Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strasbourg Condemns Lutsenko Sentence In Ukraine

STRASBOURG, France -- Europe's top human rights watchdog has condemned Ukraine for jailing former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, saying he did not receive a fair trial.

Jean-Claude Mignon

Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, urged Ukraine to free him.

Lutsenko, who served under jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was sentenced on Monday to four years for abuse of office and embezzlement.

He maintains his innocence, saying he is the victim of a show trial.

Lutsenko was convicted of giving illegal bonuses and perks to his driver at the expense of the state.

He was also ordered to pay the equivalent of $116,000 (£73,000; 86,000 euros) to compensate for misused funds, including some spent on celebrating the police force's professional day.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in October for abuse of office, at a controversial trial.

She and Lutsenko were allies during the Orange Revolution which overturned the discredited presidential election result of 2004, ejecting Viktor Yanukovych from office.

However, Mr Yanukovych won legitimately the last presidential election, two years ago, defeating Tymoshenko.

'Politically motivated'

Mr Mignon said the charges on which Lutsenko was convicted were "absolutely no justification for a prison sentence", and he suggested that the trial had been politically motivated.

"It is unacceptable for former members of the government of a Council of Europe member state to be prosecuted for political reasons," he said.

"This practice is contrary to the rule of law and takes Ukraine further away [from] the principles of our organisation as well as the European integration to which this country aspires."

Both Lutsenko and Tymoshenko were, Mr Mignon said, victims "of a policy pursued by the present government in an effort to call into question decisions taken by a previous government".

The US has said it is "disappointed" by Lutsenko's conviction and also called for his release.

"The politically motivated prosecution of opposition leaders, including Mr Lutsenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, raises serious concerns about the government of Ukraine's commitment to democracy and rule of law," said state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Tymoshenko herself praised her former minister for his courage on trial and said she and other political prisoners were struggling for "liberation" from President Yanukovych's rule.

"Today we are behind bars," she was quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

"But if this is the price we should pay for the liberation of the country, we agree to pay it. Yura [Lutsenko] will agree with me, I know."

Source: BBC News

Czechs Protest Against Verdict On Ukrainian Lutsenko

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The Czech Republic has reacted with concern and apprehension to the verdict of a Ukrainian court that sentenced former minister of internal affairs Yuriy Lutsenko to four years in prison for embezzlement and abuse of power, the Czech Foreign Ministry told CTK Monday.

Yuriy Lutsenko and Yulia Tymoshenko

Like in the case of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Lutsenko's trial was a long way from European standards and principles of the observance of human rights, the Foreign Ministry said.

"We consider the trial and four-year prison sentence for Lutsenko another proof of selective and politically motivated execution of judiciary in Ukraine and a form of political revenge on former government representatives," it added.

The Foreign Ministry said it believed that no political force in Ukraine should be subjected to politically motivated criminal prosecution, "especially if it is based on an obsolete penal code."

Parties should have the opportunity to take part in elections, it added.

The court ruled that all property had to be confiscated from Lutsenko, one of Tymoshenko's closest collaborators.

He must pay the damages and must not perform any public post for three years.

The Foreign Ministry said it wanted to watch the cases of Lutsenko, Tymoshenko and others.

It said it supported Ukraine's European integration effort.

"We also stress that this objective depends on Ukraine's behaving like a democratic country respecting the rule of law," the ministry said.

In 2011, Prague granted asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn, former minister in Tymoshenko's previous government.

This January, Tymoshenko's husband Oleksandr Tymoshenko applied for Czech asylum.

Source: Prague Daily Monitor

Fule Names Key Areas Of EU Integration Process For Ukraine

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule has named six key areas in which Ukraine can take steps towards European integration.

European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule.

"There are a number of concrete steps that Ukraine can take to make the road ahead as smooth as possible, and to demonstrate that it is laying the foundations for political association."

"I would like to highlight the need for action in six key areas which I consider to be particularly important," he said in his speech in Brussels on Monday as part of a policy dialog, entitled "EU-Ukraine Relations: The Road Ahead."

Fule said that the first step was to recognize the failings of the justice system in a number of cases, in particular, criminal cases opened against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

"Today's [February 27] verdict on Yuriy Lutsenko is further evidence that this is a systemic problem encompassing all aspects of judicial process," he said.

Fule recalled that these trials and detentions "have elicited criticism from independent experts around the world."

"Wide judicial reform based on expert advice, and carried out openly and with appropriate consultation, would show that the rule of law lies at the center of Ukraine's agenda for change and is not applied on a selective basis," the commissioner said.

Fule said that as part of this, the Ukrainian authorities should also "make public the preliminary observations of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture from their recent visit to Ukraine."

"This visit included an assessment of the health care being provided to a number of those currently in detention, including Mrs Tymoshenko, Mr Lutsenko and Mr [former Acting Defense Minister Valeriy] Ivaschenko," he said.

"The second step would be to follow this up with progress on other reforms related to the rule of law. These include laws on freedom of assembly and NGOs, and amendments to the laws on the judicial system and the status of judges. These should be brought into line with the recommendations made by the Council of Europe," Fule said.

He said that the third step would be to prepare the parliamentary elections so that all political forces are confident that "democracy is observed in spirit as well as in law."

The commissioner also said that outstanding recommendations from the Venice Commission on the legal framework should be clearly followed.

"Observers from bodies such as OSCE-ODIHR should be invited to monitor the elections. And fair access to the media and freedom of assembly should be guaranteed," he said.

He said that the fourth step was to drive forward constitutional reform in close consultation with the Venice Commission.

"The establishment of a single independent body dedicated to this issue would be an important step, and would help to guarantee that the process was undertaken in an open and participatory way."

"The opposition must also play a constructive role in supporting change. All Ukrainians have a stake in this process and it is vital to get it right," he said.

He said that the fifth step was for Ukraine to take the necessary steps to unblock two significant financial resources.

"First, if the Civil Service Law is not amended to bring it in line with EU and international standards, Ukraine could lose EUR 70 million of 2011 funds. These funds are intended to support Ukraine's public administrative reform, which we consider so important."

"Second, two general conditions for budgetary support on progress in public finance management reforms and macroeconomic stability remain under review," Fule said.

"Until these conditions are met, the 2011 and 2012 budget support disbursement requests by the Government, amounting to EUR 167 million, must remain on hold."

"Therefore, it would be a significant step forward if Ukraine can adopt a comprehensive reform strategy on public finance management in agreement with the EU and start to deliver on it," he said.

Source: Interfax

Update: Odessa Arrest Reported In Putin Slay Plot

MOSCOW, Russia -- The security services of Russia and Ukraine report foiling a plan to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that was organized by an underground movement in the North Caucasus region, Russian state television reported Monday.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The report came less than a week before Russians go to the polls to vote on whether Putin should reclaim the presidency.

Protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators, most recently in Moscow on Sunday, accuse officials loyal to Putin of cheating in parliamentary elections in early December.

Nevertheless, he is expected to defeat his four opponents in the first ballot.

Some observers questioned reports of an assassination plot, suggesting it was either entirely fabricated or that the announcement of a real plot was made at a time when it could benefit Putin's campaign.

Russia's main state television channel reported that Ukrainian authorities arrested a Russian after a Jan. 4 explosion in an apartment in Odessa.

One person died in the explosion, it said.

The survivor provided information leading to the arrest early this month of a second person, who was identified as Adam Osmayev, the TV report said.

In a video provided by Ukrainian authorities, a man with a bruised face who was identified as Osmayev said the group was planning to kill Putin sometime after Sunday's election, using antitank mines.

"The final goal was to come to Moscow and try and carry out an attempt on Premier Putin's life," he said.

"The security service is not omnipowerful; it can't control all the cars, all the pedestrians in the street."

The report said that Osmayev's laptop, which was seized in the raid, contained several video recordings of Putin's motorcade route in and near Moscow, made from different vantage points.

