Sunday, August 30, 2009

Social Ills Still Plague Ukraine’s Fields Of Dreams

ZHOVTNEVE, Ukraine -- Combine harvesters buzz across sunny fields of golden wheat - a picture of rural bliss in Ukraine, a fertile former Soviet republic once known as the bread basket of Europe.

But while Ukraine has seen its farming sector grow this year despite its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a legacy of social ills and under-funding in the countryside is proving hard to overcome.

“Villages are dying, young people have all gone to the towns. We’ve leased some land and bought harvesters but the manpower is missing,” said Grygori Kovalenko, an agronomist at Ukrainian-Austrian farming company Zernyatko.

The people harvesting Zernyatko’s fields in Zhovtneve, a village some 220km north of the capital Kiev, are mostly seasonal workers brought in for short periods of time - not year-round farmers.

Fedir Goncharuk, co-owner of another company, Dibrivka-Agroservice, based 170 kilometres south of the capital, paints an even bleaker picture.

“I bus in people from 18 places nearby, otherwise I wouldn’t have any workers. There’s a distillery in the village. It’s worse than a nuclear bomb - most of the people here are alcoholics,” he said.

Despite these difficulties, the farming sector still managed to grow 3.8% in the first seven months of the year on a 12-month comparison, while industrial output plunged 31.1% in the first half of 2009.

Agriculture’s share in Ukrainian exports, traditionally dominated by metals and chemicals, has also risen. Grain made up 9.4 % of total exports in the first half of the year compared to 3.1% at the same time last year.

“Agriculture is the economy’s main hope for its balance of payments,” said Mykhailo Salnykov, an expert from investment fund Sokrat Capital.

“It is preventing an even more severe devaluation of the national currency,” the hryvnia, which has fallen some 40% against the dollar, he said.

Weekly business news magazine Kontrakty put it more succinctly. “Agriculture was the only sector to grow in Ukraine this year,” it said in a recent issue.

Farming has also managed to recover in the past few years to make Ukraine the fifth biggest grain exporter in the world and the country in 2008 had its biggest harvest since the Soviet collapse of 1991 - 53.3mn tons.

Experts however say the agriculture sector should be doing far better. Ukraine has 42mn hectares of agricultural land, making up 22% of Europe’s total. The climate is suited to farming and two-thirds of Ukraine is covered in “black earth” considered among the most fertile in the world.

Apart from the problems with manpower, producers also complain about the predominantly poor Soviet-era equipment and a lack of grain storage capacity, as well as broader inefficiencies in the grain market.

“We can’t make forecasts, policy is changing all the time and prices too. We can never achieve what we’ve planned in our business plan,” Goncharuk said.

“If the harvest is good, prices plunge. We buy barley seed for 3,000 hryvnias ($360) per ton and after the harvest we can only sell it at 600 hryvnias. So what’s the point of growing it?” he said.

“In the West, the state subsidises agriculture and controls the grain market. Here, not at all,” he added.

The lack of silos for storing grain forces producers to accept any price offered by intermediaries and banks are reluctant to give companies credit to build new silos because of the economic crisis, Goncharuk said. Ukraine has 650 to 700 silos with a total capacity of just 30mn tons.

The crippling economic crisis has also hit other aspects of farming. “Last year we were using 150kg of manure per hectare and this year only 50kg because of a lack of money,” Kovalenko said.

Still the fertile soil appears to compensate for these problems.

The average grain yield in Ukraine rose to 3.5 tons per hectare in 2008 compared to 4.5 tons per hectare in the European Union and is still going up. Experts say the harvest in the next few years could reach 95mn tons.

Pointing to his luxury offroad Lexus car, Goncharuk smiled and said: “I won’t tell you about our profits but look at my car and our American tractors and draw your own conclusions.”

Source: AFP

Medvedev Blasts Ukraine, Baltic States Over WWII

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday criticised Ukraine and the Baltic states for glorifying “Nazi accomplices”, speaking ahead of the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

“We are seeing some astounding trends,” Medvedev said in an interview with the Rossia state television channel. “Governments in the Baltic states and even Ukraine are now essentially pronouncing former Nazi accomplices to be their national heroes who fought for the liberation of their nations. “Of course, everyone knows what really happened, but everyone looks down in shame, so as to avoid souring relations.”

Russia has repeatedly criticised former Soviet republics Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for seeking to rehabilitate anti-Communist groups that in some cases collaborated with the Nazis.

Resolution: Medvedev also lashed out at a resolution passed in July by the parliamentary assembly of the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) which condemned both Nazism and Stalinism.

Medvedev said the resolution had pronounced Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union “to be equally responsible for World War II” and said: “Now this, quite frankly, is a flat-out lie.” He appeared to be referring to the resolution’s assertion that both regimes brought about genocide and war crimes, and its call to establish a Europe-wide memorial day on August 23, the anniversary of a notorious Nazi-Soviet pact.

Berlin and Moscow signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in 1939, paving the way for a joint invasion of Poland days later and Moscow’s seizure of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which remained Soviet republics until 1991.

Despite the pact, the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941 and lost tens of millions of people in the conflict.

Present-day Russia regards the Soviet role in World War II as heroic and bristles at attempts to equate the totalitarian systems of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the Nazi German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, widely regarded as the start of World War II. Soviet troops invaded and occupied eastern parts of Poland less than three weeks later.

Source: AFP

The Power Of One Courageous Person

ALEXANDRIA, USA -- "The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society," the late Jack Kemp once said. While the American politician and former pro football player used the qualifying word "our" to refer to America, there is no doubt his observation holds true universally.

Dmitruk in Kiev’s Independence Square, site of the "orange" revolution that brought Viktor Yushchenko to power.

I recently stumbled upon one person's story that epitomizes Kemp's inspirational maxim. She hails from central Europe and her name is Natalya Dmitruk. Almost five years ago she did the right thing, for the right reason and at the right time. As a result, her native Ukraine was dramatically impacted.

Prior to her courageous action, Ms. Dmitruk was an unlikely catalyst for political change. However, one day in 2004 she made a decision that not only served to embolden many Ukrainians, but altered the political landscape of her country.

Dmitruk was born to deaf-mute parents. As a result, she had to learn sign language in order to communicate with her mother and father. Though she is not hearing impaired, Dmitruk has made it her mission in life to provide the deaf with a vital link to the world.

Seeking to fulfill her mission, Dmitruk became an interpreter for Ukrainian state-run television UT-1. It was this position coupled with her desire to serve the deaf community that set the stage for her dramatic stand.

On Nov. 25, 2004, the runoff for the Ukrainian presidential election had just taken place. There was growing evidence of widespread voter fraud indicating that the election was rigged in favor of the government-sponsored candidate, Viktor Yanukovych.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, state-controlled broadcasters took to the airways and reported that Yanukovych had defeated opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Hearts across the Ukraine sank. Their hope for change was dealt a bitter defeat.

On that dismal afternoon Dmitruk was given the assignment of interpreting the afternoon news. Everyone in the newsroom was painfully aware that the election had been a sham, but no one was willing to take a stand against the government. And Dmitruk was only an interpreter for the deaf. What could she do?

From a small inset in the corner of a television where she regularly provided the deaf with a vital link to the world, Dmitruk decided she had to do something. Rather than repeat the official government line about the election, she signed to her deaf audience, "Yushchenko is our president. Do not believe the Central Election Commission. They are lying."

Dmitruk told Time magazine that she feared she would get into terrible trouble. "But," she said, "the disgust I felt about all that lying forced out the fear."

An estimated 100,000 deaf people saw Dmitruk's news cast. Other UT-1 journalists, inspired by her courage, joined Dmitruk and refused to spout the government's version of the election. Almost immediately, other news channels in the Ukraine followed suit. In a matter of hours, news of the rigged election swept across the nation.

The Ukrainian Supreme Court called for the run-off election to be repeated. Yushchenko won in the revote by garnering 52 percent of the vote. The newly elected Ukrainian president personally invited Dmitruk to translate television coverage of his inauguration.

Even though Yushchenko was later dismissed amid allegations of corruption, Dmitruk believes the Ukraine is better off. She told Time that future elections will be "free and fair." Commenting on her audacious action, Dmitruk said, "It was all worth it." Her action led to what is now dubbed the Orange Revolution.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are," Theodore Roosevelt said. If America's 26th president was alive today, I am quite certain he would applaud Natalya's Dmitruk's act of courage. And he would also encourage American citizens to take note and follow her example.

Source: TownHall

Ukrainian President Says Murder Investigation Will Impact Election

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's president says finding those who ordered the killing of prominent independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze is a crucial issue for the whole society, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Ukraine's president Viktor Yushchenko.

Talking to journalists on August 28, Viktor Yushchenko said that finding and punishing all of those who organized the killing of Gongadze would show that "the law in this country is equal for everyone."

He added that those who ordered the murder are still sitting in "big armchairs," and that therefore he, as president, is under "huge political pressure."

He also said that the investigations of the case and their results would influence the presidential election scheduled for January next year.

