Friday, December 31, 2010

U.S. Helps Ukraine Send Two Atomic Bombs' Worth Of Uranium To Russia

WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States has helped Ukraine send two atomic bombs' worth of weapons grade uranium to Russia during a secret operation over the holidays, the Obama administration confirmed Thursday on msnbc's The Rachel Maddow Show.

Thomas D’Agostino

The removal of more than 111 pounds of highly enriched uranium followed a pledge by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to get rid of all of his country's highly enriched uranium by April 2012.

"Ukraine, they recognize they're part of the international community, they recognize how dangerous this material is," Thomas D’Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, told Maddow.

The material will be blended down in Russia, rendering it useless for bomb making, the Associated Press said.

Yanukovych agreed to give up the uranium in a multinational deal announced at a nuclear security summit hosted by President Barack Obama in April. Shipments like the one recently completed from Serbia result in permanent threat reduction because they eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material at civilian sites.

Securing the material will prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, officials say.

As an incentive, the United States is providing replacement low-enriched uranium that can be used for Ukraine's research reactors.

The summit deal also has the United States building a $25 million "neutron source facility" nuclear research project for Ukraine, the administration said. The facility will be able to produce 50 different types of medical isotopes, using only low-enriched uranium.

Secret operation

"The fewer places this stuff is at the better off the world is," D'Agostino told Maddow. "This is a global problem."

"It doesn't require a lot of technology or knowhow to make a nuclear bomb," he said. "Unfortunately the word is out there."

The "vulnerable nuclear material" was in 35 nations, D'Agostino said.

"We're done with 19 countries and have 16 more to go," D'Agostino told Maddow, noting the U.S. and other countries were on track to complete removal by the end of the four-year deadline established by the nations.

All the movement has to be done in secret and coordinated with other nations, he said.

Four nations were involved in the Ukraine operation, he said.

"Pulling this off is a huge challenge," he said.

The removal operation completed Thursday involved 21 specially designed casks for the uranium to be flown on five flights from three cities, officials told The Associated Press.

The operation was delayed for days by ice storms in Ukraine. The U.S. also helped deliver some of the replacement fuel to Ukraine.

"This may have been the most complicated operation NNSA has done in recent years," said Andrew Bieniawski, the U.S. agency's associate deputy administrator for global threat reduction.

The uranium came from three research facilities, in Kiev, Sevastopol and Kharkiv. The U.S. also helped Ukraine remove a slightly larger amount of spent uranium by rail in May. An additional amount of uranium remains in Ukraine, but the U.S. said the material was on track to be removed by the April 2012 deadline.

On Dec. 22, 28 pounds of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium spent fuel was removed from the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences in Serbia, making that nation the sixth country to eliminate all of its stockpiles of the material since April 2009, the nuclear security agency said after an operation there.

The agency has removed or assisted with the disposition of enough material to make more than 122 nuclear weapons, it said.

About 3.5 million pounds of highly enriched uranium and half a million pounds of bomb-grade plutonium remain in the world, according to Harvard University's Belfer Center.

That material could be used to build as many as 200,000 nuclear weapons, or about 8 1/2 times the world's current stockpile of 23,360 warheads.

Source: MSNBC

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Formally Charged After 11-Hour Interrogation

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was formally charged with abuse of office on Thursday at the end of an 11-hour police interrogation.

Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks to media in front of the prosecutor's office as she arrives for questioning.

She stands accused of misappropriating government money.

A team of prosecutors in Kiev interrogated Tymoshenko, Ukraine's leading opposition politician, from shortly after midday (1000 GMT) to midnight (2200 GMT).

Police refused her written request to end the questioning at the nine-hour mark. It was her sixth day of interrogation at the prosecutor general's office.

Officials in Ukraine's pro-Russia government since mid-November had alleged Tymoshenko violated the law by transferring as much as 400 million dollars in carbon credit payments to cover a national pension fund gap in 2009.

Prosecutors had repeatedly alleged Tymoshenko, at the time engaged in a fierce and ultimately unsuccessful election campaign, shifted the funds to increase her popularity.

She has denied all wrongdoing, and accused the government of pursuing a political vendetta against here.

'I believe this case is to prevent me from running in future elections,' she said, according to an Interfax news agency report.

A leading figure in Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko served as prime minister from 2004 to 2009.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych defeated her in a 2009 election. He has said his government is dedicated to eliminating corruption in high office.

Source: DPA

Medvedev, Putin Planning To Strengthen Relations With Kiev Next Year

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have congratulated Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on the upcoming holidays, the press service of the Russian Embassy in Ukraine has reported.

Russian President Medvedev (L) with PM Putin.

"Dear Viktor Fedorovych [Yanukovych], please accept my congratulations on the occasion of the New Year and Christmas holidays! The outgoing year was a period of a real strengthening of Russian-Ukrainian relations," Medvedev said in his letter of congratulation.

He said that this could be confirmed by an unprecedented and productive political dialog, high growth in trade and economic cooperation, as well as the promotion of joint large-scale integration projects.

Medvedev said that a serious positive impetus had been given to interregional relations and contacts in the humanitarian sphere and that the effective coordination of the two countries' approaches to urgent regional and international issues was increasing.

"Important interstate and intergovernmental agreements signed in 2010 open up new opportunities for building effective cooperation in all areas. I think that this is our common priority. A special role in its implementation belongs to the Russian-Ukrainian interstate commission, which has already started to work in full force. At commission meetings held in Kyiv and Moscow, we outlined a strategic course for the development of our relations," he said.

Medvedev expressed confidence that in 2011 the sides would jointly produce tangible results in the implementation of their plans – "for the benefit of our brotherly peoples, united by centuries-old traditions of friendship and spiritual values."

Putin, in turn, said in his congratulatory message: "I note with satisfaction that together we managed to bring relations between Russia and Ukraine to a qualitatively new level, to restore mutual trust and partnership and to make real progress in all areas."

He said he was confident that in the coming year, Ukraine and Russia would increase the dynamics of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation, creating favorable conditions for the launch of new joint projects in energy, industry, aerospace and shipbuilding, transportation and high technology.

"This certainly corresponds to the fundamental interests of the peoples of our countries, stability and security on the European continent," Putin said.

Putin also congratulated his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Azarov on the upcoming holidays.

Source: Sinoptik

U.S. Concerned Over Ukraine’s Prosecution Of Former Officials

KIEV, Ukraine -- The U.S. said it’s concerned that the recent prosecution of former government officials in Ukraine is “politically motivated.”

Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko talks with his wife, Irina, before the start of a court session in Kiev on December 27.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General has opened criminal cases against six members of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Cabinet, including her.

Tymoshenko lost a presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych in February and the probe is “terror against the opposition,” she said in a statement on her website on Dec. 15.

“While corruption should be pursued, prosecution should not be selective or politically motivated,” the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said in an e-mailed statement today.

The pursuit of officials “connected with the previous government” by authorities “gives the appearance of selective prosecution of political opponents.”

Tymoshenko was handed a no-flee warrant earlier this month after a criminal probe was started against her.

She’s accused of misusing funds from the 2009 sale of emissions permits to Japan. She has denied the allegations.

Source: Bloomberg

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stalin Statue In Ukraine Decapitated

ZAPORIZHZHYA, Ukraine -- Ukrainian police are seeking to establish who damaged a monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Zaporizhzhya's Stalin monument, head intact.

The right-wing nationalist organization Tryzub (Trident) has claimed responsibility for doing so in tribute to Stepan Bandera, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian national movement and head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.

Tryzub posted a video on its website saying that the head of the statue was removed on December 28 by unnamed Tryzub activists.

Tryzub calls Stalin "the executioner of the Ukrainian people and an international terrorist."

Though the video shows how the statue's head was removed, the Communist Party of Ukraine dismissed the damage as insignificant.

Oleksandr Zubchevskyy, the second secretary of the Communist Party in Zaporizhzhya, told RFE/RL today that the monument would be repaired in a few days.

"There are scratches on the neck and some letters are missing," Zubchevskyy said.

