Monday, January 31, 2011

Ukrainian Court Rules Out Probe Of Officials In Journalist's Death

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian court on Monday effectively blocked any attempt to investigate allegations that top political figures were behind the murder in 2000 of journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Murdered journalist Georgy Gongadze

The Kiev court ruled that the investigation concluded by prosecutors was complete and that there were insufficient grounds to pursue allegations linking his death to former president Leonid Kuchma and former interior minister Yury Kravchenko.

Four police officers, including former police colonel Aleksy Pukach, were charged in the killing of Gongaze, who established Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine's most popular news website.

Pukach, who is suspected of suffocating and beheading the journalist, is awaiting trial; the three others, identified as his accomplices, were convicted in 2008 and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 13 years.

It still remains unclear whether Pukach was acting on his own or whether he received orders from someone else to carry out the murder.

Recordings made public after Gongadze's murder purportedly capture former president Leonid Kuchma ordering former interior minister Yury Kravchenko 'to take out Gongadze.'

Kuchma has consistently denied any involvement in Gongadze's killing. Kravchenko committed suicide in 2005 just before he was scheduled to speak to prosecutors about the murder case.

He left a note saying he had 'become a victim of Kuchma's political intrigues.'

The Monday court decision confirms a September ruling by a lower court. Gongadze's wife, Miroslava, challenged the lower court decision.

Georgy Gongadze's death galvanized the political opposition in Ukraine and was a major issue in Ukraine's 2004 presidential election.

The Kuchma-backed candidate - Viktor Yanukovych - was defeated in that race, though he won in his second bid in 2010.

Source: DPA

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Targets President

KIEV, Ukraine -- Opposition parties in Ukraine will "help" President Viktor Yanukovych leave office "swiftly and constitutionally," said a former prime minister.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is defending herself against charges she misused federal money meant for environmental projects to pay for pension funds during her tenure as prime minister.

Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution in 2004 and launched a bruising presidential bid against Yanukovych in 2010.

The opposition leader in statements published on her Web site said the Yanukovych name was soiled in Ukraine.

"He will swiftly and constitutionally be removed from office, and we, together, will help him in this," her statement read.

She claimed many of her opposition allies were in the process of joining forces in order to put pressure on the Yanukovych government.

"My political team and I are working on bringing people together and working out a clear plan how to constitutionally remove this government," she declared.

Yanukovych opponents accuse his government of moving too close to Kiev's former patrons in the Kremlin.

Critics said Kiev is trying to divert attention from an unpopular move on pension reform by targeting Tymoshenko.

Source: UPI

Ukraine Needs Fewer Universities - Education Minister

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Education Minister Dmitriy Tabachnyk has criticized the country's higher education system, saying that the number of universities in Ukraine should be decreased.

Ukrainian Education Minister Dmitry Tabachnyk

"Ukraine... cannot afford more than 900 universities. This is not Tabachnik's whim, this is a presentiment of Armageddon in the higher education," the minister said, speaking on Saturday during a round table in the southern Ukrainian city of Simferopol.

Ukraine, home to 45 million people, has "more universities than Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Belgium combined," while more than 250 million people live in these countries, Tabachnik said.

Almost 2.5 million students study in more than 1000 universities in Ukraine, the majority of which are state-run.

Small universities, the minister said, should unite into bigger ones, which is stipulated in the country's draft education law. "A shop selling educational services to several hundred students cannot be called a university," he added.

Source: RIA Novosti

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ukraine Plans To Turn Hitler's Headquarters Into Tourist Attraction

KIEV, Ukraine -- Authorities in Vinnytsia, central Ukraine, have unveiled a plan to turn the remains of Hitler' Eastern Front military headquarters into a tourist attraction.

Adolf Hitler

The museum is planned to be established by May 9, the anniversary of the Victory Day over Fascism.

"It is time to make the Wehrwolf headquarters a tourist destination, a memorial to the victims of fascism," the head of the local administration, Mykola Djiga was quoted by UNIAN news agency.

"This museum should remind us about the time that our people endured, their sacrifices and heroism. It should also show the face of the fascist enemy. We must show what enemy we had defeated," he said.

The Wehrwolf headquarters, consisting of about 20 wooden cottages and barracks and three bunkers, are located some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) north of Vinnytsia.

The construction started in September 1941 and was completed in April 1942. More than 10,000 Soviet war prisoners and some 1,000 local citizens participated in the works and some 2,000 of them died. Another 4,000 were shot dead.

The Nazis destroyed the site on abandoning the region. The underground parts of the complex were later sealed.

Source: RIA Novosti

Patriarch Filaret: Government Intends To Liquidate Ukrainian Orthodox Church Of Kiev Patriarchate Before June

LVIV, Ukraine -- Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate said the government wants to liquidate the church before June.

Patriarch Filaret

He announced this in an interview with the Ekspress newspaper in Lviv.

'They want to liquidate the Kiev Patriarchate before the summer... In all regions of Ukraine representatives of the government or priests of the Moscow Patriarchate hold talks with our priests. They are invited to come to the subordination of the Moscow Patriarchate for different kinds of support and help," said Filaret.

Patriarch Filaret noted that the talks with priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate are underway in all regions of Ukraine from Donetsk region to Lviv region.

"In Vinnytsia region priests were invited to district state administrations and there they receive ultimatums," he said.

Patriarch Filaret said such cases were in Kiev region and other regions also. According to him, such negotiations were held with 70% of priests in Donetsk region.

"Illegal takeovers of our churches commenced... And the government is always on the side of the Russian church," said Patriarch Filaret.

He voiced confidence that the cases are a part of one plan, as the events are similar throughout the country.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, Patriarch Filaret said the position of the Russian government is to hinder the creation of a united local Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Source: Ukrainian News

Ukraine Perplexed As 'Kiev Mayor Vanishes'

KIEV, Ukraine -- The eccentric mayor of Kiev Leonid Chernovetsky has failed to appear in public for over two months, prompting even the Ukrainian prime minister to ask where on earth he is.

Leonid Chernovetsky

"He is on holiday or what?" Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Thursday at a meeting with the Kiev city administration chief.

"Without fail, find the mayor, tell him that Kievans are missing him, that they want to see him. And ask him to return to work as soon as possible," said Azarov, a technocrat not known for his sense of humour.

President Viktor Yanukovych in November took away a large chunk of the mayor's powers when he removed Chernovetsky as head of the Kiev city administration and appointed top local official Olexander Popov in his place.

The four-year rule of Chernovetsky -- known as Kosmos for his other-worldly eccentricity -- has been highly colourful even by the standards of charismatic European big city mayors.

Accused of suffering mental problems by his opponents, he once gave a press conference in a pair of swimming briefs and performed a string of exercises to prove his fitness.

He also famously offered to put his kisses up for auction and produce a sequence of record covers.

Popov refused to say where they mayor is, saying the question should be put to Chernovetsky himself. Asked if he had seen the mayor, Popov replied: "We are in communication with him."

Contacted by AFP, the press office of the mayor also said it had no information where he was. Media reports have said he left Ukraine in November to celebrate his 59th birthday in France.

Source: AFP

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sundance 'Family' Offers Glimpse Of Ukraine Racism

PARK CITY, Utah -- "Family Portrait in Black and White" has brought the story of a woman raising 16 black orphans in Ukraine, an overwhelmingly white and often racist society, to the Sundance film festival.

Director Julia Ivanova and Boris Ivanova.

The searing film by Julia Ivanova, a Russian filmmaker based in Canada, is up for the documentary grand prize at the independent film festival here in the western US mountains of Utah, which closes on Sunday.

Set in Sumy, a town of 300,000 inhabitants in northeast Ukraine, the film follows Olga Nenya, who has adopted 16 black orphans in a country that is 99.9 percent white.

