Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Accuses Rival

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Sunday accused her pro-Russian rival in next week's presidential poll run-off, Viktor Yanukovich, of preparing to take power by force.

PM Yulia Tymoshenko

She said Yanukovich, the favourite to win the February 7 poll, was massing supporters around the capital Kiev and preparing to use "any means" to take power.

"The electoral commission acts like everything is fine, (but) in the polling stations there are falsifications," Tymoshenko said in the transcript of an interview with a Ukrainian television station made available on the government website.

"And around Kiev, all the holiday centres are full of fighters who are ready to take power using any means," the prime minister added.

"We remember all that from 2004. Yanukovich hasn't changed, his methods haven't changed, and his policies haven't changed," Tymoshenko is quoted as saying.

Mass rigging blamed on Yanukovich supporters and resulting protests which brought hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians onto the streets in the Orange Revolution forced the annullment of the 2004 presidential polls.

"As in 2004, we are going to put (Yanukovich) in his place in a severe manner and he will never get power in Ukraine, whatever the circumstances," said Tymoshenko, who was one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution.

Yanukovich led Tymoshenko by 10 percentage points in the first round.

Source: AFP

Hard Sell For Ukraine's Tymoshenko On Rival's Turf

ODESSA, Ukraine -- Ukrainian presidential contender Yulia Tymoshenko has taken her impassioned pro-European campaign into her rival's heartland, but her call fell mostly on deaf ears in the Russian-speaking port of Odessa.

People walk past a pre-election poster of Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko. The poster reads: "Choose a new way for Ukraine".

The fast-talking prime minister rattled off a list of her government's achievements and repeated her mantra that Ukraine needs cleaner politics when she faced an audience on Saturday in the bustling southern city, rich in Russian imperial history.

The system of cronyism and corruption backed by rich tycoons and their business interests must be replaced, she said, and the country faced a stark choice in the Feb. 7 election in which she faces opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich, 59.

"The first path is one where Ukraine has very good relations with Europe, one with which we could create European business, traditions and laws," she told her audience. "And the second path is the path dictated by a few companies in Ukraine."

The speech by the slightly-built Tymoshenko, who wore her trademark peasant-style braid, a pale dress and high heels for extra lift, would have drawn delirious cries of support in the west and centre of Ukraine.

But it drew only polite applause in Odessa, a former jewel of the old Russian empire and a part of Ukraine which was never really keen on the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought pro-Western leaders, including Tymoshenko, to power.

In the first round of the election on Jan. 17, 50 percent of voters in Odessa chose Yanukovich, who gains his support from the east and south of the country, and only 10 percent backed Tymoshenko, who is popular in the west. In the country as a whole, Yanukovich led Tymoshenko by 10 percentage points.

The two could not differ more in style.

She is a gas magnate turned social crusader and a leader of the mass street protests of 2004 which overturned a Yanukovich victory in a rigged election. He is a burly ex-mechanic who rose through the political ranks in the Soviet era.


Ukraine's tumultuous history means the country and its politicians can be divided into the west, once part of Poland and with a European outlook, and the south and east, industrial heartland that was dominated for centuries by Russia.

In Odessa, founded on the Black Sea by Russian Empress Catherine the Great, a booming trade to Europe, Turkey and onwards has turned the city into a cosmopolitan centre where one in five are Russian and many more speak the language.

Tymoshenko chose to speak in Ukrainian -- the state language -- though she herself was born in the Russian-speaking east.

"Ah, nothing I have heard here from her is going to change my mind. I've heard this all before," said chemistry student Alexander, after listening to Tymoshenko.

"Yulia, she's European. I voted for Yanukovich in the first round and I will vote for him again. I myself am from Crimea and he supports the Russian language," he said.

Tymoshenko, 49, has built her success around her ability to tap into people's anger at injustice, broken promises, a chaotic justice system and a corrupt bureaucracy that demands bribes for better hospital treatment or university places.

But bitter recriminations between her and incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko since they led the Orange Revolution have further undermined support for her in the south.

"Look, from that entire zoo, I trust Yanukovich the most. He promises something and then he does it," said Alexander Goncharov, a 54-year-old local businessman.

For many, Yanukovich's tough past -- he grew up in poverty, was orphaned as a child and served time in jail for assault and theft during the 1970s -- shows only that he has been hardened into a resolute and decisive man.

As the Orange camp disintegrated, Ukraine fell deep into recession and was bailed out by the International Monetary Fund with a $16.4 billion programme. Bickering stalled that plan at the end of 2009 when the economy shrank by up to 15 percent.

"Look at us -- we stand knee deep in mud for 12 hours to make a pittance. I can barely afford meat any more," said Luba, selling clothes in the main market by the train station where meat, vegetables and gadgets are on offer in the open air.

Luba is a pensioner who supports her husband, a disabled war veteran. She said she is tired of politicians who work for their own interests while food prices keep going up, and she does not plan to vote.

"What we need to do is take the whole parliament away. And start anew with new people," she said. "I was saying during the Orange Revolution -- they are all the same old faces. And now they are still the same old faces."

Source: Kyiv Post

Lviv Aims For Ethics And Expertise

LVIV, Ukraine -- As the 46 million-strong population  of Ukraine, browbeaten by  political and economic crisis,  moves towards the final leg of the presidential election, a recently established business school in the country’s western region may help revitalise a cynical business community.

Lviv Business School part of the Ukrainian Catholic University, was set up in 2008, in part with the support of three of the state’s business groups. In a country riddled with corruption, one aspect of LvBS’s mission is to inculcate Ukraine’s managers with an ethical approach to business.

Petrol station operator Galnaftogaz, software development provider Softserve and women’s clothing manufacturer Trottola, are all regional employers in Ukraine hoping to expand their international footprint. They have given their support to the school and are also fielding members of the school’s advisory board.

The companies believe that endemic corruption has hampered Ukraine’s progress. They say that putting their managers through an ethically focused school will not only give their executives a clean bill of health morally, but also makes sound business sense.

With this in mind they approached the rector of UCU and former Harvard academic Father Borys Gudziak, (above left) with the suggestion of creating the business school to teach both their MBA hopefuls and ranks of middle managers requiring shorter courses. In the 2008/09 academic year, about 1,000 participants from the three companies and the wider community took part in short courses and seminars at LvBS.

“We want businesses to be ethical and managers to be ethical and we want those who control firms to love our land and be patriots,” says Fr Gudziak.

Chief executive of Galnaftogaz’s chain of 300 filling stations, Vitaliy Antonov, says a key factor in LvBS’s creation was the appointment of Sophia Opatska, then director of MBA programmes at Kyiv Mohyla Business School, in Kyiv, to run Galnaftogaz’s corporate university in 2005.

“At that stage . . . we began to understand it would be much more effective for several business organisations to join forces and create a business school,” says Mr Antonov. Ms Opatska has since been appointed chief executive of LvBS.

“LvBS represents . . .a particularly successful synthesis of business and ethics. At the moment, this is what everybody in the business community is interested in,” says Mr Antonov.

As the business community in Ukraine becomes more mature, “it’s no longer enough to just live on your wits; you need a classical education”, says Taras Vervega, business development director at the fast-growing Lviv-based Softserve, which employs 1,200 people. Mr Vervega needs LvBS to train middle managers to run regional offices, and branches in Florida and Manila, in the Philippines.

Trottola, with its 2,000 employees, has similar requirements. The company intends to create more jobs in Ukraine in sectors such as clothing design and marketing.

“The Kyiv Mohyla school is number one in Ukraine, but the fees are too high and not everybody can afford to go there,” says Yaroslav Rushchyshyn, Trottola’s chief executive.

“A business school is not just about an MBA, it’s about training people in the local area and the business mentality in Kyiv is very different from that in western Ukraine. Our focus on ethics differentiates us hugely from the competition.”

Business education is enjoying a surge of popularity in Ukraine, with approximately 30 business schools in the country. However, according to Alex Frishberg, senior partner of Kyiv-based law firm Frishberg & Partners, the most sought after management education is US or English.

Kyiv-based, foreign-owned consulting firms such as Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Bain typically retain Ukrainian graduates with Harvard or Yale MBA degrees, he adds.

The LvBS EMBA programme currently has 15 students and is taught by Ukrainian and visiting lecturers, including business specialists from companies such as Kraft Foods and Ernst & Young and academics from Moscow State University and the University of Michigan.

It is the ethical dimension of the school that Fr Gudziak, believes will help senior managers focus on legal and morally acceptable solutions to their problems early in their careers. But he does not expect changes to happen overnight.

“Many people in Ukraine are trying to do something about corruption. But it’s a systemic problem and it’s not easy to change the system,” he says.

Source: FT

“Hit Men Getting Ready To Seize Power In Ukraine” – Timoshenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Timoshenko has accused her opponent Viktor Yanukovich of trying to seize power in the country and promised to stop him from winning the election by any means, informs Interfax.

Propeller Yulia Timoshenko, the incumbent Prime Minister of Ukraine, maintains that holiday hotels and vacation retreats around the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, are filled up with militants ready to seize the reins of government.

