Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ukraine Sets Up Hooligan Monitoring Force

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's interior ministry has set up a special unit (NFIP) to prevent known football hooligans from attending matches at the 2012 European Championship in the country, local media reported on Wednesday.

"We have created a special unit within Ukraine's interior ministry, which will monitor football hooligans and 'ultras' registered in European and Ukrainian databases," said Alexander Birsan, deputy head of the Ukrainian committee preparing for Euro 2012.

"The creation of NFIP was a UEFA initiative. In the NFIP databases, all the football hooligans are recorded by name and UEFA uses our information in case they need to prevent those fans from attending certain matches."

The NFIP has already started its activity, the press reported.

On the eve of the Champions League match between Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk and Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg on October 19, the NFIP supplied Ukraine's border guards with information that allowed them to prevent seven Russian ultras from crossing the border.

"The majority of ultras were prevented from making the trip to Donetsk," Birsan said. "It's evidence that our system is already working and that its work is successful."

Ukraine is co-hosting Euro 2012 with Poland.

Source: Football UK

Ukraine Veterans Clash With Police In Kiev Over Cuts

KIEV, Ukraine -- There have been clashes in the centre of the Ukrainian capital Kiev amid a protest by veterans from the Chernobyl disaster and the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s.

Police moved in when protesters tried to block traffic and set up tents. Several people were wounded.

The protesters chanted “shame” as they demonstrated against cuts in pensions and benefits.

The former Soviet republic is trying to reduce its public deficit to secure funds from the International Monetary Fund.

The death of a protester in Donetsk on Sunday night has fuelled their anger.

The 70-year-old man died as police evacuated the protesters’ camp.

Emergency services said he had previously been suffering from chest pains.

“I came here to protest in Kiev because of the man who died in Donetsk,” said an Afghan war veteran called Mykola.

“He was the one who made the rich people the billionaires they are. This man died after working for them for 40 years. They came and stole everything; he was simply trampled on.”

The demonstrators, some of whom have tried to storm Ukraine’s parliament, include workers sent to clean up after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

Source: Euro News

Ukraine Hoping For Unforgettable Sheva Goodbye

KIEV, Ukraine -- Already drawn into Group D as top seed, Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine will take some comfort in knowing that they will at least avoid 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and the Netherlands in the draw Friday.

Ukrainian icon, Andriy Shevchenko.

However, the cautiously optimistic nation could well face a fascinating tussle with old rivals Germany, Russia or Italy, who knocked them out in the quarter-finals of Germany 2006 in Ukraine's only other major tournament appearance.

It could be good news for the former Soviet Republic that there are many echoes of five years ago in the team.

The familiar blue and yellow side are again coached by icon Oleg Blokhin, a former European Player of the Year, and it is a team built around some of the same players from that success at Germany 2006.

National icon, captain and all-time leading scorer, Andriy Shevchenko is still hoping to lead the line up front despite a lingering back injury.

At 35 years old, 'Sheva' is at the tail end of a long career that included a European Player of the Year award of his own in 2004 and almost half a century of goals in 105 international appearances.

Being drawn against Italy might be a particularly sentimental outcome for player that peaked in his success at AC Milan.

Shevchenko's status within the Ukraine squad is almost matched by all-time cap leader Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who has found a new lease on life at Bayern Munich and anchors the midfield, which also can call on familiar faces like Serhiy Nazarenko, Andriy Voronin and Oleg Husyev.

Blokhin and his team have made it clear that they intend to get out of the opening group in front of their home fans, so the 55th-ranked team in the world will be watching the draw closely and hoping to avoid as many giants as possible.

'We have bigger goals, but our first target must be to qualify for the knockout round,' said Blokhin, who returned to the post in April after a spell away from coaching.

'Our job is to win Euro 2012, but we must move one step at a time.'

After losing a national team record four matches on the trot, Blokhin's team have recovered their confidence in the last two months to beat Bulgaria, Estonia and Austria and draw with an in-form Germany 3-3.

Source: DPA

Journalist Stabbed To Death In Ukraine's Capital

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian photojournalist has been killed in the capital, Kiev, in what the official media describe as a personal conflict.

Vitaliy Rozvadovsky, a reporter with the Ukrainian weekly 2000, died hours after an assailant stabbed him at the entrance to the stairway of a Kiev building.

Officials say the murder does not appear to be linked to his profession.

News media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders expressed shock Tuesday at Rozvadovsky's death and urged authorities to explore all possibilities that may have lead to the killing.

The group quoted a police spokesman, Vladimir Dmitrenko, as saying the incident is being treated for the time being as "murder with premeditation" under the presumption that it was the result of a personal dispute.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Ukraine as one of the countries with the least press freedom and says attacks on journalists remain frequent.

Last month investigative reporter Oleksander Vlaschenko was shot in the head by unidentified attackers in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv.

He was hospitalized with a bullet lodged in his brain.

Earlier this year, U.S.-based Freedom House reported that freedom of press declined in Ukraine during 2010.

Source: Voice of America

Poland And Ukraine Primed For Euro 2012 Kick-Off

LONDON, England -- When UEFA picked Poland and Ukraine to co-host Euro 2012, there were those who questioned the decision.

Euro 2012 is a huge moment in the footballing histories of both Poland and Ukraine.

After all, Eastern Europe had never organized a tournament of such magnitude and there were concerns the duo would struggle to deliver the necessary infrastructure to make the event a success.

To be fair, those concerns were warranted, especially in the Ukraine.

The government that was in charge until 2010 did little to justify the confidence placed in them by Michel Platini, the president of European football's governing body.

There were severe delays in the construction of stadiums, roads, airports and hotels.

The organizing committee changed personnel various times and it got to a point where no-one knew who was in charge any more.

The situation got so bad that UEFA threatened to take the tournament away from Ukraine and give all of the matches to Poland.

There were even rumours that Germany could be called in to help out.

But over the last 18 months, the rhetoric has been quite different.

There were several stories on how big improvements to the work rate had been made, and the inauguration of several stadiums in both host nations gave fans around the world belief this European Championships would be a great one.

Still, it was with some scepticism that I travelled to Poland and Ukraine this week for CNN's Special Coverage of the build-up to Euro 2012.

I wondered how these nations were preparing and whether the necessary infrastructure was in place or on pace for the start of the event?

Well, having spent the last week travelling across both countries I can tell you that if you are a football supporter, you needn't worry.

The stadiums look great and although some of the roads and railways may not be completed by the start of the tournament, enough progress will have been made to make the fan experience a good one.

Let me tell you what my main impressions have been.

Warsaw and Kiev are both fantastic cities where people love football and follow their local teams passionately.

Everyone I have spoken to is thrilled the European Championships is coming to town and can't wait to support their teams, even though they are aware both Poland and Ukraine have only an outside chance of lifting the trophy on July 1.

Ukrainian football legend Andriy Shevchenko told me playing a Euro on home soil was a dream come true and he would love to make the final in his last competitive tournament with his national team.

The most impressive stadium is the one in Donetsk where Shakhtar play their home games.

The Donbass Arena is one of the most imposing structures I have seen in the world of football and no expense has been spared to make this the best possible stage.

The place should be rocking when the national team plays two group matches there.

As far as the other infrastructure is concerned, I am honestly impressed by the work Ukraine has been able to do in the last year-and-a-half.

I saw pictures of what the hotels and airports looked like 12 months ago and in many cases there was little more than a hole in the ground.

People have now worked around the clock to make sure these buildings are ready in time.

A lot of the credit should go to the man leading the project, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Kolesnikov.

He has pushed people to work faster because, according to him, "If we lost Euro 2012, we would never have the chance to organize anything ever again."

So, at a time when the draw for Euro 2012 is just a few days away, rest assured. Both Poland and the Ukraine will be ready for kick-off.

Source: CNN World Sport

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Ukraine, The Protests Increase

DONETSK, Ukraine -- On November 28, in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, near the building of the Pension Fund, Chernobyl veterans started the protest action.

Lonely protest: Liquidators of the Chernobyl nuclear power station 1986's accident stand near a tent during a protest for better social treatment in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk.

It is being attended by approximately 200 people.

At the same time, about 70 swindled investors are scratching the doors of the Donetsk Regional State Administration.

Participants stated that the protest would continue despite yesterday’s demolition of the tent.

They tied black ribbons on their sleeves in memory of 70-year-old Gennady Konoplev, who died yesterday during a demolition of the tent of protesters in the center of Donetsk, and collected money for his funeral asking for "as much as you can."

