Saturday, March 31, 2012

NATO Eyes Deploying AMD In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is holding talks with Kiev over Ukraine’s possible participation in the alliance's planned missile defense system n Europe.

Two soldiers operate a US-built ''Patriot'' anti-missile system.

According to the head of the NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine, Marchin Koziel, the deployment of the system's elements is a priority for the alliance.

He says during the summit in Lisbon, NATO heads agreed on the possibility of involving non-member countries – or “third countries”- in the planned missile shield in Europe.

Thanks to “its ballistics missiles, technologies, know-how, experience or simply the process of European integration,” Ukraine is such a country, he stated speaking at a round table meeting in Kiev, reports the Rosbalt news agency.

The alliance and the leadership of the former Soviet republic are holding informal consultations regarding the issue on both political and technical levels, Koziel said.

After the February meeting between NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryschenko, the latter announced Ukraine would participate in the upcoming alliance summit in Chicago.

NATO, for its part, noted that Kiev was interested in cooperation with the organization on the creation of the missile defense system.

Rasmussen also said that NATO will invite Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to take part in the summit in May.

Ukraine had long been bidding to join the military alliance. However, after Yanukovich replaced his pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, the country's policy made a u-turn.

The new leader signed a decree declaring that Ukraine would remain non-aligned to any political-military unions, but would still continue to cooperate with NATO and other blocks based upon common interests.

Source: RT

Ukraine, EU Initiate Association Agreement

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine and the European Union have initiated an association agreement, putting Kiev one step closer to membership in the bloc.

European officials have referred to Friday's proceeding as a technical measure similar to proofreading the lengthy document, which is the product of five years of negotiations.

The accord must now be translated into more than 20 EU languages and approved by all members before it can move forward, a process that is expected to take months.

The association agreement is not expected to be signed until after Ukraine holds parliamentary elections in October 2012.

EU officials have said they will not sign the document until they see improvements in Ukraine's adherence to the EU's "core values," which include an independent judicial system, free and fair elections and constitutional reform.

The two sides are also at odds over Ukraine's jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of power.

The EU has called for her release, saying the charges against her are politically motivated.

Ms. Tymoshenko is a political rival of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The former prime minister and opposition leader was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail in October for abusing her authority in a 2009 gas deal with Russia that her opponents say was too beneficial to Russia.

She denies any wrongdoing, and has described her trial as "a political lynching" aimed at allowing President Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival. He denies the accusation.

Source: Voice of America

Freedom House: Ukraine President Yanukovych Eliminates Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- The international human rights organization Freedom House says Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych of systematically eliminating any opposition before parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2012.

Viktor Yanukovych

"In 2011, Yanukovych launched a systematic campaign to eliminate any viable opposition to the ruling Party of the Regions ahead of parliamentary elections set for 2012."

"Most importantly, prosecutors brought a series of charges against Tymoshenko, Yanukovych's strongest opponent, in a bid to secure a criminal conviction," stated a Freedom House report, cited by RIA Novosti.

The document reminds readers that in October 2011 Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of authority for signing gas contracts with Russia, a decission the opposition says was politically motivated, although the Ukrainian authorities deny this.

Currently Tymoshenko is serving the sentence in a women's prison of Kharkov.

President of the European People's Party (EPP) Wilfried Martens said on Friday that the EPP demands the immediate implementation of a European Court of Human Rights decision, which called for Yulia Tymoshenko's release.

The report also reads that other political prisoners were placed or remained behind bars in 2011, including nine leaders of protests against the administration's tax policies and 14 or more nationalists involved in the beheading of a Stalin monument.

Freedom House also noted that the attempts to mount street protests against the persecution of Tymoshenko and other former government officials, including former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, were met with a heavy police crackdown.

Lutsenko, an ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was arrested in December 2010.

In late February he was sentenced to four years in prison for illegally employing and giving an apartment and pension to his former driver, as well as of overspending government funds during Police Day celebrations in 2008 and 2009, when he was in office.

In addition international human rights organization Freedom House noted that working conditions for media in Ukraine got worse.

"The constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and expression, and libel is not a criminal offense. Business magnates with varying political interests own and influence many outlets, while local governments often control the local media. Conditions for the media have worsened since Yanukovych's election."

Some 69% of Ukrainians get their news from television and the medium now features fewer alternative points of view, open discussions, and expert opinions, says the report of Freedom House.

Source: novinite

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dialogue Of The Deaf: Ukraine And The EU Talk Past Each Other

KIEV, Ukraine -- On March 20, the Ukrainian parliament voted to accept a report by its Temporary Investigative Commission that looked into the January 2009 gas contract signed by Prime Ministers Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian parliament

Parliament voted by 266 deputies to accept the report accusing Tymoshenko of “treason.”

The report claimed that Tymoshenko was blackmailed by Russia into accepting gas prices that were disadvantageous to Ukraine because United Energy Systems, which she ran in the mid-1990s, owed Russia $400 million.

Bizarrely, on the same day the Ukrainian parliament issued a lengthy resolution calling on the EU to “demonstrate political will and ensure the speedy signing of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU”.

Earlier this month, President Viktor Yanukovych issued detailed instructions “On the working out and affirmation of plans toward the integration of Ukraine to the European Union in 2012”.

During an official meeting in Germany, the head of the Presidential Administration’s department on international relations, Andriy Honcharuk, said that European integration remains Ukraine’s main foreign policy goal.

“Our main aim in 2012 is the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union,” he said.

This affirmed what President Yanukovych told the January Davos World Economic Forum:

“Ukraine sees its future in the European Union. 2011 was a constructive year for Ukraine’s European integration. Membership of the European Union is the basis for the democratic development of Ukraine, improvement of its economy, personal freedoms and well-being of every citizen”.

To prove their case, the Party of Regions has launched and is financing the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU) in Brussels.

The ECMU board includes three Party of Regions deputies and three Western Europeans with links to the Socialist political group in the European Parliament.

In 2010, the Party of Regions signed a cooperation agreement with the Socialist political group and the main lobbyist was Ion Iliescu, a Romanian MEP.

Since summer 2011, cooperation has waned and the Socialist Group refused to send greetings to the Party of Regions March congress.

Today, Viktor Yanukovych’s party has no ties with European or North American political parties and the greetings to its March congress that it did receive were indicative of how bad the Party of Regions’ reputation is.

The only greetings that were sent were from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Communist Party of China, the Communist Party of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Political Council of the ruling Azeri Party “Yeni Azerbaijan,” the United Russia party, and from Gagik Tsarukyan, the oligarchic leader of the “Prosperous Armenia” party.

The greetings are a better reflection of the reality facing President Yanukovych and the Party of Regions than its statements, presidential instructions and parliamentary resolutions.

In an interview with the news outlet Den, the Czech Ambassador to Ukraine Ivan Pochukh said that: “it is necessary to tell Ukrainian citizens that the process of the completion of the Association Agreement and Free Trade Zone have been curtailed”.

This re-affirmed what has been repeatedly said – but ignored by Kiev – by EU leaders. Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt told the same Davos summit attended by Yanukovych that:

“The question stands as follows: can Ukraine return to the path of European integration, or will Ukraine be stuck on what is its de facto departure from the path of European integration?”.

On March 4, Bildt, William Hague, Karel Schwarzenberg, Radoslaw Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle, the foreign ministers of Sweden, Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, signed a joint opinion article in The New York Times that lambasted democratic regression in Ukraine.

They said, “Today, however, we are at an impasse in the association process. While negotiations on the association agreement were successfully concluded in December 2011, the way forward – through signing and ratification of the agreement – has in effect been blocked by Ukraine’s actions”.

The five foreign ministers continued, “The reason for this is simple: Developments in Ukraine in the last two years have caused us to question Kiev’s intentions with respect to the fundamental values that underpin both the agreement and our relations in a broader sense.”

The response from Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Kostyantyn Gryshchenko was published in The New York Times on March 20, not coincidentally the same day as parliament voted on the temporary commission report into the 2009 gas contract that denounced Tymoshenko’s “treason”.

Gryshchenko claimed that: “Ukraine is committed to European values. We are not sliding but striding toward full integration into the European Union.”

His statement blatantly contradicted European and American government opinions of Ukraine’s recent track record, as well as that of international organizations and human rights groups.

With such a dialogue of the deaf, it is highly surprising that some seasoned US and European diplomats and ex-Ambassadors to Ukraine were saying right up until summer 2011 that the Yanukovych administration was listening to Western criticism.