It said that information provided by Ukraine helped the Russians find a cache of plastic explosives and detonators buried near one of Moscow's major thoroughfares, Kutuzovsky Prospekt.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed to the Itar-Tass news agency that an attempt on his boss' life was prevented, but he refused to elaborate.

Putin, who has been prime minister since 2008, was first elected president in 2000 and quickly gained popularity by launching a fierce military campaign to regain control of the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.

But violence continues in the region's patchwork of ethnic republics, and over the years Chechen groups have claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Russia.

Russian news reports identified Osmayev as a Chechen.

The television report said he had arrived in Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates, that he had lived in London, and that he had received his instructions from representatives of Chechen insurgent leader Doku Umarov.

Some political experts called the reports of a plot little more than a publicity stunt.

"Putin seems oblivious to the fact that the country has changed in the last 12 years and people are not going to come out and protect the nation's leader with their bodies in an imaginary war," said Andrei Piontkovsky, a senior researcher at Moscow's Systems Analysis Institute.

But Sergei Markov, vice president of the Moscow-based Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, said the Kremlin may have taken advantage of information about a real plot to help Putin's campaign.

"It is a fact that Putin has always been the primary target for various terrorist groups, but until now the information about previous attempts on his life has been kept from the public," Markov said.

"I think this time, given the decisive week of the campaign, they must have decided that it makes no sense to keep this important news from the public."

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Anticipates EU Association Agreement Set Into Motion

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it hopes the country’s European integration will continue and the Association Agreement with the European Union will eventually move forward despite Western criticism of some Ukrainian judicial decisions.

Ukraine - EU Summit in Kiev, 2011.

“We are convinced that the decisions made in the context of our European integration will have a continuation… and we will finally initial a relevant agreement,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Dikusarov said.

The international community and Ukrainian opposition have questioned the issue of democracy in Ukraine over investigations of criminal cases against former officials, in particular, ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko and former Ukrainian interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, which they said were politically motivated.

In December 2011, Ukraine and the EU finalized negotiations on the Association Agreement, a deal that could set the former Soviet republic on the way to full membership, but the EU said the signing and ratification of the agreement will depend on the situation around Tymoshenko and on Ukraine’s 2012 parliamentary elections.

Tymoshenko was jailed in October 2011 for seven years on abuse of office charges over a gas deal she concluded with Russia in 2009.

The verdict was internationally condemned as politically motivated.

The ex-premier said she is a victim of a conspiracy by current President Viktor Yanukovych, her long-time political opponent.

The Ukrainian authorities have denied the allegations.

A Ukrainian court on Monday sentenced Lutsenko, an ally of jailed opposition leader Tymoshenko, to four years in prison for abuse of office.

The former minister has denied any wrongdoing, saying his trial was politically motivated, which the Ukrainian authorities denied. EU officials and the U.S. State Department have expressed disappointment over the verdict.

Dikusarov said Ukraine’s best answer to Western criticism will be when the country adopts a new Criminal Procedural Code.

“It is natural that our foreign colleagues are concerned over decisions that were made on the basis of outdated laws."

"We hope the new Criminal Procedural Code, worked out in line with the Council of Europe’s demands, will be adopted and this will be Ukraine’s best practical answer to statements voiced by our colleagues,” he said.

In early February, a presidential draft of the new Criminal Procedural Code passed its first reading in the country’s parliament.

Source: RIA Novosti

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ukraine’s Ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko Among Nobel Nominees

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- The Nobel Peace Prize jury has received 231 nominations for this year's award, a spokesman said, with publicly disclosed candidates including a former Ukrainian prime minister and the U.S. soldier accused of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks, AP reported.

Yulia Tymoshenko

The secretive committee doesn't reveal who has been nominated, but those with nomination rights sometimes announce their picks.

Names put forward this year include Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private charged with the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history, Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Being nominated doesn't say anything about a candidate's chances.

A wide range of submissions comes in every year from lawmakers, university professors and others with nomination rights, but the decision rests solely with a five-member panel appointed by Norway's parliament.

The deadline for outside nominations was Feb. 1, but the five-member committee added its own suggestions at a meeting Friday, March 2.

Some critics say the committee has departed from award founder Alfred Nobel's intentions by broadening the scope of the peace prize to include efforts to promote the environment and human rights.

Earlier this month a Swedish authority that oversees foundations in Stockholm - including the Nobel Foundation - said it would investigate whether the peace committee is complying with Nobel's will.

The Nobel Prizes also include awards in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

A sixth award, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, was created by the Swedish central bank in 1968 in memory of prize founder Alfred Nobel.

Each prize comes with a purse of 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.5 million). The winners are usually announced in October.

Source: PanArmenian Net

Ukraine Hotel Prices For Euro 2012 Still An Issue

WARSAW, Poland -- Organizers says curbing hotel prices in Ukraine and coordinating services in Poland are the main challenges remaining for the European Championship.

The soccer showcase begins in June and is the biggest international sports event either country has held.

The neighboring host nations have been building and upgrading stadiums, hotels, airports and roads.

Euro 2012 operations director Martin Kallen said preparations are "under control" and close to finished.

But he said very high prices in some hotels in Ukraine may give the country and the tournament a bad image.

Speaking from Kiev, Ukraine, Kallen said he has "appealed for reason."

Ukraine has a wide offer of accommodations and reasonable prices can be found, he said during a conference of Polish and Ukrainian officials in charge of the tournament.

Ukraine has built and modernized four stadiums and four airports, and its road system is ready for the tens of thousands of fans traveling to venues during the three-week event, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Kolesnikov said.

Poland should have its stadiums and accommodation ready May 15, according to Sports Minster Joanna Mucha.

She said the main tasks now are to coordinate all services and to speed passport and customs procedures on the border with Ukraine, which is the European Union's external border, and where waiting time on road crossings can be up to four hours.

The head of the organizing body in Poland, Marcin Herra, said his main concern is to ensure that transit, lodings, information and security coordinate smoothly.

Euro 2012 starts June 8 with Poland playing Greece in Warsaw at National Stadium.

The stadium opened Jan. 29, six months behind schedule, and Poland's exhibition game against Portugal on Wednesday will be its first sports event.

Source: Boston Globe

Ukraine Opposition Politician Jailed

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Kiev court has sentenced Yuriy Lutsenko, an opposition politician and former interior minister, to four years in prison for embezzlement and charges of abuse of office.

Yuriy Lutsenko

After the seven-year sentence handed to Yulia Tymoshenko, opposition leader in October, the ruling is expected to further strain Ukraine’s relations with the European Union and the US.

Since early last year, both Brussels and Washington have warned that closer relations were being jeopardised by alleged political persecutions and a broader rollback on democratic freedoms under Viktor Yanukovich, who narrowly beat Ms Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential contest.

In a joint statement on Monday, Lady Ashton, the EU’s top foreign policy official, and Stefan Fuele, enlargement commissioner, said: “We are disappointed with the verdict against Mr Lutsenko, which signals the continuation of trials in Ukraine which do not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process.”

Like Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Lutsenko denies wrongdoing and describes the charges against him as a politically motivated attempt by Mr Yanukovich to sideline rivals.

Mr Yanukovich denies such accusations, insisting that his administration is waging a genuine crackdown on corruption and that the nation’s courts are independent.

The west has called upon Ukraine to release recently jailed opposition politicians before an October parliamentary election, describing the trials as unfair and examples of “selective justice”.

Weeks ago, Serhiy Demishkan, the son of an official in Mr Yanukovich’s government and political ally, was given a suspended sentence despite being found guilty of taking part in a brutal murder.

The crimes Mr Lutsenko was found guilty of involve misuse of about $100,000, in part by allegedly awarding favours to subordinates while he served as interior minister from 2007 to 2009.

In a statement made before the verdict on Mr Lutsenko, the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said: “Whatever sentence will be passed in the Lutsenko case it is not the result of a fair trial in a legal system respecting the rule of law and basic human rights principles.”

The sentencing of Mr Lutsenko, 47, and Ms Tymoshenko, 51, sidelines two of the three main leaders of Ukraine’s Orange revolution, in 2004.