“Yanukovich is trying to do the same as in 2004. There are going to be cheats in the Central Electoral Commission and falsifications at ballot stations,” stated Timoshenko. “Once again there will be ballot box stuffing, with hundreds of thousands of false voting slips,” she told in the interview to 5 Channel TV, Ukraine.

The interview has been published on the official website of the Ukrainian government.

In her opinion, “since 2004, neither the methods nor the politics of [Viktor] Yanukovich have changed.”

“Therefore, just as in 2004, we are going to be tough and tell him where to get off. Under no circumstances will he get power in Ukraine,” emphasized Timoshenko, in good time refusing to accept possibly unfavorable results of the national ballot.

Being asked how she plans to fulfill her goal, Yulia Timoshenko said that “we need to act calmly, coldly and lawfully, using this possibility to convince people to unite and really defend Ukraine.” On Sunday during a telecast in Dnepropetrovsk, Timoshenko said that if she is to become the Ukraine’s president, her first step would be to withdraw the veto on the new budget code.

”[Yushchenko’s] veto has been placed due to political reasons. Within a week we will also adopt a budget which the parliament has been considering since September 15 of the last year,” she said.

The new budget code stipulates that a part of the local taxes will remain at the local level, Timoshenko said.

”Every village, town and city will have their own development budget, which will consist of reliable income which will remain at the local level,” she said.

“This will be a budget revolution which will make our villages and cities blossom," she added.

Two candidates, acting Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and the leader of the Party of Regions, Viktor Yanukovich, have made it to the second round of the presidential election in Ukraine, set for next Sunday, February 7.

Source: Russia Today

Israel's PM Delays Decision On Canceling Visa Requirement For Ukrainian Tourists

TEL AVIV, Israel -- In opposition to attorney general's professional opinion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses clear support for canceling visa requirement for tourists from Ukraine, says will create thousands of jobs, but postpones making decision by one week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The delay comes on the backdrop of two opposing bills on the issue presented to the cabinet, one by Yisrael Beiteinu in favor of the move, and one by Shas opposed to the move. Netanyahu commissioned Cabinet Secretary Lee Hauser to reconcile the two sides.

Earlier Sunday the prime minister addressed the debate surrounding Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov's bill to cancel the visa requirement and expressed his sweeping support for the move.

As was reported in Ynet, outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz supported Interior Minister Eli Yishai's stance against the move. Mazuz explained, "Ukraine is a source of prostitution and human trafficking."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, did not heed the attorney general's advice. "We will exempt Ukrainian citizens from the visa requirements. We made a similar move with Russia, and tourism quadrupled. As a result, thousands of jobs were created," Netanyahu explained.

For the first time since the government was formed, the cabinet will discuss two contrary bills. One bill, submitted by the Interior Ministry, proposes that a gradual process of granting visas to Ukrainian citizens be examined. The other bill, put on the table by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, calls for a full visa exemption to be instated.

Prominent among those opposed to any exemption is Minister Eli Yishai. He said during the meeting, "Ukraine is one of five states that give scathing international criticism (of Israel)."

He explained, "I support giving a visa exemption to citizens from the US and France, but I have a problem with a similar, ungraduated move for the citizens of Ukraine."

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov, who initiated the bill, said during the meeting: "The era of stigmas from the 90s that every blonde girl who came here is suspected of being non-kosher has passed."

Misezhnikov also addressed Mazuz's opposition, claiming that it is disproportionate. "It is fitting to grant visas to the citizens of Ukraine, which supports Israel in every international forum. This decision will increase tourism and jobs. It has already been proven in the past that claims like those being made by the Interior Ministry are groundless; see the case of allowing visas to Russian citizens."

Source: yNet

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yanukovych: ‘Let Them Call Me’

DAVOS, Switzerland -- In a teleconference lunch hosted by the Ukrainian delegation at the World Economic Forum, both of the candidates in next weekend’s presidential runoff fluffed their lines embarrassingly.

The nerves must be getting to them.

Viktor Yanukovych, currently leading the opinion polls, promised — if elected — to devote himself slavishly “to the social and economic development of our country through 2010,” rather than 2015, when the term of next week’s winner expires.

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said that her first move as president would be to appoint Serhiy Tihipko, who finished third in last week’s first round poll, as “president” rather than “prime minister.”

More entertainment followed when both were asked which foreign leader they would call first on being elected.

Tymoshenko, with impeccable gravitas, said she would first call all the important institutions of Ukraine (presumably, as one unkind tongue said, to tell them in no uncertain terms who was boss now).

While Yanukovych, who lost out to Viktor Yushchenko in a hotly disputed and rerun election in 2005, responded “Why should I call anyone? I’ll let them call me — I’ve been waiting for that call for five years!”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Ukrainians Can Save Democratic Orange Revolution On Feb. 7

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yulia Tymoshenko writes: Yanukovych would let oligarchs stay in control of economy, preventing European integration.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Five years after the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian voters returned to the ballot box in January to elect their president. They did so after a year of extreme hardship brought about by the global financial and economic crisis.

Despite these privations, some 60 percent of voters reaffirmed their support for pro-democracy candidates in the Jan. 17 first round of balloting. They showed the world that the principles voiced on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (or Independence Square) in 2004 still prevail among the majority of Ukrainians.

Sadly, not everyone wants it this way. Those who opposed the Orange Revolution still want to turn back the clock. They want to roll back reforms and the norms of democracy that have taken root in Ukraine. In their place they promise prosperity, provided they are left to run the country their way.

The choice given is a false one: surrender your values in return for economic stability. Turn a blind eye to illegality so that you will feel more secure. This is what my opponent offers the people.

Sentiment is democratic

Yet the support which we witnessed in the first round for democratic candidates reveals that, while many ordinary Ukrainians may be weary, they have not lost their wisdom. Their understanding is that true liberty and prosperity can only be built by adhering to the rule of law. They appreciate that the way forward is to build a stronger, more democratic, more European Ukraine.

Today, disillusioned citizens see the spectacle of politicians investing their mandate in squabbles rather than addressing economic and social issues.

They rightly despair at the shadowy hold of oligarchs on big business and the levers of political power. They see that the rule of law is neither applied consistently, nor is it paramount and that corruption is never far away.

Out of grey zone

So what can be done?

Well, Ukrainians should not be apathetic, for only they will determine the path their country will tread in the 21st century. The choice is simple: a country that embraces European-style democracy and living standards, versus a Ukraine trapped in an ill-defined grey zone between East and West. This would be a fast track to political and economic stagnation.

Victory for the failed candidate of 2004 will not bring about the fundamental root-and-branch reforms that Ukraine needs. Instead, the country will be pushed back into the arms of an oligarchic elite and succumb to policies that diminish the country’s national identity. What Ukraine requires is a genuine reform-minded presidency with its sights on Europe.

Relations with Russia

European integration is a foreign policy imperative, but one that does not preclude an amicable, pragmatic working relationship with Russia, based upon mutual sovereignty and respect. Our inter-dependence in the energy sector is self-evident. Going forward, we seek stability bolstered by energy efficiency and independence. Transparent direct relations between national suppliers and the payment of market prices for natural gas, must go hand in hand with Western investment in domestic infrastructure, exploration and extraction.

Friendly to business

Above all, the rule of law must reign supreme. Ironically, some have mistaken this as a predisposition to authoritarianism or, worse still, “dictatorship.” Nothing could be farther from the truth, for without the clear-cut and predictable application of the law, Ukraine’s business environment will stagnate.

Our goal is to make Ukraine an easier place to do business. Investor-friendly measures and incentives, combined with a reduction in bureaucracy, will reinvigorate the business environment, help combat corruption and encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to flourish. Tax regimes need to be reformed and subsidies, where applied, should be targeted and not applied universally. Those who steal public assets or abuse the system criminally should face the full force of the law.

Building Europe

Such reforms will bring Ukraine to the level of Western European states. This is important, for there can be no European Union membership prospect if we do not “build Europe in Ukraine” first.

Becoming a member of the World Trade Organization was a crucial first step. Overhauling and aligning state institutions with those of Europe is another – a task which my government has begun in earnest.

Finalization this year of a deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement and conclusion of visa free travel talks are other steps on the road to integration. It is to be hoped that now the European constitutional issue is resolved and enlargement fatigue is less of a concern, EU policymakers will rise to the challenge of creating a “United Europe.”

Support from Europe

My party is committed to the principles of European democracy and, since 2006, has been an enthusiastic observer member of the European People’s Party – the largest political bloc in the European parliament. We are encouraged by the level of support and commitment to seeing Ukraine enter the European family. However, at the same time, we appreciate that this will not be achieved overnight. First, we must prove ourselves worthy. The responsibility is ours.

Rebuilding faith

Our immediate priority is to complete the process of a free and fair second round of voting in the presidential elections on Feb. 7. The next task will be to adopt constitutional amendments that will put an end to the political instability of the last five years. Crucially, we must protect the rights of individuals and rebuild public faith in our institutions and politicians.