Next to the tent area, on one of the cars, protesters hung slogans which read “Gennady Konoplyov was killed by a gang of the Yanukovych government” and “Do you want to live? Arm yourselves with shovels. Prime Minister Azarov.”

As a member of the initial group of protesters Vladimir Derkach says, on the place of the demolished Chernobyl tent, participants were waiting for the representatives of authority the whole night, but no one came.

29 Chernobyl veterans continue to strike on the site of the demolished tent.

At the same time, 70 defrauded investors are trying to break into the building of Donetsk regional state administration.

Angry people are swinging doors at the Donetsk regional state administration building.

Police are trying to curb the onslaught of protesters from inside. Protesters chant “Gang Go!”

On Sunday, in Donetsk, during the deconstruction of the tent city of Chernobyl veterans, Gennady Konoplev, a miner from the Donetsk region, died.

The protest, a hunger strike by the liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster against the abolition of benefits for this category of citizens, at the building of the Pension Fund of Ukraine in the Donetsk region began on November 15, 2011.

On November 23, the Donetsk Regional Court prohibited the protest.

Participants of the rally refused to stop the hunger strike, vowing to defend their tents by all means, including acts of self-immolation.

Source: Turkish Weekly

Is Ukraine Becoming Russia's 88th Territory?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Even as Ukraine formally gets closer to the European Union with the negotiations on an Association Agreement, the country's extreme economic insecurity and need for foreign capital to finance its debt are enabling a dramatic rise in Russian influence, argues Sonya Koshkina, editor-in-chief of Left Bank, a major Ukrainian news site.

"There is little time left before the Ukrainian-EU summit, which will be held in Kiev on 19 December.

Both Ukrainian and European mass media are vigorously debating a range of well-known issues, such as the Tymoshenko case, Ukraine's bid for membership of the EU and even the country's geopolitical choice.

At the same time, matters related to the state of the Ukrainian economy are, as a rule, either shifted to the background or not discussed at all, with Russia's influence on the economic situation in Ukraine serving as an example.

Yet, it is the economy that often forces one to commit certain political acts.

Hence, Russia is the key to understanding relations between Ukraine and the EU.

A number of factors outlined below prove that the economies of Ukraine and Russia are deeply integrated, which certainly has an impact on Ukrainian interaction with the EU.

The price of gas and the dollar exchange rate represent two main factors that will determine the Ukrainian budget for next year.

In the draft law on the 2012 budget registered in Parliament two months ago, the annual average rate of the Ukrainian hryvnya is forecast at 8.1 UAH/USD, while the price of gas is $414-416 per 1,000 cubic metres.

In other words, the document envisions a market gas price.

Kiev started to speak about the possibility of a gas price reduction – down to $220-230 – after Yanukovich held a meeting with his Russian counterpart and the prime minister.

The reasons for this remain unclear.

What we do know is that any Russian concession to Ukraine demonstrates that in exchange, the latter will 'give' the former a strategic facility which is Ukrainian property.

If the discount on the price of gas for Ukraine is substantial, one may assume that President Viktor Yanukovich is the one who facilitates large-scale economic intervention on the part of Russian business in Ukraine.

This may lead to Ukraine turning into Russia's 88th federal subject or even to an armed conflict.

Despite the fact that the decisive meeting between the Ukrainian president and the Russian leadership was official, neither the Ukrainian nor Russian authorities disclosed any information about its outcome.

There are only fragmentary details – from private sources of some mass media outlets – about the agreement on a 'gas consortium' which was reached by Ukraine and Russia.

In fact, this means that the Russian Federation will essentially own the Ukrainian gas transportation system.

'I believe that we will sign everything by the end of November,' said Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov about the gas contracts.

'Ukraine will save $500 million a month and $6 billion a year,' he added.

One might wonder why Ukraine is making concessions to Russia when it comes to such an important strategic issue.

Several issues indirectly demonstrate the situation in Ukraine.

First, to maintain the current exchange rate of the hryvnya, the National Bank of Ukraine uses its gold reserves which, as we know, can be used only in the worst-case scenario.

As of the end of August, the volume of gold reserves was estimated at approximately $38 billion.

Nearly $3 billion was used in September.

An additional $2 billion was used during the first three weeks of October.

This means that there is only $33 billion left.

In November, the National Bank of Ukraine admitted that gold reserves decreased by 2.2%.

These are official statistics.

No one will say exactly how much gold there is in the reserves, or how much foreign currency and securities there, and how quickly these securities can be sold if the need arises.

Second, judging from reports by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the government is trying to defer payments on sovereign debt for as long as possible or until 2013 at the very earliest.

This implies that at the moment there is no cash to pay off debts.

Furthermore, in 2013, there will be no parliamentary election and a presidential election will not have taken place.

And Azarov will not be in government at that point either.

Third, banks have practically stopped giving loans to the population.

This applies to loans both in hryvnyas and foreign currency.

They explain it very simply: credit lines are closed due to the high risk of payment default.

If there is the slightest panic, the population starts to withdraw money from accounts en masse.

This may trigger a collapse of the country's banking system.

Theoretically speaking, banks could be saved by recapitalisation.

However, there are no available funds to recapitalise Ukrainian banks.

That is why the task of the Ukrainian government is to hold on until the spring.

It needs to ensure that the hryvnya does not crash, inflation does not rise sharply and payment defaults do not lead to a crisis.

If the economy collapses, the not so popular Ukrainian government will not be able to preserve its status.

And that is why precisely at this moment the government is ready to pay any price to rescue the economy and, in fact, to rescue itself.

No thought is given to the consequences.

Meanwhile, they are discussing how to enhance economic relations.

Business can certainly work by itself but when the state helps big business then it becomes much easier for it to operate.

For example, Sberbank Rossiia started to give loans worth $376 million to Ukravtodor to finish road construction for Euro 2012.

Ukrainian telecom company Ukrtelekom also receives loans from this bank.

It has been reported in the media that Gazprombank gave a $1 billion loan to Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian businessman with ties to the government, to purchase chemicals.

It also granted a loan worth $550 million to the national joint-stock company Naftohaz Ukrayiny.

The loan is intended to pay for delivered gas.

In this case, the issue has to do not only with big Russian banks but with business that is directly controlled by the Russian government.

Additionally, rumour has it that Rinat Akhmetov is preparing to sell his telecommunication business to Russia's Alfa-Group.

The DTEK company also intends to take a loan worth $500 million from the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation (Sberbank) and an additional $10 billion from the Russian bank VTB.

Although these examples are drawn from the business world and the state has nothing to do with them, it is important to understand that the companies of Ukraine's wealthiest businessman Rinat Akhmetov had previously preferred to borrow money from Western banks.

The most important thing about the trend described is that the Ukrainian government intends to increase threefold its credit line in the Russian bank VTB to $6 billion.

It is well known that the Russian state holds an 85.5% stake in VTB.

The deterioration of the economic situation in the eurozone encourages the loss of interest in Ukraine by foreign investors.

In essence, Ukraine cannot count on anyone else but Russia.

That is why large-scale intervention of Russian business in Ukraine is only a matter of time.

Of course, there is a slight possibility that the Ukrainian government, which is preoccupied today only by how to rescue itself, will start to think about Ukraine's future.

However, it might be too late.

The Russian government will protect a territory of its exclusive economic interests to the end, even with weapons.

At the same time, no one says that Moscow intends to expand the imperial territory of the Russian Federation.

The issue here is not only business.

In the 21st century, new lands are conquered with the help of economic tools.

That is why Ukraine has every chance of turning into the 88th territory of the Russian Federation."

Source: EurActiv

Reclaiming A Waste Land Called Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian authorities are launching a massive nationwide project to transform the country’s dangerous and inefficient waste disposal network as officials admit the former Soviet state is facing an "ecological catastrophe".

Ukraine incinerates or recycles less than five percent of the more than 50 million tonnes of domestic waste produced in the country each year.

Some 50 percent to 70 percent of all urban waste is recycled on average in the rest of Europe.

The remainder of the Ukraine’s waste is dumped in more than 4,000 landfill sites that not only take up 7 percent of the country’s land area – more than its national parks combined – but which, according to state environmental bodies, fail to meet even the most basic of environmental safety standards.

And there are now serious concerns that millions of tons of toxic waste buried in poorly secured sites are posing a severe threat to human health and the environment.

The new project, which the government wants to see operational within the next two years, will create new waste disposal complexes in ten major cities with waste recycled or incinerated to produce energy fed back into the national grid.

