Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Rezidor Hotel Group To Open Its First Ski Resort In Ukraine

NEW YORK, USA -- The Rezidor Hotel Group has announced its first ski resort in Ukraine.

Lake Synevyr, Carpathian Mountains.

Set to open this winter, The Radisson Blu Resort, Bukovel, will feature 252 rooms, a spa and wellness complex and a kids club, among other features.

Nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, the resort will feature slopes for all levels of skiers, during its ski season from the beginning of December through mid-April.

Off the slopes, guests will be able to enjoy hot springs and mineral waters, several restaurants, a lobby bar, cigar lounge, night club and game room.

Measuring 21,528 square feet, the spa and wellness complex will include an indoor pool, steam rooms, saunas, fitness and treatment rooms. Other features include 15,069 square feet of meeting space including a ballroom, a game room and retail shops.

Source: Travel Agent Central

Muslim Girl, 19, 'Stoned To Death After Taking Part In Beauty Contest' In Ukraine

LONDON, England -- A teenage Muslim girl was stoned to death under 'Sharia law' after taking part in a beauty contest in Ukraine. Katya Koren, 19, was found dead in a village in the Crimea region near her home.

Katya Koren, 19, was stoned to death by three Muslim men because she participated in a beauty contest, officials say.

Friends said she liked wearing fashionable clothes and had come seventh in a beauty contest.

Her battered body was buried in a forest and was found a week after she disappeared.

Police have opened a murder investigation and are looking into claims that three Muslim youths killed her, claiming her death was justified under Islam.

One of the three - named as 16-year-old Bihal Gaziev - is under arrest and told police that Katya had 'violated the laws of Sharia'. Gaziev has said he has no regrets about her death.

Stoning is a divisive subject among Muslims, with some groups interpreting it as Islamic law and others disagreeing.

According to Amnesty International's annual report on death sentences worldwide, issued in April, there were no reports of judicial executions carried out by stoning in 2010.

However, new death sentences by stoning were reportedly imposed in Iran, the Bauchi state of Nigeria and Pakistan.

At least 10 women and four men remained under sentence of death by stoning at the end of the year in Iran, where adultery is the only crime which carries that penalty under Sharia law.

It was widely imposed as a sentence in the years following the 1979 Islamic revolution, and even though Iran's judiciary still regularly hands down such sentences, they are now often converted to other punishments.

The barbaric practice was thrown into the international spotlight last year when an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery after suffering years of abuse at the hands of her drug addict husband.

Miss Ashtiani's lawyer said she was allegedly beaten and sold for sex by opium-addict Ebrahim Ghaderzade, who she is accused of killing.

She was jailed for ten years for murder and sentenced to death for adultery. She was also convicted of having illicit relations for which she received 99 lashes.

The Iranian authorities eventually suspended the stoning after an outcry from the international community.

The European Union has called the sentence 'barbaric', the Vatican pleaded for clemency and Brazil, which has tried to intervene in Iran's stand-off with the West over its nuclear programme, offered Miss Ashtiani asylum.

A number of celebrities, including Robert Redford, Robert De Niro and Sting called for her release in an open letter to the Iranian regime, backed by more than 80 actors, artists, musicians, academics and politicians.

When Carla Bruni, the French First Lady, prominently gave her support to the 43-year-old mother-of-two, Iran responded by launching two scathing attacks on Miss Bruni, branding her an adulteress with a 'vastly immoral lifestyle'.

Last week Amnesty international called for 'clarification' on the legal status of a jailed lawyer who represented Miss Ashtiani, Javid Houtan Kiyan.

It issued a statement that read: 'If – as appears - he is held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, including in connection with his work as a defence lawyer on behalf of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

'The allegations that he has been tortured while in detention should be investigated immediately and anyone found responsible for abuses brought to justice.'

The Islamic republic says the death penalty is essential to maintain law and order and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.

Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are all punishable by death in Iran.

In March, Iran hanged a woman convicted of murdering a love rival.

Shahla Jahed, 40, had been a 'temporary wife' of Nasser Mohammad Khani, a former striker for the Iranian national football team.

The execution was thought to be the 146th so far this year. At least 270 people were executed in 2009.

Source: Daily Mail

Blokhin: Ukraine Wants To Win Euro 2012

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine boss Oleg Blokhin has stated his desire to win Euro 2012, which the nation co-hosts with Poland, and believes that his young squad can spring a surprise and take the crown next summer.

Oleg Blokhin

The former Soviet international, who won a staggering 112 caps and secured legendary status at Dynamo Kiev in his playing days, regrets never having the chance to play at the Euros, but has told Fifa that he's looking forward to taking charge at the tournament, and feels his team have the capability to lift the trophy.

He stated: ""The main task before this team is to win Euro 2012. But our first target must be to qualify from the group. Of course, we will strive to achieve the maximum, but without completing the first task, the main one is impossible.""

The tactician also praised the ability of his side, from experienced forward Andriy Shevchenko to many of their youth team, adding: ""He

[Shevchenko] is one of the veterans of the team, a player whose experience we count on, and it is obvious that he will play an important role in our gameplan.

""There are talented young guys in Ukraine and everything depends on how they play in defining matches.""

Blokhin, however, remained coy on his chances of taking the team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, concluding: ""For the moment, I have a one-year contract and after that we will see what will happen.""

Source: Goal

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tymoshenko Demands Prosecutor General Cancel Criminal Proceedings Against Her

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's former Prime Minister and leader of the Batkivschyna Party Yulia Tymoshenko has once again asked Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka to end the criminal proceedings against her.

Yulia Tymoshenko

"For the third time I am addressing you with a demand that you cancel the decision on opening politically motivated criminal cases against me, along with a number of illegal decisions by the investigators and prosecutors in these three cases," Tymoshenko said in an open letter to the prosecutor general, reads a report posted on her Web site on Monday.

She explained that the two previous complaints, which were addressed personally to Pshonka, had not been considered in due time, so she had to make her third appeal public.

"I am well aware from your own words, that [President Viktor] Yanukovych's instructions have a greater legal force for you than the requirements of the constitution and Ukrainian law. The fact of your personal relationship with Yanukovych is not a secret, but Yanukovychs come and go, and the law and responsibility for breaking it remain," Tymoshenko said.

In her letter, Tymoshenko noted that that Monday was the deadline for considering her complaint registered on May 26 and making a response to it.

"I understand that you realize the political nature of the criminal proceedings opened against me, and therefore do not want to put your signature to anything. But silence will not prevent you from taking responsibility for abuses in these cases and the unlawfulness of their opening. So once again I demand that you respond immediately to my addresses," Tymoshenko said.

Source: Interfax

Shevchenko To Retire After Euro 2012

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine football star Andriy Shevchenko, who played for AC Milan and Chelsea in a glittering career, said he will retire after the European championships next year in his home country.

Andriy Shevchenko

"I have decided to retire right after the Euro-2012," the 34-year-old Shevchenko told AFP in an interview. "This is my final decision."

"We are all set to perform at our best at our home European championships," he added. "And I believe we can challenge the clear favourites in the battle for the title if luck is on our side."

Shevchenko also said that he believed that Ukraine's national side would have enough reasons for a successful display at their home turf next year.

"There's plenty of football-crazy fans at Ukraine and their support is truly priceless for us as it drives us on," he said.

"Besides, the country's top clubs, Shakhtar and Dynamo, have been performing solidly in European cup competition in recent years.

"There's plenty of young talent in Ukraine's football and the national squad in particular," Shevchenko said. "That's why I have no doubts that this team will be able to achieve serious international success in the very near future."

Shevchenko has been a linchpin of the Ukrainian national side over the last decade and the country will be hoping he performs at his best at the tournament which Ukraine is jointly hosting with Poland.

In the late 1990s, Shevchenko was part of a celebrated Dinamo Kiev side packed with young stars before moving to AC Milan in 1999 where he became a prolific scorer for the Italian giants.

He endured a more difficult period at Chelsea from 2006 before moving back to Milan in 2008. Shevchenko has returned to his beloved Dinamo Kiev in 2009.

Shevchenko added that he would also like to win another domestic league title next year with Dynamo Kiev before calling it a day.

