Monday, October 31, 2011

Ukraine Prosecutors Probe Tymoshenko Over Killing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prosecutors said they are investigating whether jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was involved in the contract killing of a lawmaker in the 1990s, the latest in a slew of allegations against the Ukrainian president's chief political opponent.

Yulia Tymoshenko's alleged troubles with the law continue.

The murder probe raises the ante in the Ukrainian government's confrontation with the U.S. and Europe, which see the various charges against Ms. Tymoshenko as politically motivated.

Earlier this month, Ms. Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years for abuse of office, a sentence widely denounced in Ukraine and the West as an attempt by President Viktor Yanukovych to permanently sideline his opponent after years of rivalry.

Ms. Tymoshenko has appealed the conviction.

On Friday, Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said on a Ukrainian political talk show that prosecutors were checking claims that Ms. Tymoshenko was involved in ordering and paying for the murder of lawmaker and businessman Yevhen Shcherban, who was shot and killed at an airport in 1996.

"The country and society need to know what really happened," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Tymoshenko, Natalia Lysova, dismissed the allegations as "rubbish," adding that "the attempts by Yanukovych and his allies to get rid of their political opponents know no limits."

U.S. and European Union officials have pushed for Ms. Tymoshenko to be freed, and the EU has warned that her continued incarceration could ruin a planned trade and political-association pact.

But authorities have resisted, and in addition to abuse-of-office charges have announced two new criminal investigations into the former businesswoman relating to her time as head of a gas company in the mid-1990s.

She is also under investigation in two other criminal cases.

She denies all charges against her.

Political analysts say the government has continued to pile on new charges against Ms. Tymoshenko in a bid to undermine her standing in the West.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian Prosecutors Want To Question Ex-PM Lazarenko Again In U.S.

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office hopes for assistance from U.S. agencies in arranging another questioning of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is serving a prison term in the U.S., regarding the United Energy Systems of Ukraine corporation's debts.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko.

"I traveled to the United States last year to take part in the questioning of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Lazarenko at a California prison."

"That questioning lasted for two days, and that trip was quite productive. But I must say one such questioning is not enough for the investigation."

"We need to question [former Prime Minister Yulia] Tymoshenko, Lazarenko, [Petro] Kyrychenko [Lazarenko's former aide], and other participants in numerous shady dealings known to everyone," First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said on Inter television channel on Saturday.

"Such a request for the U.S. government and competent agencies does exist, as well as there are problems with receiving such assistance," Kuzmin said.

"We have been trying to set various dates for questioning Lazarenko once again, but unfortunately the final date has still not been set for a year. Therefore, we hope that the U.S. will help us deal with the criminal cases that we are investigating," he said.

Some officials from the U.S. Prosecutor General's Office have been granted U.S. entry visas after former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was convicted for her role in concluding the 2009 gas supply contracts between Ukraine and Russia, he said.

Source: Interfax

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Russia Still Hopes Ukraine Will Join Customs Union

WASHINGTON, DC -- Ukraine has made considerable progress in the free trade talks with the EU during the past several months.

Dmitri Medvedev (L), Alexander Lukashenka (C) and Nursultan Nazarbayev (R), presidents of member countries of the Eurasian Customs Union.

Kiev and Brussels are planning to sign an association and free trade agreement in December 2011, as the free trade talks were completed in Brussels on October 19.

Earlier this year, Kiev firmly rejected Moscow’s invitations to join a competing project, the Russia-dominated Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan).

However, this did not discourage Russia, whose leaders probably inspired by the recent tension in relations between Ukraine and the EU over the prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, this month reiterated their calls for Ukraine to prefer the Customs Union to the EU.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is expected to return to the presidency next year, insisted at a recent investment forum in Moscow that Customs Union membership would benefit Ukraine more than free trade with the EU.

He reiterated his earlier claim that Ukraine would earn an additional $9 billion per annum if it joined the union because its market would be open to Ukraine’s metals, pipes and agricultural goods.

Putin also claimed that if Ukraine reached a free trade agreement with the EU, the European market would remain closed to Ukrainian agricultural produce while its ship-building industry would stop developing and its aerospace industry would “die out.”

At the same time, Putin admitted that Moscow’s efforts to lure Kiev into the Customs Union have thus far been in vain.

Customs Union Executive Secretary, Sergey Glazyev, spoke more about the presumed benefits of membership for Ukraine in Greece on October 9.

He claimed that Ukraine’s GDP would rise by 34 percent over next 10 years if it joined the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space into which the union would be later transformed.

By contrast, if Ukraine concluded a free trade agreement with the EU, Ukrainian exports would fall by some $2 billion per annum, and Russia would stop cooperation with Ukraine in the aerospace industry, machine-building, ship-building and energy fields, Glazyev warned.

Glazyev also boasted that trade between the three current union members rose by more than one third year-on-year in the first half of 2011.

While Russia may have benefited from establishing the Customs Union, this is not necessarily true of the other members, judging by recent complaints from the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka.

Speaking at a recent press conference for Russian journalists, he blamed the global economic crisis, high Russian energy prices and the Customs Union for the severe currency crisis in Belarus.

In particular, Lukashenka recalled that the prohibitive duties imposed on imported cars last summer, benefited the Russian car industry, but prompted Belarusians to rush to buy used cars imported from the EU early in the year.

As a result, he said, Belarus lost $3 billion. Lukashenka complained that conditions for Customs Union members have been unequal.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, Borys Kolesnykov, rejected Moscow’s warnings, speaking on a talk-show on Inter TV on October 7.

He explained Putin’s invitations to join the Customs Union by the desire to increase Russia’s sphere of influence and reiterated that Ukraine may not join because it is bound by obligations to the (World Trade Organization).

While Ukraine joined the WTO in 2008, none of the three CU members has achieved that yet.

Kolesnykov flatly dismissed Moscow’s grim predictions on Ukraine’s aerospace and ship-building industry.

He said neither the EU nor Russia has been the main markets for Ukrainian aircraft and predicted that the domestic ship-building would continue to develop in partnership with EU shipyards.

Kolesnykov’s optimism was based, in particular, on the results of the September round of the free trade talks with the EU.

Brussels agreed to increase two- to four-fold the quotas on agricultural imports from Ukraine, Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk announced.

This had been one of the few remaining stumbling blocks in the talks.

As a result, the import to the EU of Ukraine’s main agricultural commodity, grain, should double.

Ukrainian meat, egg, sugar and biofuel producers also expect a breakthrough in trade with the EU.

Despite all the progress and the optimism of Ukrainian officials, Russia still has reason to hope that the talks with the EU will fall through in which case Ukraine may reconsider its attitude to the Customs Union.

EU officials made it clear recently that the association and free trade accord could be blocked at the stage of ratification next year over Tymoshenko’s prosecution even if the accord itself were finalized this year.

The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, confirmed this at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on October 10.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels, scheduled for October 20, was postponed indefinitely over Tymoshenko.

Meanwhile, meeting with Yanukovych in Donetsk on October 18, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged Ukraine to act fast, saying that although Russia did not set any time frame for Ukraine to join the Customs Union, Kiev would have to either become a full member soon or choose its own way.

Yanukovych cautiously replied that Ukraine would prefer to see how the union works in practice and wait for Russia and Kazakhstan to join the WTO first.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Tymoshenko Sentencing A Tragic Use Of Selective Justice

KIEV, Ukraine -- Experienced trial lawyers worldwide realize that media reports of high profile cases quite often do not accurately reflect the judicial event they narrate.

Ukraine's president Yanukovych is determined to keep Yulia Tymoshenko behind bars for a long time.

However, if the overwhelming majority of press and other observers describe a persistent pattern of prosecutorial overreaching and politicization, then the matter calls for closer scrutiny to determine the correctness of these commentaries.

The conviction and sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine, has now become, in the words of Alice in Wonderland, "curiouser and curiouser."

Has the Queen of Hearts of Orange Revolutionary fame lost her political head and personal freedom in a politically biased judicial execution?

If so, on what evidentiary basis and was it in a fair and just manner?

The vast majority of observers in Ukraine and abroad recognized from the onset that the prosecution was politically motivated and constituted selective justice.

No amount of breast-beating protestation to the contrary will alter this obvious truth.

The Ukrainian prosecutors had fair warning from the international community that continuing on the selective justice path was a fool's errand and would not only discredit Ukraine's government, but also the Ukrainian judicial system and would most likely endanger Ukraine's geopolitical interests.