Gongadze, a co-founder of online "Ukrayinska Pravda" news resource, was abducted in September 2000. Two months later his decapitated body was found in Kyiv Oblast.

On March 4, 2005, former Interior Minister Yury Kravchenko was found dead with gunshots to the head just hours before his testimony as a witness in the case.

Three former officials of Ukraine's Interior Ministry were found guilty of involvement in Gongadze's murder and sentenced to long prison terms in March 2008.

A fourth former top official of the Ukrainian police, General Oleksiy Pukach was arrested on July 22 this year as a suspect in the murder. He has given investigators a location where Gongadze's severed head might be.

Forensics experts in Ukraine confirmed on August 27 that the fragments of a human skull found at the site are the remains of Gongadze.

Gongadze's widow Myroslava Gongadze believes that the masterminds of her husband's assassination are still at large.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Diplomatic Spat Between Russia, Ukraine Looms

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- Another diplomatic spat looms between Russia and Ukraine after a failed Ukrainian attempt to seize navigation equipment at a Russian Black Sea Fleet lighthouse.

The Khersones lighthouse is the subject of the latest spat between Ukraine and Russia.

It remains to be seen how Russian and Ukrainian authorities will react to the latest dispute, though it is widely believed that a new round of diplomatic sparring is looming amidst already heightened tensions between the two former Soviet neighbors.

Two Ukrainian court bailiffs on Wednesday entered the Black SeaFleet's base in the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol, Russian media reported.

The bailiffs demanded that Russian servicemen there hand over navigation equipment at the Khersones lighthouse, citing a ruling of the Sevastopol Economic Court.

The Black Sea Fleet, which has long been deployed on Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula, prevented the two bailiffs from seizing the property and handed them over to Ukrainian police instead.

The Black Sea Fleet command denounced the move as "an unprecedented fact of gross violation of the basic agreements on the Black Sea Fleet" between Russia and Ukraine.

"The bailiffs deliberately violated the international agreements and Ukrainian legislation by illegally penetrating into the guarded object," the command said in a statement reported by the Itar-Tass news agency.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said Thursday that "the Black Sea fleet command continues unlawful actions by rudely violating Ukrainian legislation and basic international agreements."

According to a judgment of the local civil court, bailiffs are allowed to enter the Russian-controlled military area, the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted the Black Sea Fleet as saying Friday.

The court's decision made it clear that the lighthouse and its equipment belongs to Ukraine and the country can have access to them.

Ukraine's Breeze broadcasting company reported that Russian troops put obstacles around the lighthouse and blocked a key road for sick Ukrainian children to get to nearby rehabilitation centers.

The two sides are still waiting for a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry on the event, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said. Ukrainian analysts believe that Russia's response will trigger more bickering.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta said there was a good chance that the lighthouse episode was connected with Kiev's expulsion of some Russian diplomats last month.

Kiev asked the Russian consul general in Odessa and a senior counselor of the Russian embassy to end their duty in Ukraine at the end of July. In response, Moscow demanded that Ukraine recall two senior diplomats.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev labeled Ukraine's expulsions "without any reason" as "an unprecedented provocation in the whole of the post-Soviet space."

Moscow and Kiev later reached a consensus to stop the expulsion of the Russian consul general in Odessa and the Ukrainian consul general in St. Petersburg.

However, the Russian consul general was suspected of being a middleman in an attempt to provide financial aid for pro-Kremlin Crimean authorities, Ukrainian media reported.

Russian-Ukrainian relations have been gradually deteriorating under pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko. They sank to a new low earlier this month after Medvedev accused Yushchenko of taking anti-Russian positions and delayed sending a new ambassador to Ukraine.

In his letter to Yushchenko, Medvedev also criticized Ukraine for deliberately barring the activities of the Black Sea fleet despite an existing bilateral agreement on its deployment.

Kiev and Moscow signed an agreement in 1997 stipulating that the Black Sea Fleet's main base in Sevastopol would be leased to Russia for 20 years, with the possibility of extending the term.

Ukrainian officials, however, have repeatedly called on the fleet to leave Sevastopol when the lease expires in 2017.

As contentious as the fleet issue could be, Kiev's bid for NATO membership and its backing of Georgia in a brief Russia-Georgia war in August 2008 are also inflammatory issues.

Source: Xinhua

Russia And Ukraine In Intensifying Standoff

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — A year after its war with Georgia, Russia is engaging in an increasingly hostile standoff with another pro-Western neighbor, Ukraine.

Russian seamen marched during a military parade in late July in Sevastopol, a port city in Ukraine where Russia has long maintained a naval base and much of the population has Russian ties.

Relations between the two countries are more troubled than at any time since the Soviet collapse, as both sides resort to provocations and recriminations. And it is here on the Crimean Peninsula, home to a Russian naval base, where the tensions are perhaps most in danger of bursting into open conflict.

Late last month, the Ukrainian police briefly detained Russian military personnel who were driving truckloads of missiles through this port city, as if they were smugglers who had come ashore with a haul of contraband. Local officials, it seemed, were seeking to make clear that this was no longer friendly terrain.

Ukraine has in recent years been at the forefront of the effort by some former Soviet republics to switch their alliances to the West, and it appears that the Kremlin has, in some sense, had enough.

President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia denounced Ukraine this month for “anti-Russian” policies, citing in particular its “incessant attempts” to harass Russia’s naval base in Sevastopol. Mr. Medvedev condemned Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and its support for Georgia, and said he would not send an ambassador to Ukraine.

And the criticism has not let up since then.

Monday was Ukrainian independence day, and Russian prosecutors used the occasion to accuse Ukrainian soldiers and members of Ukrainian nationalist groups of fighting alongside Georgia’s military in the war last August. The Ukrainians denied the charges, but they underscored the bitterness in Moscow.

For its part, the Ukrainian government, which took power after the Orange Revolution of 2004, has repeatedly accused Russia of acting as a bully and trying to dominate the former Soviet space both militarily and economically.

Looming is a presidential election in Ukraine in January, which might cause Ukrainian candidates to respond more aggressively to Russia to show their independence. The Kremlin might seek to exploit the situation to help pro-Russian politicians in Kiev.

Both countries publicly avow that they do not want the bad feelings to spiral out of control.

Still, they persist, especially in Sevastopol, where Russia has maintained a naval base since czarist times.

The Kremlin has bristled at what it sees as Ukraine’s disrespectful governing of a city that it formerly controlled — one that was the site of momentous military battles, including in the Crimean War and World War II.

Ukraine appears to regard the base as a sign that Russia still wants to project its military might over the region.

The Ukrainians have not only briefly detained Russian military personnel transporting missiles on several occasions this summer. They also expelled a Russian diplomat who oversees naval issues and barred officers from the F.S.B., the Russian successor to the K.G.B., from working in Sevastopol.

The Ukrainians are trying to close a nearby Russian navigation station and are threatening penalties over supposed pollution from Russian vessels off Sevastopol, which is on the south of the Crimean Peninsula.

“Ukraine has become more demanding, and has a right to do that,” said the Sevastopol mayor, Sergei V. Kunitsyn, an appointee of the Ukrainian government.

Mr. Kunitsyn said Russian military trucks transporting missiles in Sevastopol had been stopped and searched by the police because their route had not been approved in advance, as is required under accords signed by Russia.

He insisted that day-to-day interactions involving the Russian fleet were being carried out in a businesslike manner in Sevastopol, a city of 350,000.

He said Ukraine was not trying to oust the Russian fleet, though he did raise the prospect of additional pressure.

“If we wanted to, they would have such problems that they would never be able to leave the port,” he said. “According to the law, we could find 1,000 reasons why the fleet could simply not live.”

The Crimean Peninsula, which has two million people, is part of Ukraine through something of a historic fluke. In 1954, Nikita S. Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, transferred it to Ukraine from Russia, though at the time the decision had little significance because both were part of the Soviet Union.

Besides serving as host for the Black Sea Fleet, the peninsula had a cherished role in the Soviet era as a vacation spot, with beaches and abundant fruits and vegetables.

After the Soviet fall, Russia reached a deal with Ukraine to maintain the base in Sevastopol, under a lease that ends in 2017. The Ukrainian president, Viktor A. Yushchenko, has declared that it will not be renewed, though his successors may not concur.

The current concern is that a spark in Crimea — however unlikely — could touch off a violent confrontation or even the kind of fighting that broke out between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia.

The situation is particularly uneasy because the population in Crimea is roughly 60 percent ethnic Russian and would prefer that the peninsula separate from Ukraine and be part of Russia. (Sevastopol has an even higher proportion of ethnic Russians.)

People have been upset by new Ukrainian government policies that require the use of the Ukrainian language, rather than Russian, in government activities, including some courses in public schools. Throughout downtown Sevastopol last week, residents set up booths to gather signatures on petitions in an effort to overturn the regulations.

And on Monday, Ukrainian independence day, ethnic Russians in Crimea held anti-Ukrainian demonstrations.

