Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yulia Tymoshenko's Chequered Career In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Here are some facts about Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, 50, who went on trial on Wednesday charged with abuse of power.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Who is Yulia Tymoshenko?

-- Nicknamed the "gas princess" for her involvement in the gas industry in the 1990s, her striking looks and designer clothes. Born in November 1960, she entered parliament in 1996 and was made a deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector in 2000 by the new premier Viktor Yushchenko.

Charges Against Tymoshenko

-- In 2001, formal charges of forgery and smuggling gas were brought against Tymoshenko while she was head of United Energy Systems, a private gas trading firm in the mid-1990s.

-- Then President Leonid Kuchma, her bitter critic, accused her several times of exceeding her powers as deputy prime minister. Tymoshenko denounced the criminal investigations as a witch-hunt, saying her efforts to clean up the corrupt energy sector threatened the interests of powerful businessmen. She spent a month in a detention centre following the investigation, but a court cleared her.

-- In May 2010, Ukraine's state prosecutor launched a new criminal case relating to what it said was the misuse by Tymoshenko's government of about $290 million (180.8 million pounds) in cash received for selling carbon quotas.

-- In the latest trial the prosecution has alleged that Tymoshenko abused her power in the signing of a 2009 gas import agreement with Russia. The prosecution said that, without consulting her government, she coerced the then-head of state-owned Naftogaz to sign the gas deal with Russia's Gazprom. She has denied this.

-- The hearing was adjourned until July 4.

Political Rise and Fall

-- Her fiery speeches and calls for social justice enthralled vast crowds in the "Orange Revolution" -- weeks of street protests against official results in the 2004 presidential election in which Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was initially declared the winner.

-- After Yushchenko won a presidential re-run ordered by the Supreme Court, she was named premier of an "orange" government, but it was riven by infighting. Tymoshenko alarmed investors with calls for a mass review of privatisations and analysts criticised her populist social spending sprees. She fell out with Yushchenko and was sacked in September 2005 after less than eight months in office.

-- When Yanukovich became prime minister after a 2006 parliamentary election, she was reconciled with Yushchenko and was the prime force behind his decision to dissolve parliament and call an early election, which gave the "Orange" parties a tiny majority in parliament.

-- In January 2009, Tymoshenko brokered a 10-year gas deal with her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to end a three-week energy row that led to supply cuts to Europe.

-- However Tymoshenko went on to lose to Yanukovich in a bitter campaign for the presidency in February 2010. In March, she was ousted in a vote of no-confidence and was replaced by new prime minister, Mykola Azarov.

-- In a pretrial hearing last week, Tymoshenko used a the opportunity to allege that Yanukovich was behind a crooked court action that was certain to convict her of abuse of power. She complained of political persecution to the European Court of Human Rights ahead of the trial.

Source: TrustLaw

Ukrainian Authorities Seize Assets Of Former Premier, Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine authorities seized assets owned by former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko as part of a pre-trial investigation, Deputy Prosecutor General Mykhailo Gavrilyuk said here Friday.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko adjusts her glasses as she attends a pre-trial hearing at a city court in Kiev June 25, 2011. Ukraine authorities seized assets owned by former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko as part of a pre-trial investigation, Deputy Prosecutor General Mykhailo Gavrilyuk said here Friday.

Gavrilyuk said Lutsenko caused damage to the state estimated at $122,000 U.S. dollars, and property, including his apartment, with a total value of $200,000 dollars had been seized.

Gavrilyuk said his office was still valuing the property seized from Tymoshenko.

The deputy prosecutor general estimated the losses Tymoshenko caused to Ukraine by buying gas at unsuitable market prices in 2009 to be $187 million dollars.

Both Tymoshenko and Lutsenko are accused of abusing power.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's lawmakers announced Tymoshenko would face from seven to ten years imprisonment on the charges, which involve gas contracts with Russia.

There are three criminal cases instituted against the former Ukrainian premier.

Source: Xinhua

Hitler Vinnitsa Bunker: Ukraine Museum Plans Draw Anger

VINNITSA, Ukraine -- Plans in Ukraine to open a museum at the ruins of a bunker used by Hitler during World War II have provoked concerns it could become a shrine for neo-Nazis.

Thousands of Nazi victims are buried in the region around Vinnitsa.

The decision by local authorities in the central city of Vinnitsa to turn the site of the Wehrwolf bunker into a tourist attraction has caused so much controversy that President Viktor Yanukovych requested on a recent visit to Vinnitsa that the matter be settled in a local referendum.

Originally, the museum had been due to open in May to coincide with the commemoration of victory over the Nazis.

But communist and socialist party activists opposed the idea, arguing that the creation of such a museum would be tantamount to spreading Nazi propaganda.

According to Lydia Zakusylova, who chairs the regional Communist Party: "Even before, with just a road sign pointing to the location of the Wehrwolf, neo-Nazis were flocking to the site.

"We had to mobilise the police, the local authorities and party members to stop them."

Mass grave

One proposal for the museum, she said, had some alarming features.

"Initially, there were suggestions to restore wartime dug-outs for PoWs," she told the BBC.

"But there were also plans to exhibit uniforms and flags of the officers and men of the Reich.

"They wanted to offer tourists the chance to try on uniforms, hang sub machine-guns around their necks and pose for pictures with Nazi flags in the background. This is blatant Nazi propaganda."

An official at the local Vinnitsa Museum, Kateryna Vysotska, acknowledged that such suggestions had been put forward by local collectors, but said they had been turned down.

She vehemently denied - following dozens of complaints from war veterans - that a "Nazi museum" was being set up.

In fact, Ms Vysotska said, the future museum will be a historical memorial to victims of Nazism, and will encompass a mass grave for those who died.

More than 10,000 PoWs and local civilians who built Hitler's bunker were shot by the Nazis and are buried there, she said.

Local villagers were enlisted to dig trenches and clear out the woods. Even children were not spared hard work, felling trees.

"We met veterans and I told them that Hitler's bunker has become a tourist attraction irrespective of their wishes," she said.

"Visitors will keep coming and it would be better if our museum staff conduct proper guided tours."

Opposition to the future museum came not only from leftist politicians but from local villagers, who are reluctant to lose land where cattle now graze and children play.

Unexplored bunkers

The former bunker is about 8km (5 miles) outside Vinnitsa. It was built as a military headquarters for the Eastern Front.

Construction of the bunker started in 1941 and finished in April, 1942. In March 1944, retreating Germans blew it up.

The Wehrwolf was a smaller version of the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's fortified headquarters in Eastern Prussia.

It had its own power generating facility, an airfield, a swimming pool and a water supply.

There were 81 wooden houses above ground and three fortified bunkers underground, including the main one, with walls 2.5m (8ft) thick. These bunkers as yet have not been explored.

A pile of stones and the remains of the swimming pool are all that can be seen above ground.

Source: BBC News

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yanukovych Rallies To Defense Of Premier

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych defended Prime Minister Mykola Azarov Tuesday, saying an undisclosed party has been seeking to “weaken” the government by spreading speculation the government may be soon dismissed.

President Viktor Yanukovych (L) with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Yanukovych recently spoke with Azarov and with Serhiy Arbuzov, the governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, who had recently attacked the prime minister for delaying cooperation with the International Monetary Fund.

Yanukovych told Arbuzov and Azarov to keep their internal memos from leaking to media, because “we are not interested in somebody getting into our internal kitchen.”

“I made a note to the head of the government, and to the head of the National Bank, so that they keep their relations within a norm established within many countries,” Yanukovych said in interview aired by Inter television.

The split has been growing within the government over the past three months over whether Ukraine should resume the IMF borrowing immediately. The IMF suspended $15.3 billion loan since March.

Arbuzov, jointly with Serhiy Tyhypko, a deputy prime minister, spoke publicly in favor of immediate resumption of borrowing from the IMF, and criticized Azarov for delaying reforms, and the borrowing.

Analysts interpreted the split as an indication of the possible government reshuffle.

But Yanukovych, although admitting that Azarov has made mistakes, indicated that he planned no reshuffle in the near future. He complained those speculating about the reshuffle have been weakening the government.

“This is an element of Ukrainian politics,” Yanukovych said. “Somebody has been playing these games in order to weaken the authorities.”