Regrettably, the prosecution preferred to blindly ignore these dire warnings and commenced a surreal Kafkaesque trial which had spiraled virally out of control, inflicting irreparable damage to any vestige of Ukrainian prosecutorial or judicial credibility in the eyes of the world.

Yulia Tymoshenko was criminally convicted of exceeding her authority as Ukraine's prime minister in January 2009, for allegedly instructing, without the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers, governmentally owned NAK Naftogaz to enter into financially unfavorable long term gas contracts with Russia's Gazprom, resulting in purported economic damage to Ukraine.

There was no allegation or any evidence of personal financial profit.

This type of criminal conviction is reminiscent of Soviet-era justice where errors in political or economic judgment (or failure to meet harvest output quota) would conclusively relegate the transgressor to a gulag in Siberia.

As was noted by the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the accusations against Tymoshenko would not be considered criminal in other democratic countries — rather; they would have political or civil consequences only.

In the US, acts committed by government officials which are beyond their political authority are routinely declared null and void and of no effect by courts as being ultra vires, or "beyond the powers", without imposing criminal responsibility.

The evidence on which the Tymoshenko conviction was based, viewed in the most favorable light for the prosecution, puts into question whether her criminal conviction was convincingly and justly proved even under Ukrainian law.

After all, is it not universally accepted in democratic societies that the prosecution has the burden of proof to establish the defendant's guilt to a reasonable certainty?

During the course of the Tymoshenko trial, a parade of witnesses testified as to the claimed damage occasioned to Ukraine as a result of the alleged wrongful conduct of the former prime minister.

Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko lent his voice to the chorus condemning his former ally, claiming she betrayed Ukrainian interests by agreeing to an inflated price with Gazprom.

In stark contrast, the Russian Foreign Ministry, probably motivated to come forward by self interest in preserving the 2009 contracts, was quick to denounce his testimony as a lie stating that Yushchenko was fully aware of the negotiations and even confirmed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the Ukrainian prime minister was authorized to do so.

Other prosecution witnesses have further impeached the credibility of the prosecution's own case and testified that Tymoshenko's acts were within the realm of her authority as Ukrainian prime minister or had the presumption of validity since the gas contracts were not invalidated by the courts.

Nor did the prosecution's own actions help rehabilitate its credibility either.

It had opposed the defendant's call to question former officials of her government or to call as witnesses the obviously indispensable parties who negotiated the gas contract on the Russian side.

Most importantly, the prosecution had failed during the trial to ask its witnesses — especially Yushchenko — why none of them initiated a court action in January 2009, or at anytime thereafter, to declare the 2009 gas contracts invalid.

The issue of the validity of the contracts was a question of public debate since January 2009.

This issue was the sole lynchpin centerpiece in the case against the former prime minister.

Surely, persons in the government or the opposition had a right, if not a duty, to do so if they sincerely believed that the prime minister exceeded her powers.

Why did the Yushchenko administration and the present administration continue to abide by the terms of the 2009 gas contracts if they contradicted Ukrainian law?

Tymoshenko's prosecution, on the basis of the feeble evidence presented, now puts the prosecution in the unenviable position — if one follows basic logic — of having to prosecute the present and past governments for criminal complicity on the grounds that they continued to honor contracts which they knew to be invalid.

If the Ukrainian prosecutors fail to do so, it will only cement the prevalent world opinion that the criminal conviction and sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko was solely a politically motivated act.

The Tymoshenko conviction and sentencing are a very tragic step backwards and a serious setback in the democratic evolution of the Ukrainian nation.

Unless this miscarriage of justice is promptly reversed, the Ukrainian judicial system will stand convicted as an arm of a totalitarian state, and Ukraine could be precluded from furthering its integration into the European community.

It is hoped that the anticipated appellate review process within the Ukrainian legal system will swiftly rectify this tragic miscarriage of justice and curtail the geopolitical damage that will inevitably befall Ukraine.

It should be remembered that the Tymoshenko conviction is no longer about her but about the future prospects of Ukraine as a democratic society that respects the rule of law — a just and fair society that the Ukrainian people deserve.

Source: Jurist

Ukraine Gives Red Light To Cars From Uzbekistan

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- On 15 November Ukraine will introduce import restrictions on cars made in Uzbekistan. The new limit of three cars per year will be enforced for three years.

Uzbek Nexia vehicle produced by GM Uzbekistan.

The Ukrainian authorities introduced the new regulation in response to ‘discriminatory actions on the part of Uzbekistan,’.

The pretext for the strict quota on vehicles produced by GM Uzbekistan was Uzbekistan’s decision to increase excise duties on goods coming into the country.

The new duty rates will increase the cost of cars imported from Ukraine into Uzbekistan by at least 150% and will make them uncompetitive on Uzbek markets.

In Ukraine, their newly imposed excise tax on new small cars will apply to producers as well as exporters.

The Ukravtoprom (car manufacturers’) association believes that exchange rate regulations in Uzbekistan are designed to give its domestic car producers a competitive advantage and to block the imports of competing goods from abroad.

Ukraine’s refusal to buy the Uzbek Nexia and Matiz cars is not expected to have a huge impact on the profits of its producer, the Uzbek-US joint venture General Motors Uzbekistan.

However, the decision by Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers could create a problematic precedent for Uzbek car producers.

If Ukraine’s decision is copied by the other main imports of GM Uzbekistan cars – Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, then the company’s export sales will be reduced to zero.

It is doubtful that this could happen in the near term, however.

According to Uzavtoprom figures, in the first nine months of 2011, GM Uzbekistan increased its sales to Russia by 31%.

Nevertheless, if other importers of small cars do follow Ukraine’s example, it is hard to predict how this will affect buyers on the domestic market.

It seems likely that Uzavtoprom would hike car prices again.

The last time Uzbek car producers increased their domestic prices was on 24 March 2011, with hikes of between 7% and 20% depending on make and model.

Source: UZnews

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ukrainian Leader May Sack Key Ministers

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych may fire up to five key ministers next week over allegations of inefficiency, a Ukrainian weekly said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A government source told the Zerkalo Nedeli Ukraina weekly there was a “heightened degree of anxiety” in the cabinet after Yanukovych’s chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin, accused the country’s ministers of not doing enough to act on the president’s instructions.

Only a third of them ever get to be implemented, Lyovochkin told a reform committee earlier this month.

The paper said Defense Minister Mykhaylo Yezhel, Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, Culture Minister Mykhaylo Kulynyaka, Health Minister Oleksandr Anischenko, and Finance Minister Fedir Yaroshenko may all be sacked when Yanukovych attends a cabinet meeting on November 2.

Speaking to Radio Liberty earlier this month, Yanukovych’s spokesman said the president was concerned about the cabinet’s work but had “no personal prejudice against individual ministers.”

Source: RIA Novosti

PGO Requests United States Permission To Question US-Based People Involved In UESU's Operations

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Prosecutor-General's Office has requested permission from the United States to question people involved in the operations of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine corporation (UESU).

First Deputy General Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin.

First Deputy General Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin made this statement on the "Big Politics with Yevgeny Kiselyov" program on the Inter television channel on October 28.

"I was in the United States last year (2010), I participated in the interrogation of (former prime minister Petro) Lazarenko in a California prison... One such interrogation is not enough for the investigation."

"We need to question Tymoshenko in connection with these cases, Lazarenko, (Lazarenko's former business partner Petro) Kirichenko, and other participants in many questionable operations that are on everyone's lips... Such a request for consideration by the government and competent authorities of the United States exist, just like problems involving provision of such assistance exist, generally speaking," said Kuzmin.

According to him, the Prosecutor-General's Office has been discussing the date of interrogation of Lazarenko with representatives of the American authorities for the past one year but a final date has not yet been set.

Kuzmin expressed the hope that the United States will assist Ukrainian law enforcement authorities in investigating the criminal cases that were filed against Tymoshenko in connection with her activities as the head of the UESU.

Kirichenko was a business partner of Lazarenko in the 1990s.

However, during the trial of Lazarenko in the United States, Kirichenko, who was also accused of money laundering, pleaded guilty and became the main prosecution witness against former prime minister in exchange for his freedom.

In September this year, prosecutors from the Prosecutor-General's Office detained Kirichenko's wife Isabella, who was in Kiev ostensibly to sell her husband's Kiev apartment.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, on October 20, the Prosecutor-General's Office canceled its resolution on closure of the criminal case that was filed against Tymoshenko on suspicion of stealing UAH 25 million ($3.1 million) in state budget funds and tax evasion of more than UAH 20 million ($2.5 million) in taxes during settlements for natural gas by UESU.