"It would be great to win the domestic league before hanging up my boots," said Shevchenko, who has already won five Ukrainian league titles and three national cups with Dynamo.

Source: AFP

Medvedev Insists Ukraine Pay Price Agreed For Russian Natural Gas

MOSCOW, Russia -- President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday rejected calls from Ukraine for a cut in the price of natural gas imported from Russia, insisting that 'signed agreements need to be respected.'

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (L) meeting with Gazprom chairman Aleksei Miller.

During a meeting with Gazprom chairman Aleksei Miller, Medvedev said: 'The price as it is is absolutely fair.' He stressed that gas revenues were crucial for Russia.

Ukraine has argued that falling international gas prices and soaring profits for the state-controlled gas producer should lead to a revision in the price paid by Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

Miller said Gazprom could expect record income this year on the strength of a 27-per-cent rise in gas exports for the first five months of 2011, as compared with 2010.

Rising European consumption and instability in some Middle Eastern gas-producing nations were the main drivers of rising demand for Gazprom product, Miller said in comments reported by Interfax.

Gazprom's top strategic goal was increasing delivery capacity to major consumers, he said, with a Baltic Sea pipeline to Germany and a Sea of Okhotsk pipeline aimed at the Japanese market the company's highest-priority projects.

Medvedev said Gazprom's continued strong revenues were critical for the Russian government and advised Miller to discuss price cuts with Kiev only if this were beneficial for Russia.

'Any changes need to be part of a wider agreement,' he said.

Since December, Ukraine has repeatedly called for a reduction in the price paid for gas, pointing to alleged economic damage caused to Ukrainian manufacturers producing mainly for the Russian economy.

In April 2010, Ukraine negotiated a favourable rate of $234 dollars per thousand cubic metres in exchange for a 25-year lease extension for the Russian navy to use to port facilities in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

That price in the face of a weakening regional economy is now too high, Kiev officials have said.

Russian officials have said the price is reasonable, but that they would be willing to consider a reduction were Ukraine to agree to turn over ownership of its natural gas transportation network to Gazprom.

Gazprom is Russia's largest company. Disputes between Gazprom and Ukraine over gas pricing sparked a halt to supplies of Russian natural gas to Europe during January 2010.

Source: DPA

Ukraine And The EU Need Each Other

PARIS, France -- The current rapprochement with the EU affects Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy. For Ukraine is quite isolated within the international system: while it is a member of the UN, Council of Europe, OSCE and WTO, it remains outside the major economic and security blocs of the North.

Ukraine and EU (C) flags.

So every new step that can move Ukraine closer to the EU is beneficial; it would lead to an informal “securitization” and a gradual de facto – if not yet de jure – anchoring of Ukraine within the emerging trans-European political system.

Deepening cooperation with Europe could, in addition, send out important signals that would influence the course and pace of reform within Ukraine. Everyone agrees that Ukraine needs to fundamentally change its political, administrative, economic, social and education systems; but they do not agree on which socio-economic model Ukraine should embrace, and confusion sometimes undermines reforms.

But an enduring rapprochement between Kiev and Brussels means the European model would gradually become the dominant one; this would reduce time, costs and energy in designing, initiating and completing Ukraine’s urgently needed reforms.

The EU has detailed prescriptions of what countries must do to further integrate their economies with Europe’s, and this could be what Ukraine needs most right now.

There is a third dimension to further EU-Ukraine rapprochement, which has to do with the EU’s own wider aims: Ukrainian democratization could have repercussions on the former Soviet empire as a whole.

A sustainable Europeanization of Ukraine might impress the elites and populations of other post-Soviet countries, and could, for instance, induce Russia and Belarus to rethink the political paths their countries took after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The Belarusians and Russians are culturally close to the Ukrainians, and would take a functioning law-based democracy in Ukraine seriously.

In the medium term, EU support for Ukrainian democracy, civil society and rule of law would also have a geopolitical dimension: Ukraine could even one day become the EU’s Trojan horse with regard to Russia.

Russians often view western advice on the need for democratization as irrelevant, if not subversive. In contrast, an EU-promoted re-democratization of Ukraine would be harder for isolationist Russians to reject.

If Ukraine demonstrates that a largely Orthodox eastern Slavic nation can create and sustain a democratic political system, this could trigger new Russian democratization, and Ukraine could even provide the means for the EU to bring Russia back into the European family.

Ukrainian-EU rapprochement has become even more relevant in view of recent worrying domestic developments. Since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president, Ukraine’s social and cultural polarization, already high, has risen further.

An indication of the growing fragmentation of the Ukrainian national community is the rise of Oleh Tiahnybok’s nationalist, so-called “Svoboda” (Freedom) party.

Tiahnybok’s party calls itself an “All-Ukrainian Association” and proclaims its allegiance to Velyka Ukraina (Greater Ukraine). However, Svoboda is de facto a regional, and even potentially separatist, party because of its idiosyncratic historical discourse.

It has a strong base in the three Galician regions of L’viv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil, but has far less support elsewhere. Svoboda promotes a kind of nationalism that is disliked in much of the rest of Ukraine.

Instead of contributing to the formation of a modern Ukrainian polity, Svoboda alienates many Ukrainians. (There are other deepening divides within Ukraine, too, with regard to social, cultural, religious, educational and other issues.)

European integration is something that still unites Ukraine’s political, intellectual, economic and social elites, and a large part of the population.

Rejoining Europe might be the most important and least controversial way forward, and would win wide acceptance among the elites of western, central and eastern Ukraine (though less in the south).

Ukraine’s further, gradual integration into Europe is, for all of these reasons, of great importance.

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Decline In Press Freedom As Yanukovych Tightens Grip On Media

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian publications complain of interference and attempts to suppress stories

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych.

For A country languishing in 121st place in the latest ranking on media independence, Ukraine made a lot of noise about World Press Freedom Day this month.

The country’s two main politicians issued competing paeans to the nation’s journalists and lauded them as pillars of its democracy, even as opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko accused president Viktor Yanukovych of trying to silence his critics and turn the country into an autocracy.

In rating Ukraine’s media alongside those of Colombia and the Seychelles, Freedom House noted the country’s “significant decline in press freedom” since Yanukovych took office last year and grabbed the main levers of political and financial power for himself and his allies.

Ukrainian publications complain of growing interference from officials and attempts to suppress stories that are critical of Yanukovych and his cronies.

Some cite a rise in physical attacks against reporters covering sensitive issues, and note that no one has been charged over the disappearance and suspected murder of investigative journalist Vasyl Klymentyev last August.

“We should ensure the completion of investigations into cases linked to the disappearance of journalists,” Yanukovych declared on World Press Freedom Day.

“The authorities will create conditions to allow journalists to feel free in our country. An independent Ukraine is not possible without an independent press.”

Few in Ukraine’s media will be reassured by such platitudes, but they carried added resonance due to Yanukovych’s sudden interest in Ukraine’s most notorious murder of recent years – the abduction and beheading of reporter Georgy Gongadze.

Gongadze’s headless body was found in woods outside Kiev in November 2000, six weeks after he vanished from the city, during the presidential reign of the less-than-media-friendly Leonid Kuchma.

Days later, an opposition leader revealed what he claimed were recordings of conversations between Kuchma and top aides, taped secretly by a presidential bodyguard.

On the tapes, a man who sounds like Kuchma orders officials to “deal with” Gongadze and suggests that he be “kidnapped by Chechens”.

Kuchma said the recordings had been doctored and denied involvement in Gongadze’s murder, but public anger over the killing helped inspire the December 2004 Orange Revolution, which brought to power pro-western leaders who promised to crack the case.

In March 2005, they announced the arrest of senior police officers for murdering Gongadze under orders from ex-interior minister Yuri Kravchenko.

Days later, Kravchenko was found dead at his dacha.

Despite suffering two gunshot wounds to the head, he was deemed to have killed himself.

Two of Kravchenko’s close colleagues also died before they could be questioned about the case.

Three police officers were jailed in 2008 for the killing of Gongadze, and the following year investigators finally tracked down Olexiy Pukach, the former interior ministry intelligence chief who had been on the run from charges of alleged involvement in the murder.