They are the children of Ukrainians and African students, abandoned by their mothers because of the stigma, inherited from Soviet times, against interracial relationships and children of mixed blood.

"(Olga) is a person who has absolutely zero percent racism in herself. And she's a fighter in her way, on a small level," Ivanova told AFP.

The film makes clear, however, that she's no Mother Theresa: the strict disciplinarian runs the family like a military platoon inside their home, donated by a British charity.

"When she is in the room, you immediately feel that she is strong and you follow her direction," Ivanova says.

"The slogan in the family is: 'There is no place for democracy in a family with so many children'. But it's her presence that makes everything work. Which means also that she cannot leave the house, because if she does, everything falls apart."

Many of the children could be the subjects of their own films: there is Sashka, a bully and natural leader; the intelligent Kiril, who goes by the name "Mr. President;" and Roman, who dreams of being a famous footballer.

The film follows the children as they come of age in a racist Ukraine, embodied at one point by a skinhead march through the town.

The children discover a more tolerant atmosphere during summers visiting with different families in France and Italy -- but Olga refuses to allow the families to adopt the kids, and is determined to raise them as proud Ukrainians.

"Olga doesn't see how bad it is for these children because she has never traveled abroad, she has never seen other societies. But these children have. They have a knowledge of the world that she doesn't have," Ivanova says.

"When they are small, their love for their mother is a strong emotion, but when they become teenagers and have the ability to analyze more, even the most patriotic of the children look for ways to leave Ukraine."

"Nobody wants to be a second-class citizen," she says.

In this most unlikely of families, Olga struggles with the pain of letting go, a condition familiar to any parent who has dropped off a teenager at college or given her away at a wedding.

"With Olga I discovered how much contradictions you can find in one single person. Loving somebody but cutting off all opportunities of the same person, controlling this person," Ivanova said.

The film takes Ukrainian authorities to task, both for their failure to aid Olga and their feeble efforts to curtail racism.

Near the end of the film Ivanova tells the heartrending story of Andrei, one of Olga's children who was taken by social services to a psychiatric hospital, where his treatment amounted to "torture."

"Because he was an orphan, they could do whatever they wanted with him. I want to see this investigated and put this hospital on the spot," she said.

Source: AFP

Ukraine To Boost Military Cooperation With Russia In 2011

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine plans to expand its cooperation with Russia in the military sphere, Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Hryhoriy Pedchenko said on Saturday.

Ukrainian armed forces

He said the agreement was reached at the meeting with his Russian counterpart, Army Gen. Nikolai Makarov, in Brussels on January 27.

Pedchenko said Ukraine and Russia will hold a series of command-staff exercises and tactical maneuvers in 2011.

"We have considerably expanded our military cooperation. If last year we had 40 such exercises, this year we will have 81. This is a great step forward," Pedchenko was quoted by UNIAN agency as saying.

He said such cooperation is very important for Ukraine as Russia has great experience in this sphere.

"They have many well trained officers, specialists and this is very important for us," he said.

Source: RIA Novosti

Interview: Exiled Ukrainian Minister Says West Can’t Let Ukraine Become Isolated

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Earlier this month, the Czech Republic gave political asylum to a former Ukrainian minister wanted at home on charges of abuse of office.

Bohdan Danylyshyn

One of many top officials from the previous, pro-Western government to have come under investigation since the election of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year, Bohdan Danylyshyn says the accusations are part of a drive to stifle opposition in Ukraine. He sat down with RFE/RL's Gregory Feifer in Prague.

RFE/RL: Can you explain the charges the Ukrainian government has made against you?

Bohdan Danylyshyn: I've been accused of approving government purchases involving the Defense Ministry and the Boryspil international airport through a single agent. The years 2008 and 2009, during the global financial crisis, were difficult ones for Ukraine. I was doing everything I could to reduce the number of deals through that one broker.

In 2007 [before I took office], deals worth 133 billion hryvnia ($16.5 billion), or 52 percent of all government procurements, were made through him. In the first quarter of 2008, it was 61 billion hryvnia, or more than 77 percent of all deals.

When the Economy Ministry began dealing with the issue [after I took office], the amount dropped to 21 percent in 2008, and around 30 percent in 2009. In those years, especially in 2008, I had conflicts with the former managers of the agency overseeing tenders, especially members of the Regions and Communist parties from the former government led by Yanukovych.

I want to stress that there wasn't a single criminal case launched into activities during the period 2007 to 2008 [when President Viktor Yanukovych was prime minister]. We don’t even have documents showing spending from that time because they’ve disappeared and law enforcers aren’t even interested in them. It shows Ukraine has a system of selective justice.

In any case, the Economy Ministry could only approve procedures and issue permission letters. It didn’t make final decisions about deals. That was taken by other ministries or executive agencies -- in my case, the Defense Ministry.

RFE/RL: Can you explain why the government targeted you?

Danylyshyn: I criticized the authorities after the new government took office. In one article, I wrote about 2 billion rubles ($67 million) in Russian credits used for filling holes in the government's budget. The authorities couldn’t have liked that. They've taken measures to make it impossible for the opposition and members of the previous government to speak to the media. They created an atmosphere of fear.

RFE/RL: Before last year's presidential election brought Viktor Yanukovych to power, many in Ukraine and in the West said they didn’t see any real difference between him and his main rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Were they wrong?

Danylyshyn: [Yanukovych's] world view is that since I spent time in jail, so will you. I don't have to repeat well-known descriptions of what's going on in Ukraine's legal system. But comparing the two people, one shouldn't look at differences on narrow points. One should look at how they broadly see Ukraine in the near future.

Tymoshenko sees Ukraine as a European country that must integrate into the European system of security and values. When I was economy minister, Tymoshenko and I did much to ensure Ukraine would enter the World Trade Organization in 2008.

We had 13 rounds of talks with the European Union over the creation of a free-trade zone. Now those talks are ending. There were many such processes. I frequently held talks with the European Commission over monetary and fiscal policies and trade.

RFE/RL: Many in the West believe the Orange Revolution leaders squandered their opportunity to democratize Ukraine because they were too busy squabbling with each other. They say that since Yanukovych won a democratic election, there's very little that can be done about Kyiv's shift back to Moscow's embrace.

Danylyshyn: I was upset about the situation in Ukraine especially in 2008 to 2010, when relations were worsening between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko. The people had given them a big vote of confidence after the Orange Revolution in 2004. But the authorities didn’t use the opportunities they had.

It's upsetting that the Ukrainian people didn’t learn lessons from the period between 2005 and 2010. The opposition should be unified, but they mark Independence Day and other holidays alone, while members of the current government do it together. If we want to see Ukraine as a democratic country, we must form a unified opposition that can take on the current authorities.

But Ukraine isn’t isolated and it shouldn’t be a closed country. The West shouldn’t forget that Ukraine is a young democracy with its own patterns of development, but also that it shouldn't return to the situation in other [undemocratic] former Soviet republics. Western countries must speak up. That doesn’t mean enacting sanctions, but using other forms of influence.

RFE/RL: What are your plans now?

Danylyshyn: I'm not going to do anything against Ukraine. On the contrary, I'm going to concentrate on helping Ukraine integrate into global economic and political systems. That includes the creation of joint venture companies and advocating Ukraine's trade ties and possibilities in various sectors. Ukraine must open up, conduct open politics even under the current authorities.

I'll do everything to contribute to that open system and help society in the West understand what's going on in Ukraine. It's very important for the West to know. It can’t allow Ukraine to close itself off.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Hryschenko: Quality Of Association Agreement With EU More Important For Ukraine Than Date Of Its Signing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryschenko has said that Kiev will make every effort to reach a compromise during talks on an association agreement with the European Union.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryschenko.