Former US Ambassadors to Ukraine Steven Pifer and William Taylor were willing to believe that: “If President Yanukovych is committed to European integration and EU membership, his administration’s domestic actions make achieving that goal much tougher.

Yanukovych declares, like former President Leonid Kuchma, that he seeks EU membership.

But this declaration means little if the political culture underpinning his administration seeks a monopoly of power at home and builds an authoritarian system.

Until the summer of 2011, Western policymakers mistakenly took at face value Yanukovych’s and Gryshchenko’s pro-European rhetoric, similar to that quoted above, when they should have been highly skeptical.

The reality facing Ukraine is three-fold:

Firstly, the EU will initial the Association Agreement on March 30, a technical step that signals the end of negotiations and which should have taken place at the December 2011 EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev.

The EU has stated, as quoted above, that the next two steps will not take place until Kiev no longer undertakes a selective use of justice against the political opposition.

These next two steps are the signing of the Association Agreement by the European Council (EC) and the EC’s recommendation for ratification to the European parliament and EU member state national parliaments.

Secondly, the EU has stated it will not recognize Ukraine’s October parliamentary elections as having been undertaken in accordance with democratic standards if opposition leaders are in jail and not permitted to participate in them.

In such a situation, visa black lists and sanctions could follow in 2013 – the same year Ukraine is set to hold the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE.

Thirdly, Ukraine’s relations are frozen with the IMF at a time when Ukraine’s financial situation is deteriorating as seen on March 15 when the S&P downgraded Ukraine’s credit outlook to “negative.”

This year Ukraine has to cover or rollover $6 billion in external and $3 billion in domestic debt obligations.

Yanukovych cannot fulfill the EU’s demand and release Tymoshenko as he then would likely be criminally charged and the Party of Regions would lose this year’s elections.

Although Ukraine loses out from its frozen integration into the EU this is of less strategic importance to the Yanukovych administration than its maintaining a monopoly of power coupled with its ability to continue travelling, working and playing in the EU.

Ukraine’s elites have long been integrated into Europe and do not care if they deny this possibility to their Ukrainian citizens.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Ukraine Shuts Down Forum For Malware Writers

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian authorities have shut down a long-running forum that was used to trade tips on writing malicious software, a sign the country's law enforcement may be watching hackers more closely.

Administrators for the forum, VX Heavens, wrote that its servers were seized on March 23 for allegedly creating and intending to sell malicious software programs, a violation of Ukraine's criminal code.

The website called the accusation "absurd" but said it couldn't offer services with the pending court case.

VX Heavens might have been easy pickings for Ukraine, which has been noted by computer security experts as being a hotbed of cybercrime.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security vendor Sophos, wrote that VX Heavens operated for many years, hosting virus-writing tutorials and malicious code samples.

But the site is likely just a small player in an expansive cybercriminal underground.

"The folks using the VX Heavens website were probably not in the same league as the financially-motivated organized criminals computer users are often troubled by today, and mirror rather more the hobbyist malware authors of yesteryear," Cluley wrote.

"Nevertheless, it's clear that the Ukrainian authorities didn't like what they saw and have confiscated the website's servers in their hunt for evidence of criminality," he wrote.

Ukraine has stepped up its computer crime and fraud enforcement efforts in recent years.

Last June its security service, the SBU, said it busted a cybercrime ring that stole some US$72 million using Conficker, a fast-spreading worm that appeared in 2008.

Since October 2009, the FBI has stationed a supervisory special agent at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev to assist with cybercrime investigations that target the U.S.

Source: Computerworld

Outraged By Fatal Assault On Young Woman, Ukrainians Force An Investigation

MOSCOW, Russia -- The crime was shocking enough: an 18-year-old woman gang-raped, half strangled, set on fire and left for dead.

Rape victim, Oksana Makar, whose case shocked Ukraine dies from injuries.

But what sent hundreds of Ukrainians into the streets and rushing to her hospital to give blood this month was a police decision to free two suspects rumored to be politically connected.

The uproar has shaken the upper echelons of Ukraine’s government.

On Thursday, three weeks after the attack, the young woman died.

Viktor F. Yanukovich, the president, and Nikolai Azarov, the prime minister, were among the first to offer condolences — along with vows that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

“I will press law enforcement agencies to investigate and obtain a just punishment,” Mr. Azarov wrote on his blog.

“No compromises. Only with the knowledge that punishment is inevitable will these monsters fear to encroach on people’s lives and rights.”

Whether they will succeed in calming the outrage is unclear.

Doctors said the young woman, Oksana Makar, suffered serious burns to about 55 percent of her body and had severe internal injuries.

One of her arms was amputated.

She was able to give at least one videotaped interview, her blond hair matted and blue eyes straining against what she described as excruciating pain.

For Ukrainians transfixed by her ordeal, she came to embody long-simmering animosities over government impotence and impunity for the privileged in this former Soviet nation.

It was only after the street protests and Mr. Yanukovich’s personal intervention that the police in the small southern town of Nikolayev re-arrested the young men.

On Thursday, they and a third jailed suspect were officially charged with murder.

The men met Ms. Makar at a cafe in Nikolayev on the evening of March 9, according to prosecutors.

After a few drinks, she agreed to go with them back to one of their apartments.

They continued to drink.

At some point, Ms. Makar complained of not feeling well and went to lie down in the bedroom.

“After that they came to their criminal intention: to rape her,” Yuri V. Boychenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office, said by telephone.

“After they committed this act, they were worried that she would go to the police, and to avoid this — all were in a state of intoxication — took further steps.”

The men, he said, tried to strangle Ms. Makar with a cord, leaving her barely conscious.

Then they wrapped her in a blanket and dragged her to a nearby construction site, where they set her on fire.

She was discovered the next morning, still conscious, by a passing motorist.

It is not clear why the police initially freed two of the suspects.

Investigators maintain that they lacked enough evidence to hold them.

Rumors quickly spread that the parents of the two, both in their 20s, had ties to the local government.

Officials confirmed that one, Maksim Prisyazhnyuk, is the adopted son of a former chairwoman in a regional legislature.

The perception that the men were released because of political connections touched a nerve.

Ukrainian tabloids are filled with the exploits of the so-called mazhory, the children of the wealthy and powerful who can seem impervious to punishment.

Hundreds marched to the local prosecutor’s office demanding punishment.

Some called on the government to reinstate the death penalty as in Soviet times and execute the men, according to local media reports.

After the public outcry, Mr. Yanukovich directed Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka, to open an inquiry.

It found that the police had acted carelessly.

Several officials in the local prosecutor’s office and police departments involved in the case were fired and others were demoted.

Asked in a videotaped interview shortly before her death what she wanted to say to her attackers, Ms. Makar, visibly straining against the pain, said she hoped they would be raped in prison.

Source: The New York Times

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Boeing Delivers First 737-800 For Ukraine's Aerosvit

SEATTLE, USA -- Boeing and Aerosvit Ukrainian Airlines celebrated today the delivery of a Next-Generation 737-800 jetliner.

Inside of Boeing 737-800.

"Delivery of the first Next Generation 737 out of 11 airplanes that we have arranged to deliver marks the beginning of our airline's narrow body fleet renewal," said Gregory Gurtovoy, Chairman of Supervisory Board of AeroSvit Airlines.

"Execution of this large scale program will help Aerosvit to increase our operating efficiency and offer passengers unprecedented comfort levels provided by the Boeing Sky Interior that will be introduced for the first time in Ukraine."

"Boeing is delighted to deliver Aerosvit's first Next-Generation 737-800," said Marty Bentrott, vice president of Sales for Ukraine, Russia, Central Asia and Middle East for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"We are honored to transfer this great airplane to our important customer and are confident that Aerosvit employees and passengers will enjoy its efficiency, reliability and comfort."

"We look forward to strengthening our partnership and supporting Aerosvit's fleet growth and business expansion."

All Next-Generation 737 airplanes will be delivered with the new Boeing Sky Interior that offers unprecedented passenger appeal and comfort which such features as spacious cabin headroom, overhead bins that disappear into the ceiling yet carry more bags and LED lighting that brings any color into the cabin.

AeroSvit Ukrainian Airlines was established in 1994, has its hub at Kiev-Boryspil Airport.

AeroSvit serves 80 international routes to 34 countries, and provides passenger carriages to major regional centres of Ukraine.

