Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thirty Die In Ukraine’s Worst Floods In 200 Years

KIEV, Ukraine -- The death toll from Ukraine’s worst floods in two hundred years climbed to thirty while swollen rivers in the region also claimed the lives of three people in neighbouring Moldova.

Yaroslav Narozhnyak, 62, a former miner and crane operator in Siberia, stands outside his badly damaged house, with his possessions piled on tables and shelves to avoid the damp, in Dubivsti village, Ivano-Frankivsk region, southwest Ukraine July 31, 2008. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have released over 600,000 Swiss francs ($574,053) for emergency relief and rehabilitation in Ukraine and Moldova following the devastating floods last weekend.

The country's parliament responded with the allocation of some 5.8 billion hryvna ($1.2 billion) to disaster relief efforts and also approved President Viktor Yushchenko’s decree declaring six regions disaster areas.

Five days of heavy rain in the southwestern Carpathian Mountains caused the Prut and Dniestr rivers to overflow.

Hundreds of towns and villages have been flooded, more than 40,000 houses affected and around 20,000 people were evacuated.

Ukraine's Emergency Minister Volodymyr Shandra said 23 people had drowned, three had been hit by lightning, three had been electrocuted and one was killed in a small landslide.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko had called for an emergency session of parliament, which was on summer recess, to amend the state budget to allocate money for relief works.

The parliament spent six hours examining compensation proposals submitted by Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko.

Heavy floods have also hit neighbouring Romania and Moldova.

In the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, three people were found dead after being swept away by floodwaters, an Interior Ministry official said.

Two drowned when they became trapped under cars while trying to cross a flooded road. Another was found under a bridge.

More than 100 houses had been destroyed in the storms and more than 5,000 people evacuated, the official said.

The authorities in Romania said that four people had died and more than 11,000 been evacuated.

Source: Times Online

Students Protest Ukraine's Sex Tourism Industry

KIEV, Ukraine -- Students from several universities dressed as prostitutes to draw attention to a problem many Ukrainians say is tarnishing their country.

Protesters hold posters and watch a performance during a demonstration in central Kiev, July 30, 2008. Demonstrators of an organisation Femen called to denounce the notion of sex tourism in the country.

"We are not for sale:" a group of Ukrainian women gathered in central Kiev to protest against the country's burgeoning sex tourism industry.

The women - students from several universities - dressed as prostitutes to draw attention to a problem many Ukrainians say is tarnishing their country.

"Lots of foreigners come here for sex, and to put it bluntly sex tours are now being sold. We don't want our country to become a big brothel. It's a shame and it's shameful," says one of the protestors.

Prostitution is illegal but widespread and largely ignored by the government.

Ukrainian police estimate there are approximately 12,000 prostitutes in Ukraine, with 4,000 working in Kiev alone.

The former Soviet republic may lag far behind Thailand on the list of sex tourists' favourite destinations, but it's moving up - thanks in part to the easing of visa restrictions on American and European Union citizens.

Ukraine is one of the largest exporters of women to the international sex industry - a damning statistic.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, almost half a million Ukrainian women have been trafficked into sexual slavery abroad - and now increasingly at home as well.

Source: News Radio 600

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Former Yushchenko Ally Calls President's Poisoning Claims A Myth

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has made it clear that he holds Davyd Zhvania, the sponsor of the populist People’s Self-Defense bloc (NS), responsible for his mysterious poisoning at the height of the presidential election race in 2004 — Zhvania denies this.

Davyd Zhvania

Zhvania also insists that Yushchenko’s was a case of ordinary food poisoning, and that his poisoning with dioxin was nothing more than a myth created in order to help Yushchenko win the election.

The next presidential race, expected in 2009, is probably at stake now. Yushchenko’s team suspects NS and personally Zhvania — a businessman of Georgian descent, Yushchenko’s former close ally, and the godfather of his son—of supporting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s presidential ambitions.

NS is part of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine People’s Self-Defense bloc (NUNS), but the presidential secretariat suspects that it is loyal to Tymoshenko, who may run for president against Yushchenko.

Zhvania’s claims that Yushchenko’s dioxin poisoning was a fabrication cast a shadow over Yushchenko’s integrity, potentially spoiling his chances of re-election.

Zhvania’s troubles began this past May, when the Prosecutor-General’s Office (PGO) opened a criminal case suspecting that he illegally obtained Ukrainian citizenship.

In return, Zhvania claimed that Yushchenko’s wife had illegally kept her U.S. citizenship, and that the criminal case against him was in revenge for his disobeying Yushchenko’s orders regarding the recent mayoral election in Kyiv.

Yushchenko’s team denied Zhvania’s allegations.

Speaking in an interview on May 30, Zhvania sensationally claimed that Yushchenko was not poisoned with dioxin in 2004. He said Yushchenko suffered from an attack of pancreatitis caused by ordinary food poisoning, and that his face was subsequently disfigured not by dioxin but by an inflammation not related to the poisoning.

Yushchenko’s team, he said, decided to sell it to the public as deliberate poisoning.

Asked why he did not reveal this earlier, Zhvania said that he did not want the spirit of the pro-Yushchenko Orange Revolution in November-December 2004 to be curbed.

Zhvania said that the tests which showed the presence of dioxin in Yushchenko’s body were fake. An international group of doctors who treated Yushchenko after 2004 denied this allegation. They said that 90 percent of the dioxin has been removed from his body since then.

Zhvania also denied the widespread belief that Yushchenko was poisoned at a dinner with the then head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ihor Smeshko, and his deputy Volodymyr Satsyuk on September 5, 2004.

“It was a beautiful myth for a post-Soviet country. Look how it sounds: former KGB people wanted to kill a democratic president,” Zhvania told the Ukrainian edition of a popular Russian daily. Zhvania did not deny that he organized that dinner as the then deputy head of Yushchenko’s election HQ. He said that Yushchenko’s security as a presidential candidate was discussed there.

Yushchenko, speaking in an interview with an Austrian daily, insisted that he was poisoned at the dinner. He said that three individuals were involved who later fled to Russia and obtained Russian citizenship.

The PGO indirectly confirmed that Satsyuk was one of the three, reporting shortly after Yushchenko’s interview that Russia refused to extradite him. However, officially Ukraine wants Satsyuk extradited on charges unrelated to the poisoning.

Zhvania was for the first time openly accused of involvement in Yushchenko’s poisoning on July 23, when Yushchenko’s legal advisor Ihor Pukshyn claimed that “Zhvania, directly or indirectly, ‘helped’ Yushchenko eat poison”.

Speaking at a press conference the following day, Yushchenko, asked whether Zhvania had been involved in his poisoning, said “I think yes” and added, “to put it mildly”. Yushchenko later explained why he suspected Zhvania, saying that Zhvania insisted on the meeting with the SBU heads in September 2004, which Yushchenko had not planned to attend, and that Zhvania was the only member of his staff who was against flying him to Austria for treatment.

Yushchenko was flown to a private clinic in Austria several days after the dinner, when his condition worsened.

Zhvania threatened to sue both Pukshyn and Yushchenko for the accusations against him. He also threatened Yushchenko with impeachment.

Zhvania may find supporters for an impeachment motion outside his NS. Pukshyn accused Tymoshenko of supporting Zhvania and using his allegations in her rivalry with Yushchenko.

“As she has never concealed her presidential ambitions, it is very convenient for her to cast a shadow over Yushchenko,” he said. Viktor Baloha, the chief of Yushchenko’s secretariat, also issued a statement accusing Tymoshenko of supporting Zhvania.

He claimed that she was conspiring against Yushchenko in order to split NUNS and forge a new coalition in parliament with his rivals.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Slavic Rivals Embroiled In Church Rift

MOSCOW, Russia -- For many Russians, it is bad enough that the president of Ukraine is pushing to join NATO and to eject the Russian Navy from its Black Sea port. But over the weekend, the confrontation over Ukraine's attempts to shrug off Russian influence reached an even more painful emotional pitch - with a new tug of war over history, identity and power.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the titular head of Orthdox Christianity, and President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine attend a ceremony at Kiev's airport on Friday. Yushchenko is seeking Ukrainian independence from the Russian church.

President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine chose the 1,020th anniversary of the advent of Christianity in the Slavic kingdom that predated both Ukraine and Russia - a date that each country claims as a founding event of its nationhood - to issue a public plea for Ukraine's Orthodox Christians to gain independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.

With Orthodox church notables from around the world looking on, Yushchenko asked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the titular spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, to bless the creation of an independent Ukrainian church - "a blessing," he said, "for a dream, for the truth, for a hope, for our state, for Ukraine."

The Ukrainian president - who claims that Russian agents tried to murder him with poison that left him with a pockmarked face - snubbed the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Alexei II, giving him a businesslike handshake after warmly kissing Bartholomew on both cheeks.