The Stalin monument in Zaporizhzhya was unveiled in May despite protests. It was the first such monument erected in Ukraine since Stalin died in 1953.

The monument is the property of the Communist Party of Ukraine and located right next to its local office in Zaporizhzhya.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Invited To Brussels Despite Travel Ban

KIEV, Ukraine -- A leading European political party has invited Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to Brussels in defiance of a travel ban, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

Yulia Tymoshenko

The invitation from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) came as Tymoshenko, who is accused of misappropriating government money
, was summoned by the general prosecutor's office for a fifth day of questioning.

EPP Secretary General Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White offered Tymoshenko an invitation to the European capital in a recent telephone conversation, suggesting a January visit, Interfax said.

The party could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday because of the Christmas holiday. In a statement released on December 17, the EPP described the ban on travel abroad by Tymoshenko as outrageous.

Ukraine's prosecutor general last month blocked Tymoshenko's exit from the country pending an investigation into allegations that she misdirected some 400 million dollars in public funds while in office.

Government investigators have alleged she illegally used the money to cover a gap in national pension payments.

Speaking to reporters before entering the office of the prosecutor general on Wednesday, Tymoshenko denied wrongdoing and accused the government of embezzling between 20 and 30 per cent of taxpayers' money spent on preparations for the Euro 2012 football championship.

'I intend to inform the prosecutor general of a massive crime in progress... sometimes the kickbacks in these big construction projects are even more than that,' she said.

Ukraine as co-host for the high-profile Euro 2012 football championship has promised to spend some 4 billion dollars on preparations.

President Viktor Yanukovych in mid-December announced a national campaign to eliminate corruption by top-level officials.

But his political opponents, led by Tymoshenko, have accused him of using the campaign as a cover for a crackdown on the opposition.

One of the our senior members of the Tymoshenko government, which was in power from 2004-2009, questioned by police in recent weeks, has been arrested.

The daily Segodnya newspaper reported Wednesday that the Yanukovych administration has arrested or declared as fugitives a dozen more mid-level members of the Tymoshenko government.

Source: DPA

Ukraine Opposition Claims It Is Being Targeted In Campaign Of Repression

KIEV, Ukraine -- Opposition groups in Ukraine have accused Kiev of running a campaign of repression against them. Former Prime Minister Tymoshenko and several members of her cabinet are already under investigation.

Tymoshenko (L) and Yanukovych are bitter political foes.

Opposition leaders in Ukraine have accused the authorities of running a campaign of repression against the main opposition leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and her allies.

President Viktor Yanukovych has dismissed the claims as groundless. Yet a total of 12 members of the country's opposition are under criminal investigation, six of them are set to ring in the New Year in prison.

The latest prominent opposition figure be arrested was Yuri Lutsenko, a former interior minister in Tymoshenko's cabinet. Lutsenko was walking his dog when the security service arrested him on Sunday.

"These are not the last arrests we are going to see this Christmas and New Year's season," Mykola Tomenko, deputy speaker of parliament, said on Tuesday. "People could be going to jail all the way through Epiphany."

Vasyl Onopenko, head of the country's supreme court on Tuesday called on officials to respect the rights of detainees.

"The presumption of innocence must be respected," he told a news conference. "This is a constitutional principle. But in our country, there aren't even formal charges, and still a person is immediately declared a criminal."

Running the country "like mafia"

Apart from Lutsenko, the former environment and economy ministers and a former deputy justice minister have also been arrested. Yulia Tymoshenko herself has been charged with abuse of office.

She is accused of having spent money destined for environmental issues on paying pensions. For the time being, she has not been detained, although she is not allowed to leave the capital Kyiv and must be available for questioning.

Before being questioned in the public prosecutor's office last week, Yulia Tymoshenko accused the government of President Viktor Yanukovych of running the country "like a real mafia," and that repressions against the opposition were aimed at ensuring that the opposition was in prison when the next elections are due.

"I would like to say to Viktor Yanukovych that, if he must carry out repressions, to do it in such a way that the people will not start laughing, when he puts the former prime minister behind bars for paying pensions," she said.

Yanukovich, however, denies all allegations. During a recent television interview, he stressed that the president does not have the power to exert influence on the courts and that, besides, Tymoshenko had all means at her disposal to defend herself.

Opinion polls show that many people appear to have grown weary of politics. The indicate that a growing number of Ukrainians have little faith in their president - but they have even less faith in other politicians.

Source: Deutsche Welle

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Government Probes Into Ukraine's Opposition Set To Continue

KIEV, Ukraine -- As yet another opposition politician was questioned by police Tuesday, a prominent lawmaker predicted that the interrogation and arrest of opposition figures in Ukraine were likely to continue.

Yuri Lutsenko walks past his wife Irina as he arrives in court.

'These are not the last arrests we are going to see this Christmas and New Year's season,' said Mykola Tomenko, deputy speaker of parliament. 'People could be going to jail all the way through Epiphany.'

Earlier Tuesday, Viacheslav Kirilenko, a legislator who heads the opposition party For Ukraine!, was called in for questioning by the national intelligence service regarding a December 17 fistfight in parliament that led to the hospitalization of five lawmakers.

Kirilenko is the fourth senior opposition figure to be questioned by authorities in the past month. He and others have decried what they see as a politically motivated campaign against them.

'I think that there is a machine operating now that functions without connection to reality,' Kirilenko was quoted as saying by the Korrespondent website. 'There is an element of political pressure on any member of the opposition right now.'

Kirilenko, a member of the parliamentary faction led by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was not present during the fight in parliament.

Vasyl Onopenko, chief justice of Ukraine's Supreme Court, called on justice system officials to respect the rights of detainees.

'Presumption of innocence must function,' Onopenko said at a news conference Tuesday. 'This is a constitutional principle. But in our country, there aren't even formal charges, and a person is immediately declared a criminal.'

A judge in Kiev on Monday ordered former interior minister Yury Lutsenko jailed for two months pending a hearing on corruption charges. He leads the opposition People's Self-Defence Party.

Lutsenko, in video posted on Tuesday on YouTube, called the charges against him politically motivated. He also accused police and prosecutors of repeated violations of his right to due process.

Members of a paramilitary police unit that arrested him Sunday failed to present an arrest warrant or to identify themselves, he said.

During his detention, he has been denied access to his lawyer and prevented from making copies of a document outlining the charges against him, he said.

'I am only allowed to write down notes by hand, with a pen,' he said. 'This is idiocy.'

Among other offences, Ukrainian prosecutors have accused Lutsenko of illegally arranging to have a pension of 5,000 dollars a month paid to his driver. He has denied the allegations.

Tymoshenko, Ukraine's leading opposition politician, on Monday was summoned to the general prosecutor's office for a fourth round of questioning this month.

During her time in office, she is alleged to have illegally redirected close to 400 million dollars in carbon credits to cover a shortfall in pension payments.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last month announced a national anti-corruption campaign. His Party of Regions holds all important cabinet posts and enjoys a solid majority in the parliament.

Tymoshenko has charged his government of cracking down on political opponents.

Source: DPA

Ukraine Can't Combine Putinism And European Integration

KIEV, Ukraine -- Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been placed under de facto house arrest and is threatened by a prison term of up to five years, as leaked to the newspaper "Segodnya" on December 22.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (left) shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during his working visit to Kiev in October. Is Russia the model Yanukovych's government aspires to bring to Ukraine?

She was briefly imprisoned in February 2001. The persecution of Tymoshenko is clearly aimed at removing her from politics ahead of the September 2012 parliamentary elections and the January 2015 presidential contest.

The attack on Tymoshenko and her political bloc, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), is politically motivated and also reveals a desire for revenge that has become personal. President Viktor Yanukovych has admitted that he regularly meets all opposition leaders -- except Tymoshenko.

Whether there was corruption in the 2007-10 Tymoshenko government -- as evidenced by October's so-called international audit, the arrest of former cabinet members, and the criminal charges against Tymoshenko -- is in many ways irrelevant. These charges -- as pointed out in a December statement by the Ukrainian Helsinki Union and Kharkiv Human Rights Group -- are politically motivated.