AeroSvit is a member of International Air Transport Association (IATA) since 1996 and Association of European Airlines since 2008.

The airline was among the first carriers in Eastern Europe that satisfied IOSA requirements (IATA Operational Safety Audit) and successfully confirms every second year its safety standards through independent IOSA audits including the last one in 2011.

Source: 4-traders

Ukraine’s Jailed Ex-PM Tymoshenko To Stand Trial In Second Case, Prosecutors Say

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian prosecutors say that jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will stand trial on tax evasion charges in a new case.

Supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko take part in a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 28, 2012.

Tymoshenko, the country’s top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of office in a trial condemned as politically motivated in the West.

She has also been charged with evading tens of million hryvna (several million dollars) in taxes while heading an energy company in the mid-1990s.

The Prosecutor General’s office spokesman Yuri Boichenko said Wednesday the tax evasion investigation has been completed and will be handed over to court within the next five days.

He said the trial should start in a few weeks.

Tymoshenko denies all the charges as an effort by President Viktor Yanukovych to bar a rival from politics.

Source: AP

Ukraine Goes Over The Top With Euro 2012 Prices

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Fancy camping for 120 euros ($160) a night? Or how about 3,600-euro ($4,797) hotel room?

People stand at a public tram stop, designed to look like a goalpost, as part of preparations for the Euro 2012 soccer championship in Donetsk March 27, 2012.

Football fans heading to Ukraine for Euro 2012 are set to be hit by among the highest accommodation costs in the world.

Many in the tourist trade in what is one of Europe’s poorest countries are looking to use the three-week tournament to make not so much a fast buck as a light-speed one.

In the eastern city of Donetsk, one of four Euro 2012 host cities in Ukraine, a hotel near the stadium is charging 3,600 euros ($4,797) to stay on the night of the June 27 semi-final.

That’s 85 times its non-tournament rate of 42 euros ($56).

Fans can always try the youth hostel, where a double with a shared bathroom down the corridor is 1,400 euros ($1,866).

If not, there are tents at a campsite going for 70 ($93) to 120 euros ($160).

“This is utterly ridiculous. It’s plain abusive,” said a West European travel agent used to big sports events, on condition of anonymity.

“Hoteliers are taking advantage of the situation,” he added, underlining the mismatch between supply and demand in ex-Soviet Ukraine.

Euro 2012, co-hosted by Ukraine and neighbouring Poland, marks the first-ever edition of the quadrennial, 16-nation football showcase behind the former Iron Curtain.

The infrastructure challenges in Poland, now an EU member, have paled in comparison with Ukraine’s.

“There’s a big difference with Poland, where prices have gone up, but there is much more available,” said the travel agent.

He noted he did not encounter similar headaches at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, nor at the World Cups in South Africa in 2010 and Germany in 2006.

Euro 2012 kicks off in the Polish capital Warsaw on June 8 and ends with the final in its Ukrainian counterpart Kiev on July 1.

With 1.4 million fans expected to flock in, the hosts aim to use the tournament as a shop-window to boost future tourism.

But warnings from top Ukrainian officials, as well as European football’s governing body UEFA, that prices are tarnishing the country’s image have had little impact.

With just over two months to go, it is near-impossible to find a reasonably-priced room in Ukraine’s host cities — besides Donetsk and Kiev, they are Lviv in the west and Kharkiv in the east.

Industrial Donetsk and Kharkiv are hardly tourist hubs, meaning the problem is worst there.

Ukrainian authorities recently urged fans to sideline the hotel sharks and opt for recommended travel agents — but they mostly offer university dormitories, with a twin room with a shared bathroom costing 66 ($88) - 130 euros ($173) a night for a minimum three-night stay.

The government has vowed to take action, with Deputy Prime Minister Borys Kolesnikov slamming “greed”.

“Our government has enough power to reduce their appetite,” he warned recently.

David Taylor, chief executive of UEFA’s events arm, also flagged up concerns.

“Of course UEFA cannot fix that ourselves. We don’t manage hotels. But we do think it’s not a very good image to present of trying to charge as much as possible,” he said earlier this month.

England play their Group D opener with France on June 11 in Donetsk.

But fan figures may fall short of expectations, amid reports that only half of the 7,000 tickets for that match available to supporters via the English Football Association have been sold.

“They won’t want to spend thousands of euros, when you see the exorbitant prices here,” said Olexander Atamanenko, boss of Donetsk’s brand-new stadium.

Ukrainians angry over the harm to their reputation are mustering on Facebook to host fans at home for free.

Accommodation problems are seen as a major reason why more supporters than usual are expected to opt for charter flights to head to matches and return home the same day.

Around 50 percent of Euro fans normally take that option.

While that rate is expected in Poland, it could hit 65 percent in Ukraine, UEFA says.

Some supporters have simply given up.

“A thousand euros ($1,333) for a room! And what kind of service do you get? A cold breakfast, sheets full of holes and a leaking air conditioner,” said England fan Jens Barthmann, who used to work as an English teacher in Donetsk.

“I’m going to stay at home and watch the matches on TV,” he added.

Source: AFP

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ukraine Leader Says Trust Building With U.S.

SEOUL, South Korea -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said trust was growing between himself and U.S. President Barack Obama after they met at a multinational summit where Mr. Yanukovych worked to build his credibility with the West.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, right, meets with Ukraine's counterpart Viktor Yanukovych in Seoul on Wednesday.

"We have reached an eye-to-eye position," Mr. Yanukovych said in an interview. "

All issues that are on our agenda, they will be completed."

Mr. Obama met with Mr. Yanukovych for about 20 minutes on Tuesday during a break in the Nuclear Security Summit, where Ukraine's removal of dangerous fissile materials was one of the most significant achievements reported by the approximately 50 participating nations.

According to a White House statement, Mr. Obama praised Ukraine for "courageous leadership on nuclear security."

But he also told Mr. Yanukovych that the U.S. is hoping to see fair and free elections in Ukraine later this year and is concerned about the prosecution of political opposition figures.

Mr. Yanukovych's opponent in the 2010 election, Yulia Tymoshenko, was convicted of corruption and jailed last year, sparking criticism that her prosecution was politically motivated.

While he has hinted that Ms. Tymoshenko could be released through changes to the criminal code, investigators have opened new criminal probes against her.

Her incarceration has damaged Mr. Yanukovych's reputation in Europe and the U.S., and undermined his economic agenda, including efforts to join the European Union and create a regional free trade area.

Ukraine's recovery from the 2008 global economic downturn has been stunted by crippling energy prices and two years of unsuccessful negotiations with Russia to reduce the price it pays for natural gas.

Last week, a deputy economy minister suggested to reporters in Kiev that Ukraine may attempt to restructure its debt with the International Monetary Fund.

But in the interview Wednesday, Mr. Yanukovych appeared to rule that out for now.

"That renegotiation is not on the agenda today," he said.

"Ukraine is very responsible for its external obligations and pays and services all its loans in time."

The IMF last year halted a $15 billion lending program to Ukraine after the government refused to raise household gas prices to help the state gas company balance its books.

Mr. Yanukovych said Ukraine has observed all other IMF requirements but can't raise gas tariffs because Ukrainians already pay some of the highest gas prices in the world.

Mr. Yanukovych's high-profile role at this week's Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul was in large part a consequence of Ukraine being the site of the explosion of the Chernobyl power plant in 1986, the world's worst nuclear-power accident.

He said the country shares with Japan the experience of "overcoming nuclear tragedies."

Over the past two years, Ukraine returned to Russia 200 kilograms of highly enriched uranium,
a fuel for nuclear plants and a key ingredient in atomic bombs — that had been consigned decades ago when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.

The train carrying the last 19 kilograms (42 pounds) of HEU departed Kiev on Saturday night.

In the interview, Mr. Yanukovych said: "Now I can say the security situation in Ukraine has improved. There is no threat of a terror attack for Ukraine and the region because all nuclear materials have been taken away."

Next month, construction is scheduled to begin on a new $1 billion shelter over the Chernobyl plant.

The new shelter will slide over the concrete "sarcophagus" that was hastily built around the reactor not long after the explosion and meltdown to halt the release of radiation.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Ukraine's Economy Is On A Rocky Path

KIEV, Ukraine -- While Ukraine’s sovereign debt problems may look similar to those of Greece, Ukraine is on its own path. The question is, the path to where?