This elaborate web unexpectedly entangled one of Ukraine’s biggest political beasts last month, when Kuchma himself was charged with giving illegal orders to interior ministry staff that led to Gongadze’s murder.

Ukrainians, though well used to dramatic reversals of political fortune, were stunned; few had expected Yanukovych to turn on Kuchma, with whom his relations seemed cordial.

Even fewer believed the surprise development was about justice rather than politics.

The main theories are that Yanukovych is punishing Kuchma for failing to back him strongly enough during the Orange Revolution; or he is putting indirect pressure on Kuchma’s former chief of staff, the influential parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, or on Kuchma’s son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk, one of Ukraine’s richest tycoons.

Alternatively, the president may be trying to distract public attention from rampant corruption, stalled reforms and a stagnant economy, critics say.

Tymoshenko believes the Kuchma case is intended to defuse western criticism that Yanukovych is using Ukraine’s legal system as a weapon to neutralise personal enemies.

Prosecutors loyal to the president have opened several criminal cases against Tymoshenko and her allies, one of whom has been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic due to fears that he would not receive a fair trial in Ukraine.

It was particularly odd this month to hear Yanukovych, who previously showed little curiosity about the murder, pledge to “do everything to ensure that the investigation into the death of journalist Georgy Gongadze is brought to a conclusion and the guilty are punished”.

On the same day, Tymoshenko lauded reporters for risking their jobs and their lives “to convey the truth to people . . .”. It is becoming routine in Ukraine’s tawdry political world to invoke the ghost of Gongadze.

Finding out who ordered his murder, on the other hand, seems as unlikely as ever.

Source: Irish Times

Southern Utah University Signs Memorandum Of Understanding With Ukraine University

CEDAR CITY, USA - Promoting global citizenry through higher education took the form of a memorandum of understanding Thursday on the campus of Southern Utah University (SUU).

Michael T. Benson (L) gives a book to Colonel Dmytro G. Zabroda.

SUU President Michael T. Benson signed the memo with a delegation of faculty and administrators from the State University of the Ministry of Interior, Dnipropetrovs'k, Ukraine that creates collaboration between the two institutions with programs and degrees.

"This is another manifestation of our global outreach, and adds to our partnerships, which include Australia, France, England, China and Korea," Benson said.

"We want our students at SUU to be international by-products of global citizenship by providing them with educational opportunities that expose them to people and places from all over the world."

The Sargon Heinrich Global Engagement Center opened in fall 2010, and has since forged multiple international partnership agreements, including the newly established one with the Ukraine with the help of SUU's Director of International Training Projects, Tom Dempsey.

Dempsey facilitated the partnership from prior experience working with the country on exchanges he conducted as the director of the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois.

"We've worked on delivery of customized programs and degrees that benefit both of our students," Dempsey said. "As the university expands its global engagement, these opportunities with enhance the educational experience of students because of these relationships."

The State University in Dnipropetrovs'k is one of the largest universities in Ministry of Interior. Its student body includes traditional students and police recruits that receive an academic education similar to the baccalaureate liberal arts and sciences that SUU specializes in.

The Ukrainian university also has a law school and police academy in nearby cities, and many of its students also go on to earn graduate level law degrees.

Of most interest to Dmytro G. Zabroda, Ukrainian provost and colonel of the militia, was SUU's summer and online programs and international and criminal justice degrees.

He complimented Benson and the university saying he was glad his first trip to the United States was in Cedar City and at SUU, "A university with a high standard of education."

"We are interested to know how America solves issues of kidnapping, drug trafficking and human trafficking, and these things, so we can learn from each other, and with this newfound knowledge, benefit the future of our country," said Zabroda via an interpreter, Galina Espinoza.

"With American and Ukraine students learning from each other, there can be an exchange of influence and experience that positively and effectively deals with international crime and violation of human rights."

Though the memo was geared toward a partnership where SUU and Ukraine students apply their studies in real world settings, the event also reflected a budding friendship. Gifts were exchanged and photographs taken with handshakes and smiles.

"Cedar City has a beautiful nature and friendly people," Zabroda said via Espinoza. "It has a strong heritage, and the high level of education quality at SUU offers us a good opportunity of learning to take with us to the Ukraine."

Source: The Spectrum

Russia Considers Unilateral Review Of Gas Contracts With Ukraine Unacceptable

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia considers unilateral review of its gas contracts with Ukraine unacceptable.

Russian President Medvedev

This is stated in the transcript of a working meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Alexey Miller, the chairman of the Gazprom gas company (Russia).

"We must respect the agreements that were concluded. This also applies to the Russian Federation and Gazprom. It also applies to our Ukrainian partners. Any calls for some sort of unilateral measures and reviews should be imposed on the ‘fabric’ of agreement and not otherwise," said Medvedev.

Miller said that he exchanged views on the trends developing on the gas market during a meeting with President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.

"On the part of Gazprom, it was stated that the current contract is based strictly on the market price formula," he said.

He informed the President of Russia that possible new forms of cooperation that could lift Ukrainian-Russian cooperation to a new level were discussed during the meeting.

Medvedev stressed that Ukraine to Russia is not an unfamiliar, distant partner but a very close, brotherly country that presently has many economic problems and he added that he has an agreement with Yanukovych to consider the possibility of employing advanced forms of cooperation, including cooperation in the gas industry.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, the gas contract that was signed in 2009 provides for the possibility of its termination through the Stockholm arbitration panel.

Source: Ukrainian News

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yanukovych Sets July Utilities Deadline

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday set a deadline of the end of July for the government to hike utilities tariffs, warning that the failure to comply would force him to take action.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov

The warning raises pressure dramatically on Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to begin the painful and unpopular reform that the government has been postponing indefinitely.

It increases the likelihood that Yanukovych may replace Azarov by late July or early August if the tariff hikes, demanded by the International Monetary Fund, fail to materialize.

But the tariff hikes also make perfect case for Azarov replacement later in the year or next year to channel away political liability associated with the painful reform.

This would potentially open way for a new political figure – a Yanukovych ally not burdened with the painful reforms - to lead the government for the October 2012 elections.

“I am convinced that we will have a tough conversation in this respect in the near future,” Yanukovych said addressing Azarov at a meeting at the Kiev City administration on Thursday.

“I set the task and hope that you, Mykola Yanovych [Azarov], will prepare a serious meeting by the end of the political season, by the end of July, how to address the optimization of the tariff policy in the country.”

“So, I again, if not the last time, warn you and the housing sector bloc [in the government],” Yanukovych said. “Show me a response.”

Citing the lack of “reforms,” Yanukovych has dismissed Healthcare Minister Illia Yemets last week, and replacing him with Oleksandr Anishchenko, on Wednesday.

Yemets “failed to organize the work of the ministry in a proper way to make sure that the ministry operates efficiently,” Yanukovych said last week announcing the reshuffle. “The main thing is to carry out reforms that we have planned and that are extremely necessary.”

The replacement of the healthcare minister is the first reshuffle the government after rumors had started to circulate earlier this month that a number of ministers may be sacked.

The developments come as opinion polls have indicated that Yanukovych’s popularity has been falling fast, threatening his Regions Party ahead of the October 2012 general election.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Conflict With Investigator, Flight Risk Behind Ex-Minister Lutsenko's Arrest, Says Prosecutor General

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka has said that the reason for the arrest of former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko was his conflict with the investigator and the information that he may abscond during the investigation.

Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and wife.

During a show on Inter TV Channel on Friday Pshonka was asked why the former interior minister was arrested and put in custody.

The prosecutor said: "Lutsenko gave a written pledge not to leave the country - and suddenly Lutsenko starts behaving strangely: he has a conflict with the investigator, saying rude things, threatening."

Pshonka showed photocopies of subpoenas, on which Lutsenko wrote unprintable replies to the investigator and the phrase "I refuse to come before Yuschenko submits his blood [samples for tests]."

"Ignoring the summons to an investigator, and there were other circumstances that showed that he wanted to escape the investigation," the prosecutor said explaining the causes for putting Lutsenko under arrest.

As reported, Lutsenko has been held in jail since December 26, 2010.