Yanukovych defended Azarov, adding that some important reforms were still needed to be introduced.

“Mykola Yanovych [Azarov],with friction and with some reservations, which is natural, has been working,” Yanukovych said, adding that there are about 800 legislative and regulative measures that still must be introduced.

“The country cannot keep itself in such a condition,” Yanukovych said. “It must be modernized.”

Azarov said that the next IMF team will arrive in Ukraine in September. The team is supposed to check if Ukraine qualifies for up to $3 billion installment from the IMF.

Ukraine moved a step closer towards the resumption of lending after Parliament voted earlier this month to support pension reform that gradually increases the retirement age for women from 55 years to 60 years.

Tyhypko believes that a quick resumption of the lending is important for the Ukrainian economy, and would allow corporations to borrow internationally at lower rates.

But Azarov said Ukraine can do without the IMF money, at least in the short term, and even asked the Washington-based lender to ease some of its demands.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

United States Calling On Ukraine To Enhance Combating Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States call on Ukraine to enhance combating human trafficking, report of the US State Department on human trafficking reads.


According to the report, Ukraine is a country-source, transit country for human trafficking and is increasingly becoming a country where people are forced to labour and sexual exploitation.

The State Department documented that Ukrainians are sold to Russia, Poland, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Britain, Israel, Greece, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Lebanon, Benin, Tunisia, Cyprus, Aruba, Equatorial Guinea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldova, Slovakia, Syria, Switzerland, United States, Canada and Belarus.

Ukrainian women are forced to engage in prostitution, domestic slavery, forced labor in the service industry, textile and light industry, men are forced to use as low-skilled labor in the construction industry (e.g., Russia), agriculture, as sailors, children are forced into prostitution and begging.

The number of cases in 2010 increased compared to 2009.

At the same time, the State Department said that three were also documented cases of forced labor and prostitution of foreigners, especially citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Czech Republic and Pakistan.

According to the United States, the Ukrainian authorities have made insufficient efforts to meet minimum standards in combating human trafficking, in particular, are not taken sufficient action to condemn the government officials involved in these crimes.

At the same time the State Department says that in 2010 compared with 2009 has slightly increased disclosure in cases of trafficking in persons, in particular, was sent to court 110 cases compared with 80 in 2009.

The United States recommends that Ukraine strengthen the prosecution of government officials complicit in trafficking, strengthen measures for the rehabilitation of victims of trafficking and consider establishing a fund for these purposes from funds seized from convicted traffickers, to enact appropriate legislation to combat human trafficking and a national action plan.

Source: Ukrainian News

Ukraine Adjourns Trial Of Ex-PM Tymoshenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian judge on Wednesday adjourned until July 4 the trial of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is accused of abuse of power, after she asked for more time to read the evidence.

Yulia Tymoshenko speaks to her supporters as she leaves a district court in Kiev.

"The court has decreed to postpone the proceedings until July 4," judge Rodion Kireyev said, before closing the latest hearing in the high-profile trial after less than an hour.

Tymoshenko had asked the judge for an adjournment, saying she needed three weeks to read through the charges and findings of the investigation against her.

One of the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Tymoshenko narrowly lost to her old rival President Viktor Yanukovych in presidential elections last year, becoming his fiercest critic.

She is accused of abusing her powers by negotiating a 2009 deal with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to buy gas at a price seen as unfavourable to Kiev.

The charges carry a sentence of between seven and 10 years, jeopardising Tymoshenko's ability to take part in parliamentary polls next year and the next presidential elections in 2015.

The opposition leader, wearing her trademark plaited hairstyle, went on trial in Kiev late last week as several thousand supporters rallied outside the courtroom.

Supporters of the charismatic ex-prime minister have condemned the probes against her as "summary justice" orchestrated by her arch-enemy Yanukovych.

The prosecution says she exceeded her powers by personally giving the go-ahead to a deal on the price of Russian gas imports without gaining permission from the government.

Prosecutors say the deal, signed after a brief gas shutoff by Russia, caused the Ukrainian state to lose more than 1.5 billion hryvnas (around $190 million).

Tymoshenko has countered that she was not required to obtain permission to sign the deal and that the gas price that she negotiated with Moscow was among the lowest in Europe.

Source: AFP

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kiev Hopes Details Of Gas Deal With Russia To Be Revised In July

KIEV, Ukraine -- Kiev hopes that the details of the current deal with Moscow on the Russian natural gas deliveries will be revised and finalized in July, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Russia's natural gas price for Ukraine currently equals $295.60 per 1,000 cu m and is expected to rise to $350 in the third quarter and to $400 and more in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Kiev is not satisfied with the prices and insists that the deal should be revised.

"We would like our [Russian] partners to understand and we insist on this during our talks that the contract, which does not suit one of the sides and does not suit categorically, would not work for long," Azarov said in an interview with Ukrainian 1+1 television channel late on Monday night.

Ukraine receives a 30 percent discount on Russian gas deliveries compared to European supply prices in exchange for permission for the Russian Black Sea fleet to berth in bases in the Crimea for 25 years after 2017, when the previous base agreement expires.

Kiev has been seeking a revision in the 2009 gas deal with Russia since last spring, saying that the contract's gas price formula is unfair.

Russia has tied the price for gas to the international spot price for oil, which has been rising strongly recently due to the instability in the Middle East.

Source: RIA Novosti

Israel And Ukraine Sign Aviation Agreement

KIEV, Ukraine -- The agreement will allow allow more airlines to fly between the two countries. This could see the number of flights between Israel and the Ukraine increasing from 21 flights a week to 48 flights


Israel and the Ukraine have signed an aviation agreement which will allow more airlines to fly between the two countries.

The agreement which was signed by the Ukranian Deputy Minister and Chairman of the State Aviation Administration Anatolii Kolisnyk and Giora Rom, general manager of the Israel civil aviation authority says that each country will now be allowed to run two scheduled airlines between the countries, with three airlines allowed to fly to Kiev.

This could see the number of flights between Israel and the Ukraine increasing from 21 flights a week to 48 flights.

Each country will be allowed to operate 24 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Kiev instead of 21 weekly flights at present.

The new agreement also provides for 20% increase in seats capacity for the religious tourism during the Jewish New Year, to 22,000 seats ( 11,000 for each side).

The flights will be operated by El Al, Arkia & Israir and by several Ukrainian airlines.

Source: Port de Portal

The Last Title Never Won By A Klitschko

HAMBURG, Germany -- On Saturday night in Hamburg, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye will contend in what is arguably the most significant heavyweight bout since Lennox Lewis beat Mike Tyson in June, 2002.

Fighting talk: Vladimir Klitschko (L) has said he is ready to give David Haye some therapy.

For over a decade, brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have harbored the exotic dream of sharing the undisputed heavyweight title.

At age 35, Wladimir holds the IBO, IBF, and WBO belts while 39-year-old Vitali wears the WBC crown.

If Wladimir beats Haye, the current champion of the WBA, the brothers will realize their dream of owning the titles from every sanctioning body.

The result could be something of a nightmare for boxing.

Years ago, the brothers promised their mother they would never fight one another—and a title divided between champions who won't compete can't help shore up the wobbly heavyweight division.

European boxing fans couldn't care less.

They're enthralled with this long-percolating fight (4:45 p.m. on HBO), which may draw a capacity crowd of 50,000 to Imtech Arena.

American fans, on the other hand, are either indifferent to the outcome or ecstatic that the explosive Haye might finally blow up the career of the 6-foot-6 1/2-inch Ukrainian.

The Klitschkos, who assist in each other's corners, shatter every American boxing stereotype.

They both hold doctorates in sports science from the University of Kiev.

They speak four languages (German, English, Ukrainian, and Russian) and are elite-level chess players.

Wladimir (55-3, 49 KOs) packs a right-hand wallop second to none.

Almost 85% of his fights have ended in knockout wins.

Still, both he and his elder brother Vitali (who boasts the highest knockout percentage of any heavyweight champion in history at 88.6%) proceed cautiously, taking the time to soften up their rivals with thumping left jabs before delivering power shots.

In the U.S., boxing fans prefer heavyweights like Mike Tyson who takee risks by boring in quickly for a knockout.