He said in an exclusive interview with Interfax-Ukraine that in general, certain progress had already been made in this direction.

"We expect that the mutual understanding that has been reached, and the fact that the EU presidency will be held by Hungary and Poland, which are consistently defending Ukraine's interests in the EU, will help us complete these negotiations this year," Hryschenko said.

He added that Ukraine expected the EU to adopt political decisions concerning the gradual opening of its market, first and foremost, access to the agricultural market, the services market, particularly transport and energy, as well as the spread in Ukraine of the freedom of entrepreneurial activities and the freedom of the movement of persons.

"Thus, we are currently focusing, first and foremost, on the quality of the future agreement, rather than the date when the negotiations are completed. We will make every effort to reach a respective compromise in the shortest period of time," the minister said.

Source: Sinoptik

Friday, January 28, 2011

At The Davos Summit, A Conversation With Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Is Ukraine's president undermining democracy? That has been a concern for human rights advocates and U.S. officials since current president Viktor Yanukovych took office nearly a year ago. "We don't want Ukraine to become Russia," said a senior U.S. diplomat.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 28, 2011. Organisers and CEOs at the annual Davos meeting projected cautious confidence in the global economy as the event opened on Wednesday, pointing to numerous risks which could yet derail a still-fragile recovery.

His chief opponent, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is under investigation, and there is a question as to whether corruption or revenge lurks behind her case. Washington Post senior associate editor Lally Weymouth spoke with the Ukrainian president in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

An ambition of the previous regime was to join the European Union. Is that still your ambition? How do you think it is going?

Something you need to know is that the Party of Regions, which is the leading party of the Ukraine today, which I still chair, in its very first political statement adopted in 1997, said that the priority of the party is integration of Ukraine with the European Union.

The other important thing - for the first time, in May of last year, the parliament of Ukraine adopted a law which clearly stated that the goal of Ukraine is to join the European Union. The law was the president's initiative.

Some say that your government is moving this country closer to Russia than to the E.U., and they cite the deal you made last April, when you extended the lease on the port in Sevastopol in exchange for getting lower gas prices from Russia. In retrospect, do you feel this was a good deal?

Ukraine and Russia have had traditional strategic relations. There was just one period in the history of our countries - during my predecessor's rule - when those good relations deteriorated. Trade between our countries fell from 40 billion U.S. dollars to 13 billion dollars in 2009.

The confrontation between Ukraine and Russia led - at least two times - to the inefficient delivery of energy through Ukraine to the European Union. At least twice Ukraine violated its obligations to the European Union when gas deliveries from Russia which cross Ukraine were cut down significantly, and Europe suffered.

I thought Russia cut the gas off?

It was the consequence of the fact that relations between Russia and Ukraine had deteriorated. We are speaking about the results, rather than the fact. Ukraine's policy in 2010 was to improve relations with Russia. And Europe is happy today because it doesn't feel [it has] any problems with the natural gas. Those developments have led to more stability and an improved security situation in the European continent.

You won an election that was regarded as one of the most free and fair. S ince that time, there is concern in the West that there has been backsliding on democracy in your country. Experts and officials talk about whether the local elections held i n October were free and fair. How do you see this situation? Do you plan to do something about it?

I have publicly recognized that the Ukrainian election law has some problems.

I also tried to improve the election law on the eve of the elections as much as I could . . . at the request of the opposition. After the elections, I launched a special working group with international experts. Today this working group is trying hard to develop a new election law in Ukraine.

Your critics also speak of selective prosecutions, and they claim that the current investigations [against politicians] are politically motivated. Why is your government only investigating the opposition?

I would strongly disagree with that suggestion. It is just not true.

The U.S. government says it is true.

In reality, one perhaps should pay less attention to what is said by whom. One has to use the facts. I can give you some of these facts. The country has started a broad campaign against corruption and violation of the law. It is not a selective approach based on political reasons. This campaign affects representatives [regardless of] political party.

Has anyone in your party been investigated?

Yes, by all means.

But the famous names are former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the former minister of the economy, Bohdan Danylyshyn, who fled to the Czech Republic and was given asylum under NATO rules.

Let me answer that. As examples, a member of my party, the former chairman of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea - and his position today is an adviser to me - he has been detained on charges of corruption. His last name is Hrytsenko.

Getting back to the former minister of the economy - Mr. Danylyshyn - he had never been involved in politics. He was a minister in the previous government. He is accused of committing some acts of corruption against Ukrainian law.

I believe the Czech decision to grant him political asylum was not based on any specific facts that they received from Ukraine's law enforcement agencies.

What Mr. Danylyshyn should be doing is trying to use his own legal experts to prove that he is innocent instead of hiding and trying to avoid responsibility.

But the U.S. government said that, with few exceptions, the only senior officials being targeted have connections with the previous government. Do you plan to put Yulia Tymoshenko on trial?

It is a controversial issue. With regards to the opinion of the U.S. government, it is an issue to be discussed. We believe that position is not really based on facts. I am sure that if everybody just tried to use the facts and the information that has already been provided by the prosecutor general's office - the information shows that we are in the midst of a major fight against corruption.

Those people that you have referred to have really violated Ukrainian laws. As an example, the member of my party, Mr. [Anatoliy] Hrytsenko, he made those illegal actions back in 2007. So this is also a past deed. Only in 2010, quite a large number of people have been brought to criminal responsibility for acts of corruption.

Many of them are either members of my own party or are members of other parties that are members of the governing coalition. This very fact proves that it is not a one-way road in terms of criminal persecution.

Going back to Yulia Tymoshenko - are you planning on putting her on trial?

I am not planning anything. There are laws, there is a code of criminal procedures in the Ukraine vis a vis which every citizen of Ukraine is equal. Which directions the investigators will take now, it is hard for me to know in advance. Of course I very much want to see Mrs. Tymoshenko prove that she is innocent if she is innocent.

People in the United States are also worried about pressure applied to civil society offices and journalists in your country. They say that they believe the pressure is to suppress any opposition activity. Is this fair?

Perhaps you are aware of some specific facts. What civil organizations are we talking about? What officers?

One journalist disappeared, didn't he?

Many journalists disappear all over the world.

That is something to worry about.

By all means that does worry us, but that was many years ago. The investigation is underway.

I was told that there is a lot of pressure by your security organization on civil societies and human rights organizations. Freedom House downgraded Ukraine from free to partly free. What's going on?

I always react very harshly to any violations of human rights. If I hear that any member of the government or official of the government is involved in any pressure, I look into the issue very carefully, trying to find answers.

I still believe that in many ways, such allegations are an attempt to exercise pressure upon the government - the government which has started this large-scale fight against corruption.

You are saying [the report] is an attempt to go after this government because this government is going after corruption?

Yes, I do think so. Let me give you another fact. Today the level of confidence and trust of Ukraine is growing in the world. Almost all the credit agencies have upgraded Ukraine's rating today.

Yet another important fact, the United Nations has four categories for countries: the first group is the most developed nations, the second group is for countries with a medium level of development, the third group is the countries with prospects, and the fourth group is countries with a low level of development and all sorts of deficiencies.

In 2004, Ukraine ranked 70th, and it was in group three. In the past five years, the country came down to the 85th position. That is how we were ranked in 2009.

During the last year Ukraine climbed 16 positions up, so now we are ranked 69th.That was the highest leap in the world in the course of one year. Today Ukraine finds itself in group two. That's an international evaluation.

There is one other important factor that one has to take into account when thinking about Ukraine today. For the previous 20 years of its independence, Ukraine practically did not modernize itself. No serious reforms were undertaken.