These two human rights organizations believe that "selective criminal prosecutions are the hallmark of an undemocratic regime."

Equal Before The Law?

As the anticorruption think tank Transparency International and other foreign and Ukrainian commentators have said, it is ludicrous to argue that only one out of the 14 governments of post-Soviet Ukraine was corrupt.

It is even more ludicrous to ignore Ukraine's three presidents in any audit of state corruption in Ukraine, particularly as tapes made by presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko in President Leonid Kuchma's office point to wide-scale abuse of office.

Yale University professor Keith Darden described Kuchma's regime as a "blackmail state," where corruption was tolerated in exchange for political loyalty and a share of the graft.

An international audit by an independent, non-Ukrainian body into all 14 governments and three presidents would be a welcome development in Ukraine. Nevertheless, an impartial international audit would be nearly impossible, as it would implicate most of Ukraine's elites, including President Yanukovych who was governor of Donetsk in 1997-2002, and prime minister in 2002-04 and 2006-07.

The October 2010 audit could not be classified as impartial, as it was undertaken by a law firm (Trout Catcheris) that represents Donetsk oligarch Renat Akhmetov in the United States.

The audit team included Kroll Associates, who was hired in 2002 by Viktor Pinchuk, Serhiy Tihipko, and the Trudova Ukrayina Party (now renamed Silna Ukrayina) to cover up Kuchma's alleged involvement in the disappearance and murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.

Moreover -- especially since Yanukovych was elected president -- no court trial or criminal investigation could be fair and in accordance with the rule of law. Ukraine's judicial system became even more corrupt during Yushchenko's presidency than it was previously. The independence of the judicial system under Yanukovych has ended.

Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka admitted on Inter television that he was a member of Yanukovych's team, not an independent body. Pshonka has been allied to Yanukovych since he was Donetsk governor, and the Ukrainian media have covered their close family ties.

Singling Out Tymoshenko

It should also be noted that the authorities are not targeting the opposition as a whole, but only its most popular force -- Tymoshenko and the Batkivshchyna party.

The two 2007-10 Tymoshenko governments were coalitions of cabinet members from the Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT), Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense (NUNS), and parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn's bloc.

Nevertheless, the authorities are not targeting former cabinet members from either NUNS or Lytvyn's bloc. Former President Viktor Yushchenko struck an immunity deal with Yanukovych in exchange for opposing Tymoshenko's election as president.

Yushchenko's hostility to Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential elections, when he called for his supporters to vote against both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych in the second round, probably cost Tymoshenko the election.

Although she increased her total from 25 to 45 percent between the two rounds, she lost by only 3 percent (Yushchenko received 5 percent in the first round).

Also, Lytvyn's 20 parliamentary deputies are needed by the ruling Stability and Reforms coalition, to which he shifted his loyalty after Yanukovych's election. The authorities are exploiting the blackmail state (in Ukrainian, these deputies are "on the hook") because of Lytvyn's and Kuchma's purported involvement in the Gongadze affair.

A January 2010 U.S. Embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks quotes Kuchma telling the U.S. ambassador that he believed the presidential elections were a choice between "bad" (Yanukovych) and "very bad" (Tymoshenko), suggesting he has no love for the current president. Kuchma said his favorite candidate was Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whose campaign was financed by Kuchma's son-in-law, oligarch Viktor Pinchuk.

Thinking Short-Term

The first conclusion we can draw from the persecution of Tymoshenko is that the Yanukovych team plans to stay in power indefinitely, using all the means at its disposal -- including illegal ones such as the fraud committed in the October 31 local elections.

The persecution of Tymoshenko and the opposition, over the protests of middle-class businesspeople and politically aware Ukrainians, indicates that they do not fear that Orange forces will ever return to power and take revenge against them.

A fear of the consequences of being out of power will very likely lead the authorities to organize election fraud in 2012 and 2015 on a scale that will dwarf the fraud committed in 2004 and October 2010.

The European Union will face the dilemma of whether it can sign agreements with Ukraine that could be seen as condoning democratic regression. Additionally, Ukraine will chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2013.

Criminal charges against Tymoshenko open a Pandora's box that could potentially return to haunt Yanukovych and the oligarchs. In a December 24 interview in "Liga novosti," former Party of Regions deputy Taras Chornovil warned that if developments continue along this path, then in 2015 Yanukovych will be put in jail. It is easy to imagine what fate Ukraine's oligarchs would face in such a climate of revenge and counter-revenge.

Becoming Belarus

The second conclusion is that the Yanukovych administration is not serious about seeking EU membership. Since coming to power, the authorities have systematically dismantled democracy (as seen by its assaults on free elections and free media), buried parliamentarism (the mass violence on December 16 was the last nail in the coffin), and are now destroying the main opposition.

The authorities believe these steps will be ignored in Brussels and that Ukraine will still be granted a visa-free travel regime, an association agreement, and a deep free-trade agreement from the EU.

If Tymoshenko is criminally charged, the EU's relations with Ukraine will resemble those Brussels has with Belarus and Russia, Aleksandr Rahr, a senior expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, believes.

This is because it would be seen as politically targeted repression. The current authorities are not impartial and are themselves not free from potential charges of abuse of office, Rahr points out.

Rahr believes Brussels will change its stance toward Ukraine because Tymoshenko is symbolic as the candidate who received 45 percent (11.6 million votes) in the second round of the 2010 presidential election. "Unfortunately in Ukraine and in Russia and Belarus, there is no tolerance of the opposition," Rahr says. "And those who come to power immediately begin to denounce and seek to destroy their opponents. This has nothing to do with democracy."

Rahr is correct up to a point. Yushchenko never undertook repression of Yanukovych and the Kuchma authorities. No criminal charges for the organizers of the election fraud denounced by a December 3, 2004, Supreme Court ruling were ever launched, and Yanukovych to this day claims his free election was thwarted by a "U.S.-sponsored coup."

Yanukovych's first year in office has seen numerous protests from the opposition, journalists, academics, students, feminists, and businesspeople. The November protests by businesspeople attracted some 50,000 people from all over Ukraine, including the Party of Regions heartlands of Donetsk and Crimea.

Ukraine's oligarchs, on the other hand, have remained silent on democratic regression, and they rarely reveal their views to the media. Yet, a Putinist regime which has co-opted, exiled, or imprisoned oligarchs is not likely to be something they would welcome.

Ukraine's oligarchs reportedly support the deep free-trade agreement with the EU that is threatened by chilly relations between Kyiv and Brussels. Western leaders should not restrict their relations with Ukraine's opposition but should seek out and lobby the oligarchs who could be potential allies in halting Ukraine's drift toward Putinism.

Ukraine's leaders seem to be intent on moving forward with their plans to establish a managed democracy, one aspect of which is the removal of the main opposition force led by Tymoshenko.

The Yanukovych administration's belief they can successfully unite Putinism with European integration is fatally flawed, and the pending crisis in relations between Brussels and Kyiv in the next two years will dwarf the dilemma faced by the EU over the failure of its "ostpolitik" toward Belarus.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Monday, December 27, 2010

Moskal Advised Lutsenko To Flee From Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- According to Gennady Moskal, a VR NUNS lawmaker and close colleague, he had warned Yury Lutsenko of his likely arrest. There was a country, Moskal said, that agreed to give Lutsenko a political refuge, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia reported on December 27th.

Gennady Moskal

He [Lutsenko] shouldn’t have stayed in Ukraine. It was arranged with a certain country to give him political refuge. He could have stayed there until the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. He could have taken part in televised talk shows. However, he didn’t heed.

The prosecution offered him a chance to abscond by merely banning him to travel. It was a kind of a hint – either you flee or we run you in,” Moskal continued.

“Another stupid case was that of [former economy minister] Bohdan Danylyshyn. It was arranged for his hiding in Germany, but he chose to move to the Czech Republic. Germany would have never extradited him.

The third case is that of [former land resources minister] Georgy Filipchuk [who cancelled the dubious contract with Vanco].

He was advised to run for hiding, but he stayed saying he wanted to celebrate his 60th birthday at home,” Moskal said.