In Europe, there's an appreciation for boxers like the Klitschkos who play chess with their punches.

A 1996 Olympic gold medalist, Wladimir ran up an impressive record of 40-1 before suffering a brutal knockout loss to Corrie Sanders.

A year later, he was trouncing the American heavyweight Lamon Brewster when he suddenly ran out of gas in the fifth round.

After this defeat, the legendary trainer Emanuel Steward helped the NFL-sized Wladimir learn to improve his balance, control the distance and calm down in the ring.

In 2005, he got up from three knockdowns to earn a unanimous decision over Samuel Peter, and has since barely lost a round in rolling up 10 consecutive victories.

Though most believe Vitali (42-2, 39 KOs) to be the tougher of the two, all agree Wladimir has more speed, power and pure boxing ability.

Because of his size and strength, Wladimir has been able to keep all of his recent challengers outside and on the end of his punches.

But some think Haye, who has the quickness of a middleweight and the punch of a heavyweight, will be the one who can slip Klitschko's jab, get inside and test Wladimir's less-than-iron chin.

Haye, 30, claimed his belt in 2009 when he beat the 7-foot Nikolay Valuev in a majority decision and has defended his title twice.

"Haye is fast and can really bang with both hands," said Hall-of-Fame trainer Angelo Dundee. "He is a serious threat to Klitschko and any heavyweight on the scene."

Haye has been dismissive to downright disrespectful about both the fighting heart and skills of the siblings and has pledged to put both Goliaths down for the count.

Wladimir ordinarily ducks the verbal sparring that attends big fights, but not this time.

"I'm going to take care of business," he said.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ukrainian Solar Plant Signals Green Power Drive

CRIMEA, Ukraine -- Ukraine has finished building its first solar power station, part of a drive to produce greener energy and reduce the country’s dependence on imported gas.


It wants alternative energy to make up to 30 percent of the total over the next four years; at the moment some 60 percent of energy resources comes from abroad.

Designed by Austrians, the plant’s scope is modest.

It will supply around 5,000 households in the small Crimean village of Rodnikovoe and the surrounding area, but Ukraine’s green ambitions stretch much further.

The country is the 12th largest energy market in the world and exports electricity to several neighbours. Its southern regions have a high potential for solar energy.

Next month should see the completion of another solar plant 60 kilometres (37 miles) away, providing power to 20,000 consumers.

Source: euronews

U.S.: Trial Of Ex-Ukrainian PM Politically Motivated

WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States has expressed concern over politically-motivated prosecutions of Opposition leaders in Ukraine.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

In a statement issued in the wake of the opening of the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said when the senior leadership of an Opposition party is the focus of prosecutions, out of proportion with other political figures, it creates the appearance of a political motive.

She urged the Ukrainian government to refrain from actions that create such an appearance and undermine the rule of law in Ukraine.

The United States has warned that it will "closely monitor the legal proceedings against Yulia Tymoshenko and other Opposition figures."

The Pecherskyi District Court of Kiev is set to begin full hearings in the criminal case against her on Wednesday.

Ukraine's prosecution charged Tymoshenko in December on suspicion of having abused her authority in signing gas contracts with Russia in 2009 while she was the country's Prime Minister.

Tymoshenko, who is also the leader of the Batkivschyna All-Ukrainian Association party, said she believed the criminal case accusing her of the embezzlement of funds allocated under the Kyoto Protocol was to prevent her from running in future elections.

Tymoshenko, who led a pro-democracy 'Orange Revolution' in 2004 that subsequently elevated her to power, served as Prime Minister until March 2010.

Tymoshenko's coalition Cabinet failed to survive a no-confidence motion in the Parliament, paving the way for the downfall of her pro-Western government.

It was a double blow for the 50-year-old blonde, who lost to Viktor Yanukovych in the presidential run-off.

Kiev-Moscow relations witnessed a dynamic transformation since then, resulting in close cooperation in the fields of defense and energy.

While Yanukovych says his government is dedicated to eliminating corruption in high office, Tymoshenko alleges that the case is part of political vendetta.

Source: RTT News

Dialogue Between EU And Ukraine Should Envision Future Membership - British MP

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The head of the British delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Robert Walter believes that dialogue with Ukraine needs to be conducted keeping in mind the country's future membership in the European Union.

British MP Robert Walter.

"The need for deepening and developing the relationship with Ukraine is natural and needs to be conducted in line with future EU membership of the country," said Walter, commenting on the Ukrainian President's speech at PACE.

The president's speech highlighted the matters of Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The main focus of the address was the European security and human rights protection in Europe as well as the ongoing reforms in Ukraine in the areas of constitutional law, parliamentary election procedures and corruption prevention.

Robert Walter believes Viktor Yanukovych sounded convincing while talking about domestic reforms.

According to the British politician, Ukrainian president made it clear that Ukraine is taking its commitments to adjust legislation in the way that will allow establishment and development of the democratic institutions seriously.

"I cannot speak on behalf of the EU but as a representative of the EU member I would like to underline the importance of development of relations with Ukraine in this direction [European integration - ed.]," said Walter. "Ukraine is an important Black Sea country for Europe," he continued.

Presently, European integration is one of the foreign policy priorities for Ukraine.

Signing the Free Trade Agreement is the main short-term goal of the Ukrainian integration process.

The 17th round of negotiations with the EU on the Free Trade Agreement is ended on June 24 with Ukrainian officials hoping to sign the Free Trade Agreement by October 2011 and agree upon the Association Agreement provisions in December.

According to the European Parliament Policy Department administrator Inna Kirsch, the Association Agreement is planned to be signed by summer 2012 while all the provisions of the document are to be settled at the Ukraine-EU summit in December this year.

Before signing the Agreement Ukraine is required to implement reforms to arrange for security and freedom as well as bring Ukrainian legislation in compliance with European standards.

Source: Worldwide News Ukraine

Art At Europe’s Edge

KIEV, Ukraine -- Natalya Zabolotna wants to make Ukraine a top destination for Modern Art. Now she just has to convince the monks.

Natalya Zabolotna at Art Arsenal in Kiev.

Think of Natalya Zabolotna as a six-foot-tall optimist, leading a revolution in her Louboutin heels.

The stunning lawyer and former reporter is the art diva of Kiev, and she’s determined to transform Ukraine’s capital—a cultural backwater for most of the last millennium—into one of Europe’s top art destinations.

Zabolotna’s greatest triumph so far is converting a disused brick arsenal into the largest museum in the former Soviet Union.

The building’s heavy arches and stone columns—constructed more than 200 years ago on the orders of Catherine the Great—smack of drab military utility.

Still, it’s an impressive property, commanding a view of the ancient bell towers and cupolas of Kiev’s 11th-century Monastery of the Caves.

Originally, former president Viktor Yushchenko planned to make the space into a museum of Ukrainian folk art.

Instead, Zabolotna gleaned input from the Guggenheim, the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf, and a dozen other leading curators, and filled the Art Arsenal’s long, vaulted chambers with contemporary pieces by big-name Ukrainian and Western artists such as Arsen Savadov, César Baldaccini, and Arman.

Even before the Arsenal’s roof was finished and the plumbing installed, Zabolotna staged an exhibition of street-art stick figures by Swiss graffiti artist Harald Naegeli, along with hundreds of contemporary paintings that featured, among them, a kinky, naked Vladimir Lenin and Napoleon sporting a monkey’s face.

A few months later, Zabolotna got her hands on a private collection of Degas sculptures and sound-video-light installations from European galleries.

Lines to the museum snaked around the block—a rare sight at Ukraine art venues.

Not all Ukrainians have been so thrilled by the Arsenal.

Last fall as Zabolotna was preparing for the Art-Kiev Contemporary art fair, five police officers showed up with a complaint from the museum’s neighbors—the orthodox monks at the Monastery of the Caves.

“The church suspected I was building a podium for strip shows,” she says.

As a peace gesture to the monastery, she agreed to remove a painting of a crucified, bleeding monkey from the exhibition.

In addition to outraged monks, Zabolotna has faced the hurdle of funding the museum.

Initially, the state was skeptical of the project, so she turned to local businesses and private donations.

Since then, the state has slowly come around, and President Viktor Yanukovych’s aides have talked about pouring $150 million into the museum to turn it into Ukraine’s answer to Paris’s Centre Pompidou.