Both played a big role then in rallying protesters against election fraud as the nation’s supreme court reversed an allegedly fraud-marred vote count, in turn stripping Mr Yanukovich of the presidency.

Back then, the pro-western Viktor Yushchenko won a repeat vote, but had a bitter falling out with Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Lutsenko during his tenure as president.

He has not been a suspect in any investigations under Mr Yanukovich’s rule.

Source: FT

Monday, February 27, 2012

Report: Russia, Ukraine Foil Plot To Kill Putin

MOSCOW, Russia -- Security forces have uncovered a plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister VladimirPutin and have arrested suspects linked to a Chechen rebel leader known for other terror attacks, Russian state television reported Monday.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is running for his former job as president, addresses a conference of the Union of Industrialists in Moscow on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012.

The report, which included televised confessions by two suspects, is likely to boost support for Mr. Putin as he seeks his third term as president in an election Sunday.

Mr. Putin has portrayed himself as a strong protector of Russia’s national interests and has counted the victory over Chechen separatist rebels as one of the key achievements of his rule.

The report casting him as a target for terrorists could draw public sympathy and help secure his victory by a wider margin.

Mr. Putin, who was Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008 and prime minister since then, is running for a third, now six-year presidential term.

He is expected to win easily against four Kremlin-approved challengers, but an unprecedented wave of protests since December has undermined his image as a strong, popular leader.

Channel One said the suspects, acting on instructions from Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, were preparing to kill Mr. Putin in Moscow immediately after Sunday’s election.

It said the suspects were arrested in Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa after an accidental explosion Feb. 4 while they were trying to manufacture explosives at a rented apartment.

The Ukrainian Security Service said earlier this month it had detained a man sought by Russian authorities on charges of terrorism and two of his accomplices in Odessa on Feb. 4, but said nothing at the time about them being linked to an anti-Putin plot.

Its spokeswoman, Marina Ostapenko, said Monday the announcement in Moscow came only now because the Russian special service was conducting its own investigation.

She confirmed the main suspect was involved in a plot to kill Mr. Putin, but she didn’t elaborate.

There was no immediate explanation for the different number of suspects cited by Russia and Ukraine.

Channel One said the source for its information was Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency dealing with domestic security.

The agency refused to comment.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the report to the ITAR-Tass news agency but refused to comment further.

Mr. Umarov, whose whereabouts are unknown, also has not responded to the allegation.

Opinion polls show that Mr. Putin likely will get a majority of the presidential vote, giving him a victory in the first round, despite mass protests that have erupted after a tainted Dec. 4 parliamentary vote.

Mr. Putin has managed to recoup some of the losses thanks to blanket daily coverage by state-controlled TV stations casting him as a defender of Russia against foreign plots.

Channel One said two of the alleged members of the group arrived in Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates via Turkey with instructions from Mr. Umarov, the top military leader for the Chechen rebels.

One of them, a Chechen, was killed during the accidental explosion in Odessa, and another one, Kazakhstan citizen Ilya Pyanzin, was wounded in the blast and arrested.

Mr. Pyanzin led the investigators to their contact in Odessa, Adam Osmayev, a Chechen who previously had lived in London and had been sought by Russia since 2007, the report said.

The TV station showed footage of Mr. Osmayev’s arrest in Odessa with black-clad special troops bursting in and a half-naked, bloodied Mr. Osmayev on his knees, his head bowed down.

Speaking to Channel One from custody in Ukraine, Mr. Osmayev described the group’s mission: “Our goal was to go to Moscow and try to kill Prime Minister Putin. … Our deadline was after the Russian presidential election.”

Both of Mr. Osmayev’s hands were bandaged, and his face was covered in green dots from an antiseptic used to treat his cuts.

He said he wouldn’t have become a suicide bomber, but the other Chechen who was killed in the accidental explosion might have agreed.

Mr. Osmayev added they considered using powerful military mines that would have made a suicide mission unnecessary.

Mr. Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Russia.

He claimed responsibility for a January 2011 suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport that killed 37 people and injured more than 180.

He also had warned that many more such attacks would follow if Russia did not allow the Caucasus to become an independent Islamic state governed by Sharia law.

Mr. Umarov also claimed responsibility for the double-suicide bombing of Moscow’s subway in March 2010 that killed 40 people.

He is seen more as an ideological than a military figure, as many militant cells operate autonomously and shun centralized command.

In response to Russia’s opposition protests, Mr. Umarov issued a statement this month ordering his men to avoid hitting civilian targets, saying that civilians should be spared because they have risen up against Mr. Putin.

Channel One said Mr. Osmayev had led the investigators to a cache of explosives near a Moscow avenue that Mr. Putin uses to travel between his office and a suburban residence.

A Russian security officer told the television station that the suspects also had videos of Mr. Putin‘s convoy taken from different angles to prepare for the attack.

Mr. Pyanzin, who also confessed on film, was shown saying the group was to sabotage economic facilities and then try to kill Mr. Putin.

Source: The Washington Post

Tymoshenko Complains About Yanukovych To The OSCE

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The daughter of former prime minister and her colleagues continue to fight for the liberation of the Ukrainian opposition leader. Yevheniya Tymoshenko, the daughter of Yulia Tymoshenko, has asked the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) to investigate the facts of abuse of the legal system of the regime of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yevheniya Tymoshenko

"The OSCE can use its investigatory powers to examine the human rights situation in my country. Under your rule of law initiative, you can examine how Ukraine's legal system is being systematically twisted to conform to President Yanukovych's will," she said at a meeting of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, according to a statement posted on Tymoshenko's Web site.

Tymoshenko's daughter also said that the international community should demonstrate solidarity with those defending democratic values in Ukraine.

"It is not too late for my mother. And it is not too late for Ukraine. But the darkness is gathering. Demonstrate your resolve and solidarity for the sake of our common democratic future! Do it for freedom in Europe," she said.

"We can and will defend our freedoms, and I believe that there are practical steps to help us that you can take, not for my mother’s sake, but for the sake of all Ukrainians who look to you with hope," she said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Parliament's Commissioner for Human Rights Nina Karpachova spoke on Yulia Tymoshenko’s case at a special meeting of the European Parliament's committee on cooperation with Ukraine in Strasbourg.

The head of the committee Pawel Kowal (Group of the European Conservatives and Reformists, Poland) told Interfax after the meeting that the members of the committee decided to invite Karpachova in order to obtain "objective and politically unbiased information about the situation with Yulia Tymoshenko and other former members of the government who are currently under arrest."

"Today, Karpachova has informed us about her work as the Ukrainian ombudsman, spoke about her meetings with representatives of major political groups," said Elmar Brok (Group of the European People's Party, Germany), and Libor Roucek (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, the Czech Republic).

"She said that she was in regular contact with Tymoshenko, told us about her visit to the prison and much more," the MEP said.

According Kowal, Tymoshenko's case is still among the most important political issues for the European Parliament.

Source: New Europe

Miss Valentine 2012 Heats Up Wintertime Dating In Odessa

ODESSA, Ukraine -- Even though major St. Valentine's legends spawned in Eastern Europe, Cupid's play day is just now hitting its stride as a lover's feast in such places as Russia and Ukraine.

Zina, winner of Miss Valentine 2012.

In fact, ground zero for Valentine's Day festivities in this part of the world is the mysterious and sensuous Black Sea resort of Odessa, Ukraine, where on Valentine's weekend international online dating leader AnastasiaDate invited 23 beauties from across the country to compete for the title Anastasia's Miss Valentine 2012.

Held at exclusive Club Palladium in Odessa's center, the beauty pageant featured 3 stunning rounds...swimsuit, evening gown and Q& part of a Romance Tour Social hosted by AnastasiaDate.

Present were dozens of select gentlemen members of Anastasia who experienced a unique dating encounter in the elite company of not only the exquisite contestants, but over 300 single female guests, also members of Anastasia.