Despite the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s statements that Ukraine is moving toward full integration into the European Union , in many ways, from the economic perspective, the country seems to be drifting further away from its European neighbors.

This is partially because of the strategy that the Ukrainian government has chosen.

Just like in Greece’s case, Ukrainian debt problems have caused Standard and Poor to cut the country’s credit rating.

Ukraine’s outlook was downgraded from stable to negative, while keeping the sovereign rating at B+.

The S&P report states that Ukraine’s ratings are constrained by the government’s unwillingness to make further structural improvements to public finances.

This happened after Ukraine asked the International Monetary Fund to delay $3 billion worth of bailout repayments by ten years, which did not make the IMF happy.

IMF officials said that there is no mechanism to restructure or reschedule payments so no negotiations are possible.

Similar to Greece, Ukraine doesn’t want to consider austerity measures necessary to reduce the budget deficit.

For months, the IMF has been asking Ukraine to raise gas and electricity prices, but Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych, who is already close to becoming persona-non-grata in Europe, doesn’t want to take such draconian measures ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections.

Instead, he’s trying to renegotiate gas prices with Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas giant, on whose supplies Ukraine largely depends.

Getting discounted gas from Russia doesn’t seem realistic, and some economists think it wouldn’t address Ukraine’s deeper issues.

However, the Ukrainian government has a point: the IMF’s insistence on raising gas prices for households would severely affect Ukrainian citizens, who simply won’t be able to pay higher rates, and thus might cause even larger problems and unrest in the country.

While Yanukovych might have his own agenda, with October elections looming, his position works for the average Ukrainian.

In order to raise prices on utilities, the household incomes should be significantly increased, which is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

While S&P, the IMF, and world economists point to an economic decline in Ukraine, reports from the government sounds more upbeat.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Finance said Ukraine repaid $575 million worth of debt to the IMF in February and its sovereign debt, including state guarantees, declined 0.5%.

In terms of credit ratings, the government’s website is not in a hurry to list the latest changes.

The S&P’s outlook has not been mentioned, and the recent rating from Fitch states “Positive Outlook, affirms at “B”.

The Ukraine Central Bank cut refinancing rates as they say inflation slowed.

Also, among other positive reports by Ukrainian media, there is news that Naftogaz, Ukrainian’s state oil and gas company, predicts a reduction in the price of Russian gas from $416 to $413 per thousand cubic meters in the forth quarter of this year.

And, eventually, according to Reuter’s news reports, Ukraine aims at reaching $250 as a reasonable price.

The talks over supplies might begin as soon as this May.

Gas contracts with Russia have been a particularly sore spot for Ukraine and have become a key point in recent political games, affecting the country’s economy and political outlook.

Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime-minister, was responsible for negotiating the contract terms in 2009 and was subsequently arrested last year for abuse of office during the deal.

She is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence, despite Western outrage.

The most recent development is that she has been publicly accused of treason against the state.

Tymoshenko’s arguably mirrors the scandalous downfall of Lavrentij Beria in the 1950s when a former Chief of Soviet Security was accused of treason and being a British spy without proof, and eventually sentenced to death.

Although, in Tymoshenko’s case, supporting evidence for “the signs of high treason” have been gathered by Inna Bogoslovskaya, the lawmaker leading the commission charged with investigating her.

The only relationship that is still healthy is with the World Bank, but that connection may also be built on shaky ground and half-truths.

A WB representative recently visited Ukraine and stated that the World Bank supports Ukrainian reforms.

Those reforms, which Yanukovych promised when he was elected president in 2010, have not materialized.

Not to mention, that according to Bloomber’s reports, economic grown this year slowed to 3.2% comparing to 5.2% last year, which was higher partially due to good harvest.

A downgrading of the credit rating, simple inability of the government to conduct unnecessary, much-needed economic reforms, and unwillingness to meet the demands of the IMF – what could all this mean?

While the government might be able to delay the financial crisis, economists see that public finances, long-term, are on an unsustainable path.

Unlike Greece, Ukraine is not part of the EU, and no matter how bad things get in Ukraine, it won’t affect the European Union members in the same way Greece’s problems did – and it’s unlikely to receive much needed help.

Even if Ukraine does default, Wall Street and European markets won’t discuss the matter as much as they do Greece and the IMF won’t rush to offer bailout packages.

At the same time, Ukraine is a strategically important country with a large potential for economic growth but unfortunately its economic development is stuck in a rut.

Most likely, it will manage to stay afloat, as it’s been doing over the past twenty years since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union.

Ukraine is just figuring out its own path, navigating between Russia and Europe – and it might take longer that one might think.

Source: Forbes

Ukraine Asks Italy To Hand Over Ally Of Jailed Ex-PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian prosecutors are seeking to extradite a leading opposition politician detained in Italy and wanted at home on abuse-of-power charges, the prosecutor general’s office said on Tuesday.

Arsen Avakov

The request follows a string of cases in Ukraine in which members of the previous government were charged with and sentenced for corruption, prompting concerns from within the European Union about political freedoms in the former Soviet bloc state.

Arsen Avakov, the governor of the eastern Kharkiv region in 2005-2010 and an ally of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko – herself jailed last year on similar charges – was detained in the Italian town of Frosinone on Monday, state prosecutors said.

“In response to a request from the Italian side the prosecutor general’s office is preparing a package of documents (required) to extradite… Avakov to Ukraine,” the office said in a statement.

The EU has condemned the sentencing of Tymoshenko, the fiercest opponent of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, and Yuri Lutsenko, a former interior minister, as politically motivated.

Batkivshchyna, Ukraine’s leading opposition party to which both Tymoshenko and Avakov belong, urged Rome on Tuesday not to extradite Avakov saying he too was a victim of political repressions.

Tymoshenko, 51, a charismatic politician and a fiery speaker, helped lead the 2004 Orange Revolution street protests that doomed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency.

She went on to serve two terms as prime minister.

But after Yanukovich made a comeback and beat her in the February 2010 presidential election, criminal proceedings were brought against her and other members of the opposition.

Tymoshenko was found guilty of illegally forcing through a 2009 gas deal with Russia which Yanukovich’s government said had saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for vital fuel supplies.

Tymoshenko’s husband, Olexander, and another ally, former Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshin, have both fled to the Czech Republic where they have been granted asylum.

Source: euronews

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ukraine, NATO To Hold Security Exercises During Euro 2012

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine and NATO will hold a joint seminar and command-staff strategic exercises aimed at security protection during the Euro 2012 European Football Championship on April 18-20, 2012.

Head of Ukraine's Mission to NATO Ihor Dolhov.

The Ukrainian side at the exercises will be represented by the agencies directly responsible for security protection during the championship, including the Emergency Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Health Ministry, the anti-terrorism center of the Security Service of Ukraine and the National Agency on Preparations for and Holding the Euro 2012 European Football Championship Finals in Ukraine and the Realization of Infrastructure Projects (Ukreuroinfraproject), Head of Ukraine's Mission to NATO Ihor Dolhov told Interfax-Ukraine in an exclusive interview.

The exercises will take place at the crisis center on the base of the Olympiysky National Sports Complex in Kiev.

"Football is very popular in Europe, and demand to see the matches is huge. We hope that the Ukrainian hosts of the tournament will do everything for the convenience of their guests. Relevant conditions, including in the security sphere, should be created for a successful holiday," the Ukrainian diplomat said.

He added that the security issue includes several segments, namely "security of teams, fans, and the prevention of possible illegal visitors coming to Ukraine."

"From the viewpoint of security, it would be better if the public, supporters, football players don't notice anything, at the same time, all conditions for their safety are being created," Dolhov said.

The exercises will be aimed at learning about the advanced experience of the countries that hosted big sports events in the last ten years (Austria and Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States) or will host international sportive competitions soon (Sweden, Finland, and Britain), according to the Ukrainian diplomat.

One and a half day of the exercises will be dedicated to theory, during which Ukrainian experts will listen about world experience in the sphere of inter-departmental cooperation, interaction between the private and state sectors.

The issues of protection of the population from radiological, chemical, and bacteriological threats during big international sports competitions will also be considered.

The other day and a half will be dedicated to practice, in particular, command-staff strategic exercises will be held.

The exercises will be aimed at development of a single strategy of cooperation between Ukrainian services in case of emergencies and strengthening of coordination between agencies.

Today, NATO is working on emergency scenarios that will be worked on during the exercises.