He has been charged under Part 5, Article 191 (large-scale embezzlement of state property through the abuse of office, under a preliminary collusion by a group of individuals), Part 3, Article 365 (abuse of office, which led to grave consequences), and Part 3, Article 364 (the abuse of power and office by a law enforcer, which caused damage to citizens' rights as protected by the law) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Source: Interfax

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ukraine, Russia May Lift Wheat Exports As EU, U.S. Crops Wither

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine and Russia may return to the world wheat market in coming months as local harvests rebound from last year's drought, in a reversal of roles with the U.S. and Europe, where dry conditions are wasting crops this year.

Ukraine plans to lift grain-export quotas that reduced its wheat shipments by more than half, while Russian grain traders are gearing up to make foreign deliveries as the government in Moscow considers letting a ban on grain shipments expire.

The export curbs implemented by Russia and Ukraine will cut their share of world wheat trade in the year through June to 6 percent from 22 percent a year earlier, the International Grains Council forecasts.

Now the U.S. and France, which lifted shipments to fill the gap left by the Black Sea countries, are struggling with drought that is hurting this year's crop and may reduce export availability in the 2011-12 crop year.

"It's a return to the market that is more than necessary," Nicolas Pinchon, an analyst at Paris-based farm adviser Agritel, said in a phone interview. "Without the Black Sea this year, it would be a disaster."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych plans to sign into law a proposal by parliament last week that would replace export quotas with duties, he said in an interview in Kiev yesterday. The duties may be cut in 2012, he said. The corn export quotas ended May 5.

World food prices rose to a record in February and were near an all-time high last month, adding to inflation that has spurred at least two dozen central banks and the European Central Bank to lift interest rates this year. Costlier food also fueled riots across northern Africa and the Middle East.

Food Crises

"We cannot close the grain market in Ukraine, considering world food crises," Yanukovych said. "We have to be suppliers of available grain surplus and will certainly do this."

Ukraine, once the world's biggest barley exporters, set export quotas on corn, wheat and barley in October after drought ruined crops. Russia, once the second-largest wheat exporter, banned shipments completely in August after its worst drought in at least a half century.

Wheat traded in Chicago, a global benchmark, as much as doubled from June to February.

Russia is considering letting its ban on grain exports expire as scheduled on July 1 because of forecasts for a surging harvest, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Grain traders in the country are preparing to make deliveries abroad on prospects for an improved harvest this year, agricultural researcher SovEcon said last week.

Wheat Buying

Traders intensified buying of wheat, mostly the fourth- grade milling variety, about a month ago and stored the grain in silos of their own or located in ports, SovEcon Managing Director Andrey Sizov Jr. said.

Crops in northwestern Europe are suffering from the driest weather in decades, while Texas A&M University said yesterday wheat and cotton on in the U.S. state are in an "extremely dire" situation on a lack of soil moisture.

Soft-wheat exports outside the EU by France, the 27-nation bloc's largest shipper, may slump to 6 million metric tons in the 2011-12 crop year from 12.8 million tons a year earlier, as a result of a smaller harvest, according to Agritel.

Total soft- wheat exports including sales within the EU will be a record 19.4 million tons in the year through June, according to crops office FranceAgriMer.

The U.S. will export 28.6 million tons of wheat in the next crop year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate. That would be down from 34.7 million tons in 2010-11, the most wheat shipped abroad since 1992-93.

'Positive' News

Ukraine will lift grain output this year about 15 percent to 45 million tons, the Agriculture Ministry estimates. The country will boost grain exports in the crop year starting July 1 to 20 million tons from 13 million tons in this year, Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk said today.

The quota withdrawal "is positive news as it will allow supply to flow," Erin FitzPatrick, a commodities analyst at Rabobank International in London, said in a phone interview. Black Sea grain is "still going to be the lowest cost" and consumers "are not going to hesitate to buy it," she said.

Ukraine may export 10 million tons of wheat, 3.5 million tons of barley and 6.5 million tons of corn in 2011-12, according to estimates by Agritel, which has an office in Kiev.

European Union wheat exports in the year starting July 1 will slump to between 13 million and 14 million tons from about 22 million tons as drought slashes this year's crop, Pinchon said.

Reversed Roles

"The roles will be somewhat reversed from last year, when Europe compensated for Russia and Ukraine," Pinchon said. Increased wheat shipments by Ukraine "will make up for the European decline in exports," he said.

Ukraine's grain supplies for the season starting July 1 will be sufficient for domestic needs, Nikolay Vernitsky, an analyst at the Kiev-based agriculture researcher ProAgro, said by phone yesterday.

Chicago wheat prices jumped 11 percent last week, the most in five months, as local forecasters cut the outlook for grain harvests in France and Germany, the EU's largest growers.

The market is volatile before a new harvest, said Oleg Sukhanov, a grains analyst at Russia's Institute for Agricultural Market Studies.

Russian Harvest

"The news from Ukraine can be bearish for the market, along with other global factors," Sukhanov said by phone from Moscow. Russia may end its ban on grain exports, depending on the size of the harvest, he added.

Russia's harvest may be between 85 million and 90 million tons, Interfax reported today, citing a preliminary estimate by the Agriculture Ministry. The national crop fell 37 percent to 60.9 million tons last year, government figures show, after the drought.

The arrival of low-cost supplies from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan will be " cooling" for the market, Sukhanov said.

Source: Bloomberg

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ukraine Banks Owe 67 Billion Hryvnia On Central Bank Refinancing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian lenders owe the central bank 67 billion hryvnia ($8.4 billion) for financing they received after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. cut off international funding, the bank said today.

Ukraine's Central Bank

State-owned banks are liable for 24.7 billion hryvnia of the total, Olena Myronenko, deputy head of banking supervision, said today at a news conference in Kiev, the capital.

A total of 47 lenders, including four that are now under central bank management, received funding from the Natsionalnyi Bank Ukrainy.

Ukrainian banks had written off 10 billion hryvnia of bad loans, or 16 percent of all non-performing credits, through March 31, said Natalia Ivanenko, head of normative and methodological support for banking regulation and supervision.

The central bank has implemented new rules for writing off bad loans that will help banks clear their balance sheets and strengthen the banking system, Ivanenko said.

Source: Bloomberg

Yanukovych Reiterates EU Free Trade Plans

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych on Wednesday reiterated plans of signing a free trade agreement with the European Union this year, a choice that may eventually complicate relations with Russia.

Viktor Yanukovych

Russia has been seeking to lure Ukraine with lower natural gas prices for joining the Moscow-led Customs Union trade bloc that also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

It also warned Ukraine that joining the EU free trade agreement would force Russia to slap prohibitive trade barriers against Ukrainian goods, a warning that may lead to a trade war.

“Our main priority is integration into the EU,” Yanukovych told Bloomberg. “We are ready to sign the association agreement this year. We want the prospects of Ukraine entering the EU to be included in this accord so that the accord would not be empty.”

The country of 46 million is the main transit route for Russian fuel to EU countries, including Germany, Austria and Poland.

Yanukovych, 60, wants to cut the price it pays for Russian gas by almost 20% to $240 per 1,000 cubic meters, he said in an interview in his office in Kiev yesterday.

Russia is trying to use fuel prices as a lure to pull Ukraine into a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan even as the former Soviet republic looks to deepen economic and political ties with the EU.

Ukraine depends on Russia for more than 50% of its natural-gas supply, which its eastern neighbor shut off for two weeks in 2009.

Ukraine sought to reset relations with Russia after Yanukovych was elected last year.

His predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, angered the Kremlin by backing Georgia during its five-day war with Russia in 2008 and pushing for Ukraine’s membership in the NATO.

Yanukovych pledged to improve relations by cooperating with gas producer OAO Gazprom and ruled out membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He kept the door open to the EU by taking his first trip as president to Brussels before visiting Moscow.

Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU may be concluded this year, European Commission President Jose Barroso said in Kiev on April 18, adding that the two sides have made progress on agreeing to visa-free travel.

Entering the customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus would end the chances for the agreement, he added.

Ukraine four days later said it won’t enter the customs union.

“Russia was, is and will be our strategic partner,” Yanukovych said.