During three days of solemn religious ceremonies, rock concerts and political brinksmanship in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, the power struggle was not resolved. Both sides declared victory as Bartholomew stopped short of supporting or rejecting the independence movement, saying only that divisions in the Ukrainian church would have "problematic consequences for Ukraine's future."

But there was insulted pride and inflamed nationalism on both sides, and it was clear that it would be hard to resolve the dispute without causing a schism in the church, heating up ethnic tensions in Ukraine and deepening the division between Russia and the former Soviet republic.

The possibility of a split in the church revealed that behind the geopolitical bluster that the two countries have directed at each other since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 lies an identity crisis and a deep sense of loss.

Many Ukrainians believe the Russian empire and later the Soviet Union robbed them of the chance to develop a national identity, while many Russians feel that Ukraine is now claiming for itself both land and history that belong to them as well.

For Svetlana Dyomena, a nurse who prayed Monday at Yelokhovsky Cathedral in Moscow, the idea of an independent Ukrainian church immediately reminded her of her objections to an independent Ukraine.

"How can Ukraine not be part of Russia?" she said after lighting a candle at the turquoise, golden-domed church, which was the Russian capital's main practicing Orthodox cathedral under Soviet rule. "We have a common faith, a common history."

Dyomena said it was less painful to see countries like Georgia seek to escape Moscow's sphere of influence.

"Georgians - well, they were always from the Caucasus," she said, referring to the restive mountainous region that has fought wars against Russian rulers for centuries. But Ukraine and Russia, she said, have "one language, one religion, even one cuisine."

Ukrainians disagree. Russian was the language of government and education in Ukraine under the Soviet and Russian empires, and Ukrainians struggled to maintain their language. They view the absorption of the Ukrainian state and church into Russia's institutions under Peter the Great as an annexation that was not reversed until 1991.

"How can you live like neighbors when your neighbor says the house you live in is not your own house, but our common house?" asked Bishop Yevstraty, the spokesman for one of two Ukrainian breakaway churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate, which the Moscow Patriarchate has declared heretical.

Establishing an independent church is essential for Ukraine to consolidate its national identity and statehood, and it will probably happen eventually, said Alexei Malashenko, an expert on religion and society at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

"But for Russia it is also a tragedy," he said. "I don't know how they are going to agree."

When Ukraine left the Soviet Union in 1991, the new nation took with it much that was dear to Russian hearts.

The Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, won by Catherine the Great from the Turks for the Russian empire, was a vacation getaway for generations of Russian nobles and, later, Soviet laborers. Its port, in Sevastopol, is the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Odessa, an important shipping hub now part of Ukraine, is also the source of cultural touchstones from its bawdy jokes to the famous shot of the baby carriage rolling down the steps in the classic Eisenstein film, Battleship Potemkin

Even historical tragedies are subject to the tug of war: There is a Ukrainian movement to convince the world that the famines that killed millions of Soviets during forced collectivization was a genocide aimed at ethnic Ukrainians - while many Russians object that their ancestors, too, starved after being stripped of their private land.

But the biggest prize is the inheritance of Kievan Rus, the kingdom that Prince Vladimir converted to Christianity in the 10th century. Some historians consider the kingdom to be the predecessor of the three east Slavic nations existing today - Russia, Ukraine and Belarus - as well as a cultural high point in the medieval history of Europe as a whole.

Speaking in Kiev, the Russian patriarch called it "the mother of Russian cities, a city from where Holy Orthodoxy began to spread through our land."

Moscow church officials, who are close to the Kremlin, linked church unity to political efforts to maintain close ties among Slavic countries.

At a rock concert organized by the Moscow patriarchate, the popular rock band DDT performed alongside Metropolitan Kirill, a Moscow church spokesman who declared in a kind of ecclesiastical rap: "Russia, Ukraine, Belarus - That is Holy Rus!"

There is also division within Ukraine itself over the issue.

The idea of church independence is less popular in Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking, pro-Russian industrialized south and east than in the Ukrainian-speaking, Western-leaning part of the country west of the Dniepr River.

Alexei II canceled a planned trip to Donetsk, a pro-Russian city, citing health reasons, but was widely seen to be either trying to avoid stirring up conflict by rallying his supporters, or to be leaving early because the Ukrainian president did not show him enough respect.

At Yelokhovsky Sobor, another worshipper, Aleftina Prosvirnikova, 65, declared that all the problems had started in Western Ukraine.

"The south and east - that's the normal, Russian Ukraine," she said.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Is Ukraine On The Brink Of An Energy Crisis?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Come January 2009 Ukraine will, in all likelihood, begin paying Russia’s Gazprom in the range of $400 per 1,000 cubic meters for natural gas or $22 billion per year. Presently the country pays $179 per 1,000 cubic meters, or $9.9 billion per year.

Will it be able to survive the new price?

For years Ukraine has been hard pressed to pay its debts to Gazprom and has regularly been indebted to Gazprom to the tune of about $1 billion per year.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller stated that by July 2008 Ukraine had hoarded 1 billion cubic meters of gas—destined for sale to European customers—into its underground gas storage facilities, withholding it from RosUkrEnergo, the Swiss-based intermediary company that sells Central Asian gas to a number of European companies.

Miller explained that this was a maneuver by Naftogaz Ukraine, the Ukrainian state-owned oil and gas monopoly, to stock up on cheaper gas in order to reduce costly imports in 2009.

All indications point to the fact that Ukraine is decidedly unprepared for such a dramatic increase in energy costs and few believe it will be able to convince Central Asian leaders to lessen the blow by reducing the price at which they sell their gas to Gazprom or to make the increase incremental over a span of five years.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian prime minister, held out hope by saying that during her meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in June 2008, Putin promised to distribute the price increase over a five-year span.

Earlier, however, Putin told the Ukrainian leadership that Russian “subsidies” for their energy imports had come to an end.

Both sides in the ongoing negotiations have been careful thus far in their comments and have avoided confrontational remarks—the sole exception being Ukrainian Economics Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn, who stated that if the price of gas were to jump to $400, Ukraine should block Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

Gazprom could, conceivably, agree to an incremental price increase for Ukraine over a span of five years, thus allowing the country to radically improve its highly energy-wasteful economy and reduce yearly gas imports from the current 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) to 40 bcm or less and to develop alternative energy sources. In the end, however, Ukraine will need to pay the accumulated debt.

The worst case scenario would be for Gazprom to refuse to grant the Ukrainians debt postponement and demand cash up front for gas deliveries.

This could be a death blow to Ukrainian industry and agriculture which are highly reliant on gas for manufacturing and fertilizer production.

Such a price increase could have unpredictable consequences for Ukrainian politics. Many industrialists might blame President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko for not preparing the country for such a predictable escalation of energy costs and might not support them in the 2009 presidential election.

Voters in Eastern Ukraine could lose some of their pro-Russian enthusiasm if higher gas prices lead to wide-scale unemployment in their region. Some would place the blame on Russia for “squeezing” Ukraine—and them—into an economic crisis.

Others however might argue that if Ukraine were part of Russia, they would pay low Russian domestic prices for gas and thus avoid a crisis.

The opposition pro-Russian Party of the Regions has maintained a silence about the price increase knowing that it shares full responsibility with the ruling coalition for Ukraine’s inability to cope with rising energy costs.

Nonetheless, if the increase is not modified, Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Party of the Regions, will in all probability benefit most and be elected president.

Gazprom and the Kremlin might be tempted to play the “gas card” in order to see Yanukovych elected and to gain control—if not direct ownership—of the Ukrainian trunk gas pipeline, a long-time objective of Russian policy meant to give Gazprom the ultimate say over the largest supply route of Russian gas to Europe.

With a possible debt of over $10 billion by late 2009, the new Ukrainian government might be forced to sell the pipeline to Gazprom—as well as a substantial part of its industrial base, maintain the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol and renounce its intention to join NATO.

Source: Eurasian Daily Monitor

Monday, July 28, 2008

Moscow, Kiev Both Claim Victory In Ukraine Church Dispute

KIEV, Ukraine -- Moscow and Kiev both are claiming victory in a dispute creating an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church — which Russia fiercely opposes — after a weekend visit by the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (R) and Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew attend a ceremony in central Kiev. Ukraine's president on Saturday asked the head of Orthodox Christianity to bless the creation of a Ukrainian Church independent of Russia, raising the stakes in a simmering spat with Moscow.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is hoping to win recognition of the local church's independence from Moscow as part of his drive to shed centuries-long Russian influence.

The Russian Orthodox Church resists losing control over this predominantly Orthodox country of 46 million.

Yushchenko said on his Web site that the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox believers has voiced support for the creation of a local church, independent of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

"I am glad that the Patriarch is backing the aspiration of the Ukrainian people to have its own national local church," Yushchenko said in a statement. "Such aspirations are in line to all the principles of a national, state and of course church life."

Yushchenko made the statement Sunday at the end of a three-day visit by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who came to Kiev to attend massive celebrations marking the 1020 anniversary of Ukraine's and Russia's conversion to Christianity.