Source: ZIK

Ukraine Court Orders Ex-Minister To Be Jailed For Two Months

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian court ordered former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko to be held in jail for two months as the prosecutor general office investigates allegations of abuse of office.

Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

Lutsenko was detained yesterday at 12:55 p.m. in Kiev, according to a statement on the website of his Narodna Samooborona party. Lutsenko said in a separate statement that neither he, nor his lawyer, were informed yesterday as to why he was detained. He has three days to challenge the decision.

“Lutsenko is charged with office abuse and exceeding his authority and misappropriation of state funds in large amounts,” Yuriy Boychenko, the head of the Prosecutor-General’s press service, said by phone.

“He was informed of the charges on Dec. 13 and didn’t meet the investigator so the investigator asked the court to replace the no-flee pledge with an arrest as the investigation continues.”

Lutsenko is the sixth member of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Cabinet under investigation.

Tymoshenko lost a presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych in a February election and the president has since cemented his grip on power, gaining the right to name the prime minister and Cabinet in October.

The former premier has been under investigation since Dec. 15 for the alleged misuse of funds from the 2009 sale of emissions permits to Japan.

Tymoshenko, who was ordered to stay in Kiev during the probe, denied any wrongdoing and called the procedure “terror against the opposition.”

Prosecutors in August opened a criminal probe against former Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn, saying he also misused funds. He was arrested two months ago in Prague, where he sought asylum.

Former Environment Minister Heorhiy Filipchuk is being investigated, while former First Deputy Justice Minister Evhen Korniychuk and ex-Transport Minister Viktor Bondar were detained last week. The former Head of Ukraine’s State Treasury, Tetiana Sliuz, is on a wanted list.

Ihor Didenko, a former first deputy chief executive officer at NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy, was arrested this summer.

Source: Bloomberg

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Visits Children's Hospital In Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba -- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishenko visited the children hospital in the Cuban town of Tarara, some 20 kilometers east of Havana, where for 20 years children from his country have received treatment.

Konstantin Grishenko in Tarara, Cuba.

Grischenko in his visit to the Chernobyl-victim children said humanitarian cooperation between Cuba and Ukraine are of utmost importance for his country.

He thanked Cuba for its unselfish collaboration in this program that has treated thousands of children affected by the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl plant in 1986, and said that upon his return to Ukraine he will speak with the health Minister to strengthen this work.

Grischenko recalled that not even when Cuba was in its worst crisis the health center stopped providing services to the Ukrainian children.

He also encouraged the strengthening of the bilateral economic, cultural and scientific bonds.

Grischenko concluded by wishing the children a fast recovery.

The Cuban general coordinator for this program Julio Medina de Armas said the greatest satisfaction for the doctors that treat the Chernobyl children, as they are known in Cuba, is to see them recover.

This is a sample of the main principles of love for another human being and solidarity that the Revolution instils in our health professionals, said Medina.

He added that despite the economic hardships Cuba is facing, they are working on improving the hospital lodgement capacities and also they will get access to a Ukrainian TV channel.

Medina said that in 2010, the hospital has received 449 Ukrainians, 289 of them children who are enjoying a safe and controlled atmosphere with medical treatment in the houses they stay.

Source: Cuban News Agency

Ukrainian Orphans Arrive In Alabama Hoping For Families, Better Life

BILLINGSLEY, USA -- The chil­dren run around in new paja­mas, learning the English words for butter, cheese and tea, writing on a dry-erase board and some playing "fut­bol."

Olga Derechima, from left, Melinda Lan­ier and Ukrainian or­phans Anya Gromova and Masha Khiryanov look at a globe at the BridgeStone Prayer and Retreat Center near Bill­ingsley.

They are Ukrainian or­phans, ages 6 to 15, and ener­gized on just an hour or two of sleep. But it's a new day in a new country with new hopes, dreams and wishes.

The 10 children -- four boys and six girls -- came to cen­tral Alabama from orphan­ages in the Kiev region of Ukraine. They arrived about 5 a.m. Friday and by 10 a.m. were already learning to say "hello," "dog" and, in 55-degree weather, "hot."

It has taken three years for the trip to become a reality for the Millbrook-based Bridges of Faith Internation­al. The organization, which has done mission work in Ukraine since 1995, spon­sored the trip for the 10 Ukrainian orphans at a total cost of $65,000 -- which paid for travel, legal costs and all documentation.

The money was collected door to door, and from church to church.

"Many of the kids have not seen a functioning family," said the Rev. Tom Benz with Bridges of Faith. "We want them to become Christians, yes, but we need them to find families.

"We are not an adoption agency," Benz stressed. "Our task is to bring kids here and let families meet them. If families are interested, an adoption facilitator takes over the business side."

The children will stay at BridgeStone Prayer and Re­treat Center, a ministry of Bridges of Faith Internation­al, until they fly back to the Ukraine on Jan. 16.

Families interested in meeting the children -- families from Kentucky, Alabama and Cali­fornia have been in contact with Benz -- will have that opportunity.

There is Sasha Bidyak, 12, who, through translator Val­ery Dashevky, said he very much wants to have a mother and father.

"All the children, they do," Bidyak said. "And I do not."

Bidyak has lived in an or­phanage since he was 8 years old, after both his parents died from being "hard drink­ers. Especially my mom, she was a harder drinker."

In Bidyak's room at the Centerpoint building -- the 12-bedroom, four-bath re­treat center (funded solely through Centerpoint Church in Prattville) -- hang his life's belongings: a jacket, hat, backpack and one change of clothes.

Most of the children ar­rived in the United States with only one bag -- whether it was a backpack or a plastic sack. Some didn't have a change of clothes. Toiletry items were donated to them and placed in their rooms.

Around the main living and dining area, packs of Goldfish crackers sit on a ta­ble. One pack is open and al­most full. A bowl holds four green apples. One apple is partially eaten and had been placed back in the bowl. Rai­sin bread sits on a plate.

"Often, kids in Ukrainian orphanages are abandoned," Benz said. "I see in the eyes of these children potential to be wonderful if just given the chance. Every time we are (in Ukraine), I can't cope with the ways their lives would turn out."

That includes the lives of Irina and Olga Przhepolska, ages 10 and 15.

They don't know where their father lives, and their Polish mother died a year ago from kidney problems. The girls don't discuss being adopted, Dashevky said, but even if the group of 10 doesn't talk about it, they know that is why they are in America.

"There's not the same in­terest in adoption in Ukraine," Benz said. "Here, there are people on a waiting list to adopt children. In East­ern Europe, kids are ready and available."

"Here, we give them a great camp experience, teach them English, share Christ and incubate adoption. These kids, especially at school age, the chance for adoption plummets. That's why we bring them here ... we call them the forgotten kids."

What Bridges of Faith wants to do, Benz said, is de­velop a broader sense of sup­port for bringing the orphans to Alabama. While it took three years to get the first group flown over, he wants to do this four to six times each year.

Still, he said one of the most heartbreaking things is when one is packing up and the others tell (Dashevky), "Will you find a family for me?"

"We hope that every single one emphatically experi­ences God and also finds a 'forever home' with a great family," Benz said.

Source: Montgomery Advertiser

Ukraine's Ex-Interior Minister Detained By Security Police

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's security police detained on Sunday former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and took him to a pre-trial detention center, his spokeswoman said citing his lawyer.

Yuriy Lutsenko

"Yuriy Lutsenko has been taken to a pre-trial detention center of Ukraine's security service," Inna Kisil said. She earlier said Lutsenko was held by around ten Ukraine's security police agents on Sunday.

Lutsenko is accused of embezzling government funds and abusing power. He also faces charges of overpaying his driver and awarding him ranks.

Earlier this week, the former Ukrainian first deputy justice minister in Yulia Tymoshenko's government, Yevgeny Korniychuk, was detained after being questioned over the case involving Ukraine's state gas monopoly Naftogaz.

Criminal cases have also been initiated against several other Tymoshenko government officials.

Tymoshenko herself has been summoned to the Prosecutor General's Office for questioning several times over the past few weeks. Last week, a criminal case was initiated against the opposition leader over abuse of power.