“We are now searching for mechanisms of cooperation. We do think we can reach an agreement that will allow us to work with the customs union to the extent which Ukrainian laws and our obligations to world organizations such as the World Trade Organization allow.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal

EU 'Concerned' Over Tymoshenko Charges

MOSCOW, Russia -- European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday expressed concern that new charges brought against Ukraine's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko may be politically motivated.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Ukrainian prosecutors have charged Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovych's main rival, with abuse of office for concluding a gas import contract with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in 2009 which they say cost the state $440 million in lost revenues.

"The EU has closely followed recent developments in the cases of Yulia Tymoshenko and other members of the former government of Ukraine," Ashton said in a statement.

"At the request of the High Representative, the EU Head of Delegation is in contact with the authorities in Kiev regarding the court decision of 23 May to detain Mrs Tymoshenko, and to express our concern at suggestions of political motivation behind these cases."

Tymoshenko was taken in for questioning at the Prosecutor General's office in Kiev on Tuesday.

"The EU will continue to underline to the Ukrainian authorities the need for respect for the rule of law, incorporating fair, impartial and independent legal processes," Ashton said.

Tymoshenko, who resigned as prime minister after her defeat at the presidential election last February, has also been charged with illegally diverting $425 million meant for environmental projects into pension funds.

She denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

Several members in Tymoshenko's former cabinet have also been charged with or investigated for corruption.

Source: RIA Novosti

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yanukovych Drives Ukraine Toward EU As Putin Dangles Promise Of Cheap Gas

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he wants to pursue European Union membership for the former Soviet republic that is also being wooed by a Russian-led customs union with the lure of lower natural-gas prices.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The country of 46 million is the main transit route for Russian fuel to EU countries, including Germany, Austria and Poland.

Yanukovych, 60, wants to cut the price it pays for Russian gas by almost 20 percent to $240 per 1,000 cubic meters, he said in an interview in his office in Kiev yesterday.

Russia is trying to use fuel prices as a lure to pull Ukraine into a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan even as the former Soviet republic looks to deepen economic and political ties with the EU.

Ukraine depends on Russia for more than 50 percent of its natural-gas supply, which its eastern neighbor shut off for two weeks in 2009.

“Our main priority is integration into the EU,” Yanukovych said, surrounded by 20th century paintings of Ukrainian landscapes. “We are ready to sign the association agreement this year. We want the prospects of Ukraine entering the EU to be included in this accord so that the accord would not be empty.”

Ukraine sought to reset relations with Russia after Yanukovych was elected last year. His predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, angered the Kremlin by backing Georgia during its five-day war with Russia in 2008 and pushing for Ukraine’s membership in the NATO.

Stocks, Currency Gain

The Ukrainian benchmark stock index rose 0.19 percent as of 11 a.m. in Kiev, while the hryvnia strengthened to 7.9965 to the dollar, compared with 8.00 yesterday, Bloomberg data shows.

Yanukovych, from eastern Ukraine, pledged to improve relations by cooperating with gas producer OAO Gazprom and ruled out membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He kept the door open to the EU by taking his first trip as president to Brussels before visiting Moscow.

Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU may be concluded this year, European Commission President Jose Barroso said in Kiev on April 18, adding that the two sides have made progress on agreeing to visa-free travel.

Entering the customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus would end the chances for the agreement, he added. Ukraine four days later said it won’t enter the customs union.

Russian `Partner'

“Russia was, is and will be our strategic partner,” Yanukovych said. “We are now searching for mechanisms of cooperation. We do think we can reach an agreement that will allow us to work with the customs union to the extent which Ukrainian laws and our obligations to world organizations such as the World Trade Organization allow.”

Russian halted gas shipments to Europe through Ukraine for two weeks in 2009, the second stoppage in three years, before then-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko signed a 10-year contract with Russia.

Last April, Russia agreed to reduce the price it charges Ukraine in exchange for extending the lease on a Black Sea naval base.

Ukraine wants to review the agreement, which it considers discriminatory, according to Yanukovych, whose office overlooks Independence Square in central Kiev.

He ruled out a potential merger between NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy and Gazprom, proposed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Asset Sales

“Should Ukraine sell part of its energy resources, it will be done in a transparent way on market conditions,” Yanukovych said. “Such big enterprises as energy companies will undergo registration for initial public offering in the near future.”

Yanukovych, who met with Gazprom’s Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller yesterday, plans to meet his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in the end of June, according to a statement posted on his website yesterday.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for OAO Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, declined to comment on talks with Ukraine.

Russia buys 27 percent of Ukraine’s exports, compared with 28 percent purchased by the EU.

Ukraine’s economy will probably expand at a faster pace this year than in 2010, Yanukovych said. Gross domestic product may rise about 5 percent, compared with 4.2 percent in the previous year, he said.

Ukraine in July obtained a $15.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, its second bailout in two years. The fund has released $3.4 billion in two tranches, helping the government cover its budget deficit and boost foreign-currency reserves.

The third disbursement, initially planned for March, has been delayed as the Cabinet and legislature iron out pension system changes.

The country will continue its cooperation with the IMF, Yanukovych said, and will be ready to host the Euro-2012 soccer championship together with Poland.

“Ukraine, with several exceptions, is sticking to preparation plans,” Yanukovych said. “I’m sure Ukraine will be on time and will be completely ready to host the Euro-2012.”

Source: Bloomberg

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ukraine Opposition Leader Tymoshenko Charged With Abuse Of Office

KIEV, Ukraine -- State prosecutors on Tuesday charged former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with abuse of office, as a government campaign against official corruption widened to hit Ukraine's most senior opposition politician.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko (R) embraces a supporter before entering the state prosecutor's office in Kiev May 24, 2011.

Tymoshenko was charged in connection with unlawfully signing a contract with Russia for deliveries of natural gas at artificially high prices, said Yury Boichenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor general's office.

According to the authorities, Tymoshenko exceeded her authority by signing the contract without parliament's consent, costing taxpayers more than 180 million dollars, the Interfax news agency reported.

Tymoshenko entered the prosecutor general's office in the capital Kiev shortly after midday (1000 GMT).

She was not likely to be arrested and would 'probably be released to go home' later in the day, Boichenko said.

Prosecutors first alleged in late 2010 that Tymoshenko broke laws while in office and have since interrogated her repeatedly over allegations of her wrongdoing.

A judge-ordered ban on her movement outside Ukraine was lifted only in April.

Tymoshenko has denied breaking any laws and said she is the victim of a campaign by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his allies to repress their political opponents.

Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.

She served as prime minister twice, in 2005 and from 2007-10.

Yanukovych, who lost the Ukrainian presidency in 2004 after Tymoshenko-led protests over fraud, has said his administration is interested only in cracking down on official corruption.

Source: DPA

Jailed Ukrainian Opposition Politician Ends Hunger Strike

KIEV, Ukraine -- A leading Ukrainian opposition politician jailed on corruption charges denounced his prosecution on Monday as he ended a hunger strike he began a month ago.

Yuri Lutsenko

'My own detention is proof there is no justice in Ukraine,' former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko said at a court hearing in Kiev. 'This is about 46 million people who have no defence.

'(You think that) what's going on isn't like the (Soviet-era) purges in 1937? Then what is this?'

Lutsenko, who served as interior minister from 2007-10, was a leader in Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.

He has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest on December 26. He has said he is being prosecuted because of his opposition to the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

'I began the hunger strike to show that in this country there is no justice and ... now I need my strength,' he said.

Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges against Lutsenko, but he is accused of having falsified documents to obtain a senior government job for his driver.

Lutsenko had been drinking only water since beginning his protest on April 22. He reportedly lost more than 20 kilogrammes and was suffering from low blood pressure and faced the possibility of kidney failure, his lawyers said.

His legal team filed motions for his immediate release on grounds of poor health and demanded that the case against him be dropped for lack of evidence.

A judge ruled Lutsenko was healthy enough to remain in detention until the next pre-trial hearing, which was scheduled for May 27. Bailiffs then removed him from the courtroom.

'This means (Lutsenko) is being held indefinitely without any charges filed against him,' said his lawyer, Ihor Fomin.

Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of Ukraine's opposition, told reporters at the entrance to the courtroom that the charges against Lutsenko constituted repression of the government's critics.

'People like Yury Lutsenko are heroes. They will go down in history as the ones who did not break,' she said.

Lutsenko courted controversy as interior minister, directing an anti-corruption campaign against police and big business. His personal conflicts with other politicians sometimes ended in fist fights.

President Yanukovych has said his administration will prosecute corrupt officials past and present without regard to political affiliation.

Source: DPA

Parliamentary Gagging Order Ukrainian Style: Speaker Grabs His Deputy In Death Grip During Debate Row

KIEV, Ukraine -- Politics can be a stressful business. But thankfully British politicians have always showed a little more restraint than this hot-tempered official in Ukraine.

Death grip: Adam Martynyuk grabs his deputy, Oleg Lyashko, in a death grip in front of stunned politicians in the Ukrainian parliament

Vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Adam Martynyuk was recorded on camera as he grabbed a colleague by the throat and slammed him into the ground with a 'death grip' wrestling move.

Martynyuk had been presiding over a legislative session in a chamber of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev when tempers flared.

The usually dull proceedings were disrupted when Martynyuk's deputy Oleg Lyashko asked to make a speech but was refused. He then reportedly called Martynyuk a 'Pharisee'.

Martynyuk leapt to his feet and lunged at his deputy.

In what appears to be an expert self-defence move, the speaker pinched the deputy's throat in a 'death grip' while jamming two fingers into his temple.

He then overpowers the man who is thrown to the ground after toppling over a wooden stand.

But still visibly irritated, Lyashko gets up from the floor and the pair square up and push each other.

A number of other politicians who had been sitting in the session quickly rushed over to calm the pair, before Lyashko storms away.

Incredibly, he returns a short time later to give his speech, directing much of his anger at the Vice speaker, who can't resist a chuckle to himself.

The clip has become an internet sensation with thousands of people poking fun at the two officials.

One viewer wrote: 'It's a shame, I'm Ukrainian, but it's not my problem that I was born in the country with this government.'

Another added: 'I love how they try to restrain the guy that got choked, not the one that choked him.'

One stated: 'It's so funny how the other guy laughs later in the video'.

The antics of the Ukranian politicians make even the most heated of discussions at the Houses of Commons in Westminster look sedate.

Perhaps the closest example of dissent was the furore over gagging orders.

In the House of Lords last week Lord Stoneham, acting on behalf of his fellow Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott, revealed that Sir Fred Goodwin had a gagging order to prevent the disclosure of an affair with a colleague.

Source: Mail Online

Monday, May 23, 2011

NATO-Ukraine: A History Of Success

KIEV, Ukraine -- Lieutenant-General Juergen Bornemann, who recently assumed the office of Director General of International Military Staff at the NATO Headquarters, has recently visited Ukraine.

NATO Lieutenant-General Juergen Bornemann.

Previously, as Deputy Head of the Politico-Military Affairs and Arms Control Division, German Federal Armed Forces, he was in charge of bilateral relations between Germany and Ukraine.

In an exclusive interview with The Day, Lt.-Gen. Bornemann spoke about the aim of his visit and assessed NATO-Ukraine relations in the military field as well as the Ukrainian government’s efforts to boost cooperation with the alliance.

What is the purpose of your visit to Ukraine? As far as I understand it is your first visit in your capacity as Director General of the International Military Staff of NATO.

“Let me first of all thank the Ukrainian authorities for the great hospitality and warm welcome offered to me and my delegation as well as for arranging this very intense, pleasant and fruitful program for my visit. For me, this is not my first visit to Ukraine, I’ve been here several times during my previous appointment as Deputy Policy Director in the German Ministry of Defence. During this time, I was responsible for bilateral military cooperation between Germany and Ukraine. However, in my current function as Director General of the International Military Staff at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, this is indeed my first visit to Ukraine. I was invited by the Chief of Defense of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to visit Ukraine and discuss with high level military and political authorities the status and prospects of the distinctive partnership between Ukraine and NATO.”

“This visit provides an excellent opportunity to discuss practical constructive cooperation between NATO and Ukraine, which is carried out in the well-established framework of the Military Committee with Ukraine Work Plan. This cooperation supports the implementation of defence and security related aspects of Ukraine’s Annual National Program and the transformation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The aim of the visit is to take stock of the status of our cooperation and look at possibilities of its further development in the numerous areas of common interests.”

So you may now compare: you were here before as Deputy Policy Director, do you see any progress?

“Well, there is always progress, there is no doubt about it. The relationship between Ukraine and NATO has a long history as Ukraine was one of the first partners of NATO in the framework of Partnership for Peace after the end of the Cold War. Since then there has been a steady qualitative and quantitative increase of activities and development of the partnership on the political and military side.”

What can you say in this context about the programme of military exercises which was passed by the Parliament?

“We, of course, very much welcome this important step as the ability to conduct joint military exercises is an important part of our practical military cooperation. We’re very much looking forward to the implementation of the exercises planned for this year. International military exercises are a key tool to support capability development and interoperability with other nations.

What is your opinion about the Annual National Programme which was signed by the president?

“As you know, the Annual National Program is the key Ukrainian framework document for its cooperation with NATO and guides the overall reform process within Ukraine covering a wide range of areas and activities. We very much welcome the approval of the document and will now focus on the implementation. In the military sphere we will continue to support the implementation of security and defence related objectives of the Annual National Programme through our mutually developed and jointly agreed Military Committee with Ukraine Work Plan. This topic was also addressed during my exchanges with the leadership of Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

What is your opinion about Ukrainian Armed Forces, their capability to cooperate with the Armed Forces of NATO Allies?

“Well, as you know, one of the major areas of our cooperation is, of course, interoperability, which means the capability of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to cooperate, coordinate, and act together with NATO forces. And as I said in the beginning, the long period of intensive cooperation between Ukrainian Armed Forces and NATO is a success story. Units of Ukraine’s Armed Forces gain interoperability with Allied armed forces through different interactions, like participation in the Operational Capabilities Concept Programme (OCC), multinational exercises, and peacekeeping operations. You know that Ukraine is one of the important contributors to NATO-led operations, and the success can be seen in Ukraine’s participation in operations in Kosovo, the Mediterranean Sea, Iraq, and Afghanistan as well as in the NATO Response Force.”

To what areas should Ukrainians pay more attention for their Armed Forces to be more interoperable with NATO’s?

“There are, of course, capabilities which NATO needs and which are not available in the required amount within the Alliance. Therefore, we very much welcome that Ukraine has, for example, excellent capability in the area of defense against weapons of mass destruction. This is just one example where Ukraine is cooperating very intensively with NATO, but there are many more areas. My advice would be to continue constructive cooperation in areas, where NATO is short of required capabilities, as the experience gained is also beneficial for Ukraine.”

What about Ukraine’s strategic airlift capabilities? Are they used now?

“It is, of course, not NATO, who has airlift capabilities in its inventory, it is NATO member states. For example Germany as well as other countries, have signed contracts with Ukrainian companies for airlift. This is not a NATO issue, as it is the responsibility of nations to guarantee the transportation of their soldiers and equipment.”

Which anti-terrorist capabilities of possible interest to NATO do you think Ukraine has? It’s a very important topic now.

“The fight against terrorism is one of the top priorities for NATO and for partner countries. For this there are both political and military tools required, and it depends on the respective situation how those tools are used and balanced. Let us for example take Afghanistan, where you see the whole spectrum of political and military activities complementing each other. Ukraine is also participating in this operation as an important partner. Let me also highlight operation Active Endeavour, which is a maritime operation in the Mediterranean Sea, in which Ukraine is engaged through a liaison element and by deploying ships on a regular basis. So there are a lot of areas and common activities where NATO and Ukraine work together.”

What is Ukraine’s possible contribution of national missile defense to NATO?