Source: Interfax-Ukraine

Poroshenko Becomes New Economy Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Western former foreign minister, on Friday accepted the post of economy minister amid signs President Viktor Yanukovych is trying to repair his government’s worsening reputation at the European Union.

Newly appointed Economy Minister, Petro Poroshenko.

Poroshenko, 46, accepted the post after a one month-long consideration after Yanukovych – in a highly unusual move - had publicly announced last month plans of making the appointment.

Poroshenko has so far been positioning himself as an opposition politician and has appeared several times at street protest actions jointly with Arseniy Yatseniuk, a former speaker of Parliament.

“The last couple of weeks were very hard for me,” Poroshenko wrote in his Facebook account hours before the appointment.

“The decision I had to make is a kind of those that are made several times in a lifetime and do not come easy.”

Poroshenko said he accepted the post for promoting Ukraine’s integration with the European Union, de-regulation of the economy, reducing corruption, making economic policy transparent.

Poroshenko, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes at about $1 billion, owns a number of assets, including the country’s largest confectionary Roshen, and also shipbuilding plant Leninska Kuznia and media assets that include Channel 5 television and Korrespondent weekly magazine.

Oleksandr Yanukovych, the son of the president who amassed a massive 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.

Poroshenko is also believed to have good relations with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who has been so far losing his influence in the government.

Azarov’s closest ally, Fedir Yaroshenko, was dismissed the finance minister in January.

Among immediate tasks that Poroshenko will have to deal with is the government’s attempts to resume the $15.5 billion loan from the IMF.

The government, facing a deadlock with the IMF, was recently reported have hired a U.S. lobbyist firm to try to get the money.

The Washington-based firm, APCO Worldwide, on March 2 circulated a letter among its senior advisors around the globe, including former diplomats and elected officials, seeking assistance in dealing with the IMF.

The letter was aimed at helping Ukraine to get around the key IMF demand of hiking natural gas prices for households.

The loan was frozen in early 2011 after the government had failed to increase by 50% natural gas prices for households and utility tariffs to balance the budget.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Tymoshenko Health Alarm Grows After Leaked Report

KIEV, Ukraine -- Supporters of Ukraine's jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday expressed grave concern for her health after a leaked medical report said she required urgent hospitalization.

Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 for seven years on charges of abusing her powers.

Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda on Friday published scanned excerpts of the Ukrainian-language medical report drawn up by a German doctor who visited Tymoshenko with other international specialists in February.

It said that she was suffering from such severe pain she could only sit up in bed for 10-15 minutes before having to lie down again and was unable to sleep on her side.

The text, written by a doctor from the Berlin clinic Charite after the visit in February, said she needed "immediate" hospitalisation in a "specialised clinic" outside her prison.

It said that Tymoshenko was suffering from an herniated spinal disc (slipped disc) which appears to be the origin of the severe back pain her lawyers say she has endured over the last months.

"I am in shock. They are simply in the process of killing her," an MP from Tymoshenko's faction in parliament, Vyacheslav Peredery, told AFP.

Her lawyer Sergiy Vlasenko said the authorities were looking at ways over "how to get rid of Tymoshenko" ahead of a looming ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on her case.

"Unfortunately, the events in the Tymoshenko case are moving in a very tragic direction," he said, in comments published on her website.

The German doctors who examined Tymoshenko in February made no detailed public declarations but Canadian practitioners who examined her at the same time had said that she was "ill and in constant pain".

Ukraine's prisons service by contrast said in a statement that Tymoshenko had at the weekend again turned down offers of a prison medical check-up and had made no complaints about her condition.

"She is moving around her room with the assistance of a walking frame and its gradually increasing her regime of movement," it said.

Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 for seven years on charges of abusing her powers while in office in agreeing contracts for gas imports for Russia.

She is now serving her sentence at a prison in the Kharkiv region of east Ukraine.

She has said her jailing is an act of political revenge by her rival President Viktor Yanukovych and her conviction has dealt a heavy blow to Ukraine's aspirations of joining the European Union.

Source: AFP

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ukraine May Reverse Gas Flow If Russia Stops Transit - Naftogaz

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine may use its gas transport system in "reverse mode" to bring European gas to Ukraine, if Russia stops gas transit to Europe through it, Ukraine's Naftogaz energy firm deputy board chairman Vadim Chuprun said on Monday.

Naftogaz Kiev headquarters

"If [Russia] does not need our gas transportation system in future, we should be ready for its load. The system has enormous opportunities as it can transport gas to Europe and the same volume back," Chuprun said.

"We may link it up in a common gas transit system between our country and Europe," he added.

Russia and Ukraine have been embroiled in a drawn-out dispute over the price and volume of Russian gas purchased by Ukraine.

Kiev insists the current price is too high, while Moscow is pushing for control of Ukraine’s gas transit system to Europe, as part of a deal to cut prices.

Russia currently exports nearly 80 percent of its gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, but Russian gas giant Gazprom has repeatedly said Kiev's importance in gas transit will be minimal after the South Stream pipeline comes on stream in 2015 and the new North Stream's capacity is increased.

Source: RIA Novosti

Last Enriched Uranium Rumbles Out Of Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A consignment of enriched uranium - enough to make a nuclear weapon, according to a U.S. expert - rumbled out of a Ukrainian railway depot late on Saturday bound for Russia, a move designed to coincide with an international summit on nuclear security.

Highly-Enriched Uranium

The 19 kilograms (42 pounds) of spent highly enriched uranium, loaded in four containers onto rail carriers in a high-security operation, was the last such material to be removed from the ex-Soviet republic under a two-year programme with the United States and Russia.

The completion of the programme was timed to raise the curtain on a March 26-27 nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea, to be attended by leaders from 50 countries including U.S. President Barack Obama and Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovich.

The summit will focus on measures to protect nuclear materials and facilities and to prevent illicit trafficking.

"What you are seeing here is enough material to make one nuclear weapon," Andrew Bieniawski, director of the Global Reduction Threat Initiative of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, told Reuters as the containers were loaded under guard at the depot outside Kiev.

Altogether 200 kilograms of weapons-grade material have been removed from Ukraine and sent back to Russia - the originating country - since May 2010.

The material will be delivered to the Mayak reprocessing nuclear facility in Russia's Ural mountains - a rail journey of about five days from Kiev.

Bieniawski said similar material still had to be removed from NATO allies Czech republic and Hungary, and Vietnam, under programmes with the United States over the next four years.

"Ukraine is the model for future shipments ... We can say the world is safer. If you remove this material you make a country permanently safer because terrorists can not acquire nuclear material," he said.

The enriched uranium shipped out on Saturday had been used in a reactor at a nuclear research facility in Kiev.

The Seoul conference will provide a rare opportunity for Yanukovich to rub shoulders with Obama and other Western leaders.

He has been left out in the cold by several European Union leaders at international gatherings and chastised by the United States because of the jailing of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on charges of abuse-of-office which Western governments say were politically motivated.

Source: One News Page

After Chernobyl, Ukraine Seeks Atom’s ‘Peaceful Service’

SEOUL, South Korea -- His nation suffered the worst nuclear disaster in history, but the Ukrainian ambassador said his country now wishes to promote the safe use of nuclear power at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

Ambassador Vasyl Marmazov

Ambassador Vasyl Marmazov said the catastrophic explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power station’s reactor 4 on April 26, 1986 has well-placed his country to contribute to nuclear security and safety talks at the summit on March 26-27.

The United Nations has estimated that 9,000 cancer-related deaths could stem from the Chernobyl disaster, while Greenpeace’s prediction runs to 93,000.

Fallout from the damaged reactor north of Kiev was enough to double natural radiation readings in Sweden, 1,000 miles away.

A 30 km-radius exclusion zone exists around the plant 26 years on.

Marmazov pledged that his country will lend its painfully won nuclear safety expertise to “putting the atom to work for the peaceful service of mankind.”

The country also renounced its Soviet-inherited nuclear weapons in 1996, and has pledged to remove its stockpiles of highly enriched uranium.

“Ukraine’s example can serve as a basis for the unification of international efforts toward the establishment of a safe, nuclear-free world in the interests of all states,” Marmazov said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is to attend the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit along with representatives from 58 countries and international organizations.

Some 48 heads of state including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are scheduled to attend.

“Threats to nuclear security remain at the global and regional levels and can be closely linked with the development and use of nuclear energy,” Marmazov said, calling for the Nuclear Security Summit to become a regular event.