But Mikhail Prokopenko, a spokesman for the Moscow-based Russian church, disputed Yushchenko's claim.

He told The Associated Press on Monday that a meeting between Russian Patriarch Alexy II and Bartholomew confirmed that Constantinople recognizes Moscow's supremacy over the Ukrainian church.

Prokopenko also said that Bartholomew also will not recognize a breakaway church in Ukraine that has proclaimed its independence and whose leader has been excommunicated by Alexy.

Bartholomew's office declined immediate comment.

Experts say the Ukrainian church likely will get independence eventually, like churches in other countries will sizable Orthodox populations.

But an abrupt decision on this could lead to a deep split between Constantinople and the Russian church, the biggest Orthodox church in the world, which claims 95 million believers out of the world's 250 million Orthodox.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Alexy Leads Kiev Anniversary Service

MOSCOW, Russia -- Police blocked hundreds of Orthodox believers from attending a service led by Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II at a monument to St. Vladimir on the banks of the Dnepr River in Kiev on Sunday.

Russian Patriarch Alexy II, in Kiev.

The service was a part of the celebrations of the 1,020th anniversary of the conversion of Kievan Rus to Christianity by Vladimir.

Ukrainian law enforcement officers told RIA-Novosti on Sunday that the believers were cordoned off to avoid a stampede, but the news agency reported that there appeared to have been enough free space near the monument.

The celebration again stressed growing tensions with Ukraine, which declared a pro-Western course after the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who has called for the establishment of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, did not come to meet Alexy as he arrived at Borispol Airport on Saturday.

Yushchenko appealed on Saturday to the leader of the world's Orthodox believers, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (now Istanbul), to allow the creation of a Ukrainian church, a move Bartholomew suggested that he was ready to consider.

On Sunday, Alexy warned that the move was an attempt to drive a wedge between the Orthodox believers in Russia and Ukraine.

"By raising doubts about what has been undisputable for centuries, we endanger our common future," he said, Interfax reported.

He added that the "unity of Russian Orthodox Christianity does not interfere with the full-fledged lives of sovereign states that are heirs of Kievan Rus."

An independent Orthodox church was formed in Ukraine after the 1991 collapse of Soviet rule, but it remains unrecognized by any other Orthodox church. The Ukrainian branch within the Russian Orthodox Church remains its sole representative.

On Sunday, Alexy said the Russian Orthodox Church "had created all conditions" necessary for its Ukrainian branch to minister to local believers.

The tension surrounding church divisions has unfolded against the backdrop of disputes between Moscow and Kiev over gas prices, Ukraine's drive to join NATO and steps to remove Russia's Black Sea Fleet from Crimea by 2017.

Yushchenko has long called a single, independent and fully recognized Ukrainian Orthodox Church vital to forming the country's national identity.

"I believe any sort of division among Ukrainian believers will be short-lived. I believe we will achieve our dream," Yushchenko told tens of thousands of clerics, parishioners and officials in the rain outside Kiev's 11th-century St. Sofia Cathedral on Saturday.

In his remarks, Bartholomew referred to the historical difficulties of Orthodoxy in Ukraine, including the "annexation" of both the Ukrainian Church and state by Russia under Peter the Great in the late 17th century.

On Sunday, Russian television showed dozens of people shouting "Alexy is our patriarch" in Kiev.

Alexy only agreed to attend after securing an agreement that the independent, Kiev-based church would not take part in the ceremonies.

Source: The Moscow Times

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"The Red Prince": The Amazing Life Of The Self-Appointed King Of Ukraine

SEATTLE, Washington -- Vasyl Vyshyvani Square lies in a quiet section of the Ukrainian city of Lviv, popular with schoolchildren who clamber about on its unadorned stone plinth.

The plinth was intended as the base for a monument, never completed, to the square's namesake, a man of numerous identities, titles and nationalities and the subject of Timothy Snyder's new book.

Vasyl Vyshyvani was born Archduke Wilhelm von Habsburg in 1895, a member of the House of Habsburg that had ruled Central Europe for centuries.

Raised in a world of enormous wealth and power, he and his family lost everything with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I.

For the rest of his remarkable, peripatetic life, Wilhelm repeatedly reinvented himself to fit his fluctuating circumstances — soldier, spy, leftist aristocrat, international playboy, cross-dressing gay lover, arms dealer.

Yet it was his dream of becoming king of an independent Ukraine as Vasyl Vyshyvani that defined Wilhelm's life, and ultimately sealed his fate.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, "The Red Prince" captures in shimmering colors the death of old Europe and the continent's descent into barbarism.

It abounds with a cast of unforgettable characters, from bloodthirsty nationalist strongmen and shady conspirators to alluring demimondaines and debauched nobles.

Snyder, an award-winning historian at Yale University, has written a compelling biography as well as a vivid depiction of an era and offers insightful observations on the mutability of personal and national identity.

Wilhelm ultimately lost his bid for Ukraine's throne.

Arrested by Stalin's henchmen in Vienna in 1947 and returned in chains to Kiev, he was convicted of aspiring to be king of Ukraine.

Wilhelm died in prison the following year, his only monument an unmarked grave.

Source: The Seattle Times

Friday, July 25, 2008

Orthodox Commemmoration Reopens Ukraine-Russia Row

KIEV, Ukraine -- Top clerics from Orthodox countries converged on Ukraine on Friday for three days of festivities, deepening a longstanding dispute with Russia over the ex-Soviet state's right to its own independent church.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (R) and Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew inspect the guard of honour on arrival at Kiev's airport, July 25, 2008.

The celebrations to mark the 1,020th anniversary of the embrace of Orthodox Christianity in the region are certain to be overshadowed by the dispute between Kyiv and Moscow which has long extended beyond religion into politics.

After mainly Orthodox Ukraine won independence from Soviet rule in 1991, a separate church was formed.

But it remains unrecognized by the worldwide Orthodox Church, which sees the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox church as its only representative in the country.

Authorities in Ukraine, site of the Kyivan Rus state that preceded parts of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, are hosting the event. Russian Patriarch Alexiy II is attending after securing an agreement that the independent Kyiv-based church will stay away.

But its clerics still lobby for change.

"Ukraine has the right to its own church. Unfortunately, Moscow is denying this right in the same way it opposes the very notion of Ukraine as an independent state," Bishop Yevstratiy, a spokesman for the independent church, told Reuters.

"What is going on in Ukrainian Orthodoxy has nothing to do with violating church law. It is caused by Moscow fighting for power in Ukraine - economic, political and spiritual power."

Statistics show the churches have roughly the same number of parishioners. Property disputes between the two sides in the 1990s sparked street scuffles, often between elderly believers.

Pro-Western Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, an ardent Orthodox believer, sees creation of an independent church as part of Ukraine's task of building a national identify.

The president has tried to boost the event's profile by focusing on the visit by Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew, worldwide leader of more than 225 million believers in the Orthodox church - formed after the 1054 schism with Rome.

Bartholomew was met by Yushchenko and given top honours at Kyiv airport on Friday, a military honour guard, goose-stepping soldiers and the playing of Ukraine's national anthem. Posters of the president alongside Bartholomew dotted Kyiv streets.

Tens of thousands of guests will hold a Saturday prayer meeting near the 11th century St Sofia Cathedral and a Sunday service by the Dnipro River.

Russia is locked in disputes with Ukraine's pro-Western leaders on natural gas prices, their drive to join NATO and their calls for Russia to pull its Black Sea Fleet out of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula by 2017.

In an indicator of tensions, Ukraine's ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry and told the festivities were staged "with a lack of respect for the Russian Orthodox church and the feelings of millions of believers."

A ministry statement also complained about the decision by Ukrainian authorities to deny entry on Friday to a nationalist member of parliament and "endless talk" it said was disrupting negotiations over the future of the Black Sea fleet.

Proponents of the independent church have considered placing it under the jurisdiction of Constantinople - as an Orthodox church in Estonia did in the 1990s - to win recognition later.

The Moscow church says this will only lead to trouble.

"This is a revolutionary process and it won't work in the church," said Archimandrite Kiril, a spokesman for the Russian church. "We have started the process of rapprochement . . . Now the intervention of political authorities could bring us back to the early 1990s with violence and conflicts."

Source: Leader-Post

Ukraine Bars Entry To Russian Nationalist Lawmaker For Undermining National Independence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine barred entry to a Russian nationalist lawmaker over his remarks and actions that the government says undermine the country's independence, officials said Friday.

Konstantin Zatulin

The move is the latest step in an escalating dispute between Moscow and Kiev over Ukraine's efforts to join NATO and integrate with the West and the future presence of a Russian naval fleet in a Ukrainian port.

Konstantin Zatulin was denied entry to Ukraine for one year on Thursday, said Serhiy Astakhov, a spokesman for the State Border service.