Tymoshenko is believed to have spent government money intended for ecological programs to pay pensions.

Source: RIA Novosti

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Faces New Charges Over Misuse Of State Funds

KIEV, Ukraine -- New charges related to misuse of government funds may be brought against Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister and current opposition leader, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said on Friday.

Yulia Tymohenko

Tymoshenko already faces trial on accusations of spending money intended for ecological projects to pay pensions.

Besides this, the opposition leader is also suspected in buying 1,000 ambulances at an excessive price, Pshonka told journalists in Kiev.

Tymoshenko has not yet been officially charged in the second case, he added.

Tymoshenko has long been at odds with the current president, Viktor Yanukovych, to whom she narrowly lost February's presidential elections.

Tymoshenko was prime minister under the previous presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, but moved to opposition after her government was dissolved in March following the elections.

Tymoshenko supporters accuse the Yanukovych government of pursuing "pro-Russian" policies and betraying Ukraine's own interests and claim that a "campaign" against their leader is aimed at wiping out opposition.

Source: RIA Novosti

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Restoring The Soviet Union: Putin's Customs Union

MOSCOW, Russia -- The bear is still in the woods and it is waking up from its 20 year hibernation, as a "new" free-trade zone agreement sets itself to restore the Soviet Union.

Russia's Vladimir Putin

On December 16, 2010, Reuters reported on what could be described as the resurrection of the former Soviet Union, through the invitation of the Ukraine to join the post-Soviet free-trade zone, or Customs Union, between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

According to the report, "Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin encouraged Ukraine on Thursday to join Moscow-driven efforts to integrate the economies of the biggest post-Soviet republics into one trading bloc."

Since the election of Victor Yanukovich, as President of Ukraine, in February 2010, the Ukrainian government has increased its ties with Moscow, having signed the Kharkov Agreements, in April 2010, which extended the Russian Navy's lease to use the Sevastopol naval base until at least 2042.

President Yanukovich also mothballed Ukraine's prior proposal to join NATO, much to the relief and pleasure of Russia. These pro-Kremlin moves should come as no surprise to those aware of Yanukovich's political affiliations.

Although elected as an independent, Yanukovich received the support of Ukraine's Party of Regions, a pro-Russia party aligned with Russia's ruling United Russia Party and the Communist Party of China.

During his run for Prime Minister in 2006, Yanukovich has also received the support and nomination from the Party of Regions, Socialist Party, and the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), which remains supportive of him.

The CPU recently expressed its public support of President Yanukovich's desire to sign the Customs Union Treaty, stating that "Ukraine must return to the traditional neighbors and allies with whom we share not only a common history, and economics," according to the CPU website (in Russian).

In an attempt to discredit right-wing nationalistic opposition to the Customs Union, the CPU went on to liken it to the European Union, stating:

Take, for example, EU countries, which are already EU delegate its functions: to elect a general president, adopt a common constitution, etc. In this case, the Europeans are not afraid of losing their sovereignty. Therefore, the Communists believe that the Customs Union - a common approach on our way out of economic crisis.

The importance of the Ukraine was best summarized by Soviet General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev who, in August 1991, told a Ukrainian journalist: "there can be no Union without Ukraine."

This view has even been accepted by the Communist Party of Bolivia, which stated: "Of all of the Soviet republics, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, was without a doubt, the most important from all points of view."

When asked whether Ukraine and Russia should reunite, Putin replied: "In the last 15 years we have seen the first real steps towards integration and the creation of a new union between our three states: Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus."

This new Customs Union is characterized as one based on free trade and a common currency, much like the old Soviet Union, of which Putin has described its fall as constituting "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."

In discussing the Customs Union, Putin reiterated his lament of the fall of the Soviet Union saying, "He who doesn't regret the collapse of the Soviet Union has no heart, but he who wants it restored in the original has no brains."

Putin's words are suggestive of resurrecting the Soviet Union not as it exactly was originally, but rather in the establishment of a new larger Soviet Union, built on economic integration and free trade.

The Customs Union agreement, between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, was first approved by the lower chamber of the Russian State Duma on September 24, 2010 and signed by the respected heads of state on December 9, 2010.

According to the 17-document agreement signed between the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, on December 9, the Customs Union is to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

"Free flow of goods, services and people and the absence of customs checks — all these will be provided by the union. All in all it's a new quality of living," said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev upon signing the agreement.

Although supported by both Ukrainian President Yanukovich and the CPU, it remains to be seen whether Ukraine will heed the advice of Putin and join the Customs Union.

Communist Vietnam has also expressed an interest to join the Customs Union, which fits in perfectly with Putin's vision of establishing a new Soviet Union that is unlike "the original." Such an integrated economic union would rival the European Union.

20 Trillion Roubles for Rearmament

In addition to the economic revival of the Soviet Union, last week also marked what may be seen as the end to Russia's weakened military. According to the Global Times, on December 6, 2010, Putin announced that Russia would be "allocating very serious, significant funds for the re-armament program. I am even scared to pronounce this figure: 20 trillion roubles."

As Putin addressed a crowd of top military brass and reporters, at the Sevmash naval shipyard, located in the northern town of Severodvinsk, by the White Sea, he declared the revitalization of the Russian military: "We need to finally move beyond the years during which the army and the navy were seriously under-financed."

The "honeymoon," if there ever was one, between the West and Russia, appears to have come to a close as Russia expands to economically integrate with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and now inviting Ukraine.

This, coupled with the announcement to drastically refund Russia's armed forces, seems to fit with the theory elaborated by important Soviet KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn in his book New Lies for Old, which asserts that the alleged fall of the Soviet Union was actually a deception to deceive the West. He also predicted that it would re-emerge.

The recent WikiLeaks release of State Department cables that reveal Russian active measures in Tajikistan, its support of Islamic Terrorism, involvement in the Russian and Israeli Mafias, as well as the recently uncovered espionage operation in London are all indicative of the fact that Russia remains at odds with the United States and the West.

The new Customs Union further validates the case that the Kremlin has long since been deceiving the West to believe that it is an ally when in fact its strategic actions suggest otherwise.

Source: New American

Ukraine Investigates Another Tymoshenko Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's prosecutor-general has launched a criminal investigation into former Deputy Justice Minister Yevhen Korniychuk, accusing him of abuse of power while in office, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Former Deputy Justice Minister Yevhen Korniychuk.

Yuriy Boychenko, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, told RFE/RL that Korniychuk was detained, questioned, and sent to a pretrial detention center on December 22.

He declined to give any further details regarding the case.

Korniychuk's press secretary, Khrystyna Shandrenko, said that currently it was not possible contact Korniychuk.

Meanwhile, parliament deputy Vasyl Onopenko said he believed Korniychuk's arrest to be politically motivated.

Onopenko said that Korniychuk's case might be a part of what he called authorities' attack against current opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her party members.

Tymoshenko was charged earlier this week with abuse of power during the years she served as prime minister, 2007 to 2010.

Two former members of her government, former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and former Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn, are also under investigation.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Goods Turnover Between Ukraine, Russia May Reach USD $40 Billion By Year's End

KIEV, Ukraine -- Economic cooperation between Ukraine and Russia is developing rapidly. Goods turnover between the countries is increasing and by the end of the year could reach USD 40 billion.

Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko

This was stated by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, Volodymyr Yelchenko, Moscow-based UKRINFORM correspondent reported Thursday.

Yelchenko noted progress in the development of Ukrainian-Russian cooperation in strategic areas - nuclear power, aviation and space industry, shipbuilding.

"A dialogue between the two states in the energy area is constructive and forecasting," he added.

The diplomat also said that Ukraine and Russia over the previous year have managed to restore the mechanism of bilateral relations.

The ambassador added that during the year 37 full-scale events were conducted at the international level.

17 of them were held with the participation of the presidents of Ukraine and Russia, 12 - involving the prime ministers and 16 - with the foreign ministers.

The two sides also restored the effective operation of the main institutional mechanism for bilateral relations - the Ukrainian-Russian Interstate Commission and its structural bodies, Yelchenko underscored.