“Twenty-six years after the Chernobyl disaster, Ukraine continues to deal with its horrific aftermath. It is imperative for all states to establish a reliable international architecture for nuclear safety and to exercise control over nuclear materials and technologies.”

He added that since Chernobyl, Ukrainian specialists had built up “great experience for the protection of the population from the consequences of nuclear accidents, prevention and treatment of diseases caused by radiation.”

Their advice was sought by medical experts soon after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last March 11.

“We are ready to render further any kind of assistance in this field to the Japanese side as well as to others. The Republic of Korea is also interested to cooperate with Ukraine in this sphere in order to obtain our experience, scientific approaches and methods,” he said.

“The events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant remind us of the importance of strengthening nuclear safety and of responding promptly to nuclear accidents and emergencies including those caused by large scale natural disasters. These events demonstrate that nuclear safety is enhanced when the global community works together to meet these challenges.”

Maintaining high levels of emergency preparedness and response capability were two key lessons Ukraine has learned to mitigate the effects of a nuclear accident, he said.

And transparency must be maintained as much as possible during such an event.

The Soviet authorities did not admit the Chernobyl catastrophe had happened until two weeks after the explosion.

And Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant operator TEPCO was also accused of cover-ups in the wake of last year’s meltdown.

Marmazov called on all signatory countries of the Convention on Nuclear Safety to ratify the agreement and for the nuclear industry, regulators and governments to work together on such issues.

“Keeping in mind the lessons learned from the Chernobyl disaster we are convinced that application of safety measures must continue to be a top priority in all activities related to nuclear energy use,” he said.

In spite of Chernobyl, Ukraine is still heavily dependent on nuclear energy.

It currently has 15 nuclear reactors generating about half of its electricity, commissioning two large new plants in 2004.

And the ambassador thought that the conference should be a forum to secure non-nuclear states’ rights to nuclear materials and technology for peaceful purposes, as long as they abided by international treaties.

The country pledged to remove its highly enriched uranium stockpiles, totaling about 90 kilograms, at the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April 2010, and Yanukovich told the Yonhap news agency that the task was nearing completion ahead of his visit to Seoul.

Source: The Korea Herald

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Radisson Blu Hotel Kiev To Join Earth Hour Movement

KIEV, Ukraine -- Radisson Blu Hotel Kiev has announced that it will join the Earth Hour worldwide movement on 31 March, 2012 at 8:30 pm and will switch off the hotel's lights and illumination.

Radisson Blu Hotel Kiev

By this action, the hotel joins the efforts of many other organizations around the world to draw attention to the worldwide issue of global warming.

In March 2007 in Sydney, Australia, 2.2 million individuals turned their lights out for one hour for the first time to take a stand against climate change.

Electricity production, along with excessive usage of natural resources, results in emissions of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.

Each year more and more individuals, organizations, cities and countries are joining the movement with Earth Hour 2011 seeing hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries switch off for an hour.

Radisson Blu Hotel Kiev was one of the first business organizations in Ukraine that supported the Earth Hour movement.

Since 2009, the last Saturday of March is when the hotel hosts a series of events that aims to draw the attention of guests and employees to the climate challenges facing the planet.

The activity which has the greatest impact and involves everyone in the hotel is the switching off of the lights in all guestrooms and public areas.

The hotel is lit with candles and each of the two on site restaurants turn into the most romantic places.

This year, the Radisson Blu Hotel in Kiev is involved in the event again and has prepared an intensive program for its guests whereby visitors to Mille Miglia Italian Restaurant will experience and join the Earth Hour program by ordering the special set menu of three fabulous dishes cooked without electricity.

To make participation in Earth Hour both interesting and informative, there is an invitation to guests and visitors to the K-Largo culinary master class "Cooking with Love to save our Planet".

All dishes will be prepared without electricity and the class offers interesting ideas how to create tasty, healthy food while respecting the environment.

Guests will be assured that cooking without electricity does not sacrifice nutrition or taste and the attendees will be able to try their hand at cooking their own culinary masterpieces.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Kiev is conveniently located in the business and historical city center.

It features 255 rooms of Kiev accommodation in 3 unique design styles.

Guests can unwind either in the award winning Italian Mille Miglia restaurant, or in the K-Largo Lounge Lobby or experience the fabulous Super Breakfast Buffet.

Conveniently located on the ground floor the hotel's Kiev conference facilities span over 407 m. sq. including an Embassy Suite to accommodate 250 people based in reception and four boardrooms for business meetings.

The hotel's fitness center features a gym, sauna and steam room, different massage types, and a solarium.

Source: PR Newswire

Ban Ki-moon: Mission In Cote D'Ivoire Would Have Failed Without Ukraine

NEW YORK, USA -- The success of the peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire could not have been possible without Ukrainian peacekeepers, believes the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

UN's Ban Ki-moon

This statement was released during the International Defense Dialogue in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"...We might not have prevailed without the contribution of one country: Ukraine, which lent us three combat military helicopters at the critical moment," said Ban Ki-moon in his speech to the government officials and the international security experts who attended the conference.

The UN leader mentioned that democratic transformations in Côte d'Ivoire started back in 2010 when the independent elections committee announced the opposition leader Alassane Quattara as a winner.

Having lost in the elections that were considered transparent and democratic the then President Laurent Gbagbo, nevertheless, refused to accept his defeat.

He was reported to exploit ethnic tensions, organize attacks against the UN patrols and order weapons use against his own people.

Ban Ki-moon recognized that through the joint efforts of Ukrainian helicopter squadron and the French forces deployed in Cote d'Ivoire as part of an operation Licorne it had become possible to neutralize the use of heavy weaponry which were attacking the United Nations peacekeepers and killing civilians.

38 Ukrainian peacekeepers from the 56th separate helicopter squadron of Ukrainian Armed Forces, serving as part of the United Nations Organization's mission in Liberia, participated in operation to maintain security during the runoff presidential elections in Cote d'Ivoire in December 2011, reported Ukrainian News.

Back on January 19, 2011 the UN Security Council adopted the Resolution 1967 to strengthen its peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire.

At that time Ukraine received both an official note from the UN Secretariat soliciting assistance and personal request from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support the UN peacekeeping force in the region.

Ukraine has been recognized for its important contribution in supporting global peace and security through participation in peacekeeping initiatives.

Thus far, Ukraine took part in more than 20 peacekeeping operations in 12 countries under the auspices of the UN.

Source: Yahoo Finance

Ukraine Does Armor Better

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has become a major exporter of armored vehicles. Ukraine offers locally made Russian designs that have better features and quality control than the Russian originals, as well as lower prices and after-sale support.

BTR-3U armoured personnel carrier

For example, in the last five years Thailand has become a major customer, ordering 121 BTR-3E1 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles and 200 T-84 tanks.

Thailand got a few of each at first and increased its orders as satisfaction with the vehicles increased.

The BTR-3EI is a 17 ton vehicle armed with a 30mm autocannon, a 7.62mm machine-gun, and a 30mm grenade launcher.

It also has smoke grenade launchers.

There is a three man crew and space for six troops or passengers in the back.

There are firing ports and bullet-proof windows in the passenger department.

The BTR-3EI was developed 12 years ago.

Thailand pays $1.3 million for each of the vehicles, which will be used for counter-terror operations in the south.

The BTR-3EI is air conditioned and amphibious, but further changes were made to adapt the vehicle to operations in the tropics.

Armored vehicles are needed because the Islamic terrorists down south are increasingly using roadside bombs and ambushes against army patrols.

The terrorists don't use many RPGs, however, so the BTR-3 won't need slat armor added on.

The T-84 is a Ukrainian modification of the Russian T-80 (a failed design that Ukrainian engineers managed to salvage).

The latest version, the T-84 Oplot-M, is a 46 ton vehicle with a "western" style turret (as opposed to a Russian style one).

The T-84 relies on a lot of reactive armor and modern electronics for protection and combat capability.

It's armed with a 125mm gun and two machine-guns. The three man crew uses an auto-loader.

Ukraine is still the source of a lot of illegal arms exports, even to terrorist groups.

In the 1990s, over $30 billion of Soviet era arms and equipment went missing.

Many Ukrainian officials and gunrunners got rich off this deal, and no one was prosecuted.

Most, but not all, of these gunrunners are out of business, but bribable Ukrainian officials still look the other way when it comes to smuggling and counterfeiting.