Vladyslav Kaskiv, head of the Ukraine’s State Agency for Investment and National Projects which is promoting the project, told IPS: "This has the potential to pull the Ukraine back from the brink of an ecological catastrophe."

The problems of the country’s poor waste disposal network date back to its transformation following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

In the Soviet era Ukrainians took their own containers to markets to buy milk and cream, beer was sold from tankers in the street and food items were wrapped in bio-degradable paper.

Plastic bags were almost unheard of, all glass was recycled, little or nothing was sold in cartons and there was no extraneous packaging as it was considered bourgeois.

Landfill sites have since been used to deal with the growing volumes of household waste.

But the burial of hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste has left a litany of ecological woes.

According to the Ukrainian State Sanitary Inspectorate, 85 percent to 90 percent of all the landfill sites fail to meet even the most basic of environmental safety standards.

The inspectorate says that 43 percent are potentially dangerous in terms of air pollution, 34 percent in terms of soil pollution, 28 percent in terms of water table pollution and 23 percent run the risk of polluting water reservoirs.

Combinations of urban and industrial waste in the same landfill sites has led to waste degrading into a thick toxic sludge that is permeating the subsoil and leaching through to upper rock layers below ground.

The release of millions of tonnes of methane gas – which not only poses health risks but also has a global warming potential 22 times higher than carbon dioxide - from decomposition at the sites is also a grave problem.

The two incineration plants in the country – in Kiev and Dnipropetrovsk - consume just 2-3 percent of the nation’s total waste output and the technology they use is outdated, highly ineffective and degrades the air quality in surrounding areas.

Ukraine has no modern waste recycling plants.

Local ecological movements also say there is lax security, monitoring and controls at the landfill sites, increasing risks to the public.

They also point to ineffective or absent punitive actions against those breaking laws on waste disposal which has allowed for the rise of illegal and dangerous waste dumping, while municipalities have been criticised for doing nothing to develop waste recycling.

Only last month local ecological groups warned of dire consequences if the current system of dumping almost all of the country’s waste in landfills is left unchecked.

Following a meeting of its scientific council last month, the All-Ukrainian Ecology League’s Tetiana Timochko told Ukrainian media: "Sanitary and industrial waste are put together (in landfills), which leads to a fermentation process unknown to science. To what kind of new viruses it will give birth, we just don't know."

Only the construction of new facilities with modern, efficient technology combined with legislation to ensure waste is disposed of ecologically soundly and rigorous enforcement of those laws will help resolve the current problems, ecologists argue.

Dr Viktor Kyrylenko, head of the Kiev branch of the Association of Energy Efficient Cities of Ukraine, told IPS: "After Chernobyl the environment is something we should be taking very seriously indeed. With all its buried waste, Ukraine is missing out on a huge potential resource not to mention the impending risk of ecological disaster."

The pilot phase of the Clean City project, which is planned to be financed through public-private partnerships with the state and city administrations, will see the construction of complexes in ten cities.

They will have an expected combined processing capacity of over 2.5 million tonnes per year and will double the amount of waste that the Ukraine incinerates or recycles by 2014.

Each complex is expected to recycle around 28 percent of its processed waste with the remainder being incinerated to generate electricity to be supplied to the national grid.

Few local ecology groups are familiar with the plans, but they agree that something must be done about the parlous state of the Ukraine’s landfill sites.

Timochko said: "We have to come up with effective measures to recycle waste, to provide proper financing (for recycling), and introduce more ecological waste recycling technologies."

International development groups have also said plans to tackle the problem are to be welcomed.

Source: IPS

Monday, November 28, 2011

Poland Calls On Ukraine To Resolve Tymoshenko Case

KIEV, Ukraine -- Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has urged Ukraine to resolve the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, saying Kiev's bid to join the European Union hinges on it.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Mr. Komorowski said Monday a realistic solution must be found if Ukraine wants to continue integration with the EU.

The visiting Polish leader, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, spoke to reporters in Kiev.

Ms. Tymoshenko was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison last month for exceeding her power as prime minister when she signed a 2009 gas deal with Russia that her opponents say was overly beneficial to Moscow.

Concerns about her health have grown since her conviction, with reports that she is suffering from serious medical problems, including severe back pain.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Monday he has instructed authorities to provide Ms. Tymoshenko with medical care and attention that meet “European” standards.

The 51-year-old former prime minister has denied the charges against her and has described her trial as “a political lynching” aimed at allowing President Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival.

She had been expected to be the main opposition candidate in a parliamentary election next year, but is not eligible to run if the conviction is upheld.

Her lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict.

The United States, the European Union and several human rights groups have condemned the charges against Ms. Tymoshenko as politically motivated.

Source: Voice of America

Ukraine’s President Orders ‘European Custody Standards’ For Tymoshenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Monday he had ordered that conditions for jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko be maintained “at a European level.”

Yulia Tymoshenko

“Of late I have heard plenty of critical remarks from former prime minister Tymoshenko’s lawyers about her prison conditions,” he said.

“I have instructed all agencies concerned to ensure all the necessary conditions at a European level.”

Yanukovych said he was referring to medical examinations, medical treatment and holding conditions for Tymoshenko, but did not define “European.”

Tymoshenko’s lawyers said recently her health condition had worsened - she could just barely walk because of spine trouble, and urged medical assistance for their client outside of the prison where she is being held.

Prison doctors however said her situation was not grave enough and medical treatment could continue “in house.”

Tymoshenko was sentenced in October to seven years behind bars for abuse of office over a gas deal she cut with Russia in 2009, a verdict internationally condemned as politically motivated.

Source: RIA Novosti

Naked Ambition: Ukrainian Topless Protests Go Global

KIEV, Ukraine -- A naked woman in a city's central square is bound to attract attention, which is exactly what Ukraine’s Femen group is hoping for with a series of high-profile demonstrations against the abuse of women's rights which has made the news across Europe.

Femen activists staging protests against Berlusconi and his sexual adventures, in Kiev.

­And as RT found out, the Ukrainian feminists are ready to conquer new horizons.

On a chilly morning in Kiev, half-naked women in racing outfits drink champagne and chant slogans.

This is how the Femen movement celebrated the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi.

Several days prior to that, Femen were in Rome, lending their support for the anti-Berlusconi protests.

“We had staged a lot of protests against Berlusconi and his sexual adventures here in Kiev. And we are really happy his political career has finished,” activist Aleksandra Shevchenko told RT.

“But we came to the Italian embassy not only to celebrate, but to say that he needs to go on trial for his sexual crimes,” Femen member Inna Shevchenko added.

For more than a week, Ukraine’s topless protesters have been making themselves heard across Europe on a road trip dedicated to drawing attention to the sexual exploitation of women.

While in Rome, one of their activists even made a revealing protest against injustice towards women in the Catholic Church at the Vatican, right in front of the Pope.

Before that, they hit Paris, storming the residence of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

“Women from Italy came to us in Switzerland and said: ‘We know that you’re coming to Rome and will be staging protests against Berlusconi and the Pope. Thank you,’ they said, ‘for sharing our problems,’” Alexandra Shevchenko continued.

Their wild bra-free rallies in Ukraine have been making international headlines for several years, from protesting against the alarming rate of prostitution, especially with the upcoming Euro 2012 football tournament, to exposing flaws in Ukraine’s politics.

Now they are looking even further afield.

“We understood that classic feminism no longer works,” Inna Shevchenko said.

“It is, if you excuse me, impotent. But what we do brings the desired effect. That’s why not only Ukraine needs us, but Europe as well. We are planning to take over the world.”

The Femen movement has been well-received at home in Ukraine and in Europe, and now its members are planning to extend their reach even further.

“We receive lots of letters telling us to continue fighting religious injustice towards women, especially in Muslim states. That’s where we want to develop,” Alexandra Shevchenko told RT.

“We are even ready to go to Iran or any other Islamic state to stage our topless protests, knowing all risks it could entail for us.”

In Ukraine alone, Femen has garnered tens of thousands of supporters.

The network has taken root in Europe and now stretches as far as the United States.

But with sex-tourism, prostitution, and the ‘mail-order bride’ industry still plaguing Ukrainian society, Femen say they still have a lot demons to fight at home.

Source: RT News

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Police Break Up Tent Protest In Ukraine, One Dies

DONETSK, Ukraine -- One of about 30 protesters who had been on hunger strike in an eastern Ukrainian city over pension cuts died Sunday night after police broke up their tent encampment, the protest leader said.