Because throughout those years of independence, Ukraine saw a fierce political fight. There was no stability. When the new president took office in 2010, we finally started global, large-scale reforms. We started the judicial reform, reform of criminal justice, tax reform, public administrative reform.

We are trying to streamline and improve the public finance system. The government's policy is for deregulation of the economy and making the climate for investors more attractive. Clearly this process cannot be completely smooth.

Ukraine has never had a more stable situation than it has today.

How do you see Ukraine's relationship with the United States evolving?

Our relations with the United States are strategic, and on very many issues we are of the same opinion and we support each other.

All of the agreements that were reached last year including at the nuclear summit between President Obama and myself are being implemented almost 100 percent. This is true for the highly enriched uranium program.

The same is true about the removal and destruction of missile fuel and so on. We have a broad agenda between our two countries, and this broad agenda shows that relations between us are good and stable.

Source: Washington Post

Ukraine Euro 2012 Role In Jeopardy: UEFA

NYON, Switzerland -- UEFA warned on Friday that Ukraine's role as joint host of the Euro 2012 finals was in jeopardy as a dispute emerged over government interference in the running of Ukrainian football.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino.

The executive committee of European football's governing body wrote to Ukraine to warn it of the threat of suspension from European football unless it received a satisfactory response by February 4, secretary general Gianni Infantino said.

"If the FFU (Ukraine federation) is suspended from membership of UEFA, it was the unanimous view of the executive committee that it would not be tenable to play the final round of the UEFA European football championship in Ukraine in 2012," the letter said.

Ukraine are due to co-host the competition with Poland.

A suspension would sideline Ukranian clubs and the national side from European competitions.

UEFA's move followed a similar one by world football's governing body FIFA.

"Essentially it's about political interference in the running of Ukrainian football," Infantino explained after a regular meeting of UEFA's executive committee.

"We have written a letter to the football federation of Ukraine requesting the necessary steps are taken. They will have to conform by February 4," he told journalists.

"If nothing has changed then the emergency committee will have to meet to decide a suspension, or something else."

"But we are confident we can find a solution," he added.

Europe's top international tournament is due to kick off in Warsaw on June 8 next year and end with the final in Ukraine's capital Kiev on July 1.

Preparations for the event have been dogged by doubts since the joint bid by the two countries was chosen by UEFA in 2007, especially over Ukraine's capacity to build up sparse and dilapidated transport and stadium capacity in time.

In April 2010, UEFA chief Michel Platini warned the Ukrainians that if stadium plans in Kiev did not advance they would lose their host status.

However, four months later he said the ultimatum had expired.

Ukrainian officials have said Kiev's stadium should open by August 24.

Infantino said it was too early to speak of playing the final in Poland or other alternatives.

"We have a fantastic event ahead of us, everyone has to pull together and not work one against each other," he added.

Government involvement in the running of football federations is frowned upon in FIFA and UEFA's rule books.

The problems emerged after a disrupted Ukraine football federation assembly last year, when international footballing officials received documents indicating pressure from regional and state authorities, according to UEFA.

The spat has already had an impact. Ukraine's team was moved into a six strong group for a forthcoming under 21 championship draw instead of a five strong group, to minimise disruption to the tournament if they are suspended.

Source: AFP

Yanukovych Denies Ukraine's Deviation From Democratic Processes

KIEV, Ukraine -- The president of Ukraine says reports that his country deviates from democratic processes are groundless and pledges to keep fighting against corruption among high-ranking state officials.

Ukraine's opposition accuses Yanukovych of political repressions following arrests of some ministers from the previous Cabinet.

Some Western media reports criticized Ukraine for deviating from the democratic processes after President Viktor Yanukovych assumed his office last February.

Ukraine's opposition accuses him of political repressions following arrests of some ministers from the previous Cabinet.

"We take such challenges calmly. But we are telling the truth - if the authorities violate human rights or abuse power we must acknowledge and eradicate this," Yanukovych said in an interview with BBC news service in Ukraine.

He said the issue of political repressions is usually inflamed by those "who used to be in control of the old bureaucratic system."

"The [Ukrainian] bureaucracy seeks all means, including paying money for publishing [wrong] information in newspapers across the world," the president said.

After years of political turmoil under former President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine has seen a period of relative political stability since Yanukovych came to power last year, narrowly defeating former prime minister and now opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko who is now under criminal investigation.

Source: RIA Novosti

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ukraine Charges Opposition Leader

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prosecutors opened a second criminal case against Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday, raising the pressure on the former prime minister, who claims their investigation is politically driven.

Yulia Tymoshenko

The state prosecutor's office accused Ms. Tymoshenko of abuse of office in causing losses of $8.5 million to the Treasury during the procurement of vehicles for use as ambulances in 2009.

Prosecutors said Ms. Tymoshenko had exceeded her power as prime minister by importing 1,000 Opel Combo vehicles, which weren't designed for medical use.

Authorities have said the vehicles were used for political campaigning during Ms. Tymoshenko's run for the presidency last year. She lost in a run-off to Viktor Yanukovych.

She had already been charged with abuse of office in a separate case. She denies the allegations in both cases.

"They have fabricated another case against me," Ms. Tymoshenko told reporters Thursday as she left the prosecutor general's office in Kiev. "It's a criminal move," she added, repeating claims that the investigations amounted to "political repression."

Ms. Tymoshenko, who held office from 2007 to 2010, has come under increasing pressure from Mr. Yanukovych since he took office as president last February and then ousted her from the government.

Mr. Yanukovych has since engineered a constitutional change enabling him to fire the prime minister and other Cabinet officials.

He has further consolidated his power by appointing allies to head the security service and prosecutor's office. Critics have accused him and his allies of intimidating opposition groups and overseeing attacks on press freedom, contentions his administration denies.

Ms. Tymoshenko has been called in for questioning more than 15 times since the start of December. In the other case, she is accused of misspending $520 million in government funds allocated for environmental projects.

U.S. and European Union officials have raised concerns that investigations of opposition politicians in Ukraine are selective and politically motivated. A former economy minister was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic this month after Ukraine requested his extradition on charges of abuse of power.

Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy, Ukraine's security service chief, has denied any political motivation to the investigations. "We haven't got a separate legal code for members of the opposition," he said in a recent interview. He played down Western criticism of investigations of opposition figures, saying he saw it as a call for dialogue.

Mr. Khoroshkovskiy said the government was committed to fighting corruption, noting the arrest last year of a deputy minister from the current government, who is still being detained.

Speaking in parliament recently, Interior Minister Anatoliy Mohyliov said criminal cases had been launched against 115 members of the pro-Yanukovich Party of Regions and 73 against members of Ms. Tymoshenko's party.

Mr. Khoroshkovsky, a close ally of Mr. Yanukovych, said Ms. Tymoshenko was complaining of attacks on democratic freedoms to distract attention from her alleged wrongdoing.

Political observers are uncertain whether the authorities will jail Ms. Tymoshenko. Such a move would likely stiffen Western reproaches of Mr. Yanukovych's government, which has declared its commitment to integration into the EU.

"Jailing Tymoshenko would be received very badly in the West, so it wouldn't be a rational step," said a Western diplomat. "But they don't always act rationally."

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Tigipko Says Ukraine Has Not Done Enough To Get Next Tranche Of Loan From IMF

KIEV, Ukraine -- Vice Prime Minister and Social Policy Minister Sergiy Tigipko has said that Ukraine still has not fulfilled its obligations in full in order to obtain the next tranche of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Sergiy Tigipko

"Speaking about the current stage, we still are not ready [to receive the next tranche]. There are decisions that we haven't taken and we have to discuss and approve [them]…," he said on Channel 5 on Wednesday evening, when asked if everything was ready for Ukraine to get the next tranche of a loan from the IMF.