Sergei P. Tsekov, a senior politician in Crimea who heads the main ethnic Russian communal organization, said he hoped that Russia would wholeheartedly endorse Crimean separatism just as it did the aspirations of South Ossetia and another Georgian enclave, Abkhazia.

“The central authorities in Ukraine are provoking the people of Crimea,” Mr. Tsekov said. “They relate to us like Georgia related to the Abkhazians and South Ossetians. They think that we’re going to forget our roots, our language, our history, our heroes. Only stupid people would think that we’re going to do that. Unfortunately, stupid people currently lead Ukraine.”

Crimean separatists have been encouraged by prominent politicians in Russia, including Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, and a senior member of Parliament, Konstantin F. Zatulin, both of whom have been barred from Ukraine by the government because of their assertions that Sevastopol belongs to Russia.

The Kremlin has not publicly backed the separatists, though it has declared that the rights of ethnic Russians in Crimea must not be violated.

While not denying frictions between Russia and Ukraine, Mr. Kunitsyn, Sevastopol’s mayor, said ethnic Russians in the city were more worried about the local economy than who was in charge of the local government. He said employment in military and merchant fleets had dropped sharply.

“People are slowly getting used to the idea that Sevastopol is Ukraine’s, and that Ukraine is helping Sevastopol,” he said.

Near the harbor, though, residents did not necessarily agree.

Larisa G. Bakanova, 74, a retired teacher, was at a petition booth not far from a monument to Adm. Pavel S. Nakhimov, who led Russia’s defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War in the 1850s. She said people had eagerly signed up to oppose Ukrainian language mandates.

“The pressure from Kiev is more and more intense,” she said. “They are stirring us up. They need to understand that this is the city of Sevastopol — a city of military glory, a city of Russian glory.”

Source: The New York Times

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kiev To Blame For Worsening Of Russia-Ukraine Ties - Yanukovych

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych blamed Kiev on Wednesday for the worsening of Russian-Ukrainian ties.

Pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovych

"Never before have we had such unpleasant relations with the Russia as at present," the leader of Ukraine's opposition and pro-Russian Party of Regions told readers of a Kiev-based newspaper in a phone-in.

He also said that Ukraine's "negligent leaders are pursuing a badly thought-out policy regarding our neighbors."

In an August 11 open letter to his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev blamed Kiev for the deterioration in relations between the two former Soviet republics, strained in recent years by gas disputes, Ukraine's desire to join NATO, and interpretations of the Soviet-era famine in Ukraine. Russia has also accused Ukraine of supplying weapons to Georgia during last year's war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.

Medvedev also announced in his message that he was holding off sending Russia's new ambassador to Ukraine over Kiev's anti-Russian policies.

"The well-known events in South Ossetia will also remain a dark chapter in Russian-Ukrainian relations. This is a fact," Yanukovych, who is planning to run in January's presidential elections in Ukraine, said.

On the issue of the Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute, the former premier said he regretted that "the entire contractual base in gas relations developed by several Ukrainian governments has been ruined."

Source: RIA Novosti

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ukraine Denies Its Soldiers Fought For Georgia In Russia War

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Defense Ministry denied a Russian claim that it sent troops to fight alongside Georgian army units in a five-day war with Russia last year over the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.

“No Ukrainian army units entered Georgian territory last August,” Ihor Khalyavinskyi, a ministry spokesman, said by telephone in the Ukrainian capital Kiev today. “Only two Ukrainian soldiers were there as observers under a United Nations mandate.”

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said yesterday that it had “received information” that Ukrainian army troops had fought with Georgia in the war, though it didn’t say this information had been confirmed.

Russia routed Georgia’s army in the war and later recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent countries, a move condemned by the U.S. and many European countries.

Russia has agreed to defend both regions’ borders. Moscow previously accused Ukraine of delivering arms to Georgia before the war.

Russian investigators also said they had “incontrovertible proof” that members of the Ukrainian nationalist organization UNA-UNSO fought with the Georgian army.

Oleksandr Kovalenko, head of the UNA-UNSO executive committee, dismissed the Russian claim as “absolute nonsense.”

“Georgia kept everything secret,” Kovalenko said by telephone from Kiev. “They didn’t need us.”

Source: Bloomberg

Wife, Bystander Unable To Help Man Who Drowned After Saving His Dog

CHICAGO, USA -- She and her husband, Vasily Fedorouk, an internationally renowned sculptor from Westmont, were playing with their dog, Era, near Horsetail Lake in the Cook County forest preserve in Palos Township on Sunday morning.

Vasily Fedorouk, internationally renowned sculptor from Ukraine, gave his life to save his 2 1/2 year-old German hunting terrier dog.

It was the first time they had taken the dog to the location, and Arapova was leery. "There were a lot of weeds [along the shore]," Arapova said.

The 2 1/2 -year-old German hunting terrier went into the lake to fetch a ball but got caught in some vegetation. Fedorouk, 59, jumped into the lake, freed the family pet but wound up getting entangled himself, officials said.

"He was waving his hands in the water," Arapova said. "At first I thought he was joking. Then he went underwater and I started to scream. I couldn't help him. I can't swim."

Arapova said another man at the scene, who also couldn't swim, called police on a cell phone. Police and paramedics arrived about eight minutes after the incident, Arapova said, but it was too late.

Fedorouk was found submerged in 6 to 8 feet of water and later was pronounced dead. An official with the Cook County medical examiner's office said Monday that Fedorouk died of accidental drowning. Arapova said police told her that Fedorouk apparently got caught in fishing line.

On Monday, Arapova and her son, Anton Fedorouk, 24, were grieving and making funeral arrangements for a man who was being recalled as a hardworking, passionate artist.

"He would work from sunup to sundown on his sculptures," Arapova said. "That was his passion. He would want to be remembered for his art. He [once] told me that after he dies, his art will still live on forever."

Fedorouk, who immigrated to the United States with his wife from Ukraine in 1992, attended the Lviv Academy of the Arts, in Lviv Ukraine, in the mid-1970s.

Fedorouk's Web site states that his works have been exhibited internationally and are in private collection in the United States, Ukraine, Russia, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Brazil, Norway, Korea and Israel. Fedorouk also donated many public pieces, including a piece for the Seattle 1990 Goodwill Games. Fedorouk used a variety of hard materials, including bronze, wood, clay and his greatest love -- stone -- in his sculptures.

Arapova said Fedorouk made a living making pieces for private collectors.

Some of his pieces are on exhibit in the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago.

Anton Fedorouk was not surprised that his father risked his life for Era. "He loved our dog. He would do anything to save it."

Source: Chicago Tribune

Monday, August 24, 2009

Is Ukraine Fit For The EU?

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union just helped put together a consortium of international banks to offer Kiev up to $3.6 billion in loans to buy Russian gas. The idea is to prevent a repeat of the January 2009 crisis, when Moscow shut down gas deliveries to Ukraine after Kiev failed to pay its energy bills.

The Brussels-brokered loan offer may encourage Kiev to clean up its corrupt gas sector.

As Ukraine transits 80% of Russian gas exports to the rest of Europe, the stoppage left many EU member states in the cold as well. Ukraine has been hit hard by the economic crisis and is having even more trouble than usual paying for Russian gas.

If Ukraine agrees to the terms of the loan, the money may help avert an immediate crisis and trigger badly needed Ukrainian reforms. At the same time, though, the funds will also "Europeanize" the next gas spat, potentially undermining EU-Ukrainian relations.

The money from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank will allow Ukraine to continue filling its gas reservoirs. Although the gas will technically belong to Ukraine, EU governments—having arranged the loans to purchase it—will expect Ukraine to maintain uninterrupted supplies.

If a crisis breaks out again and Kiev taps "European" gas for its own use, EU governments will be furious and the country's chances of EU membership will diminish. The gas loans may thus turn out to be the most important test of Ukraine's EU fitness as Brussels will expect the country to live up to its contractual obligations to deliver gas to Europe.

That would be a complete change from the crisis in January 2009, when the EU acted as a "concerned third party." Back then it treated the gas stoppage as a commercial and political dispute between Ukraine and Russia, helping to broker an agreement between the two parties

This will not be lost on Russia, which is not keen on Ukraine joining the EU. By turning off gas to Ukraine, Moscow could thus force on Kiev a draconian choice: Use stored gas to supply Europe and suffer economically or supply the domestic industry at the expense of EU customers and see its hopes of joining the bloc ruined.

Luckily for Kiev, Russia may now have more reason than ever to avoid another fight: Gazprom, the dominant Russian gas producer, lost over $1 billion in the January crisis, and its financial situation has worsened since then, mostly due to low gas prices on the back of the global financial crisis.

This also explains why Moscow has been a more constructive actor in recent months. It has paid in advance the entire annual fee for the rights to transit gas through Ukraine, and it is not claiming penalties (to which it is entitled) for Kiev taking fewer deliveries than it contracted.

