Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tobacco Advertising In Ukraine Could Be Banned Completely, According To Bill

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada could ban all types of advertising of tobacco in Ukraine under a new law now undergoing initial scrutiny.

A bill on amendments to some laws concerning a ban of advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco sales was passed by 303 MPs at first reading at a plenary meeting on Tuesday.

The bill also suggests that the advertising of trademarks of goods and services and other objects of intellectual property rights under which tobacco is produced be prohibited.

The sponsorship of television and radio programs, performances and concerts, sports and other events with the use of trademarks for goods and services and other objects of intellectual property rights under which tobacco is produced will also be banned.

Tobacco advertising is not banned if placed in specialized publications or at specialized trade shows.

The bill also stipulates that the layout of any advertising should not contain images of tobacco or depict the process of smoking.

The document is aimed at streamlining the Laws on Advertising, on Measures aimed at Preventing and Reducing the Consumption of Tobacco and its Harmful Impact on the Public's Health and Ukraine's Code on Administrative Offices in line with the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was ratified by Ukraine's parliament on March 15, 2006.

Source: Interfax

Ukrainian President Vetoes Law On Tax Code

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has decided to veto the law on the Tax Code. He said so at the Borispol airport on Tuesday, before his departure for Astana.

President Viktor Yanukovych

According to Yanukovich, “a working group created by the government, which includes representatives of the president, as well as people working in the small and medium business, will soon draft amendments to the Tax Code.”

Yanukovich promised to examine them on December 2.

“If they meet the requirements set before the Tax Code, I shall sign them and submit them to the parliament. I vetoed the law today and I think the present-day situation is most suitable for really drafting a document in line with the objectives of modernizing our economy and getting it out of the shadow,” Yanukovich said.

The Supreme Rada adopted the Tax Code on November 18, which evoked the indignation of the business community.

People working in the sphere of small business started a protest action for an indefinite period of time in the Independence Square of Kiev on November 22.

Last Saturday President Yanukovich visited a tent camp of the protesters.

After their conversation he made it clear that he could veto the Tax Code. Several dozens of protesters are staying at the Independence Square on Tuesday.


Monday, November 29, 2010

The President Of Ukraine Meets Businessmen Protesting Over New Tax Code

KIEV, Ukraine -- Over the weekend, the President and the Prime Minister of Ukraine met with the representatives of the businessmen protesting against the new Tax Code, adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament on 18 November, 2010.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich (2nd L) talks to demonstrators holding a rally to protest against a proposed new tax code, while Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (3d L) stands nearby.

Since then, the representatives of Ukrainian SMEs have been protesting on the country's main Independence Square in Kyiv, demanding the President's veto of the Code.

In response to the protests, the President Yanukovych and the Prime Minister Azarov decided to personally talk to the entrepreneurs. The country's two main officials spent more than an hour over tea with the SMEs representatives in one of the tents put up on Kyiv's central square.

As a result, Yanukovych stated that the possibility of vetoing the document is very high.

"We share the same goal: to bring the economy out of shade and stimulate the development of the country and business through tax policy," he said. "I object this Code's strengthening of the administrative pressure of the Tax Administration on business".

Viktor Yanukovych suggested the protesters and the Ukrainian government create a special joint working group.

Aimed at simplifying the Ukrainian tax system, the Code, however, gave rise to much controversy among businesses. Many SME owners throughout the country claim they would significantly suffer from the new tax system which the Code is designed to introduce.

The key point of controversy in the new Tax Code is the so-called simplified taxation system, introduced in 1999. According to the system, individual entrepreneurs with annual revenues not exceeding 300.000 UAH (37500 USD) are allowed to pay the unified monthly tax of 200 UAH (25 USD) with an exemption from all other taxes.

Thus, many small businesses were relieved from a heavy tax burden. However, as reported by many analysts, the simplified tax system was largely used by the Ukrainian companies to evade or minimize their tax liabilities.

The new Code introduces numerous restrictions on the simplified tax system as to minimize the possible tax evasions. As the protesters claim, together with the tax evasion schemes, those restrictions will destroy many diligent small businesses.

Yanukovych offered to check "every syllable" in the draft before 2 December, when he will return from an OSCE summit in Astana.

Source: Worldwide News Ukraine

Can Ukraine Follow Georgia's Lead In Reforms?

TBILISI, Georgia -- Tbilisi's Prospero's Books lies tucked in an alley off Rustaveli Avenue, the city's main boulevard. It could stand in for any East Village or Notting Hill bookstore cafe. An up-front section devotes itself to MBA-sounding self-improvement titles like "Managing For Results" and "Think Strategically: Plan The Future And Make It Happen."

While he has his critics, President Mikheil Saakashvili has transformed Georgia.

By comparison Siaivo Books, Prospero's equivalent in Kyiv, was raided earlier this year by masked men who expelled bookshop employees and welded the door shut in an alleged ownership dispute. Today, the space sits empty and boarded up.

Not surprisingly, the World Bank's "Ease of Doing Business 2011" survey ranked Georgia 12th out of 183 countries -- the highest grade of any ex-Soviet state and just ahead of Finland and Sweden. Ukraine clocked in at 145, five notches ahead of Uzbekistan and behind the rest of the ex-Soviet republics. Russia ranked 123rd.

Post-Soviet countries could have something to learn from Georgia's playbook. When Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power after the bloodless 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia, with its population of 4.5 million, was widely seen as one of the most corrupt countries in the former Soviet Union.

Saakashvili battled corruption, streamlined bureaucracy, and pushed through successful economic reforms. The world has noticed. In 2010, Transparency International graded Georgia 68th out of 178 countries for corruption, a leap from 2003 when it ranked a lowly 127th. Ukraine ranked 134th.

A 2002 IFC Enterprise Survey indicated that more than 70 percent of firms in Georgia expected to pay bribes to public officials to get things done. In 2008, that number dropped to just 4 percent.

Meanwhile, the latest "Ease of Doing Business" global report ranks Georgia eighth-easiest in starting a business, seventh in dealing with construction permits, and second in registering property.

Breaking With The Past

How did Saakashvili do it? Observers credit in part his government's cadre of young leaders who entered adulthood after the Soviet Union's breakup and in many cases earned degrees in other countries or worked for Western institutions before taking posts in the Georgian government.

The government in fact encourages this migration from the old system and openness to new ideas by offering study grants for postgraduate Georgian students under age 40 who are accepted into select global universities.

Most of Georgia's leaders speak multiple foreign languages. Finance Minister Kakha Baindurashvili, 32, studied at Williams College in Massachusetts; Georgian-born Economy Minister Vera Kobalia, 29, spent over half her life in Canada and studied at the British Columbia Institute of Technology; Energy Minister Aleksandre Khetaguri, 34, participated in World Bank and USAID training programs in the United States.

Defense Minister Bachana Akhalaia, 30, worked at Tbilisi's liberal Liberty Institute, many of whose founders were elected to parliament after the Rose Revolution; Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, 38, earned his LLM degree in the Netherlands; Education Minister Dimitri Shashkini, 35, served as country director for the U.S. International Republican Institute; National Bank chief Giorgi Kadagidze, 30, earned his B.A. from Preston University in the United States.

Saakashvili, 42, studied at Columbia University Law School in New York, the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and George Washington University. Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri, 35, earned a masters in international business management from Temple University in Philadelphia and studied economics at Ireland's University of Limerick.

In contrast, the leadership of Ukraine, a country which underwent a similar pro-democracy "colored revolution" in 2004, today remains partly unchanged from the 1990s and, in some cases, Soviet times. The National Bank chief, Volodymyr Stelmakh, 71, worked at the USSR State Bank in Moscow and, for five years in the 1980s, as an adviser to Cuba's National Bank.

Since 1992 he has held various top leadership roles at Ukraine's central bank. Economy Minister Vasyl Tsushko, 47, worked as director of a Soviet state farm before briefly chairing a regional state administration and then becoming interior minister.