Veterans of the Chernobyl cleanup operation assist a colleague after he became unwell during a protest rally against a government initiative to cut social benefits for "liquidators".

The group were survivors of Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear accident and had been staging their protest in the mining city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine since November 14 after reductions in the state pensions they receive for their part in fighting the 1986 disaster.

With temperatures hovering around zero, local emergencies ministry workers had provided one large tent with heating for the core protesters to sleep in until the issue had been resolved.

But after a court ruled the protest illegal late last week, police stormed into the main tent Sunday night and removed a power generator, a stove and cut off lighting, the protest leader Nikolai Goncharov told reporters.

In the ensuing disorder, 68-year-old Gennady Konoplyov was taken ill and died in an ambulance after the police operation, Goncharov said.

It was not clear what he had died from and there was no immediate comment by police.

"The police attack on the tent city was an act of terrorism," Goncharov said.

The incident is a personal embarrassment for President Viktor Yanukovich.

Donetsk is his home town and normally a loyal bastion of support for him and his Regions Party.

"All this has happened with the silent agreement of the guarantor of the Constitution, President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine. The death of our comrade will be on his conscience because the President arranged this mayhem," Goncharov said.

Reform of the ex-Soviet republic's bloated pensions system is one of the commitments that Yanukovich's government has had to make to the International Monetary Fund in return for a $15 billion stand-by program.

It is dragging its heels, however, on another promise to the IMF to raise the price of household gas which it fears will dent the popularity of the Regions Party before a parliamentary election next October.

The Chernobyl disaster-fighters, who were evacuated with their families from the northern region 25 years ago, have become a powerful action group against the government's austerity moves and regularly stage protests at the parliament building in the capital Kiev.

Source: Yahoo News

Jailed Ukraine Politician Feted By Supporters

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian singers have staged a birthday concert for Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition leader, at the gates of the Kiev prison where she is being held,

Tymoshenko's supporters in front of the prison where she is being held after being sentenced to seven years.

More than 3,000 of her supporters chanted messages of solidarity as the crowd heaped flowers and nailed up hand-written greetings messages on heart-shaped cards outside the jail on Sunday to mark her 51st birthday.

Many, bearing flags with the slogan "We will overcome!", chanted her name.

Tymoshenko, who was twice prime minister, has been held at the Lukyanivska detention centre in Kiev since she was jailed this summer for seven years for abuse of office.

She and her supporters say the case is a political vendetta against her by President Viktor Yanukovich, who narrowly beat her in a bitterly fought run-off for the job in February 2010.

The affair has derailed Ukraine's plans for closer ties with the European Union.

The 27-member bloc says the trial was politically motivated and has called on Yanukovich to secure Tymoshenko’s release.

But he has refused to intervene and prosecutors are pressing ahead with investigations into a variety of fresh criminal charges against her.

"Yanukovich locked her up on purpose because he knows that she is worse than a nuclear war for him. If she gets out, he will not be president much longer," Viktor Redzhuk, a pensioner from the town of Zhitomyr, said.

Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevhenia, said outside the prison: "For me it's obviously not a celebration. Of course it's a holiday, because my mom was born, but for me it's a sad day, because she is in prison."

Police made no attempt to intervene or to disperse the crowd.

Supporters joined in when popular singer Nina Matvienko, one of several performers who Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna party said would appear during the day, sang a Ukrainian folk song.

There was no sign of Tymoshenko at any of the windows of Luk'yanivska prison, a long, rose-coloured building set back from the road, and there was no way of knowing whether she could hear the crowds outside.

Supporters fear her health is declining and there have been reports that she is suffering from a recurring back problem.

Source: Aljazeera

Ukraine Commemorates The Victims Of The Great Famine

KIEV, Ukraine -- About 2 thousand people marched in Kiev to the National Memorial of Holodomor victims to commemorate the children who died during the artificial famine in 1932-1933. Kiev, Ukraine. 26th November 2011.

Column with placard which says "Holodomor is genocide. We do remember" and state flags on its way to National Memorial of Holodomor victims.

The procession also devoted to the unborn because of famine.

Participants of the rally were carrying about 500 unlited candle, symbolizing the young, unlived life, and black ribbon with the names of children who died of starvation.

Names of children aged 6 months to 17 years were taken from the book of the Holodomor victims.

Later, near the National Museum of the "Memorial of Holodomor victims," the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Pathriarchy Metropolite Philaret served requiem, which was attended by representatives of the Greek-Catholic Church, an autocephalous and the Roman Catholic Church.

The ceremony to commemorate attended by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Yushchenko, members of the Cabinet and other central bodies of executive power, the Presidential Administration, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps.

The Holodomor (literal translation Killing by hunger) was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR between 1932 and 1933.

During the famine, which is also known as the "terror-famine in Ukraine" and "famine-genocide in Ukraine", millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine.

Early estimates of the death toll by scholars and government officials varied greatly; anywhere from 1.8 to 12 million ethnic Ukrainians were said to have been killed as a result of the famine.

Recent research has since narrowed the estimates to between 2.4 and 7.5 million.

The exact number of deaths is hard to determine, due to a lack of records, but the number increases significantly when the deaths inside heavily Ukrainian-populated Kuban are included.

The demographic deficit caused by unborn or unrecorded births is said to be as high as 6 million.

Older estimates are still often cited in political commentary.

Scholars disagree on the relative importance of natural factors and bad economic policies as causes of the famine and the degree to which the destruction of the Ukrainian peasantry was premeditated on the part of Joseph Stalin.

Scholars and politicians using the word Holodomor emphasize the man-made aspects of the famine, arguing that it was genocide; some consider the resultant loss of life comparable to the Holocaust.

They argue that the Soviet policies were an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism and therefore fall under the legal definition of genocide.

Other scholars argue that the Holodomor was a consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialization.

Source: Demotix

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cheat Happens: Senate Hopeful In US – Hobo In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- He was a respected scientist who once ran for high office in his homeland. But an American man who went to Ukraine looking for love found only destitution, ending up penniless, homeless, and adrift from family and friends.

The homeless man in Ukraine turned out to be US citizen Carey Dolego (L) and the no-show mail-order bride Yulia.

­Social services in the western Ukrainian town of Chernovtsy had the surprise of their lives after discovering the identity of one of the homeless people in their care.

“He looked exactly like a typical local bum,” says Andrey Malov from “Narodna Dopomoga”, a local social care association.

“I asked him what he was doing and he replied in English!”

And it turned out this was no regular down-and-out.

The homeless man turned out to be US citizen Carey Dolego, a scientist and politician who ran for governor in Arizona last year but failed to get elected.

Dolego, it emerged, came to Ukraine on a scientific exchange mission which quickly turned into a wife-hunt.

Dolego made contact with a Ukrainian woman, Yulia, who invited him over to Chernovtsy.

“Yulia said she was definitely looking for a marriage partner, that part is true,” Carey Dolego told RT correspondent Alexey Yaroshevsky.

­The rest was like a bad dream.

It was in Chernovtsy that Dolego learnt that all his credit cards had been blocked after his cell phone and laptop chargers were stolen.

No money, no connection with the outside world – and, most importantly, no Yulia.

A long way from home and love, the American slept rough at a train station until he was found by local social services, very seriously ill and in danger of death.

“He is now feeling well, but that’s after intensive treatment for what was a very serious case of pneumonia,” said Svetlana Kovalenko from the pulmonology department of Chernovtsy hospital.
How the mighty have fallen

­The US Embassy in Kiev came to Dolego’s rescue and bought train and plane tickets to get him home.

After more than week in Western Ukraine, the troubled American arrived in Kiev - alone, as Yulia had snubbed him.

Did she come to see him in the end?

Dolego says she never did.

­“She called me once and said that she had just received all the emails I had sent her. She said she would come the next day at lunch hour, but she never showed up and I haven’t seen her since then.”

The American views his misadventure somewhat philosophically, saying no-one, no matter what his social status, has guaranteed protection from such a calamity.

As he arrived at the railway station in Kiev, RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky had this question for him.

“How was it for you psychologically? You are a former candidate to the Senate, but then you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, like a hobo at a train station.”

As Carey Dolego explained, his inspiration in time of trouble was another Yulia:

“What I say to that is – look what’s happened to Tymoshenko, the ex-Prime Minister. Look what has befallen her since she left office. These things can happen to people even that run for office or held office. They are not immune to them.”