Source: Interfax

Largest Solar Plant In Central And Eastern Europe Opens In Ukraine

CRIMEA, Ukraine -- The 80 MW power plant in Southern Ukraine has opened its fourth, final line and will produce an annual 100,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.

The Okhotnykovo solar power plant in Crimea, Ukraine.

The Okhotnykovo solar power plant is the world´s fourth most powerful photovoltaic park after Canadian Sarnia, Italian Montalto di Castro, and German Finsterwalde.

The new power plant in Southern Ukrainian Crimea is capable of producing enough energy to meet the needs of 20,000 households.

The work of the Okhotnykovo park will help save energy and protect the environment by reducing Ukraine´s carbon dioxide emission by 80,000 tons per year.

The solar power plant in Okhotnykovo, Crimea, is a part of the country´s national Natural Energy project.

The State Agency of Ukraine for Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation launched the project in 2010.

It is aimed at producing electric energy from the green, "clean" sources - the sun and the wind - in the amount of 2,000 MW.

The objective of this initiative is to supply the area of Crimea with electricity that requires low transportation cost, as well as preserve the environment of the region, making these areas even more attractive to tourists.

The state agency expects the production share of alternative energy to make up to 30 percent of Ukrainian energy market before 2015.

The project executive - the Austrian company Activ Solar has just opened an office in the South Ukrainian megalopolis Odessa and stated the desire to further its activity in the region.

Previously, the CEO of the Activ Solar Kaveh Ertefai said: "Project of this scale means a radical change of solar energy development in Europe, while securing Ukraine´s position as renewable energy provider."

Ukraine has a great potential at the market of the solar energy projects.

The solar radiation in the country reaches the capacity of 800-1450 W/msquared per year.

The southern regions of Ukraine have the highest potential for the solar energy production.

The main incentive for the growth of Ukraine´s solar Photovoltaic market is the so-called green tariff system, approved by the state in September 2008.

The system introduced fixed feed-in tariffs for electricity from renewable sources for the period of 20 years.

Source: Wallstreet Online

Tymoshenko’s Trial And Its Consequences For Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- On October 11, 2011, the Pechersk District Court of Kiev sentenced ex-prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to seven years in jail.

Russian opposition Yabloko party activists, wearing Ukrainian national flower head bands, rally to demand freedom for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.

The reason for this was the misuse of powers by the ex-prime minister during the completion of the gas agreement with Russia in 2009.

The decision of the court was followed by the new trial initiated by the Security Service of Ukraine against Tymoshenko.

The basis for new criminal case was the $405.5 million debt of the company United Energy Systems of Ukraine, headed by the ex-prime minister, to the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation.

Since the debt has not been paid yet, the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation sent a letter to the Ukrainian government demanding to pay off the debt.

While the Russian side refused to initiate a case within the Russian Federation, the Ukrainian Security Services started proceedings.

Tymoshenko is being accused of transferring the debt of the company to the Ukrainian budget.

What Do These Proceedings Mean for Ukraine?

According to Freedom House’s recent report, Tymoshenko’s trial symbolizes the end of the open policy in Ukraine.

The policy of President Viktor Yanukovych shows that the regime has moved from democracy toward semi-authoritarianism.

One of the first steps in this direction was the abrogation of the constitutional amendments that were adopted during the Orange Revolution and came into force in January 2006.

These amendments broadened the powers of the parliament, giving Verkhovna Rada the right to appoint the prime minister and other ministers of the cabinet, as well as the general prosecutor with the president’s recommendation.

Ukraine was to become a parliamentary presidential republic.

The revocation of the amendments was initiated by the pro-presidential Party of Regions faction in the parliament.

They strengthened presidential powers, giving him the right to appoint the cabinet as well as to dismiss it, appoint one-third of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine and form other courts.

The next step was the neutralization of the opposition leaders.

Thus, in May 2011, the Pechersk Court of Kiev initiated the case against one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, ex interior minister, Yuriy Lutsenko on the basis of the misuse of powers that is still under consideration.

The most scandalous, however, was the criminal case launched against ex-prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko.

She was accused of misusing public finances in 2009 during gas negotiations with Russia to deliver Russian gas at artificially high prices.

The case provoked a range of responses from international actors.

The EU High Representative Catherine Ashton expressed concern about the political motivation behind the Tymoshenko trials and reminded of the necessity to respect the rule of law in the country.

U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the International Republican Institute and Wilfred Martens, President of the European People’s Party, urged the allowance of Tymoshenko to travel abroad in order to participate in the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

However, these concerns fell on death ears.

Apart from these violations, mass media reported the refusal of the law enforcement agencies to provide medical care for ex-prime minister, as well as pressure on the members of her family.

During Tymoshenko’s trial, the Bat’kivshchina faction in the Ukrainian parliament initiated a law that would de-criminalize economic offences.

However, the Party of Regions, holding the majority in the parliament, did not support the bill.

As the Ukrainian deputy from the Party of Regions Aleksandr Yefremov noted: “In this way the officials could escape the responsibility for the misuse of powers.”

The trial on the misuse of public finances in 2009 presupposes the revision of the gas agreements.

However, it can be said that the Russian party will agree on this only if Ukraine accepts two conditions: Customs Union with the Russian Federation and Naftogaz’s cooperation with Gazrom.

In this way Russia can establish the control over Ukraine that it is seeking.

Tymoshenko’s Case and the Association with the EU

One of the main arguments against Tymoshenko’s case was the future of the Association Agreement with the EU.

The level of democracy in Ukraine, violation of human rights, oppression of the opposition, and the economic orientation of Ukraine toward former Soviet republics do not let Europe see Ukraine as a trustworthy partner.

“Although the schedule of the Kiev – EU negotiations on association and the free trade zone was not changed, the completion of these agreements will depend on the changes in the Ukrainian political situation and the response to European Union’s expectations, “ stated the French Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In his turn, Viktor Yanukovysh says that Tymoshenko’s case should not be mixed up with the Ukraine-EU association partnership.

Moreover, he adds that if the European Union is not ready to include the perspective of the membership of Ukraine in the EU into the agreement, Ukraine is ready to postpone the signing of agreement.

As a response, Brussels postponed Yanukovych’s visit scheduled for October 20 – the door into the European Union for Ukraine was closed softly.

Such a confident position of the president demonstrates that Ukraine is expecting a respectful attitude from the EU as toward an equal partner, and sees Timoshenko’s trial as a more important task than the association with the EU.

In any case, Yanukovych has an alternative plan that is the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Even though Ukraine is not eager to join the Union, in which three countries are not WTO members while Ukraine is, and in which Russia is the main player, the Customs Union can have some advantages for the country, such as gas discounts.

Moreover, Yanukovych signed the free trade agreements with the CIS states.

Signed by all CIS members except Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on October 18, the document will abolish the export and import duties on many goods.

However, the agreement makes certain exemptions for a number of products to which the contract will not apply.

However, this is a temporary measure: the treaty establishes a specific time period during which all of these exemptions will be eliminated.

Trials: More to Come

Having sentenced Tymoshenko to seven years on the grounds of misusing of power and public finance, the Security Services launched new case.

It is related to the 2006-2007 agreements on the supply of construction materials by the United Systems of Ukraine Corporation to the Russian Defense Ministry and the exchange of Russian gas.

At the same time, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said that criminal cases against Tymoshenko closed in 2005 by Sviatoslav Piskun should be revisited.

These included the assassination of the Ukrainian deputy Yevhen Shcherban’ in November 1996.

The idea of these trials is to present to Ukrainian citizens how many criminal cases ex-prime minister was engaged in, and to impose the responsibility of all economic and other crimes on the main leader of the opposition.

In conclusion, the sentence – seven years in jail plus three years in which Tymoshenko cannot occupy any official post – will not allow her to participate in the upcoming elections (parliamentary elections of 2012 and 2017, and presidential of 2015 and 2020).

It means Tymoshenko will not be an opponent for Yanukovysh during the two next presidential terms, and will not compete during the 2020 election campaign.

In addition, Tymoshenko will be discredited as a politician.

Moreover, economically, all responsibility for the economic loss of Ukraine (not only the damage of the 2009 contracts) will be imposed on Tymoshenko, although Yushchenko as an acting president in 2009 agreed to the gas contracts.

On the other hand, however, her ratings are rising.

The number of her supporters is increasing, as well as the number of foreign political figures and institutions concerned with the situation in the country.

Tymoshenko’s image as a martyr attracts ordinary people and draws their attention to Ukrainian politics.