In another positive sign, Yushchenko has been appointed chairman of Zabolotna’s advisory board.

Still, until the government comes through, the museum’s expansion plans remain on hold.

Fortunately, the money Zabolotna has raised is enough to fund a new art event every month—by and large, showings of Ukrainian artists.

Ever since the George Soros–funded Center For Contemporary Art opened in Kiev 18 years ago, Ukraine has been generating some of the most interesting contemporary art in Europe.

The new generation of artists is fueling a boom in Kiev’s private galleries and has been shown in international venues such as the Venice Biennale and Art Basel.

Kiev’s appetite for art is inexhaustible, and it’s stoking Zabolotna’s ambitions: next year, she’s negotiating to bring 100 masterpieces from French museums to the Arsenal.

Despite the difficulties getting the Arsenal up and running, Zabolotna is undaunted.

Perhaps Art Arsenal won’t ever be in the European mainstream—but on the edge of the continent and the edge of contemporary art, is exactly where things get interesting.

Source: Newsweek

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ukraine Secretly Ramps Up Ties With NATO: Report

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine is ramping up cooperation with NATO, dealing a blow to Moscow's hopes that its neighbour would align itself closer to Russia under President Viktor Yanukovych, a report said last Tuesday.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych

The Kommersant Ukraine daily, citing a secret document on Ukraine's programme with NATO for 2011, said Yanukovych sought closer ties with the bloc even more earnestly than his openly pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko.

The dramatic turnabout in Kiev's foreign policy comes despite Ukraine last year cementing in law its non-aligned status and amid disappointment over terms and conditions of rapprochement with the Kremlin, it said.

The confidential document approved earlier this year includes a schedule of 64 bilateral events, said the newspaper, adding that the two sides were set to discuss such sensitive issues as Ukraine's energy security, missile defence, and the future of Russia's Black Sea fleet based in Crimea.

Two meetings scheduled for June are set to address basic principles and strategy of Ukraine's foreign policy.

Asked about the report while on a visit to Strasbourg, Yanukovych said that Ukraine remained a neutral country.

"Our position remains unchanged: we have been and remain a non-aligned country, just as is dictated by our law," Yanukovych said in comments released by his office.

He added that Ukraine "has not and does not plan" to take any part in the new NATO missile defence shield for Europe, which Russia fears is aimed at its own defences.

Yanukovych has worked hard to improve relations between Moscow and Kiev since defeating the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in presidential elections last year.

Soon afterward he signed a landmark deal with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to keep Russia's Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea at least until 2042 in exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian gas exports to its neighbour.

But over the past months Kiev has grown disillusioned with the prospects of closer ties with Moscow which it says has tried to strong-arm Ukraine into joining the Russian-led customs union and threatened it with sanctions, the newspaper said.

"Moscow wants us to be in its orbit and pay for that too," a high-ranking source in the Ukrainian government told Kommersant. "It's not us who are pulling away from Russia. It is pushing us away."

Earlier this month Russia protested the arrival of a US Navy cruiser equipped with a ballistic missile defence system in the Black Sea to take part in naval exercises with Ukraine, saying it was a threat to its national security.

Ukraine's foreign ministry shot back saying the exercises did not present any "real or potential threat" for the countries of the Black Sea region.

Source: AFP

Ukraine, NATO To Carry Out Radioactive Clean-Up

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine and NATO will soon begin a joint ecological project to clean up the territory of Ukraine from military radioactive sources leftover from the Soviet era, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.


The issue was discussed Thursday in Brussels during a Ukraine-NATO commission's meeting at the level of ambassadors.

The ministry did not specify the area to be cleaned up.

'The members of the meeting noted Ukraine's initiative to launch a joint NATO-Ukraine project on the removal of radioactive sources from military origin left since the Soviet times and their safe storage in specialized places,' the ministry said adding that an agreement on the preparation of special measures for cleaning up the territory from the radioactive sources had been reached.

Ukraine has raised some $782 million for the completion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant shelter project during an international conference dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the disaster, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said in April.

An explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 resulted in highly radioactive fallout in the atmosphere over an extensive area.

A 30 km exclusion zone was introduced following the accident.

Source: RIA Novosti

European Championships 2012 Guide: Poland/Ukraine Venues and Teams

SAN FRANCISCO, USA -- With all that is happening regarding the ticketing for the London Olympics next year, one may be forgiven for forgetting a small matter of the European Championships, also in 2012.

Next Year's European Championships will be joint-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

Perhaps the most decorated and prestigious sporting event that is the Olympics may take precedence in 2012, yet it does not lessen the significance of Europe’s prestigious football prize—especially to the host nations.

Poland/Ukraine

The 2012 European Championships will be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, currently ranked 71st and 35th respectively in the FIFA world rankings.

This will be the first time either Poland or Ukraine have hosted a major football championship, beating Italy and another joint bid from Croatia and Hungary to host the competition.

Therefore, it goes without saying, they will aim for it to be a memorable spectacle.

With Poland and Ukraine’s place at the championships guaranteed as the host nation, the onus is on the remainder of Europe to continue to perform if they wish to join them.

The qualifying rounds are in full flow, with few games left to play and vital points to pick up to earn a place at next year’s finals.

Venues

The venues for Euro 2012 will consist of eight host cities shared evenly between Poland and Ukraine.

The four cities in Poland will be Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw and Warsaw, while cities in Ukraine that will see play include Lviv, Kiev, Donetsk and Kharkov.

National Stadium Warsaw, Poland

The opening match of Euro 2012 will be staged at Warsaw, Poland, at the currently under construction National Stadium Warsaw. Construction for the stadium, built within the old National Stadium, began in 2008 and is expected to be completed at the end of this year.

As well as the opening match, the National Stadium is expected to showcase matches from the group stage, quarter final and semi-final.

The stadium will boast a retractable roof and a 60,000 capacity, as it is set to be used as a multisport stadium after the European Championships. The stadium will be the future home of the Poland national team.

Baltic Arena, Gdansk, Poland

Located in the city of Gdansk is the Baltic Arena, which will become the home ground for club side Lechia Gdansk. Construction began in 2008 and is near completion.

With its 40,000 capacity it will stage group games as well as a quarter final.

Napoleon once said Gdansk was the “key to everything.” Teams competing in the city will be hoping it is the key to success.

Municipal Stadium, Poznan, Poland

The Municipal Stadium Poznan is situated in the city of Poznan. Opened in 1980 and with a capacity of 40,000, it is home to Lech Poznan.

In 2003 renovation work started, and it is expected to be Poland’s largest club ground once it is completed. The city will host only group games next summer.

The name of Poznan is loosely translated to “one who is recognised.” Any player competing in Poznan will be hoping to stand up and be counted—and be recognised on Europe’s grandest stage.

Olympic Stadium, Wroclaw, Poland

As with the Municipal Stadium, the Olympic Stadium in Wroclaw will host only group games. With a capacity of 40,000, it is currently the home ground for Slask Wroclaw.

The post war reconstruction of the city was an inspiration of Pablo Picasso. Those competing in the city will be expecting similar inspiration also to progress further in the competition.

Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, has a stadium with a capacity of 77,000, but it is due to be reduced to 60,000 for the championships. It is the largest venue of the joint host bid, with it also being given a new transparent roof. It will be the stage for group matches, quarter final and semi-final.

Once portrayed as “joy of the world,” teams will be hoping for joy after 90 minutes. The final is due to be hosted in Kiev, should conditions be met by certain deadlines.

Donbass Arena, Donetsk, Ukraine

The Donbass Arena in Donetsk is the home ground for well-known Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. The arena, opened recently in 2009, has a capacity of 50,000 and will play host to group games, quarter final and semi-final.

The stadium is home to Shakhtar, who have enjoyed domestic success as well as European success, winning the last UEFA Cup final. Any team competing at the Donbass Arena will take to heart the winning mentality around the grounds.

Metalist Stadium, Kharkov, Ukraine

Another host city to stage just group games is Kharkov and its Metalist Stadium with a capacity of 50,000. Kharkov is the second largest city in Ukraine, but anyone participating in the group stage will not want to finish second best.