Zatulin flew to the city of Simferopol on the Crimean Peninsula as Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which is renting a naval base in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol, was preparing to celebrate Russia's Navy Day. He was denied entry and had to spend the night at the airport.

Zatulin says he came to Ukraine to attend a tennis tournament. But Ukraine's national security service believes he was planning to sabotage celebrations of the 1,020th anniversary of Ukraine's and Russia's conversion to Christianity, the Interfax news agency reported, citing a source at the agency. The agency declined immediate comment

Ukrainian authorities are hoping to use the celebrations to push for recognition of the local Orthodox church as independent from the powerful Moscow patriarchate.

Zatulin had been declared persona non grata in Ukraine in the past over his participation in anti-NATO protests in the Crimea. Earlier this year Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was also barred from Ukraine for suggesting that Sevastopol belongs to Russia.

The Crimean peninsula was for centuries part of the Russian empire and then of Soviet Russia. In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev awarded it to Soviet Ukraine, where he lived and ruled for many years.

After the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Crimea became part of an independent Ukraine, causing a lot of discontent in Russia and among local residents, many of whom are ethnic Russians.

The lease agreement for the Russian fleet expires in 2017 and Ukrainian leaders have indicated they want the Russian ships out after that. Moscow, however, has been pushing to prolong the agreement and offered to pay more.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ukraine Euro Move Is A Sign, Not Policy Shift

MOSCOW, Russia -- Unprecedented moves by Ukraine's central bank to bid for euros this week should signal that the dollar's importance for the country is waning and that a multi-currency basket could be on the horizon.

But analysts said any decision to change the bank's policy of pegging the hryvnia to the dollar will not come swiftly -- fraught as it will be with political wrangling, instability and a changing economic landscape.

The bank on Tuesday for the first time bid openly for the euro at 7.3739 hryvnias and on Thursday bid again at 7.3195.

The bank's transactions are normally private, between individual banks.

"I see in this a step towards a more complex formula for establishing the exchange rate. This is a movement towards a basket," the central bank's top adviser Valery Lytvytsky told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

Lytvytsky did not specify which currencies could be in a basket, but said there could be more than two and that a change could come about as early as this year. Russia already has a basket of 0.55 dollars and 0.45 euros for its rouble.

"The basket need not necessarily be made up of just two currencies," Lytvytsky said. "In my opinion, this can and should be done at some point this year, although we would have to see what the situation looks like in autumn."

Ukraine's central bank has already shifted away from a strict three-year policy of pegging the hryvnia to the dollar at 5.00-5.06 and intervening on the market appropriately.

It was absent from the market around February-March when the hryvnia crept up against the dollar, fuelling speculation that it could revalue its official rate. It did just that in May.

But the revaluation to 4.85 hryvnias to the dollar from 5.05 did not go smoothly -- the bank's council vetoed it only to have that decision overturned by the executive board, headed by veteran Chairman Volodymyr Stelmakh.

Many believe the differences within the central bank reflect the tug-of-war between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, allies during the 2004 Western-orientated "Orange Revolution".

While the two battled over privatisation, energy policy and benefits, inflation soared and has stayed around 30 percent annually, forcing the bank to loosen its rigid policy.


Yet even then Yushchenko appeared to back the bank's council by saying that revaluation would hurt exporters, while Tymoshenko left the topic alone, citing the bank's independence.

Such wrangling prompts little hope for a decisive move soon: the bank's adviser speaks of no formal links to the dollar, while the council has just set an official rate of 4.85 hryvnias to the dollar, plus or minus four percent.

"The situation in Ukraine is quite dangerous ... Authorities should take inflation seriously. It's very hard to call whether this will be done or not, given the track record of successful talks," said Katya Malofeeva, analyst at Renaissance Capital.

"The sooner the central bank very clearly states what its policy targets are and what instruments it will use and the government supports that, the better."

Analysts say there are strong reasons to give more weight to the hryvnia's value against the euro.

"When it comes to the Ukrainian trade basket, the euro is quite important ... If Ukraine moves toward a euro-dollar basket that would quite accurately reflect a trade basket," said Martin Blum, head of emerging markets macro and strategy at Unicredit.

But other factors may weigh against such a move.

"A lot of the key commodities are still transacted in dollars -- oil, gas, metals," said Ivailo Vesselinov, analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort. "That is still an important anchor and something the authorities recognise."

Ukraine's economy is driven by exports, in particular steel -- a commodity that has enjoyed soaring prices in the past year.

The hryvnia is also expected to weaken towards the end of the year due to a wider balance of payments as prices for gas imports have risen steeply since 2005 and may double next year.

"In addition, if you believe that the euro/dollar (exchange rate) is about to turn around, then pegging to a potentially depreciating currency will also have its implications," Vesselinov said.

"(A move is) much more a factor for 2009 and beyond. Of course, the increase in the focus on the euro is an ongoing trend that has already begun. You'll see more of this in coming months, such as the bank regularly quoting euro rates."

Malofeeva was also pessimistic.

"Ukraine's own situation with a widening current account deficit and at least some portion of debt traded by speculators, definitely does not bode well for a stable or an appreciation of the currency vis a vis the dollar or anything really," she said.

Source: Guardian UK

Yushchenko: My Friend Poisoned Me

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has named the person he believes poisoned him - saying it was a close friend and godfather to one of his children.

Viktor Yushchenko speaking at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Mr Yushchenko fell ill during the closely fought 2004 election when he narrowly beat pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych.

His face was severely disfigured although his skin has made significant improvements since.

At a news conference Mr Yushchenko named David Zhvania, a member of a pro-presidential parliamentary faction, as having been involved.

The announcement represents a sharp departure from the president's previous policy of refusing to identify those he believes to have been responsible.

Mr Yushchenko fell gravely ill after attending a dinner with Mr Zhvania which was hosted by two top security officials. Doctors later diagnosed his illness as severe dioxin poisoning.

The pro-Western president has consistently said he knew who was responsible for the poisoning but did not want to name them while an investigation continued.

But Mr Zhvania has angered Mr Yushchenko by claiming earlier this summer that the president suffered only from food poisoning and that his staff invented a politically motivated attack to boost his popularity during the Orange Revolution that accompanied the 2004 presidential campaign.

Asked at a news conference whether he thought Mr Zhvania took part in the poisoning, Mr Yushchenko answered: "I think yes, to put it mildly."

Prosecutors said this week that they had failed to find any suspects. But after being questioned by prosecutors earlier this week, Mr Yushchenko hinted the investigation would produce some "very unpleasant" surprises.

The president has accused Moscow of stalling the investigation by refusing to extradite key figures in the case and provide Russian-made dioxin for testing.

Yushchenko came to power in Orange Revolution

Many people in Ukraine point the finger at Russia, because Mr Yushchenko was running against a Kremlin-backed candidate and because Russia is one of the few countries that produces the dioxin of the formula found in his body.

Mr Zhvania fell out with Mr Yushchenko shortly after he became president following a wave of mass protests in 2004 which came amid allegations that the pro-Russian Mr Yanukovych had rigged the elections.

The dispute has led Mr Yushchenko's office to seek to strip Mr Zhvania, an ethnic Georgian, of his Ukrainian citizenship.

Mr Zhvania's party said in a statement that the actions were illegal and that he is suing Ukrainian authorities in the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: Sky News

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ukrainian Prosecutors: No Suspects In 4-Year Probe Into President's Dioxin Poisoning

KIEV, Ukraine -- After investigating for nearly four years, Ukrainian prosecutors acknowledged Wednesday they don't have a single suspect in President Viktor Yushchenko's dioxin poisoning.

Political cartoon explaining Yushchenko's poisoning.

The announcement comes a day after Yushchenko was questioned by prosecutors a second time and hinted the investigation would produce "very unpleasant" surprises.

Yuriy Boichenko, spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office, told The Associated Press that investigators have so far failed to identify any suspects — comments that raise questions about the effectiveness of the probe.

Yushchenko, then an opposition presidential candidate, fell gravely ill during the 2004 election campaign and was later diagnosed with massive dioxin poisoning, which left his face disfigured.

The president claims he knows who masterminded the crime but refuses to name names. He accuses Russia of refusing to extradite key figures in the case or provide Russian-made dioxin samples for tests

Many here point the finger at Russia, because Yushchenko was running against a Kremlin-backed candidate and because Russia is one of the few countries that produces the dioxin of the formula found in Yushchenko's body.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Monday, July 21, 2008

German Chancellor Backs EU 'Associate' Status For Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed an agreement to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union, and renewed her pledge that the former Soviet republic will some day join NATO.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (R) shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he welcomes her in Kiev July 21, 2008.

Ms. Merkel spoke Monday in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, alongside Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Both leaders praised the so-called "association agreement" on EU-Ukrainian ties.

But the German leader again said it will not guarantee Ukraine full EU membership.