All this was folded into what became Odessa's entertainment event of the year amid actors, musicians and singers who performed scenes from popular Ukrainian plays before the heaving international crowd.

A sub-zero Arctic freeze notwithstanding, the panel of judges, like kids in candyland, finally chose 21-year-old raven-haired goddess Zina of Odessa as Anastasia's Miss Valentine 2012.

While Zina's hot curves and sweet elegance won her top prize, other of Odessa's finest swept the field with breathtaking runners-up, blue-eyed wonder Viktoria and blonde perfection Irina.

This is Anastasia's 3rd St. Valentine pageant on the Black Sea shores, with each event becoming more popular and outstanding, each gathering more audience and media attention.

Source: Marketwire

Ukraine President: Ex-PM Pardon On Hold

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych says he cannot consider pardoning former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko until her appeals are exhausted.

Viktor Yanukovych

In a television interview Friday, Yanukovych said he feels obliged to follow the country's new Code of Criminal Practice, ITAR-Tass reported.

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison late last year for allegedly abusing her powers as prime minister when she signed an agreement with the Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom in 2009.

Her supporters say the criminal case against her was political.

She also faces charges of tax evasion and embezzlement.

"When all the court procedures are over, we'll be able to consider the issue of pardoning," Yanukovych said.

"If we do get a new procedure, it'll begin with a convict filing a plea with the president, who has a special commission for reviewing such requests. Then the issue will be taken directly to my office."

Source: UPI

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Heath Couple Raising Three Children From Ukraine

HEATH, Ohio -- Having three children less than four years apart in age would be challenge enough for any couple, but imagine not having any of them one day then having all three the next.

Alex (L), and Andrew (R), play on a teeter-totter while their mom, Amy Pletcher, pushes their sister, Victoria, on a swing Thursday at their home in Heath. Amy and her husband, Greg, adopted the three siblings a little more than a year ago from Ukraine.

Throw in the fact you are not even able to speak their language, and you can start to understand what the past year has been like for Amy and Greg Pletcher.

The couple adopted three children, now 10, 8 and 6, one year ago from Ukraine.

All three now are fluent in English, and only the oldest, Alex, has a slight accent.

The children are happy, healthy and doing well in school at Licking County Christian Academy.

"God has blessed us," Amy Pletcher said. "It feels like we've had them the whole time."

The Pletchers wanted to have children as soon as they were married in 1998, but that didn't happen because of medical conditions.

Amy is diabetic, and Greg has epilepsy. The doctors advised against children.

So the couple turned to God and asked for a sign.

He sent many, Amy said. She attended two concerts where the artists advocated for adoption.

She also read a Guideposts magazine and kept flipping to articles about the need for adoptions.

So in December 2009, they looked into adoption, both domestic and internationally.

After research, the couple decided to go internationally, specifically from Ukraine.

"Adoption laws in the U.S. focus on the birth family, and we had a genuine fear that in five years some long-lost relative would show up and want the kids," Greg Pletcher said.

"We just felt it was better to go internationally."

They traveled to Ukraine in December 2010 with the intentions of adopting a girl and a boy.

They came home in February 2011 with three siblings, Alex; Andrew, 7; and Victoria, 5.

"Once we saw their portfolios, we knew we wanted to meet them," Greg said.

"But we still didn't know what we were getting into."

"The first six months were chaotic," Amy added.

"We had no clue how to parent. We had read books, but it's not the same."

What they found were three children who Amy thinks are spitting images of themselves.

Alex has blue eyes like Amy and the same nose, and Andrew and Victoria look more like Greg with his brown eyes.

The younger two have signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, but experts at Children's Hospital say with continual love and guidance the children should be able to adapt and have normal futures.

"Just getting them out of the neglect and abuse they had suffered is helping them," Amy said.

Andrew and Victoria were living in one orphanage, and Alex was living at a boarding school about two hours away.

They were apart for about 18 months before they were reunited. Victoria did not remember Alex.

"No, she didn't remember me," Alex said. "She cried."

Alex said he remembers his birth mother coming home drunk and jumping off a balcony twice, breaking her arm.

Their apartment was the size of the Pletchers' living room.

So how does he like his life now?

"Good," Alex said. "I like my (new) mom and dad."

For the first four years of his life, Alex was raised by his great-grandmother.

The Pletchers were able to meet her while they were in Ukraine.

Through an interpreter, she told the Pletchers her prayers that the children would be cared for had been answered.

Within two weeks of their return from Ukraine, the children had their medical exams at Children's Hospital and became U.S. citizens.

Even though the language barrier is almost non-existent now, challenges remain for the family, including the balancing act many families face in juggling busy schedules, school, sports and getting dinner ready on time.

There also is their inexperience of being parents, Greg said, but they are catching up in that area.

"We still have trouble at bedtimes," Amy said.

"Victoria can't sleep in her own bed. She never had her own bedroom, and she slept with nine to 12 girls in a bedroom at the orphanage. When she gets up at night, she sleeps with either one of us."

But after the most monumental year in their lives, would the Pletchers do it all over again?

"Absolutely," Amy said. "No doubt in our minds."

Source: Newark Advocate

USA Court Dismisses Lutsenko's Suit On Invalidation Of His Arrest

KIEV, Ukraine -- The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has dismissed a lawsuit filed by former Internal Affairs Minister Yurii Lutsenko, in which he demanded to invalidate his arrest, Ukrainian News has learned from a copy of the Court order.

Former Internal Affairs Minister Yurii Lutsenko

United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly made this decision on February 23.

"Accordingly... hereby ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. SO ORDERED. This is a final, appealable Order," it said.

Plaintiff Yuriy Lutsenko commenced this action on December 15, 2011, naming as Defendants a series of individuals who appear to reside in Ukraine, the Order reads.

While a plaintiff ordinarily has 120 days after the filing of the complaint to effect service upon a defendant, that time limit does not apply to service in a foreign country.

Nonetheless, in order to ensure that service in this action was made in a prompt, fair, and efficacious manner, this Court ordered Lutsenko to file a Status Report with the Court describing his efforts to date to effect service of process upon Defendants and outlining his plan for effecting service upon any Defendant that has not been served.

Lutsenko's Status Report was due by no later than February 8, 2012.

When this deadline came and passed without Lutsenko filing the required Status Report or seeking an extension of his time to do so, the Court warned Lutsenko that district courts have the authority to dismiss a case or impose other appropriate sanctions for a plaintiff's failure to prosecute or otherwise comply with a court order.

Despite the availability of these measures, the Court generously exercised its discretion to afford Lutsenko a final opportunity to come into compliance.

Specifically, the Court afforded Lutsenko until and including February 22, 2012 to file the required Status Report or to show cause why this action should not be dismissed without prejudice or other sanctions imposed upon him and/or his counsel.

In addition, the Court expressly warned Lutsenko that if he fails to respond altogether, the Court shall assume that he no longer intends to prosecute this action.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, Lutsenko applied a law court in USA to rule his arrest illegal.

The ex-minister has been under arrest since December 26, 2010.

Lutsenko is accused illegally allocating an apartment to his driver Leonid Prystupliuk and illegally awarding a pension to him when Lutsenko was the country's minister of internal affairs, as well as granting permission for illegal surveillance of Valentyn Davydenko (the driver of the Security Service of Ukraine's former head Volodymyr Satsiuk) as part of a criminal investigation into the poisoning of presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko.

He is also accused of authorizing celebration of Police Day at the Ukraina Palace in Kiev in 2008 and 2009 in violation of a ban on allocation of funds for financing celebratory events.

Source: Ukrainian News

Don′t Leave The Stadium!: Ukraine Counts Down To Euro 2012

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is partly ready to host its share of Euro 2012, and with less than four months left until kick-off it′s almost certain to stay that way.

The former Soviet republic is the first ever to co-host a top international football tournament. Government spokesmen promise fans a top-level experience.

"We will be completely ready by the middle of May," said Markian Liubkivsky, chairman Ukraine's Euro 2012 state organizing committee, in a February statement.