New Lviv Stadium, Lviv, Ukraine

Once part of Polish territory, Lvov is now a city in Ukraine. It will host group games at next year’s tournament in its New Lviv Stadium, with a modest 30,000 capacity.

En Route to 2012: Qualifying Groups

Current European champions Spain are making light work of Group I, as they maintain a 100 percent record, winning their five matches played.

The Czech Republic are seemingly likely to join them after recovering from the shock of an opening defeat to Lithuania.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal find themselves deadlocked in a three-way tussle for top spot in Group H with Denmark and Norway. All three sides are on 10 points with only marginal goal differences separating them.

With each team only having lost once it remains to be seen who will come out of the group, as winners and runners up.

Having failed to qualify for Euro 2008, England are likely to return to the European stage in Group G, along with Montenegro who gained independence from Serbia in 2006. Neither side has lost a match yet and remain level on 11 points.

England may be favourites to finish top, yet they won’t take anything for granted after missing out altogether four years ago.

Greece, European champions in 2004, currently top Group F by one point over Croatia and Israel. Yet to lose a game in six matches, Greece could qualify from the group as winners leaving Croatia and Israel to fight for the runners up place.

If these two collapse, Georgia could still qualify for their first tournament since being part of the Soviet Union.

As with Spain, the Netherlands proudly hold a 100 percent record in Group E with 18 points following six successive victories.

Sweden, three points ahead of Hungary, may just take the runners up place, with Hungary having played a game more and Sweden having lost just once. Their match in September could decide each team’s fate.

After the shambles of the World Cup, France have become a rejuvenated side and top Group D. A point behind, but a game ahead of them lie Belarus, who look set to qualify for a tournament for the first time since being a part of the Soviet Union.

However, with few remaining games left to play, Bosnia and Herzegovina will believe they have a good chance of qualifying. They are two points behind Belarus with a game in hand.

Italy, who lost in the quarter finals in 2008 to eventual winners Spain, top Group C comfortably, having accumulated 16 points out of 18 and remaining unbeaten.

One would think Slovenia are the most likely to take second spot, being two points more ahead of Serbia, Estonia and Northern Ireland.

In Group B, the Republic of Ireland are in a great position to qualify for the European Championships for the first time since 1988. They top the group in goals scored after being locked on 13 points with Russia and Slovakia.

With Republic of Ireland due to play Slovakia and then Russia in their next two fixtures, qualification could look a lot clearer come September.

And in Group A, Germany also have a winning streak of seven games and are all but guaranteed qualification. No one seems even close to catching them.

Belgium, 10 points behind, and Turkey are destined to fight it out for second place.

Favorites in 2012

It is currently a great time for Spanish football. One of their club sides are champions of Europe and are being dubbed the greatest side ever—a side that contains seven Spaniards.

However, they say internationally is where it counts, and Spain are speaking loud and clear. Holders of the European Championship—not to mention World champions—Spain are undoubtedly favourites to retain their title and be the first team ever to do so.

Germany and the Netherlands look to be going about themselves in perfect fashion, maintaining 100 percent records in their respective groups. They too will be among the favourites to make it to the quarter finals, at least.

Despite their lack of a World Cup, the Netherlands have done well in the past decade, reaching the quarter final and two semi-finals at the European Championships.

They will hope to continue progressing and get to the finals—and potentially win the tournament after 22 years.

Being runners up in 2008 to Spain, Germany have enjoyed relative success in getting to the latter stages of tournaments in recent years, including World Cup runners up in 2002 and third place in 2006 and 2010.

Germany will be hoping to go one better next year and claim victory at the European Championships, for the first time since 1996.

Below them is the pool of teams, Portugal, England, France and Italy who will be hoping to ensure they commence to the knockout stages of next year’s competition—providing they qualify to get there.

The race to Euro 2012 seems a bit more clear cut than that of the London Olympics next year. While hundreds of people are missing out on next year’s games in the capital, a trip to Poland and Ukraine remains up in the air for a few.

Source: Bleacher Report

Ambassador From Ukraine: Who Is Oleksandr Motsyk?

WASHINGTON, DC -- Oleksandr Motsyk was appointed as Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States on June 11, 2010.

Oleksander Motsyk, the newly appointed Ambassador of Ukraine in Washington, presented to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, the Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America, and the Letters of Recall of the previous Ambassador.

Motsyk was born on May 3, 1955, in the village of Horodets Volodymeretskoho, in the Rivne region of the Ukraine.

In 1981 he graduated from Kiev State University’s School of International Relations, Department of International Law, as an English language interpreter and international law specialist.

Motsyk entered the diplomatic service while Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (MFA), initially serving as Third Secretary, Consular Section, from July 1981 to May 1985.

He then became Third and Second Secretary of International Organizations (May 1985 to April 1987); Second and First Secretary of the Personnel Department of the MFA (April 1987 to September 1990); and Director First Secretary of the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs of the MFA (September 1990 to April 1992).

From April 1992 to August 1995, Motsyk served as Second and First Secretary, and Counselor, at the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York.

From August 1995 to November 1997, he was Director and Chief-of-Control of the MFA’s Contractual and Legal Department.

In November 1997, he was appointed Ukraine’s Ambassador to Turkey, a post he held for four years.

From September 1999 to November 2004, Motsyk was Ukraine’s Representative to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

In Ukraine’s MFA, he served as Deputy State Secretary (November 2001 to July 2003), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (July 2003 to July 2004), and First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on European Integration (July 2004 to February 2005).

From February to December 2005, Motsyk held the position of First Deputy State Secretary and First Deputy Head of the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine.

He was then appointed as Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland, a post he held until June 2010.

In addition to being ambassador to the United States, Motsyn represents Ukraine as its ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda.

Motsyk and his wife, Natalia, have two daughters. He speaks English, Russian and Polish.

Source: AllGov

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ex-Ukraine PM To Go On Trial For Abuse Of Power

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko must stand trial next Wednesday on a charge of abuse of power, a judge ruled in a pre-trial hearing late on Saturday.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (R) speaks to the judge during her court hearing in Kiev on June 25, 2011.

The charge carries a jail term of at least seven years.

Judge Rodion Kyriyev threw out objections by Tymoshenko and her defence that the charge against her was politically motivated and that President Viktor Yanukovich was behind it.

Earlier, the 50-year-old political firebrand had continued to argue that the accusation against her, which relates to the signing of a 2009 gas deal with Russia when she was in power, was part of a wider political plot.

“The aim of this trial is the liquidation of a working opposition in Ukraine,” she said, before Kyriyev handed down his ruling.

“Consideration of the case is set for June 29 at 10 a.m.,” Kyriyev declared, after emerging from deliberations.

Tymoshenko, twice prime minister and now in opposition, has alleged Yanukovich, her bitter political foe, was the instigator of a crooked court action that was certain to convict her.

Though Western governments have not come down publicly on her side, visiting EU politicians have told the Yanukovich leadership they are concerned over the possible use of “selective justice” in Ukraine.

The gas supply agreement ended a stand-off between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbour over the pricing of Russian gas which had led to supplies being cut off to Western Europe.

It has since been denounced by the Yanukovich leadership as a sell-out, though Kiev is continuing to observe it.

The prosecution alleges that Tymoshenko, without consulting her government, forced the then-head of state energy firm Naftogaz to sign the gas deal with Russia’s Gazprom .

She denies this.

“I did not break the law so where is the basis for the 7-10 years sentence which our ’bought’ state prosecutor wants pronounced against me?” she asked on Saturday before the judge made his ruling.

While a few hundred of her supporters braved torrential rain on the streets of Kiev to express their solidarity, Tymoshenko used her oratory in the courtroom to berate Kyriyev, whom she denounced on Friday as a Yanukovich “puppet”.

Refusing to stand to address the court, she told Kyriyev: “Since this is an ordered operation by the President, I permit myself to act towards the court as it does towards me. When the court becomes honourable, only then will I address you as ’Your Honour”’.

She also asked for other accusations against her, including misuse of government funds received in exchange of emission quotas sold to Japan under the Kyoto protocol, to be heard by the court.

Tymoshenko became known as the “gas princess” in the late 1990s as owner of a company which bought and sold Russian gas.