If we achieve this, then we will have earned the trust of the protesters who thronged to Kyiv’s Independence Square five years ago. Then and only then can we say that the Orange Revolution was a success.

Source: Kyiv Post

Future Not Orange As Ukraine Settles For Yanukovych Repeat

KIEV, Ukraine -- As Ukraine’s presidential election enters its final week of campaigning, the only orange glow appears to emanate from the fading prospects of Yuliya Tymoshenko.

Incumbent Viktor Yanukovych is seen as unappealing but reliable.

Unless she makes a dramatic breakthrough in the next few days, her arch rival, Viktor Yanukovych, looks assured of victory. That would represent an astonishing comeback for a man whose Kremlin-sanctioned ballot-rigging in the 2004 election provided the catalyst for the Orange Revolution led by Ms Tymoshenko and her former ally, Viktor Yushchenko.

Mr Yushchenko’s crushing defeat in the first round ended his hopes of a second term as President. Ms Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister, seems unable to rally the anti-Yanukovych vote sufficiently to make up a 10 percentage-point deficit on her rival. A majority of Ukrainians appears resigned to going back to the future with a Yanukovych presidency.

This is puzzling to anyone dazzled by the evident charisma of the candidate and the appeal of her message of pro-western reform. All the more so in comparison to Mr Yanukovych, who would make a block of wood appear animated and who struggles to formulate his ideas in public.

But “Yuliya fatigue” appears to have set in as a result of what one senior Ukrainian official described to The Times this week as “a serious disconnect between her rhetoric and her actions”. According to this viewpoint, admittedly from someone clearly sympathetic to Mr Yanukovych, voters are discounting her election promises because of disappointment at the lack of reform since 2004.

“Whatever she does, around 20 per cent of the population will vote for her — they simply love her,” he said. “But to win over more voters you have to find some new elements in your rhetoric and she has not found anything new.”

While Ms Tymoshenko is viewed as appealing but unreliable, Mr Yanukovych comes across as unappealing but reliable. With their economy reeling from the global financial crisis and after years of bitter political infighting within the Orange camp, voters seem ready to plump for a quieter life.

While his support base remains heavily in the Russian-speaking east, supporters say that Mr Yanukovych has worked hard to improve his Ukrainian and knows that he must reach out to the more nationalist west of the country if he is to be an effective president.

He will have to — the greatest risk for Ukraine is a result that divides the country evenly between support for Ms Tymoshenko in the west and for Mr Yanukovych in the east.

Those around Mr Yanukovych stress that he is a different man from the Soviet-style apparatchik of five years ago. They argue that he will govern from the centre, keep a balance between competing business clans and work hard to strengthen ties with the European Union, even as he seeks to repair Ukraine’s frayed relationship with Russia. They predict that he will underline this point by making his first foreign visit to Brussels, not Moscow.

Whichever candidate emerges victorious on February 7, however, the big winner is the Kremlin. Both Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovych have pledged more pragmatic and constructive relations after the years of friction under President Yushchenko.

Russia will press eagerly for concessions on Ukraine’s gas transit network to Europe and on the future of its Black Sea Fleet, which must leave its base in Crimea in 2017.

Source: Times Online

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wiesenthal Slams Ukraine Award To Nationalist

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko once commanded such respect that hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Kiev when he lost a fraudulent election.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L), gives Stepan Bandera an award, the Hero of Ukraine, which was presented to his late grandfather Stepan Bandera, founder of a rebel movement that fought against the Soviet regime, in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 22, 2010.

But the former hero of the Orange Revolution could hardly have sunk any lower. In his bid for re-election this month, he drew just 5 percent of the vote. And now his posthumous honor for a nationalist leader - who was also, according to some, a Nazi collaborator - has led many to say Yushchenko has disgraced himself in his last weeks in office.

On Friday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights group, denounced the Hero of Ukraine award Yushchenko bestowed on Stepan Bandera last week. Bandera was a leader of Ukraine's nationalist movement, which included an insurgent army that sided with Nazi Germany during part of World War II.

The Wiesenthal Center said Bandera's followers were linked to the deaths of thousands of Jews. It also noted that the award came shortly before International Holocaust Memorial Day, which was observed Wednesday.

"It is surely a travesty when such an honor is granted right at the period when the world pauses to remember the victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27," Mark Weitzman, the Wiesenthal Center's director of government affairs, wrote in a letter to Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States.

The award drew sharp criticism from Russia, as well, where Bandera is viewed as a traitor for fighting against Soviet troops in World War II. Russia's Foreign Ministry called the decision "odious."

In Moscow, the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi said more than 50 of its activists picketed the Ukrainian embassy Friday.

"We have sent him things that he will be need when has retired: a hot water bottle, an enema, valerian, history books, photos of Stepan Bandera and videos featuring recollections from World War II veterans," the group said on its Web site. Valerian is an herb used as a sedative.

Bandera was assassinated by the KGB in 1959 in Munich.

Yushchenko was unrepentant Friday, decreeing further that the groups affiliated with Bandera be recognized as "fighters for Ukrainian independence."

Yushchenko made establishing strong Ukrainian identity, and pulling away from Russia's influence, a focus of his five years in office - at the expense, some say, of addressing corruption and economic problems.

It has been a long fall for a man once revered at home and abroad. After his supporters protested the vote he lost in 2004, Yushchenko won the presidency in a court-ordered rerun. He drew strong support from the West, which saw him as progressive and democratic.

But he squandered his political capital on infighting and he leaves office to an awkward silence from the West and cold denunciations from Moscow.

And, for some Jewish leaders in Ukraine, the award to Bandera was the last straw.

"Six generations of my ancestors lived in Ukraine, and Yushchenko simply crossed out the memory of them," said David Milman, assistant to the chief Rabbi of Ukraine. "This decision has turned many people away from Yushchenko, while earlier we were loyal to him."

Source: The Washington Post

Ukrainian Rivals Campaign In Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Ukraine's two rival presidential candidates made their cases Friday at Davos, but they were upstaged by the two candidates who finished behind them in the first-round vote and whose support may be key to victory in the upcoming runoff.

A participant at the World Economic Forum 2010, Davos.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych spoke by video link from separate locations in Ukraine, their long answers occasionally broken off by technical problems.

Both said things the audience at the World Economic Forum wanted to hear, with Tymoshenko promising to move Ukraine closer to Europe and the more Russia-friendly Yanukovych speaking of the need for a strong, democratic state.

Much of their attention and the attention of those at the Davos event, though, was focused on the two candidates who finished third and fourth in the Jan. 17 election: wealthy English-speaking bankers Sergei Tigipko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who both appeared in person.

Tymoshenko appealed to both of them to join her.

"Their desires are my desires," she said, speaking in Ukrainian through translation. "Once I win I will give every opportunity to them."

Tigipko, who came in third with 13 percent of the vote to Yanukovych's 35 percent and Tymoshenko's 25 percent, is being aggressively courted by both sides. Tymoshenko has publicly offered him the post of prime minister should she win.

Tigipko said Friday he was staying neutral until after the election, but would consider joining whomever wins.

The 35-year-old Yatsenyuk, who came in fourth with 7 percent of the vote, said he would remain in opposition. "Those two are in the past of the country," he said. "I represent the future."

Despite Yanukovych's lead in the first round, some see Tymoshenko as having a better chance of expanding her support base, but most agree that so far the race is too close to call.

Outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko, who finished fifth with 5.5 percent, has refused to support either of them.

He and Tymoshenko were the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution, the mass protests against alleged vote fraud that led to a court-ordered rerun of the presidential election. The initial vote count had given Yanukovych the win.

The victory of the Orange forces raised hopes of swift integration into Western Europe, but Yushchenko's presidency was stymied by political infighting that paralyzed the government and deepened the former Soviet republic's economic problems.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on Friday mourned the "lost opportunity" of the Orange Revolution. "Political stability is task No. 1 for the next president," he said.

He and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt praised Ukraine for last month's election and said they had few doubts the runoff would be equally free and fair.

A short film shown Friday called "Mr. and Mrs. Y" played on the rivalry between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych in a spoof of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," the movie where actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fell in love while trying to kill each other on camera.

The spoof film ended with a note that the Ukrainian finale has not yet been written.

Source: The Washington Post

Taras Chornovil, Son Of Late Nationalist Hero, Changes Sides Again And Offers Inside Look At How Party Of Regions Is Run

KIEV, Ukraine -- If former Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych wins the presidency in the Feb. 7 runoff election, the political infighting and shady natural gas deals of President Victor Yushchenko’s years will continue, according to Taras Chornovil, a Ukrainian lawmaker who recently came full circle in political allegiance.

MP Taras Chornovil

In a Kyiv Post interview, Chornovil provided rare insight into the bitter feuds waged between rival business and political clans inside the Yanukovych-led Party of Regions. Chornovil also explained his political flip-flopping, which has seen him go from being a member of Yushchenko’s political camp to Yanukovych supporter during the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Now, however, Chornovil has left Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and is backing presidential contender and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the Orange Revolution heroine.