Legal Ukrainian arms exports are over $1 billion a year.

It's unclear how large the illegal exports are.

Source: Strategy Page

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ukrainian Doctors Admit Tymoshenko Needs Hospital Care

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian doctors have admitted that jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is in need of hospital care as her health deteriorates.

Yulia Tymoshenko has been jailed for seven years.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven year sentence for abuse of office in a penal colony in Kharkiv, some 500 kilometers from Kiev.

Tymoshenko has accused local doctors of denying her proper treatment and demanded foreign doctors treat her.

Up till now, Ukrainian officials have denied Tymoshenko was ill or being mistreated.

Now, doctors appointed by the government say Tymoshenko needs urgent medical care.

"Now we can talk about the pain syndrome becoming chronic," said Yuri Kotlyarevsky, head neurosurgeon of Kharkiv State Healthcare Department.

"We do not reject this and are ready to carry [out treatment] in a hospital, in a specialised hospital outside the jail, using spiral computer tomography [a type of CT scan]."

Doctors also admitted that the delays in getting Tymoshenko hospital care meant that treatment would be different now.

"They [German doctors] said that yes, maybe in the beginning, in the beginning of the process it would make sense to talk about a surgical intervention."

"Now the situation is different, and they themselves offered this course of therapy which we are talking about today, but it excludes the surgical intervention, and we agreed," explained Mykola Korzh, director of the Ukrainian Institute of Spinal Pathology.

Tymoshenko's relatives and supporters, as well as the European Court of Human Rights, have urged Ukraine's authorities to attend to Tymoshenko's health needs.

Supporters and much of the international community suspect the case against Tymoshenko is politically motivated with the aim of silencing a leading figure of Ukraine's opposition.

However, a majority in Ukraine's parliament voted on March 20 to back a motion accusing Tymoshenko of "high treason" for her role in negotiating a gas contract with Russia in 2009, the grounds for her jailing.

In December, the EU delayed the signing of a major trade agreement with Ukraine due to concerns over the jailing of Tymoshenko.

President Viktor Yanukovych has ignored calls to release Tymoshenko, who is now facing fresh charges dating back to the 1990s when the so-called "gas princess" ran a private natural-gas trading company, United Energy Systems of Ukraine.

Tymoshenko lost to Yanukovych in a tight presidential race in 2010.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Ukrainian Mafia Steps Up To Avenge Rape Victim

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukrainian mafia leaders have formed an alliance to take retribution on three high-profile men accused of raping, attempting to strangle and burning a young woman alive in the Ukrainian town of Nikolayev, daily Hürriyet reported.

The leaders reportedly ordered their contacts in every prison in Ukraine to "take care" of the three men and do make them "worse than [the victim]" in revenge for their alleged attack on Oxana Makar.

Makar, 18, remains in critical condition.

Her parents, meanwhile, have been attempting to remind the public of her suffering; her mother recently uploaded a video that shows the girl struggling in pain to form the words "I want to live."

Doctors have said the typical chances of survival for a patient in Makar's state are one in a thousand, but the girl has been fighting to cling to life amid daily surgeries.

The three suspects were initially released after the crime due to “lack of evidence” before Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych personally ordered their arrest following a national outcry.

Two of the suspects are sons of Ukrainian officials. Maxim Prisyjnikov, 23, is the son of the regional administrator while Artyon Pogosyan, 21, is the son of the regional prosecutor.

The third suspect is the pair’s friend, 23-year-old Yevgeniy Krasnoshek.

It was claimed that the trio met Makar at a café and invited her to a house party.

They allegedly raped Makar after taking her home; after becoming aware of the crime they had allegedly committed, the suspects allegedly panicked and strangled Makar with an electrical wire.

The suspects then allegedly set her on fire after waiting some time to make sure she was dead.

Source: Hürriyet Daily News

NBU Cuts Discount Rate By 25 Basis Points

KIEV, Ukraine -- The National Bank of Ukraine on Thursday cut its key interest rate, responding to slowing consumer inflation and seeking to boost economic expansion as the country faces financial challenges.

National Bank of Ukraine

The NBU cut the discount rate, the rate at which it lends money to commercial banks, by 25 basis points to 7.5%, in its first action on the rate since August 2010.

The regulator also lowered reserve requirements for commercial banks, making more credit resources available for lending to the real economy.

“Favorable price dynamics create opportunity for taking additional stimulus measures, in particular using interest rate levers, for boosting credit to the real economy,” the NBU said in a statement posted on its Website.

Ukraine’s consumer inflation slowed to an annualized 3% in February from 3.7% in January, and down from 9% in the mid 2011 and 26% in 2008, according to the central bank.

The NBU said it managed to fend off pressure on the hryvnia, the local currency, by encouraging people to save money in hryvnias rather than in hard currency.

Hryvnia-denominated deposits rose by 3% in February, compared with 1.5% increase for deposits denominated in hard currencies, such as the U.S. dollar and the euro.

People bought $373 million worth of hard currency in February, down from $556 million in January and $740 million in December 2010, after the central bank had introduced administrative restrictions on hard currency purchases.

The restrictions include a requirement for an individual to produce an ID at a commercial bank or an exchange kiosk to report name and address while buying hard currency.

Meanwhile, the government is facing some serious challenges later this year following the suspension of a $15.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, and difficulties in securing economic aid from Russia on acceptable political terms.

Ukraine’s economic growth is forecast to slow to 3.9% in 2012 from about 5% in 2011, as Ukraine is hit by weakening global demand for steel, its main export.

The rate cut comes after a 18-month period of no action as the NBU has been watching economic developments.

The NBU cut its discount rate three times between June and August 2010, also citing lower inflation and greater influx of hard currency into the country.

The NBU started its rate-cutting cycle on June 8, 2010, lowering the rate to 9.5% from 10.25%, and then cutting the rate again on July 8, 2010 to 8.5% from 9.5%.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ukraine, Russia Leaders To Talk Gas In May

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine hopes to work out a new deal on the supplies of Russian gas by late May, after Russian president elect Vladimir Putin assumes power, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Thursday.

Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych with Russia's new President Vladimir Putin (L).

Yanukovich's government has sought for more than a year to negotiate a lower price on Russian gas but talks have produced no results so far.

Kiev, which is paying $416 per thousand cubic metres, sees a fairer price at $250.

"Expert groups are working right now, and we hope by the end of May, by the last decade of May, an acceptable solution will be found that we will discuss with... Putin," UNIAN news agency quoted Yanukovich as saying on a trip to the south-eastern city of Zaporizhya.

Yanukovich, who met Putin in Moscow this week said he also planned to meet the Russian prime minister in mid-April, before his May 7 inauguration as president.

Ukraine's government says the high price of imported gas is a drag on the country's economy and state budget.

Ukraine heavily subsidises gas supplies to households and heating companies.

Rating agency Standard and Poor's downgraded its outlook on Ukraine's credit ratings to negative citing, among other factors, the "lack of clarity over the ultimate direction of government policy" with regards to gas talks with Russia.

Russia has long insisted it would review the price only if its giant gas company Gazprom was allowed to take over Ukrainian gas transit pipelines or if Ukraine joined a Russia-led Customs Union.

Kiev has so far dismissed both options.

However, Yanukovich is now under political pressure to deliver a solution to the gas issue as his Party of the Regions has been slipping in opinion polls ahead of the October parliament elections.

Previous price disputes between the two nations have led to disruptions of Gazprom's supplies to Europe through Ukraine's territory, prompting Russia to create alternative export routes that bypass Ukraine.

Source: India Times

Ukraine’s Party of Regions Uses Populist Promises, Acquires New Allies To Win Election

KIEV, Ukraine -- Opinion polls show that although the ruling Party of Regions (PRU) remains the most popular party, it may lose the parliamentary election scheduled for October 28 to the combined forces of the opposition.

Serhy Tyhypko, former head of the liberal party Strong Ukraine and new member of the Party of Regions.

Economic growth has slowed considerably of late so the ruling party cannot boast of a strong economy ahead of the election.

Neither has the government managed to improve relations with Russia and the European Union, as PRU leader Viktor Yanukovych promised when he was elected president two years ago.

Consequently, there is not much left Yanukovych can do to improve the party’s standing in the seven months remaining before the election.

The PRU has made it clear that it will bet on populism and the elimination of rivals through enrolling them in the PRU.