With her trademark peasant-style hair braid, she became an international figure in 2004 when she led the “Orange Revolution” street demonstrations that ultimately doomed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency.

She went on to serve two terms as prime minister. But in February 2010, with many people disillusioned that the Orange Revolution leaders had failed to deliver on their promises, she lost to Yanukovich in a bitter fight for the presidency.

Though remaining very popular across the country, she has failed to unify the opposition around her since her defeat.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

Kiev Expects Chinese Investment Deluge After Hu Jintao’s Visit

WASHINGTON, DC -- China’s President, Hu Jintao, signed important political and trade documents during his June 18 – 20 visit to Ukraine, winding up his CIS tour in which he also visited Kazakhstan and Russia.

Chinese President Hu Jintao meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych.

While Beijing is interested mainly in military-technical cooperation, Kiev views China as primarily a source of investment for its weak economy.

Although the practical meaning of the documents signed should not be underestimated, the symbolic benefits for Kiev from establishing personal contacts with the leader of the world’s second largest economy may be even more important.

This was the first visit to Ukraine by a Chinese leader in a decade.

Prior to his arrival in Kiev, Hu spent a day in Crimea with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, after which he called Ukraine “a close friend and important partner for China”.

While Kiev has been struggling for years to move closer to the European Union and fend off Moscow’s attempts to draw Ukraine back into its orbit, relations with China were largely neglected, reaching their nadir under the previous Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko.

However, Yanukovych after his election as president in February 2010 proclaimed China as one of his foreign policy priorities.

He met with Hu Jintao twice before Hu’s visit to Ukraine, including his visit to China in September 2010.

It should be relatively easy for pragmatic Yanukovych to conduct business with China as, unlike Brussels and Moscow, Beijing does not set uncomfortable political conditions for developing economic cooperation.

Yanukovych and Hu did sign a political document but it did not require sacrifices from Kiev.

The strategic partnership declaration signed in Kiev on June 20 obliges the two sides to respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the economic and political model of the partner state.

China and Ukraine also pledged to develop close cooperation in the UN, and China promised not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine as a non-nuclear state.

The Ukrainian daily Segodnya, which is close to the ruling party, reported on June 21 that Kiev hopes to develop an exclusive relationship with China through representing its interests in Europe once Ukraine signs a political association agreement with the EU, hopefully this year.

Yanukovych and the Ukrainian media stressed the importance of the economic accords reached with China.

Yanukovych and Hu agreed that trade turnover between the two countries should reach $10 billion compared to $6 billion last year, when bilateral trade increased by 50 percent compared to 2009.

Yanukovych said economic agreements worth $3.5 billion were signed with China, but he did not provide details.

Yanukovych’s aide for national projects, Vladislav Kaskiv, specified that this figure was only a forecast for the end of 2011 while the single investment project thus far launched with China is the railroad link from Kiev to the international airport of Boryspil, for which China’s Eximbank agreed to lend $372 million under Ukrainian government guarantees.

The documents signed in Kiev also included a protocol on information exchange regarding exports and imports, an agreement on Chinese assistance in education to Ukraine worth $12 million and a memorandum between the two countries’ energy ministries which provides for joint oil and gas projects, information exchange on strategic energy facilities and cooperation in nuclear energy.

Yanukovych invited Chinese investors in agricultural and infrastructural projects and offered Ukrainian participation in the construction of nuclear plants in China and in joint nuclear projects in third countries.

He also offered Ukrainian pipes and compressors for the gas pipeline project which China and Russia are about to conclude.

The Ukrainian Coal and Energy Ministry said in a press release that it agreed with the Chinese company Sinohydro to jointly build hydropower stations in Ukraine.

Ukraine and China also signed a contract aimed to restore production at the Oriana potash fertilizer producer in Western Ukraine, which has been idle for almost a decade.

No specific figures were provided on the investment projects let alone military-technical cooperation, which Yanukovych and Hu must have discussed behind closed doors.

There was no press conference and the two leaders made only short statements to the press after their talks.

Details of the military-technical agreements reached will emerge in the local press only later as it often occurs on such occasions.

China is reportedly especially interested in Soviet-Ukrainian technologies to make engines for warships, in particular for aircraft carriers.

Ukraine recently supplied engines for the first Chinese aircraft carrier to be launched this year.

Ukraine sold its hull, which is the still-born Soviet aircraft-carrying cruiser Varyag, to China in 1998.

China is also interested in Ukrainian Antonov aircraft, the R-27 air-to-air missiles and anti-tank missiles, the 6TD-2 tank diesel engines and the Zubr hovercraft.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Yulia Tymoshenko: Ukraine's 'Iron Lady'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's ex-prime minister, who went on trial Friday, has combined feminine charisma with a hard-edged pragmatism in over a decade in the rough world of Ukrainian politics.

Yulia Tymoshenko at the beginning her court hearing.

Far from being perturbed by a trial for abuse of power that could see her jailed for several years, Tymoshenko entered the courtroom Friday in one of her trademark pastel suits with her golden hair braid, as ever, intricately knotted on her head.

But the woman known in Ukraine as the "Iron Lady" after her heroine Margaret Thatcher or sometimes as just "Vona" ("She") has had to draw on all her reserves of political steel after a traumatic one-and-a-half years.

After helping lead the Orange Revolution and serving as prime minister, in early 2010 she set her sights on the top job of president but lost out in a bitterly personal contest to her arch-rival Viktor Yanukovych.

She stayed uncharacteristically silent for days after losing in the final round in February 2010, apparently already sensing that the consequences of her defeat would be more than just political.

Within months of losing the elections, prosecutors opened a criminal probe against her and she now faces charges on three separate counts of abuse of power.

Tymoshenko was forced to sign a pledge not to leave Kiev during the investigation and, although she has not been jailed, she has also witnessed the imprisonment of several former top allies in similar probes.

These included her former interior minister Yury Lutsenko, who staged a month-long hunger strike to protest his imprisonment but remains in detention.

"All authoritarian regimes are built on fear. It is very important to be able to cope with fear," Tymoshenko, who spent several weeks in prison half a decade ago, said earlier this year.

"I am not a monster without emotion. I have fear like any other person. But you can master it."

Tymoshenko, 50, has traditionally been seen as pro-Western, compared with Yanukovych's more pro-Russian tilt.

But she has repeatedly shown a capacity to shed her political skin and latterly while in power sought to position herself as being on good terms with Moscow, especially with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Born in the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine, Tymoshenko won prominence and allegedly huge wealth in the chaotic 1990s as head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, which imported Russian gas.

One of her mentors from that era was former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who helped her build up the business and is now jailed in the United States for embezzlement and money laundering.

Tymoshenko became a deputy prime minister under the presidency of Leonid Kuchma in 1999 but was fired in 2001 after falling out with him.

In a dramatic sequence of events, she was then briefly imprisoned on charges of forgery and gas smuggling.

The charges, which she says were politically motivated, were quashed in 2005 in mysterious circumstances.

Her businessman husband Olexander, whom she married as a teenager, was implicated in the same scandal and spent a year in jail and then two more years hiding from the authorities.

Tymoshenko was the chief ally of former President Viktor Yushchenko in the 2004 Orange Revolution that swept the old pro-Kuchma order from power, and she served twice as prime minister under Yushchenko's presidency.

But the pair's relationship descended into sometimes comical bickering as the two former Orange heroes developed an implacable enmity.

The Tymoshenkos' daughter Yevgenia, meanwhile, sparked tabloid interest in 2005 with her marriage to Sean Carr, a British hard rock musician.

Source: The Telegraph

Friday, June 24, 2011

Yulia Tymoshenko Attacks Ukraine Judge As 'Puppet Of The President'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yulia Tymoshenko, the darling of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, has denounced a judge trying her on abuse of office charges as a puppet of the country's "Soviet-style" government.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (R) looks on, while her lawyer Sergei Vlasenko wipes beads of sweat, during a pre-trial hearing at a city court in Kiev June 24, 2011.

Calling her trial which began on Friday "a farce," the glamorous former prime minister claimed that she was being politically persecuted by President Viktor Yanukovych who narrowly beat her to the presidency last year.

"Yanukovych is a coward. He is afraid of political competition and opposition," she said, sporting her trademark blonde hair braid and a beige designer suit.

