveling from Kazakhstan to Poland, derailed near the city of Lviv, not far from the Polish border, and 15 of its 58 cars overturned, Krol said. Six of the tankers caught fire and a cloud of smoke from the burning phosphorous spread over a 90-square kilometer (35-square mile) area.

The highly toxic substance, which can catch fire spontaneously on contact with air at temperatures higher than 40 C (104 F), can cause liver damage if consumed.

Of the 11,000 people living in the contaminated area, 815 were evacuated, Krol said Tuesday. Media reports said that other people had left the villages amid health fears.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych pledged to punish anyone found responsible for the accident.

The accident touched nerves still raw more than two decades after the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Concerns about the government's response and openness linger from the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic.

Moscow kept the world's worst civilian nuclear accident under wraps for days and played down the disaster long afterward.

Kuzmuk on Tuesday compared the disaster to Chernobyl and warned of unpredictable consequences, though he later backtracked on his remark.

Phosphorus compounds are chiefly used in fertilizers, although they are important components of pesticides, toothpaste, detergents as well as explosives and fireworks.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Transport Minister Urged To Resign After Train Carrying Toxic Chemical Caught Fire And Derailed

KIEV, Ukraine -- Secretariat Chief of Staff Viktor Baloha said President Victor Yushchenko had full information about Monday’s accident in the Lviv region, according to the President`s press-office.

Rescue workers at the site where a freight train carrying highly toxic phosphorus derailed in western Ukraine, near Lviv July 16, 2007.

Several Ukrainian villages are at risk from a giant poisonous cloud that formed after a train carrying a toxic chemical caught fire and derailed.

Hundreds of villagers from the area have been evacuated and tens have been taken to hospital.

The fire aboard the train carrying highly flammable yellow phosphorous was put out late on Monday.

Baloha said the president had issued a decree to cope with the disaster and ensure that its victims are safe.

He said railroad accidents “have become frequent recently” and accused Transportation Minister Mykola Rudkovsky of being incompetent, urging him to resign.

Source: UNIAN

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Poison Threat From Ukraine Train

KIEV, Ukraine -- Several Ukrainian villages are at risk from a giant poisonous cloud that formed after a train carrying a toxic chemical caught fire and derailed.

The exact cause of the blaze aboard the train is not yet known

The cloud covers an area of 90sq km (56sq miles) above some 14 villages near the town of Lviv.

Hundreds of villagers from the area have been evacuated and at least 20 people have been taken to hospital.

The fire aboard the train carrying highly flammable yellow phosphorous was put out late on Monday, reports say.

The train was travelling from Kazakhstan to Poland and Ukrainian rescue teams are still said to be working at the site of the accident.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk compared the accident to the blast at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986.

"A disaster has happened. After the Chernobyl catastrophe we are dealing with a case that can pose a real threat for our people," the Associated Press news agency quotes Mr Kuzmuk as saying.

"It is an extraordinary event, the consequences of which cannot be predicted."

While hundreds of villagers have been evacuated, those who remain in the area have been advised to stay indoors and avoid eating vegetables or animal produce sourced locally.

Phosphorus compounds are mainly used in fertilizers, but can also be used to produce pesticides, cleaning products and explosives.

Source: BBC News

Four Hurt In Ukraine Train Crash

MOSCOW, Russia -- Four rescuers were seriously injured Monday when a freight train carrying highly toxic phosphorus derailed in western Ukraine, causing a fire, Russian news agencies reported.

In the accident, near the city of Lviv, about 10 tankers overturned and caught fire, Itar-Tass and Interfax-Ukraine said.

Authorities ordered villages in the area to be evacuated.

The injured firefighters, who had been the first to arrive at the scene, were rushed to hospital in serious condition, Itar-Tass quoted an official at the local office of the ministry for emergency situations as saying.

Interfax-Ukraine said the fire was under control, but according to Itar-Tass firefighters were still battling the blaze.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Kuzmuk and officials from the emergency situation ministry were at the scene of the accident whose cause was not immediately known.

Source: AFP