"If Yanukovych wins, the country will fall apart," Chornovil said.

His shifting alliances are another element of the national chaos that has seen Orange allies Yushchenko and Tymoshenko come to power in 2005 and then fall out bitterly.

Tymoshenko was replaced as premier by Yanukovych in 2006, only to reclaim the job again in 2007. Yushchenko is so estranged from Tymoshenko that – while the president criticizes both candidates – he continues to undermine Tymoshenko’s presidential bid.

Chornovil, who has over the years consistently been critical of Yushchenko, is no ordinary political figure in this fray. He is the son of Vyacheslav Chornovil, the legendary Rukh Party leader killed in a suspicious automobile accident on March 25, 1999. The late Chornovil led a popular nationalist movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

Now his son, Taras, is saying that “a vote for Yanukovych will be tantamount to re-electing Yushchenko.” He says he knows how badly the party is run from the inside, prompting his support for Tymoshenko. But his former allies there, however, dismiss him as a political prostitute.

Here is his story:

Over the years, Chornovil has rubbed shoulders with the Party of Regions’ billionaire backers, including Rinat Akhmetov, and other faction leaders. One alleged Regions backer, Dmytro Firtash, was co-owner of RosUkrEnergo, the Swiss-registered “shady” intermediary that Tymoshenko removed last year as monopoly supplier of natural gas.

Tymoshenko claims the interests of Firtash are represented by Serhiy Lyovochkin, former chief of staff to ex-president Leonid Kuchma and now Yanukovych’s top aide, along with former Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko.

Chornovil said he’s not suddenly enamored with Tymoshenko. But he has come to believe that Yanukovych cannot control the ambitious politicians and business interests within the Party of Regions. “He [Yanukovych] is a good No. 2 guy, who needs someone to tell him what to do,” Chornovil said. “It’s just not clear yet who that person will be.”

In addition, Yanukovych, 59, is growing old and weary of Ukraine’s three-ring political circus, according to Chornovil. “He is ready to turn over power,” and insiders like Lyovochkin are willing to take it, he said.

Yanukovych confidant Hanna Herman called Chornovil a political prostitute. “He left us a long time ago and has little idea of what is happening in the party these days,” Herman said. “He left because he decided that he could make more money from our opponents.”

Political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko said that although Chornovil may have an axe to grind against the Regions Party, he knows the party from the inside and was once close to Yanukovych. “Taras [Chornovil] has some resentment. He didn’t like his position in the party, which eventually led to his leaving, but he was once a trusted member of the team,” he said.

Besides Akhmetov, Lyovochkin and others have a strong grip over Yanukovych’s ears and action. Also in the mix of this multi-party wrestling match for influence, according to Chornovil, are long-time Regions heavyweights like the Kluyev brothers, Serhiy and Andriy, as well as former tax chief Minister Mykola Azarov. Their dog fights, Chornovil claims, could doom Ukraine to another five years of chaotic executive stalemates as seen under Yushchenko.

Herman insists Lyovochkin, as well as the others, are all just faction members with no more influence over Yanukovych than other Regions lawmakers: “You shouldn’t overestimate his [Lyovochkin’s] influence,” she said. She also denied any internal conflicts in the party: “In 2004, everyone said the Party of Regions will split into warring factions. But now, five years later, we are still together, still strong and ready to take the presidency.”

Fesenko said that there are internal conflicts brewing in both the Yanukovych and Tymoshenko camps. But he said that Tymoshenko is better adept at containing them. In contrast, Yanukovych relies heavily on his influential backers, according to Fesenko.

“If Yanukovych wins, Regions will not fall apart, but it will be like a fight between scorpions in a jar,” Fesenko said. Tymoshenko has more control over her team and faction, the analyst said: “She controls more people, has more influence over individual issues.”

“Yanukovych is more of a symbol. He likes to delegate, and in this respect he looks more like Yushchenko,” Fesenko said. He said there are several competing groups within the Regions Party. “Herman and Lyovochkin rub people the wrong way,” Fesenko said. “They are too close to Yanukovych and the decision-making process.”

Competing for influence with the Lyovochkin wing are politicians like Borys Kolesnikov, who is considered loyal to Regions moneybag Akhmetov. “Akhmetov still has around a third of the faction loyal to him, plus there are other independent but also significant lawmakers like the Kluyev brothers or Azarov,” Fesenko said.

The financial side of the Lyovochkin group is believed to be Firtash and Boyko, the former energy minister. Chornovil said divisions within Regions really took root with the arrival of Firtash in 2006, when Yanukovych returned as premier under Yushchenko.

“Before, Yanukovych kept Firtash and Boyko at arm’s length, but just before the vote for the new government after Yanukovych had been nominated as premier, we learned that Boyko’s name was on the list,” Chornovil said. “We didn’t know until the last minute.”

Chornovil suspects that Yushchenko had proposed Firtash to Yanukovych. Under Yushchenko, Firtash’s RosUkrEnergo was made the monopolist importer of Russian gas – putting it in the center of a multi-billion-dollar trade. “Firtash and RosUkrEnergo will come back unless [Russian state-controlled gas company] Gazprom takes a principle position against it,” Chornovil said.

Yanukovych has promised to review gas agreements made between the Kremlin and the Tymoshenko government, which did away with intermediary importers. Fesenko said the return of intermediary companies is likely, and that Firtash and Co. are likely candidates to fill the position.

A Tymoshenko presidency will also entail cronyism, Chornovil said, the difference between her and Yanukovych being that, “Yulia will offer patronage to any oligarch who falls in line, but Yanukovych will pass out perks to his existing team. So, there is slightly more versatility under a Tymoshenko presidency,” he said.

But the real danger of a Yanukovych victory, according to Chornovil, is that the Kremlin will be able to continue playing one side off against another. Even if Tymoshenko loses, she will still be a force to reckon with, and Moscow will give her the assistance she needs to keep Yanukovych’s team off balance, he said. “They have such levers at their disposal,” according to Chornovil.

Source: Kyiv Post

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tymoshenko To Win West Ukraine, Lose Presidential Vote - Survey

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will beat opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych in western Ukraine but will not do well enough in the east to win the presidential election, a survey said.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Strong backing for Tymoshenko in traditionally nationalist western areas of the country will not outweigh support for Yanukovych in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern and southern parts of the country, Research&Branding Group reported on Thursday.

Yanukovych won the first round of Ukraine's presidential elections on January 17, and faces runner-up Tymoshenko in the second round on February 7.

According to the survey, Tymoshenko is ahead in western Ukraine with the support of 60.6% of voters, but in the central Ukraine she has 42% and only 11.9% in the southeast.

Yanukovych is polling at 14.2% in the west, 29.3% in central Ukraine and 69.2% in the southeast, giving him 44.9% nationwide, against 31.6% for Tymoshenko.

The poll was carried out on January 19-25 among 3,108 respondents in 24 populated areas of Ukraine.

Tymoshenko last week accused Yanukovych of attempting to secure victory in the second round by bribing losing candidates from the first round with the promise of seats in the parliament.

Yanukovych hit back on Thursday during a visit to Simferopol by accusing the prime minister of trying to sabotage voting in areas where he is expected to do best.

"I am 100% confident that Tymoshenko is trying to disrupt the elections on the south-east of Ukraine," Yanukovych said in comments broadcast on Crimean TV, adding that he would impede these plans.

Yanukovych won 35% of the vote in the first round, 10 percentage points more than Tymoshenko.

Source: RIA Novosti

Ukraine’s Presidential Rivals Tussle Over Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Supporters of Viktor Yanukovich, the front-runner in Ukraine’s hotly contested presidential election, on Thursday voted in parliament to oust the country’s top law enforcement officer, in an escalating struggle to control state institutions that could influence the outcome of the poll.

A supporter of Ukraine's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko walks past pre-election tents in central Kiev January 28, 2010.

Should the February 7 runoff between Mr Yanukovich and his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister, fail to produce a clear winner, control of the courts, law enforcement and the central election office could be decisive.

“Without a doubt, the escalating political struggle underway suggests that both sides expect the election to be very close, and so they are seeking leverage to influence a final outcome,” said Oleksandr Chernenko, head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, the main election watchdog.

On Thursday, Yuriy Lutsenko, an ally of Ms Tymoshenko was ousted as interior minister by MPs in Mr Yanukovich’s opposition Regions Party supported by allies including the Communists and some lawmakers from Our Ukraine, the party of president Viktor Yushchenko.

Minutes later, Ms Tymoshenko exploited a technicality to keep Mr Lutsenko in de facto control, appointing him the ministry’s first deputy head. She said the attempted dismissal of Mr Lutsenko, was meant to prevent law enforcement agencies from cracking down on vote-rigging probably planned by Mr Yanukovich.

Mr Yanukovich lost the disputed 2004 presidential election that led to the Orange Revolution after his campaign was accused of widespread electoral fraud. Ms Tymoshenko, who co-led the revolution with Mr Yushchenko, now accuses her opponents of trying to steal an election again.