Tigipko noted that an IMF mission would work in Ukraine at the beginning of February 2011.

"The [IMF] mission will work [in Ukraine] until February 11 [2011] and, if I'm not mistaken, on March 15 there must be a decision by the IMF Board of Directors [on the allocation of the next tranche to Ukraine]," he said.

Tigipko said Ukraine had taken about 20 decisions that had to be approved under the IMF's conditions.

The vice premier said that at present an active discussion is taking place and Ukraine is receiving proposals from the IMF that have to be implemented.

Source: Sinoptik

Ukraine's Black Sea Coast: Russians' Best-Kept Travel Secret

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ask a group of Russians where they'll be vacationing this summer and chances are they'll all give the same answer: Ukraine.

The vast nation in the heart of Eastern Europe rarely features on the travel itineraries of many Westerners.

However, the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) show that Ukraine is the 12th most popular tourist destination in the world -- with 20.7 million visitors in 2009.

According to John Kester, UNTWO manager of tourism trends, the overwhelming majority of these visitors come from Russia.

"These figures reflect a social legacy from when Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union," he explained.

"Most of those traveling from Russia have friends and family there. You have to remember that Ukraine, particularly along the Black Sea coast, was considered the glamorous holiday hotspot for most Soviets during the communist era."

Indeed, Ukraine's Black Sea coast -- which extends along the Crimean Peninsula to the historic city of Odessa -- has been a big draw over the centuries for Russian czars, wealthy European monarchs and Soviet proletariats alike.

With its glut of architectural treasures, arching cliffs and perennially temperate climate, the Black Sea coast has all the hallmarks of a traveler's paradise.

So why hasn't it hit the big time much beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union?

"Ukraine has not really engaged in any kind of serious promotion of itself as a tourist destination," says Oksana Yakovenko of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.

"The Black Sea coast is easily as good as the Mediterranean, but far fewer people seem know about it -- at least for the time being," says Yakovenko.

For those keen to catch a glimpse of the former "Red Riviera" before the hordes catch on, Lonely Planet travel writer Greg Bloom has a treasure trove of suggestions.

First up, head to Yalta -- Crimea's most well-known city on the peninsula's southern tip. Don a pair of oversized slippers and stroll around the neo-Renaissance mansion that is Livadia Palace, which is "where the last of the Romanovs frolicked and where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met in 1945 to shape the post-war world," says Bloom.

The palace is just one of several historical jewels in Crimea. Fifty kilometers west of Yalta, in Balaklava, you can retrace the Charge of the Light Brigade from the Crimean War and tour an underwater cave that was a secret nuclear submarine factory in Soviet times.

Ancient ruins more your thing? "Fortresses dot the peninsula, bearing the signatures of mighty civilizations -- Greek, Mongol, Ottoman, Slavic," says Bloom.

Of special note is the Chersonesos Taurica -- the remains of an ancient Greek colony founded on the shore of the Black Sea over 2,500 years ago.

Known as the "Ukrainian Pompeii," the sprawling site, on the outskirts of the city of Sevastopol, boasts a smorgasbord of old-world relics -- including a Roman amphitheater, a Greek temple and the ancient vestiges of mass-produced wine.

Fast-forward a few millennia to 1920, when Vladimir Lenin's decree "On Utilizing the Crimea for the Medical Treatment of Working People" spawned the large-scale development of "sanatoriums" -- monolithic limestone health spas with a Soviet twist.

"While many have been demolished or converted into high-end hotels, a few holdouts remain operational, as if the Soviet Union had never collapsed," says Bloom.

Ukraine's share of the Black Sea coast boasts an embarrassing amount of alpine splendor -- and nowhere more so than along the Kara Dag Nature Reserve, situated between the Crimean village of Kurortnoye and the resort of Koktebel.

Dominated by a now extinct volcano, its ancient lava formations have produced a Jurassic landscape carpeted with unusual flora and wildlife unique to the region.

"The coast is a hitchhiker's dream" says Yakovenko. "There are endless dramatic cliffs, breathtaking sea views, impossibly beautiful sunsets -- the full works!"

For those with a real cliff-side disposition, the Swallow's Nest castle is a must. Perched on the side of the 40-meter high Aurora cliff, near Yalta, the breathtaking neo-Gothic "chateaux fantastiques" dates back to the late 19th century, and is one of the most popular attractions in Crimea.

But it's not all historical quirks and rustic charm.

Every year, the sleepy seaside village of Popovka (a two-hour drive from the Crimean capital of Simferopol) is transformed into a techno-fueled hedonist's paradise for the Kazantip festival.

The month-long event attracts 150,000 visitors a year from across the world, according to its organizers, who bill it not just as any old music festival, but as a temporary independent "republic."

Despite Ukraine's rich mix of history, natural beauty and cultural attractions, the tourist masses that descend on much of Eastern Europe have largely spared Ukraine, says Bloom.

"Those looking to stay ahead of the pack should look no further," he says. But, he adds, they better hurry -- the pack won't be far behind.

Source: CNN

Turkey, Ukraine Agree To Boost Trade, Abolish Visa Requirements

KIEV, Ukraine -- Turkey and Ukraine signed several deals during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Kiev in a bid to boost bilateral trade and investment and launch cooperative mechanisms for joint projects.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan

Erdoğan met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Yanovych Azarov, on Tuesday, when the officials discussed ways to improve trade volume and agreed on key sectors in which both countries could cooperate.

Erdoğan also met with Ukrainian businessmen during his visit and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Taras University.

Speaking at a business meeting organized by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) in which 360 businessmen participated, Erdoğan said Turkey has gained momentum in improving its economy and has developed bilateral relations with Ukraine in every sector.

The Turkish prime minister set the goal of $40 billion in trade with Ukraine in 10 years and said the two countries have the potential to reach this number.

Turkish contractors have already carried out 128 projects worth $3 billion, and Turkish companies might receive an invitation from Ukrainian authorities for projects as the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship that will be held in Ukraine draws closer.

Ukraine and Turkey have also agreed on the establishment of a High Level Cooperation Council that will constitute a cooperative mechanism between the two countries.

Erdoğan also added that he discussed free trade and visa exemption deals, which he says will ease restrictions on trade and facilitate economic dealings between businessmen from Ukraine and Turkey.

Speaking at a news conference after official talks, Erdoğan said Turkey and Ukraine have agreed to start discussions on abolishing visa requirements and to speed up the process; the deal will be discussed along with a readmission agreement, a general agreement regarding the return of illegal immigrants between countries, with Ukraine.

“We want urgently to implement both deals, and we have already made the necessary preparations to be able to conclude future negotiations more quickly,” Erdoğan said. He stated that a free trade agreement and visa exemption deal will make it easier for Turkey and Ukraine to reach a $40 billion trade volume in a decade.

Yanukovych said trade lies at the heart of the visa deal, adding that the primary goal is to facilitate easy travel for businessmen and tourists in Ukraine and Turkey.

He added that Ukraine and Turkey would sign a readmission agreement and a visa exemption deal at the same time to speed up their implementation.

Erdoğan and Yanukovych had signed six agreements in various sectors following their bilateral meeting on Tuesday. Erdoğan stated in the same news conference that they have agreed to improve bilateral relations.

“This is a significant event,” Yanukovych also said at the news conference while announcing that he had agreed to establish a High Level Cooperation Council with Erdoğan, adding that this is an effort to meet the needs of two nations.

This council, he said, will be an important cooperative mechanism between the two countries.

The Ukrainian leader further said there are many things to discuss in regards to transportation projects and that the two countries have agreed to build transportation corridors in the region.

Along with other deals, Ukraine and Turkey have also agreed to cooperate in the defense and space industries. There are more than 400 Turkish firms operating in Ukraine with investments exceeding $1 billion in total.