Yanukovych has already promised handouts to the poorest strata so his economic team is racking its brains to find the $2 billion needed for higher pensions, low mortgage rates and compensations to the depositors of the defunct Soviet state savings bank.

Yanukovych’s economy adviser, Iryna Akimova, conceded recently that his social initiatives might cost even more than that while, for the moment, no more than $1.4 billion can be guaranteed.

She suggested more could be raised from selling mineral extraction licenses and increasing personal income tax rate for the rich to 20 percent from the current 17 percent.

Like in all of its previous election campaigns, the PRU will play the Russian language card.

Speaking in an interview ahead of his visit to Moscow, excerpts from which were published by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS on March 18, Yanukovych said Ukraine’s bilingual population was in favor of giving an official status to Russian.

Several media outlets interpreted that as Yanukovych’s intention to give Russian the status of an official language on par with Ukrainian.

However, he meant giving Russian the status of a regional language for areas where more than 10 percent of the population regards Russian as their mother tongue.

In order to pass a law on this, Yanukovych will need only a simple majority of votes in the 450-seat unicameral legislature, which is dominated by the PRU.

A state language status for Russian would require two-thirds of the votes in order to change the constitution.

Considerably more than half of Ukrainians speak Russian fluently, around one third prefer Russian in everyday communication, and most newspapers come out in Russian.

Yet, Russian has no official status in Ukraine.

A recent opinion poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology has shown that 47 percent of Ukrainians are in favor of giving some status to Russian.

The PRU’s traditional strongholds in eastern and southern Ukraine are Russophone, so the PRU naturally plays the language card in all elections.

However, the PRU hardly does anything to raise the status of Russian once each election campaign is over, as Yanukovych’s bitter rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, sarcastically remarked on her website.

Most recently, the PRU has gotten rid of a potentially strong rival party.

Deputy Prime Minister Serhy Tyhypko disbanded his liberal party Strong Ukraine (SU), called on its members to join the PRU and did so himself at the PRU congress on March 17.

Tyhypko was elected deputy to the party’s chairman, Mykola Azarov, who is also the prime minister.

It has been rumored that Tyhypko, who came in third after Yanukovych and Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election with 13 percent of the vote, may eventually replace Azarov in both positions.

Tyhypko himself told journalists at the congress that he would not mind becoming the PRU leader.

Thanks to taking over SU, the PRU may gain additional percentage points in the October parliamentary election.

The popular approval rating of SU, which targeted the nascent middle class, has been hovering around 3-4 percent during the past several months, compared to the PRU’s 14-18 percent.

The PRU will not stop at enrolling Tyhypko and his people.

Two more small parties are expected to merge with the PRU soon said deputy ideology chief, Volodymyr Demydko, on the sidelines of the PRU congress.

He added that the PRU’s strategy was to attract bright personalities who could be small party leaders while not necessarily taking over whole parties.

Emergencies Minister Viktor Baloha, who chairs United Center, a small party that used to be in the camp of former President Viktor Yushchenko, has not ruled out that his party could one day merge with the PRU.

Oleksandr Sin, the mayor of the large industrial town of Zaporizhya, which is one of the PRU’s strongholds, announced most recently that he would join the PRU.

Sin was elected mayor in 2010 as a candidate from Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party.

He left Fatherland only a month after that.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Ukrainian Woman's Rape Stirs Public 'Vendetta'

KIEV, Ukraine -- On March 10, a passer-by in the Southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, population 500,000, heard faint moaning from a construction site and alerted a cop.

Oksana Makar

The policeman climbed through a hole in the fence and found a sight he is likely never to forget: a naked girl somebody had tried to burn alive.

Oksana Makar, 18, was barely hanging on to life: Doctors later estimated that her burns affected 55 percent of her body.

She had also been raped and half-strangled.

Police acted quickly, and three suspects, all local men in their early 20s, were apprehended the next day.

Among them was Maxim Prisyazhnyuk, the adopted son of a local government official.

The police apparently let him go, along with another one of the young men.

But news spread quickly, and in a matter of hours, the entire city, a center of the sagging Ukrainian shipbuilding industry, seemed up in arms.

The suspects were promptly taken into custody again -- now they needed protection from an angry mob.

A local website, Novosti N, leaked a police video of one of the men, Yevgeny Krasnoshchok, giving matter-of-fact testimony on how the three of them took Makar home, got her drunk, took turns with her, and then tried to strangle her and dispose of what they believed was a dead body.

The video was watched 40,000 times on the local site and 300,000 times on YouTube.

On March 15, about 2,000 people -- an enormous crowd by Mykolaiv standards -- gathered in the city's main square, demanding justice for the rapists and threatening to lynch them.

Pickets and rallies were held in the nation's other cities, from Lviv in Western Ukraine to Kharkiv in the east.

On social networks, a drive to collect money for Makar's treatment quickly gathered momentum, producing a hefty sum of 1.5 million hryvnyas ($187,500) in less than a week -- probably the most successful crowd-funding effort in Ukrainian history.

Crimes of this kind aren't exactly rare in Ukraine's depressed industrial areas.

But the rape and attempted murder of Makar became a national issue because of one of the rapists' ties to the ruling elite.

Prisyazhnyuk, apart from being the son of an official, was reported to be a former member of the governing Regions Party's youth wing.

In recent years, Ukraine has watched in dismay as members of the nation's “golden youth” have gotten away with highly public criminal acts.

One of them was Sergei Demishkan, the son of the top official at the national highway agency, who received a suspended five-year sentence for brutally killing a businessman.

Roman Landik, the son of an influential Regions Party legislator, was captured on camera beating up a woman in a restaurant -- and also escaped with a suspended sentence.

The children of local officials, judges and prosecutors -- "mazhory," as they are collectively known -- have walked free after causing fatal car accidents.

Many Ukrainians saw the Mykolaiv situation as a last straw.

Odessa politician Alexey Goncharenko wrote in his blog:

The beasts who let off two of the three rapists and murderers … are the real criminals in this situation as far as I am concerned ...

In the past 20 years the law-enforcement agencies and courts, society's immune system, have found themselves in a sorry state.

They have been afflicted with the viruses of corruption, indifference and impunity.

Ukrainian political commentator Andrei Okara warned of a possible “vendetta against the government” if more cases like that surface.

“Every time the children of officials are declared innocent and the blame is put on the victims,” Okara said.

“This is a powerful detonator of public anger and discontent which can create grounds for a revolutionary situation in Ukraine.”

The public outcry has caused the nation's top officials, including President Viktor Yanukovich, to declare their personal interest in the Makar case.

Ukraine's richest man -- the metals tycoon and Yanukovich supporter Renat Akhmetov -- helped transfer Makar to the Donetsk burn center, a modern medical institution with an international reputation, and paid for a Swiss surgeon to come over to operate on her.

Despite an initial prognosis that gave Makar a 0.5 percent chance of survival, she is still alive.

Her right arm has been amputated and she is not likely to have the use of her legs if she does recover.

In another widely watched video, Makar says she hopes her assailants get raped in jail.

Sympathy for her is still widespread in Ukraine -- but less so since March 19, when "Let Them Speak," a Russian tabloid TV show, interviewed the bartender who saw Makar meet the three men on March 9.

The woman described Makar as a “loose” girl who had frequented the bar, always trying to pick up men and get them to pay for her drinks.

It has also been revealed that Makar's mother had a criminal record.

The tone of many comments in Internet discussions of the case has since changed abruptly.

“I just don't understand why a slut is being made out to be an innocent victim,” a Mykolaiv woman commented on Novosti N recently.

Ukraine is a highly traditional society, and it is not a universally held view that a rape is entirely the rapist's fault.

Many people tend to attach equal blame to the victim.

Makar's alleged character flaws make her a less credible cause celebrate.

There are no more rallies in Makar's support.

Moreover, the authorities who have enjoyed, along with their children, a culture of immunity, may yet turn the situation to their advantage, switching public attention from the crimes of the mazhory to calls for tougher laws.

Or there is another possible outcome.

The Communist faction in parliament has used the Mykolaiv case to advance a bill reintroducing the death sentence, abolished when Ukraine joined the Council of Europe in 1995.

Last year, polls showed 45 percent of the nation backing such a measure, and the case of Makar may just drive that number higher.

If that happens, the ruling Regions Party could easily jump on the bandwagon and push through the legislation.

Source: Bloomberg