Source: BSANNA News

Ukraine President Yanukovych Replaces National Bank Head

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday sacked a long-serving head of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and replaced him with a little-known official.

Serhy Arbuzov

The outgoing NBU director, Volodymyr Stelkmakh, was one of the few remaining top government officials appointed by Yanukovych's predecessor, the pro-Europe politician Viktor Yushchenko.

Stelmakh, 71, is one of Ukraine's most senior government officials. During a six-year stint as NBU head he became known for conservative and independent fiscal policy.

Stelmakh's replacement Serhy Arbuzov, 34, is a loyal supporter of the pro-Russia Yanukovych and his Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, according to news reports.

'This change will make the NBU less independent,' according to an article in Ukraine's largest daily newspaper Segodnya.'

Arbuzov's previous career was in private banking in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, the home of President Yanukovych.

Yanukovych in May appointed Arbuzov as a member of the NBU board of directors.

Monetary policy and the relative value of the national currency, the hryvna, are highly politicised issues in Ukraine.

Politicians tied with Ukraine's agriculture and light manufacturing industries typically support a strong hyrvna to reduce the cost of imported Russian energy.

Politicians linked to Ukraine's metals and chemicals industries generally call for a weak hryvna, to make the country's industrial manufactures lower-priced in international markets.

Source: DPA

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Under House Arrest

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Wednesday she was placed under house arrest.

Yulia Tymoshenko has been placed under house arrest.

"From now I am prohibited from leaving home and I can just go out for questioning in the Prosecutor General's Office," Tymoshenko said after being interrogated again on Wednesday.

She added that she would have to go for questioning every day.

Tymoshenko was charged on Monday over alleged misuse of state funds during her tenure from 2007 to 2010.

In 2001, Tymoshenko was arrested on charges of forging customs documents and smuggling gas between 1995 and 1997, but was released several weeks later.

Source: Xinhua

Ukrainian Violins Conquer The World

KIEV, Ukraine, December 22, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- A Ukrainian violin master from a remote town in the west of the country makes violins which have already brought him the title of a Ukrainian Stradivari. His musical instruments can be heard in France, Hungary, Russia, the USA, Spain, Germany, Mexico, and Italy.

Serhiy Holubokyi made the record number of violins in Ukraine - 280, not including cellos. Most of them have been bought by foreign professional musicians. Holubokyi's works are rare in the territory of his own country. In fact, he does not own one himself.

"Since the crisis, the number of orders has recently decreased. However, I have no intention of expanding the production to lower the price because it will impact the quality of my work," said Serhiy Holubokyi in his interview today with WNU.

Only now, after 25 years of work and having made over two hundred violins, does he claim to have started to head in the right direction.

The master outlined that most of his works are purchased by professionals, musicians who participate in competitions, and play at concerts.

Therefore, they are more concerned with the sound, not the beauty of an instrument. Holubokyi is a violinist himself, which adds to his craft.

Another outstanding fact in Holubokyi's biography has to do with the former President of Ukraine. Serhiy Holubokyi met Viktor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine from 2004 to 2009, back in 2003.

It was at the philharmonic concert, and the two men sat next to each other. Back then Holubokyi made a promise to make a violin for the future president. He finally got a chance to present his work to Yushchenko in 2006, when he visited a small town in Western Ukraine. It was Holubokyi's 200th violin.

The craftsman used an old piano to make his first violin. He described that experience as torture. When the work was finished, the future violin master burned the instrument.

He used books to teach himself to make violins while studying at Vinnytsia music college. The violin master from Kyiv, Oleksiy Pykhenko, singled out the young craftsman and gave him classes on the theory of the craft.

Holubokyi mentioned that among musical instruments the violin is the one which reaches the ideal of the human voice most closely.

Source: Worldwide News Ukraine

Ukraine Gets $1.5 Billion From IMF, Told To Stick With Budget Reductions

KIEV, Ukraine -- The International Monetary Fund agreed to disburse $1.5 billion to Ukraine and urged the government to stick to planned budget cuts after reviewing the country’s progress in meeting terms of a $15.3 billion loan.

John Lipsky

“Fiscal adjustment remains at the core of the program,” First Managing Director John Lipsky said in an e-mailed statement after a meeting today by the IMF board. “Swift approval of the 2011 budget consistent with program targets, along with tight control over budget execution and efforts to improve tax administration, will be crucial.”

The IMF agreed in July to provide a 29-month loan to Ukraine, the country’s second bailout in two years after the global financial crisis cut demand for its exports and the economy shrank 15.1 percent in 2009.

The government agreed to narrow its budget deficit to 3.08 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 from 5.5 percent this year and pledged to raise the retirement age over the next decade, according to a draft law submitted by the government to the parliament.

Changes to the pension system, public administration and state-owned companies will be key for longer-term fiscal sustainability, Lipsky said.

Ukraine should “expedite the implementation of measures necessary to tackle the problem of sizeable impaired assets in the banking system” hindering the financial sector’s support to “a sustainable economic recovery,” he said.

Source: Bloomberg

Yanukovych Seeks To Oust Ukraine Central Bank Chief; May Spread Influence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych wants to replace central bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh with an ally a year early, a move analysts said would extend his influence to monetary policy.

Volodymyr Stelmakh

“It appears that a centralized system of power is being established,” Dmitry Gourov, an emerging markets strategist UniCredit SpA in Vienna, said by phone. “The new governor will have to establish his credentials in the coming weeks and prove that he is able to steer the bank independently and professionally. Markets will be skeptical.”

Yanukovych sent a request to parliament to replace Stelmakh with Serhiy Arbuzov, the second in command at the Natsionalnyi Bank Ukrainy, according to a statement on the president’s website late yesterday.

Stelmakh’s term was due to end in December 2011. Changing the governor needs the support of the country’s 450 lawmakers.

Yanukovych won the presidency in February, replacing Viktor Yushchenko, who appointed Stelmakh in 2004. He cemented his grip when the Constitutional Court in October removed limits from the president’s powers, giving him the right to name the prime minister and the Cabinet.

“Yanukovych and his administration are taking all state institutions under their umbrella step by step,” Alexander Valchyshen, the head of research at Investment Capital Ukraine, said by phone. “The risk that the Natsionalnyi Bank Ukrainy’s policies will become more dependent is strengthening.”

Ukraine’s hryvnia declined to 7.99 per dollar as of 10:38 a.m. in Kiev from 7.9750 yesterday, Bloomberg data shows. The hryvnia, which strengthened 1.53 percent versus the U.S currency from January till September, lost 1.08 percent after Arbuzov’s appointment.

‘Aimed at Hryvnia Devaluation’

Arbuzov, 34, was appointed to the central bank by the president in September, replacing Anatoly Shapovalov, a Stelmakh ally.

He was the head of PAO Ukrainskyi Biznes Bank before becoming Stelmakh’s first deputy. UBB, the country’s 63rd largest lender according to central bank data, is based in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, Yanukovych’s home town.

“Yanukovych’s Party of Regions is a party of exporters, so the new central bank governor may defend their interests, which means his policy may be aimed at hryvnia devaluation or not allowing the hryvnia to appreciate.” Valchyshen said.

Arbuzov’s mother, Valentyna Arbuzova, is the chief executive officer at PAO Vseukrainskyi Bank Rozvytku, which is 138th largest bank by assets, according to the central bank data.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko also tried to oust Stelmakh, 71, during political gridlock that exacerbated the country’s economic slump and led to an international bailout in 2008.

Ukraine was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund after the global financial crisis cut demand for its exports and the economy shrank 15.1 percent in 2009.

The country this year adopted a law to strengthen the central bank’s independence to meet conditions for the first payment from a $15.2 billion bailout loan. The IMF’s executive board will meet today in Washington to decide on the second installment.

“The presence of the IMF program should limit the erosion of credibility at the central bank,” Gourov said.

Source: Bloomberg

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ukraine 'Concerned' About Post-Election Violence In Belarus

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has expressed concern about the use of violence against opposition demonstrators in Belarus following the December 19 presidential election.

Policemen disperse a group of opposition protesters holding a picket in central Minsk.