“This is an issue which is currently under development. As you know, at the Lisbon Summit NATO Heads of State and Government agreed to create a missile defense system to protect the people and the territory of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This is a global and very complex threat that has an impact on all of us. This means it is a threat against NATO territories and countries as well as against Russia, and it is, of course, also against Ukraine. Therefore cooperation with partners is very important. One of the prominent partners is, of course, Russia. NATO considers Russia a valuable partner, with which it has established solid relationship with a continuous, positive gradient. Regarding possible future engagement with Ukraine we will have to look at the possibilities for consultation, coordination, and cooperation based on mutual interests. We are aware of and welcome that Ukraine pays a lot of attention to this topic and we have already started initial discussions with our Ukrainian friends to ensure transparency.”

Is NATO interested in using those two radars – in Sevastopol and in Mukacheve?

“We are at the beginning of establishing a NATO system. First of all, NATO has a responsibility for the territory of its member states. This is the first priority. As I said before, this will be done in a transparent way. At the end there will be possibilities for practical cooperation with partners. The use of radars in Ukraine, this is a possible point that could be discussed. I personally believe that pending interoperability, exchange of information and data could be an element of mutually beneficial cooperation. ”

Some say that Russia cooperates with NATO more closely than Ukraine. What is your opinion?

“I would not go into a competition as far as cooperation is concerned. Russia is an important partner, Ukraine is an important partner, and I know that Ukraine is cooperating in the military field also with Russia. So it’s not a question of competition. There are specific spheres in which we are cooperating with the Russians, and the same is true for Ukraine. I would hesitate to say whether we are doing more with Russia than with Ukraine. It is not a competition, both are important partners, and we have an interest to intensify cooperation with both.”

I think most Ukrainians are interested to know what concrete help Ukrainian Armed Forces get directly from NATO or Allies to be more professional.

“I was briefed by the General Staff about the ongoing reforms of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I know this is a very difficult, very challenging process. But this is a challenge for many countries, including NATO members, and all of them are currently working on it. As you know the security environment has changed and therefore the adaptation of internal structures, procedures, doctrines, and forces to these new challenges is required. This is true for Ukraine, but also for NATO member states, and therefore it is quite natural that we are in a dialogue with each other. NATO is gaining reform experience, which could be beneficial for Ukraine, but we can also learn from Ukraine about its reforms.”

I know you’re going to deliver a lecture now. What message would you like to send to young Ukrainians?

“The main message will be that NATO is looking for real partnership with countries around the world as NATO cannot ensure its security alone. Many threats and challenges are global and can only be tackled in close cooperation with partners. A couple of weeks ago, during a meeting of Foreign Ministers, NATO has adopted a new concept for global partnership. I will describe a little bit the background for this new partnership concept to the students of the Kyiv national university to promote an understanding that NATO is an organization which is changing, which is adapting to the new security environment, and which is inviting countries like Ukraine to cooperate.”

Source: The Day

Ukraine And Russia To Hold Joint Naval Exercises In Black Sea

MOSCOW, Russia -- For the first time in eight years, the Naval Forces of Ukraine and the Russian Black Sea fleet decided to resume their full-scale military exercises.

Joint military exercises will be resumed.

Prior to this, last year there was an attempt of common military exercises, but only in the format of the command and headquarters cooperation.

This time, warships, aircraft, marine engineering, Marine Corps of both Navies will participate in full, reports Deutsche Welle.

The military will train on the model of an international peacekeeping operation in a crisis region.

The parties set a goal to practice the Joint Staff actions during the planning of a peacekeeping operation and the management of forces in a peacekeeping operation.

Besides, they will hone the coherence of actions of the Ukrainian Navy marines and the Russian Black Sea fleet while landing on unequipped coast, and practice joint actions of the search and rescue forces.

President of the Atlantic Council of Ukraine, Major-General Vadim Grechaninov, said that the Ukrainian military need such exercises a lot.

"We have little money. We cannot hold full-scale exercises on our own. Foreign armies possess new weapons, new approaches, and common exercises are very beneficial for Ukraine", said Grechaninov.

He is convinced that the Ukrainian military should use the recent warming of relationships with Russia to advantage, so that the Ukrainian army is ready for present geopolitical challenges.

"The country is now more feared for its own safety. That's why we are holding such exercises and preparing more units", said Major General.

However, the residents of Crimea are a bit scared of the resumption of such a large military exercise in the waters of the peninsula.

The command of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia has already said that the military took the security issues of the World Fairway 2011 seriously given the scale of common exercises.

The first commander of the Ukrainian Naval Forces, Vice-Admiral Boris Kozhin said that in planning such training operations safety is a critical factor.

"The areas where the training will take place are far from the routes of commercial ships and away from settlements. Those who are planning the practice will ensure public safety", underlined Kozhin.

Source: News BCM

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Canada's Marino Beats Ukraine's Bondarenko To Advance At French Open

PARIS, France -- Canada's Rebecca Marino opened her French Open main draw with a 6-3, 6-3 victory Sunday over Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine.

Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko.

The 62nd-ranked Vancouver native was making only her second appearance on any court at Roland Garros after losing a qualifying match a year ago.

"I'm very happy winning the match, it's probably my first win apart from juniors at Roland Garros," said Marino. "I'm really pleased with how the match went today.

"I don't think there was anything special I did today. I just felt I served really well, and that always helps me. I played pretty confidently."

But Marino's start in Paris was a solid effort, with the 20-year-old never in troubles against her No. 113-ranked opponent.

The match was only Marino's third at any Grand Slam after winning a round at last year's U.S. Open and again in Australia in January.

Marino reached the second round in just 57 minutes, striking four aces to the four double-faults of Bondarenko.

The Canadian had 13 unforced errors and broke on four of her nine chances while saving the only break point she faced.

She next faces Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who defeated Israeli Shahar Peer 7-6 (4), 6-1.

Marino earned her first-set break for 5-3 and then served out the set a game later on her way to victory.

"My serve for sure was really working today and my forehand was really good. I had a few really low balls that I didn't think I would put in and made it."

On a packed-out court adjacent to Marino's, Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., practised with top seed Rafael Nadal as the Spaniard prepared for a first-round meeting with American John Isner.

The big Raonic serve is similar to that of the American and gave Nadal a taste of what he would face from a tall right-hander.

Source: The Canadian Press

Ukraine Must Choose Between Economic Blocs - Mr Medvedev

KIEV, Ukraine -- Mr Dmitry Medvedev president of Russian Federation said that his government won’t accept Ukrainian attempts to integrate economically in both the European Union and the Customs Union.

Dmitry Medvedev

Mr Medvedev said that “Ukraine can’t be everywhere. Either there or there. You can’t sit on two chairs. You need to make some kind of choice.”

He delivered his statement after Mr Viktor Yanukovych president of Ukrainian declared on April 7 his 3+1 policy with the Customs Union which implied some form of partial membership with the three other members Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Such statements are unlikely to affect Ukraine’s pursuit of an EU Free Trade Agreement.

The Russian government is eager for Ukraine to join the Single Economic Space and Customs Union, applying public pressure particularly among the president’s electorate in eastern and southern Ukraine to produce the desired result.

The Yanukovych administration is struggling to balance both Western and Russian oriented business interests in Ukraine.

Phoenix Capital analyst said “The government isn’t likely to commit to the Customs Union on Moscow’s terms in the near term, even amidst such pressure, because the nation’s biggest businesses are export oriented and want to expand into the EU marketplace, among the worlds largest.”

Source: Steel Guru

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ukraine Supplies Iraq With 6 Planes Ahead Of Time

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A Ukrainian company has announced in Kiev on Saturday that it might supply Iraq with six light An-32 planes before their scheduled supply time.

Antonov An-32

“Three out of six planes have been assembled in Ukraine, but the Iraqi side had not taken its final decision to receive them,” The Manager of Antonov Company told the Kiev Post Newspaper on Saturday.

“The Company shall assemble the remaining 3 planes, as soon as it receives the payment of the first three planes, included in the contract, signed between Iraq and the Company,” he said.

The newspaper said that the Ukrainian Progress Company for Foreign Trade had signed a contract with Iraq in 2009 for US$550 million, according to which the company would supply Iraq with six light planes and 400 armored cars.

“The Company had supplied Iraq with the first shipment of 26 armored personnel-carriers, whilst the second shipment would be supplied by the end of the current year.