Finally, important to note that the situation is burdened by the political-geographic division of the country, where the eastern and southern regions support incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych and central and western regions favour Yuliya Tymoshenko.

This division determines different economic orientations of the various regions of Ukraine and jeopardizes the political situation in the country.

Source: Turkish Weekly

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ukraine or Borderland?

WASHINGTON, DC -- In the Russian language, Ukraine has two meanings: one, the country of 43 million people that lies on the north coast of the Black Sea, and two, “on the border” or “borderland.”

Steven Pifer, author of this article, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000.

For most of the past 20 years, Kiev’s foreign policy aimed, and largely managed, to fix on Europe’s geopolitical map the first meaning rather than the second.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is now undoing that.

Ukraine became independent in 1991.

In 1994, as Washington contemplated the enlargement of NATO, Boris Tarasyuk, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, met Strobe Talbott, the U.S. deputy secretary of state. Tarasyuk noted that NATO’s enlargement to include states such as Poland and Hungary would prompt a negative reaction from Moscow — and also raise a dilemma for Kiev.

How could Ukraine avoid becoming a gray zone of insecurity, or a borderland, between an enlarged NATO and Russia?

Talbott agreed that the Ukrainians deserved a good answer to the question, and finding one became a priority task for the Clinton administration’s Europe policymakers.

Washington moved to expand its bilateral relationship with Ukraine, establishing in 1996 a strategic partnership and a bilateral commission chaired by Vice President Al Gore and President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine.

One year later, NATO and Ukraine agreed to a distinctive partnership and set up the NATO-Ukraine Council to promote stronger links between Kiev and the alliance.

The goal was straightforward: to deepen ties between the West and Ukraine and thereby reassure Kiev that it would not find itself an isolated borderland as the enlargement of NATO and the European Union transformed Europe’s geopolitical landscape.

In 2002, Kiev adopted the goal of joining NATO.

While Ukraine’s relations with the European Union developed more slowly, they also acquired greater breadth and depth.

Following the 2004 Orange Revolution, Viktor Yushchenko made joining the Euro-Atlantic community his primary foreign policy objective and sought a membership action plan with NATO.

He was considerably ahead of the Ukrainian public on the question of NATO membership, though Ukrainians strongly supported closer E.U. links.

More critically, Yushchenko failed to address his country’s key domestic problems.

A disillusioned Ukrainian electorate turned to Yanukovich in 2010.

On assuming office, Yanukovich stated that his first foreign policy priority would be to repair a badly frayed relationship with Moscow.

He also made clear that Ukraine would balance its relationships with Russia and the West.

He stressed the importance of deepening Ukraine’s integration with the European Union, most immediately through the negotiation of an association agreement and comprehensive free trade arrangement.

He regularly brushed aside Moscow’s entreaties to join a customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

While some in the West regretted that Kiev no longer sought to join NATO, a closer Ukraine-E.U. relationship seemed a good answer to the question that Tarasyuk posed in 1994 about keeping Ukraine from becoming a borderland.

This is now in danger.

The democratic backsliding that has occurred under Yanukovich, recently epitomized by the trial of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, threatens Ukraine’s links with the West.

E.U. officials have canceled one planned Yanukovich visit to Brussels.

While negotiation of the association and free trade agreements may continue, their completion is in jeopardy.

Parliamentarians from E.U. states say the agreements have zero chance of ratification as long as Tymoshenko remains in prison.

As the European Union grapples with the euro-zone crisis, Yanukovich’s democratic backslide offers those Europeans who always were skeptical about E.U. engagement with Kiev a handy excuse to oppose it.

In parallel, Ukraine’s relations with individual Western countries seem headed for a freeze, as Yanukovich is increasingly viewed as another Aleksandr Lukashenko — the Belarus strongman — rather than an aspiring E.U. leader.

Yanukovich seems to recognize the risks of isolation, especially for his dealings with the Kremlin.

Ukrainians voice frustration that although Kiev in 2010 acted to address major Russian concerns, Moscow has done little on issues of importance to Ukraine.

The Russian government, for example, continues to pursue a natural gas pipeline under the Black Sea that would take gas that now travels through Ukraine.

The deterioration of Ukraine’s relations with the West will likely embolden Moscow to press Kiev harder.

Thus, on its current course, Yanukovich’s domestic repression will leave Ukraine precisely where it did not want to be: in a gray zone between Europe and Russia.

Yanukovich may not intend this, but that does not matter.

He is making Ukraine into the borderland it had long sought to avoid.

Source: The New York Times

MEPs Blast Kiev Over Tymoshenko Verdict

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- In a rare show of unity in the European Parliament, political groups across party lines deplored the conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as a violation of human rights and an abuse of the judiciary designed to silence Ukraine's leading opposition figure.

Yulia Tymoshenko has considerable support in the EU parliament.

MEPs warned In a resolution adopted yesterday (27 October) that a failure to review Tymoshenko's conviction will jeopardise the prospects of concluding and ratifying an EU-Ukraine association agreement.

A court in Kiev sentenced Tymoshenko on 11 October to seven years in prison for abuse of office in the negotiation of a gas deal with Russia in 2009, when she was prime minister.

According to the verdict, Tymoshenko will not be able to run in a parliamentary election due next year.

Minutes after the verdict, the EU issued strong statements, calling the ruling 'politically motivated' and warning of negative consequences for Kiev's push to sign an association agreement with the EU.

After several days of discrete communication between Brussels and Kiev, EU leaders decided that a milestone visit of President Viktor Yanukovich on 20 October should be 'postponed' until conditions would be more "conducive to making progress" in bilateral relations.

Yanukovich's visit was expected to help wrap up the conclusion of an EU-Ukraine association agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU by the end of the year.

The European Parliament resolution urges Ukrainian authorities to ensure that legal proceedings in any appeal of Tymoshenko's conviction or in trials of other members of the former government are fair, transparent and impartial.

MEPs insist that Tymoshenko should be allowed to participate fully in the political process both now and in the forthcoming elections in Ukraine.

MEPs fear that the Tymoshenko trial is at odds with Ukraine’s proclaimed commitment to democracy and European values, and voice concern at signs of decline in democratic freedoms, and the possible use of state institutions for partisan purposes and political revenge.

MEPs also expressed alarm over reports of deteriorating media freedom and pluralism in Ukraine.

Door still open?

However, MEPs leave the door open for the conclusion of a trade agreement and signing the association agreement before the end of the year.

The resolution says that if the Ukrainian authorities provide a concrete plan to resolve the "unacceptable situation" around Tymoshenko, further steps in EU-Ukraine relations would be possible, depending on the implementation of such a plan.

MEPs stated that Yanukovich’s postponed visit to Brussels might have helped achieve progress over technical and political obstacles to initialling an association agreement.

They are urging the Council and Commission to reschedule the meeting so that it takes place before the planned EU-Ukraine Summit in December.

Commission to help legal reform

MEPs also called on the European Commission to support judicial reform in Ukraine by making better use of the EU's capacity-building programme and to consider setting up an advisory group to help the country fall in line with EU legislation, including in the judiciary.

Brussels is concerned over plans by Kiev to introduce new legislation on elections, ahead of the 2012 legislative ballot.

Ukrainian calls to wait for the final conclusions of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe specialised body in assessing such legislation, were ignored, EurActiv sources said.

The President of the European People's Party (EPP) Wilfried Martens warmly welcomed the resolution.

"The EPP supports the deepening of EU-Ukraine relations as long as the country is stable and democratic and respects the principles of the social market economy, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities and guarantees fundamental rights.

"The EPP recognizes that the Ukrainian authorities have chosen another way, i.e. violating human rights, breaching the European values, abusing of the judiciary for the purpose of the political suppression of opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The EPP regrets that President Viktor Yanukovych has broken the promise - given to many senior EU leaders and officials, myself included – of proposing a legal solution to decriminalize the articles selectively applied against Tymoshenko that date back to the Soviet times and do not conform to European and UN standards.

"The EPP considers that, under such negative circumstances, no agreement between the EU and Ukraine can be signed and that President Yanukovich bears full responsibility for this blockade and urges President Yanukovich and his party, the Party of the Regions, to immediately end this prejudicial situation," Martens said.

Source: EurActiv

Opposition TV Channel Disappears From The Airwaves

ODESSA, Ukraine -- The independent television company Krug has disappeared from the airwaves in Odessa.

Company employees are convinced that the authorities in Odessa are trying to prevent the only opposition channel from broadcasting.