But Russian energy maneuvers are only part of Kiev's problems. Gas is to Ukraine what cocaine was to Colombia—it has corrupted an entire generation of politicians, who grew rich skimming off profits from the gas trade. Billions are stolen through shady intermediaries who handle gas sales to Ukraine and yet more money goes missing in black trade that exploits price differences in gas retail prices on the Ukrainian market.

Trading companies buy gas ostensibly destined to poor households at cheaper, subsidized rates and then sell it to some steel smelter for a lot more. Moscow of course happily collaborates with Ukrainian politicians for a share of the booty. The EU increasingly questions whether Ukraine can ever be a reliable transit country, irrespective of what Russia does.

To dispel EU gas-supply fears, Ukraine has granted European monitors wide access to its gas facilities. But that will not be enough. Ukraine needs to reform its gas sector to end corruption and the expensive gas subsidies to households, which are bankrupting the country.

If it fails to do so, the pressure will grow on Ukraine to allow even greater European control over its gas system. EU officials have hinted at the possibility of forming a joint EU-Ukrainian consortium by encouraging EU gas companies to take a stake in Naftogaz, the country's oil and gas monopoly.

Europe's entry into a joint gas consortium, though, would be an imperfect solution. Those EU governments that are traditionally close to Moscow, such as Germany and Italy, would want to avoid a fight with Russia and probably insist that the country be included in the consortium.

But this would be tantamount to putting a fox in charge of a chicken coop. Russia has little regard for Ukrainian sovereignty, and it would surely try to use its control over the country's gas grid to undermine Ukraine's attempts to draw closer to the EU.

Far better for Ukraine to continue running its own gas pipelines. To that end, EU pressure on Ukraine to reform its gas laws to fight corruption and cut consumption would be more constructive than its direct involvement. The recent loan offer is a step in the right direction; it requires Ukraine to introduce reforms first in order to qualify for the money.

Kiev has of course failed to live up to similar reform pledges in the past. This time, things are different. Ukraine needs foreign money to keep the gas flowing. Also, until recently, Ukrainian leaders could semi-convincingly argue that reforms, which would raise domestic gas prices, should wait until the economy improves and until after presidential elections scheduled for January 2010.

But the World Bank is ready to spend part of its $500 million offer on mitigating the social impact of higher gas prices. So those concerns are no longer as relevant as they used to be.

The Ukrainian government has now started raising gas prices for households, although some subsidies remain. After the elections, there will be no more excuses for postponing further reforms. To remain solvent and truly autonomous, Ukraine needs to consume less gas and clean up its gas trading system.

As Europe could soon "own" part of Ukraine's gas reserves, a failure to reform could otherwise set up Kiev and Brussels for a serious showdown during the next gas spat and sink Ukraine's EU membership plans. Let's hope the EU-arranged loans will help concentrate minds in Kiev.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Russia Accuses Ukraine On Georgia

LONDON, England -- Ukrainian troops fought alongside Georgian forces in the brief conflict last August between Georgia and Russia, Moscow prosecutors say.

Russian tanks in South Ossetia, in August of 2009.

Regular soldiers, as well as 200 members of a Ukrainian nationalist group, took part in the fighting, the prosecutor general's office said.

The statement comes amid worsening relations between Moscow and Kiev.

Ukraine denied it helped Georgian attempts to re-assert control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

It is believed to be the first time a Russian official has made such a direct accusation in a long war of words between Moscow and Kiev about the conflict, says the BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow.

'Anti-Russian policies'

"Soldiers from Ukraine's regular defence ministry detachments and at least 200 members of the UNA-UNSO nationalist organisation took part in the armed aggression against South Ossetia," the Russian prosecutor general's office said in Monday's statement.

A spokesman for the office said Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons had been seized, and went on to name individual UNA-UNSO members involved.

He also claimed to have evidence including uniforms, photographs and other personal belongings.

Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Konstantin Sadilov told AP news agency no members of Ukraine's military had fought in the war, though he did not rule out the possibility that other Ukrainians could have taken part.

Relations between the two countries took another turn for the worse earlier this month when the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Ukraine of pursuing anti-Russian policies.

He added that there was no hope of any improvement in relations while the Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko remained in power.

Source: BBC News

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Russia's Moves Raise Doubts About Obama's 'Reset'

KIEV, Ukraine -- The much-trumpeted "reset" of relations between Russia and the U.S. was dealt a slap in the face last week as Moscow went on the offensive against Ukraine and Georgia.

Ukrainians holds hold a poster depicting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and a comment reading "No more drinking for Medvedev" in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine.

After Russian President Dmitri Medvedev waded into Ukrainian politics with barbed criticism of his Ukrainian counterpart's "anti-Russian" policies, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin embarked on a provocative trip to reaffirm support for Abkhazia, the Moscow-backed territory that enjoys de facto independence from Georgia.

While Washington insists that it will not recognize a Russian "sphere of influence," the moves by Medvedev and Putin place a question mark over the Obama Administration's ability to check Russia's determination to forcefully push what it calls its "privileged interests" in its neighboring countries.

The flurry of diplomatic activity came symbolically on the anniversary of last summer's Russia-Georgia war, in which Moscow intervened on behalf of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The reset, announced by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in February, was meant to signal the rebuilding of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia that had soured under George W. Bush. But despite some progress on issues such as arms control and Afghanistan when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Moscow in July, it's back to business as usual for Russia with its neighbors, as it tries to assert its authority despite the U.S.'s disapproval.

"The one thing that could most endanger the reset policy would be really bad Russian behavior in the post-Soviet states," says Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. "The Russians don't want to recreate the Soviet Union, but they do want a system in which their neighbors pay close deference to what Moscow determines to be its vital national interests. The United States has a different view."

After weeks of escalating diplomatic tensions between Russia and Ukraine, including mutual expulsions of diplomats, Medvedev on Aug. 11 unleashed a tirade of complaints in a letter and video blog posted on the Kremlin web site, in which he accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko of bringing relations to "unprecedented lows."

Since coming to power in 2005 — after mass protests known as the Orange Revolution overturned a ballot rigged in favor of Moscow-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych — Yushchenko has riled the Kremlin with his attempts to drag Ukraine away from Russia's sphere of influence and toward the West.

After an extensive list of gripes, covering Ukraine's attempts to join NATO, its sale of weapons to Georgia, its interpretation of Soviet history and its attitude toward the Russian language, Medvedev announced that he was delaying the dispatch of the new Russian ambassador to Kiev until things improved.

Yushchenko responded with his own letter directed at Medvedev, criticizing the Russian President's meddling in Ukraine's foreign policy decisions, saying that while he agreed relations were bad he was "surprised that you completely deny Russia's responsibility for this."

The Russian leadership has long been battling with Yushchenko over what they see as his attempts to tear apart two countries that are, according to Medvedev, "not just neighbors, but brother nations." In his letter, Medvedev signaled that Moscow would like to see a more cooperative leader in place in Kiev after Ukraine's presidential elections in January, a statement that hit a raw nerve with Ukrainians, who still remember Russia's forays into the 2004 elections in support of Yanukovych.

Valeriy Chaly, deputy director of the Razumkov Center think tank in Kiev, says that the publication of Medvedev's letter showed that the President was trying to insert the topic of Russia into election discussions as it did in 2004: "It's a test of loyalty for the presidential candidates."

But observers in Kiev say Medvedev's attack only proves that Russia has learnt nothing from its botched intervention in 2004, and that the latest move is likely to backfire — despite a generally positive attitude toward Russia, Ukrainians often react negatively when they feel they're being bullied.

And although the leading contenders for the Ukrainian presidency are less overtly opposed to Russia's demands than the incumbent (who is running despite low approval ratings), Moscow is set to be disappointed if it thinks a change in leadership is going to bring Ukraine back into its fold. Even ostensibly pro-Russian Yanukovych has in the past blown hot and cold on NATO integration, a goal of Yushchenko's that has consistently irked Moscow.

"Ukraine's position is pretty consolidated," says Chaly. "It's not anti-Russian, but the country's foreign and domestic policy depends on national interests, so even pro-Russian politicians aren't going to lead us toward goals declared by the Russian President."

The breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are proving more pliable. With Nicaragua the only country other than Russia to recognize their independence, they are reliant on support from Moscow, which has been happy to oblige.

The day after Medvedev's letter was made public, Prime Minister Putin visited Abkhazia, pledging around $500 million in military aid. Georgia reacted angrily, calling the visit "a provocation carried out quite in the tradition of Soviet special services," a reference to Putin's KGB past.

The anniversary of the conflict in South Ossetia also saw Medvedev backing an initiative that would give a legal basis for deploying the Russian military abroad to defend Russian citizens and armed forces from attack — precisely the reason given by Moscow for its intervention last year. This raises concerns about the Kremlin's designs on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which has a large ethnic Russian population and is home to the Black Sea Fleet.

While Russia continues to reach into its neighbors' affairs, there appears to be little that Washington can do. Although Biden was in Ukraine and Georgia in July to show support, the response to Medvedev's letter was low-key, with a State Department spokesman repeating the customary defense of Ukraine's sovereignty and its right to make its own choices.