Chancellor Merkel also said Germany and other NATO countries will work with the Kyiv government on a plan to guide the country toward membership in the military alliance.

Earlier this year, NATO denied Kyiv access to a membership action plan, seen as a roadmap to eventually joining the alliance.

Russia has threatened unspecified retaliation against any additional NATO presence on its borders.

Moscow specifically warned it would be forced to take military and other measures if the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia join the Western military alliance.

Western leaders have also noted strong NATO opposition in eastern Ukraine, where much of the country's Russian-speaking population backs Moscow in opposing closer ties with the West.

Source: Voice of America

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Germany Lined Up By UEFA To Replace Ukraine As Euro 2012 Co-Host

LONDON, England -- Germany is being lined up to replace Ukraine as co-hosts for Euro 2012 amid fears inside UEFA that the East European country will not be ready to stage the event.

President of the Ukrainian Football Federation, Grigory Surkis

Inspectors from the European game's governing body, who visited the country two weeks ago, are putting together a report on the state of preparations which will go before their executive committee in September.

But UEFA are already making contingency plans to move the tournament from Ukraine because of concerns over the political situation, delays to stadium construction and worries over transport infrastructure.

It is understood that in the last week officials from UEFA have spoken to the German FA about playing a minor co-hosting role with Poland, whose preparations impressed inspectors. Berlin and Leipzig are possible venues.

UEFA sources admit the political situation in Ukraine, where presidential elections are due next year, have impacted on preparations which are behind schedule.

The situation is complicated by the involvement of controversial oligarchs in the Ukrainian Football Federation's (UFF) organising committee.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the president of the UFF, Grigory Surkis, was banned from visiting the United States in 2004 because of corruption allegations.

He was denied entry under a United States presidential order that authorises immigration officials to withhold visas from foreigners suspected of "corruption...that has or had serious effects on US national interests", according to the American Embassy in Kiev.

Surkis was both a business and political associate of Viktor Medvedchuk, then head of the presidential administration.

Surkis was also a deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party, headed by Medvechuk.

The pair have been business partners since the early 1990s and founded the company that owns Dynamo Kiev.

An equally influential figure is the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, a vice-president of the UFF who has partly financed one of the main arenas for Euro 2012, the Dnipropetrovsk Stadium.

Opposition groups regard Kolomisky as the most powerful and controversial oligarch in Ukraine and say he is protected at the highest level.

Privately UEFA admit the involvement of these individuals is a concern.

Source: Telegraph UK

Moscow Mayor Calls Ukraine 'Undemocratic'

MOSCOW, Russia -- Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who has been banned from entering Ukraine, said on Saturday that the recent detention of a Russian journalist in the country shows it is 'undemocratic'.

Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov

A journalist for the Russian channel TVTs, who had filmed a report about Ukrainian authorities' plans to separate the national Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate, was stopped at Kiev's Borispol airport late on Thursday and held overnight.

"This shocking incident makes Ukraine look not like a country seeking to position itself as a showcase for promoting democracy from West to East, but like a nation frightened by the truth coming from Russia, and restricting the press, which is absolutely impossible in a democratic state," Luzhkov told reporters.

The outspoken mayor, 71, has made a series of anti-Ukraine statements since being blacklisted by Kiev in May for suggesting Ukraine's Black Sea city of Sevastopol should be handed over to Russia.

Earlier this month he said the treaty on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Ukraine should not be extended when it expires this year.

The detention of the Russian TV reporter, who had five video tapes confiscated, also met with strong criticism from Russia's Foreign Ministry.

Luzhkov said that Ukraine is wrong to link TVTs's coverage with the Moscow authorities.

"This is a Moscow government channel, but it is absolutely free," he said.

Luzhkov has courted controversy in Russia and abroad in the past, over the banning of what he calls "satanic" gay parades in the capital, and over accusations of using his power to secure lucrative construction contracts for his wife Yelena Baturina's company, and to influence Moscow court rulings.

Earlier this week British media reported that Luzhkov's wife, Russia's richest woman, had bought the second largest private house in London after Buckingham Palace for $100 million.

Source: RIA Novosti

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ukraine Targeted By Russian Hackers

KIEV, Ukraine -- Following on from last year’s massive cyber attack on Estonia’s computer systems when Russian hackers, purportedly funded by the FSB (the modern equivalent of the KGB), brought the country’s computer systems to its knees in response to the removal of Soviet statues and war memorials.

A Russian hacker's calling card.

It looks as if those same hackers with the same funding are about to launch a bigger attack covering all the Baltic countries, and this time it will extend to Ukraine.

Once again, appeals in Russian Internet forums calling for all Russian hackers to unite and launch a large-scale attack on the computer networks of government institutions in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are on the increase, and now Ukraine is being included as a necessary target.

Those making the appeals, which many speculate are coming from the FSB again, state that Russian hackers are dissatisfied with “the way Russian-speakers are treated in Baltic countries,” and with the ban on the use of Soviet symbols.

Ukraine, however, is being targeted for slightly different reasons, and the appeals on Internet forums are citing the country as a target due to its NATO aspirations.

“All the hackers of the country have decided to unite to counter the impudent actions of western superpowers. We are fed up with NATO’s encroachment on our motherland, we have had enough of Ukrainian politicians who have forgotten their nation and only think about their own interests, and we are fed up with the Estonian governmental institutions which blatantly re-write history and support fascism,” says the appeal appearing on Internet forums throughout Russia.

It is thought that the hackers intend replacing the original content on the websites they hack into with red stars and photos of Soviet soldiers, so let’s hope everyone’s keeping their systems backed up.

Source: Computer Crime Research Center

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ukraine-NATO War Games Concern Russia

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia on Friday said it was concerned by joint NATO-Ukraine naval exercises in the Black Sea, saying the leaders of the ex-Soviet state were trying to force their people into NATO membership against their wishes.

A British auxiliary navy ship sails in front of a sculpture in the port of Odessa. US troops are holding military exercises near the Russian border in ex-Soviet Ukraine and were poised to launch them in Georgia, amid tense relations between Moscow and Washington, officials said.

Russia, sensitive to NATO expansion towards it borders, has warned of serious consequences if Ukraine and fellow ex-Soviet state Georgia join the military alliance.

The 11th Seabreeze naval exercises got under way this week. Sixteen countries are taking part in the 12-day exercise during which service personnel take part in a mock peacekeeping operation and mass evacuation of non-combatants.

Russia said the exercises included intelligence work, searches for enemy submarines and test firing of munitions.

"The character of the exercises, the attempts to present them in an anti-Russian tone, and also the participation of non-regional powers cannot but create questions and a certain concern," Russia's foreign ministry said. "Why was the Black Sea chosen to work out the dubious aims of these exercises?"

Ukraine has been engaged in cooperation with NATO since the mid-1990s. Pro-Western leaders, brought to power by 2004 "Orange Revolution" protests against election fraud have made NATO and European Union membership the cornerstone of foreign policy.

A NATO summit in April turned down Ukraine's bid to secure a "membership action plan" -- a fast track to eventual membership -- but assured Kiev it would one day join the alliance.

Public opinion remains opposed to joining NATO. Surveys show no more than 30 percent of respondents back membership and Russia objects to any notion of Ukrainian NATO membership on grounds that it would undermine its security interests.

About 150 demonstrators staged a protest this week against the exercises, much smaller than in recent years.

"Mass protests against the exercises reflects the mood of public opinion in Ukraine in relation to the current Ukrainian administration's path towards forcing entry into the alliance," Russia's foreign ministry said.

Source: Daily Times

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ukraine Ruling Coalition Heading Toward Collapse

KIEV, Ukraine -- The hero and heroine of the Orange Revolution are once again on the brink of divorce. And it's ordinary Ukrainians who are paying the price.

Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko during the 'Orange Revolution'.

In the seven months since President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko reunited in a coalition government with vows to carry out crucial reforms, they have spent more time sniping at each other than governing.

Experts say the question isn't if, but rather when the coalition will collapse.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians are having to tighten their belts to cope with 30 percent inflation — the highest in Europe. Economic progress has been hampered by rampant corruption and the lack of judicial, land and other reforms.

"It's hard to imagine how could it be worse. They simply haven't done anything. It's been a political crisis," said political analyst Ivan Lozowy.

The country's top two officials were allies when they led the 2004 pro-democracy protests that shook this former Soviet republic loose from the grip of Russian influence and launched often chaotic democracy for its 46 million people.

While they share a common vision of a more Western-leaning Ukraine, the bookish, careful Yushchenko and the glamorous, impetuous Tymoshenko are seen as likely opponents in the 2010 presidential election and they have sought to undermine each other at every turn.

The sense of disappointment over broken promises of prosperity and quick European Union integration has devastated Yushchenko's popularity — his support ratings in polls have sunk below 10 percent. Tymoshenko has dropped from 30 percent to 20 percent.