President Viktor Yanukovych, 60, graduated from Donetsk Polytechnic Institute in 1980 at age 30, with a major in mechanical engineering. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, 62, earned his doctorate in geology and mineralogy from Moscow State University in 1971 and as recently as 1995, served as director of Ukraine's State Research and Design Institute of Mining, Geology, and Geomechanics.

Unlike in Georgia, Ukraine's president, prime minister, and cabinet ministers were educated in Soviet institutions and none, according to their official biographies, have trained in countries outside the USSR or Ukraine.

Looking To The World

Political will combined with international exposure and experience plays an important role in seeing through reforms, say Georgian government officials. First Deputy Economy Minister Archil Kekelia, 30, earned his MBA from the London Business School and worked at a Spanish bank.

"In the 2000s, I spent a lot of time abroad. My colleagues spent a lot of time abroad. We were able to observe how things are done in the West in business, banking, jurisprudence, health care," he says. "Now we carry with ourselves some examples and practices and knowledge of how things are done in other systems, which gives you a good mix of vision and understanding."

To implement reforms, "you need to create a new set of rules and for Georgia, it was explicit," says Georgia's National Security Council Deputy Secretary Irakli Porchkhidze, 29, who earned his master's degree at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. "We wanted to create a modern government, a government that was accountable, forward-looking, small-government-oriented, fast-moving, and service-providing."

He adds that in order to push through reforms a country's leadership first needs to be idealistic, then needs to demonstrate political will and a cohesive political elite that endorses and stands behind the reforms. "You need vision as well," he adds. "What do you want your country to be associated with, to look like in five, 10 years?"

Saakashvili's clean break from Georgia's old system was both symbolic (the country changed its anthem, flag, and coat of arms) and practical, swiftly taking advantage of the momentum and trust that flowed from the Rose Revolution.

The government passed a new Tax Code, streamlining administration and reducing the number of taxes from 26 ultimately to six low, flat taxes, earning Georgia the fourth most tax-friendly ranking in the world on "Forbes Tax Misery and Reform Index 2009."

Georgia also battled corruption. Where systemic corruption had been a way of life, the government increased efficiency and cut red tape in the public sector. It instituted a competitive national testing program for school admissions where once money could earn an entry place and, in 2005, famously fired the entire corruption-ridden traffic police corps in one day, cutting 30,000 from the payroll.

A new force was put in place through open competition, and salaries were increased tenfold. The government also thinned its bureaucratic procedures. While the previous government's 300 licenses and 600 permits opened the door to corruption, today most Georgian agencies are one-stop shops.

Youth Is Not Enough

Georgia's reformist spirit manifests itself even in smaller details: for example, the government's official website. The president's biography page includes an icon where the public can report corruption. The government's website lists leaders' -- including the prime minister's -- phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Every page is available in English, providing information on various topics from tourism to government tenders to unique investment opportunities. In contrast, not all Ukrainian government websites are available in any language other than Ukrainian (see the Justice Ministry's website) and information is often hard to find or unavailable.

Georgia's reforms were self-driven, according to Ghia Nodia, political analyst and professor at Ilia State University, and not about following Western advice on gradual systemic changes. "It took lots of daring to even set that objective and to believe that it's possible," Nodia says. "The people who were young and some of them socialized in the West or used to working in Western organizations -- they had this daring."

"The Georgian example could in the future serve as an example in terms of motivating people that it's possible," he adds. "If it's possible in Georgia then it can be done in other countries, in that sense."

Youthful leadership alone, however, is not itself a catalyst for change. "Corruption will never go away by itself. The idea that a new generation will fix it is not right. Corrupt fathers pass bad habits to their children," says Shota Utiashvili, 32, head of the Georgian Interior Ministry's information and analysis department.

"If you want to fight corruption, you need to fight it everywhere -- in the police, courts, customs -- it needs to be a unified approach. In Ukraine and Russia, you occasionally get a show trial of a guilty person, but everyone knows there are hundreds, thousands as guilty as him who never get punished."

One of Georgia's key decisions, according to Utiashvili, was to start arresting corrupt people close to the top, including two members of parliament in 2004 and 2006 for, respectively, extortion and paying a bribe. "That set an example and was repeated over and over," accompanied by heavy press coverage.

Today, Georgia investigates corruption using "stings" -- a common U.S. law enforcement practice -- sending undercover agents with hidden cameras to expose corruption. Offering a bribe, as well as accepting a bribe, is criminally punishable.

At the same time, an old-guard leadership does not preclude reform. Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazerbaev, 70, has been in power since 1990, improved business regulation the most this year. According to "Doing Business 2011," it moved up 15 places in the "Ease of Doing Business" rankings to 59th among 183 economies. Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov, 45, spent time studying and working in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Out With The Komsomol

Eschewing clan ties was another element critical to Georgia's reforms. "The president when he came to power was young and not attached to old teams. He was free of these friendships and this kind of political elite. This was absolutely a new team," Deputy Economy Minister Kekelia says.

"If you look at neighboring countries, you won't see a young person that came to government with his own team of youngsters. Look at Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia -- most of these guys are ex-members of the Komsomol. Same thing with Ukraine; same thing with Russia -- you have a KGB guy there."

Ukrainian lawmaker Natalia Korolevskaya, 35, says that in today's Ukraine there are few top-echelon leaders who don't remember and didn't work in the Soviet regime, calling it "our colossal insufficiency."

According to Korolevskaya, on her recent visit to Georgia Saakashvili told her he considered his country's main reform to be that it was "able to create a team consisting of a new generation of leaders who don't have the reflex of taking bribes, who don't have limited ideas, who are capable of realizing reforms."

"Unfortunately," she adds, "we don't have this in our country because when people implementing the reforms are those who actually created the system, we understand that we can't expect real results. Ukraine's main problem is corruption."

One example of a leader on his way up may be Andriy Shevchenko, 34, a lawmaker and former journalist who studied at Yale University as a world fellow and now chairs parliament's Free Speech Committee.

The Ukrainian government recently announced its intention to send 300 students in 2011 to study in Western universities.

Realizing The Risks

Despite its successful reforms, Georgia's system remains a work in progress. Opposition leader and head of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats bloc Irakli Alasania, 36, says the current government's tendency to appoint younger leaders has divided society and cast away the over-55 crowd as "useless." Alasania believes Georgia needs to combine "the young educated people with the experienced people."

He also agrees with critics who say the government enforces an unfair election environment and restricts press freedoms. He adds that while street corruption largely has been cleaned up, elite corruption flourishes.

Last month, Georgia's parliament voted to change the constitution and give the prime minister greater powers than the president. Critics say the amendments were created and passed to benefit Saakashvili, whose second presidential term ends in 2013 and who some speculate will then become prime minister -- the path Vladimir Putin took in Russia.

Nodia also sees an innate weakness in the current system. "When you are so daring in appointing very young people to high positions, it means you take risks all the time. Sometimes it works, but some people don't [work out]. So you change people all the time, and that's, of course, a weakness."

Could the Georgia model work in Ukraine? With its 46 million people, Ukraine has a larger uphill battle to fight, according to the deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Giorgi Kandelaki, 28.

"Ukraine is a big country. It doesn't have territorial problems; it doesn't have war. It can withstand upheavals much easier," he says. "But at the same time it's slower to change. Stagnation is impossible [in Georgia]. Either you move, or you fail."

In Ukraine, a younger generation of managers with international experience has yet to be promoted to top posts because of what critics call a closed leadership circle. "The older people don't give young people the chance to change [Ukraine]. They think they will change Ukraine by themselves, but I think it's difficult," Georgia's Ambassador to Ukraine Grigol Katamadze says.

"There are certain limitations that the young politicians [in Ukraine] have in terms of moving ahead or creating strong enough political alliances," says Nick Maxymiv, a Kyiv-based financial consultant with experience in both Ukraine and Georgia.

"A lot of things in Ukraine are manipulated by money. There's a great dividing line between politicians who are business owners with money and politicians who are just open-minded, Western-educated, with no finances."

Source: Radio Free Europe

Scotland's Valt Vodka Wins Ukraine Contract

LONDON, England -- A company which produces the world's only single malt Scottish vodka has won a contract in Ukraine.