Despite a genuine Tom Sawyer-style adventure in Ukraine, Dolego says he has fallen in love with the country and will definitely return next spring.

What he is not so sure about is whether the purpose of his planned visit will be business or pleasure.

Source: RT News

Tymoshenko’s Involvement In Murder ‘Irrefutable,’ Says Ukrainian Prosecutor

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has “irrefutable evidence” of former Prime Minsiter Yulia Tymoshenko’s involvement in the murder of a Ukrainian lawmaker and businessman in 1996, its first deputy head, Renat Kuzmin, said on Saturday.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Yevgeny Shcherban, a Supreme Rada deputy and head of financial corporation Anton, was shot and killed at the airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in November 1996.

Shcherban’s wife and an airport employee were also killed in the attack.

Eight people were arrested and jailed over the murder in the early 2000s. Three of them received life sentences.

Pavel Lazarenko, who served as Ukraine’s prime minister in 1996-1997, has been indicted for ordering the murder.

He is currently serving a prison term in the United States for money laundering.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office previously said it was examining Tymoshenko’s possible links to the case.

In an interview with Ukraine’s Inter TV channel early on Saturday, Kuzmin said “money has been transferred to the killers’ bank accounts from firms owned by Lazarenko and Tymoshenko,” who was Lazarenko’s ally in the 1990s.

“Moreover,” he said, “the Somali Enterprises firm, which transferred money for Shcherban’s killing, also transferred money for Tymoshenko to buy fur coats, jewelry, cars, or to pay for hotels, restaurants and so on.”

Tymoshenko’s spokeswoman Natalia Lysova has dismissed claims that her boss could be linked to the lawmaker’s murder as “rubbish.”

Tymoshenko, currently Ukraine’s leading opposition figure, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October on charges of abusing her authority by pushing through a gas deal with Russia in 2009.

Her trial, which has been widely seen as politically motivated, sparked strong Western criticism, with the European Union threatening to stop negotiations with Ukraine on its association with the 27-nation bloc.

Tymoshenko’s lawyers have already appealed the verdict, which has also been criticized by Russia.

Other charges Tymoshenko faces include the misuse of funds received from the sale of greenhouse gas discharge quotas under the Kyoto Protocol, the misappropriation of funds to purchase ambulances, and illegal operations of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) company in the late 1990s when Tymoshenko was its head.

Source: RIA Novosti

Russian Gas Price For Ukraine To Jump If No New Deal

KIEV, Ukraine -- The price of Russian gas for Ukraine will jump to $485 per thousand cubic metres in the first quarter of 2012 from about $400 currently unless Moscow and Kiev reach a new gas deal, a senior Ukrainian official was quoted as saying on Friday.

Ukraine, which relies heavily on Russian gas imports, has been in talks with its former Soviet overlord for over a year, trying to negotiate a lower price.

But these talks have so far failed to yield tangible results.

In an interview published on Friday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko told local magazine Fokus that he hoped an agreement would be reached soon.

"We know that (otherwise) the price will be $485 per tcm in the first quarter," Focus quoted Tigipko as saying.

Ukraine consumes about 60 billion cubic metres of gas per year, including 40 billion imported from Russia.

Ukraine insists it is paying too much under the 2009 pricing agreement that set charges for Russian deliveries on the basis of oil and oil product prices which have since risen steeply.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich said earlier this month negotiations with Russia on gas supplies were going on and it was too early to talk about the new price of imports.

The Kiev government hopes a lower Russian gas price will allow it to cut its budget deficit without raising gas and heating prices for households, something the IMF has insisted should happen.

Disagreement on this issue has stalled talks on restarting a $15 billion (9.7 billion pound) lending programme for Ukraine, and Kiev hopes a new deal with Russia will strengthen its hand in talks with the Fund.

Source: Yahoo News

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ukraine Readies Choice Between EU, Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych’s top ally said Wednesday Ukraine is in crucial talks with both the European Union and Russia and it’s up to the president to decide next month which way the country should go.

Viktor Yanukovych is playing a political chess game between embracing the EU, and its ideals, and going back to "Big Brother" Moscow.

This is the first time that a senior official has admitted that Ukraine has been de-facto choosing between pro-European or pro-Russian foreign policy courses.

Yanukovych and his government have so far publicly spoken in favor of European integration of Ukraine, ruling out closer political integration with Russia.

“One has to realize that currently is a defining stage of talks between Ukraine and the European Union, and the Russian Federation,” Hanna Herman, the top policy advisor to Yanukovych, said in an interview with Channel 5.

“One has to trust the president,” Herman said.

“Trust that he is doing his best to secure better terms for his country, and that the president will make a step in the direction that will most respond to the national interests of Ukraine.”

The comment comes hours after an Interfax report suggested that Yanukovych was due to attend a summit of the Euro-Asian Economic Union, a political bloc led by Russia, in Moscow on December 19.

The report sparked confusion among political figures in Ukraine and abroad because Yanukovych is supposed to host a summit with the European Union on December 19 in Kiev.

Neither the Foreign Ministry nor other government agencies have confirmed the trip by Yanukovych to Moscow on December 19.

But the report came a week after a source at the Polish EU Presidency had suggested the EU may cancel the summit with Ukraine if the authorities fail to release opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko by that time.

Asked about the possibility of Yanukovych’s surprise trip to Moscow on December 19, Herman suddenly spoke about the art of diplomacy.

“It happens that sometimes on the diplomatic chess board one has to make surprise moves,” Herman said. “Not always you can or should explain them.”

A source at the Euro-Asian Economic Union in Moscow told Unian news agency that Yanukovych, just like leaders of other countries that have observer status at the union, had been invited to join the summit on December 19.

However, such leaders usually make decisions on whether to join just days before the summit takes place.

In any case, it is a presidential administration – not the staff of the union - that reports on the leader’s agenda, the source said.

Pawel Kowal, a member of the European Parliament for Poland, said Wednesday the reports of the alleged trip to Moscow may be part of a game aimed at preventing Ukraine’s pro-European course.

“In difficult moments, and this is a difficult moment, some people want to make sure that integration between Ukraine and the European Union does not materialize,” Kowal said.

“That’s why I think that one must not pay attention to these reports. We know that these are elements of a certain game.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Prosecutor Vows To Press More Cases Against Tymoshenko

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- A senior Ukrainian prosecutor in charge of the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko left little doubt that an appeal will uphold her prison sentence for abuse of office and said further charges, including that of commissioning a murder, would be pressed against her.

Renat Kuzmin in Brussels

Speaking to journalists during a rare visit to Brussels, Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin displayed fierce determination to convict Tymoshenko in crimes worthy of a spy novel.

Kuzmin, who was in Brussels at the invitation of MEP Hannes Swoboda (S&D, Austria), said his visit had a "colossal" importance for improving understanding between Ukraine and Europe.

He stressed that his office was willing to share information and to provide proof of "full transparency" regarding the Tymoshenko case.

The prosecutor first said that an appeals case set in December would rule on Tymoshenko's October sentence of seven years in prison for abuse of office in the negotiation of a natural gas deal with Russia in 2009, when she was prime minister.

The appeals court could uphold the conviction, set Tymoshenko free or order another trial.

Tymoshenko's lawyers and supporters say her actions do not amount to a crime and contend that she is a target of political retribution by the ruling authorities.

Kuzmin sees the chances of Tymoshenko being freed were slim despite the politically sensitive timing of the appeal - the EU-Ukraine summit is due in Kiev on 19 December and a long-awaited association agreement with the EU is on the agenda.

Tymoshenko could also be facing additional charges around this time.

Asked by EurActiv, the prosecutor could not say if the appeal would be pronounced before or after the summit.

Kuzmin, who spoke in Russian, never used terms such as "alleged crimes" or "suspected author of crimes".

Instead, he said he was convinced of Tymoshenko's culpability in other crimes.

Journalists treated as ignorant

Kuzmin insisted that Western journalists had no understanding of Tymoshenko's present conviction and described her role in the Russian gas deal at length.

As prime minister, Tymoshenko reportedly interfered in the talks between the Ukrainian state company Naftogaz and Russian export monopoly Gazprom in 2009, asking the then Naftogaz chief Oleg Dubina to sign an agreement for an "enormous" price of $450 (€334) per thousand cubic metres, while the normal price was $185 (€137).

Dubina refused to sign, and then Tymoshenko started blackmailing him and threatening to fire him, Kuzim said.