Krug employees sent an appeal to a number of people: the head of the Odessa Regional State Administration, Eduard Matviychuk; the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych; the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Viktor Pshonka; Chairman of the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine, Vasyl Tsushko, as well as a number of embassies of the European Union states, international human rights organizations, trade unions and unions of journalists.

The text of the appeal says that on 18 October, the signal of the only opposition TV and radio company, Krug, disappeared from cable networks of "Chorne More" and "Breeze" operators.

These operators retransmit broadcast signals to residents of Odessa who live in the Kiev and Suvorov districts of the city.

The official reason: the distribution company CTV-Odessa had no on-air signal.

CTV-Odessa engineers told Krug's editorial staff that the modulator of the distributive TRC Krug channel "burned out".

Meanwhile, the signals of all other channels were being transmitted smoothly.

CTV-Odessa employees refused to say how long it would take to fix the problem, citing the fact that the owner, Dmitry Zubov, would solve this problem.

Meanwhile, Mr. Zubov has not given an indication of the repairs necessary nor allocated funds for them.

According to the channel management, the Odessa authorities are trying to close the only opposition channel in the city.

Besides, the statement says that this is not the first time the mayor of Odessa has tried to do this.

TRC Krug employees are withstanding another attempt by the authorities to close the channel because they do not like it, with deep indignation.

Earlier, Odessa Mayor Kostusev tried to evict the team of TRC Krug from their premises.

Following this, Kostusev tried to ruin the company with two lawsuits of 100,000 Ukrainian Hryvna (approx. US$12,500) each; the cases are still under consideration.

However, before reaching the desired conclusion, the municipality forced TRC Krug off the air.

The mayor's office reported that they had no connection to the disappearance of TRC Circle from the airwaves, but confirmed the information about the lawsuits.

In September 2011, three Kharkiv TV channels - ATN, Fora and A/ TBVK - stopped broadcasting after they were pressured by the local authorities.

Source: IFEX

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Russia: Putin Advances Eurasian Union

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian leader Vladimir Putin is pushing a controversial new idea. He wants to create a "Eurasian Union" to integrate the independent republics of the former USSR into a single economic — and eventually political — super-state.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is Russia's strongest leader in decades. Critics say he's a neo-imperialist bent on remaking the Soviet Union.

Putin bills it as an eastern version of the European Union. Critics see Russia's age-old imperial ambitions roaring back under a new name.

Amid the debate, most observers have yet to notice how rapidly Putin's brainchild is moving from rhetoric to reality.

Last week, at a meeting in St. Petersburg, eight former Soviet states signed a free-trade treaty that Putin hailed as a first step, possibly leading to full union within 4 years.

"Only in around 2015 may we approach the realization of the idea of creation of Eurasian Union if we work as energetically as we have been," said Putin, who is currently prime minister, but is widely expected to retake the reigns as president next year. "This is the matter of the future."

Among the trade pact's signatories was Ukraine, a country that until recently had been seeking a place among Western nations in NATO and, eventually, the EU.

Ukraine’s apparent drift back into Moscow's orbit is a remarkable sign of the times.

It testifies both to the rapid collapse of Western alternatives, as Europe grapples with its own dire crisis, and also to the rising fortunes of raw material-rich Russia.

The latter is now poised for twelve more years under Putin, its strongest leader in generations.

"Putin is returning to the Kremlin with this new ideological concept, which appeals to the neo-imperial aspirations of Russians and also holds out economic benefits for former Soviet states that have no chance of joining the Western club," says Alexei Vlasov, director of the independent Center for the Study of the Post-Soviet Space in Moscow.

"This is not a particularly new idea; it's been kicking around for some time," he says. "But I admire how rapidly Putin is moving to put it into practice."

In the pro-government Moscow daily Izvestia earlier this month, Putin wrote that the new grouping would be built around the nucleus of the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union, which is set to be upgraded into a common market next year.

He insisted that this is not a plan to reincarnate the Soviet Union, but rather to build a voluntary club of former Soviet republics driven primarily by economic imperatives.

"We propose creating a powerful supranational union capable of becoming a pole in the modern world, and at the same time an effective bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific Region," Putin wrote.

Putin's super-state would at first be for post-Soviet nations that want privileged access to Russian energy and markets, and also fear the growing economic might and ambitions of China, says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Kremlin-funded Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow.

"There is a global tendency to form economic clusters, such as the EU, ASEAN or NAFTA, but these are all closed to former Soviet states," he says.

"Look at Ukraine, which has hit a brick wall in its efforts to integrate with the EU. We need to form our own cluster, there's no other way."

Last week the EU cancelled a meeting to discuss a free-trade deal with Ukraine in protest over what it views as the politically-motivated jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's top opposition leader.

That was just the latest in a string of signs that Ukraine, the most important former Soviet state next to Russia, may be headed for a major geopolitical realignment.

Both supporters and critics of the idea say Putin's Eurasian Union is not likely to remain a mere economic union for long.

Unlike the EU, which brought together democratic market-driven nations, Russia and most other former Soviet states are variations on the theme of authoritarian governance and state-dominated economics. Russia — the world's largest country with a cornucopia of raw materials — will inevitably overshadow all other members of the union and seek to bring them into line with its own priorities, including rivalry with the West.

Moreover, in Putin's Moscow today, a widely believed explanation for the woes currently rocking the euro zone is that the EU was constructed without a strong and cohesive central political authority at its core.

"A Eurasian Union will differ from the EU in that it will be based on Eurasian values, not European ones," says Alexander Dugin, head of the International Eurasian Movement, a group of right-wing businessmen, officials and intellectuals that is thought to have considerable influence in the Kremlin.

He says the EU's reliance on liberal economic institutions to hold it together is its fatal flaw, and that Putin will move to cement the economic integration of the Eurasian Union with strong central authority.

"Economics are important, but we will need to stress the political process of integration," he says.

"From what we see happening in Europe it's clear that at times of crisis the whole union can split apart if it is built without strong political and geopolitical values which can transcend the crisis…. The Eurasian Union must be constructed with a strong political horizon in mind."

But for now talk of another Moscow-led super-state, which calls to mind the late Soviet Union, needs to be downplayed in front of international audiences, say Putin supporters.

"We're talking about an economic union but, judging by Putin's concept, political coordination among the members can't be ruled out," says Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the State Duma's international affairs commission. "However, that's a matter for the distant future, it's not on tomorrow's agenda."

Former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, now a leading liberal critic of the Kremlin, derides the whole idea of a Eurasian Union as "a political joke."

"Voluntary unions can only take place where there is democracy. How can authoritarian dictatorships create a genuine union?" he says.

"Putin believes the collapse of the USSR was a great tragedy and he would like to recreate some version of it. But the Soviet Union was built in the 20th century with Communist Party power and the extreme brutality of (Soviet leader) Joseph Stalin."

"Putin may be a corrupted dictator, but he's no Stalin. This idea is doomed."

But Dugin says the idea of reviving the Soviet Union musters great appeal both inside Russia and around the former Soviet Union, where opinion polls show vast numbers of people remain nostalgic for the prestige and security of belonging to a mighty global superpower.

"Maybe the thought of recreating the USSR is viewed with horror in the West, but around the post-Soviet region it's extremely popular," Dugin says.

"Putin can use this as a tool to gain support for his plans, and to help him work out a more coherent vision. It's definitely an idea whose time has arrived."

Source: Global Post

Ukraine's Leader Accused Of Plagiarism In New Book

KIEV, Ukraine -- In his new book, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych shares his dreams about the future of his country. But are they his?

Yanukovych's book "Opportunity Ukraine" was plagiarized from various sources.

Some parts of "Opportunity Ukraine" bear a striking resemblance to magazine articles, a lawmaker's speech and even a college term paper.

Opponents accuse Yanukovych of plagiarism, and an influential writers' union in Austria, where the book was published, refused to support its presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair this month.

Yanukovych's office first denied the accusations of plagiarism, calling them a "provocation" against the president sponsored by his critics.

But then the translator of the book into English took the blame upon himself, saying he had inadvertently deleted most of the footnotes from the book and apologized to the president.

The book scandal is a further embarrassment to the often crude and ill-mannered Yanukovych, who is famous for gaffes and blunders such as making spelling mistakes, confusing genocide with genetic pool, and mixing up the Balkan states of Kosovo and Montenegro.

It also undermines his efforts to portray himself as a Western-minded leader as he seeks European Union membership for Ukraine.

"A book by a president is the height of his career, his life's path," said Serhiy Leshchenko, a reporter with the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, who broke the story.

"This could have been Yanukovych's literary embodiment, but it turned out to be banal plagiarism. They grabbed pieces from various sources."