"The Russian leadership thinks that despite its rhetoric the U.S. is so heavily focused elsewhere that it is not really interested in the former Soviet Union," says Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, an independent think tank in Moscow. "The reset was done on the U.S. side; the Russians didn't feel they had anything to correct."

Source: Time

Could Ukraine Lose Euro 2012?

KIEV, Ukraine -- In Ukraine, soccer is simply politics pursued through other means. The vicious and sometimes petty power struggle at the highest reaches of the country’s government has spilled over to its sports fields.

In Ukraine even soccer is politics, infrastructure improvements have fallen behind.

Two years ago, UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, awarded Ukraine and its Slavic neighbor Poland the prestigious designation as co-hosts of the European soccer championships in 2012. The European championship, held every four years, is the largest international soccer tournament after the World Cup and one of the world’s largest sporting events.

Only UEFA didn’t reckon on Ukraine’s dysfunctional ruling elite. Now Ukraine’s ability to host its part of the games is under threat, which could have wide-ranging political repercussions here.

The original announcement that Poland and Ukraine had been selected as the 2012 venue was met with great pride and anticipation. Ukraine, a soccer mad nation, was taking one more step closer to Europe, it was hoped, and Europeans would discover the charms of this nation of 46 million on the continent’s edge.

Billions of dollars would gush into the country from investors and tourists. The country’s creaking infrastructure would receive a complete overhaul, from roads and airports to hotels and stadiums. And UEFA saw massive dollar signs in terms of the new markets of consumers in the East that would open up.

But it seems nothing is immune to the battle royal between President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other member of government. It has brought the country’s decision making to a standstill on numerous occasions, and relations with crucial bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, which is trying to help the country weather its grim economic situation, have suffered.

Now it seems that UEFA can be added to the list of organizations that have struggled, and possibly failed, to help Ukraine help itself. In June, Transport Minister Yosip Vinsky resigned, claiming that Tymoshenko was blocking important funds needed to prepare for the tournament.

Then at the beginning of August, Yushchenko sent back to parliament a bill releasing more than $1 billion for tournament funding, questioning how the money would actually be used.

Tymoshenko lashed back and promised that she would override the veto, and claimed the Ukrainian leader was grandstanding before the country’s presidential elections next year.

“[Euro 2012] will have a positive economic effect,” Tymoshenko said, according to news agencies. “We cannot miss this opportunity.”

The danger is in fact that Ukraine could indeed “miss this opportunity.” In May, UEFA took the unprecedented step of warning Ukraine that it risked losing the bulk of the matches because its infrastructure — hotels, airports, roads and, yes, stadiums — was not up to par, or construction was woefully behind schedule.

“Important shortcomings regarding infrastructure” were found in Ukraine, UEFA’s leadership said in a statement after a meeting in Bucharest, Romania. “Significant work must be undertaken to meet the minimum requirements for an event of the size of a final tournament.”

Add Ukraine's economic meltdown and rampant corruption, and you have the makings of a organizational fiasco, experts say.

Three Ukrainian cities — Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lviv — were given until Nov. 30 to demonstrate that they were capable of hosting games. Kiev for its part would definitely see quarter and semi-final games, UEFA said, but could lose out on the biggest prize of them all: playing host to the championship final.

Each city has at least one major hurdle to overcome. Donetsk, despite putting the finishing touches on a 50,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium, lacks hotel space. Lviv suffers from an antiquated, Soviet-era airport, which is controlled by the central government.

“The airport is now and has been for the past six months our biggest headache,” said Serhiy Kiral, head of foreign investments for the Lviv city council. “The [central] government has no clear strategy, nor does it have professional team of experts or consultants to implement such complex … projects.”

Kiral added that work was progressing, however, and that he hoped that the government in Kiev would iron out the complications by September. Likewise, Yushchenko’s veto would not immediately impact Lviv’s ability to fund its projects, he said.

The city has found financing by itself for its new $80 million, 33,000 seat stadium, currently under construction. But the constuction is only half paid for, until the end of 2009. Kiral said the magnitude of the improvement projects is daunting.

“This is an enormous undertaking – work that hasn’t been done for 20 to 30 years,” he said.

But according to Illia Shevliak, director of the central coordination bureau for the tournament preparations in Kiev, the government is still convinced that four Ukrainian cities will be ultimately chosen as venues, to balance out four already confirmed in Poland.

“I sincerely believe,” Shevliak said. “We are applying all our energies to accomplish this.”

Adding insult to injury, UEFA head Michel Platini announced last month that two German cities, Berlin and Leipzig, could step into the breach if Ukraine was not up to the job. On a trip to Ukraine however, he said he still hoped that Ukraine would meet the challenge.

“I am confident. But I need just a little guarantee,” he told Yushchenko.

The loss of the Euro championship could directly impact the political fortunes of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in the end. Being named host was a great honor, many here say, and to lose the games would be a humiliation of unprecedented proportions.

“If we don’t get it, it’s obviously the government’s fault,” said Nikolai Yurashko, a businessman in Lviv. “They missed a great chance.”

Source: Global Post

Vitali Klitschko, Heavyweight Champ And Renaissance Man, Harbors Dreams Of World Domination

LOS ANGELES, CA -- The Ukrainian-born boxer speaks four languages and raises millions to help children in his homeland. He foresees a day when he or his brother own all four of the most coveted heavyweight titles.

WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko.

Forget your preconceived notions, your visions of Mike Tyson-like characters, and meet Vitali Klitschko, World Boxing Council heavyweight boxing champion.

He lives with his wife and three children in Bel-Air, speaks four languages, quotes French philosophers, has a doctorate in sports sciences and speaks passionately about the need to improve the lives of people in his childhood home of Kiev, Ukraine.

Klitschko has a foundation that has raised millions of dollars toward that goal and will be his main focus when his boxing days have ended.

He dotes on his little brother, an inch shorter at 6 feet 6 and a similar fighting weight of 255 pounds -- and who holds two other world heavyweight titles.

"He is the closest person in the world to me," Vitali, 38, says of Wladimir, 33.

Vitali says he won't ever fight his little brother, mainly because his mother, back home in Kiev, "might have a heart attack." Another reason, he says, smiling with much more pride than fear, is that Wladimir "is a dangerous opponent."

Right now, the heavyweight division in boxing is the Klitschko Division. That has served the sport well in Europe, especially Germany, where their fights sell out soccer stadiums and bring huge TV ratings. But in the good ol' USA, fans remember the Ali-Frazier-Foreman era and wonder whatever happened to Tyson. The Klitschkos are barely on the radar.

If they are at all, it is because of Vitali's battle with champion Lennox Lewis at Staples Center on June 21, 2003. Two rounds ahead on all three cards after six rounds, Klitschko lost the fight when the ring doctor took a long look at an ugly cut over his left eye and said no mas.

It took 63 stitches to close the cut. Today, Klitschko has no scar and only memories of what might have been, from a fight that created perhaps the most buzz of any heavyweight title fight since Tyson chomped on Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997. Klitschko says the cut had not caused him any vision problems, that his handlers had it under control by the sixth round, and that the doctor summoned to his corner by the referee had been called to look at a cut on his lip, not his eye.

Still, even Klitschko has to admit it was gruesome.

"When I looked at the film later," he says, "I said: 'Oh, my God.' "

He says his wife, Natalie, watching from ringside, was horrified.

"She was sitting next to Sylvester Stallone," Klitschko says, "and he told her this was bloodier than the movie."

When Klitschko fights again at Staples, that memory may actually sell some tickets. That will be Sept. 26, against local favorite Chris Arreola of Riverside, who is 10 years younger than Klitschko and has 24 knockouts in his 27-0 record.

It is a fight that has a chance to return some of the attention to boxing's heavyweights. It certainly has a chance to shine some light on the fascinating story and personality of Vitali Klitschko.

The son of a Soviet air force colonel and a schoolteacher, he moved to Kiev in 1985. It was the year before the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, 100 miles to the north. He and Wladimir were the family's only two children. Vitali was 14 when the accident took place. He recalls his father, as a member of the military, having more information and a better idea of how serious it was, calling home and telling the family not to open their mouths, to breathe through their noses.

"He said to wash our hands a lot, to stay inside," Klitschko says.

The accident happened April 26, and the sacrosanct Soviet May Day celebration on May 1, with children parading through the streets of Kiev, went on as planned.

"We had to go," Klitschko says. "There was no choice." Four years later, one of his friends who seemed completely healthy, suddenly became ill and died within a week. "It was leukemia . . . the radiation," Klitschko says.

He says when he and his brother are together they often get teased for being so big. He says he just tells people they are products of the radiation, that they are "a Chernobyl side effect."

More seriously, he says his father, now 62, has cancer.

In addition to his home in Bel-Air, he lives part of the year in Hamburg, Germany, site of many of his fights, and another part of the year in Kiev. All three children -- Egor Daniel, 9; Elizabeth, 7; and Max, 4 -- were born in the United States and so are U.S. citizens. Max was born several days after the death of Max Schmeling, the former German heavyweight champion and Klitschko's friend, and was named for him.