The vodka is made from Scottish barley and water from the River Spey.

Valt Vodka, which is distilled in Kingussie, has been selling its blend of the drink for just over three years.

Made from Scottish barley and water from the River Spey, it sells in pubs and restaurants across the country - including Claridge's Hotel in London.

Oliver Storrie of the firm said: "It's a real breakthrough to get into Ukraine."

He added: "It's like telling a Scotsman about whisky. The Ukrainians were slightly skeptical at first but once they tasted the vodka their opinion completely changed."

Source: BBC News

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ukraine May Join Customs Union

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine may join a customs union formed by its ex-Soviet peers Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, the Ukrainian president said Friday, casting doubts on Kiev's hopes of a free-trade pact with the European Union.

Russia's Medvedev (R) and Ukraine's Yanukovych.

"This is possible, but there are procedures we need to go through in Ukraine such as amending the constitution, which can be done either by the parliament or through a referendum," Viktor Yanukovych told reporters after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two sides have stated a desire for their trade volumes to reach $40 billion.

Ukraine is in talks with the European Union on signing an association agreement that includes a free-trade deal, but Brussels has not promised it EU membership or proposed that it be given EU-candidate status.

Joining the Russia-dominated trade bloc may hamper a deal with the EU because the customs union has a common foreign-trade policy with tight links to Russia.

Russia pushed through the customs union after losing patience over its bid to join the World Trade Organization.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a macroeconomic policy coordination agreement last week, a key part of their drive to create a free-trade zone in 2012.

The talks between Medvedev and Yanukovych resulted in an agreement from Ukraine to cut transportation rates for Russian crude at its ports by 50 percent and increase oil imports.

Russia will ship 18.5 million metric tons of oil a year to Ukraine for processing at refineries and further export, Russian Ambassador Mikhail Zurabov told reporters Friday. The amount exported further will depend on how much Ukraine uses, he said.

Medvedev and Yanukovych also discussed gas prices. The Russian president said the two countries need to “find such compromises” on energy issues that will allow their economies to develop.

During the presidential visit Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller told Ukraine Energy Minister Yury Boyko that the company would consider contributing deposits from the Astrakhan region on the Caspian Sea to a proposed joint venture with Naftogaz.

Since coming to power in February 2009, Yanukovych has tilted Ukraine's foreign policy toward Russia, abandoned the goal of joining NATO and extended the deal under which the Russian navy uses Ukrainian Black Sea facilities.

Source: The Moscow Times

Our Ukraine Party's Political Council Head Nalyvaichenko Calls For Ban Of Communist Ideology

KIEV, Ukraine -- Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the chairman of the Our Ukraine party's political council and a former chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, has said that the communist ideology should be banned.

Communist hammer and sickle logo.

Nalyvaichenko was speaking on Radio Liberty on November 27.

Nalyvaichenko called for the ban while speaking about the additional legal measures that should be taken to punish those responsible for the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine after a court decision that held Soviet leaders responsible for the famine.

"The next thing should be a court judgment on communism and the Communist Party... The communist ideology should be addressed at the legislative level, it should be banned for being the criminal ideology that resulted in the destruction of a peaceful population," Nalyvaichenko said.

Nalyvaichenko also said that it was necessary to legally declare the KGB as a criminal organization.

At the same time, Nalyvaichenko expressed doubt about the appropriateness of banning officials that cooperated with the KGB from holding government posts in Ukraine because of lack of sufficient evidence.

"In reality, most of those archives that could have served as the basis for lustration remain classified and they are in Moscow. The part of the archive that we had is often falsified," Nalyvaichenko said.

Nalyvaichenko reiterated that the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people and said that the legislation required the Security Service of Ukraine to investigate this crime.

"Article 442 of the Criminal Code on genocide stipulates that the Security Service is the main agency that is obliged to investigate and prevent such crimes... Therefore, investigation of this case was not just a whim but my direct obligation as well as the obligation of the entire service," Nalyvaichenko said.

In addition, Nalyvaichenko called for payment of compensation to the victims of the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine for the property that was seized from them.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, the Kyiv Appeal Court ruled on January 13 that the leaders of the former Soviet Union were guilty of committing genocide against the people of Ukraine through organization of the 1932-1933 famine.

In November 2009, Volodymyr Viatrovych, the then-director of the Security Service of Ukraine's archive department, also said that the Communist Party of Ukraine should not exist in the country.

At the same time, parliamentary deputies Ivan Zaiats and Yaroslav Dzhodzhyk of the Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc called on the parliament to ban the communist ideology, but the parliament refused to consider the relevant draft law.

Source: Ukrainian News

Ukraine Recalls Stalin-Era Suffering

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine marked its national day yesterday remembering the victims of its devastating Stalin-era famine amid controversy over whether the tragedy should be termed a genocide.

Stalin's forced starvation of Ukrainian peasants was especially hard on children.

Many Ukrainian historians say that the famine, which killed between four and 10mn people by different estimates, was intentionally provoked by Soviet rulers to crush an independence movement in Ukraine, but others dispute this.

President Viktor Yanukovich took part together with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in a commemoration to victims of the great famine early yesterday in Kiev, calling on Ukrainians to “bow down the memory of the innocently killed”.

Yanukovich laid a candle and Ukrainian symbol of a branch and the ears of wheat at the monument to the great famine victims, the presidency said.

Former president Viktor Yushchenko lobbied the United Nations for years to have the famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine recognised as an act of “genocide” against the Ukrainian people, which constantly irritated Moscow.

But the pro-Russian Yanukovich rejected this idea and named the great famine “a common tragedy of the nations that composed the Soviet Union” in a meeting of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in April.

“We consider that recognising the great famine as a fact of genocide by one or another nation will be wrong, it would be unjust,” Yanukovich said at the time.

Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has accused Yanukovich of outraging the memory of Stalin-era famine’s victims by not recognising it as genocide.

“It is very sad that the current leadership denies the fact of genocide, committing outrage upon the memory of millions of victims of great famine,” Tymoshenko said as was quoted on her website.

In 2006 under the previous pro-Western administration, the parliament of the former Soviet republic approved a bill recognising the famine as genocide despite opposition from pro-Russian lawmakers.

Source: AFP

Ukraine Tax Protests Test Mettle Of New President

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych is undergoing his biggest test since taking power, over tax reforms that sparked the biggest protests in Ukraine since the Orange Revolution, analysts said.

The protests have been led by small business owners and the self-employed.

The reforms passed earlier this month by parliament are due to come into force on January 1 but the bill still needs to be signed by the president, who on Saturday indicated he might refuse it.

Thousands of Ukrainians have turned out in noisy demonstrations across the country against the reforms, in a nasty surprise for Yanukovych just as he seemed to be asserting his authority after taking power in February.

Ukraine has not seen protests on this scale since the 2004 Orange Revolution popular uprising that ousted the old elite and installed Yanukovych's pro-Western predecessors in power.

The burly president -- who has made stability his mantra -- on Saturday took the unusual step of meeting protestors in the capital, saying he was likely to veto the tax reforms but the decision required further review.

The protestors have set up tents for a non-stop sit-in on Kiev's Independence Square that was the hub of the Orange Revolution, in a jolting reminder for Yanukovych of the perils of ignoring public anger.

"The likelihood of a veto is high," Yanukovych said as he met the protestors alongside Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. "But we can say more about it later, after we all sit down together and review the tax code again."

The protests have been led by small business owners and the self-employed, who argue that the tax changes will ruin their livings by benefiting only big firms close to Yanukovych's ruling Regions Party.

"The protests have been an unpleasant surprise for the presidential administration. I think they did not expect such mass protest," said Volodymyr Fesenko of the Gorshenin Institute of Management Issues in Kiev.

"The authorities were not ready and underestimated the possibility of such mass protests. For the first time in the last five years, we are seeing large protests by social groups, even if their numbers are not comparable to 2004."

Yanukovych rose to prominence as a politician with the support of industrial magnates in his home region in east Ukraine, and Fesenko said the protests had shown up the failure of the administration to communicate with ordinary people.