"We will receive our guests properly."

But industry experts said Ukraine has remained largely immune to state efforts to replace Soviet tradition with international standards, and that visitors expecting proper service and reasonable prices are in for unpleasant surprises.

"It's not just sports infrastructure, but a general level of civilization," said Iryna Kushnir, an analyst for the Kiev-headquartered Institute of Practical Politics.

"We're just not ready for tourists."

The strong suit of Ukraine's Euro 2012 prep, both government officials and critics agree, are the country's four stadiums.

Donbass Arena, the 52,000-seat home ground for club side Shakhtar Donetsk built for an estimated 400 million dollars, has widely been rated a world-class venue since its 2009 opening.

But the planned site for the Euro 2012 final, Kiev's 70,00-seat Olympic Stadium, is less well off, with the stadium reconstruction finished but surrounding parking lots and grounds still a snow-covered construction site showing no worker activity in late February - despite government declarations game sites are "100 per cent finished."

Across Ukraine, signs of big government spending (frequently assisted by big business financing) abound.

New terminals in all four game city airports are open or, reportedly, will be complete by March.

The notorious Donetsk-Kharkiv highway, once the butt of Ukrainian motorist jokes as the country's most potholed and dangerous roadway, is mostly resurfaced and partly converted from two to four lanes.

The national railroad company Ukrzhelesnitsya in December began taking delivery of six Hyundai bullet trains which will halve transit times between the capital Kiev and the other three game cities.

Crew training began in South Korea in February and Ukraine's first high-speed rail should be operational by May, a Ukrzheleznistya statement said.

Ukrainian hospitality industry experts said visiting football fans, though probably able to watch games in a proper stadium and maybe even to get there by bullet train, will face massive room shortages and price-gouging not just from hotel managers but from restaurant owners and cabbies.

Hotel price quotes for Euro 2012, in Ukrainian game cities, are running between five and 10 times normal summer rates, according to widespread media reports.

Even a simple bunk-bed in a five-person hostel room costs, in Kiev during the tournament, the equivalent of 90 dollars, the news agency TSN reported.

Quotes for a single in a three-star hotel start at 250 dollars a night.

In Donetsk and Kharkiv rooms simply were sold out, the report said.

The website detailed a February visit by its expat operator to a leading Kiev restaurant where, because of communications problems with the waiter, he paid 250 dollars for a steak weighing a kilo.

"We have an unfortunate psychology, that any foreigner is seen only as a fat wallet that needs to be emptied," said Yulia Shurko, spokeswoman for Kiev Is A Hospitable City!, a civic promotion group.

Of the seven visiting sides playing group games in Ukraine only two - the French and the Swedes - elected to live in the country, with competitors like England and Germany choosing to train in Poland and commute to games by charter aircraft.

Borys Kolesnykov, vice prime minister and head of the country's Euro 2012 preparation effort, in February 16 comments said he "didn't understand" why so few teams were staying in Ukraine, a country with strong football infrastructure.

He conceded hotel price-gouging might keep fans away though, saying "it might be cheaper for them to fly to games than to stay here," according to an Unian news agency report.

"We have declared to the world we are able run an international-level sports tournament on a proper level," Kushnir said.

"But visitors should cross Ukraine out."

Source: DPA

JOI-Design Radiates Style In Ukraine’s First Starwood Hotel

ZAPOROZHYE, Ukraine -- JOI-Design has recently completed the interior design of the first Starwood hotel in the Ukraine.

Four Points by Sheraton Zaporozhye

The flagship Four Points by Sheraton Zaporozhye is a stylish new hotel located along the banks of the Dnieper River in one of the Ukraine’s largest cities.

The designers’ aim was to honour and interpret the region’s rich heritage through a fresh, contemporary lens fit for the booming economic and cultural growth of this important industrial centre and transportation hub.

As a result, natural materials such as warm timber and locally-sourced stone are prevalent, and traditional patterns have been implemented from a modern perspective.

Upon entering the lobby, guests are greeted by the sunflower, a folklore symbol representing the Ukraine’s fertile lands.

Overhead, an abstraction of this motif shines down in the form of a chandelier crafted from glass balls in both clear and golden hues, while underfoot, a magnified reflection of the flower’s petals appears in the pattern of the cream marble floor.

Overall, the lobby sparkles with a sophisticated elegance.

Following the lines of the lobby’s curved shell are two sweeping staircases with lit marble steps that cast an ethereal glow to create drama and intrigue.

And the traditional Ukrainian colour pairing of blue and yellow has been harmoniously translated in the design of a sleek reception desk graced with backlit frosted panels and a gilded woven screen reminiscent of the compact florets within a large sunflower blossom.

This colour duo also extends to the other public areas through accents such as the cushions on the plush, tawny leather sofas and lounge chairs in the library, wine bar and cafe.

“Flavors” restaurant has a natural feel, using contrasting tones of light and dark walnut timber to create a connection with Ukraine’s moniker as the “Bread Basket of Europe”, earned due to the region’s rich soils and abundant agricultural harvests.

The sunflower shape appears again, at both the frosted glass entry door as well as in the marble inlay in the oak planks which elegantly wind through the restaurant to form the circulation areas.

Fresh celadon green cushions, flaxen wallcovering and glowing pendant lights all help create a warm and relaxing dining atmosphere.

Modern paintings illustrate folkloric figures, tying together the design’s overall concept and demonstrating once again how tradition and modernity can be stylishly merged.

In the guestrooms, this interpretation continues.

A traditional Cossack pattern has been transformed into the carpet’s contemporary diamond design, forming a crisp contrast to the room’s warm oak timber finishes. In the bathrooms, blue mosaic glass tiles allude to the nearby river.

The architecturally impressive Presidential Suite is a small residence located within a bridge between the hotel’s two main buildings.

Inside, the ambiance is comfortably elegant thanks to the warm and sophisticated palette.

Fitted with white marble and rich timber floors, the Presidential Suite has a smart and refined character.

Here, individually detailed embellishments, such as the small cream-coloured porcelain tiles on the mirrors, are the true stars and give the suite a unique style.

From the opposite vantage points of the large in-room spa, guests soaking in the freestanding tub or reclining on the chaise longue are treated to either a panoramic view of the Dnieper River or the vibrant buzz of the city life of Zaporozhye.

Source: Travel Daily News

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Is Ukraine Leaving The European Energy Community?

KIEV, Ukraine -- As Ukraine’s relationship with the EU continues to flounder over human rights issues, the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the lengthy detention of former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, there are signs that the government is prepared to flout existing laws to gain closer association with Gazprom and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

The consequences could be not only the loss of links with the European Energy Community (EEC) but also the undermining of sovereignty.

On December 4, Russia’s Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov announced that the new gas agreement between the two states would have the status of an international agreement, rather than a business arrangement between the two responsible companies, Gazprom and Naftohaz.

Russia is evidently responding to the EU’s plans for closer integration with Ukraine and greater transparency in the transit of gas from Russia to Western Europe.

Analyst Maksim Alinov comments that the results of the inter-state agreement proposed by the Russian ambassador would override current Ukrainian laws, which make it illegal to transfer Ukraine’s transit system to Russian control—a similar sale to Gazprom occurred recently in Belarus.

Alinov also believes that the flouting of the agreement in place would also give Russia significant influence over the internal economic and political situation in Ukraine.

Another analyst, Maksim Honchar, goes further, maintaining that Kiev’s apparent reversal of policy on the EEC would violate the July 1, 2010 law “Concerning the main principles of domestic and foreign policy,” Article 7 of which stipulates that Ukraine’s oil, gas, and electricity networks should be operating according to EU rules.

In his view this indicates a willingness to surrender national interests, which would be an even more serious threat to Ukraine’s pro-European policy than the imprisonment of Tymoshenko.

It would also strengthen considerably the position of Gazprom, a monopolist enterprise that seeks to deploy energy as an instrument of political control.

Ukraine would acquire cheap gas but gradually lose its sovereignty, rendering the Association Agreement with the EU obsolete and leading to the next stage, which would be a defensive alliance with Russia.

