Monday, April 30, 2012

Ukraine's Euro 2012 Dreams Turning Dark

KIEV, Ukraine -- Explosions and Western anger over the alleged prison beating of hunger-striking ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko have turned Ukraine's Euro 2012 dreams into a nightmare just weeks before the kick-off.

Ukrainian police walk past a giant model of "Tango 12" -- the official match ball of the Euro 2012 football tournament, during a patrol in Dnipropetrovsk on April 29. Explosions in Dnipropetrovsk and Western anger over the alleged prison beating of hunger-striking ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko have turned Ukraine's Euro 2012 dreams into a nightmare just weeks before the kick-off.

The former Soviet nation of 46 million had been hoping to use its first major showcase to charm and impress the European fans who plan to trek beyond co-hosts Poland and visit Ukraine's three gleaming new football venues.

But things took a tense turn in mid-April when European football boss Michel Platini -- a suave Frenchman who has backed Ukraine's cause from the start -- accused its "bandits and crooks" of hiking up hotel prices to exorbitant rates.

Just a week later jail guards admitted using force to move Tymoshenko to a local hospital so she could be treated for a bad back that was keeping her from attending a new trial on tax charges.

The new trial could extend Tymoshenko's original abuse of office sentence by five years until 2023.

The European Union had called for her immediate release even before the new hearings had begun.

The prosecution of the opposition leader has bedevilled President Viktor Yanukovych, accused of seeking revenge after she led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that stripped him of a tainted election win.

Tymoshenko -- her plight viewed far more negatively in Europe than at home -- launched a hunger strike and later posted pictures showing two large bruises on her abdomen that supporters said confirmed her beating claims.

"You cannot close your eyes on human rights, even during a great sporting celebration," European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

But debate among EU leaders and fans about attending the Ukrainian side of festivities turned more urgent when four home-made bombs went off in the country's industrial heartland on Friday.

The unclaimed attack in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk -- Tymoshenko's home town -- injured at least 26 people and seemed primarily designed to scare rather than kill.

Police said the bombs were not packed with nails or ball bearings that militants use to create deadly shrapnel.

There will be no football played in Dnipropetrovsk itself and Platini's UEFA immediately expressed its "confidence in the security measures that have been developed by the authorities."

But Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he hoped the attacks would be "treated with the utmost seriousness."

Ukraine enjoys a vibrant political culture that spills over into periodic protests but has never before led to bloodshed on the scale witnessed on Friday.

Many pundits noted that Dnipropetrovsk was the home town of Tymoshenko and wondered whether this was more than a coincidence.

Others joined calls to keep the investigation separate from politics.

Yanukovych himself took charge of the probe by visiting the stricken city on Saturday and chairing a security meeting at which he announced a $250,000 reward for leads.

And a court in the eastern city of Kharkiv where Tymoshenko's new trial was just gathering momentum unexpectedly delayed hearings for three weeks on account of her failing health.

Some analysts saw the decision as the first tangible evidence of Yanukovych trying to take pressure off his government ahead of the tournament.

They also said Yanukovych might soon be ready to release his rival for treatment abroad in a move that could go a long way towards ensuring the EU's firm backing for Ukraine as the Euro 2012 host.

"The Euro 2012 is the year's big event for the government -- bigger than the (October parliamentary) elections," said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko, arguing that the authorities care more about this than keeping Tymoshenko in jail.

"They are not ready to sacrifice it for Tymoshenko," Fesenko said.

Source: AFP

Euro-Hosts Ukraine Riled By Beautiful Women 'Slur'

NEW YORK, USA -- The pan-European stereotype war is simmering away nicely ahead of Euro 2012 with co-hosts Ukraine already angered by a Dutch TV advert that portrays all of the nation's women as being amazingly beautiful.

Some of Ukraine's female fans.

Apparently that's a problem.

The offending advert , entitled "Keep Them at home", begins with the wife of a Dutch football fan doing a Google search for 'Ukrainian women'.

A series of images of young women in skimpy underwear and suggestive positions subsequently pop ups.