"I will take the decision which best protects the interests of everyone, above all the state," Yanukovych told AFP in an interview last week.

The government has defended the tax changes, saying they will close up loopholes that have allowed small businessmen and the self-employed to get by paying tax on a largely ad-hoc basis.

According to Olena Belan, economist at Dragon Capital in Kiev, most anger has been caused by the increase in the powers of the tax administration rather than specific tax hikes themselves.

Ukraine is under pressure to improve its fiscal discipline under the terms of a new loan deal agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the financial crisis plunged the country into a deep recession.

But Belan noted that the tax dispute was largely a separate issue, as while the IMF wanted more fiscal discipline from the government, its drive was about cutting expenditures and not increasing revenues.

Thanos Arvanitis, IMF mission chief for Ukraine, said this month "that the tax code is expected to be broadly revenue neutral."

In another worry for the authorities, the protests have shown a rare unity across a country often marked by stark regional divisions.

The Orange Revolution was greeted rapturously in the Ukrainian-speaking West of Ukraine but with suspicion in the Russian-speaking industrial east.

But protests have taken place in Yanukovych's home stronghold of Donetsk in the east of Ukraine and the central industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, as well as the nationalist bastion of Lviv in the west.

In Kiev meanwhile, the city court has banned protests in the city centre but the police have made no effort to disperse the demonstrators.

"The authorities do not know what do to with the protestors, resort to force or find a compromise," said political commentator Vitaly Portnikov, warning that any use of force could provoke a new uprising.

Source: AFP

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Eager To End Visa Requirements With Ukraine

YALTA, Ukraine -- Industry and Commerce Minister Nihat Ergün said on Friday that Turkey was eager to remove limitations on travel between Ukraine and Turkey by ending visa requirements.

Minister Ergün (R) and the permanent representative of the president of Ukraine in Crimea.

“We have reiterated Turkey’s proposal to remove visa requirements between Turkey and Ukraine,” Ergün, who is currently in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea to attend the Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum, said.

The minister met with a group of Crimean businessmen at a meeting organized by the Turkish-Ukrainian Businessmen’s Association on Thursday evening.

Recalling the agreement on the abolishment of visa requirements with Russia, which is currently awaiting ratification in the both countries’ parliaments, he underscored that such steps play a great role in bringing different cultures together and leading to increased prosperity.

From this point of view, an end to visa requirements boosts the potential of mutual commercial relations dramatically, he argued.

“Turkey wants to have a consulate general in Crimea in Simferopol. We have completed the necessary application and have asked Crimean officials to accelerate the process,” Ergün added.

Turkey and the Crimea share historical roots and enjoy close relations in the political and cultural sphere, along with their geographical proximity, asserted the minister to illustrate the potential of deepening relations further.

He said Turkey’s fortunes were improving politically and economically with every passing day, calling on the Ukrainian entrepreneurs to take advantage of their southern neighbors’ emergence as a regional power.

“During our meeting with the Ukrainian executives we wanted Turkey and Ukraine to sign a free trade agreement,” Ergün said, also noting that the Crimea would be included in this as well. Referring to bilateral trade between Turkey and Ukraine, Ergün said Turkey’s imports from this country outnumbered its exports: “The trade volume was $8 billion in 2008.

Of this, $6 billion was Turkey’s imports, whereas its exports added up to just $2 billion.”

“This figure dropped following the economic crisis in the world in 2009. The trade volume between Turkey and Ukraine at the moment stands around $4 billion and only a quarter of this amount constitutes Turkey’s exports,” he added.

Ergün also said Turkish businessmen brought new technology and opportunities to the regions they invested in.

Source: Today's Zaman

Ukraine Commemorates The Victims Of The Great Famine (Holodomor) 1932-1933

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine commemorated yesterday the victims of the Great Famine (Holodomor) 1932-1933 and the 77th anniversary of the Holodomor.

The Day of Remembrance of Victims of the Holodomor and Political Repressions in Ukraine is marked every year on the fourth Saturday of November annually.

In 2006, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine recognized the Holodomor 1932-33 as a genocide of the Ukrainian people, it was also recognized as a genocide by another 15 countries.

By different estimates, the artificial famine or the Holodomor, organized in Ukraine by the Stalin totalitarian regime at the expense of confiscation of foodstuffs from peasants, took away the lives of from 7 million to 10 million of Ukrainian residents.

President Viktor Yanukovych has called the Great Famine a targeted crime of Stalin's regime. "This is a terrible event in the history of the Ukrainian people, in the history of Ukraine's neighboring peoples - Belarusians, Russians and Kazakhs.

It was really a targeted crime against own people. These were our ancestors, these were people lost by their country, lost by their families, and this memory for a modern society remains holy," he emphasized.

"We will always condemn the regime of Stalin, who committed this crime" Yanukovych stressed, UKRINFORM reports.

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Kostiantyn Hryshchenko thanks the countries and the peoples assisting in renewal of the memory about the Holodomor 1932-1933 in Ukraine.

He appreciated efforts of the Ukrainians abroad on the spread of truth about the reasons and consequences of the Holodomor and addressed the words of gratitude to all the countries and the peoples, sharing our grief and assisting in renewal and preservation of remembrance about the experienced hard times.

"Our sacred duty today and in the future is to make everything possible so that remembrance about the Ukrainians and representatives of other nations, who died of the artificial hunger, remained alive for the present and the future generations, being a warning for the future," the address emphasizes.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), with the assistance of Ukrainian institutions and civil society organizations, has issued a scientific handbook, entitled "The Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine According to the Documents of the Branch State Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine: An Annotated Handbook."

The book is the first edition of the complete list of all declassified documents of the SBU's Branch State Archive on the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine, which cover the causes and consequences of this tragedy.

In general, the handbook includes annotations to 420 documents, name and geographical directories pointing to people, villages, and regions mentioned in the archival documents.

The book also contains the signatures to secret documents, regulatory and administrative documents, the archival materials of criminal cases, agent documents, personal documents, postcards, the memories of witnesses and their descendants.

Source: WAM

Controversial Tax Reform Headed For Veto In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Saturday that he was likely to veto a controversial tax reform that has sparked the largest protests in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Protesters have set up tents for a non-stop sit-in on Kiev's Independence Square.

"The likelihood of a veto is high," Yanukovych said during a meeting with a group of Kiev protesters composed of small business leaders.

"But we can say more about it later, after we all sit down together and review the tax code again," he added.

Ukraine's parliament passed the tax reform earlier this month and it is due to come into force on January 1 but still needs to be signed by the president.

It has set off the biggest street protests since the 2004 pro-democracy demonstrations and represents a stern test for Yanukovych just as he seemed to be asserting his authority after taking power in February.

Small business leaders say the new tax code is weighed heavily against them and in favour of big enterprises that are allegedly close to Yanukovych's ruling Regions Party.

The protesters have set up tents for a non-stop sit-in on Kiev's Independence Square that was also the hub of the Orange Revolution.

Paying a visit to the tent city with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Yanukovych said that no firm decision on the changes had yet been taken.

"The tax code only reached my administration yesterday," the Ukrainian president said, vowing to give small business leaders a fair say in any decision.

"My experts will be working on it today, tomorrow and the day after until they finish the work," he said.

He invited the businessmen to meet with him at his office on Monday, offering to reach a final agreement by Thursday on his return from a scheduled visit to Kazakhstan.

It was not immediately clear if the protesters had accepted Yanukovych's offer.

"The president said that he heard us and understood us," one demonstrator said in televised remarks after Yanukovych's visit.

"The president assured us today that he is on the businessmen's side."

Yanokvych's government seemed open to suggestions of presenting an entirely new tax code to the country after the president vetoes the current draft.

But either way, his team seemed set on changing legislation that -- critics charge -- allows small businessmen and the self-employed to get by paying taxes on a largely ad-hoc basis.

"One way to go about it is by veto -- and another is to fix it (the tax code) after the veto," Azarov said in comments aired later on Channel 5 television.