But Mr Yanukovich’s backers claim that it is she who is plotting fraud and insist their leader has no reason to cheat, after having secured a 10 per cent lead over her in a first round election held on January 17.

Both sides have clashed this week for control over a court that is to rule on election fraud complaints if the result is disputed, as well as a printing house that is producing election ballots.

Law enforcement troops on Monday stormed into the printing house after a group of lawmakers backing Mr Yanukovich forcefully seized it. Allies of both candidates have accused each other of conspiring to print extra election ballots, allegedly for ballot stuffing.

On Wednesday, lawmakers backing Mr Yanukovich criticised a judge from Kiev High Administrative Court of Appeals, which would consider a disputed election result. On Thursday, Mr Yanukovich’s camp filed a draft law in parliament to replace the judge.

More than 3,000 foreign election monitors present for the first round vote, in which 16 other candidates were eliminated, called it generally democratic. Foreign observers will again be out in force in the run-off.

Mr Chernenko said “it’s looking almost certain that results of the run-off will be challenged, and will be clouded amidst a sea of voter fraud allegations.”

While such a scenario resembles the Orange Revolution, voter fatigue amongst most of Ukraine’s 46 million citizens is widespread and huge protests are not expected. Any dispute is more likely to be followed by court claims and counter claims leading, possibly, to a recount or a political compromise, Chernenko said.

Source: FT

Ukraine Interior Minister Sacked

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament has sacked the country's interior minister, in what could be a powerful blow to Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister, who is also a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.

Minister of the Interior Yury Lutsenko.

The move was initiated by the Regions Party of Viktor Yanukovich, who faces Tymoshenko in February 7th runoff vote.

The opposition party accused Lutsenko of not adhering to court decisions and most recently failing to act when the printing press producing ballot papers for the February election was attacked.

The motion, at a special session of the 450-seat parliament, was narrowly passed by 231 votes on Wednesday.

Tymoshenko responded in defence by saying Lutsenko would continue to head the ministry as its first deputy minister, according to Ukrainian news agencies.

"Today at a government meeting, Lutsenko will be named the first deputy, the acting head and he will head the interior ministry," she was quoted by local agencies.

Officials of the Regions Party have said Tymoshenko, as prime minister, has the resources to influence voters and they can now say the loss of Lutsenko in his key role of interior minister has weakened her chances of doing this.

Wolodymyr Fesenko, the director of Penta, a Ukrainian think tank, said the decision in parliament would not only be a blow to Tymoshenko's presidential campaign but also may safeguard an election result from future challenges.

"This means the Regions party has succeeded in weakening its rival in a significant part of the election process."

The opposition in parliament has tried to sack Lutsenko several times, most recently last year after German police said they had detained him at a Frankfurt airport for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

Source: Al Jazeera

US Advisers Add Polish To Kiev Candidates

KIEV, Ukraine -- The cast of characters would be familiar to followers of US election campaigns, but this presidential fight is seven time zones east of Washington and inside the former Soviet Union.

Paul Manafort (R) has been an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych (L), since 2005.

Western political and media advisers, led by big US companies, have been making inroads in Ukraine since the 2004 “Orange Revolution”, which ousted Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed president-elect.

Five years later, Paul Manafort – a Republican strategist whose firm, Davis, Manafort and Freedman, advised several US presidents – has turned round Mr Yanukovich’s fortunes.

Mr Manafort’s team provided strategic advice to Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man, before Mr Akhmetov introduced them to Mr Yanukovich in 2005.

They have now helped propel the humiliated loser of the fraud-marred 2004 election into pole position in the country’s first presidential vote since the Orange Revolution.

AKPD Media and Message, founded by David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, has been helping Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s prime minister, who came second in the first round of voting earlier this month. She is also being advised by John Anzalone, who worked on the Obama campaign.

Mr Yanukovich and Ms Tymoshenko will contest the second round on February 7.

Boris Kolesnikov, a lawmaker and confidant of Mr Yanukovich, says the Manafort team has made “a major impact” on the strategy and style of the rough-spoken former truck driver closely associated with Ukraine’s oligarchs.

The PBN Company, another US group, failed to restore the popularity of Viktor Yushchenko, the outgoing president. Although Mr Yushchenko also received advice from Mark Penn, campaign strategist to Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, his support plunged to about 5 per cent after his triumph in the 2004 Orange Revolution.

With his chances of re-election slim to begin with, Mr Yushchenko finished fifth in the first round of the presidential election.

The rules of engagement in Kiev are much less transparent than they are in Washington, with campaigns widely funded by shadowy slush funds. Election laws, which should control funding and ethics, are enforced weakly.

But the market is attractive. Annual advisory contracts are worth between $2m and $4m (€2.8m, £2.5m), according to one US adviser working in Kiev. That is less than a crucial state campaign in the US would bring in, but enough to keep advisers busy during an election-less season back home. “It’s a rich country,” said the adviser.

Myron Wasylyk, a vice-president of PBN and an American with Ukrainian roots, says it is an important market for all the big political firms. “It’s one of the largest countries in Europe and most of the largest parties are backed by big business, which is capable of financing professional campaigns.

“There are also French and British advisers here, but the Americans get more attention.”

Advisers say politicians are looking for solid strategic advice on domestic politics and on gaining legitimacy in the west.

Another indicator of Kiev’s westward shift since the disputed 2004 presidential election is the lower profile of Moscow political advisers in this campaign.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj, a sociology professor in Kiev, said: “The Russian advisers know how to organise a Putin-style campaign, where the administrative resources can be mobilised. In Ukraine, such tactics are not as effective any more.”

Source: FT

Ukraine Plans To Sell Up To $1 Billion In Bonds Next Quarter

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine will seek to borrow $500 million to $1 billion by selling Eurobonds as early as next quarter, Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn said, as Europe’s hardest hit economy looks for ways to restructure its debt.

“We have been analyzing the whole debt system,” Danylyshyn said in an interview in Kiev yesterday. “We are in talks with potential participants of the restructuring from the European Union, the U.S. and Japan.” While the country is considering different currencies for the sale, Danylyshyn said he thinks the bonds should be denominated in euros.

The former Soviet state needs to get through a presidential runoff vote on Feb. 7 before turning to markets for financing, Danylyshyn said. Prime Minister and presidential candidate Yulia Timoshenko and her opponent Viktor Yanukovych have both said they’re ready to dispute the outcome of the ballot if they suspect vote rigging.

That would prolong the period of political uncertainty that’s left Ukraine’s $16.4 billion International Monetary Fund loan frozen since November.

“The major risk to the economy is the political risk,” Danylyshyn said. Ukraine plans to choose banks to manage the placement in the second half of March, he said.

Ukraine last sold international bonds in June 2007, when it offered investors $500 million in notes at 6.385 percent. The country has $5 billion of foreign-currency bonds outstanding, including 35.1 billion yen ($388 million) of 3.2 percent securities due in December 2010, Bloomberg data show.

The cost to insure against nonpayment by Ukraine using credit-default swaps is the world’s third highest, behind Venezuela and Argentina. Ukraine’s five-year default swaps have dropped to 910 basis points from a record 5,384 basis points in March. This compares to 483 basis points for Latvia and 179 basis points for Russia, Bloomberg data show.


The extra yield investors demand to own Ukraine debt instead of U.S. Treasuries fell 10 basis points to 7.47 percentage points as of 10:20 a.m. in Kiev, down from a peak of 35.93 percentage points in March, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI+ Index.

Acting Finance Minister Ihor Umanskyi said yesterday Ukraine is in talks to borrow abroad as early as April, and wants to sell debt that will mature in two to three years and pay a “one-digit” interest rate.

The IMF last month agreed to allow Ukraine access to $2 billion more than originally agreed from its foreign reserves to help the country pay for Russian gas. The concession was made to keep the government liquid through the election without releasing loan funds.

Reserve Floor

Even so, the central bank has signaled it may limit access to reserves, which stood at $26.5 billion at the end of December, as policy makers try to avoid fueling inflation. Consumer prices grew an annual 12.3 percent last month, from 13.6 percent in November, the State Statistics Committee said on Jan. 6.

Danylyshyn said the central bank should agree to print as much as $2.7 billion this year and next to help revive growth and resurrect the economy from 2009’s contraction, which he last month estimated at between 12 percent and 12.5 percent. Output shrank 15.9 percent in the third quarter after declining 17.8 percent in the second and a record 20.3 percent in the first three months of 2009.

“This money should be spent for production, not for consumption and that would allow us to keep inflation under control,” he said. “Inflation is not a problem and there are good chances it will stay below 10 percent this year.”

The winner of the presidential runoff vote will probably keep the current Cabinet in place until the next parliamentary elections, due in 2012, Danylyshyn said.

Cabinet Outlook

“There are no reasons for any talks about the new Cabinet in the near future,” he said. “The Cabinet is backed by the majority in the parliament.”

Gross domestic product will expand between 3 percent and 3.7 percent in 2010, as prices for Ukraine’s key exports such as metals, grains and chemicals recover, Danylyshyn said. If the central bank agrees to print more money to finance industrial projects, the economy will probably grow between 5 percent and 6 percent this year and next and 7 percent in 2012, he said.