His aim was to remove her from the political arena and he would therefore ensure that she was found guilty, she added.

On trial for allegedly abusing her power as prime minister when she brokered a gas deal with Russia in 2009 that prosecutors claim lost Ukraine the equivalent of £118 million, she denies any wrongdoing.

"The court system has been privatised by Yanukovych and his circle," she said, before telling the presiding judge, Rodion Kireyev, that he should withdraw himself from the case due to his alleged partiality.

"I declare you a puppet of the presidential office," she told him amid a stifling court room in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

The 50-year-old Ukrainian opposition leader shot to global prominence in 2004 when she helped lead the pro-Western Orange Revolution which overturned a fraud-tainted electoral victory by Mr Yanukovych, the current president.

She then served two stints as prime minister in the administration of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.

But the two personalities frequently clashed, and though some progress was made, much of their time appeared to be wasted bickering with one other.

An admirer of Baroness Thatcher, Mrs Tymoshenko is also facing two other sets of similar charges.

With parliamentary elections looming next year and a presidential vote in 2015, she believes the aim is to disqualify her from contesting them by having her classified as a convicted felon.

Source: The Telegraph

Ukraine's 'Iron Lady' Goes On Trial

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's "Iron Lady" Yulia Tymoshenko on Friday goes on trial for alleged abuse of power in a case she has dismissed as a political vendetta orchestrated by her opponent President Viktor Yanykovych, AFP reported.

Yulia Tymoshenko

One of the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004 and Ukraine's former prime minister, Tymoshenko narrowly lost out to her old rival Yanukovych in presidential elections last year, becoming his fiercest critic.

She is now the target of several investigations including for abuse of power that allegedly caused severe financial losses for Ukraine after the country's row with Moscow over Russian gas deliveries in early 2009.

"This kangaroo trial will take place on personal orders of Viktor Yanukovych," Tymoshenko said this week.

"Everything that happens around me is an attempt by Viktor Yanukovych to eliminate me as his competitor," she said, describing her case as bearing "the hallmarks of political repressions."

Tymoshenko is accused of causing a loss to the former Soviet republic's budget of 1.5 billion hryvnia ($190 million) when she signed a new energy contract with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after a brief interruption of gas deliveries in early 2009.

The charges carry a sentence of between 7 and 10 years, jeopardising Tymoshenko's ability to take part in parliamentary polls next year and the next presidential elections in 2015.

Analysts have previously said that it was not in the Yanukovych administration's interests to jail the 50-year-old charismatic prime minister as a new jail term would reinforce her image as a martyr.

But her lawyer said he had a sense of foreboding about the upcoming trial set to begin 0600 GMT in central Kiev.

Source: FOCUS News

Ukraine Reopens Audio-Tape Probe

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Kiev court ordered prosecutors to reopen an investigation into audio recordings made more than a decade ago, to determine once and for all whether they link former President Leonid Kuchma to a journalist's grisly murder.

Leonid Kuchma

Prosecutors have cited the recordings, which a former presidential bodyguard says he made in Mr. Kuchma's office from 1999 to 2000, in linking the ex-leader to the murder of the journalist, whose headless body was found buried in a forest outside Kiev in November 2000.

Mr. Kuchma, 72 years old, has long insisted the recordings were doctored.

His lawyers on Thursday prevailed in persuading a Kiev court to order an investigation into how and why the bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, made the tapes.

The ruling was the latest twist in a saga that has gripped Ukraine—both by dredging up explosive allegations against Mr. Kuchma and raising questions about why they are surfacing now, under the leadership of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was once a Kuchma protégé.

Prosecutors appointed by Mr. Yanukovych surprised many in Ukraine in March when they charged Mr. Kuchma with actions they say led to the murder of muckraking journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Mr. Kuchma denies the charge and currently awaits trial.

The prosecutors have said they have authenticated the portion of the tapes that pertained to the Gongadze murder.

But until recently they insisted they couldn't prove the tapes' authenticity and never used them in court.

It wasn't clear immediately after Thursday's ruling how the tapes would be authenticated.

But the conclusion could go a great distance in helping to frame the last decade in Ukrainian politics.

Some political analysts say Mr. Yanukovych is trying to display his power and independence, and say the case against the man who elevated him to prime minister in 2002 is timed to blunt Western concerns about criminal probes into other opponents, which U.S. and European Union officials say appear to be politically driven.

"It's a diversionary tactic," said opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who is set to appear in court Friday in a separate case on charges of abuse of power.

Opponents of Mr. Yanukovych say the criminal case against Mr. Kuchma could be designed to vindicate him.

Mr. Yanukovych, in a recent interview, denied any political motivation and said the case would be decided by a court.

The tapes' release more than 10 years ago was a watershed event in Ukraine, which was shocked by audio recordings and transcripts that appear to capture the foul-mouthed president along with current and former top officials implicating themselves in crimes ranging from rigging elections to stealing state assets.

Mr. Melnychenko said he has "thousands of hours" of recordings from 1999 to 2000 that depict cronyism, corruption and impunity.

The tapes have never been fully released but Mr. Melnychenko and others familiar with extracts said voices on them include those of Mr. Yanukovych, then a regional governor, and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, then head of the powerful state tax administration.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Yanukovych declined to comment on whether his voice was on the tapes.

Mr. Azarov said through a spokesman that the recordings weren't authentic.

Renat Kuzmin, a senior prosecutor, said other recordings hadn't yet been investigated.

The U.S. has given credence to one extract from the recordings.

In 2002, the Bush administration froze aid to Ukraine after authenticating a section in which Mr. Kuchma appears to approve the sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

In extracts first leaked to journalists by an opposition politician in November 2000, Mr. Kuchma allegedly discussed with top officials how to silence Mr. Gongadze, a harsh critic of his rule who founded a news website that published investigations into government corruption.

In one widely circulated audio file, a voice that Mr. Melnychenko and others familiar with the tapes allege is Mr. Kuchma's pesters then-police chief Yuri Kravchenko to get rid of Mr. Gongadze.

The voice on the file says: "Throw him out, drive him out, give him to the Chechens."

Those revelations triggered a protest movement against Mr. Kuchma that culminated in the Orange Revolution in 2004, which propelled Viktor Yushchenko into office ahead of Mr. Yanukovych, the incumbent's hand-picked successor.

Mr. Yushchenko pledged during his campaign to solve the crime, but while three police officers were convicted of the murder and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, critics continued to press for an investigation into who masterminded the killing.

The mystery around the case deepened in 2005, when Mr. Kravchenko, the police chief, was found dead from two gunshots to the head in what investigators called a suicide.

After Mr. Yanukovych won Ukraine's February 2010 presidential election, prosecutors said Mr. Kravchenko ordered the murder, a move critics called a coverup.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

EU Hails Breakthrough That Russia And Ukraine Will Join Its Nuclear Stress Test System

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union said Thursday that Russia and Ukraine are among seven nations to join their nuclear stress test program to examine whether atomic power plants can withstand accidents and disasters.

Nuclear Power Plant

The 27 EU nations agreed on such a program last month and had called on other countries to join the plan.

Thursday’s announcement was a first big breakthrough to expand the program.

Under the tests, “experts from other countries will evaluate the assessment carried out by their national experts,” the EU said in a statement.

Armenia, Croatia, Switzerland, Turkey and Belarus were the other nations joining the program.

“This is a huge joint step forward, for us, and for the neighbors on the European continent,” EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.

Russia also applauded the move and wanted more countries to join.

“We urge them to conduct the tests and ... exchange results,” Sergey Kirienko, the head of Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom said in a statement.

The EU test should last through much of the rest of the year and the final results will be announced publicly by April.

The idea of performing “stress tests” on nuclear plants arose because of the accidents at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

European nuclear plants are being regularly checked as it is, but under the system, the checks will be toughened up and coordinated across the EU and face peer review by multinational teams of experts, who could decide at short notice on checks on location.

The EU itself has 143 nuclear reactors. Russia has 32, and another 11 under construction.

Ukraine, site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has 15 with two under construction.

Source: The Washington Post

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ukraine Disrupts $72M Conficker Hacking Ring

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's security service said Thursday it had disrupted a cybercrime ring that cost the banking industry more than $72 million using Conficker, a fast-spreading worm unleashed in 2008.