Source: Today's Zaman

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Denied Permission To Visit Brussels

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office has refused to authorize former prime minister and current opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko's trip to Brussels, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko has been ordered not to leave the country over a criminal case initiated against her by the Prosecutor General's Office. The former prime minister is accused of spending money intended for ecological programs to pay pensions.

"During yesterday's questioning, an investigator rejected Tymoshenko's request to allow her to go to Brussels because she did not submit a proper invitation letter," the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.

Tymoshenko was invited to visit Brussels between January 31 and February 4 by the leadership of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest party in Europe.

Wilfried Martens, the party head, and Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White, a member of the party's bureau, expressed their concern on behalf of the party over Tymoshenko's "persecution" in Ukraine.

Tymoshenko reportedly said her application had not been satisfied because she had not submitted a Ukrainian translation of the invitation letter, which was written in English.

Source: RIA Novosti

Experts Say Ukraine’s International Image Deteriorated In 2010

KIEV, Ukraine -- Experts believe that Ukraine ’s international image deteriorated in 2010. The experts were speaking during a videoconference entitled «Ukraine-Germany: Image of Ukraine in 2010-2011» at the press center of the Ukrainian News information agency.

Thomas Achelis, a German expert on public relations.

According to Denys Bohush, a specialist on strategic communications and public relations in politics and business, Ukraine ’s image in the world largely deteriorated in 2010 based on most indicators.

«The image of Ukraine is not improving but deteriorating,» Bohush said.

In particular, according to Bohush, Ukraine ’s indicators such as number of tourists, volume of investments, and number of emigrants are deteriorating.

Bohush said that a poll conducted by his agency, Bohush Communications, indicated that Ukraine had the image of a little-known country with little influence that is searching for its place in the world; a country in crisis, politically unstable, environmentally dangerous as a result of the Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe; a country with inefficient government and corruption in all agencies of government.

In addition, according to Bohush, Ukraine has the image of a country with beautiful women and cheap prostitutes.

According to him, the insufficient level of investments in Ukraine is the most painful issue for modern Ukraine and foreign investors are not even coming to Ukraine to invest in projects involving the preparation for the 2012 European football championships.

At the same time, Bohush said Ukraine has significant prospects for development.

Thomas Achelis, a German expert on public relations who has developed strategies for improving the image of many European and Asian countries, also said that Ukraine ’s image in the world is quite negative.

According to Achelis, the main reason for low investment in Ukraine is that international organizations are observing an increase in corruption as a result of a lack of political will to combat it.

According to him, this is resulting in a lack of confidence, which is a key issue for investors.

Achelis stressed the importance of successful organization of the 2012 European football championships to the image of Ukraine .

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, experts are forecasting that Ukraine ’s international image could deteriorate further as a result of the Czech Republic’s decision to grant political asylum to former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn.

Source: The Financial

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Moscow Blast Leads To Tighter Airport Security

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Authorities in Ukraine and the Czech Republic they were beefing up airport security measures in the wake of the suicide attack in Moscow.

Mounted police patrol Red Square in Moscow, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011. Security was tightened in Moscow on Tuesday, after a suicide bomber set off an explosion that ripped through Moscow's busiest airport on Monday.

In most countries, however, authorities said current airport security measures were sufficient to deal with possible threats.

In Prague, police spokeswoman Barbora Kudlackova said more officers would be on duty at Prague's Ruzyne airport, and they would be bolstered with sniffer dogs and sharpshooters.

In Ukraine, airport spokeswoman Oksana Ozhogova said additional Interior Ministry troops had been deployed at Kiev's Boryspil Airport. Police with sniffing dogs also were randomly checking passengers and their luggage for possible explosives.

Analysts say Monday's attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport may prompt a reevaluation of how to protect airport terminals but it was unlikely to result in tougher long-term security measures.

Security experts have warned is virtually impossible to screen the large crowds that gather at airports' public areas — especially arrival terminals — because many airports have been turned into commercial centers, with shops, food courts, train stations and other facilities.

"Airport security needs to be thorough but it also needs to be rational, and the truth is that we can never make any airport totally impervious to attack," said Patrick Smith, a commercial airline pilot and aviation author. "Like any crowded public space, be it a subway station or a shopping mall or a football stadium, an airport will always have inherent vulnerabilities."

Monday's attack at Domodedovo's international arrivals area killed 35 people and wounded 180.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the main goal of airport security has been to keep bombs and bombers off of planes. Airports themselves were not considered a high priority target.

Most airports in the West don't restrict access to the terminals, which are considered public areas. Security screening only takes place once the passengers enter the departure areas.

But in some countries, like Israel, Jordan or Pakistan, police set up roadblocks several miles (kilometers) from the airport to prescreen arriving passengers and others picking up passengers before allowing them to proceed.

Analysts said the Domodedovo attack appeared to be the first time terrorists have tried to exploit unrestricted public access to the terminals since the failed 2007 bombing of Glasgow Airport in Scotland. Attackers there tried to crash a Jeep loaded with explosives through the airport's entrance doors but the bomb did not go off.

Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, a London-based publication dedicated to security issues, said expanding an airport's security perimeter as in Tel Aviv was desirable but would be difficult to replicate in Europe or the United States.

"So many of our airports now are commercial enterprises which have to maximize their earnings," he said. "They have food courts, shopping centers, train stations all located together, and any effort to control access would have a major impact on the airport's bottom line."

Domodedovo Airport closed down temporarily after the blast but then reopened after only 20 minutes — an interval that would have been unheard-of in the West. Many air crews and passengers in its secure departure and arrival areas at the time were not even aware of the blast.

Pilots said this underscored the dilemma in securing such transport hubs — which by definition attract large numbers of people — while simultaneously keeping them accessible to the public.

Source: AP

Moscow Airport Bomb: Ukraine Writer Yablonskaya Dead

MOSCOW, Russia -- The Moscow airport bomb blast killed a Ukrainian dramatist and poet, Anna Yablonskaya, who was on her way to get a prize for her play The Pagans.

Anna Mishutina, celebrated playwright who wrote under the pseudonym Anna Yablonskaya.

Yablonskaya, 29, was among 35 people killed by a suspected suicide bomber at Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Monday.

Yablonskaya, who wrote in Russian, came from Odessa on the Black Sea. Her real name was Anna Mashutina.

London's Royal Court Theatre says it will go ahead with a public reading of The Pagans in April.

In a statement, the theatre said her plays had been performed across Russia and she had been nominated for various literary prizes.

She had flown to Moscow to collect a prize from Iskusstvo Kino magazine for the screenplay of The Pagans.

She participated in a writers' workshop at the Royal Court Theatre last year.

Her play will feature in this year's International Playwrights Season at the theatre, in February-April.

She leaves behind a husband and three-year-old daughter.

Russian authorities have identified several other foreigners among the 35 killed, though not all 35 have been named yet.

One was a Briton, Gordon Campbell Cousland, who worked as an analyst for marketing, property and IT company CACI.

The blast hit the airport's busy international arrivals hall at about 1630 local time (1330 GMT). More than 100 people were injured.

The other foreigners who died were from Bulgaria, Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Source: BBC News

$11 Billion USD in Financial Violations Uncovered - Ukrainian State Financial Inspection

KIEV, Ukraine -- The State financial inspection (SFI) of Ukraine has conducted financial audit of governmental financial activities in 2010.

Yulia Tymoshenko

According to its findings the previous government headed by Yulia Tymoshenko is responsible for embezzlement of funds in the amount up to 90 billion Ukrainian hryvnia (approx. $11 billion US dollars).

Petro Andreyev, head of the State Financial Inspection of Ukraine highlighted that violations in the area of state procurement alone amount to 15 billion Ukrainian hryvnia (approx. $2 billion US dollars).