Under pressure, Dubina agreed to sign under the condition that the government would meet and ask him formally to put his signature on the agreement.

The government indeed met and all ministers voted against the deal.

However, according to the prosecutor, Tymoshenko presented Dubina with a falsified decree which said the government had agreed to buy the gas at the higher price.

Tymoshenko fooled Dubina and the losses incurred amounted to $200 million (€148 million), he said.

In addition, the contract stipulated a fine worth 300% of the gas price if Ukraine refused the principle of "take or pay".

The higher gas prices should have resulted in an increase of the transit fees Ukraine receives from Gazprom, but Tymoshenko blocked this, to the detriment of Ukraine, the prosecutor said.

The resulting losses reached a further $200 million, he said.

Cold case

Kuzmin claims the $400 million (€297 million) was exactly the sum which Tymoshenko embezzled years before from the Russian ministry of defence in conspiracy with the former prime minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Lazarenko, in the 1990s.

Lazarenko was prime minister from 1996 to 1997 and was the mentor of Tymoshenko, president of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine at the time, a private company importing Russian gas to Ukraine.

Lazarenko was convicted of money laundering and is serving a prison term in the United States.

Kuzmin said that Russia had put Tymoshenko on the Interpol list of suspected criminals, but after the gas deal, Moscow withdrew the arrest warrant.

Officially the Russian defence ministry was never compensated for the $400 million, he added.

Tymoshenko had no right to conduct the gas talks, given the conflict of interest of her previous dealings with Moscow, he said.

"Don't her previous dealings explain the crime for which she was convicted?" he said.

In addition, Kuzmin referred to the murder of MP Yefhen Shcherban, one of the richest people in Ukraine.

Shcherban and his wife were killed at the Donetsk airport in 1996 by people dressed as police officers.

The Shcherbans' murderers have confessed having received $1 million (€742,394) from a bank account linked to Lazarenko and Tymoshenko, Kuzmin said.

Kuzmin was pressed by journalists to clarify why his office has not investigated those in power, many of whom live as millionaires despite their modest official income.

He said there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Source: EurActiv

Chernobyl Veterans Stage Hunger Strike To Protest Drastic Pension Cuts

DONETSK, Ukraine -- For 10 days they have foregone food — veterans, once tasked with cleaning up the world’s worst nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.

Men who helped clean up after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in 1986 stand near a tent during a protest against deep cuts to their pensions Nov. 16 in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk, Ukraine. A court on Wednesday banned the veterans from continuing their hunger strike to protest the cuts.

In a gesture of desperation, Chernobyl pensioners in the eastern city of Donetsk (Yanukovych's power base) are risking their lives to convince the government to reverse the sudden deep cuts to their pensions and benefits.

The hunger strike, which began on Nov. 15 was banned by court order on Wednesday, ruling that the strike created a risk of terrorist acts, reported Zik news agency based in Lviv.

Currently, about 40 pensioners are on a hunger strike, supported by another 500 protesters in Donetsk, President Victor Yanukovych’s hometown.

On of them, Vladimir Sumarokov, served as a “liquidator” at Chernobyl, one of a legion of men brought from all over the Soviet Union to tackle the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster after the plant’s fourth reactor exploded in April 1986.

Sumarokov, 58, told The Epoch Times that the protesters are refusing to accept the court ruling.

When officials tried to remove them on Thursday, he said the police gave up because of the heavy media presence.

At least 35 of the hunger strikers have been taken to hospital, according to Sumarokov.

The reduced pensions have left the veterans and their families starving because it is impossible to make ends meet on such small sums, says Sumarokov.

Sumarokov said that for the last five years he had been receiving a pension of $875 per month as a result of a court case he won.

But this month, he got only 1,380 hryvnia ($172).

“Getting such an amount of pension is neither enough to feed a family nor to get proper medical treatment. Pensions are our main source for living,” he said adding, “We cannot find any other job since we are disabled.”

Many who worked at Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster to date, became contaminated with radioactivity, and have shown various health problems.

Nikolai Vsisovich, 56, who worked as a liquidator at the plant told The Epoch Times in March this year that he suffers a litany of chronic ailments and most of his fellow workers have already died from heart problems or cancer.

The veterans were told in early November that the state couldn’t pay the pensions anymore because of a lack of money in the budget.

Instead, authorities promised the veterans that additional funds for them and other groups would be included in next year’s budget.

Some 700,000 emergency workers who did various jobs were granted the status of liquidator and allocated special government benefits.

The protests by the pensioners have indicated problems that originate from the old social security system and preference schemes inherited from Soviet Union, says Iryna Bekeshkina, the director of Kiev-based of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

According to Bekeshkina, politicians have made many promises to veterans over the years, with a variety of laws having been passed ahead of national elections.

But when those entitled to the benefits went to court to demand payment, it turned out “the government had no money to pay these people,” said Bekeshkina.

The cuts to social welfare have affected more than the Chernobyl workers.

Other groups, like the 1979-1989 Afghanistan War veterans have also been staging protests in major cities across Ukraine since the beginning of the month.

The issue is proving to be a major test for President Yanukovych whose popularity is declining.

Another factor amplifying people’s anger, according to Bekeshkina, is that while the government is cutting benefits to vulnerable seniors, it has made no comparable cuts to the pensions of government officials.

Source: Epoch Times

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Back In Prison After Medical Check-Up

KIEV, Ukraine -- ailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has been returned to her prison cell after a medical tests at a hospital in Kiev indicated she was not suffering from any life-threatening medical condition, media reports quoting Tymoshenko's lawyer and prison officials said Wednesday.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Ukraine's prison service confirmed in a statement that Tymoshenko had undergone medical checks at a hospital in the capital city, stating: "As a result of Tymoshenko's checks, no life-threatening pathological changes were found."

Tymoshenko was reportedly brought back to prison from the hospital by about 10 am on Wednesday, just hours after she was taken for the medical check-up.

Her lawyer Sergei Vlasenko expressed doubts about the medical checkup, saying: "We don't know what they did to her or what the results are."

The developments come a day after President Viktor Yanukovych authorized Tymoshenko's release from prison temporarily to get medical treatment for serious health problems, including severe back pain.

"I was informed that the system [of medical treatment in jail]... is not up to the required standards. So this treatment or medical services will have to be provided in medical institutions in Kiev, in the coming days, either today or tomorrow," Yanukovych told a news conference on Tuesday.

Last month, a court in Kiev had found Tymoshenko guilty of exceeding her powers in signing the 2009 gas contracts with Russia and sentenced her to seven years in prison.

She was also ordered to pay a compensation of 1.5 billion hryvnya ($187 million) lost by the state-run Naftogaz as a result of the deal.

The 50-year-old opposition leader insists that her trial was a politically-motivated ploy of her arch rival President Yanukovych to disqualify her from contesting the October 2012 parliamentary and the 2015 presidential elections.

Tymoshenko, leader of the Batkivschyna All-Ukrainian Association party, said after the court ruling that she would challenge the verdict in the European Court of Human Rights.

However, she has since been charged with new offenses dating back to the 1990s, including tax evasion, theft and concealing foreign currency revenues.

Tymoshenko, who was Ukraine's first female Prime Minister, and former President Viktor Yushchenko are considered to be the leading lights of the the 2004 'Orange Revolution' that ousted President Yanukovych from power by getting his fraud-tainted election victory canceled.

Yushchenko has since faded into political oblivion.

Nonetheless, the Kremlin-backed Yanukovych got re-elected as President in the February 2010 election, defeating Tymoshenko by just 3.5 percentage points.

Tymoshenko lost her premiership in March 2010 after losing a vote of confidence and is now Ukraine's Opposition leader.

Many of Tymoshenko's former Cabinet colleagues and political allies are currently in prison on various charges ranging from corruption to power abuse, prompting concerns about the country's political future.

The United States has condemned the case against Tymoshenko and some of her allies as "selective prosecution of political opponents."

The case against Tymoshenko had threatened to derail Ukraine's European Union membership ambitions.

Ahead of her sentencing, the EU had warned President Yanukovych that the former Soviet Republic risks losing a possible EU entry if Tymoshenko was convicted in the case.

Ukraine's EU accession now seems doubtful.

Source: RTT News

Yanukovich May Snub EU-Ukraine Summit In His Own Capital

KIEV, Ukraine -- In what appears to be a spectacular snub, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanokovich is planning to be in Moscow on December 19, the date set for the EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

The Ukrainian leader “will take part in the 32nd session of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community, which will take place in Moscow on December 19," a source at the EurAsEC secretariat told Interfax-Ukraine.