Foreign Ministry Information policy department head Oleh Voloshyn told journalists in Kyiv today that Ukraine will take into account the views of international observers in formulating its opinion about the Belarusian election.

At the same time, Voloshyn expressed concern about the post-election crackdown on demonstrators protesting alleged fraud:

"[We are] concerned about the disproportionate use of force against protestors and journalists, clashes between opposition members and law enforcers, and the detention of some candidates," Voloshyn said.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Monday December 20 that the Belarus election was "flawed" and "failed to give Belarus the new start it needed."

Tony Lloyd, who headed the short-term OSCE election observers, said that the Belarusian government must "account for the arrests of presidential candidates, journalists, and human rights activists."

However, one Ukrainian member of the OSCE election observation mission in Belarus said this is the view only of the OSCE leadership.

Oleksandr Stoyan, a parliament deputy from the ruling Party of Regions faction, told RFE/RL, "We were at the polling stations, the elections took place peacefully, each citizen had the right to express his view. The leaders of OSCE could have gathered us [election observers] and asked for our opinion. Unfortunately, there was no collective view."

Stoyan said he himself did not witness any violence in Minsk. He suggested that "some political forces provoked people, especially young people, to storm public buildings."

This is not a sign of democracy in any country, Stoyan added. He said he hoped that the Party of Regions will welcome the choice made by the Belarusian people.

Meanwhile former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, now an opposition law-maker, said he does not believe the election in Belarus was democratic.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Tarasyuk expressed the hope that the European Union will preserve its sanctions against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other officials.

The EU has kept in place a travel ban on top Belarusian officials first introduced in 2006, but has suspended its application for the past two years.

Meeting with Lukashenka at the OSCE summit in Astana in early December, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych wished him success in the upcoming presidential ballot, without mentioning the other candidates.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Ukraine Delays Ukrtelecom Sale After Receiving One Bid

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s government delayed its Dec. 28 sale of phone company VAT Ukrtelecom because it attracted only one bidder, the head of the state property fund said.

Austria-based Epic Financial Consulting Gesellschaft’s subsidiary in Ukraine was the only bidder that paid the guaranteed deposit of 1.05 billion hryvnia ($131.6 million), the fund’s head, Oleksandr Ryabchenko, told reporters today in Kiev.

“Thus the auction is canceled,” Ryabchenko said. “Now, an independent company will value Ukrtelecom and that price will be offered to Epic’s subsidiary ESU.”

Ukraine, which owns almost 93 percent of Ukrtelecom, has been putting off the sale because of disputes between state agencies. An auction scheduled for December 2009 was also canceled. This time the country set the minimum price for its stake at 10.5 billion hryvnia.

The state property fund will announce the bid for an independent company to value Ukrtelecom tomorrow and will pick the winner in 15 days, Ryabchenko said. The winner has up to 30 days to value the phone company and the price cannot be lower than the minimum, he added.

February Sale

“I think the sale may be in February,” Ryabchenko said. “After Ukrtelecom is valued, the state property fund has also one month to finalise details though I think it will not take us more than a week.”

Ukrtelecom reported income of 47.9 million hryvnia in the first half of the year under Ukrainian accounting rules. The company had a net loss of 124.13 million hryvnia in the same period a year earlier.

“We’ve known this asset for over 10 years,” Epic Managing Partner Peter Goldscheider said today in a telephone interview from Vienna. “This is huge for us.”

As financial investors, Epic would try listing Ukrtelecom on Kiev’s exchange or finding another buyer, Goldscheider said. The Vienna-based company expects Ukraine to calculate a final price for the telephone network within 45 days, at which point Epic can still decide to walk away, he said.

Ukrtelekom would be Epic’s biggest acquisition. Croatia’s Valamar Hotels and Resourts group, with 3,000 employees, is the company’s largest current asset.

The fund also put off the sale of Ukrainian international Airlines, which is almost 62 percent state-owned, until January. Ukraine’s government planned to sell the stake by the end of this month.

The government, which seeks to raise at least 6.35 billion hryvnia this year from state asset sales, received 938.7 million hryvnia as of Dec. 9, the fund said on Dec. 14.

Source: Bloomberg

Monday, December 20, 2010

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko has been accused of misusing state funds while she was in office. She has rejected the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Yulia Tymoshenko

The former prime minister of Ukraine was charged with abuse of power on Monday.

Yulia Tymoshenko could face up to 10 years in prison, followed by a three-year ban from politics, if she is convicted of misusing more than 151 million euros ($200 million) in state funds.

"I will defend myself absolutely clearly and openly", Tymoshenko told reporters. "I am not afraid of any investigation."

The populist leader, who was prime minister of Ukraine between 2007 and 2010, is accused of illegally using money raised from selling carbon emission rights under the Kyoto Protocol to plug gaps in the country's pension fund during the economic downturn in 2009.

Tymoshenko rejected the charge, saying the investigation was part of a political vendetta.

She narrowly lost out to long-term rival Viktor Yanukoych in February's presidential election. "This is how the president of Ukraine is getting rid of his main competitor", she said.

Tymoshenko was a leading figure in the Orange Revolution, a series of street protests which denied Yanukovich victory in the disputed 2004 presidential election.

The prosecutor general's office has ordered her to remain in Kiev during the investigation.

Source: Deutsche Welle

Cegedim Opens New Office In Kiev, Ukraine

PARIS, France -- Cegedim Relationship Management, the world’s leading provider of Life Sciences-specific CRM solutions, today announced it has established its first office in Ukraine, as the company strengthen its relationship with and support of that country and the surrounding Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) .

Lana Chubakha, Cegedim Ukraine General Manager.

In 2009, the total Ukraine pharmaceutical market value was $2.7 billion (public price level) with an expected growth of $0.5 billion in the coming five years. Foreign manufacturers’ market share was 75.3%.

This new office is an important commitment that Cegedim Relationship Management is making to the biopharmaceutical industry, supporting companies to expand their commercial activities in this growing market.

“We are very pleased to grow our presence around the region”, said Stefan Janssens, Cegedim Relationship Management President of Europe. “We are committed to working globally, regionally and locally with our customers. With the opening of our Kiev office, we look forward to support our customer’s development goals. We have already started the deployment of our flagship CRM solution, Mobile Intelligence, in Ukraine, for one of the top three biopharmaceutical companies.”

Lana Chubakha, will lead the office, reporting to Lucia Railean, General Manager in charge of Russia and the entire CIS region. Before joining Cegedim, Lana worked as business development director for five years at Terrasoft, a consulting company and CRM vendor.

Prior to Terrasoft, Lana Chubakha spent six years at TNT Express Ukraine, first, as sales manager and then as Country Sales and Marketing director.

Source: Business Wire

Former Ukraine Premier Tymoshenko Defiant On Corruption Case

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was defiant of her critics on Monday, declaring she would fight a government corruption case against herself to the bitter end.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko

'I am not afraid of any investigation. I will not hide in hospitals, and I am not going to leave the country,' Tymoshenko told reporters in Kiev before meeting with a senior prosecutor.

Tymoshenko was summoned to the prosecutor general's office in connection with allegations she had misused some 221 million dollars of state funds while heading the government in 2009.

'I will defend myself absolutely clearly and openly,' she said. 'I fear nothing.'

Tymoshenko has repeatedly said she has done no wrong and has blamed the investigation on an alleged vendetta by her main political adversary, President Viktor Yanukovych.

'But if will be worse for him if this investigation goes forward,' she said. 'That is why I am calling for a full public hearing. I want everything out in the open.'

The prosecutor general's office last week attempted to serve Tymoshenko with formal charges that she had abused her office in 2009 by redirecting millions of dollars of carbon credits to cover a gap in the national pension fund.

Source: DPA

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Topless Protesters Gain Fame In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- How to protest domestic violence, corruption and a visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin? Femen's answer: Take off your bra!

A topless FEMEN activist protesting lack of apartment heat in front of Kiev City Hall.

A group of young activists is gaining popularity here for staging topless protests that involve sexually charged gestures, obscene slogans and scuffles with security guards and police. Often, the point seems to be just getting naked.