In his opinion, the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, chaired by Bohdan Danylyshyn at the time, had to play key role in such governmental activities. During the 2008-2009, the former government failed to create legible competition between suppliers, required by Ukrainian tender legislation.

On the contrary, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has issued around 60 ordinances, enabling customers to avoid using mandatory procurement procedures.

Among violations the SFI report mentions the cases of procuring large amounts of overpriced fuel by the Ministry of Defense and purchasing 250-mln hryvnia worth of special transportation vehicles by the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

On top of that, the promotional campaign, describing the achievements of the previous government cost the state budget 17 million Ukrainian hryvnia. The transaction was authorized by ex-Minister of Economy - Danylyshyn, stated Petro Andreyev at the "Shuster Live" talk-show.

During the show Andreyev presented a document certifying that the publishing company that carried out the order and was contracted by Yulia Tymoshenko's government had been established one month prior to signing the contract.

He also stressed, that the publishing house in question did not have any publishing equipment or even a license to perform the task.

In response the ex-prime-minister's political party BYuT dismissed the accusations, claiming that the inspection carries out Yanukovych's political orders "aimed at defamation of the opposition and using a so-called case-based reasoning to conduct repressions".

Andreyev refutes accusations of political repressions and of being biased, stressing that the State financial inspection has called upon the IMF and the EBRD to conduct their own audit on financial activities of the previous government.

He said that both organizations had refused to run any inspections claiming they had no authority to do so.

Source: Ukrainian State Financial Inspection

Monday, January 24, 2011

U.S. To Give $124.4 Million In Aid To Ukraine In 2011

KIEV, Ukraine -- The United States will increase its annual aid to Ukraine to $124.4 million in 2011, the U.S. foreign aid website reported on Monday.

Ukraine received $123.1 million from the United States in 2010 and $99.4 million in 2009.

In the statement it is said that the main goal of U.S. aid to Ukraine was to support a democratic, prosperous and secure Ukraine, which is fully integrated into Euro-Atlantic community.

The statement also says that Ukraine is experiencing serious economic difficulties since the global financial crisis and corruption has been hindering reforms.

Source: RIA novosti

Ukraine's Top Euro 2012 Official Suffers Heart Attack

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Kolesnikov, the man in charge of preparations for Ukraine's joint hosting of Euro 2012, has suffered a heart attack, his spokesman said on Monday.

Boris Kolesnikov

"Today Kolesnikov was admitted to hospital where he was diagnosed with a heart attack and underwent an operation. He feels much better now," spokesman Yury Gromnitsky told RIA Novosti.

The official, who also serves as Ukraine's infrastructure minister, will remain out of action for two or three weeks, he also said.

The minister planned to visit Brussels on January 25 to hold a presentation of Ukraine's preparations for Euro 2012.

Ukraine's readiness to hold the 2012 tournament, which it is to share with Poland, has been a constant source of concern for UEFA.

UEFA chief Michel Platini earlier warned that Ukraine could lose its right to host the championship due to the slow pace of stadium construction in the capital, Kiev, where a number of the Euro 2012 matches, including the final, are to take place.

Besides the more rapid construction of sports facilities, UEFA wants Ukraine to improve its roads, assure sufficient accommodation for tournament guests and the proper operation of airports.

Source: RIA Novosti

Five Badly Injured In Gas Explosion In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A gas explosion in the Ukrainian capital Kiev caused major damage to an apartment building, leaving five people seriously injured and dozens homeless, an official said Monday.

The five victims suffered burns and injuries from debris, a city official told the Interfax news agency.

The explosion overnight of a gas pipe and the resulting fire destroyed the four-story building's facade and made many of the apartments uninhabitable, the official said.

Seventy people were left homeless and are being put up temporarily in an adjacent factory, the Unian news agency reported.

Initial investigations suggest the explosion was caused by an oven valve incorrectly installed by one of the apartment building's residents, the city official said.

This person suffered among the worst injuries, with burns over 10 per cent of his body.

Source: DPA

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quick Takes: 'Captain America' Will Be Renamed For Release In Some Countries

LOS ANGELES, USA -- How do you sell a movie called "Captain America" to an overseas market? In South Korea, Russia and Ukraine, apparently, the answer is you don't even try.

Scene from "Captain America: The First Avenger".

The film "Captain America: The First Avenger" will have its title truncated to, simply, "The First Avenger" in those three overseas markets, according to Marvel Studios insiders.

The choice was made by Marvel, Paramount Pictures' international team and distributors in those three countries based on market research results.

Those involved in the decision are being careful to frame the move as a matter of brand management and consumer awareness and not as a decision tilted by cultural or political winds.

The film, starring Chris Evans, is due to open July 22.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Poland, Ukraine Count Down To Euro 2012

WARSAW, Poland -- Locked deep in winter, Poland and Ukraine are fixing their focus squarely on the summer of 2012, when Europe’s top football showcase is staged behind the former Iron Curtain for the first time.

Euro 2012 kicks off in Warsaw on June 8 that year and ends with the final in Ukraine’s capital Kiev on July 1.

On paper, that leaves 500 days to get ready. But the hosts aim to have the pieces of the puzzle in place by the end of 2011.

Marcin Herra, at the helm of Poland’s preparations, said January to May 2012 will be devoted to ironing out problems.

From their glass-and-steel Warsaw office, Herra’s team have an impressive view of the city-centre construction site of Poland’s national stadium, 10 kilometres (six miles) down the River Vistula.

Their walls are plastered with complex charts plotting progress in dozens of projects, from venues and training grounds, to highways, airport terminals and hotels to cope with an expected 1.2 million fans.

“There’s a big difference when we compare the beginning of 2008, when only one or two investments were under construction,” former oil-industry executive Herra told AFP.

“We expect that 100 percent will be under construction in the first half of 2011. Poland’s the biggest construction site in Europe. There’s a huge amount of work, and it’s very, very visible,” he added.

In 2007, European football’s governing body UEFA caught pundits napping when it chose Poland and Ukraine over favourites Italy and joint bidders Hungary and Croatia to host the quadrennial, 16-team championship.

It marks UEFA’s first serious foray into the ex-communist bloc -- a step shadowed by FIFA in naming Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.

Euro 2008 took place in the comfort zone of Austria and Switzerland, while Euro 2016 will be held in France.

The communist era may lie two decades in the past, but Poland and, to a greater extent, Ukraine face challenges beyond anything in western European host nations.

They have understood that from the start.

“In 2007, we were fully aware that only the first half of the match, against the other bidders, was over,” said Adam Olkowicz, director of the Polish arm of the tournament and deputy president of Poland’s football association.

“In the second half, our only opponent is time,” he underlined.

Poland and Ukraine have been bedevilled by doubters from the outset.

“In 2008 there was a first report by UEFA, and it gave a yellow card. And because of that, the message which went out to the world was that this is high risk. So it’s always difficult to change this,” said Herra.

As recently as April 2010, UEFA chief Michel Platini warned the Ukrianians that if stadium plans in Kiev went awry they would lose their host status.

By August, however, he said the ultimatum had expired.

Ukrainian officials says Kiev’s stadium should open by August 24, in time for the 20th anniversary of independence from the crumbling Soviet Union.

“Today there is no risk, not for the tournament in Ukraine, nor for any serious component of it,” said Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Borys Kolesnikov, who holds the Euro 2012 portfolio.

Martin Kallen, UEFA’s Euro watchdog, said risks are part and parcel of any edition.

“Alarm bells never disappear 100 percent,” he said. “You always have to be very careful until the end. But everything looks promising,” he said. “But it’s also not the most important thing that everything in all areas is delivered as planned. If they bring 90 percent or so, we’ll be very happy,” he added.