Ukraine has observer status in the Russian-led economic organization which unites several former Soviet republics.

The EU-Ukraine summit, where an Association Agreement with the EU may be initialed, is also scheduled for December 19.

The summit had been in doubt following the draconian jail sentence passed on Ukraine’s former prime minister and opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, in October.

Yanukovich had been at pains to ensure the event went ahead as planned.

Ukraine’s foreign ministery said it had no information on the president’s planned visit to Moscow.

However, a presidential aide hinted at diplomatic maneuvering.

“It should be taken into consideration that now it is the crucial stage of Ukraine's talks with the EU and Russia,” Anna Herman told Itar-Tass journalists.

“It happens so that one must make an unexpected move on the diplomatic chessboard. And it is not always necessary to explain it.”

A key issue of the Association Agreement is Ukraine’s entry into a free-trade zone with the EU.

However, Kiev is pushing for a clause on Ukraine's possible future membership of the union to be included in the document.

"Ukraine insists that the prospect of its accession to the EU should be envisaged in this agreement. We believe that there will be no other agreement of such a kind, since it is not the EU's practice."

"Therefore, this one agreement is strategic and very important to us. It should include all of the elements that would promote the development of our relations and the process of reform in Ukraine," he said at a meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, according to the Kyiv Post news website.

There has been much speculation in the media that the document might not be signed on December 19 following the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko, which the EU has condemned as politically motivated.

On October 11, she was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of power over gas contracts she agreed with Russia in 2009.

According to the deputy foreign minister, Pavel Klimkin, Ukraine has no principled intention to initial the Association Agreement at the Kiev summit.

"Our idea is to declare about the completion of the talks," Klimkin said, as quoted by Itar-Tass.

He added that the agreement may be initialed when technical work on the document is completed.

And that is quite a daunting task, since 1,500 pages must be approved by Ukrainian and EU negotiators.

Source: Russia Today

Justice For Journalists: Time To Lift Veil Of Secrecy Surrounding Gongadze Case

LONDON, England -- ARTICLE 19 marked the first ever international day against impunity (23rd November) by holding a silent vigil outside the Ukraine, Belarus and Russian Embassies in London to highlight impunity for murdered journalists in those countries.

Members of ARTICLE 19 holding a silent vigil outside the Ukrainian Embassy in London, England.

In Ukraine, the high-profile kidnapping and killing of investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000 remains unresolved over ten years on.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Ukrainian authorities, in line with its obligations as a state party to the European Convention for Human Rights, to bring those who instigated his murder to justice.

The continuing impunity surrounding his kidnap and killing is in violation of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to life and the right not to be subject to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Strong public statements by several successive Ukrainian governments, numerous ongoing criminal investigations and even convictions have not resulted in holding the instigators of his murder to account.

After his death and over the past decade, the Ukrainian authorities focussed more on denying official involvement in Gongadze’s kidnapping and murder than on identifying those responsible for the crimes.

“The Gongadze kidnapping and murder is a landmark case for Ukraine. Over ten years on, it still weighs heavily on the journalistic community and society at large. No one has yet been convicted for giving the order for Gongadze's kidnapping, decapitation and murder. There appears to be little political will to solve the Gongadze case,” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly adopted on 27 January 2009 Resolution 1645 on the investigation of crimes allegedly committed by high officials during the Kuchma rule in Ukraine highlighting the Gongadze case as an emblematic example.

This Resolution calls on the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office to use all possible avenues of investigation to identify those who instigated and organised the murder of Georgiy Gongadze.

Current trial proceedings against a former general of the Ministry of Interior, Aleksei Pukach, alleged to have strangled and beheaded Gongadze, are held behind closed doors.

Despite repeated calls by his widow, Myroslava Gongadze,the judge presiding over the case decided that its content contains state secrets and should not be disclosed to the general public.

“Now is the time for the authorities to show their commitment to freedom of expression by bringing all of those responsible for his death to justice and lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding the trial. A closed trial hinders the transparency needed to get to the truth about who was ultimately responsible for his kidnapping and killing,” continued Callamard.

In a surprise move in March 2011, the Ukrainian General Prosecutors’ Office charged former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, who was in power in 2000, with abuse of power over the murder of Gongadze, which is alleged to have been linked to his instructions to Ministry of Interior officials.

However, as the statute of limitations passed in September 2010, he might be convicted but wouldn’t necessarily face time in prison.

The charges against the former president are viewed with scepticism and this particular action is seen by many as little more than window-dressing by the current authorities.


On 16 September 2000, Ukrainian investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze disappeared; his body was found over six weeks later.

Gongadze had been investigating corruption within former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma’s inner circle. In the months leading to his death, Gongadze reported that he was under surveillance and had been receiving threats.

Source: ARTICLE 19

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stratfor: EU Leaders Visit Ukrainian Oligarch

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his Polish counterpart, Radosław Sikorski, travel to Ukraine on Wednesday in a bid to get former Ukrainian Prime Minster Yulia Timoshenko released from prison.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Rather than meeting with Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, the two foreign ministers will instead meet with Ukraine’s richest man and leading oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov.

This unique meeting comes at a crucial time in the ongoing competition between key EU members and Russia over Ukraine.

They are traveling to Ukraine because the two countries that they represent, Poland and Sweden, are the initiators of the Eastern Partnership program, which seeks to bring six former Soviet states closer to the EU.

One of these states is Ukraine, which has become the cornerstone of the program, both because it is the most strategic state in the Eastern Partnership and because it is the farthest along in its negotiations in cooperation with the EU.

The timing of this visit is especially important, as it comes just a few weeks before the EU-Ukraine summit on Dec. 18.

At the summit, there was scheduled to be two major agreements signed, the association and the free-trade agreement, between the EU and Ukraine.

However, these two agreements have been put into jeopardy by the trial and conviction of former Ukrainian Prime Minister and leading opposition figure, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Several EU leaders have linked, specifically, Ms Tymoshenko’s release to these agreements being signed.

It also comes as Ukraine is on the verge of signing a new natural gas deal with Russia, and this deal could have significant implications on Ukraine’s relationship with the EU as well.

It is for this reason that Mr Bildt and Mr Sikorski’s meeting with Mr Akhetov matters, as he is one of the most powerful oligarchs and has close ties to Yanukovich.

Previous attempts from EU leaders to get Mr Yanukovych to drop charges against Ms Tymoshenko have so far not proven successful.

By meeting with Akhetov, Bildt and Sikorski are hoping that they can influence Mr Yanukovych via one of his major power backers.

The Tymoshenko situation remains fluid, and there is still a lot that can happen between now and the EU-Ukraine summit.

But this visit does prove that key EU officials have not given up on Ukraine just yet.

Source: Warsaw Business Journal

Ukraine’s Tymoshenko Back In Jail After Check-Up

KIEV, Ukraine -- Jailed Ukrainian ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was taken to hospital on Wednesday for a medical check-up and then returned to jail after doctors found she had no life-threatening ailment, the prison service said.

Yulia Tymoshenko is back in jail after hospital check-up.

“Today, Tymoshenko received medical checks (magnetic resonance imaging, X-ray, sonography) at one of Kiev’s hospitals,” it said in a statement.

“As a result of Tymoshenko’s checks no life-threatening pathological changes were found.”

President Viktor Yanukovich promised on Tuesday to provide hospital treatment for his political opponent, who was sentenced last month to seven years’ imprisonment for abuse of office, after a human rights monitor expressed alarm at her condition.

Tymoshenko’s supporters say she has been unable to rise from her bed for weeks and her questioning by prosecutors investigating fresh criminal cases against her amounted to torture.

Tymoshenko, 50, who was beaten narrowly by Yanukovich in a run-off for the presidency in February 2010, says her trial is a vendetta by him aimed at neutralizing her as a political force in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

The European Union, with which Ukraine is trying to establish closer political and trade ties, has largely taken her side, saying that her trial was politically motivated and calling for her release.

But Kiev has instead heaped more charges on Tymoshenko, reopening previously closed investigations into her activities as a head of a gas trading company in the 1990s.

Tymoshenko’s appeal against last month’s verdict is due to be heard in the coming months but her defense counsel says chances of it being overturned are slim.

Source: Arab News

Ukraine Prosecutor: Bring Me Evidence Of Yanukovych Corruption

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Ukraine's celebrity general prosecutor has offered to investigate President Viktor Yanukovych for alleged corruption in a bid to improve his country's image in the EU.