“We have passed the peak of the crisis,” Danylyshyn said.

Source: Bloomberg

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ukraine: Bubka Has High Hopes For Ukrainian Olympians

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Olympic Committee chief Sergei Bubka said Wednesday he is hoping for some medals success at the Winter Games in Vancouver.

Ukraine's Olympic Committee chief Sergei Bubka.

Pole vault legend Bubka added that though Ukraine's athletes were traditionally looking much stronger at the summer Games they still have chances to win Olympic medals in winter sports.

"In Lillehammer we won gold and bronze medals, at Nagano we could earn only one silver, while at Salt Lake City we failed to grab any," Bubka said.

"Four years ago in Turin we managed to clinch two bronze medals and I hope we increase our medal count at Vancouver. Looking at the situation impartially I believe we have chances to win at least one medal in biathlon."

Earlier this month Ukrainian biathlete Sergei Sednev won a men's World Cup race at Anterselva, Italy to register his maiden career triumph.

However Bubka refused to name any of his team's specific favourites saying that a medal in any Olympic discipline would be welcome.

"We decided to send 41 athletes to compete in eight events in Vancouver. And we hope that one of them can shine at the Olympics."

The head of Ukraine's delegation at the 2010 Games, Nina Umanets, said skier Valentina Shevchenko was also among medal favourties, adding that Ukraine had also medal hopes in luge and freestyle.

Source: AFP

Ukraine 'Hero' Honour Angers Moscow

KIEV, Ukraine -- Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s president for awarding one of the country’s highest honours to Stepan Bandera, a wartime guerrilla leader whom Russians regard as a bloodthirsty Nazi collaborator.

A man dressed in Ukrainian insurgent army uniform seen by a young supporter of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, with his face painted in colors of the Army's flag, holds a portrait of Stepan Bandera, during a rally to mark the 67th anniversary of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian Insergent Army in Kiev, Ukraine, Oct. 14, 2009.

Viktor Yushchenko said the decision to bestow Hero of Ukraine status on Bandera “had been awaited by millions of Ukrainian patriots for many years” and was fitting reward for his “demonstration of heroism and self-sacrifice in fighting for an independent Ukraine”.

The award will be be one of the final decisions of Mr Yushchenko’s five-year presidency, after he suffered a drubbing in this month’s election.

Relations between Kiev and Moscow have soured dramatically during his time in office, due to frequent disputes over energy supplies, his pro-western policies and alleged discrimination towards Ukraine’s large Russian-speaking community.

Moscow was furious that Mr Yushchenko honoured Bandera, who led a faction fighting for Ukrainian independence in the Nazi-occupied west of the country, then mounted attacks against Soviet forces after they took over towards the end of the war.

Russia says Bandera collaborated with the Nazis and allowed his men to kill civilians and help establish SS units.

Defenders of Bandera insist that any co-operation with fascist Germany was intended solely to secure independence for Ukraine and note that Bandera was arrested by the Nazis in 1941 and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was assassinated by a KGB agent in Munich in 1959.

Bandera is widely lionised in western Ukraine, while being loathed in the largely ethnic-Russian east and south of the country, where officials have burned their Ukrainian passports and pledged court action over the honour.

Russia’s foreign ministry called Mr Yushchenko’s move “an event of such a repulsive nature that it could not fail to provoke an unambiguously negative reaction, primarily in Ukraine”.

Mr Yushchenko will be succeeded as president by prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko or opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich after a February 7th election run-off. Mr Yanukovich, whose stronghold is in Russian-speaking regions, said Bandera’s award “would not help unite Ukraine”.

Source: The Irish Times

NATO Lauds Ukraine Contribution, Resumes Military Links With Russia

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Ukraine made history this week by becoming the first non-NATO-member state to contribute forces to the alliance's flagship NATO Response Force (NRF).

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola (L), chairman of the NATO Military Committee, greets Russian Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makarov in Brussels.

The Ukrainian contribution to the force reflects the strains operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans have put on NATO budgets and manpower. It does not represent a real advance towards formal alliance membership.

The chairman of NATO's military committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, today said Ukraine would be providing useful niche capabilities.

"Kiev is the first -- but not the only -- partner which has made an offer for the NRF. [It is] a very [significant] offer because [it is] a very [specialized] offer, what we call an 'enabler,' like a CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] unit, like transport," Di Paola said.

"Strategic transport has always been a critical capacity. We are welcoming very much that contribution."

The Ukrainian units will form part of the response force in 2010 and 2011. They will remain on standby in Ukraine.

Di Paola said today the force would be capable of carrying out NATO's mutual defense commitment without recourse to the Ukrainian contribution.

NATO also revived military ties with Russia. Russian Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makarov attended the first top-level NATO-Russia military meeting since mid-2008.

Di Paola said NATO wanted to "press the practical reset button," while warning that a full resumption of ties would take time:

"If you go to switch on your car after it's been in your garage for one year, you don't go full speed, you start [by] switching [it] on, turning the key, heating up, and then you keep moving," Di Paola said. "That's where we are."

An agreement on military-to-military cooperation was signed. A "work plan" for concrete military cooperation will follow in May 2010.

Above all, what brings NATO and Russia together is Afghanistan. Russia already plays a role in the air and overland transit of NATO goods to the country. NATO is also looking for Russian help in maintaining Afghanistan's sizeable fleet of Soviet-built helicopters and fighter planes.

NATO officials quoted Makarov as saying Russia had a greater interest in Afghanistan's stability than the alliance itself.

Di Paola said only a "comprehensive" approach combining capable Afghan security forces with a competent government in Kabul could turn the country around.

The international conference in London on January 28 is expected to provide guidelines for this.

But Di Paola said the five-hour discussion of Afghanistan this morning ended on an optimistic note. "There was a feeling in the room we are getting it right," he said.

"The mood has changed, the tide has changed: we will succeed, we are convinced we will succeed."

Source: Radio Free Europe

Ukraine Hopes For Visa-Free Travel To EU Soon

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine hopes the visa regime with the European Union will be canceled in the near future, Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko said.

"The visa issue is a very painful one for Ukraine. First of all, because Ukraine is a democratic country; second, we have had no visas for European citizens for almost five years," Poroshenko said Tuesday at a meeting with the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine.

"Third, Ukraine has a visa-free regime with neighboring countries," he said.

Poroshenko said Ukraine needs to solve a number of problems for visa regulations to be canceled, in particular, improve its migration and passport systems.

"If we manage to do so within a short period, we will have a visa-free regime with the EU," he said.

Source: RIA Novosti

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ukraine Needs The West's Support

KIEV, Ukraine -- When Ukraine captured the world's imagination in 2004, waves of orange-clad protestors shook off Soviet cobwebs and ushered in democracy. From afar, the first presidential election since those dramatic events looks like a sorry epilogue.

The Maidan in Kiev. A European democracy sits uncomfortably close to Russia.

President Viktor Yushchenko, who survived near fatal poisoning to lead what became the Orange Revolution, was humiliated in last week's first round of voting. His 5.5% tally was "kefir-like," went a joke, meaning that it was around the fat content of the local yogurt. To add insult, the leading vote-getter was the loser in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych. The so-called pro-Moscow candidate who tried to steal that vote with help from Russia's Vladimir Putin is the favorite in the runoff a fortnight away.

As the election shows, Ukrainians are fed up with shambolic Orange leadership, economic hardship (GDP fell 15% last year), and entrenched corruption. As deep, and more dangerous, may be the disillusionment in the West. Washington and Brussels suffer from what officials in both places call "Ukraine fatigue."

Before anyone rushes to declare the Orange Revolution dead and Kiev destined to return to Moscow's embrace, a distinction needs to be made. Disappointment with politicians doesn't mean Ukrainians have soured on political freedom. Look closer at this sprawling (the size of Germany and Britain, combined) country of 46 million to behold a genuine, if still shallow, democracy.

This is a minor miracle. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new divide sunders Europe. On one side are free nations safely behind the walls of the West's elite clubs, the European Union and NATO, or about to hop over. To the east, from Belarus to the Caucasus and Central Asia, stretches an authoritarian wilderness. In this inhospitable terrain sits Ukraine.

It remains strategically critical. A stable, prosperous and free Ukraine ensures Russia can't rebuild its regional empire; it'd also be a teachable counterexample to the deadening hand of Putinism for their Slavic cousins up north. The press is free and diverse and political parties vibrant.

At all times of the year, protestors hurl abuse at their ministers or parliamentarians along Kiev's central Hrushevsky Street. Try to find such scenes on Red Square. Russian oligarchic elites who handpick their leaders hate the Ukrainian, and across the Black Sea the Georgian, experiments with free elections for good reason.

The first round was the cleanest vote to date in Ukraine, with no significant fraud. In contrast with 2004, no one tried—so far—to murder any candidate. No one knows for sure—a marvel for this region—who'll win the Feb. 7 runoff. Mr. Yanukovych leads Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Orange leader famous for that braid of blonde hair, but her charisma and campaigning mojo could yet close the gap.