The EU meanwhile continues to demand the release of Tymoshenko as a prequel to the initializing of the Association Agreement, though with diminishing hopes and growing frustration.

Wilfred Martens, President of the European People’s Party, stated that Ukraine, like Poland, could be an important EU player, and that without its addition the EU project could not be complete.
However, as a prerequisite to the start of the process leading to the Agreement, the Party of Regions must release Tymoshenko, Lutsenko, and other political prisoners.

However, Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko demurred, stating that Tymoshenko could not be used as a bargaining chip in trade relations and that her situation was a matter for the Ukrainian Judiciary.

To discuss the issue in this way, he added, would be tantamount to indicating that the latter is not an independent body.

Although the ruling group of Ukraine faces several serious economic dilemmas and recently rejected for a second time the IMF’s demand to raise energy prices, it does not seem to be facing a serious threat from the opposition.

Indeed, the political situation seems relatively unaffected by the Tymoshenko saga.

Analyst Kost Bondarenko maintains that the population has lost interest in the struggle between Tymoshenko and the ruling elite, while Vadim Karasev considers that the apparent lack of public sympathy for Tymoshenko reflects the general perception of her as a former representative of the political establishment.

In general therefore that is a positive sign for the authorities and a signal that the arrest of Tymoshenko has not affected ratings for the president and the Regions Party.

The latter seems to be calculating each step in cynical fashion, taking action and then monitoring the response.

Karasev also notes that the leadership thinks the release of Tymoshenko would be seen as a sign of weakness.

Also the Ukrainian leaders are watching closely political events in Russia, where the rise of oppositional activities could have a domino effect in Ukraine.

Various polls denote that Yanukovych remains the leading individual politician with ratings between 17.4 and 20.7%, whereas the ratings of Tymoshenko, the only serious contender, range from 13 to 14.1%.

Yatsenyuk in third place has, at most, 9.9% support.

In short, there is no longer a serious contender from the opposition as with Tymoshenko out of the picture.

The ruling group may also consider that in the year 2011 it could have expected to see its popularity drop because of the introduction of unpopular measures such as pension and taxation codes, whereas the new year may bring better fortunes, not least through the hosting of the popular soccer competition, Euro-2012.

Perhaps of more importance is the evident tolerance of the EU for the abuses of power in Kiev, in contrast to the sanctions it has applied in Belarus.

Ukraine has moved rapidly from one of the most democratic of post-Soviet states to a position well down the scale.

At the same time the corruption that has long pervaded the Ukrainian economy has not diminished.

Adding to the contentedness of the ruling group in Ukraine, the United States is preoccupied with other issues and unlikely to engage with Ukraine at the highest level until after the 2012 presidential election, according to former US ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer.

Thus Yanukovych and the Regions have in effect carte blanche to continue the current path.

The EEC agreement appears to have been jettisoned.

However, for the second time since the January 2010 election (the first being the Kharkiv Accords on the Black Sea Fleet), they are posing serious threats to the sovereignty of Ukraine, relinquishing hard-won rights for the immediate prospect of cheap gas and permitting a much more powerful role for Russian agencies like Gazprom to step in and purchase Naftohaz.

The next logical stage would be for Ukraine to join the Customs Union (with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus).

Only a year ago that would have been unthinkable, but it is now a serious possibility.

Source: Unian

Opposition Figure Named Economy Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Petro Poroshenko, an opposition figure and a former foreign affairs minister, on Thursday was nominated for the post of economy minister, President Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday.

Petro Poroshenko

The nomination, made by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, needs to be approved by the president, and Yanukovych, following a brief meeting with Poroshenko, said he was “generally happy” with the nominee’s vision for reforming the economy.

“I told him: Petro Oleksiyovych, please prepare and submit a very brief program of what you want to implement at the ministry,” Yanukovych said in an interview with Pershiy television, the presidential press service reported.

The fact that the nomination was disclosed before the official appointment is extremely unusual for Yanukovych, let alone that the opposition figure had been tapped for the post.

The disclosed nomination may be an attempt to force Poroshenko to accept the job, which bears serious political risks for him ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in October.

Poroshenko, the owner of the Channel 5 television among other assets, has been positioning himself as an ally of Arseniy Yatseniuk, the leader of the opposition Front For Changes party.

Oleksandr Yanukovych, the son of the president who amassed a fortune since his father had become the president two years ago, was recently reported to be interested in acquiring a stake in the Channel 5.

There were contradictory reports on Thursday to whether Poroshenko had accepted the new job.

Oleksandr Yefremov, the leader of the ruling Regions Party group in Parliament, said Poroshenko was officially appointed the economy minister.

He also said that Yuriy Kolobov, a close ally of Serhiy Arbuzov, the governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, was appointed the finance minister.

Kolobov, just like Arbuzov and other recently appointed officials, is thought to be a close ally of Oleksandr Yanukovych.

None of these appointments had been officially posted on the presidential website as of late Thursday.

Meanwhile, Andriy Shkil, an opposition lawmaker from the Batkivshchyna group, said Poroshenko had actually rejected the job offer.

Poroshenko was not available for comments on Thursday.

“You can call this the dilemma of Poroshenko,” Volodymyr Fesenko, the head of the Penta political analysis firm, wrote on his blog.

“He wants to be in the government, but he clearly sees the risks. The tasks that the government is now facing are super difficult and super important. Are the risks worth it?”

The developments come amid sweeping reshuffle in the government over the past several weeks, underscoring Yanukovych’s unhappiness with the government’s economic course.

Yanukovych on Wednesday dismissed Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy from the post of finance minister and appointed him first deputy prime minister, the presidential press service reported.

Yanukovych replaced Fedir Yaroshenko with Khoroshkovskiy as the finance minister in the middle of January.

Khoroshkovskiy before his January appointment was the chief of the SBU security service.

First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Kliuyev on February 14 was appointed the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, the top security body under the President.

Raisa Bohatyriova, who led the NSDC for the past five years, was appointed as deputy prime minister and the healthcare minister, the presidential press service reported.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Is Next To Default According To Bloomberg

KIEV, Ukraine -- Analysts at the Bloomberg agency say that Ukraine will be the next country after Greece to default in debt repayments because of the poor state of its economy.

The analysts quote the IMF as doubting the ability of Kiev to repay the 12 billion dollar debt.

But not all the experts agree with the conclusion of the analysts, seeing political undertones in it.

The IMF stopped giving loans to Kiev in March last year, when it told Ukraine to hike the tariff on energy for the consumers.

Ukraine refused to comply with the IMF demand, hoping to accumulate the necessary finances from the discount on Russian gas.

Investors are deeply concerned over the attitude of the Ukrainian authorities.

If cooperation between the IMF and Kiev is not restored soon, the investors’ skepticism will increase.

The same analysts were the first to point to political undertones in the action of the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, probably seeing in it a threat of the closing of ranks by Kiev and Moscow.

Russian and Ukrainian experts on the other hand, say that there is more politics than economy in the action of the MF and the conclusion of the Bloomberg’s analysts.

It is not a secret that Europe was quite satisfied with the pro-West orientation of the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko.

Brussels had in its grip a country which was at loggerheads with Russia and which was not allowed into Europe.

But when the current administration in Ukraine came to power, it declared its intention of doing business with both the West and the East.

At present, many of the old problems between Ukraine and Russia have been solved, although many more remain, especially the almost intractable gas one.

As for the relationship with Western countries, Kiev continues to hope for a brighter future in a unified Europe.

Any slight move towards Russia is accompanied by a fatherly reproach and highbrow remarks.

Western countries are biased against Ukraine, complains Alexander Koshik, an expert at the Ukrainian Center for Political Studies.

“I think that there is anti-Ukraine prejudice in the West. Our situation is not like that in Greece. There is economic growth in Ukraine, while the economy in Athens is plummeting."