Click on above image to see larger size.

The hackers allegedly used Conficker to spread antivirus software, according to a translation of a news release from the SBU, the Ukraine's state security service.

The antivirus software, however, contained malware that collected online banking details.

The SBU said it conducted 19 raids on Tuesday in tandem with law enforcement in other countries.

Latvian police arrested two people, and more than 40 financial accounts were frozen in banks in Cyprus and Latvia.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation also participated in the investigation along with agencies in the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Germany, Cyprus, Latvia and two other unnamed countries, according to the release. Thirty servers were seized in countries outside the Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities questioned 16 people and have seized computer equipment, documents and money. SBU and FBI officials with knowledge of the case could not be immediately reached.

Conficker, also known as "Downandup," was one of the most severe computer security problems in recent years. It took advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft's software, infecting at least 3 million PCs and possibly as many as 12 million, forming a massive botnet.

The problem grew so bad that a group of companies and organizations formed the Conficker Working Group in late 2008 to research the malware and find ways to block it.

In February 2009, Microsoft offered $250,000 as a reward for information that lead to the conviction of the person or people who wrote Conficker.

Source: Computer World

Iran, Ukraine Team Up To Build Planes

KIEV, Ukraine -- A senior Ukrainian aviation official says Iran and Ukraine plan to cooperate on the construction of 78 Antonov-148 aircraft.

Ukraine's An-148 plane.

Dmitry Kiva, the chairman of the Kiev headquarters of the Antonov Aerospace Company, made the remarks at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday, and expressed hope that all the planes would be manufactured by the end of 2011, DPA reported.

Kiva stated that Antonov and the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company have signed a contract to manufacture the planes.

He went on to say that Antonov will produce the twin-engine mid-range turboprop for the mid-range jet airliner.

The Iranian Defense Ministry has been manufacturing a licensed version of the Antonov-148 since 2009.

The manufacturing cost of each An-148 unit, which can carry between 68 and 99 passengers, is estimated at between $18 and $22 million dollars.

Iran is cooperating with Ukraine and Russia in the production and operation of the Antonov An-140 airliner, which can carry 52 passengers.

After purchasing the production license for the An-140 from Ukraine in 2000, Iran built its first Iran-140 passenger plane in 2003.

First test-flown in 1997, the An-148 has a range of 2,100 to 4,400 kilometers.

Source: Press TV

Jordan, Ukraine Sign Five Deals To Boost Ties

AMMAN, Jordan -- His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday held talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych which focused on boosting bilateral relations, as the two sides admitted that much has to be done in that regard.

His Majesty King Abdullah reviews the guard of honour with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych upon his arrival in Kiev on Wednesday.

The two leaders also examined the latest regional developments and efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution as well as several regional and international issues.

The two-way talks, followed by a broader meeting attended by HRH Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammad, the King’s special adviser and personal envoy, and several officials, addressed means to push cooperation between the two countries, especially in the economic field.

The two sides agreed to take “institutional and tangible steps” to encourage mutual investments through better liaisons between the Jordanian and Ukrainian private sectors, highlighting potential in the energy, technology, transport, railway and military sectors.

On Middle East peace, King Abdullah emphasised that the two-state solution is the sole formula that leads to an independent Palestinian state, in accordance with the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

On the sidelines of the visit, the King and the Ukrainian president attended the signing of five agreements to boost diplomatic, health and military cooperation and combat money laundering.

At a joint press conference, the King noted that the Jordanian-Ukrainian economic relations still do not reflect the desired level.

“There is a lot of work to be done and we are taking our countries further towards this direction,” King Abdullah said.

With regard to the agreements signed between Jordan and Ukraine, King Abdullah voiced confidence that the deals will pave the way for better ties.

King Abdullah highlighted the mega-projects that Jordan is implementing in the fields of energy, water and railway, pointing out that these projects entail good opportunities for the private sector to invest in.

“We need to activate the Jordanian-Ukrainian ministerial committee to increase visits of economic delegations and set up trade fairs in the two countries,” the King added.

On his talks with the Ukrainian president, His Majesty said the meeting provided the chance to examine the developments in the Middle East region, noting that Ukraine can play an effective role to assist the Middle East to overcome the challenges facing it and work to boost chances for peace.

Addressing the press, Yanukovych lauded King Abdullah’s efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.

“We highly appreciate the intensive efforts led by His Majesty King Abdullah to achieve peace in the Middle East and boost the security and stability of the region and its people.”

Yanukovych also asserted Ukraine’s support for the efforts exerted to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He emphasised the King’s visit to Kiev as a significant step towards better relations.

Also yesterday, King Abdullah presented Yanukovych with the Nahda Medal of First Order while the Ukrainian president conferred upon King Abdullah the medal of distinction, awarded to world leaders and statesmen in appreciation of their achievements.

Moreover, the King held talks with Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Vladimir Lytvyn during which they stressed the need to exchange parliamentary and legislation-related expertise. Discussions also focused on the Mideast.

Means to upgrade economic cooperation also were at the centre of the talks His Majesty held with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Source: The Jordan Times

Europe Wants Ukraine To Meet Its Standards

KIEV, Ukraine -- European integration remains the “invariable priority” in both Ukraine’s home and foreign policy, as claimed by the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych when speaking for the third time at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) session in Strasbourg.


The main points of his speech were on the fulfillment of Ukraine’s commitments to the Council of Europe (CoE), the fight against corruption and dialog with the opposition.

Previously, PACE President Mevlut Cavusoglu noted after his meeting with Yanukovych: “We welcome and support the priorities of the Ukrainian presidency in the Council of Europe. We also welcome and support the reforms in Ukraine, in particular the ones concerning the constitution, election legislation and cleanup of corruption.”

Meanwhile, the CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland assured that the CoE will provide Ukraine with any necessary help in carrying out the reforms.

However, the questions asked by the MEPs showed that they expected to hear something else from him.

Hence PACE has adopted a resolution in which it first of all called on the Ukrainian authorities “to ensure that judicial measures are not used selectively, and investigations, prosecutions and trials are held with maximum transparency” and warned the Ukrainian authorities against “the possible use of criminal law as a tool to achieve political ends”.

Secondly, PACE “is worried by the growing selective prosecutions of the opposition leaders in Ukraine and the disproportional measures used in the case with Tymoshenko and the former Interior Minister Lutsenko.”

That is why the first question asked by the MEPs concerned the persecutions of the Ukrainian opposition.

A group of popular parties wondered why they refused Yulia Tymoshenko’s request to come to Strasbourg.

Yanukovych replied that he supports the thesis that the Ukrainian politicians shouldn’t have any borders. “[However], I, as president, don’t have any right to order the investigator or the Prosecutor General to let somebody go somewhere,” he added.

When commenting on whether the situation with Tymoshenko can affect the image of Ukraine abroad, Yanukovych claimed that his prime interest is that the image of the country doesn’t suffer from the claims about political persecutions, in particular, of the former Prime Minister Tymoshenko.

“If you ask me this question, I would have done something to eliminate this process with Tymoshenko [and her claims about political persecutions],” he stated.

It should be noted that the question of selective persecution of the opposition and the ban on free movement for the opposition leaders is the main problem issue in the dialog between the EU and Kiev.

British ambassador Lee Turner has also emphasized this.

This is well-known in Mykhailivska Street but, in all probability, Bankova Street doesn’t want to even hear about it and uses the correct yet formal excuse that all the decisions are made by the public prosecutor.

Obviously, the Ukrainian government has to do its best to make the trials of the opposition as transparent as possible.

They should probably reach an agreement with the opposition, in particular the fraction BYuT-Batkivshchyna that approached Yanukovych with a letter asking to ensure a fair trial for Tymoshenko.

“We ask the Ukrainian president to assume the measures provided by his powers concerning the unprejudiced and fair investigation and to make the trial public,” reads the letter.

The fraction BYuT-Batkivshchyna also insists that the public and the media have access to the courtroom and asks to provide the corresponding premises, namely the Ukrainian Home conference room.

Besides, the fraction also insists on the direct transmission of the session on the First National channel since this trial isn’t an ordinary one and the case is resonant.

Source: The Day Weekly Digest