Ukraine's general prosecutor Rinat Kuzmin

The jurist, Rinat Kuzmin, famous for putting former president Leonid Kuchma on trial for murder and, more recently, for jailing former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of office, made the offer on Yanukovych at a press briefing in Brussels on Tuesday (22 November).

Kuzmin was in the EU capital on a mission to demonstrate the "openness" of Ukraine's legal establishment after EU leaders accused Yanukovych of using selective justice to eliminate political rivals.

He noted as one clear sign that Tymoshenko is guilty of corruption that in the past she declared an income of less than $2,000 a year while buying "cars, furs, jewellery, restaurants."

When asked if it is equally suspicious that Yanukovych has a declared income of $115,000 a year but appears to be building himself a multi-million-dollar lakeside mansion north of Kiev, Kuzmin said his office would investigate the president if it receives a request on paper.

"To you as a journalist who is interested in this topic, I would recommend to present an official information request, with accompanying documents, and to transmit it to the prosecutor's office. We will examine your request and provide written answers," he said.

Asked if he is also concerned by evidence the Yanukovych government paid $150 million more than the market value for a gas-drilling platform this year, he again promised to make enquiries:

"I would like to repeat, if the investigative department receives your information about [the rig] we are ready to examine it ... Don't be shy. Send a request."

The Yanukovych mansion case was exposed in recent weeks by investigative reports in the Kyiv Post, Korrespondent and Ukrainska Pravda publications. The gas rig case was covered by the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya journal.

For their part, Ukrainian journalists think Kuzmin's offer on Yanukovych is hollow talk designed to impress a Brussels audience.

Contacts said Kuzmin himself lives in a lavish house in the exclusive Pushcha Voditsa recreation complex.

But officials have denied freedom of information requests about the property.

He also has a conflict of interest on the Tymoshenko case because he sits on Ukraine's Supreme Council of Justice, which has the power to sack the Tymoshenko judge.

For her part, EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton has done little in recent days to persuade Ukrainian diplomats the EU's tough line on Ukraine is based on genuine values.

The prevailing theory in Kiev is that France, Germany and the Netherlands - the main enemies of Ukraine enlargement - are using human rights as a pretext to block EU integration.

Amid EU threats to cancel an EU-Ukraine summit in December, Ashton last week met with the foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, but said little about human rights abuses by the regimes.

Her deputies in Brussels also met with the foreign minister of Uzbekistan - rated as one of the most repressive countries in the world alongside North Korea and Zimbabwe.

Commenting on the EU's decision in October to cancel a Yanukovych meeting over the Tymoshenko case, Ukraine's EU ambassador, Kostyantyn Yeliseyev, accused the Union of double standards.

"Of course, if you ask EU officials, they say the climate is not conducive [for negotiations]. If you use the same criterion of conducive climate, under this pretext, you could cancel about 80 percent of EU talks," he told EUobserver at the time.

Source: EUobserver

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ukraine Leader Orders Tymoshenko Health Check

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday vowed to provide immediate treatment to jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko amid growing concerns over the opposition leader's health.

Visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite warned Ukraine that it could not continue with its current behaviour towards Tymoshenko.

Yanukovych's comments came as pressure mounted on Ukraine from the European Union to release the 2004 Orange Revolution leader on the seventh anniversary of an uprising that had brought both her and other pro-Western figures to power.

The president said he discussed Tymoshenko with his health and interior ministers in the wake of reports that severe back pain was keeping her bed-ridden during her rounds of interrogation on yet another set of charges.

Yanukovych said that "the healthcare system (in prison) has not yet reached the sufficient standards. That is why in this case the care must be given in medical establishments in Kiev" outside the prison.

"This is likely to be done today or tomorrow," he added.

Ukraine's rights ombudsman Nina Karpacheva had earlier said her unannounced visit to Tymoshenko on Sunday confirmed that Tymoshenko's condition was "extremely serious" although she did not give further details.

Tymoshenko was first placed under arrest on August 5 before she was sentenced to seven years in jail on October 11 for abuse of authority for agreeing gas contracts with Russia in 2009.

She has insisted that her prosecution was ordered by her arch-foe Yanukovych following the Orange team's defeat in last year's presidential polls.

The process angered the European Union and dented Ukraine's hopes of one day joining the bloc.

The fate of a December summit with Ukraine concerning its future membership now hangs in the balance.

Visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Yanukovych that she had been authorised by the European Commission -- the EU's executive arm -- to warn Ukraine it could not continue with its current behaviour.

"The dominant view in Europe is that Tymoshenko and her colleagues have been victims of a political neutralisation campaign," Grybauskaite said.

The renewed EU pressure on the cautiously Russia-friendly Yanukovych came as Ukraine marked the anniversary of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The spontaneous pro-Western rallies overturned the results of a rigged presidential poll and spawned hope of a new European future for the country under president Viktor Yushchenko and his then ally Tymoshenko.

The spontaneous demonstrations began a day after the authorities handed a controversial runoff election victory to Yanukovych despite strong suspicions that the vote actually went Yushchenko's way.

He decisively won a third round of elections held on December 26, 2004.

Tuesday's anniversary was marked by police banning all rallies and putting barriers around the main Independence Square -- also known as Maidan -- that formed the heart of the street resistance movement.

Officials explained their decision by the scheduled installation of a huge fir tree for New Year's celebrations.

But the Orange movement has failed to generate much public interest of late amid a general sense of voter frustration with politics.

Most rallies in support of Tymoshenko only drew her own party members and a small group of hardcore supporters while failing to register nationwide.

Tymoshenko herself issued a statement from jail admitting that the hopes of many had not been fulfilled by the endlessly-infighting Orange government.

"I have a mixed sense of pride for my country and guilt for the unfulfilled dreams," she said.

Former president Yushchenko however said he felt the current times in Ukraine were similar to those he encountered in the run-up to the 2004 presidential polls.

"We are now facing the same challenges as the ones that caused Maidan in 2004 -- state authoritarianism, violation of the rights of citizens and entrepreneurs ... and blatant preparations for falsified elections," Yushchenko said in an apparent reference to 2012 legislative elections.

Source: AFP

Orange Repeal: Kiev's 'Freedom' Fail

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Kiev District Administrative Court has banned the celebration of the seventh anniversary of Ukraine's Orange Revolution – Freedom Day - on the capital's Independence Square.

Political rallies near the Prosecutor General's Office.

Earlier, the coalition of participants of the Orange Revolution filed an application to hold festivities.

However, the court ruled to satisfy an appeal by Kiev's city administration and banned all mass events in the center of the capital on November 21-22.

Petro Mykhailenko, first deputy board chairman of the coalition told Ukrainian News that they are planning to appeal the decision.

He said that the city administration asked for the ban after a joint meeting with Kiev police authorities and representatives of the public organizations who planned to stage events on the revolution anniversary day.

The authorities explained that the Independence Square would be busy with preparations for erecting the New Year tree.

Police also noted that Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite is due to visit Kiev on November 22 and mass gatherings would not be appropriate for security reasons.

Freedom Day was established in 2005 by a decree of former President Viktor Yushchenko to commemorate the Orange Revolution.

Back in November 2004, thousands of protesters took to streets to protest the results of the run-off vote of the Ukrainian presidential election, which was claimed to be rigged in favor of Viktor Yanukovich.

Following a month of protests, the vote results were annulled and Ukraine's Supreme Court ordered a new election to be held.

The second run-off brought a victory for Yushchenko.

Now the country is ruled by his rival Yanukovich who won presidential vote in 2010.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the Orange Revolution’s co-leaders, is serving her seven-year sentence.

She was convicted of abusing her powers while negotiating a natural gas import contract in Russia in 2009.

Last week, she asked international medical organizations to help examine and treat her deteriorating health conditions.

She has complained of severe back pain.

The human rights commissioner for the country’s parliament, theVerkhovna Rada, Nina Karpachova, said on Sunday that Tymoshenko is in a serious condition.

The ombudsman visited the former PM in prison on Sunday, writes Kiev Post news website.

She told Channel 5 on Monday that on Sunday evening, without any warning, she came to the jail to visit the former prime minister.

"[Tymoshenko] could not get out of bed when talking to me. She needs to be examined and treated outside the detention center. I also think that it is absolutely impossible to conduct investigative actions in a prison cell, and this is the only case over the period of Ukraine's independence," Karpachova is quoted as saying.

Source: RussiaToday