"Most importantly, Ukraine’s debt is 40 per cent of its GDP, while Greece’s debt is 160 per cent of its GDP. The differences are glaring. Europe does not want to let Ukraine into the EU and at the same time frowns at its closeness to Russia. Its like a dog in the manger”, Alexander Koshik said.

Many Ukrainian experts are not over-dramatizing the situation, believing that the country’s national currency, hryvna, will maintain its exchange ratio till the end of the year, despite its fluctuations.

Kiev is in no danger of defaulting, says the country’s Finance Minister, Valery Horoshkovsky, commenting on the press information.

Indications are that Kiev will be able to find a solution to its temporary financial problems, and in the meantime, specialists are looking for a way out of the situation, one of the ways being to accept the proposals of its Eastern neighbors.

The doors to the Customs Union formed by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan remain open.

Source: The Voice of Russia

Friday, February 24, 2012

Who’s Afraid Of Tymoshenko? The Two Viktors

KIEV, Ukraine -- Which two Ukrainians most detest Yulia Tymoshenko, most fear her, and most obsess about her? It’s the two Viktors, of course: Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

Viktor Yuschenko (L) and Viktor Yanukovych (R).

Most Ukrainians have very strong opinions about the former prime minister turned political prisoner, but it’s only the two Viktors who’ve let their feelings about her become borderline psychotic.

In the last three years of his presidency, 2006 to 2009, Yushchenko abandoned whatever reform aspirations that may have guided him during the Orange Revolution and concentrated almost exclusively on squabbling with and attacking Tymoshenko, never passing up an opportunity to denounce her, regardless of whether his audience was listening or cared.

Yushchenko bore two roomfuls in New York with hour-long attacks on Tymoshenko: the first group consisting of some 50 potential American investors who wanted to hear about Ukraine’s economy; the second, of some 100 Ukrainian-Americans who wanted to hear about Ukraine’s culture.

Just as Yushchenko let his obsession with Tymoshenko define, and ultimately destroy, his presidency, so too has Yanukovych.

After she lost the presidential election of 2010, Tymoshenko was washed up as a national politician.

All Yanukovych had to do to keep her that way was to ignore her.

Instead, by persecuting Tymoshenko, by jailing her at precisely the time that he’s ostensibly courting Europe and hoping to negotiate a gas deal with Russia, he’s given her the ethical stature she never had, undermined his standing at home and abroad, sabotaged Ukraine’s attempts to integrate more closely with the European Union, and provided the Kremlin with additional reasons for stonewalling Kiev.

Like that other Viktor, this one has let his obsession with Tymoshenko define, and ultimately destroy, his presidency.

So what gives? Although Yanukovych has moved toward many of Yushchenko’s positions in the last year, the fact is that the two are profoundly different presidents.

Yushchenko was, despite his multitudinous faults, significantly more pro-democratic, pro-Ukrainian, and pro-market than the unabashedly anti-democratic, anti-Ukrainian, and anti-market Yanukovych.

They are also very different politicians, with Yushchenko preferring the safety of a podium and Yanuovych preferring the safety of a designer suit.

Why would two such different policymakers share the same fear and loathing of Tymoshenko?

One suspects it’s because they’re the same kind of guys.

It’s not Tymoshenko the politician they hate, but Tymoshenko the too-strong woman who knows they’re both pushovers and treats them as such.

After all, Yushchenko knows how to deal with male enemies.

He bores them to death or, as in the case of Yanukovych, cuts a deal with them.

Yanukovych’s approach is even simpler, and usually involves a sock to the jaw.

Neither approach works with Tymoshenko.

She can run rhetorical circles around Yushchenko and knock Yanukovych off his leaden feet.

Tymoshenko, as the strong woman of Ukrainian politics, has exposed both fellas for the vain weaklings they really are.

When Yushchenko lost his charms after being poisoned and disfigured in the summer of 2004, Tymoshenko not only threatened his authority and standing as president.

She also threatened his manhood and his sense of self as a ladies’ man.

Moreover, she didn’t fall for his act precisely because she wanted what he only half-wanted: power.

And she never failed to pursue it, for better or for worse, while Yushchenko never failed to let it slip out of his fingers.

Yanukovych is an even more transparently self-doubting male who is also burdened with the sense of inadequacy that comes from being a hoodlum-turned-honcho.

Hence the big mouth and big talk and big fists.

Hence the absence of women in his prime minister’s cabinet.

When wife Ludmilla went off the deep end during the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych could respond only by banishing her to Donetsk.

When political opponent Yulia claimed that he was a thug and a crook during the 2010 presidential campaign, he could respond only by banishing her to a jail.

Small wonder that his leading female cheerleader, Hanna Herman, gets big bucks for her efforts.

Self-confident politicians and self-confident men would have treated Tymoshenko as just what she was—a strong-willed, tough, and ruthless politician—regardless of her sex.

But neither Yushchenko nor Yanukovych can, evidently, see past that.

And that obviously drives both fellas crazy, to the point of preferring political suicide to rational policymaking.

Tymoshenko’s inevitable comeback will be a traumatic defeat for both Viktors.

When the queen bee returns, expect both of them to take up bee-keeping full-time.

Source: Unian

Ukrainian Medics Present Innovative Method To Treat Strabismus

KIEV, Ukraine -- The National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine reports that Ukrainian scientists presented a new way to treat strabismus.

Dr. Vladimir Filatov

It allows for full eyesight restoration in those suffering from such medical condition.

The method involves diagnosing and treating patients with strabismus using micro prism technology.

Ukraine's head ophthalmologist Sergiy Rykov informed that the new method introduced by Ukrainian doctors decreases the number of surgeries needed in case of strabismus to only one, while previously two to three operations were normally executed in order to restore binocular vision.

The innovative method involves using custom made binoculars on strabismus patients.

Diagnostic set for treating strabismus - optical compensators KK-42 - ensued from collaboration of several Ukrainian medical research institutions.

The set significantly decreases the need for surgery and allows for 100 percent binocular vision restoration.

The cost of binoculars made using the new technology varies between USD $37.5o and $75.00, depending on lens sophistication.

Compensators consist of 42 Fresnel lenses (optical devices that appear to be a single piece of glass but actually are comprised of a great number of smaller prisms).

The KK-42 set has been tested in Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine, and received an overwhelmingly positive feedback at every testing institution.

At the moment KK-42 is cleared by Ukrainian authorities for usage in medical practice and is ready for industrial manufacturing.

The National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine plans to prepare a motion to the Ukrainian government for inclusion of a directive on manufacturing and provision of the set to all relevant medical institutions in the country to the National Program Health 2020.

Ukrainian ophthalmological tradition goes back to the achievements of Vladimir Filatov (1875-1956).

The scientist and medical practitioner is known around the world for his significant contribution to medical science and practice, firstly due to his introduction of tissue therapy.

The founder of one of the leading eye care institutes in the world - The Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases & Tissue Therapy in Odessa, southern Ukraine, - he invented the tube flap grafting method, was the first to successfully carry out corneal transplantation (keratoplasty), and presented the revolutionary preservation of grafts from cadaver eyes (the technique allows to include cornea to postmortem donorship options list).

Source: Bradenton Herald

Tymoshenko's Daughter Asks OSCE To Investigate Abuse Of Legal System In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yevheniya Tymoshenko, the daughter of the jailed former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to investigate the abuse of the legal system in Ukraine.

Tymoshenko's daughter Yevheniya.

"The OSCE can use its investigatory powers to examine the human rights situation in my country. Under your rule of law initiative, you can examine how Ukraine's legal system is being systematically twisted to conform to President [Viktor] Yanukovych's will," she said at a meeting of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, according to a statement posted on Tymoshenko's Web site.

Tymoshenko's daughter also said that the international community should demonstrate solidarity with those defending democratic values in Ukraine.

"It is not too late for my mother. And it is not too late for Ukraine. But the darkness is gathering."

"Demonstrate your resolve and solidarity for the sake of our common democratic future! Do it for freedom in Europe," she said.