It is Schmeling's influence that brings Klitschko to his third fight at Staples, more than any other boxing headliner there, including one whose statue is out front, Oscar De La Hoya.

"Max told me one time," Klitschko says, "if you want to be a real world champion, you need to fight in the United States."

Tyson had an influence too.

"I was 15," Klitschko says, "and we would find a TV to watch Tyson's fights. In those days of the Soviet Union, fighting professionally was not allowed. Everything was for the state and for the Olympics. But we would watch, and when I saw Tyson win the heavyweight title [at age 20, over Trevor Berbick] and I saw how young he was, I stood up in front of my friends and told them I would one day win that title. I was just a skinny kid and they laughed at me.

"Then, when I won the title, I went home to Kiev and called up all those same friends who were there the night I said that. I invited them to a restaurant. They got there, we sat down, and I took out the same belt that Tyson had won and put it on the table.

"I have a memory like an elephant."

Klitschko fought three more times after the Lennox Lewis fight, then was out for nearly four years after rotator cuff surgery. He returned to take back his title with an eight-round technical knockout of Samuel Peter on Oct. 11, 2008, in Berlin. His most recent fight was March 21 in Stuttgart, where he beat Juan Carlos Gomez with a TKO in the ninth.

Of the four most-sought heavyweight belts in a sea of alphabet soup sanctioning groups, the Klitschko brothers have three -- Wladimir the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization and Vitali the WBC. The fourth, the World Boxing Assn., is held by Russian Nikolay Valuev.

"My dream is for the Klitschko brothers to hold all four at the same time," Vitali says.

Klitschko avoids predictions for his match with Arreola, other than one that befits a boxer who has never been knocked down, never taken a standing count and whose 37-2 record includes 36 knockouts.

"I promise one thing," he says. "I do not know who the winner will be, but the fight won't go 12 rounds."

That's as much trash-talking as you'll get from a man who plays chess, ran for mayor of Kiev in 2006 and was once honored by the United Nations for his work as a humanitarian.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ukraine MPs Tackle Central Bank For Euro-2012 Cash

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament on Friday overturned a presidential veto in a bid to squeeze an extra $1.24 billion out of central bank profits as it searches for funds to finance the Euro-2012 soccer championship.

Plans are seen in front of the stadium due to host the Euro-2012 soccer championship final, in Kiev.

Ukraine, co-host of the 2012 European soccer championship with Poland, has been sharply criticised by Europe's soccer authority, UEFA, for shortcomings in its preparations -- including construction of stadiums and other infrastructure.

The country has been given until November to prove that it can prepare three regional cities to host tournament games, while Kiev is still under threat of losing the right to host the final to Warsaw.

A total of 384 deputies backed the measure on Friday -- more than the 300 needed in the 450-seat assembly to overcome the veto imposed by President Viktor Yushchenko on the law enabling the move last month.

The bill obliges the central bank to provide 9.8 billion hryvnias ($1.24 billion) to the budget -- the sum estimated by members of parliament to be the bank's profits this year. Normally, the bank only hands over its profits for a given year in the following year.

Yushchenko vetoed the law on grounds that it threatened the stability of money markets because of the extra emission of currency required.

Source: India News

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Medvedev's Message

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvedev, has had a busy August. On Aug. 8, he met with Russian troops, who a year ago had, according to the Kremlin Web site, repelled “Georgian aggression against South Ossetia.”

Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvedev.

On Aug. 10, he introduced a bill in the Duma to allow him to send Russian troops abroad to defend Russian citizens or prevent aggression against another state.

On Aug. 11, he wrote to the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, announcing his decision to delay — indefinitely — the dispatch of the new Russian ambassador to Ukraine. Mr. Medvedev explained his decision by citing Mr. Yushchenko’s anti-Russian policies.

He also hinted that the decision might be reversed after Ukraine’s presidential election in January, when the country will have “new political leadership.”

Few things can give Mr. Yushchenko, up for re-election with barely 3 percent support in the polls, a better boost than an attack from the Kremlin. But that was probably not Mr. Medvedev’s intent. The letter contains ominous warnings that suggest Russian intentions to escalate already tense relations after the latest gas cutoff last January.

The list of Mr. Medvedev’s complaints about Kiev’s policies covers virtually every aspect of Russian-Ukrainian relations: Mr. Yushchenko’s government supported Georgia in the war with Russia last year and supplied it with weapons.

Kiev interfered with Russia’s Black Sea fleet based in Sevastopol; it disrupted Russian natural gas deliveries to Europe; it used the specter of a Russian threat to seek NATO membership; it mistreated Russian investors; it engaged in historical revisionism in the glorification of Nazi collaborators; and it even tried to disrupt the visit of the Russian Patriarch to Ukraine.

The alleged offenses are so grave that Medvedev’s letter leaves little room for defusing the tensions. If the letter is “merely” an attempt to interfere in Ukraine’s domestic politics and warn voters that they should not re-elect the Western-leaning Mr. Yushchenko, it would not be the first time.

During the 2004 presidential election, which preceded Ukraine’s “Orange revolution,” the Kremlin intervened heavily on behalf of Mr. Yushchenko’s opponent, Viktor Yanukovich. But Moscow’s intervention backfired, and Mr. Yushchenko emerged as the nation’s democratic leader, propelled to victory in part by widespread resentment of Russian actions.

But what if Mr. Medvedev’s letter is not simply a replay of 2004? Relations between the two countries have been so bad for so long that everyone has become used to fiery exchanges between the two capitals. In this regard, the situation is reminiscent of Russian-Georgian relations on the eve of the war a year ago.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi had been so bad for so long, and signs of increasing tension had become part and parcel of Russian-Georgian relations to such a degree, that even many close observers were taken by surprise when the war began.

Who would have predicted that Georgia’s tiny military could go to war against the Russian Army? And Russia, conventional wisdom held, would not attack Georgia for fear of damaging its relations with the West.

Is Mr. Medvedev’s letter a sign that Russian patience with Ukraine is running out, that Russia is preparing to take drastic action — to reclaim the Crimean peninsula, for example, with its ethnic Russian majority?

Conventional wisdom holds that such a move would cause irreparable harm to Russian relations with Europe and the United States. Conventional wisdom also suggests that the bill Mr. Medvedev introduced on Aug. 10 on the use of Russian troops abroad is probably just a routine piece of legislation intended to fix glitches in existing Russian laws. Russia, after all, moved against Georgia without such legislation.

Conventional wisdom further argues that Russian leaders would not be so careless as to use military force in Crimea, where ethnic Russians reportedly have been obtaining Russian passports and where Russian naval personnel serve at the Sevastopol naval base.

And conventional wisdom argues that Ukraine could pose a greater challenge for the Russian military than did Georgia, thus acting as a further deterrent.

Conventional wisdom is reassuring. But relying on conventional wisdom can lead to unimagined results, as last year’s Russian-Georgian war demonstrated. Mr. Medvedev’s letter to the Ukrainian leader is an occasion to engage in unconventional speculation as to what might be the real reason behind it, and an opportunity to exercise our collective imagination in pursuit of a course of action that would boost our confidence in conventional wisdom.

Source: The New York Times

World Agenda: Merkel And Medvedev Share Ukraine's Munich Moment

MOSCOW, Russia -- It may come to be seen as Ukraine’s “Munich moment”. With Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, beside him, President Medvedev in effect broke off relations with Ukraine’s pro-Western leadership and signalled the Kremlin’s intention to meddle in Ukraine’s presidential elections to secure victory for the candidate most favourable to Russia.

Mr Medvedev, alongside Mrs Merkel, in effect broke off relations with Ukraine.

“I do not see any prospects for re-establishing normal relations under the current political leadership,” Mr Medvedev declared after Friday’s meeting with Ms Merkel at his Black Sea residence in Sochi. “I hope Ukraine’s new leadership will have many chances of considerably improving relations... this is a top foreign policy priority for us.”

Ms Merkel’s response was silence. The head of the European Union’s largest country offered no support for Ukraine as a democratic partner, nor defended the right of its people to choose their leaders for themselves

Her silence was noted with surprise by Ukrainian officials and satisfaction in the Kremlin, where “Project Ukraine” is the top priority ahead of January’s election. Moscow intends to undo the 2004 Orange Revolution — triggered by its hamfisted attempt to rig the last presidential election in favour of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych — and bring Ukraine back within its sphere of interest.

Ms Merkel cannot claim to have been caught unawares. Days earlier Mr Medvedev had denounced Ukraine’s leader, President Yushchenko, as anti-Russian in an open letter setting out a long list of grievances.

These included his “stubborn” pursuit of NATO membership, support for Georgia in the war over South Ossetia, and “incessant” interference with Russia’s Black Sea fleet based at Ukraine’s Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Mr Medvedev accompanied his letter with a video blog shot against the backdrop of the Black Sea with what looked suspiciously like a Russian warship anchored offshore.