Concerns about democratic backsliding here overlook the ability of people to change. As a society, Ukrainians have picked up the habit of chucking the bums out. Its elites, meanwhile, have also learned that elections aren't life or death contests that inevitably lead to the widescale redistribution of property.

Monosyllabic and gruff, Mr. Yanukovych comes from the Sovietized industrial east—or, as in Ms. Tymoshenko's colorful barb, "the Stone Age"—and plays the part. Yet he looks like a different candidate than in 2004, more polished and confident. He tells Western ambassadors he used to be too afraid to meet that he won't sell out his country to Moscow and that he needs their support as leverage against a pushy Russia.

For that matter, Ms. Tymoshenko also surprised the world. Before turning heroine to Ukraine's nationalist west, she was a shady, Russian-speaking gas baroness who made billions in the early post-Soviet years.

So full of contradictions, Ukraine eludes easy tags. Former President Leonid Kuchma wrote a book titled, "Ukraine Is Not Russia." Ukraine also isn't Poland, the other former sovereign in these lands. For centuries though, Poland was the bridge to the West, helping explain why Ukraine's political culture resembles Europe more than Eurasia, inclined to compromise and defend its freedoms.

Even the frequently mentioned divisions between Russian-speaking eastern and nationalist western Ukraine—which led the CIA in 1992 to predict civil war—are a source of unrecognized strength. Power and wealth are dispersed too widely for any would-be czar or commissar to grab Ukraine by the throat. The next generation of politicians who emerged with this election has been able, in the meantime, to appeal in all regions.

In the short run, Ukraine needs to get through the vote without fraud or chaos. Some 20,000 Yanukovych supporters are camped down in Kiev in case the vote doesn't go their man's way and he calls them to the streets. Ms. Tymoshenko has teams of lawyers ready to challenge the result in courts, the weakest institutional link in Ukraine. Best case scenario is a clear outcome, the process the victor.

Once in power, either of these candidates could be tempted to try to quash the press and freedoms in the name of "stability." This worst case scenario is hard, as parliament remains strong and voters assertive, but not impossible to imagine.

This should be the cue for the West. Today Ukraine, still the biggest piece of the puzzle in the ex-U.S.S.R., is out of fashion in Washington and Brussels. The well-worn path taken westward by its Central European neighbors isn't considered right for it.

On taking office, Barack Obama outsourced relations with Ukraine and Georgia to Joe Biden, refusing to pay either a visit. NATO is off the table. The EU suffers from an acute case of strategic myopia, seizing on any excuse—and Ukrainians provide all too many—to slam the door shut.

Better ideas are heard from diplomats who want to "press the reset button" here, as the U.S. so grandly did on Russia. The message of this election is that Ukrainians—like their immediate western neighbors before them—want their politicians to stop their bickering and build a properly functioning democratic state integrated with the West. We should be there to help them.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Ukraine’s Election And The Value Of A Divided Electorate

NEW YORK, NY -- The first round of the Ukrainian election, which was held on the 17th of January, was inconclusive making a runoff, scheduled for February 7th , necessary.

Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko in a 'tête-à-tête' with Russian PM Vladimir Putin.

At first glance, the contrast between the two candidates in the runoff, Prime Minister Yulia Timoschenko the heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, and Viktor Yanukovich, the man whose fraudulent attempt to claim victory led directly to the Orange Revolution, is stark.

According to the most common narrative, Timoschenko is viewed as pro-west and likely to bring Ukraine closer into the European orbit while Yanukovich is closer to Russia and likely to strengthen ties with Russia while weakening relations with Europe and the U.S.

The reality is that both candidates will have to continue the extremely difficult task of balancing a divided country between Russia and the west while trying to reenergize an economy which has been badly hurt by the global economic downturn.

It is very likely that the winning candidate will not have a sufficient mandate, or enough votes in parliament, to quickly change the course of Ukraine. Moreover, the electorate is sufficiently polarized, hence the need for the runoff between these two candidates, that no president will be able to abandon the west in favor of Russia, or do the reverse.

Additionally, in recent years, Timoschenko’s western orientation has become more equivocal as she too has sought to improve Ukraine’s relations with Russia.

Speculation about who will win the election, and how that person will govern, can overshadow the democratic advances Ukraine has made since the Orange Revolution of 2004, particularly when contrasted with Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, the other two post-Soviet countries to have Color Revolutions in the last decade.

All three Color Revolutions were, at the time they occurred, hailed as democratic advances, but Ukraine is the only one of the three countries that can accurately be said to have experienced greater democratization since those dramatic events.

According to Freedom House, for example, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan have the same level of democracy as they did before the Rose and Tulip Revolutions, while Ukraine has become more democratic that it was before the Orange Revolution.

Politically, Ukraine remains a divided country with Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions strong in the eastern part of the country and Timoschenko far stronger in the west. Nonetheless, these divisions are being worked out, to some extent, in a democratic context.

This is not to suggest that the election in Ukraine is simply a democratic election between two candidates with different views. There is legitimate fear among many in the west that a victory for Yanukovich would slow down or halt the democratic advances the country has made in the last few years.

Additionally, in Eastern Ukraine, which includes the industrial base of the country, the Party of Regions has put a strong patronage system in place, one with a few echoes of the old Soviet regime. The party has, for example, relied on close ties between local government, industry and the Party of the Regions to ensure that it is able to be involved in the distribution of jobs and economic opportunities.

This, not surprisingly, also includes occasionally intimidating supporters of other parties, threatening them with losses of livelihood and similar lower level forms of harassment. During elections, fraud is still more common in the east than in the west of the country.

While the Party of Regions has used some undemocratic means to bolster their popularity in the eastern and southern parts of the country, they also enjoy a legitimate base of support as well.

The party’s more pro-Russian position reflects the views of many in the east of the country where warm feelings towards Russia are strong and many ethnic Russians live. The corresponding coolness of the Party of Regions towards strong Ukrainian nationalism also resonates well with voters in Eastern Ukraine.

For much of the time immediately following the Orange Revolution, the Party of Regions was also able to point to solid economic growth in the eastern part of the country. This, of course, changed substantially with the global economic downturn in late 2008.

Ironically, the continued presence of Yanukovich and his Party of the Regions as a political force in Ukraine, although on the surface representing an obstacle to democracy because of the nature of that party’s rule in the eastern part of the country, may be one of the reasons Ukraine has democratized more since its Color Revolution than either Georgia or Kyrgyzstan has since theirs.

The strength of the Party of Regions made it impossible for Ukraine to develop the one party, or strongman, systems which emerged in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan beginning in 2004-2005.

Because the Party of Regions remained politically relevant and, in the eastern part of Ukraine, even dominant, neither of the parties of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Timoschenko’s Block Yulia Timoschenko (BYT) or Viktor Yuschenko’s Our Ukraine could emerge as the sole locus of political power in Ukraine during the last six years.

The failure of the Orange Revolution to completely overrun the previous administration and political regime has therefore been both a facilitator and limiting factor for Ukraine’s democratic development beginning in 2005.

Unlike in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, after the Color Revolution the defeated candidate did not slink away to either to political obscurity or to Moscow when his efforts to steal the election were thwarted. Instead, Yanukovich remains, while not always a force for democracy, an important political leader in Ukraine-and perhaps its next president.

Source: The Faster Times

Ukraine's Election And The Russian Resurgence

AUSTIN, Texas -- Ukrainians go to the polls Feb. 7 to choose their next president. The last time they did this, in November 2004, the result was the prolonged international incident that became known as the Orange Revolution.

That event saw Ukraine cleaved off from the Russian sphere of influence, triggering a chain of events that rekindled the Russian-Western Cold War. Next week’s runoff election seals the Orange Revolution’s reversal. Russia owns the first candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, outright and has a workable agreement with the other, Yulia Timoshenko.

The next few months will therefore see the de facto folding of Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence; discussion in Ukraine now consists of debate over the speed and depth of that reintegration.

The Centrality of Ukraine

Russia has been working to arrest its slide for several years. Next week’s election in Ukraine marks not so much the end of the post-Cold War period of Russian retreat as the beginning of a new era of Russian aggressiveness. To understand why, one must first absorb the Russian view of Ukraine.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, most of the former Soviet republics and satellites found themselves cast adrift, not part of the Russian orbit and not really part of any other grouping. Moscow still held links to all of them, but it exercised few of its levers of control over them during Russia’s internal meltdown during the 1990s.

During that period, a number of these states — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the former Czechoslovakia to be exact — managed to spin themselves out of the Russian orbit and attach themselves to the European Union and NATO.

Others — Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine — attempted to follow the path Westward, but have not succeeded at this point. Of these six, Ukraine is by far the most critical. It is not simply the most populous of Russia’s former possessions or the birthplace of the Russian ethnicity, it is the most important province of the former Russian Empire and holds the key to the future of Eurasia.

First, the incidental reasons. Ukraine is the Russian Empire’s breadbasket. It is also the location of nearly all of Russia’s infrastructure links not only to Europe, but also to the Caucasus, making it critical for both trade and internal coherence; it is central to the existence of a state as multiethnic and chronically poor as Russia.