Their rivalry has severely strained the governing coalition. Last month, two lawmakers quit the alliance, threatening its ability to hold on to the narrowest-possible majority in parliament.

Most experts believe Yushchenko and Tymoshenko will replace the defectors and restore the minimum of 226 lawmakers needed to keep the coalition in power. But the experts still don't expect the government to last beyond the fall.

Analysts predict Yushchenko may call yet another early parliamentary election — the third in less than three years — or someone will form a new coalition, this time involving the opposition.

Tymoshenko, 47, has seen nearly every initiative of her government either challenged or blocked by the president's office.

Most notably, her attempts to privatize key enterprises and raise money for the budget have been stalled by presidential decrees.

Her program to compensate millions of Ukrainians for savings lost amid the Soviet collapse also has been put on hold.

The rivalry reached its peak in May when Tymoshenko's faction in parliament blocked the rostrum and prevented Yushchenko, 54, from delivering his state-of-the-nation speech.

An embarrassed president was forced to post his speech online.

"Both sides have used the budget dispute as a tactic in their longer-term fight for political supremacy," said Geoffrey Smith, strategist at the Renaissance Capital investment bank in Kiev.

There have been some achievements.

Experts praise Tymoshenko for cleaning up the shady natural gas trade with Russia and removing intermediaries that were widely seen as mechanisms to siphon large sums money into private pockets.

Yushchenko, meanwhile, is noted for his push to get NATO membership for Ukraine and bring it closer to the European community. Despite his failings, many credit him for his role in bringing freedom of speech, holding free elections and allowing civil society to gain strength.

Source: AP

Moscow Refuses To Send Yushchenko Poisoning Suspect To Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russia has refused to extradite a former Ukrainian security service deputy head suspected of involvement in the poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, Ukraine's top prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Viktor Yushchenko before (L) and after alleged poisoning.

The Prosecutor General's Office said that since Moscow considers Wolodymyr Satsiuk, or Vladimir Satsyuk, to be a Russian citizen, he cannot be extradited.

Satsiuk is also facing abuse of office and forgery charges in Ukraine, which requested his extradition in April 2008.

Ukraine has been negotiating with Russia over the extradition of three people who it says may have been involved in the Yushchenko poisoning, but the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said it had received no other extradition requests.

Yushchenko became seriously ill in early September 2004, the day after attending a reception and dinner with Ukrainian security services leaders.

He suffered from a series of symptoms, including back pain, acute pancreatitis and nerve paralysis on the left side of his face. After the illness, his face became heavily disfigured - grossly jaundiced, bloated and pockmarked.

Many have linked Yushchenko's poisoning to a group of senior Ukrainian officials, including the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ihor Smeshko, and his deputy, Satsiuk.

All of them are believed to have fled to Russia and received Russian citizenship.

Source: RIA Novosti

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IMF Urges Ukraine To Control Inflation

KIEV, Ukraine -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Ukraine to take immediate measures to control inflation, as sustained high inflation would greatly harm the country's economy.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

At a press conference in Ukraine's Black Sea resort of Yalta on Tuesday, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn expressed the organization's anxiety over Ukraine's unsustainable high inflation rate.

He also called on other European countries to prevent or solve similar problems.

"Even if you live with it (high inflation rate) for a very short term, it takes a very long time afterwards to sort out the consequences," Strauss-Kahn said at another press conference Friday.

Ukraine's Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the first half of 2008 rose 15.5 percent year-on-year.

Although the government this week set its year-end inflation target to 15.9 percent for 2008 against last year's 16.6 percent, experts estimate that Ukraine's inflation rate this year may exceed 20 percent.

Source: Xinhua

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Next Stop Beijing

TERNI, Italy -- The seventeen year old Margaryta Pesotska from Ukraine is one of the surprise young European qualifiers for the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing. One month from now she will stand on her own as the lone table tennis athlete from Ukraine at the biggest stage of them all.

Ukraine's Margaryta Pesotska

This night in Terni, Italy a different but in many ways as rewarding task had to be solved – To lead the Ukraine Junior Girls Team to their first European junior team title ever.

Hard working

Pesotska is a hard working, safe playing and very competitive young girl. Carefully paced with relatively few international events under her belt she always seems to come well prepared for the European Junior Championships.

Assistance at the right moments

In Terni, Italy she more or less single handed brought the gold medal to Ukraine by going undefeated through the team events inspiring her team mates to come along with a victory when needed.

In the team final against Germany – Pesotska got the necessary assistance from her lesser known team mate Irina Motsyk ranked as low as fifty-one on the latest ETTU ranking list, who in the crucial third single defeated Sabine Winter three games to one.

Dramatic ending

That was enough this time. But not without considerable drama. In the fifth and deciding match the Ukraine nr one stared defeat in the eyes more than once, falling behind early in the match against the German defensive player Rosalie Stahr.

Pesotska fought back but was in trouble also down 5-7 in the fifth game before squeezing the luck for an 11-9 victory and a championship for her country.

Qualified for the ITTF World Junior Champiuonships Junior Girls team event are along side the two finalists also Hungary and France

No luck for Germany

It was an evening in Italy without the best of luck for the hard working German Junior National team girls’ selection.

They finally had to settle for two silver medals after loosing both the girls’ finals by the narrowest of margins.

Romania won the Cadet Girls title three games to two despite brilliant play by the German number one Petrissa Solja who more or less squashed anything her opponents could come up with throughout the team event, not loosing more than one single game in any of her many appearances.

Source: ITTF News

Saving The Ukrainian President's Face

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has lost a lot since the heady days of his country’s Orange Revolution – executive power (due to constitutional changes), voter support (due to endless infighting) and international prestige (for lack of reform).

David Zhvaniya

More recently, his reputation as a martyr for democracy has also come under threat.

This last laurel was conferred upon Mr. Yushchenko when his face was disfigured by dioxin poisoning during his campaign for the presidency in 2004.

Now, facing re-election in a year’s time, Yushchenko is being accused of inventing his poisoning – one of the seminal events in Ukraine’s democracy movement, which galvanized public opinion at home and abroad in support of the Orange leader’s promises of reform.

And the person most responsible for smearing Yushchenko’s victim status is not a member of the old guard of former President Leonid Kuchma, or a representative of one of the presidential hopefuls currently challenging Yushchenko’s re-election bid.

It is a lawmaker in the faction that the president himself endorsed in the last parliamentary elections, a politician who stood beside Yushchenko during his long and trying march to power the first time around.

David Zhvaniya, who can be seen in summer-vacation photos with the Yushchenko family, is now one of their greatest detractors.

Mr. Zhvaniya, who was with Yushchenko on the night he is thought to have been poisoned, recently told the BBC that Yushchenko had merely suffered from food poisoning.

“It was common food poisoning. The diagnosis was made the first day. These kinds of poisonings happen a lot, to every third person in the world,” Zhvaniya said.

“It was a stomach infection. On the day that he went to the doctor, they all came to this same conclusion. I was there. Then they decided that he should fly to Austria [for medical care]. I was opposed ... because the proposed clinic had nothing to do with stomach infections. It was a cardiologic center,” he said.

In a different interview, with a Ukrainian publication, Zhvaniya sowed doubt on the president’s belief that he was poisoned during a dinner meeting with the head of the country’s security service (SBU) at the time, Ihor Smeshko.

Zhvaniya, who by his own admission organized the September-5 meeting between Smeshko and Yushchenko at another SBU official’s dacha, told journalists that Yushchenko had partaken in an earlier meal just before the Smeshko visit, and before that had stopped off at the home of a completely unknown tinkerer where the president downed no small quantity of moonshine.

Zhvaniya further claimed that all subsequent tests showing that Yushchchenko had been poisoned by dioxide were falsified and that the Orange campaign team had thought up the poisoning version for political gain.

However, Yushchenko was not only positively tested for dioxide poisoning in Austria, but his blood sample was tested by three different laboratories in Belgium, Germany and the UK, all of which came to the same conclusion.

Yushchenko’s attorney, Mykola Poludenny, said in a recent media interview that despite being stalled in their efforts by the Prosecutor General’s Office at the time, officials involved in the testing took every precaution to guarantee that the results were not compromised at any stage of the process.

Western specialists were not only able to determine that Yushchenko had been poisoned by dioxide, but also when the poisoning happened – on September 5.

In the wake of Zhvaniya’s comments, his own faction, Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense, accused the lawmaker of "exceeding the limits of decency."

“In and of itself, the attempt to sow doubt on the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, which shocked the world, and pretend that the crime never happened, shows that Mr. Zhvaniya, in his public rhetoric, has sunk to the level of the worst kind under Kuchma,” reads a statement released by the faction.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office, which is still ‘investigating’ the poisoning after nearly four years, accused Zhvaniya of contradicting his own earlier testimony.

The PGO’s press service released a statement last month in which it said, “The poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko has been irrefutably proven by investigators and court medical experts; therefore, David Zhvaniya’s statements cannot be true; they contradict his early affirmations and are compromising the objective investigation of this crime.”