Source: Aswat al-Iraq

Ukraine Expels Czech Diplomats, Jeopardizing Talks With The European Union

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has expelled two Czech diplomats, explaining that they had gathered military secrets and hired local assistants who now face prison sentences.

Former Ukrainian Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn.

This is an extraordinary event as Ukraine has avoided scandals involving the expulsion of Western diplomats in the past.

Moreover, this happened at a crucial moment when Ukraine and the European Union, which admitted the Czech Republic into membership in 2004, are about to complete political association and free trade talks.

The scandal may affect the outcome of the talks. The Czechs have accused Ukraine of taking revenge for Prague granting political asylum early this year to the former Ukrainian Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn.

On May 13, the Ukrainian foreign ministry summoned the Czech charge d’affaires, Vitezslav Pivonka, to announce that two officials from the Czech military attaché’s office were declared persona non grata for gathering Ukrainian state secrets.

The ministry’s spokesman, Oleg Voloshyn, said this was done at the request of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). He added that the expelled Czechs were a colonel and a major, so they were not career diplomats.

The SBU told a briefing later that the expelled Czech nationals had hired two Ukrainian “accomplices” who gathered secret information for them for several years.

In particular, the spies wanted to learn more about Kiev-based aviation plant No. 410, Ukraine’s plans to produce An-70 and An-178 aircraft, projects in which the Yuzhmash missile manufacturer is involved, the Adros jamming systems designed to protect helicopters from infrared-guided missiles and the satellite navigation systems with which the T-84 U Oplot tanks are equipped.

The SBU stressed that it managed to film the exchange of money for secret documents between the foreign spies and their Ukrainian informants.

The Czech reaction was immediate.

The Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, suggested that Ukraine acted in revenge for Prague granting political asylum last January to the former Ukrainian Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn.

Last summer, Danylyshyn, who served in the 2007 – 2010 government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was charged with abuse of office for awarding contracts without tenders. He fled to the Czech Republic and was put on the international wanted list by Ukraine.

Danylyshyn was granted asylum on January 13, and a court in Prague refused to extradite him to Ukraine last February, while the EU and the United States reacted to the case of Danylyshyn and several arrests of former ministers on corruption charges late last year by warning Kiev against selective justice.

Tymoshenko, who is an opposition leader now, is also facing such charges, and many local and foreign observers suspect that political motives lie behind them.

Kiev denied that the expulsion of the Czech diplomats was in response to the Danylyshyn affair, claiming that the two Czechs had started spying long before Danylyshyn was appointed as a minister.

Nonetheless, Schwarzenberg had reason to speak about links between the spy scandal and Danylyshyn’s asylum.

The granting of asylum to him by Czechs has been a huge blow to Ukraine’s international image at a time when Kiev is negotiating political association with the EU; the two sides say they plan to complete the process this year.

Kiev wants to avoid similar blows in the future by showing Western democracies that it can retaliate. Otherwise Kiev might have settled the spy affair with Prague without any public scandal.

The former state reserve chief, Mykhaylo Pozhyvanov, who also served in the Tymoshenko government, applied for asylum in Austria early this year and is awaiting Vienna’s decision.

Hardly by coincidence, the SBU mentioned that one of the local assistants of the spies had applied for political asylum in the Czech Republic and was detained while trying to leave Ukraine.

Valery Chaly, a senior expert from the Kiev-based Razumkov think tank and former deputy foreign minister, suggested that the spy scandal could sink the association talks.

He said that an association agreement with the EU would not come into force if the Czech Republic as an EU member chose not to ratify it. The head of the EU office in Ukraine, Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, called for caution saying that support from all EU members would be essential for Ukraine’s EU integration.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry’s EU department director, Vasyl Filipchuk, tried to put a brave face on it, however, saying that the scandal would not affect relations with the Czech Republic nor with the EU.

Still, Prague decided to expel a Ukrainian military attaché in response. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said this reaction by Prague was “inadequate” as the diplomat was not accused of anything, so this was clearly retaliation.

Source: Jamestown Foundation

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ukraine: Weather Lady Stirs Political Storm

KIEV, Ukraine -- A weather forecaster for Ukrainian state radio has caused something of a storm herself by veering from meteorological to political observations.

In this photo taken Wednesday, May 18, 2011, veteran weather forecaster Lyudmila Savchenko, 58, is seen in her office in Kiev, Ukraine. Savchenko was suspended from the air after telling listeners last week that the warm spring days and blooming flowers are the Ukrainians' compensation "for the disorder, lawlessness and injustice that are taking place in our country."

Lyudmila Savchenko was taken off the air after telling listeners last week that warm spring days and blooming flowers were Ukrainians' compensation "for the disorder, lawlessness and injustice that are taking place in our country."

She also suggested that authorities felt disdain for the Ukrainian people.

Now, the country's top opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is calling Savchenko a hero.

The opposition faction in parliament is urging the National Radio Company to reinstate her, and even pro-government parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn says he supports the call.

President Viktor Yanukovych's office declined to comment on the matter.

But Roman Chaikovsky, deputy head of the National Radio Company, said Savchenko clearly went over the line. "When a person talks about the weather, they should talk about the weather," he said.

Savchenko admits her comments may have been inappropriate for a weather report, but said she wanted her views to be heard.

"I don't have the tiniest regret about what I did — I couldn't stay indifferent to what is going on," Savchenko told The Associated Press on Friday.

Savchenko is an employee of the national weather center, whose chief, Mykola Kulbida, said he doesn't plan to take action against her.

But, he said, other meteorologists will take over her job of doing the weather broadcasts on state radio.

The storm reflects Ukraine's chronically supercharged political tensions and a penchant for exploring how far free speech can be taken.

During the 2004 Orange Revolution that broke out over a disputed presidential election ballot-count, a sign-language interpreter on state television told viewers with her hands that she believed the results had been falsified.

Yanukovych initially had been counted the winner.

But the supreme court annulled the election and forced a rerun, which he lost. He won the next election in 2010.

Tymoshenko, a leader of the Orange Revolution who has criticized Yanukovych as trying to stifle the news media, said Savchenko deserved admiration for her courage.

"My highest complements to Lyudmila Savchenko," she said Friday." We missed the moment when simply telling the truth again became an act of heroism."

Source: AP

Opposition Leaves Rada To Protest Against Lutsenko's Detention

KIEV, Ukraine -- MPs of the BYT-Batkivschyna and Our Ukraine – People's Self-Defense factions on Friday left the session hall of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, to protest against the detention of former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

Former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

"Today we're leaving the session hall to protest against the persecution of opposition politicians," leader of the OU-PSD faction Mykola Martynenko said in parliament.

"It is obvious that the persecution of Yuriy Lutsenko is selective and political," the OU-PSD faction leader said.

According to him, 87 MPs of the OU-PSD faction addressed the Pechersky District Court of Kiev with a request to urgently change the form of pretrial restrictions imposed on Yuriy Lutsenko.

"About one hundred signatures were gathered to release Yuriy Lutsenko on bail. If needed, we are ready to put up bail for him, the whole sum that is [indicated in the charges]," Martynenko said.

He pointed out that the government would be fully responsible for the possible consequences of a hunger strike by Lutsenko

As reported, Lutsenko has been held in jail since December 26, 2010.

He has been charged under Part 5, Article 191 (large-scale embezzlement of state property through the abuse of office, under a preliminary collusion by a group of individuals), Part 3, Article 365 (abuse of office, which led to grave consequences), and Part 3, Article 364 (the abuse of power and office by a law enforcer, which caused damage to citizens' rights as protected by the law) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

On January 28, the pre-trail investigation into the criminal case against Lutsenko and three more former officials of the ministry evaluated the losses caused by them to the state at over UAH 970,000.

Kiev Court of Appeals on April 22 extended Lutsenko's arrest until May 26, and after that he announced his intention to go on hunger strike from April 22.

On April 28, the former minister, in a letter to leadership of Kiev pretrial detention center, declared his intention to go on hunger strike.

At present Lutsenko is in the Kiev city clinical emergency hospital, where he was transferred from the medical unit of the pretrial detention center.

On May 17, the Prosecutor General's Office sent the criminal case against Lutsenko to the Pechersky Court of Kiev.

The date of the preliminary hearing is set for May 23.

Source: Interfax