Panicked by the idea of her hubby being surrounded by such beauties, the wife then clicks on another website to buy a do-it-yourself home beer tap to help persuade her man to stay in and watch the Euros on TV.

The ad is obviously a joke, but Ukrainian ambassador to the Netherlands, Olexander Horin, is not amused.

"I'm anxious and dismayed that it could send the wrong image," Horin told AFP.

"I will ask the company to remove the commercial from television: it's a latent appeal not to visit Ukraine and the Euro 2012."

Source: ESPN

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ukraine Probes Blasts Ahead Of Euro 2012

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday visited Ukraine's industrial heartland after a wave of blasts injured dozens of people ahead of the Euro 2012 football tournament.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych speaks with a hospital patient in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk. Yanukovych visited Ukraine's industrial heartland after a wave of blasts injured dozens of people ahead of the Euro 2012 football tournament.

The unclaimed attack came after tensions over the fate of jailed opposition leader drew calls from some European leaders to strip the ex-Soviet nation of the prestigious event ahead of the June 8 kickoff.

Yanukovych, taking personal charge of the blasts probe, held a closed security meeting at the scene and announced a two-million-hryvnia ($250,000, 190,000 euros) reward "for information that will help solve the crime."

"We must do all we can to find the criminals and establish the motives of the crime and its aim," he said at the start of the meeting, adding that investigators from neighbouring countries were also taking part.

He visited victims in several hospitals, meeting patients including a 16-year-old girl who suffered most in the blasts, his office said, adding that doctors operated on her and managed to save her sight.

"Our main task today is to prevent such a thing happening again," Yanukovych said, warning that "it's possible that we are talking about an attempt to destabilise the situation in the country."

On Saturday, 22 victims remained in hospital, with four in a serious condition, the health ministry said, putting the total number of injured at 30 as opposed to the 26 reported by the emergencies ministry.

One male victim had to have an arm amputated, a spokeswoman for the city's health department told the Interfax news agency.

The rare attacks have shocked Ukraine, which has witnessed no major acts of terror in its modern history and where political violence is rare.

"A terrorist attack in Dnipropetrovsk: who needs this?" the mass-circulated Komsomolskaya Pravda daily asked.

"A tram stop blew up into the air, and passersby bandaged the wounded," wrote the Segodnya daily.

"There was panic in Dnipropetrovsk and people were weeping on the streets."

The attacks came as the nation puts the finishing touches on its preparations for Euro 2012, an event it is co-hosting with Poland and is hoping to use to showcase the strides it has made since the Soviet era.

Although Dnipropetrovsk is not a host city in the country's first major international sports event, it lies on the route of a tour the trophy will be taken on, visiting the city of one million on May 21.

Europe's football governing body UEFA has said it is confident Ukraine will be able to ensure security, although Donald Tusk, prime minister of co-host Poland, said: "This issue needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness."

The head of the Football Federation of Ukraine Grigory Surkis told AFP he believed the blasts aimed "to torpedo the tournament in Ukraine at all costs and compromise our country in the eyes of the international community."

Some suspect a political motive since Dnipropetrovsk is the home town of Yanukovych's arch-foe, the 2004 Orange Revolution leader Tymoshenko, who is serving a disputed jail term that has strained Kiev's ties with the European Union.

The blasts rang out on the same day that she publicised photographs of bruises and scratches she says were caused by prison guards forcibly hospitalising her at a local clinic against her will.

She has now been on hunger strike for more than a week and has appealed to be allowed to have treatment abroad for chronic back pain.

Tymoshenko now faces fresh tax charges that could increase her sentence to 12 years.

At the latest hearing on Saturday, which she did not attend, the court ruled that she could not be tried in absentia and adjourned the case until May 21.

Source: AFP

Bombs Add To Soccer Festival Woes

LONDON, England --The decision to invite Ukraine to co-host Europe’s most important soccer tournament this year was a controversial one — and that was before four bomb explosions rocked the country’s third largest city on Friday.