The PGO further accused Zhvaniya of using his lawmaker immunity to ignore prosecutors’ requests that he show up for further questioning.

In short, despite the public attention that he has been able to command, Mr. Zhvaniya’s credibility is highly suspect.

But, unfortunately, so is virtualy every other political figure's credibility in Ukraine.

For example, how do people like Zhvaniya get on the lists of parties endorsed by the president? For that matter, how does the president manage to make so many ‘friends’ into enemies?

Secondly, if the PGO is so certain that Yushchenko was poisoned, why have they been unable to charge anyone for almost four years? It’s the president who appoints the prosecutor-general, including the one who hampered his case back in 2005 and his sucessors who have continued to hold up numerous other high-profile crimes.

Since at least last year, the president himself has claimed to know who poisoned him but declined to enlighten the rest of us.

“The investigation is in its final stage,” the president told journalists in Dnipropetrovsk last September.

More recently, in an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Mr. Yushchenko said that three individual had masterminded his poisoning and were hiding in Russia, where they had been given citizenship, while Ukraine continues to request their extradition.

In addition, Russia is one of three countries which make the dioxin found in Yushchenko’s blood. But unlike the other two countries, the UK and the US, Russia has yet to provide convincing evidence that the poison did not come from there.

Yushchenko has said that he personally asked Putin to check into the matter but to no avail.

The Ukrainian president also said the investigation cannot go forward without the testimony of the three fugitives.

Although Zhvaniya’s attempts to dismiss the plainly visible scars on Yushchenko’s face are ludicrous if not profane, it is equally far fetched to believe that the investigation is being held up by Russia alone.

According to a recent poll, only 36 percent of Ukrainians believe Yushchenko was purposely poisoned.

If Yushchenko wants people to again believe that he really was poisoned for his dedication to democracy, he can start by naming the people who poisoned him.

It may not get him re-elected or even return him the hero status that he enjoyed immediately after the Orange Revolution, but it could save his face.

Source: Eurasian Home

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ukraine's Move To West Stalls Amid Political Row

KIEV, Ukraine -- In December 2004, pensioner Vladyslav Leontovych joined hundreds of thousands of fellow Ukrainians in Kiev's central square to help overturn a rigged presidential election and usher in the Orange Revolution.

Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko are at war with each other -- once again.

“There was this fantastic national uprising, we had such unity,” says Leontovych, 85, as he hands out “Ukraine in NATO” flyers near the 61-meter (200-foot) Independence Monument. These days, he says, “People are playing politics instead of working.”

Almost four years after teaming up to push Ukraine toward European Union and NATO membership, President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko are at war with each other -- once again.

Their clash this time brought Parliament to a standstill, prompting the opposition to seek a vote of no confidence that failed on Friday. It also spurred inflation and public spending, delayed state asset sales and stalled the NATO bid.

“Ukraine's political elite have put off serious reforms to concentrate on personal power struggles,” says Geoffrey Smith, chief analyst at Moscow-based Renaissance Capital brokerage's Kiev office. “This is a dangerous mindset.”

The 29.3 percent June inflation rate is Europe's highest, while the economy's 6 percent annual growth rate in the first quarter is the slowest in two years.

Timoshenko's government has failed to sell companies including VAT UkrTelecom and ammonia producer Odeskyi Pryportovyi Zavod, worth at least 8.92 billion hryvnia ($1.81 billion) to bidders such as HSBC Holdings Plc. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Democratic rule?

Hopes were high when Yushchenko and Timoshenko emerged from the revolution at the beginning of 2005 as heads of state and government.

They were supposed to edge Ukraine further away from Russia's sphere, raise living standards and strengthen democratic rule in the nation of 46 million people.

Then Yushchenko fired Timoshenko in September 2005 after she frightened investors by threatening to retake control of former state-owned companies.

The blonde-braided Timoshenko, now 47, joined forces with Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the presidency to Yushchenko in the December 2004 elections, and helped bring down Yushchenko's government in 2006.

Yushchenko brought her back to the premiership in December 2007 after parliamentary elections, as the better alternative to Yanukovych.

The latest breakdown occurred after two lawmakers quit Timoshenko's coalition on June 6 over complaints about how the government was being run. That ended her majority, leaving the coalition with 225 seats in the 450-member Parliament.

Timoshenko's allies physically blocked the assembly's chamber on June 19, a day after the president reversed her cabinet's decision to withdraw a license for Houston-based Vanco Energy Co. to explore for natural gas and oil in the Black Sea. They blocked it again on July 8 and 9.

The opposition failed on Friday to oust Timoshenko after Parliament re-opened, securing only 174 of the 226 votes needed to pass a vote of no confidence. The move failed largely because 194 lawmakers -- almost half the assembly -- were absent.

To Olexander Lytvynenko, a researcher at the Ukrainian Centre for Economic & Political Studies in Kiev, Timoshenko's motivation is power, which has bounced between the heads of state and government through various constitutional changes.

“Her target was and remains to grab as much power in the country as she can, no matter what post she has,” Lytvynenko says. “If the premier has more power, then she wants to be premier. If it's the president, then she wants to be president. Yushchenko is trying to constrain her.”

Spending spree

Timoshenko's cabinet raised spending 49 percent in the first five months of this year compared with the same period a year ago, especially on social programs.

Yushchenko, 54, called the budget “careless work” and said on July 9 that he would veto amendments to increase spending.

Yushchenko countered on Thursday by submitting his own budget revision, focusing on boosting investment and state asset sales to increase revenue, his press office said in an e-mailed statement. The office didn't immediately provide details of the document.

The popularity of Yushchenko, former head of the central bank, was at 5.8 percent in a June 6-16 survey by the Kiev-based International Institute of Sociology. Timoshenko garnered 18 percent.

Lytvynenko says Yushchenko's decline can be traced to diminished prospects that Ukraine will join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Ireland's rejection of the EU treaty put enlargement on hold and NATO leaders in April denied Ukraine special pre-membership status because of political instability.

“He didn't fulfill his promises,” says Lytvynenko. “Yushchenko was the person who had the highest support in 2005 and he lost everything.”

`Strong supporter'

Oleksandr Shlapak, first deputy head of Yushchenko's presidential office, blamed Timoshenko for the split in a June 26 interview in Kiev, though he said the president would still govern with her.

“There are serious differences,” Shlapak said. “The president is a strong supporter of western values. The premier, in my mind, has another view.”

Timoshenko laid the blame on Yushchenko.

“I want to ask the president to stop ruining the government,” she told the Cabinet on May 28, according to a transcript. The conflict “has reached its zenith.” She also criticized Yushchenko's state asset sale plans as nontransparent without saying how.

Yanukovych, 58, has a support rating of 24.2 percent, according to the same poll. He favors closer ties with Russia, which Yushchenko and Timoshenko oppose.

London-based HSBC, Europe's largest bank by market value, has seen its bid for Odeskyi Pryportovyi Zavod delayed three times.

Plans for The Hague-based Shell, Europe's largest oil producer, to invest in Black Sea oil have not been approved.

“The government is ruining the economy, everything. I want Yanukovych,” says Alla Dmitriyeva, a 53-year-old businesswoman, between sips of espresso in a downtown cafe. “Our government is a nut house.”

Source: Turkish Daily News

US-Ukraine Military Exercises Get Under Way In Black Sea

KIEV, Ukraine -- U.S.-Ukrainian military exercises began on the Black Sea on Monday amid anti-NATO protests that demonstrated the deep hostility among some in this former Soviet republic toward the Western military bloc.

Members of Ukraine's Progressive Socialist Party confront the police as they take part in a rally against the Sea Breeze-2008 NATO military exercises in the Black Sea port of Odessa July 14, 2008.Naval and air forces from 15 countries are taking part in the military exercises in Ukraine on Monday.

The two-week Sea Breeze exercises also involve 15 other countries, including NATO members.

The purpose is to practice for multinational peacekeeping operations.

Ukrainian leaders who favor joining NATO also hope the drills will help bring their country closer NATO and Western military standards.

The exercises will involve warships, planes, helicopters, armored vehicles and various kinds of troops.

Anti-NATO protesters have set up camps in the area along the Black Sea coast and are planning rallies.

Potential NATO membership is a highly divisive issue in Ukraine, a France-sized nation of 46 million that lies between Russia and NATO member nations in Europe.

Pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko and other leaders asked NATO in January to grant the nation a roadmap to joining the alliance, leading to weeks of protests in parliament and noisy rallies on the streets.

NATO declined to grant the request - in part due to concerns about Russia, which vocally opposes membership for Ukraine - but assured the nation it would eventually open its doors.

According to a June poll conducted by the respected Razumkov Center, 60 percent of Ukrainians opposed joining NATO, up from 53 percent in February.

The number of those in favor stayed the same: 21 percent.

The rest of the respondents were either undecided or uninterested.