"We can and will defend our freedoms, and I believe that there are practical steps to help us that you can take, not for my mother’s sake, but for the sake of all Ukrainians who look to you with hope," she said.

The ex-premier's daughter told the meeting participants about the political situation in Ukraine, the persecution of the opposition and her mother's health and conditions in prison.

Tymoshenko said that her mother's rights are being violated in prison, that despite suffering severe back pain, she is not getting proper medical treatment, is interrogated for hours, and is under constant video surveillance in her cell.

"The prison authorities say all her rights are being respected. She should have access to a telephone. So, why is she denied that right, even on my birthday a few days ago?" she said.

She said that her fear her mother may be killed in prison is growing every day.

Members of the OSCE PA expressed concern over the situation with Yulia Tymoshenko and other political prisoners in Ukraine and stressed that these cases are politically motivated.

Most of the speakers believe Tymoshenko is being tortured in prison.

In the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine, it was said that opposition leaders should have the right to participate fully in political life and take part in elections.

"The purpose of the regime is clear: they want by any means possible to keep my mother in prison, to wreck any chance of the opposition to mount a serious challenge to the regime's grip on power in the parliamentary elections this autumn," Tymoshenko said, urging the OSCE to send the largest contingent of electoral monitors ever organized to observe not just election day, but the whole electoral process.

Source: Interfax

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Russia Threatens To Cut Natgas Shipments

MOSCOW, Russia -- Days after resuming natural gas price talks, Russia on Wednesday suddenly accelerated pressure on Ukraine, threatening to reduce to ‘zero’ shipments of its gas via Ukrainian pipelines within years.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The warning, issued by a Gazprom official, came hours after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - in televised remarks – had ordered the punishment of Ukraine for alleged gas siphoning.

This comes days after Russia has suggested resuming gas talks with Ukraine and has reportedly proposed cutting gas prices 10% if Ukraine agrees to import at least 33 billion cubic meters of gas in 2012.

The proposals, delivered Monday by Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the State Duma, the lower house of Russian Parliament, stipulated further price cuts would come only if Gazprom acquires 50% of Ukraine’s gas transportation system.

Russia’s tough response on Wednesday may be a sign that Ukraine has rejected the proposals, signaling that further escalation of the dispute is possible.

“Settle accounts with your [Ukrainian] colleagues via corporate tools and through commercial and legal ways,” Medvedev told Alexei Miller, the CEO of Gazprom, at a meeting in Moscow.

“Explain to the Ukrainian friends why we increase capacity of the Nord Stream, and continue the talks on gas issues.”

Nord Stream, a gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany across the Baltic Sea, was completed in November 2011.

Russia used the pipeline to reduce gas shipments via Ukraine by 17% on the month in February.

Russia also planned to build another route, South Stream, a $20 billion pipeline linking Russia and Bulgaria across the Black Sea.

This project would take years to build.

“After all projects that are planned by Gazprom are completed… Ukraine’s transit status for exports of Russian gas will equal zero,” Sergei Kupriyanov, Gazprom’s spokesman, said shortly after the meeting between Medvedev and Miller.

Ukraine has been unsuccessfully seeking for the past two years to win a reduction of Russian gas price to $230-250 per 1,000 cubic meters from $416/1,000 cu m currently.

In return, Ukraine has suggested setting up a trilateral gas transportation joint venture that would operate its gas pipeline transportation system.

Ukraine would own 34% in the joint venture, while Gazprom and an unidentified European company would own 33% each, according to a source in the Ukrainian government.

Medvedev resorted to tough rhetoric after Miller had complained that Ukraine had siphoned 438.3 million cubic meters of gas during the first two weeks of February, when extremely cold weather had persisted.

“Are we talking about a traditional business of illegal gas siphoning by our Ukrainian friends?” Medvedev asked Miller.

“They used as much as gas from the export pipeline as they wanted,” Miller responded, adding that Gazprom’s reputation and profits had suffered.

Ukraine’s national energy company, Naftogaz Ukrayiny, quickly responded by denying the siphoning had ever taken place.

“Naftogaz has never illegally siphoned even one cubic meter of Russian gas since the beginning of 2012 that had been exported to Europe,” the company said in a statement.

Instead, Naftogaz said it had provided at least 40 million cubic meters of its own gas to Turkey when the cold weather persisted and Gazprom was unable to meet the growing demand, the company said.

“If the Russian party asked us, we could have helped European consumers in a situation when gas supply levels were critical,” Naftogaz said.

Ukraine owns massive underground gas storage facilities on the border with the European Union that can hold up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas that can be used in the winter when gas consumption increases sharply.

Ukraine had 20.4 billion cubic meters of gas stored in its underground facilities at the end of October 2011, when high demand season began, and that level was reduced to 15 billion cu m at the end of January, according to Naftogaz.

“This has confirmed the importance of underground gas storage facilities as an indispensible part of Ukraine’s gas transportation system for providing reliable and uninterrupted transit of natural gas via the territory of our state,” Naftogaz said.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine’s Jailed Ex-Premier To Get German Doctors’ Health Report

BERLIN, Germany -- Ukraine’s jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will receive a preliminary health report from German doctors in the coming days after her daughter said the politician’s condition is deteriorating.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko is “seriously ill,” Der Spiegel reported, citing a report by doctors from Berlin’s Charité hospital who examined the former prime minister last week.

Charité confirmed the visit in a statement, though declined to say what the assessment of Tymoshenko’s health is.

Ukrainian authorities moved 51-year-old Tymoshenko to a penal colony in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine on Dec. 30, a week after a court upheld her seven-year prison term for signing a gas contract with Russia in 2009.

A verdict last year that found Tymoshenko had abused her authority by signing the agreement when she was premier drew condemnation from the European Union, the U.S. as well as Russia.

If “things continue the way they are and she is not given medical care, she will need an operation,” Eugenia Tymoshenko, her daughter, said in a statement on her mother’s website.

“This operation can’t be done in the prison.”

The German doctors found that Tymoshenko, who is confined to bed and can’t sleep because of back pain, has a herniated disc, she said.

The team of doctors from Berlin, including neurologist Karl Max Einhaeupl and physician Norbert Haas, will complete a preliminary report in the next few days after coordinating with an independent visit by Canadian doctors on Dec. 15, the Charité clinic said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Unhindered Access

The German doctors were given “unhindered” access to Tymoshenko and performed their examination for “several hours” in the presence of a prison doctor on Feb. 14, Charité said in the statement.

They rejected unspecified “speculation” about Tymoshenko’s health in the Ukrainian media based on their assessment.

Tymoshenko is “ill, in constant pain” and requires laboratory testing, the Financial Times cited Canadian doctor Peter Kujtan as saying.

Kujtan’s team was limited in its examination because of a lack of privacy, he said, according to the newspaper.

Tymoshenko has denied the accusations against her and said President Viktor Yanukovych orchestrated the trial to sideline competitors in parliamentary elections this year.

Source: Bloomberg

Ukraine Coach Oleg Blokhin Has Agreed To A New 2-Year Contract

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Football Federation of Ukraine confirmed the extension after holding an executive meeting on Tuesday.

Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin.

FFU president Grigoriy Surkis told "The FFU are working to give the national team everything it needs.

This is no small task.

"Blokhin, of course, is never completely happy. At the moment, he has a lot of key players injured. He is an optimist by nature and sets his goals accordingly. I hope his side will surprise us at Euro 2012, with both performances and results."

The 59-year-old took up the Ukraine reins for a second time in April 2011.

Ukraine beat Uzbekistan in the first match of Blokhin's second spell, then lost their next four games but have since picked up again with three wins and a draw in their last four fixtures.

The Euro 2012 co-hosts will take on Sweden, France and England in Group D at this summer's tournament, and find themselves up against England again, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland and San Marino in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Blokhin previously coached the team from 2003 to 2007, overseeing a run to the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The FFU also announced former referee Pierluigi Collina has been handed a contract extension to remain in his post as Ukrainian referees' supervisor until summer 2015.

Source: soccer365