The scandal also comes at a time when the United States and the EU are condemning authorities in Ukraine for the prosecution and imprisonment of a longtime Yanukovych foe — former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Leshchenko said he became suspicious when the book compared reforms in Ukraine not to those in other ex-Communist East European nations, but to reforms in a country as distant and unlike Ukraine as Singapore.

After some research, Leshchenko traced those descriptions to a March article by the Ukrainian weekly magazine Korrespondent.

The Korrespondent story and the passage on reforms on Singapore in Yanukovych's book are indeed nearly word-for-word the same.

"Whatever excuses the presidential administration is making, the fact of plagiarism is obvious," Vitaly Sych, the magazine's chief editor, wrote in his blog.

Furthermore, a page-and-a-half-long discussion of party affiliations in Ukrainian politics is uncomfortably similar to a political science college paper posted on the Russian essay-sharing website in 2007.

A reflection on land reform appears to borrow from a speech by Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko.

Recollections of the Orange Revolution rely on a 2004 piece in a weekly called 2000.

A discussion of separatism mimics a passage in an article published by Vasily Volga, a former senior financial official, now under arrest.

Seeking support in writing a book is common practice in the West, where many politicians rely on collaborators to help with the research or assist in much or all of the writing.

But Leshchenko suspects that Yanukovych simply hired a team of poorly skilled writers who copied and pasted much of the book from various sources without giving attribution.

Austria's Mandelbaum Verlag printed 50,000 copies of "Opportunity Ukraine" in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of Ukraine's independence on Aug. 24.

The English-language book appears to have been aimed at attracting foreign investment.

Mandelbaum Verlag publisher Michael Baiculescu declined to comment on the allegations to The Associated Press.

But he told the German weekly Die Zeit that there were indeed problems with the book.

"The translator told us that some parts, while not plagiarism, are not always properly sourced, since the footnotes are left out," Baiculescu was quoted as saying.

The Syndicate of Austrian Authors condemned the book because of those accusations and because the publisher refused to provide full information on the book and how it was published.

The 3,500-member group also refused to support the book because that would be tacit backing of Yanukovych's undemocratic policies, it said in a statement.

Yanukovych's office declined to discuss the matter with the AP, but previous comments on the book have been contradictory.

Yanukovych adviser Hanna Herman dismissed the allegations of plagiarism as a "shameless" and immoral campaign to discredit the president.

She also told the UNIAN news agency that Yanukovych did not copy anyone else's statements, but that it was the other way around; others must have used thoughts from his earlier books.

Yanukovych has authored some five books and publications, which include his interviews, speeches and reflections on Ukraine's reforms and its future, according to his office.

"I can only congratulate the president on this book," Herman was quoted as saying.

But then the translator of the book, Kostyantyn Vasylkevych, acknowledged that he deleted most of the footnotes, including the one for the Korrespondent article, in an attempt to make the book more readable.

In an article on a government-linked news website, Vasylkevych issued his "deepest" apologies to Yanukovych and those journalists who were "disoriented by this mistake," but he lamented that it was being used in a "continuing, cynical anti-presidential campaign."

Vasylkevych, however, disputed most of the other similarities between the book and other publications, saying Yanukovych was simply stating information that was common knowledge.

But many Ukrainians remained unconvinced.

"European politicians have lost their posts over such actions," said Valeriy Chalyi, a senior analyst with the Razumkov Center in Kiev.

He referred to Germany's defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was forced to resign in March after it emerged that he copied large parts of his doctoral thesis without attribution.

"This is clear plagiarism ... and of course this isn't European style."

Source: AP

The Emerging Crisis In Ukraine

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Oct. 11 sentencing of former prime minister and Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison may or may not stand.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Miss Tymoshenko has appealed the sentence and several western governments, including the Obama administration, have lodged stiff protests over Tymoshenko’s prosecution with the government of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.

But irrespective of Miss Tymoshenko’s legal fate, a marker has been laid down.

That the Ukrainian government would conduct, publicly, a trial on trumped up and politically motivated charges, and that the court would return a guilty verdict with a heavy penalty (including a $190 million fine on top of the prison sentence), makes quite clear that the current authorities have little regard for justice or democratic norms of governance.

And that is a problem far beyond Kiev.

A brief review of some recent history helps explain why.

An independent Ukraine emerged from under the rubble of Communism with the crack-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Throughout the previous seven decades, the repository of Ukrainian national self-awareness and aspiration was the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church [UGCC], Byzantine in liturgy and polity but in full communion with Rome since the 1596 Union of Brest.

In keeping alive the idea of a free and independent Ukraine, the UGCC played a role similar to that of the Catholic Church in Soviet-occupied Poland.

And the Ukrainians were persecuted even more severely, for in 1946 the Russian Orthodox Church and the Soviet secret police “dissolved” the UGCC and forcibly incorporated it into the Russian Orthodox Church.

The UGCC gave its full measure of martyrs to Christ during decades of persecution, and emerged from underground in 1991 to launch, among many other initiatives, the only Catholic university in the former Soviet space: a beacon of light and decency in what is still a deeply wounded land.

UGCC faculty and students played leading roles in the pro-democracy “Orange Revolution” that kept Viktor Yanukovich from power in 2004-05: a revolution whose positive effects Yanukovich now seems determined to reverse.

The UGCC is thus fated by history to play the role of the canary in the coal mine.

A thriving Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine would be a sign that religious freedom is alive and well in the former Soviet space.

A UGCC being choked by state pressure would be a disturbing sign that the political air in Ukraine is becoming too toxic to support democratic life.

On the strategic side of the historical ledger, a brief look at the map will suggest what is at stake here.

Ukraine is the land bridge between Russia and central Europe.

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s insistence that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical catastrophe, and Putin’s recent announcement that he would return to the Russian presidency after a four-year pause as prime minister, suggests that the next Putin administration will do whatever it can to reconstitute the old Soviet Union, de facto if not de iure.

Bringing Ukraine ever more closely into the Russian embrace is the key to that strategy.

The dissolution of Ukrainian independence could be, at first, economic—a de facto economic alliance with Russia to go along with Viktor Yanukovich’s reinstatement of Soviet-style politics, as exemplified by the Tymoshenko verdict.

But it is not difficult to imagine a Muscovite strategy aimed at breaking up independent Ukraine, leaving a small Ukrainian mini-state around L’viv in western Ukraine while absorbing the rest of the country back into Greater Russia.

Were the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to acquiesce in such maneuvers, it would deal a severe blow to the ecumenical future by demonstrating that dialogue with it is virtually impossible, given that the ROC had become a department of Putin’s autocratic state rather than an independent ecclesial body.

So there is a great deal riding on the future of Ukraine: religious freedom in the former Soviet space; Putin’s success or failure in building a Greater Russia that will threaten Europe, strategically and by its control of oil and gas supplies; Christian ecumenism between East and West.

Source: First Things

Rogozin Steals Someone’s Thunder

MOSCOW, Russia -- Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s special and standing envoy to NATO, authorized by the president to monitor the missile defense and other issues, stated in a recent interview with Ekho Moskvy Radio that Russia had succeeded in preventing Ukraine and Georgia from becoming NATO members, when asked what made him especially proud of his performance in Brussels.

Dmitry Rogozin

As usual, he stole someone’s thunder, considering that Ukraine failed to become a NATO member country not because of Rogozin’s wheelings and dealings, but because the Ukrainian political leadership misunderstood Ukraine’s strategic objectives.

And because those “upstairs” lacked an adequate statesman’s mentality; because they wanted to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, without bothering to consider the consequences.

Ukraine’s NATO and EU membership would open up horizons in terms of economic growth and European standards in all spheres of life.

The European Union leaves the door open for Ukraine.

Everything depends on its leadership and its being prepared and willing to accept the European rules of the game.

In this sense very little depends on Rogozin, much as he claims otherwise.

The Day asked Dr. Hryhorii Perepelytsia (Ph.D. in politics), lecturer at the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv, to comment on Rogozin’s statement and on who is to be held responsible for Ukraine’s failed NATO membership.

This isn’t Rogozin; he acted as instructed by Vladimir Putin, by Russia’s political leadership.

They were carrying out a well-planned strategy aimed at preventing Ukraine from joining NATO in general, and European civilization in particular, and at returning Ukraine into Mother-Russia’s embrace.

Ukraine’s admission to NATO would signify its access to European civilization, with NATO serving as an entrance.

Russia’s strategic objective was to have Ukraine isolated from civilized Europe.

It’s easy to figure out Putin’s strategy, considering his program article carried by Izvestia.