Police stood guard during an anti-terror exercise at Kiev’s Olympiyskiy stadium on Friday.

As my colleague Michael Schwirtz reports, the government and the opposition have each suggested the other had most to gain from what officials described as a coordinated terrorist attack.

It was the latest crisis to overshadow the four-yearly European soccer event that kicks off on June 8 in Warsaw, Poland, which is jointly hosting this year’s 31-match tournament with its eastern neighbor.

The industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, the target of yesterday’s bombings in which 27 people were wounded, was long ago dropped as a venue for the Euro 2012 tournament.

But new fears about security in the country as a whole can now be added to a list of concerns about Ukraine’s suitability to host a competition that involves national teams from 16 European nations.

Michel Platini, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president, complained this month that “bandits and crooks” had pushed up prices ahead of the three-week tournament.

The former mid-fielder for France’s national team advised foreign fans to not bother coming unless the country cleaned up its act.

That followed lurid reports that thousands of prostitutes planned to cash in on male visitors to Ukraine, which has a dubious reputation as a hub of Europe’s illicit sex trade.

The authorities are so sensitive to the issue that they formally protested this week over a jokey Dutch TV ad that suggested wives and girlfriends should keep their men at home during Euro 2012.

Back in 2010, UEFA took legal action in response to an accusation that some members of its executive committee received cash for awarding the tournament to Ukraine and Poland.

An investigation found no evidence to support the allegation.

Michael Schwirtz and Nicholas Kulish noted in December that Ukraine had been battered by the world economic crisis since UEFA, soccer’s ruling body in Europe, decided in 2007 to name it as co-host.

That has put pressure on Ukraine’s plans to improve its infrastructure.

They also pointed out that the former Soviet state was “mired in an intractable political conflict that can freeze government activity for months at a time.”

The political heat has risen since then.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko, braided heroine of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, is on hunger strike in jail where she is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of authority during her term as prime minister.

Her family says she has been beaten in prison and fears she will be force-fed.

The treatment of Ms. Tymoshenko at the hands of her political rivals and successors has been denounced outside Ukraine.

Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, this week wrote to Mr. Platini to decline his invitation to the opening ceremony of Euro 2012.

Ms. Reding said she could not close her eyes to human rights, even on the occasion of a great sporting festival.

That coincided with a statement on behalf of Joachim Gauck, Germany’s president, that he was canceling a planned trip to Ukraine because of the treatment of Ms. Tymoshenko.

UEFA is in a bind.

When it selected Ukraine back in 2007, Ms. Tymoshenko was just about to take office as prime minister.

Mr. Platini has since said European soccer’s governing body could not rule out countries such as Ukraine just because they were not quite as democratic as the rest of Europe.

With just six weeks to go, the soccer authorities are probably stuck with their decision.

At one point, Scotland offered to step in as an alternative venue, but it is almost certainly too late for that.

UEFA, which said on Friday that the bombings had not dented its confidence in the security measures Ukraine had put in place, reports that fans have snapped up 95 per cent of available tickets for Euro 2012.

They probably do not include many pet-owners.

Animal-lovers were appalled by reports that Ukrainians had slaughtered thousands of stray dogs and cats in a bid to tidy up the streets ahead of the tournament.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Tymoshenko Court Hearing Postponed In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian court on Saturday postponed a hearing in the second criminal case against the jailed former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, whose treatment in prison has raised concerns in Europe.

This combination of two photos shows on the left, then Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaking to the media in Kiev, Ukraine, and on the right, in a photo provided by Ukrainian Pravda, Tymoshenko shows bruises on her body to the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights in Kachanovskaya prison in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

She was due in court in the eastern city of Kharkiv, but the judge agreed to postpone the hearing due to the poor state of her health.

The next hearing was set for May 21.

Tymoshenko is on a hunger strike to protest alleged abuse in a Kharkiv prison.

She claims that guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for debilitating back pain.

She is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of abusing her powers as prime minister in negotiating an energy deal with Russia.

The West has strongly condemned the case as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.