"We will find the optimum solution either way."

Source: AFP

The Devil's Playground

NEW YORK, NY -- For most Americans, who remember World War II as beginning in 1941, it is necessary to recall that Europe had succumbed to an infatuation with violence long before the United States entered the conflict.

Homeless peasants near Kiev in 1934, during the famine engineered by Stalin.

Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale, compels us to look squarely at the full range of destruction committed first by Stalin’s regime and then by Hitler’s Reich. Each fashioned a terrifying orgy of deliberate mass killing.

In “Bloodlands,” Snyder concentrates on the area between Germany and Russia (Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic region and Belarus) that became the site of horrific experiments to create competing utopias based on class or race war.

For Stalin, this meant controlling “the largest social group in the Soviet Union, the peasantry.” They needed to be driven off small plots of land into more efficient collective farms; many were forced to move to factory zones to sustain rapid industrialization.

Ukraine became ground zero for the resulting artificial famine. The regime confiscated grain for the cities, while sealing the borders to prevent people from escaping, or bearing witness. The Holodomor, as Ukrainians call it, destroyed over three million men, women and children.

More than 2,500 were sentenced for cannibalism in 1932 and 1933. By 1937, “the Soviet census found eight million fewer people than projected,” largely in Ukraine. Stalin refused to circulate the information and, consistent with his usual practice, “had the responsible demographers executed.”

But Stalin was not done. Within a few years, the Great Terror, as it was called, engulfed party officials and the Red Army, leading to the execution of tens of thousands of officers and officials. The Terror also involved the killing of hundreds of thousands of peasants and members of national minorities, most notably Soviet Poles, and again more Ukrainians.

Stalin felt the need to explain the casualties of collectivization by blaming enemies who had sabotaged his plans. Poles inside the Soviet Union, who numbered over 600,000 at that time, fit the bill. Ordered to make large-scale arrests, the state police looked for Polish names in the telephone book. In Leningrad, nearly 7,000 people were rounded up; a vast majority were executed within 10 days.

With the start of World War II in September 1939, Hitler soon occupied a large part of Poland. But he did not immediately engage in genocide against the Jews. It’s true that ghettos were constructed in Warsaw and Lodz, and that tens of thousands of Polish Jews perished from random shootings, exposure and disease.

Still, this was not yet the Holocaust. At the time, Hitler had in mind the extermination of a good many Poles: “the educated, the clergy, the politically active.” Such a plan would probably have killed more than the three million Polish Jews that the Nazis eventually murdered. And there was an even broader goal — Generalplan Ost — that was designed to eliminate somewhere between 31 million and 45 million Slavs to give the Germans living space in the East.

Snyder cannot help concluding that “the Germans intended worse than they achieved.” But once Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 — “the beginning of a calamity that defies description,” Snyder writes — he turned his full attention to the Jews.

Snyder recounts an aspect of the Holocaust that remains unfamiliar to many Americans. Even today, the prevailing image is the fate of Jewish families like Anne Frank’s, who were rounded up and transported to killing centers in Poland. But it was in German-controlled Soviet territory that the Nazis carried out the full logic of their murderous intentions.

Within a half-year, the Wehrmacht succeeded in occupying all of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States. And it was here, with the murder first of Jewish men and then of the entire Jewish populations of small towns, that the Germans began the systematic open-air massacres that resulted in the slaughter of two and a half million Jews in German-occupied Soviet territory, a proportion of the six million that remains hard to grasp.

Babi Yar was a ravine outside Kiev where the Germans killed more than 33,000 Jews in two days of continuous shooting; this atrocity was matched by thousands of similar massacres, large and small, until 1944, when the Red Army succeeded in driving the Wehr-macht out of Soviet territory.

Drawing on material in several European languages, including memoirs and scholarly literature, Snyder recounts this sequence of mass murder — by Stalin and then by Hitler — which accounted for 14 million civilian deaths in little more than a dozen years. Every nationality in the region and many other categories — Poles, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Soviet P.O.W.’s and Jews — were victimized.

Snyder punctuates his comprehensive and eloquent account with brief glimpses of individual victims, perpetrators and witnesses, among them the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who wrote about Soviet Ukraine and Nazi Germany in the 1930s; Vsevolod Balytskyi, Stalin’s security chief for Ukraine, who invented the “Polish Military Organization” to explain the famine and justify a roundup of Soviet Poles; and the frightful Vasily Blokhin, one of Stalin’s most reliable executioners, who wore “a leather cap, apron and long gloves to keep the blood and gore from himself and his uniform.” Blokhin is reported to have personally shot more than 7,000 Polish prisoners in 28 days as part of the notorious Katyn massacre in 1940.

But “Bloodlands” falters when Snyder comes to deal with the aftermath of the war in the Soviet Union. Stalin became obsessed with the Jews. Members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, which had conducted an effective propaganda campaign on behalf of the wartime alliance between the Kremlin and the Western democracies, were arrested and convicted in a secret trial in 1952.

Snyder fails to grasp the significance of the case. Claiming there were 14 defendants (in fact there were 15), he refers to them as “more or less unknown Soviet Jews.” But the 15 included five renowned Yiddish writers and poets, men like Peretz Markish and David Bergelson, who had international reputations.

And the leading defendant, Solomon Abramovich Lozovsky, was an old Bolshevik who had been mentioned by John Reed in “Ten Days That Shook the World” for his role in revolutionary Petrograd. He is even referred to in the diaries of Joseph Goebbels; it was Lozovsky, as deputy Soviet foreign minister, who responded to Goebbels’s demagogic attacks on the Soviet government.

Not long after the Red Army had liberated Auschwitz, the remnants of Soviet Yiddish culture found themselves subjected to secret trials and executions. This sent a disheartening signal to the surviving Soviet Jews, leading them to believe that they had no place in Soviet society and spurring them to try to leave the country.

Within two decades, the Jewish emigration movement, together with the broader Soviet human rights campaign, contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

Source: The New York Times

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gorgeous And Angry: Protest Topless Says 300 Women From Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- They are young, intelligent women angry about the levels of domestic violence and corruption what's more they are annoyed when the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin pranced into town last month.

Now 300 young women are demanding attention from the government by protesting almost naked, and it's creating the storm they predicted.

"If sexuality is used to sell cars and cookies, why not use it for social and political projects," said 26 year old Anna Hutsul told the Moscow Times.

She is one of the up and coming leaders of the group who have for years cried foul over issues that affect women, including sentence to death by stoning of 43 year old Iranian, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

It was at a pajama party 2 years ago that the movement began in student dormitories where the most basic items where denied, including enough running water. In protest the bikini clad women drove to a local fountain in protest.

It wasn't long before the young, stunning women realized the power, attention and influence that could be gaining from being proud and in control and to show off your body.

From humble beginnings the women moved on to protest against the treatment of prostitutes and discrimination but soon turned into a broad ranging political movement where the women have set the policy agenda fighting for a strong representative democracy and freedom of speech.

Their actions are not without danger, with the police often arresting the women over public nudity which is outlawed in the Ukraine.

Gaining attention not only at home in Ukraine, but around the world Hutsul has just announced that she intends to create a new political party and run in the next election for parliament.

Source: Culture Clash Daily

Medvedev Praises Ukraine's Non-Alignment Pledge As Logical Decision

GORKI, Russia -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that Moscow fully supports Ukraine's decision to remain a non-allied state.

Viktor Yanukovych (L) and Dmitry Medvedev.

Ukraine has recently passed laws confirming its non-aligned status and dropped its NATO membership bid.

"In our opinion, it is a logical development of events, and we believe that it meets the interests of the existing European security system as well as Russia's long-term development interests," Medvedev said at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych near Moscow.

"We have always maintained a simple view of Ukraine's accession to NATO - it would destroy European security - it is a sensitive issue for us," Medvedev said.

Ukraine sought NATO membership under President Viktor Yushchenko. His successor, Yanukovych, who came to power in February, has said the country does not seek alignment with any military bloc, but needs to maintain good strategic relations both with NATO and Russia.