Investments in Poland tally 80bn zloty (20.6bn euros, $27.6bn), largely in the transport sector.

Source: AFP

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Yanukovych: Ukraine Will Restore Its Combat Capability

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine should create new national armed forces, President Viktor Yanukovych said on Saturday at a grand meeting on the occasion of Ukrainian Unity Day.

Ukraine Army Maj. Evgen Piven disarms Ukrainian Army Pvt. Mikhail Moroz during a martial arts demonstration.

"Our task is to create new national armed forces practically, as they say, from scratch," the presidential press service quoted him as saying.

Yanukovych said that the state would worry about military security, raising the social status of servicemen, reviving morale, forming a qualitatively new army structure, modernizing weapons and adapting a military doctrine to the challenges of the modern world.

"We will strengthen the power of our defense potential. We will resume investment in the development of the scientific, technological and personnel component of the military and industrial complex," the president said.

Source: Sinoptik

Thousands Denounce Ukraine President

KIEV, Ukraine -- Thousands of supporters of Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko massed in downtown Kiev Saturday to denounce her arch rival, President Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him of being a Russian stooge, AFP reports.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a rally marking Unity Day in Kiev, January 22, 2011. Ukraine celebrates the 92nd anniversary since the western and eastern parts of the country were unified to create a single state.

Some 6,000 protesters gathered in St Sophie square, answering a call by several opposition parties to mark the 92nd anniversary of the reunification of east and west Ukraine, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

Many carried banners calling for the dismissal of both Yanukovych and his Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Tymoshenko herself asked the crowds: "Are you ready to take to the streets?" before being greeted by resounding cries of "Yes".

"Those who are in power take their orders from the Kremlin," Dmytro Pavlytchko, a well-known poet, told the gathering.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is deeply divided between the largely nationalist west and the traditionally pro-Russian east, from where Yanukovych hails.

The president, who came to power after elections in February last year, has been frequently accused by his detractors of being too close to Moscow and of persecuting his political opponents.

The protests passed off peacefully after an earlier warning by the interior minister against any use of violence.

Source: FOCUS News

Russian Black Sea Fleet Strengthens Presence In Ukraine

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Russian Navy plans to increase its presence on Ukrainian territory by adding urban infrastructure and civilian manpower to its naval assets in Sevastopol.

Russian Black Sea fleet

The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet intends to build a housing estate (“mikrorayon”) for 20,000 personnel of the fleet, their dependents, and civilian service providers to the Russian fleet in that city.

The housing estate and associated service infrastructure is planned to occupy both sides of Kazachya Bay, alongside the base of a Russian “marine infantry” (amphibious landing troops) regiment.

The government of Russia will finance this program from a fund dedicated to the socio-economic development of Sevastopol. That fund currently stems from the 2010 arrangements to subsidize Ukraine’s consumption of Russian gas.

The socio-economic fund’s value is deducted from the value of that subsidy. This portion, consequently, helps to consolidate Russia’s military foothold on Ukrainian territory.

The head of the Sevastopol city administration (by law a Ukrainian government appointee), Valery Saratov, has expressed gratitude in announcing this Russian building program.

On April 21, 2010, Presidents Viktor Yanukovych and Dmitry Medvedev signed the agreement to prolong the Russian Fleet’s basing rights in Ukraine beyond the 2017 expiration date, by another 25 years, with a further five-year extension option to 2047.

In return, Russia agreed to grant a 30 percent discount on the price of Russian natural gas to Ukraine, if that price exceeds $336 per one thousand cubic meters (tcm).

It now turns out, however, that an implementation mechanism and even a common understanding of that arrangement are lacking. On April 18, 2010 in Moscow, the Russian and Ukrainian Finance Ministers, Aleksei Kudrin and Fedir Yaroshenko, respectively, started negotiations on implementing the April 21, 2010 agreements.

The Russian side seems more interested in quibbling and stalling, than in delivering. Kudrin insisted that “a new agreement” must be negotiated to define “concrete terms and parameters, on which implementation would depend.”

For his part, Yaroshenko seemed to plead for overcoming a deadlock: “For us it is important to reach a common interpretation, define a common methodology for implementing this agreement in real life”.

While Kiev sounds anxious about Moscow delivering “in real life,” Moscow may well turn its side of the bargain into a dead letter. The price of gas seems unlikely to stay above $300 per tcm (unless Moscow decides to practice overt extortion and by the same token subsidize its own extortion of Ukraine).

Below that price level, Russia can still pressure Ukraine into further concessions, in return for further discounts on the gas price. This would probably be that “new agreement” to which Kudrin is alluding.

Moscow is well placed to implement the naval base extension agreement while bargaining over implementation of the gas price agreement. The April 2010 arrangements are asymmetrical in that the naval base agreement is self-enforcing while the gas agreement is not.

Ukraine lacks the power to withhold implementation or the former, while Russia has ample means to set conditions for implementing the latter.

Since those agreements were signed, Moscow has announced plans to replace old warships of its Black Sea Fleet with new ones, increase that Fleet’s tonnage in net terms, and upgrade the fleet’s weaponry.

Modernization plans as announced during 2010 envisage adding one cruiser, several frigates, and several submarines by 2015.

In addition, one Mistral-class amphibious attack ship (out of four planned for procurement from France) is supposed to be allocated to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Russia’s naval presence in Ukraine underscores the Ukrainian government’s lax interpretation of the country’s non-bloc status.

Ukraine’s current authorities have legislated for this status, and drastically curtailed cooperation with NATO, without developing a clear definition of the non-bloc status, or an international legal-political framework to ensure its observance.

Within this grey area, Russia suggests that it would consider modernizing and operating itself the Ukrainian radars in Sevastopol and Mukacheve, as contribution to a common anti-missile defense system.

Russia’s entrenchment in the Crimea has caught NATO, the United States, and the European Union distracted and wrong-footed. Some other actors now seek to develop a soft-security answer.

On January 20 in Strasbourg, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution on the full range of security challenges in the Black Sea region.

Inspired by Romanian MEP’s, and intended for submission to the European Parliament’s plenum, the resolution expresses particular concern about the extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s lease on Ukrainian territory.

The resolution suggests that the EU should develop a conflict-prevention and early-warning system. This would serve to build confidence throughout the region and help prevent threat of force, its use or escalation.

Such a system would focus on arms transfers and naval activities. The proposal regards Russia as a desirable partner in such a system, alongside the EU and the Black Sea region’s countries (members or non-members of the EU). This area today faces key challenges that the EU cannot ignore.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Jewish Groups Begin Hunt For Unmarked Holocaust Graves

BERLIN, Germany -- Jewish organisations are to search for countless unmarked graves of Holocaust victims across Eastern Europe.

Nazi troops slaughtered many Jews before the death camps were opened.

The groups think that more than two million Jews were rounded up by the German military and shot, with their bodies left in unmarked mass graves.

The shootings took place before the Nazis organised mass killings at the gas chambers of death camps.

The plan is to memorialise and protect sites in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Poland.

After Hitler invaded Russia, hundreds of thousands of Jews were routinely killed by the advancing army, even before the formal industrial killing in death camps began.

In Berlin, Jewish organisations said they would try to identify graves.

They said teams would be "driving up and down the back roads of small villages... knocking on doors and asking the elderly to recount what they saw during the war".

Last month, researchers made a preliminary inspection of five sites in Ukraine.

One of them, where 5,000 Jews were shot and dumped, is now a swamp.

Jan Fahlbusch of the American Jewish Committee, who is in charge of the effort to memorialise the graves, said it was important that the people who live there know what happened in their home villages.

"There's a lot of ignorance among the local population and it is important to raise awareness of the crimes of the past," he said.

Source: BBC News