The Ukrainian port of Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and Ukrainian ports are the only well-developed warm-water ports Russia has ever had. Belarus’ only waterborne exports traverse the Dnieper River, which empties into the Black Sea via Ukraine.

Therefore, as goes Ukraine, so goes Belarus. Not only is Ukraine home to some 15 million ethnic Russians — the largest concentration of Russians outside Russia proper — they reside in a zone geographically identical and contiguous to Russia itself. That zone is also the Ukrainian agricultural and industrial heartland, which again is integrated tightly into the Russian core.

These are all important factors for Moscow, but ultimately they pale before the only rationale that really matters: Ukraine is the only former Russian imperial territory that is both useful and has a natural barrier protecting it. Belarus is on the Northern European Plain, aka the invasion highway of Europe. The Baltics are all easily accessible by sea.

The Caucasian states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are on the wrong side of the Caucasus Mountains (and Russia’s northern Caucasus republics — remember Chechnya? — aren’t exactly the cream of the crop of Russian possessions). It is true that Central Asia is anchored in mountains to the south, but the region is so large and boasts so few Slavs that it cannot be controlled reliably or cheaply. And Siberia is too huge to be useful.

Without Ukraine, Russia is a desperately defensive power, lacking any natural defenses aside from sheer distance. Moscow and Volgograd, two of Russia’s critically strategic cities, are within 300 miles of Ukraine’s eastern border. Russia lacks any natural internal transport options — its rivers neither interconnect nor flow anywhere useful, and are frozen much of the year — so it must preposition defensive forces everywhere, a burden that has been beyond Russia’s capacity to sustain even in the best of times.

The (quite realistic) Russian fear is that without Ukraine, the Europeans will pressure Russia along its entire western periphery, the Islamic world will pressure Russia along its entire southern periphery, the Chinese will pressure Russia along its southeastern periphery, and the Americans will pressure Russia wherever opportunity presents itself.

Ukraine by contrast has the Carpathians to its west, a handy little barrier that has deflected invaders of all stripes for millennia. These mountains defend Ukraine against tanks coming from the west as effectively as they protected the Balkans against Mongols attacking from the east. Having the Carpathians as a western border reduces Russia’s massive defensive burden.

Most important, if Russia can redirect the resources it would have used for defensive purposes on the Ukrainian frontier — whether those resources be economic, intelligence, industrial, diplomatic or military — then Russia retains at least a modicum of offensive capability. And that modicum of offensive ability is more than enough to overmatch any of Russia’s neighbors (with the exception of China).

When Retreat Ends, the Neighbors Get Nervous

This view of Ukraine is not alien to countries in Russia’s neighborhood. They fully understand the difference between a Russia with Ukraine and a Russia without Ukraine, and understand that so long as Ukraine remains independent they have a great deal of maneuvering room. Now that all that remains is the result of an election with no strategic choice at stake, the former Soviet states and satellites realize that their world has just changed.

Georgia traditionally has been the most resistant to Russian influence regardless of its leadership, so defiant that Moscow felt it necessary to trounce Georgia in a brief war in August 2008. Georgia’s poor strategic position is nothing new, but a Russia that can redirect efforts from Ukraine is one that can crush Georgia as an afterthought.

That is turning the normally rambunctious Georgians pensive, and nudging them toward pragmatism. An opposition group, the Conservative Party, is launching a movement to moderate policy toward Russia, which among other things would mean abandoning Georgia’s bid for NATO membership and re-establishing formal political ties with Moscow.

A recent Lithuanian power struggle has resulted in the forced resignation of Foreign Minister Minister Vygaudas Usackas. The main public point of contention was the foreign minister’s previous participation in facilitating U.S. renditions. Vygaudas, like most in the Lithuanian leadership, saw such participation as critical to maintaining the tiny country’s alliance with the United States.

President Dalia Grybauskaite, however, saw the writing on the wall in Ukraine, and feels the need to foster a more conciliatory view of Russia. Part of that meant offering up a sacrificial lamb in the form of the foreign minister.

Poland is in a unique position. It knows that should the Russians turn seriously aggressive, its position on the Northern European Plain makes it the focal point of Russian attention. Its location and vulnerability makes Warsaw very sensitive to Russian moves, so it has been watching Ukraine with alarm for several months.

As a result, the Poles have come up with some (admittedly small) olive branches, including an offer for Putin to visit Gdansk last September in an attempt to foster warmer (read: slightly less overtly hostile) relations. Putin not only seized upon the offer, but issued a public letter denouncing the World War II-era Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, long considered by Poles as the most outrageous Russian offense to Poland.

Warsaw has since replied with invitations for future visits. As with Georgia, Poland will never be pro-Russian — Poland is not only a NATO member but also hopes to host an American Patriot battery and participate in Washington’s developing ballistic missile defense program. But if Warsaw cannot hold Washington’s attention — and it has pulled out all the stops in trying to — it fears the writing might already be on the wall, and it must plan accordingly.

Azerbaijan has always attempted to walk a fine line between Russia and the West, knowing that any serious bid for membership in something like the European Union or NATO was contingent upon Georgia’s first succeeding in joining up. Baku would prefer a more independent arrangement, but it knows that it is too far from Russia’s western frontier to achieve such unless the stars are somewhat aligned.

As Georgia’s plans have met with what can best be described as abject failure, and with Ukraine now appearing headed toward Russian suzerainty, Azerbaijan has in essence resigned itself to the inevitable. Baku is well into negotiations that would redirect much of its natural gas output north to Russia rather than west to Turkey and Europe. And Azerbaijan simply has little else to bargain with.

Other states that have long been closer to Russia, but have attempted to balance Russia against other powers in hopes of preserving some measure of sovereignty, are giving up. Of the remaining former Soviet republics Belarus has the most educated workforce and even a functioning information technology industry, while Kazakhstan has a booming energy industry; both are reasonable candidates for integration into Western systems.

But both have this month agreed instead to throw their lots in with Russia. The specific method is an economic agreement that is more akin to shackles than a customs union. The deal effectively will gut both countries’ industries in favor of Russian producers. Moscow hopes the union in time will form the foundation of a true successor to the Soviet Union.

Other places continue to show resistance. The new Moldovan prime minister, Vlad Filat, is speaking with the Americans about energy security and is even flirting with the Romanians about reunification. The Latvians are as defiant as ever.

The Estonians, too, are holding fast, although they are quietly polling regional powers to at least assess where the next Russian hammer might fall. But for every state that decides it had best accede to Russia’s wishes, Russia has that much more bandwidth to dedicate to the poorly positioned holdouts.

Russia also has the opportunity. The United States is bogged down in its economic and health care debates, two wars and the Iran question — all of which mean Washington’s attention is occupied well away from the former Soviet sphere. With the United States distracted, Russia has a freer hand in re-establishing control over states that would like to be under the American security umbrella.

There is one final factor that is pushing Russia to resurge: It feels the pressure of time. The post-Cold War collapse may well have mortally wounded the Russian nation. The collapse in Russian births has halved the size of the 0-20 age group in comparison to their predecessors born in the 1970s and 1980s. Consequently, Russian demographics are among the worst in the world.

Even if Russia manages an economic renaissance, in a decade its population will have aged and shrunk to the point that the Russians will find holding together Russia proper a huge challenge. Moscow’s plan, therefore, is simple: entrench its influence while it is in a position of relative strength in preparation for when it must trade that influence for additional time. Ultimately, Russia is indeed going into that good night. But not gently. And not today.

Source: This report republished with permission of STRATFOR

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Presses Tigipko On PM Offer

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Yulia Tymoshenko pressed businessman Sergey Tigipko on Tuesday to accept her offer of the prime minister's job if she is elected president, but said she wanted his answer before a Feb. 7 runoff vote.

Yulia Tymoshenko and Sergey Tigipko

Tigipko, a former central bank chief and government minister, came a strong third in the first round of the election on Jan. 17, polling 13 percent of the vote.

Tymoshenko, who is prime minister, and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich, her rival for the presidency, are both seeking Tigipko's support ahead of the February vote but he has already said he will not commit himself to either side.

"I want to officially offer Tigipko the post of prime minister in the event of my election as president," Tymoshenko told journalists. "I am hoping he will give a clear answer so that people can decide on voting day in the second round of the elections."

Tymoshenko trailed Yanukovich by 10 percentage points in the first round and wants the votes that Tigipko took from Yanukovich's support base in the industrial east of the country to help close the gap.

She is expected to pick up many floating votes from other eliminated candidates, particularly in the Ukrainian-speaking west and centre.

Tigipko, 49, said in an interview with Reuters on Monday that he was ready to serve either Yanukovich or Tymoshenko as prime minister as long as he had their backing for "unpopular measures" to revive the struggling economy.

Tymoshenko said her election programme was similar to that of Tigipko, especially in the area of the economy -- both speak of modernisation and a stronger social safety net -- although Yanukovich too claims that his plan of action is identical.

Source: Radio Free Europe