Crimea is a particularly touchy subject. Most Russians regard it as historically their territory and many of Crimea’s residents are sympathetic to Moscow. The fleet is required to leave Ukraine by 2017 but Russia does not want to go.

This is where Mr Medvedev’s sudden focus on Ukraine turns sinister. In his letter, he described Kiev’s decision to expel two Russian diplomats, one in Odessa and the other in Sevastopol, as a “provocation unprecedented in the entire post-Soviet space”.

The Times has learnt, however, that Ukraine’s intelligence service established that one of the diplomats was distributing up to $100,000 a month to pro-Russian groups in the area, and the other was attempting to recruit local councillors as informers.

The fear in Kiev is that the Kremlin will play the Crimean card in the election or later to destabilise any regime considered insufficiently pro-Russian. A Georgian-style scenario, in which troops invade to “protect” Russian citizens, cannot be ruled out. Mr Medvedev submitted legislation to parliament last week that will give him powers to despatch the military abroad “to defend the interests of Russia and its citizens”.

At Munich in 1938, Czechoslovakia’s fate was sealed by European powers too timid to resist an aggressive neighbour. Russia showed its readiness to use force in Georgia last year and now has turned its attention to Ukraine.

The EU, dependent on Russian gas, imposed no serious penalty on Moscow over Georgia. The Kremlin sees Ms Merkel’s silence as an encouraging sign that it will escape just as lightly if it succeeds in undercutting Ukraine’s independence.

Source: TimesOnLine

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Europe’s Share In The Ukrainian Malaise

NEW YORK, NY -- Much can be heard from Western visitors of Ukraine or observers analyzing the post-Soviet region that Kyiv politics today is a “mess.” Hardly anybody (least of all, Ukrainians themselves) will disagree. Even lowbrow EU citizens may come up with an opinion on current Ukrainian affairs, and criticize the ensuing political chaos, in Kyiv.

Dr. Andreas Umland, the author of this article, is a former fellow at Stanford, Harvard and Oxford.

Sometimes, Western ignorance mixes with European arrogance to re-produce stereotypes about Ukraine eerily similar to the way in which former KGB officers in Moscow would like to portray Europe’s largest new democracy.

Worse, what mostly remains unmentioned in West European assessments of current Ukrainian affairs, is that the foremost Western organization dealing with Ukraine, the EU, bears responsibility for the current political disarray, at Kyiv. Most analysts would readily agree that the EU perspective played a considerable role in, or even was a necessary precondition for, the quick stabilization and democratization of post-communist Central Europe.

Many political scientists would admit that, in Western Europe too, peace, stability and affluence during the last 60 years have been closely linked to European integration. However, few EU politicians and bureaucrats are prepared to state in public what would seem to logically follow from these observations, concerning the Ukrainian case.

If EU prospects and membership had a clearly beneficial effect from Tallinn to Dublin, then the absence of a European perspective for a manifestly European country means also – the absence of that effect, in the case of Ukraine.

The post-war notion of “Europe” is intimately linked to the economic, social and political dynamism of increasing pan-continental cooperation. When we say “European” today we often mean the EU and the largely positive repercussions which the integration process had and has on securing economic, political and social progress across borders.

In the light of these historically recent achievements, some, however, forget about the state of Europe, in general, and of some European countries, in particular, before integration. Much of pre-war European history was, by contemporary standards, far “messier” than today Ukrainian politics is. Remember the League of Nations, Weimar Republic or Spanish Civil War?

Enlightened East European intellectuals too might admit that, without the prospect of EU membership, their countries could today look more like Belarus or Georgia rather than Portugal or Ireland. Both West and East European political elites and governmental apparatuses needed a road map towards a better and common future.

Only when European integration, whether after the Second World or the Cold War, provided such a vision was it that politicians, bureaucrats and intellectuals of many EU member states got their act together, and made their countries more politically and economically successful.

If one admits the relevance of the prospect of, preparation for, and eventual attainment of, EU membership for the internal development of many European states, one should also acknowledge the effects that an explicit denial of such a vision has, on Ukraine’s elites. Kyiv finds itself left in the “old Europe” of the pre-war period. Unlike politicians in most other European countries, Ukraine’s leaders still have to

navigate through a world of competing nation states, shifting international alliances, introverted political camps, and harsh zero-sum-games where the win of one national or international actor is the loss of the other. That is how domestic and European politics functioned across Europe before (and eventually resulted in) the two world wars.

East of the EU’s current borders these incentive structures are still largely intact and led to, among numerous other negative repercussions, the recent wars, on the Balkans and Caucasus.

Most Ukrainians themselves would be the first to admit that Ukraine is today not ready for EU membership or even for the candidacy status. However, many pro-European Ukrainians find it difficult to understand EU policies and rhetoric concerning these issues: Why, on the one hand, is Turkey an official candidate for EU membership, and Romania or Bulgaria already full members, when Ukraine, on the other hand, is not even provided with the tentative prospect of a future candidacy?

Is Turkey more European, and are Romania or Bulgaria really that much higher developed than Ukraine? Didn’t the Orange Revolution and two following parliamentary elections – all approved by the OSCE, Council of Europe and EU – show the adherence of Ukrainians to democratic rules and values?

Hasn’t Ukraine been more successful than other post-communist countries in averting inter-ethnic strife and in integrating national minorities? Didn’t the elites and population of Ukraine show restraint when tensions were building up between conflicting political camps, in Kyiv, or as a result of provocative Russian behaviour, on Crimea?

Of course, there are also recent developments, in Ukraine, that point in the opposite direction. They include continuing governmental corruption, increasing political stalemate, stagnating public administration reform, or silting industrial restructuring. However, with every passing year since the Orange Revolution, one asks oneself more and more: Are the various setbacks in Ukraine’s recent political and economic transition the reasons for, or rather a result of, the EU’s continuing unwillingness to offer a European perspective for Kyiv?

May it be that one cause for Ukraine’s frustrating domestic conflicts and halting economic transformation is the indeterminacy the country’s foreign orientation? Could it be that the EU’s demonstrative scepticism with regard to Ukraine’s ability to integrate into Europe is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? Aren’t the leaders of the EU themselves, to some degree, becoming responsible for Ukraine’s continuing failure to meet “European standards”?

As a result of EU introvertedness, Kyiv is left in a geopolitical nowhere land. Lacking a credible long-term vision of its own, Ukraine becomes the unofficial battlefield in a political proxy war between pro-Western and pro-Russian governmental and non-governmental organizations fighting for the future of this key, yet unconsolidated European country.

Without the disciplining effect that a credible EU membership perspective provides, there is no commonly accepted yardstick against which the elite’s behaviour could be measured. Ukrainian politicians, bureaucrats and intellectuals lack a focal point in the conduct of their domestic and international behaviour.

They are left to guess what the West’s and Russia’s “real” intentions with regard to Ukraine are, and how they should behave in order to secure economic development and political independence, for their country.

A stabilization of Ukraine is not only in the interests of the citizens of this young democracy, but should be also a key political concern for Brussels, Paris and Berlin. An economically weakened, politically divided and socially crisis-ridden Ukrainian state could destabilize and exhibit disintegrative tendencies. Ukraine’s population could polarize along linguistic lines with the ukrainophone West and Center put against the russophone South and East.

Such a development, in turn, could serve as a pretext for Russian intervention – with grave repercussions not only for East European politics, but also Russian-Western relations. In a worst-case scenario, the entire post-Cold War European security structure could be called into question.

The EU membership perspective constitutes a key instrument, for the West, to influence Ukrainian domestic affairs. The prospect of future European integration would reconfigure political discourse and restructure party conflicts, in Kyiv. Neither the Ukrainian common man nor Russia’s political leadership are, in distinction to their stance on Ukraine’s possible NATO membership, principally opposed to the idea of a Ukrainian future entry into the EU.

Even an entirely official statement by the EU on a possible admission of Ukraine to the EU some day would oblige the Union and member states to little, during the next years. The Delegation of the European Commission at Kyiv is already engaged in a wide range of cooperation projects with the Ukrainian government.

Offering Ukraine a European perspective would require only few practical changes in the current conduct of EU policies towards Kyiv. Yet, such an announcement would have a benevolent impact on the behaviour of Ukraine’s elites and make a deep impression on the population of this young democracy (as well as in Russia).

The EU’s leaders should try to see the larger picture, remember the recent past of their own countries, and stop their unhistorical cognitive dissonance. They should try do understand Ukraine’s current issues against the background of the West and Central European states' experience of instability before their participation in European integration. In the interest of the entire continent and all its peoples, they should offer Ukraine a European perspective sooner rather than later.

Source: Global Politician

Yushchenko Behaves Like Kuchma, Herman Says

KIEV, Ukraine -- “I would advise Pres Yushchenko to rise above old grudges and his own ambitions as well as give up any illusions that he has a chance to be reelected,” Regions’ Hanna Herman said Aug. 19.

Opposition Region Party's MP Hanna Herman.