The activists, slender, long-legged beauties with traditional Ukrainian flower wreaths in their hair, say they are promoting women's rights and fighting for democracy, but some critics say they're just seeking fame and undermining the feminist cause.

"If sexuality is used to sell cars and cookies, why not use it for social and political projects," said Anna Hutsul, 26, the chain-smoking leader of Femen who has closely cropped red hair. "Sometimes you need to show your breasts for ideological reasons."

It's perhaps no coincidence that Femen originated in Ukraine, where the 2004 Orange Revolution ushered in chaotic democracy and made noisy street protests something of a national sport.

Born out of a girls' pajama party two years ago, the group has turned into a popular movement whose escapades are the subject of evening news, talk shows and blog gossip. They've become so popular, in fact, that Hutsul plans to launch a political party and run for parliament.

The group campaigns against prostitution and discrimination of women but also weighs in on a wide range of hot topics in Ukraine such as the tax code, freedom of speech and foreign borrowings by the government.

Sometimes, it seems, they are merely looking for a pretext. "We don't really care, we just want to show our boobs," says the group's blog about one protest.

Femen started out somewhat shyly, at least by the group's standards today. In summer 2008, activists wearing skimpy bikinis dove into a fountain in downtown Kiev to protest the shortages of water in student dormitories. Then, one by one, activists started bearing their chests at rallies. Today all of their protesters are topless — something, Hutsul insists, is different from public nudity, which is banned under Ukrainian law as "hooliganism."

The distinction is often lost on police, who routinely fine and briefly detain the activists for bearing their breasts in public.

The group came to the spotlight this year when they flashed their boobs in front of scores of photo and television cameras at a polling station where future President Viktor Yanukovych was expected to cast his ballot in presidential elections. They shouted, "Stop raping the country."

Femen sabotaged Ukraine's top fashion show last month when two bare-chested activists climbed on the runway holding posters that read, "The Runway is a Meat Shop" and "Model, don't go to Brothel." Some in the audience were confused by the combination of bare chests and chants against treating women as sex objects.

"The way we present our message and the message itself — they contradict each other," agreed Hutsul, an economist by training and a former show business manager who moved to Kiev from a provincial city in western Ukraine.

Hutsul herself does not take part in topless protests in order to have a "serious person" representing Femen in official institutions and on talk shows.

The group caused a minor diplomatic scandal in late October when five activists undressed near the statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin and urged Putin to stop interfering in Ukrainian politics.

"Ukraine is not Alina," read one of their banners, a reference to media speculation that Putin was romantically involved with former champion gymnast Alina Kabayeva, which he denies.

Other posters made unflattering remarks about his physical appearance. The protest eventually earned two members a night in jail.

Women's rights activists say a strong and vocal women's movement is needed in Ukraine, where civil society and feminism were virtually nonexistent in the Soviet times.

Larysa Kobelianska, head of a United Nations-led women's rights program, said women make up only 8.5 percent of the Ukrainian parliament compared with an average of 30 percent in Europe.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov named an all-male Cabinet this year, saying "conducting reforms is not a woman's business." On average, women here earn 30 percent less then men occupying similar posts, and only 2 percent of large companies are headed by women, Kobelianska said.

She described Femen as "radical feminists" and said the group has succeeded in attracting public attention to women's problems, even if by questionable means.

The group's top activist, Inna Shevchenko, 20, insists that she can be both a feminist and a sex bomb.

"We have our body, our beauty, our sexuality, and we can combine it with brains, with ambitions, with achieving our goals, serious goals," said the tall blonde, a journalism major at a leading Ukrainian university, who was detained after the anti-Putin protest. "We should not be hiding our bodies. I have both a body and ambitions. Take me for what I am!"

The group comprises some 20 topless activists, 300 fully clothed members and thousands of online activists throughout the country, Hutsul said. Their financial sponsors and fans include a German disc jockey, a U.S. businessman in Kiev and an elderly retiree in a faraway village who vowed to campaign for the group among his neighbors.

A recent idea to sell "boobographs" — imprints of the activists' breasts, one blue and one yellow, representing the colors of the Ukrainian flag — has drawn even more fans and helped raise funds for the group. One such souvenir from a new member of the group is sold for $50, while a poster from veteran activists costs $100.

Some Ukrainians complain, however, that Femen protests can become outright tasteless, such as when activist Oksana Shachko took off her jacket, pulled down her pants and squatted in the center of the capital holding a sign reading "I Want to Pee" to protest the shortage of public toilets in Kiev.

Others say some of Femen's escapades are meaningless, such as when Shevchenko clad in nothing but black panties, stockings, suspenders and a helmet disturbed a respected women's rights conference. The argument was that the experts talk too much and do too little.

"Your clothes, dressing, undressing — it should not be about that," said Anna Dubrovina, 31, a manager at a telecommunications company in Kiev. "It should be about what you do, about your achievements."

Source: The Moscow Times

Ukraine: Universities Face New 'Iron Curtain'

KIEV, Ukraine -- The president of one of Eastern Europe's oldest universities has written an open letter to the president of Ukraine to warn that draft legislation on higher education will reintroduce "authoritarian and centralised governmental control of higher education", degrade science and learning and erect a new 'Iron Curtain' between Ukrainian and European institutions.

Sergiy Kvit, President of the National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy.

Sergiy Kvit, president of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA) in Kiev, has written to President Viktor Yanukovich. The letter has been copied to the chairman of the parliament and the prime minister.

It also warns that the "ill-conceived" changes drawn up by Dmytro Tabachnyk, Minister of Education, Science, Youth and Sport, will "lead to a self-imposed isolation of the country in the sphere of education, as well as to the unacceptable degradation of the nation's science, education and economy" and should be dropped.

As president, Kvit has pioneered reform of doctoral education away from the Soviet-inspired aspirantura model, with a State Commission in charge of academic standardisation requirements.

These efforts have been supported by the European Union collaboration programme Tempus, involving the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, Sunderland and Leeds universities in the UK, Universitat Autonomy Barcelona, the EURODOC organisation of PhD students in Europe and the University of Bergen in Norway.

Kvit says the draft law will erect a new 'Iron Curtain' between Ukrainian higher education institutions and those of the European Higher Education Area, because it:

* Does not adopt the Bologna three-cycle model.
* Does not mention the use of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.
* Does not align with the European academic recognition system being set up through the Bologna process.
* Does not advocate interdisciplinary study programmes.
* Lacks a national strategy for lifelong learning and-or for the Ukrainian academic community to master the English language.

The draft law says Ukrainian candidates of sciences would automatically qualify for a PhD without introducing the structural programmes normally required to train PhD students.

Kvit claims it also puts his university's status under threat, because of an "arbitrary" decision to decrease the number of higher education institutions in Ukraine on quantitative rather than qualitative criteria, by a requirement that a comprehensive university shall have at least 10,000 students. NaUKMA has 3,500.

In a separate letter to overseas supporters, Kvit accused the minister of trying to nullify the efforts of his university to integrate into the European Higher Education Area.

NaUKMA was the first independent university in Ukraine to introduce bachelors, masters and PhD programmes and is the only university to be officially bilingual, using English as the second working language.

He said the minister had forbidden the use of English as a second language of instruction at the university and threatened repercussions because the institution refused to drop its entry requirement of a working knowledge of English, which it sees as essential for students to be able to understand lectures, access international research papers and eventually undertake joint research with peers from Europe and North America.

The higher education ministry has not replied to repeated requests by University World News for a comment on Kvit's claims.

The minister has the equivalent of a doctorate degree in historical sciences, holds the title of professor and is a member of the Academy of Legal Sciences in Ukraine. But his appointment in March 2010 prompted a public outcry and demands for his removal.

As reported by University World News after the elections, Ukrainians are not optimistic about the continuation of the Bologna reform processes.

The Ukrainian Weekly reported last week that the legislation would eliminate NaUKMA's 12 to 15 interdisciplinary programmes, denying students the option to choose their course of study, a move it described as a "holdover from the Soviet era".

It said Tabachnyk had taken radical steps to integrate Ukrainian education with the Russian Federation.

Source: World University News