His end goal is Russia’s expansion by the year 2015, by having Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan back under Kremlin rule.

Putin formulated his project as a Eurasian Union.

Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO membership would make their territories inaccessible to Russia, so this marked a turning point in Russia’s geopolitical strategy.

Doubtlessly, this marked Russia’s spectacular geopolitical victory over Ukraine and the West.

Naturally, this calls into question Ukraine’s national sovereignty, considering that Ukraine’s failed NATO membership spells failed EU membership, with NATO and EU being the two pillars that continue to uphold the European community of nations, their peace and quiet.

What we’re faced up with today is the only possible outcome of Ukraine’s failed NATO membership, due to Yanukovych’s statement during the Bucharest summit, although at the time our government-controlled media reports were all about the possibility of this membership.

His statement dealt a heavy blow to Ukraine’s MAP prospects in 2006, considering that Ukraine stood the best chance at the time.

Russia, of course, spent the next two years reinforcing its position, securing support from its two good old allies, Germany and France, convincing both that Ukraine couldn’t be regarded as a true nation-state.

In the end, Ukraine and Georgia were denied MAP.

One can see the consequences, just as one can see a similar situation within the European Union.

Russia and NATO take asymmetric stands, with NATO regarding Russia as a partner in the ongoing struggle against international terrorism, and Russia regarding NATO as its number one strategic enemy and clear and present danger, simply because NATO’s expansion spells a broadening of democracy and security in Europe, something Russia will never accomplish.

The Kremlin will never be able to guarantee security and defense to its members the way NATO has been doing.

Any collaboration in this region of the world is out of the question, as evidenced by the fiasco of the missile defense system talks.”

Source: The Day

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ukraine To Launch A Rocket From The Brazilian Space Launch Facility

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine´s objective is to complete all the primary work to launch the Ukrainian rocket Cyclone-4 from the facility in the North Western Brazil by 2013, stated President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych in his interview with Brazilian newspaper O Globo during his official visit to Brazil on October 23-26.

Brazil is responsible for the construction of the launch base while Ukrainian constructors are currently working on the carrier rockets.

The strategic project Alcantara Cyclone Space has entered the phase of practical implementation, stated President Yanukovych.

"I have no doubt that this project will become a reality soon, " said the Ukrainian leader.

The location of the launching platform is extremely beneficial because of its close proximity to the equator (2degree(s)17´S 44degree(s)23´W) mentioned the Ukrainian Ambassador to Brazil Igor Grushko in his interview to the journalists, according to UNIAN.

He noted that the Alcantara Cyclone Space project is set to be commercially successful.

The cost of rocket launch from this location is 20% less than average, said Ambassador Grushko.

He also noted that Ukraine has already invested over USD $130 million. The total project cost is estimated at USD $488 million.

Alcantara Cyclone Space is a bi-national project born out of the long-lasting negotiations between Brazil and Ukraine.

In 1999 the governments of Ukraine and Brazil signed an agreement on space cooperation, but it was not until 2006 that the company Alcantara Cyclone Space was established and the project progressed further.

Cyclone-4 is a three stage expendable launch system.

Its advantages include increased fuel efficiency and safety of the launch process due to automatized prelaunch operations.

The preparation stage is reduced to under 12 hours and its cost is decreased as the number of personnel needed for the lift-off is smaller.

Ukraine is one of the three successors of the Soviet Union´s space industry.

The country is one of the five in the world owning a complete rocket production cycle.

Ukrainian space industry companies utilize most of the known space technologies and participate in 50 international space projects.

Over the last 10 years Ukraine deployed 120 launchers.

Ukraine occupies one of the world´s leading positions among the rocket launcher producers with the Ukrainian SDO Yuzhnoe having produced over 400 Earth satellites.

Source: Wallstreet Online

Ukraine Piles More Charges On Tymoshenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine made fresh charges against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday despite a Western outcry over her recent jailing for seven years for abuse of office.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko's imprisonment on Oct. 11 for exceeding her authority by doing an unfavorable gas pricing deal with Russia in 2009 sparked outrage in the West and endangers the signing of a key agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

The opposition leader says she is the victim of a political vendetta by President Viktor Yanukovych, who narrowly beat her to the presidency last year.

The EU and the United States say her trial was politically motivated and they want her released.

Lawyers for Tymoshenko said she had decided on Monday to appeal and papers would be filed on Tuesday.

There is no sign that the sharp reaction from the EU, which called off a planned meeting with Yanukovych in Brussels on Oct. 20 in protest, has influenced thinking in the Kiev leadership.

The state prosecutor's office said it was re-activating an old charge of embezzlement against Tymoshenko going back to the mid-1990s when she ran energy company, Unified Energy Systems.

Spokesman Yuriy Boychenko said the state prosecutor's office had reversed a 2005 decision to drop the case against Tymoshenko after the "Orange Revolution" protests swept her to power as prime minister.

"This decision was taken hurriedly, without reason and must be cancelled," Boychenko told journalists, Reuters reported.

He said the revived case included charges of tax evasion amounting to 20 million hryvnia ($2.5 million) and theft of 25 million hryvnias ($3.1 million).

Apart from the charge for which she has been jailed, Tymoshenko, who was prime minister until she lost the election battle with Yanukovych, is being investigated in connection with three other criminal cases.

The latest move by the general prosecutor appeared to confirm the view that the Yanukovych leadership is determined to keep Tymoshenko locked up for the time being and must now work on a new strategy in its relationship with the European Union.

"The new cases confirm that a decision has been made earlier to put Tymoshenko in prison," said Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at Penta think tank.

"Also, this is an attempt to discredit Tymoshenko in the eyes of the West."

Yanukovych played down the significance of being cold-shouldered by the EU last Thursday, saying with bravado that he would not "go begging" to Brussels.

For the time being at least, though, he is not going back on his commitment to taking his former Soviet republic into mainstream Europe.

The 27-member bloc though is now itself divided over how to handle Ukraine which is the cornerstone of its Eastern neighborhood policy with some former Soviet states.

An association agreement, which includes creation of a free trade zone, had been due to be signed at the end of the year.

But some EU diplomats are now questioning whether a Ukraine-EU summit will be held at all.

Other charges against Tymoshenko include alleged misuse of government funds received in exchange for emission quotas sold to Japan under the Kyoto protocol and use of ambulances, purchased by the government, for political campaigning.

A new charge brought against her since she was jailed alleges that she took part in a "criminal conspiracy" 15 years ago to embezzle state funds through gas purchases from Russia, resulting in $405 million of debt to Russia.

This charge also dates back to her leadership of UES energy company in the 1990s when sleaze, crime and corruption were rife in post-Soviet Ukraine.

It was Tymoshenko's direction of the company, which imported Russian gas for resale in Ukraine, from 1995-96 that earned her the nickname of "gas princess".

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Land Of Opportunity For Chinese Business: First Deputy Premier

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has become a new growth point in Europe and a country full of opportunities for Chinese business, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev told Xinhua in an interview Monday.

Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev.

Klyuyev, who is also Economic Development and Trade Minister, said Ukraine pays close attention to China's great economic development achievements.

"Despite the global economic crisis, China has become the second largest economy in the world," he said, adding that "nowadays, few countries could manage to get such results."

Klyuyev said the Ukrainian economy showed a steady 5 percent growth with a tendency to increase, despite the European debt crisis.

"The Ukrainian government set a task to increase the growth of average annual gross domestic product between 6 percent and 8 percent," he said.

Ukraine has systematically improved its investment climate, reformed its regulatory system and created favorable conditions for business, he added.

"Today, many state regulatory acts have been abolished or revised to simplify all procedures. And the work continues," the first deputy premier said.

On bilateral relations, Klyuyev said political and ideological differences between Kiev and Beijing never existed.

"Ukraine, which is on the verge of signing a free trade area agreement with the European Union (EU), will provide effective support to China on many international issues," he said.

Klyuyev said Ukraine's geographical position should be regarded as a competitive advantage.

He noted that, apart from the common borders with EU countries and Russia, Ukraine has full access to the Black Sea, which makes it easier to obtain trade routes, construct ports and develop the Black Sea shelf.

"Chinese business has extensive experience in implementing large infrastructure projects. Therefore, we invite Chinese investors to participate in modernization and expansion of Ukrainian ports' export capacity, transportation routes and related infrastructure," he said.

Meanwhile, the official stressed that Ukraine is a country with a powerful gas-transport system and large gas, oil and coal deposits, making it one of the most promising players in the world fuel market.