Herman commented to ZIK, regarding Yushchenko’s intention to protest to the Constitutional Court if Verkhovna Rada overturns his veto on the presidential election law. It would be productive for the incumbent to meet with other political players to air his proposals and convince them to accept some of them, the lawmaker said.

“If Pres Yushchenko lacks the common sense the leader should have, she continued, some pitiful conclusions can be drawn as Yushchenko’s conduct in such a case would be reminiscent of the conduct of former Pres Kuchma who tried to cling to power at any cost by using legitimate and illegitimate means. President Yushchenko’s conduct looks this way if he persists that the election be held in accordance with the old law which provides ample opportunities for electoral fraud,” Herman said.

If Yushchenko has any reasonable proposals, they could be incorporated in the new election law. However, the incumbent should not engage in ultimatums, saying if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’ll protest to the Constitutional Court.

“One can’t behave like a fretful child. The Party of Regions is an influential political force, in fact, the largest party in Ukraine, and we will never tolerate the tone of lecturing,” she summed up.

Source: ZIK

Yushchenko To Skip Summit Of CIS Leaders

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko will “obviously” skip the next summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States following a sharp exchange with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said Tuesday.

Viktor Yushchenko

“The decision of the Ukrainian president is quite obvious because the president of Russia said he would have a dialog only with the new leadership of Ukraine,” Lytvyn said in an interview with Channel 5.

Lytvyn commented on a report in Kommersant daily that Yushchenko had decided not to attend the summit of the CIS on October 9 in Moldova after the sharp exchange with Medvedev.

Yushchneko’s office declined to comment on the report.

Medvedev, in a letter to the Ukrainian president last week, accused Yushchenko of promoting “anti-Russian” policy, and announced suspending the arrival of Russia’s new ambassador in Ukraine indefinitely.

In a reply, Yushchenko said he was “very disappointed” by the “unfriendly” letter, and suggested holding a bilateral meeting as soon as possible to discuss the problems. Medvedev flatly refused the idea.

The sharp exchange underscores worsening relations between Russia and Ukraine, the two biggest countries in Europe by territory, and come a year after Russia has invaded into Georgia, a pro-Western ally of Ukraine.

In years and months prior to the military incursion, Russia has been accusing Georgia and its president Mikhail Saakashvili of promoting an anti-Russian policy.

After the five-day war, Georgia has announced it will pull out from the CIS, a loose alliance of former Soviet Union states created in 1991.

The developments come as Moscow’s foreign policy has become more assertive as Russia has been seeking to strengthen the alliance perhaps towards creating a union that would be de-facto controlled by the Kremlin.

Yushchenko earlier complained that the CIS has become very ineffective with Russia, the biggest trade partner in the alliance, often restricting imports of goods from other countries.

The recent sharp exchange between Yushchenko and Medvedev has also put in focus the possibility of the military clash between Ukraine and Russia, especially after Medvedev has recently submitted legislation that allows use of military force in other countries for “protecting” holders of Russian passports.

Media reports said that Russia has been apparently handing out Russian passports to people in Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine populated mostly by ethnic Russians.

Yuriy Kostenko, a first deputy foreign minister, said there are “tens of thousands” of people in Ukraine that hold Russian and Ukrainian passports, and the suggested legislation has become a “concern” in Ukraine.

Kostenko, however, ruled out the possibility of the military conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko: 'I Am The State'

MOSCOW, Russia -- In January of the next year the presidential elections will take place in Ukraine. Very few people believe that Viktor Yushchenko has any chances for reelection.

File photo of Ukrainian President Yushchenko (L) and Russian President Medvedev, back in the days when they were still talking to each other.

However, about one month and a half ago he announced his intention to take part in the presidential election. Yushchenko seems not to realize the realities. The controversy between him and Dmitry Medvedev confirms it once again.

The Russian president found it necessary to stress out a huge difference between the desires and aspirations of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples and the position of the outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko. Not only did he fail to reduce the gap between different regions of Ukraine and reconcile the society excited by the Orange Revolution during his presidency, but on the contrary, he did his best to deepen this gap. The same happened with the relations between Russia and Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev outlined those claims to the Russian-Ukrainian relations, which the Russian authorities and Russia on the whole have. Medvedev addressed his letter personally to the Ukrainian president. After some bewilderment Viktor Yushchenko responded.

The response looked like the explanation of every accusation presented. However, Yushchenko attempted to present the facts as if the claims do not concern him personally but Ukraine as an independent nation on the whole. Yushchenko responded like Louis XIV of France, who believed that he personified the state and the people (“I am the state”). The second fact, that strikes the eye, is the substitution of theses and demonstrative struggle against the fictitious Russian claims.

Dmitry Medvedev made a pause and refrained from sending the new Russian ambassador to Ukraine in order to avoid speculation on the topic of the Russian-Ukrainian relations during the presentation of credentials and again - on the eve of the presidential election - not to deceive the electorate by the appearance of good relations between the two countries.

Medvedev's message has accomplished a serious task. The present Ukrainian authorities unwilling to resign would prefer not so acute topics to be discussed in the society. Russian politicians doubt that the Russian ambassador will start working in Ukraine before the presidential election. They have found out during Yushchenko’s presidency that it is impossible to come to an agreement with him.

Source: Pravda

Monday, August 17, 2009

Venus Williams Loses To Ukraine's Bondarenko In 2nd Round In Toronto In US Open Tuneup

TORONTO, Canada -- Venus Williams' tuneup for the U.S. Open hit a surprising roadblock Tuesday with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 loss to Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round of the Rogers Cup.

Kateryna Bondarenko, of Ukraine, celebrates after defeating Venus Williams, of the United States.

Williams, seeded third, lost to an opponent ranked No. 64. Williams was playing at this tournament for the first time since 1997 when she was 17. She has lost all three of her matches at the Rogers Cup.

"I was definitely expecting to play well and to go very far in the tournament," Williams said. "I've got a lot of fans here, so it's disappointing."

Bondarenko will play Agnes Szavay of Hungary or Agnieska Radwanska of Poland in the third round.

"I was playing really good," Bondarenko said. "The first set, I didn't know what to do with her power. The rest of the game, I just tried to keep the ball in play."

Williams tried to find some consolation in the defeat, with the U.S. Open starting Aug. 31.

"I have to take it as a positive," she said. "Now it'll give me a chance to rest. It's been a really busy summer for me."

Williams controlled the first set but couldn't shake Bondarenko, who chased down shot after shot in stifling Rexall Centre. Bondarenko broke Williams three times in the second set and once more in the third. She won 20 of 28 service points in the deciding set.

"She played well," Williams said. "She really started playing consistently. Unfortunately I made too many errors. I would have liked to play a cleaner match."

Bondarenko initially said it was "just another match," but quickly changed her mind.

"It's big because it was against Venus," she said, adding she now feels she can beat anyone if she can defeat an opponent of this stature.

Kim Clijsters cruised past Elena Baltacha 6-3, 6-4, advancing in her second tournament since taking more than two years off to have a child. In the late match, Samantha Stosur No. 6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3.

Ana Ivanovic rallied past Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph. Ivanovic, seeking her first WTA Tour title of the season, had seven double-faults against Rybarikova, ranked No. 47.

"I was trying to play a little too safe, I think," said Ivanovic, who will meet Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in the second round. "She's a good player, and she was playing really aggressive and dominant."

Safarova advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over Kaia Kanepi.

Also, Dominika Cibulkova beat Sara Errani 6-4, 6-2, Shahar Peer of Israel downed Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in just under three hours; Virginie Razzano of France defeated Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-7 (3), 6-0, 6-2; Zheng Jie of China downed Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-2; Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia beat Julie Coin of France 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (8); Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan earned a 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4) win over Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

Source: AP

Ukraine Says Russian Navy Pollutes Black Sea: Report

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has complained to Russia that its ships stationed in the naval base at Sevastopol have polluted the Black Sea, news agency Interfax reported Monday.

Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Kiev "has sent a protest note to the Russian Federation because of the pollution of the bay of Sevastopol" on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine, deputy foreign affairs minister Yury Kostenko was quoted as saying.

Russia has had a fleet in the Ukrainian port since Soviet times, but the base has become a source of tension as relations fray between Moscow and its ex-Soviet neighbour.

The pollution occurred at the end of July when a large number of Russian vessels contaminated the bay with oil, the foreign affairs ministry said, cited by Interfax.

According to the agreement governing the fleet, Russia should let Ukraine's environmental authorities enter the area in such a situation but this has not been allowed, Kostenko said.

Ukraine called on Moscow to take action and resolve the problem.

Since the start of the year, Kiev has sent 14 protest notes to Moscow over the fleet stationed on its territory.

Moscow has a lease on the base until 2017 and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for the fleet to leave when the lease expires.

The Russian Black Sea fleet is just one of several disputes which have caused relations to worsen between Moscow and Kiev in recent years.

Russia is uneasy over Ukraine's desire to join military alliance NATO and there have also been disagreements over the price of gas sold to Kiev by Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week of pursuing "anti-Russian" policies. Yushchenko rejected the accusations.

Source: AFP