Despite dropping its NATO ambitions, Ukraine plans to continue its partnership with the Western alliance.

According to a draft plan for military cooperation with NATO for 2011, Ukraine and NATO will hold over 20 joint events next year.

Ukraine also said it was ready to take part in NATO's European missile defense project.

Source: RIA Novosti

European Union To Loan Ukraine $596 Million For Highway Repair

KIEV, Ukraine -- European Union and the Ukrainian government officials Friday signed a $596-million-dollar loan agreement to repair intercity highways in the former Soviet republic.

A Ukrainian highway.

The low-interest credit will go towards overhauling six sections of two and four-lane road highway connecting the capital Kiev to the European road net, said Evhen Prusenko, a senior official for Avtodoroha, Ukraine's national road maintenance agency.

Two of the road section overhauls would be complete in time for the Euro 2012 football championship, Prusenko said, according to a Unian news agency report.

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will act as the loan issuer. An initial tranche of $331 million dollars is to be paid out in early 2011, said EBRD spokeswoman Sue Barrett.

'This will be the EBRD's single largest transportation project in Ukraine,' she said.

Prusenko estimated the loan's annual interest rate at 'around two per cent' - a rate roughly one-tenth of interest rates currently prevailing in Ukraine's domestic credit markets.

Ukraine will pay off the loan by 2025. Prusenko said Kiev was discussing another possible loan of $600 million dollars for road repairs with the European Investment Bank.

Kiev has named overhaul of the national transportation structure a top priority, so as to stimulate economic growth and to help handle some one million international visitors expected for the Euro 2012 football championship.

Ukraine's transportation infrastructure for the most part dates back to the Soviet era. Travelers most often complain of potholed roads, slow trains, and poor service standards on aircraft and in airports.

Source: DPA

European Parliament Adopts A Resolution on the Political Situation in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- As a result of a long debate, European Parliament voted on a resolution on Ukraine during Strasbourg plenary session.

European Parliament

The European Parliament stresses that Ukraine has European prospects and strong historical, cultural and economic links to the European Union.

At the same time, the European Parliament expressed concern over some problematic issues so that the whole document looks balanced and unbiased.

The resolution on the political situation in Ukraine was drafted jointly by the European People's Party (EPP), Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe (ALDE), Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) and European Conservatives and Reformist groups.

The resolution was initially on the agenda of the Parliament's October session. However, the majority of MEPs decided to postpone the voting until Ukraine's local elections on 31 October were over, as stated in European Parliament Newsletter.

Based on the Joint Statement adopted at the EU-Ukraine Summit held in Brussels on 22 November 2010, European Parliament also welcomed Ukraine's long-term ambition to become an EU Member State.

"This decision is a sign of trust towards the policy, implemented by the Ukrainian leadership. Also, it is a sign of European partners' new understanding that such a mighty integration project of the EU cannot be complete and successful without our country's participation", said Oleg Voloshyn, Head of the Information Policy Department at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

With regard to the Action Plan towards visa liberalization for Ukraine as agreed at the current 14th EU-Ukraine Summit, European Parliament urged the member States to abolish fees for processing national and Schengen visa applications for Ukrainian citizens as a mid-term objective.

However, the MEPs also expressed their concern over transparency and fairness of the local elections held on 31 October 2010 in Ukraine and encouraged Ukrainian leadership to improve the electoral framework.

The resolution urged the Ukrainian Parliament to enact the draft law "on access to public information" so that it complies with European and international standards.

Source: Worldwide News Ukraine

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ukraine Gets A Shot At EU Membership Despite Tight Government Controls

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The alleged growth in government influence over the media, together with political interference by the secret services and the rushed adoption of new election rules that are seen as a backward step, are among concerns voiced by MEPs in a resolution on Ukraine passed on Thursday.

Under EU treaty rules, Ukraine has a right to apply for membership of the EU. It has “a European perspective with strong historical, cultural and economic links to the European Union”, stress MEPs, who give firm cross-party backing to Ukraine’s EU membership aspirations.

At the same time, the resolution criticizes “increasingly worrying signs of a lessening of respect for democracy and pluralism” in Ukraine.

Lack of freedoms

MEPs are deeply concerned that media freedom and independence have come under pressure in recent months and draw attention to the disappearance of the editor-in-chief of a newspaper that focuses on corruption.

They also call for an investigation of the Ukrainian USB Security Service, its politicization and possible “interference in the democratic process”.

Election rules

MEPs admit that the local and regional elections of 31 October were conducted “technically in an orderly manner” but nonetheless note that they failed to guarantee the parties’ right to compete.

Due to a change in the electoral law just before the elections, many registration requests by opposition parties were not accepted, resulting in a massive victory for the ruling party in 85% of the constituencies.

Energy security

Despite their criticisms, MEPs agree that Ukraine continues to be a key partner with significant influence on the security and stability of Eastern Europe and that it also plays a pivotal role in the EU’s energy security.

Here Parliament calls for further agreements to secure energy supplies, although it notes that for these to be concluded, Ukraine needs to modernise and diversify its gas transportation network.

Visa liberalization

MEPs welcome progress made at the 22 November EU-Ukraine summit towards concluding an Association Agreement and the setting up of an Action Plan for visa liberalisation for Ukraine.

Such a roadmap can help Ukrainians to consolidate the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms, MEPs believe. The 2012 European Football Championship could also be an opportunity to introduce special measures to facilitate travel by ticket holders, and could be used as a testing period for a final visa-free regime, they suggest.

In the meantime, EU countries are urged to abolish visa fees for Ukrainians.

The resolution was drafted jointly by the EPP, S&D, ALDE, ECR and GUE/NGL groups and adopted by show of hands.

In May 2010 Parliament gave its green light for a €500 million EU loan to Ukraine. The country has a partnership and co-operation agreement with the EU (in force since 1998) and is currently negotiating a closer association agreement, to cover political, trade, social, cultural and security assistance.

Source: European Parliament

Thousands Protest Tax Law Changes In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- About 6,000 people gathered in Ukraine's capital Thursday on the fourth day of demonstrations against tax law changes, part of the largest nationwide wave of protests since the Orange Revolution of 2004.

Protesters shout slogans protesting a draft tax law in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. About 6,000 people gathered in Ukraine's capital Thursday on the fourth day of demonstrations against tax law changes, part of a nationwide wave of protests that is the biggest since the Orange Revolution of 2004. Flags give the names of towns, regions and organizations protesters are from.

The demonstrators set up tents in Kiev reminiscent of the encampments of the Orange Revolution, which brought in an era of tumultuous democracy in Ukraine.

Parliament adopted the new tax bill last week, but President Vikor Yanukovych is hesitant to sign it, fearing it would take a serious toll on his popularity.

He offered to meet with the protesters later this week and take their demands into consideration.

Iryna Akimova, Yanukovych's deputy chief of staff, said parliament will submit the bill to Yanukovych on Friday.

The government says the reform is a long-overdue measure that will streamline tax legislation, increase budget revenues and help fund pensions and other social programs after the economy contracted 15 percent last year.

Experts agree that Ukraine must reform its tax system, which currently ranks among the three worst in the world, according to a study by the World Bank group.

But other experts and entrepreneurs say the tax law changes would cripple small- and medium-size businesses by depriving them of much-needed tax brakes.

They say the new tax code will actually decrease government revenues by drowning many businesses and will fuel corruption among tax police by giving tax inspectors too much power when inspecting firms.

Some 3,000 protesters rallied in front of the president's Office late Thursday. A group of them was allowed inside to speak with Akimova.

The protesters also staged demonstrations at the Prosecutor General's offices and Central Elections Commission headquarters, accusing officials of abusing power and demanding an early vote to oust the Cabinet.

"They have declared war against the people," said co-organizer Oleksandr Danylyuk.

Some 1,500 police were on duty to keep order at the Kiev demonstration. No violence was reported.

Source: AP

Ukraine: Beautiful Blonde Goes Topless Against Women Exploitation

KIEV, Ukraine -- She is young, beautiful, blonde, and ready to go topless. But she doesn’t aim at modeling career. Inna Shevchenko (20), one of the Femen activists, wants to make Ukraine a better place. Especially for women.