The survey of 2,001 people across Ukraine had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Sociologists say negative attitudes toward NATO have grown this year, sparked by government efforts to join the bloc and the ensuing protests, but they also attribute the hostility to poor information on the alliance among many Ukrainians.

The Sea Breeze drills have been taking place annually since 1997.

In 2006, protests forced U.S. Marine reservists who came to prepare for the exercises to leave without carrying out their mission.

The maneuvers were later canceled due to the redeployment of a U.S. naval vessel to assist in the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon

Source: AP

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Klitschko Knocks Out Thompson To Keep Boxing World Titles

HAMBURG, Germany -- Ukraine's Vladimir Klitschko knocked out America's Tony Thompson in the 11th round to retain his WBO and IBF world heavyweight titles.

Vladimir Klitschko (R) of the Ukraine exchanges punches with Tony Thompson of the US during their WBO heavyweight title fight July 12 in Hamburg, Germany. Klitschko knocked out Thompson in the 11th round to retain his WBO and IBF world heavyweight titles.

Klitschko, who has held the IBF belt since April 2006, was fighting for the first time Saturday since taking the WBO crown off Russia's Ruslan Ibragimov in February in New York.

The 32-year-old took control of Saturday's fight from the fourth round before going on to inflict Thompson's second defeat in 33 fights.

Klitschko now has a record of 51 wins and three defeats.

Saturday's fight was his first in his adopted home city of Hamburg in eight years.

He and boxing brother Vitali moved here in 1996 following his Olympic Games victory.

"It was a tough fight and Thompson put on a great defensive effort," said Klitschko.

"It is not so easy to defend all the titles and it has been a while since I last had a black eye so today I really look like a boxer. I did not expect the victory to come that hard.

"You could see that he really wanted to win. He is a strong fighter. It was a lot of fun to fight against him."

Klitschko's next fight is expected to be in November against Russia's Alexander Povetkin, the number one IBF challenger, he will be aware that British cruiserweight king David Haye is moving up to heavyweight and watched the fight.

Haye says he is desperate to fight Klitschko after seeing plenty of weaknesses in his fight against Thompson.

"If he fights me in the same way he fought that guy he will be knocked out in three rounds," said Haye.

"He has got the perfect style for me. I don't want him to have any more fights before me as I don't want someone else to do what I will do against him."

Source: AFP

U.N. Denies Ukraine's Genocide Claim

NEW YORK, NY -- The United Nations General Assembly has decided not to put genocide claims by Ukraine onto its current session agenda, Russian officials said Saturday.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin lobbied the General Assembly against opening discussions on Ukraine's claim that the catastrophic 1932-33 famine, which historians blame on Josef Stalin's failed efforts at collectivization, amounted to genocide.

The U.N.'s Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe went so far as to adopt a resolution condemning the famine, but fell short of recognizing it as an act of genocide, Churkin said.

"We believe it would be a disservice to the memories of hundreds of thousands of people who died of hunger in other countries and regions of the former Soviet Union to raise this issue at the U.N., in relation to only one of the regions that suffered," he told the Russian news service RIA Novosti.

Churkin said it wasn't only Ukraine that starved in what he called "a tragic page in the shared history of the peoples of the Soviet Union," but also Belarus, the Volga area, the Black Sea area, the Don area and the North Caucasus

Source: UPI

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ukraine PM Accuses President Of Sabotaging Budget

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, once allied with Ukraine's president in "Orange Revolution" protests against election fraud, accused him on Saturday of torpedoing a budget intended to improve living standards.

Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko, prime minister for a second time, survived a confidence vote in parliament on Friday launched by the opposition on grounds that she had wrecked the economy.

But she later failed to win approval for amendments to the 2008 budget calling for increased revenues and a slightly reduced deficit.

Tymoshenko told a news conference she was dismayed that President Viktor Yushchenko had submitted his own amendments and that members of the presidential Our Ukraine party had given no support to changes already before the house.

"Everything was destroyed yesterday, toppled for no good reason. Let me tell you who did this. The budget was not adopted primarily because of the president's position," she said. "Who benefited from this? The country lost and so did the people."

Parliament voted to submit the government's and president's amendments to a committee for further consideration and closed for its summer recess.

The president proposes applying additional revenue from economic growth and improved tax and customs duty collection to investment projects. Tymoshenko wants some of it directed towards social needs and local authorities.

Yushchenko appointed her prime minister immediately after being swept to power in the 2004 "orange" protests, but fired her within seven months.

She took office again when "orange" parties scored a narrow victory in a snap election last year, but has been at odds with Yushchenko over a variety of issues as politicians have their sights firmly on a presidential election due by early 2010.

Both the opposition and the president accuse Tymoshenko of failing to contain Ukraine's highest inflation in a decade -- cumulative price rises over the first half of 2008 stand at 15.5 percent, with year-on-year inflation of 31 percent last month.

The government adjusted the 2008 inflation forecast to 15.9 percent from the original figure of 9.6 percent.

Tymoshenko says price rises are already coming down and predicts the figure will be negative this month with a bumper grain crop expected.

The growth forecast was unchanged at 6.8 percent and the deficit put at 18.7 billion hryvnia against 18.8 billion previously.

Tymoshenko said she had little hope deputies would interrupt their summer holiday and believed the changes would ultimately be approved when parliament resumed in September.

"It is sad that because of illusory political ambitions linked to the presidential campaign everything in the country is collapsing," she said.

Source: Guardian UK

Sarkozy Supports Partnership Deal Between EU And Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the European Union's presidency, on Friday backed a new partnership agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy (L) with former British prime minister Tony Blair (R).

"France will urge its partners in European Union and European Commission to push for a new agreement between the EU and Ukraine to achieve the most ambitious result possible," Sarkozy said in a written message to delegates of the Yalta European Strategy summit in southern Ukraine.

The summit is also being attended by former British prime minister Tony Blair. Sarkozy had been due to attend but cancelled due to other commitments.

Sarkozy also said he hoped that the European Union and Kiev "will be in a position to conclude an historic political agreement at the Evian summit on Sept. 9," which could be signed in early 2009.

The current partnership agreement in place since 1994 is considered out of date.

Membership of the European Union as well as NATO is one of the priorities of pro-western Ukranian president Viktor Yushchenko.

The EU has included Ukraine in its policy of good neighbourly relations, but has refused to specify whether it could eventually join the 27-member bloc.

Source: AFP

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Survives No-Confidence Vote

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko survived a no-confidence vote called by the opposition in protest at her pro-Western government's handling of high inflation and other economic ills.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko accepts the congratulations of Parliament of winning a No-Confidence vote on July 11, 2008.

The motion, launched by opposition leader and former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, received 174 votes, far short of the 226 needed to pass in the 450-member chamber.

Tymoshenko urged Ukraine's fractious parliament to back her government's reforms, including liberalising the economy and taming an inflation which hit a record year-on-year level of 31 percent last month.

"No government can function if it is on the brink of dismissal. If it has no majority, a new coalition must be formed and new leaders found for the country," she told the chamber.

Tymoshenko was allied to President Viktor Yushchenko in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" which swept him to power and was immediately appointed prime minister only to be sacked seven months later.

She became premier again last December after "orange" parties narrowly won a parliamentary election called when Yushchenko dissolved parliament.

Since returning to power, she has been repeatedly at odds with Yushchenko over a variety of issues, including inflation.

Ukraine's parliament has been largely unable to work since the beginning of the year because of repeated actions blocking debate—both by "orange" groups and their opponents

Source: Epoch Times

Wizz Air Ukraine Takes Off

KIEV, Ukraine -- Wizz Air Ukraine had launched its first service from Kiev Borispol Airport to Simferopol at 6am yesterday, July 11th, in line with the earlier announced plan. The brand new Airbus A320 aircraft left fully loaded with 180 passengers on board.

Wizz Air Ukraine schedule for summer 2008.

The first ever Ukrainian low fare flight was inaugurated by Minister Vinsky, who greeted the passengers and cut the ribbon to commemorate the occasion.

Coinciding with the inauguration of Wizz Air Ukraine the airline also confirmed that it would start expanding its Ukrainian domestic route network with new flights from Kiev to Kharkiv and Zaporyzhzhia starting from 15 September, both initially flown three times a week.

"Being air born today as planned is a breakthrough accomplishment and we are thankful for all parties involved, in particular for the Ukrainian authorities and our business partners supporting the initiative.

The full flight this morning and the close to 30,000 tickets sold in advance just demonstrates how well the Ukrainian public has responded to the low fares and new services of Wizz Air Ukraine.

Our low fare – low cost business model on the backbone of a brand new Airbus A320 operation is spot on the demand of the Ukrainian travelling public for affordable, safe and comfortable travel.

We are committed to further extending our route network to fly an ever increasing number of domestic and international destinations in the very near future." said Natasa Kazmer, Director General of Wizz Air Ukraine.