"During the first seven months of 2011, Ukraine has exported more than 1 billion U.S. dollars' worth of goods to China. It is almost 74 percent more compared with the same period last year," Klyuyev said.

"However, Ukraine's export potential is not limited to minerals, metals and chemical products," he said.

The first deputy premier said that, against the background of a global food crisis, agricultural cooperation between the two countries is becoming particularly important, and Ukraine has a great potential.

Klyuyev also said Ukraine and China should broaden their cooperation in all fields.

"Joint projects in high technology, science and applied research represent mutual interests of Ukrainian and Chinese business," he said.

"Ukraine has a developed technological base in the aviation industry, which enables successful development of bilateral ties, taking into account the size and growth of the Chinese market. China can share experience in implementing technology for the reclamation of recyclable materials, while participating in such projects in Ukraine," the official said.

Klyuyev expressed a conviction that Kiev and Beijing have huge potential for expanding their cooperation.

"Today, Ukraine is a country of inexhaustible new economic opportunities. Therefore, we invite Chinese business: Come to Ukraine," he said.

Source: Xinhua

Don’t Pulls The Blinds Down On Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine -- Although the recent sentencing of the former muse of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, has raised doubts about the independence of the Ukrainian justice system, the EU should not give up on dialogue with Kiev, which remains eager to build relations with the EU.

The 11 October decision to sentence former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to a seven-year term in prison has been widely reported and commented in the European press.

It is probably the first time since the “Orange Revolution” that events in the internal politics of Ukraine, which has a population of 45 million, have made the international front pages.

Whereas governments in the EU and the United States have adopted a firm position with regard to this court decision, for its part the reaction of Ukrainian society has been relatively limited.

President Viktor Yanukovych, who has been in power for a year and a half, cannot be held entirely to blame for what has happened, rather we should acknowledge that recent developments in this country are the predictable result of changes in Ukraine that have occurred over the last twenty years.

The fact that Ukraine’s judicial system is still guided by standards that date from the Soviet era has once again highlighted the scale of reforms that are needed in the country.

Although the European public was not aware of the complexity of the internal situation in Ukraine until the judgement was announced, the citizens of Ukraine who are used to battling with the country’s bureaucratic system, were not surprised by the decision.

In fact they are permanently on their guard regardless of the government in power.

The hopes that Ukrainians had for the the parties who rose to power in the 2004 “Orange Revolution,” which ultimately failed to materialise, have made Ukrainian society apathetic.

In spite of being gifted with majorities in parliament in two successive elections (in 2006 and 2007), the “Orange” parties have dissipated their opportunities in constant quarrels, and their failure to implement reforms finally sapped voter confidence in their ability to govern.

Another post-Soviet blind alley

At the end of the day, the example of Ukraine shows how vain and unrealistic it is to attempt to build democracy and establish the rule of law in a country that has no experience as a state that functions in such a manner, even if Ukraine has always demonstrated a certain openess and willingness to learn.

Without a doubt, the Ukrainian population is mainly to blame for this situation, but the part played by outside influences in developments in the country should not be underestimated.

Without the remarkable contribution of different international organisations to the establishment of reforms in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, some of them would clearly have been unable to join the EU.

This situation is not new: after World War II, the countries of Old Europe would not have recovered without outside assistance or their commitment to the construction of Europe.

The decision to join Europe was taken by Kiev as early as the mid-1990s, and it is a choice that has been supported by all the Ukrainian presidents since then.

For its part, over the last 20 years, Europe, which continues to view Ukraine as a grey area and a quarantine zone [that isolates it from Russia] has consistently sought to slow Ukraine’s progress towards European integration.

Enlargement to the East was followed by the construction of a new wall on the border with Ukraine.

And only now are we beginning to see a significant breakthough in relations between the EU and Ukraine: by the end of this year, the association agreement whose technical details were finalised on 20 October could provide the framework for the establishment of a free-market zone, which would prevent Ukraine from returning down another post-Soviet blind alley.

Small steps

In the wake of the sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine and the European Union will have to make certain choices: postponing or even abandoning negotiations, or a decision to impose sanctions will only contribute to the further isolation of Ukraine.

In adopting such measures, Brussels would simply be perpetuating the distant relationship that it has sought to maintain in the past.

On the contrary, in order to overcome what is a critical situation, both parties should continue to engage in dialogue and seek to establish compromises.

In this regard, new EU members, and in particular countries like Estonia, who understand better than others the realities of of the post-Soviet space and the difficulties of political transition, have a role to play.

Tallinn has long been a supporter of Ukrainian accession to the EU.

And the opening of an EU Eastern Partnership training centre in Tallinn, where Estonia will share its experience with civil servants from partner countries, is an encouraging sign.

All of these small steps, which should increase in number in the coming years, are the most effective means for building relationships between Ukraine and the members of the EU.

However, attempts to isolate Ukraine will only serve to undermine those relationships

Source: PressEurop

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

$40bn Putin 'Is Now Europe's Richest Man'

MOSCOW, Russia -- President Vladimir Putin of Russia has been likened to an African plutocrat after a controversial political scientist claimed that he had acquired control of £20 billion in energy assets - enough to make him Europe's richest man.

Putin has denounced the claims, that he is personally worth $40bn, as "trash".

Stanislav Belkovsky, a colourful figure on the political scene, claimed that Mr Putin had made a multi-billion pound fortune by controlling stakes in three Russian energy companies.

The allegations – if true – would suggest that Mr Putin is one of the wealthiest men ever to hold public office.

Mr Belkovsky alleged that Mr Putin had acquired $40 billion during his eight years in power, through a network of front-men.

He compared the president to Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator who plundered Congo, and Ferdinand Marcos, the former ruler of the Philippines.

"Russia under Putin is not a version of modern democracy but a typical third world kleptocracy," said Mr Belkovsky.

But Mr Putin's spokesman denounced the claims. "It's nothing but trash," said Dmitry Peskov.

"Certainly it has nothing to do with seriousness; it has nothing to do with professionalism. It's just trash."

According to Mr Belkovsky, Mr Putin controls a 37 per cent stake in Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company, as well as 4.5 per cent of Gazprom, the state energy giant, and at least 50 per cent of Gunvor, a Swiss-based oil trading company that has won a series of state contracts.

Mr Belkovsky claimed his information had come from credible sources in the Kremlin - but admitted he had no documentary evidence.

"European and U.S. special services have access to these documents but I don't," he said.

Observers were skeptical.

"In a system of state capitalism and total corruption, it would be strange if Putin was not rich," said Leonid Radzikhovsky, a political analyst.

"But the information about this treasure island seems a little exaggerated. Most Russians do not think about corruption at presidential level or do not want to think about it."

Mr Radzikhovsky added: "It is difficult to understand Belkovsky. He is known as a source of confusing information and it is hard to treat it seriously.

"He is an adventurer. He may be driven by his own morbid ambitions. He really knows a lot of people in high places but who is he to know the secrets of the person who has all the possible and impossible ways to hide his secrets?"

The endgame of Mr Putin's presidency, and his plans for the succession, have been thrown off balance by infighting between rival Kremlin clans.

At least three groups, two led by ex-KGB officials, have been in open warfare since October.

On Oct 3, General Alexander Bulbov, deputy head of the federal drug agency, and a member of a hardline clan of "Siloviki" - former KGB and security officials - was arrested by a rival Siloviki faction.

The "liberal" faction was damaged when Sergei Storchak, the deputy finance minister, was arrested last month.

Far from being watertight, Mr Putin's Kremlin now leaks like a sieve.

The President is theoretically above the clans and tries to balance their clashes.

If he does have a faction, it consists of businessmen who have become very wealthy under his rule.

Mr Belkovsky named at least three of them as front-men for the president's alleged fortune.

He also cited Igor Sechin, a deputy chief of Kremlin staff, leader of the most hardline "Siloviki" faction and one of the country's most powerful men.

Mr Putin appeared to have sidelined Mr Sechin's clan when he announced that Dmitry Medvedev, a relative liberal, would be his successor as president.

Mr Sechin and other ex-KGB figures would never rally around Mr Medvedev.

Mr Putin may calculate that he can keep their loyalty, leaving the new president isolated.

Mr Putin may calculate that he can keep their loyalty, leaving the new president isolated.

What game Mr Belkovsky is playing - and on whose behalf - is unclear.

He has been accused of starting a smear campaign against the oligarch, Mikhail Khodorokovsky, a fierce critic of Mr Putin who was jailed in 2005.

Mr Belkovsky's allegations about the president's money first emerged in a book he published last year.

Source: The Telegraph