FEMEN activist Inna Shevcheno.

Despite the prostitution being illegal, Ukraine is becoming the leading European sex tourism destination with about 12,000 prostitutes and the $700 million sex industry.

While the government and the police are keeping their eyes widely closed, the number of so-called sexpatriots who visit the country rises.

“Prostitution and sex tourism are booming business. Instead of combating it, the current government is interested in its further development. It brings the money. Never mind the exploited women.” Shevchenko told Allvoices.

Going topless to combat the women exploitation sounds contradictory. At least, to those who haven’t experienced the women’s life in a developing country as Ukraine is.

Shevchenko, the journalism student, explains in fluent English: “Our form of protest, topless, is our gun that we are fighting for our rights with. We are trying to show that we have an effective weapon which doesn’t do any harm.

People look, get shocked and then they try to understand.”

The Femen activists and their topless protests gain fame all around the world. Some accuse them of playing on their sexuality, some support them, some do understand and some don’t.

However, their voice is being heard. And the Ukrainian government doesn’t like it.

After the latest protest in Kiev, during the visit of Russian PM Vladimir PutinVladimir Putin, Shevchenko and one other protester were kept in prison for two days.

Since there is, accordingly, no law that banes topless protests, they were charged with hooliganism. The young Ukrainian democracy showed all its weakness.

“When I was in prison five men from the State Security came and told me I should not be Femen activist. I should stop taking part in the topless protests, they said. Otherwise, I could have problems at the university. My parents could have problems as well, they threatened me.”

The engagement with Femen already cost her job in the Kiev city government. But neither she nor her colleagues will give up. Instead, their agenda is just getting wider, and the Femen is to grow to a political party, which would hopefully run for the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

Source: AllVoices

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ukraine Willing To Participate In NATO Missile Shield

KIEV, Ukraine -- A senior Ukrainian defense official announced yesterday his government was prepared to participate in a planned NATO missile shield, ITAR-Tass reported.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Last week, the 28-member alliance approved including missile defense as a NATO objective, paving the way for a program to integrate and enhance member nations' domestic antimissile capabilities.

It has been suggested that the Ukrainian radar station at Mukachevo could be incorporated into the shield.

"Ukraine has not only expressed the readiness to take part in the creation of the European missile defense system but has also offered to use its radar stations in the project," Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Raisa Bogatyryova said following a meeting in Warsaw with Polish National Security Bureau Chief Stanislaw Koziej.

"We are ready to cooperate if the alliance takes an interest in this proposal," Bogatyryova said.

Earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Ukraine was welcome to participate in the missile defense system.

Ukraine is not a NATO member. Russia has also agreed to pursue joint missile defense work with the alliance.

Source: NTI Global Security

Ukraine Is Granted OSCE Chairmanship In 2013

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- 56 foreign ministers of OSCE participating countries unanimously voted for Ukraine's chairing the OSCE in two years from now.

FM Kostyantyn Gryshchenko

The Chairperson-in-Office is the foreign minister of the country that holds the Chairmanship. Current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Kostyantyn Gryshchenko is a potential Chairman of the Organization in 2013.

The President of Ukraine believes that Ukraine's chairmanship will provide more opportunities for strengthening security from Vancouver to Vladivostok, as the Organization is the center of debate on the future of European security architecture.

Earlier, in September, the President of Ukraine underlined his hopes for Kazakhstan's support for Ukraine in attaining chairmanship of the Organization in 2013.

The President noted that the experience of Astana should be taken into high consideration. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister and Secretary of State Kanat Saudabayev is the current Chairperson-in-Office.

"I sincerely congratulate Ukraine on the occasion of being awarded the esteemed OSCE Chairmanship in 2013. We wish our Ukrainian partners and friends success in the implementation of this responsible mission and the proper continuation of efforts of previous Chairmanships to strengthen and develop the OSCE in light of new geopolitical realities," Saudabayev said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, has stated that "Ukraine, as a non-aligned state will continue to carry out its constructive unifying role in the security dialogue, taking into consideration opinions of all the states of the OSCE region; and will take up a balanced position in respect of the acute issues of the Organization."

On top of that, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko said that Ukraine would specify its key elements of the upcoming chairmanship before 2013.

"Ukraine's chairmanship in the OSCE is a sign of growing international confidence in the new Ukrainian leadership, which our state lacked in the past years," says Oleg Voloshyn, the Head of Information Policy Department at the Ukrainian MFA.

The next OSCE Summit of Heads of State or Government will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 1-2 December 2010. It is the seventh such Summit in the OSCE's history.

Previous summits were held 1975 in Helsinki, 1990 in Paris, 1992 in Helsinki, 1994 in Budapest, 1996 in Lisbon and 1999 in Istanbul.

Source: Worldwide News Ukraine

Former Ukrainian President Backs Veto Of New Tax Code

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says the recently adopted tax code could lead the country to "total bankruptcy, total control, total corruption," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Former President Viktor Yushchenko

Ukraine's small and medium-sized business owners have said the new tax code is unfair and are demanding that President Viktor Yanukovych veto it. Thousands have gathered in central Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in recent days to protest the legislation.

Yushchenko told RFE/RL on November 22 that he has not met with the protesters and said he hopes the protests "will not be politicized and privatized by some rogue political force."

Yushchenko, who spoke to RFE/RL while attending the Kiev photo exhibit "Georgia 2000 vs Georgia 2010," said a national discussion should be held in order to find a consensus between officials and the business owners about the tax code.

"The easiest solution would be for President Yanukovych to veto the law, period," Yushchenko said. "I think that trying to reconcile the current version of the [tax] code [between the two sides] is impossible."

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a parliament deputy from the Front for Changes political party, who finished fourth in January's presidential election, also said the latest version of Ukraine's tax code is counterproductive for the economy.

"[These protests] are an act of survival for millions of Ukrainians who do not understand why they should pay taxes when big businesses do not pay taxes, for instance, by setting up off-shore zones or due to double-taxation agreements with [countries such as] Cyprus. Where is the social justice?" Yatsenyuk questioned.

Yatsenyuk said Front for Changes has provided buses for the protesters but decided not to show its party symbols at Kiev protest gatherings.

Yanukovych said in Brussels on November 22 that he will meet with protesters sometime this week to study their demands regarding the tax code.

Several hundred demonstrators have set up a tent camp in the capital's central square, while protest leaders have pledged to bring more people to the protests later this week.

But a Kiev court has banned protest rallies until November 27, and on November 23, police began asking protesters to leave the square.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Belgium To Assist Ukraine's Efforts To Get Closer To EU, Says Ukraine's Foreign Ministry

KIEV, Ukraine -- Belgium will assist Ukraine in getting closer to the European Union, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine has said.

Ukraine (L) and Belgium flags.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryschenko and Prince Philippe of Belgium, who is on an official visit to Ukraine, discussed Kiev's relations with the EU at a meeting on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported.

The sides devoted special attention to ways of deepening cooperation in the trade, economic and innovation spheres.

The Ukrainian side acquainted the Belgian side with the steps that the Ukrainian government is taking to reform the economy and create better conditions for activities of foreign investors.

During the meeting the issue of deepening the political dialog was also discussed, as was the realization of Ukraine's course towards the integration with the EU, including the results of the recent Ukraine-EU summit.

"The Belgian side confirmed its readiness to render further practical assistance to the Ukrainian government in getting closer to the EU, in particular via the assistance in improving the security of identification documents and the introduction of biometric passports, as well as holding seminars for Ukrainian judges," the Foreign Ministry reported.

The Belgian economic mission is on a visit to Ukraine on November 21-24.

Source: Interfax

German Court Rejects Demjanjuk Defense Motions

MUNICH, Germany -- John Demjanjuk accused a German court where he is being tried on charges he was Nazi death camp guard of ignoring evidence Tuesday after the panel of judges hearing his case rejected a raft of defense motions.

Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk.

In a rare statement to the court, Demjanjuk accused the judges of bias after they ruled that defense requests for investigative files from Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere were too general to be acted upon.

They also denied a defense request that the two prison doctors who see Demjanjuk regularly be brought in as witnesses to testify on the 90-year-old's frail health.

The Ukrainian-born retired Ohio auto worker is standing trial on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly having been a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. Demjanjuk denies ever being a camp guard, saying he has been mistaken for someone else.

"The judges suppress the Israeli, American, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian files about me, fearing that there is more evidence of my innocence..." he said in the written statement, which was typed in Ukrainian and read aloud in German by a courtroom translator.

"This is all evidence of the fact that the trial in Munich against me is illegal and wrong."

He asked that the statement be provided to "authorities" so that the accusations could be investigated.

Demjanjuk confirmed that the statement was his own when asked by Presiding Judge Ralph Alt, but then defense attorney Ulrich Busch said he would not answer any further questions.

The statement came after the court rejected a total of 23 defense motions. Among them, Busch has been denied the chance to question to two of Demjanjuk's doctors about whether their assessment of Demjanjuk's health is different than that of court doctor Albrecht Stein, who has consistently maintained that Demjanjuk remains fit for trial.

Busch and Demjanjuk's family have argued, however, that his health has been deteriorating and his pain is now so great that he can no longer concentrate on the proceedings.

Alt said that the judges had ruled that Stein was the doctor chosen by the court to give his assessment of the overall situation, while the other doctors responsible for his day-to-day care had a more narrow picture of his health.

Following the ruling, Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., accused the court of ignoring medical evidence to go ahead with the trial at any costs.

"While they silence the prison doctors and deny us the weekly clinical reports - against all western legal and humanitarian standards - they rely on a court appointed medical stooge whose therapy is to shoot my father with various drugs and call him fit," said John Demjanjuk Jr. in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Source: AP

Tent Camp Set Up In Kiev In Tax Protests

KIEV, Ukraine -- Demonstrators protesting proposed tax law changes they say will cripple small businesses defied authorities Tuesday and set up a small tent camp in the center of the Ukrainian capital.

Protesters hold a mask of a monster symbolizing Ukraine’s tax police at a rally in central Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Some thousands of angry Ukrainians protested a tax bill on Kiev's central square, that would increase taxes for small enterprises, which they say would bankrupt them.

Stomping their feet and dancing under soaking rain to warm themselves up, several hundred protesters vowed to stay on Maidan square until the authorities rescind a bill that raises taxes for small and medium size businesses.

The protest is part of a series of demonstrations that have drawn thousands, threatening the popularity of President Viktor Yanukovych, who took office in February.

The half-a-dozen tents echoed the massive encampment of the 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests. A Kiev court on Monday banned rallies in the city, saying they would disturb visits by foreign delegations.

Protesters say the tax reforms would hurt businesses by depriving them of tax breaks. The government says the changes are necessary to increase government revenues after the economy contracted by 15 percent last year.

Kiev police spokesman Volodymyr Polischuk told The Associated Press that government representatives were expected to officially inform the protesters of the ban later Tuesday and ask them to dismantle the camp. He would not say whether the authorities would resort to force to break up the protest.

Parliament adopted the tax bill last week, but Yanukovych is hesitant to sign it, fearing it would take a serious toll on his popularity. He vowed to meet with the protesters this week and take their demands into consideration.

One of the protesters, a 50-year old owner of a clothing stall at Kiev outdoor market, said the proposed tax code would bankrupt his business.

"I am standing here for freedom, for truth and for the right to do business," said the man, who gave his name only as Stanislav, fearing reprisals by authorities.

Ukraine's tax system ranks among the three worst in the world, according to a study of 183 nations conducted by the World Bank group.

Some experts say that the new tax code may actually decrease government revenues by pushing many businesses into the shadow and will fuel corruption among tax police by giving tax inspectors too much power while inspecting firms.

Source: AP

Ukraine Leader Pushes Triangular Partnership

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- In a strong defense of his rapprochement with Moscow, Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, said Monday that his policy had bolstered Europe’s security, improved all-round cooperation with Russia and consigned to history the recent disruption of gas supplies to Europe.

President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine (C), was welcomed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R), and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels.

After his first meeting with the European Union, Mr. Yanukovich contrasted past disputes with Russia with the way in which he said Ukraine is now working — “in the spirit of partnership in the triangle of Russia-Europe-Ukraine.”

Mr. Yanukovich’s visit to Brussels came nine months after he came to power and began a hasty reconciliation with Moscow, striking a deal over gas transit and extending the lease of Russia’s Black Sea naval base.

At the time, there were worries that the change of Ukrainian leadership would drag the country away from the European Union, and since the election the bloc has expressed worries about worsening human rights in Ukraine.

But at the meeting Monday in Brussels, the European Union sought to encourage reform in Ukraine, saying it hoped to complete by mid-2011 talks on a free trade deal and other ties with the country.

It also offered a plan toward visa liberalization — a move that would let Ukrainians travel more freely within the E.U. and would be a significant prize for the government in Kiev — though no clear timetable on requirements might be relaxed.

Ukraine, which has been independent since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost two decades ago, borders four E.U. countries and is a vital energy corridor.

But, having admitted 12 new nations to the E.U. since 2004, the bloc is careful not to give promises of membership to Ukraine, a country of 46 million people that was struggling economically even before the financial crisis drove it into the arms of the International Monetary Fund.

Speaking to reporters from three newspapers in Brussels on Monday, Mr. Yanukovich said that improved Ukrainian relations with Moscow were “a matter of principle importance.”

“I am certain,” he said, “that first of all, this is related to stability in Eurasia and this brings a positive benefit, not only in terms of energy security but extends as far as Euro-Atlantic security is concerned.”

Referring to a meeting of NATO allies and Russia last week in Portugal, where agreement was reached on a joint missile-defense plan, he said, “In many respects the result of the Lisbon summit depended on Ukraine’s position.”

While Ukraine has been improving its ties with Moscow, European nations have also seen better relations with Russia this year. The most notable development has been a significant rapprochement between Russia and Poland.

In a sign of greater cooperation, a separate meeting also took place Monday between the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers and the European commissioner for energy.

The Russian energy minister, Sergei I. Shmatko, told reporters that transit of Russian gas through Ukraine could be relied on and that the interruptions seen in the winters of 2005-2006 and 2008-2009 would not be repeated.

Asked about energy cooperation, Mr. Yanukovich criticized the proposed Southstream pipeline project, which would transport Russian natural gas to the Black Sea, Bulgaria and then to western Europe, bypassing Ukraine.

“In our view it is an unfair challenge brought by our partners, Russia and the E.U.”

Mr. Yanukovich acknowledged that the desire for such a network was prompted “by the unpredictability of Ukraine’s behavior in gas supply to Europe in 2006 and 2008.”

“But,” he added, “we have already answered that question. That question is consigned to history.”

Mr. Yanukovich defended the idea of closer cooperation with Gazprom, the huge Russian energy company, over the modernization of Ukraine’s pipeline network, rejecting suggestions that Ukraine’s Naftagas could be swallowed by Gazprom.

Concerns about rights within Ukraine also came up during the meeting. At a press conference in Brussels on Monday, both the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, highlighted concerns over human rights and freedom of the media in Ukraine.

“People can talk freely in the way they were able to talk before,” said the Ukrainian president. “When the opposition claims that some freedoms are shrinking, my answer is always quite simple: I tell them, ‘Why don’t you provide us with an example of what has changed in 2010?”’ However, he promised to improve the law in place before a recent regional election over which the E.U. raised concerns.

Referring to protests in Ukraine on Monday against a new tax code, Mr. Yanukovich said that the new rules were meant to address a shadow economy that accounted to 40 to 50 percent of the total. “We now have a whole generation of officials and bureaucrats who have created their business on the basis of corruption,” he said.

Finally, asked how long it would take for Ukraine to become a member of the E.U., Mr. Yanukovich said Ukraine was still unclear how long the road to membership would be. “The main thing is to proceed along that road,” he said.

Source: The New York Times