In the second case, she is charged with evading taxes while heading an energy company in the 1990s.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "shocked by the reports about the abuse" suffered by Tymoshenko and shared her family and friends' concerns for her health.

"She is refused appropriate treatment against all legal and moral duties," he was quoted as saying in the Sunday paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Germany has been leading the European Union's critical stance on Ukraine over the Tymoshenko case.

The government in Berlin is offering to treat her in Germany, but Kiev has rejected the offer.

Tymoshenko refuses to be treated in Ukraine, saying she does not trust the medical system.

Tymoshenko denies the abuse of power charges, saying they are part of a campaign by President Viktor Yanukovych, her longtime foe, to bar her from politics.

Yanukovych has denied involvement in the case.

Source: FoxNews

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Anarchy In Ukraine

IVANO-FRANKIVSK, Ukraine -- Neo-Nazi paramilitaries are secretly training football hooligans to wreak havoc during Ukraine’s Euro 2012 match against England.

Thugs ... Maksymiv, in Berserker T-shirt, and Syvachuk at the camp.

An undercover Sun team filmed members of extreme right-wing militia The Patriot of Ukraine as it drilled thugs in unarmed combat, knife fighting and use of rifles and pistols at a secret camp.

One yob boasted how they planned to riot and hurl racist abuse at black England stars such as Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole.

He told us: “Of course we will boo your black players. There will be fighting too. Why should we apologise for it?”

The Sun team infiltrated the Patriots’ training camp by posing as British sympathisers keen to make closer ties and learn from their methods.

The group’s leaders said the hooligans were seen as “foot soldiers” who would proclaim their vile message of racial hatred to the world during Euro 2012.

All three of England’s group matches are in the Ukraine — which is jointly hosting the tournament with Poland.

The Patriots, whose 3,500 members run illegal military training camps, teach the thugs fighting skills and offer “education” in their ideology.

In return the hooligans agree to chant white supremacist slogans from the stands and swell the Patriots’ ranks at anti-immigration rallies on the streets.

The Patriots’ liaison chief Dmytro Semchuk said: “We have a network of football hooligans in every town that we can call on. We can start a war just by one call. In Ukraine the hooliganism is mixed with the politics of patriotism and nationalism.

“We recruit from the terraces and we use football hooligans to spread our message.

“We share the same beliefs. The hooligans here are not like English ones who drink all the time. Here we prepare with training. We take it seriously and we are fit.

“The Patriots help with education and physical training. We are the brains — the hooligans are the foot soldiers."

“We don’t want to see black players in European teams. We want to change that. The aim is to one day take the country back for the white Ukrainian people.”

The Sun’s team was shown football hooligans in combat gear training alongside paramilitaries in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine.

The recruits were drilled amid the ruined buildings and weed-covered parade grounds of an abandoned Soviet military base. The training included storming buildings while armed with some grenades and guns.

Our team also witnessed football yobs tackling a military assault course — crawling under burning barbed wire, scaling log walls and scrambling through water-filled trenches.

Patriots “General” Serhiy Syvachuk, 26, barked orders as the yobs learned knife-fighting techniques and were given live weapons training with a pistol and sniper rifle.

He said the group was fighting for a “white Europe led by a white leader” as our team filmed what the Patriots believed was a propaganda video.

Syvachuk said: “We are uniting young people whose thoughts are nationalistic to get them ready to defend our country and our beliefs. We are trying to cooperate with the hooligans to create a larger movement, to protest against immigration and to train them to make Ukrainian nationalism bigger, louder and more massive.

“The hooligans train their bodies by fighting with other teams. But we are able to give them physical training and training in beliefs."

“We are also trying to educate them to widen their nationalism beyond football. It is a way of getting out beliefs on to the street. Euro 2012 can send our message around the world.”

Syvachuk insisted it was right to boo black players because they should not be playing for European teams.

He said: “They are not from European nations — they are from other nations. This is a European football festival. Ukrainian players want to meet with other European players, not players from Africa."

“If there are black players playing for Ukraine and England it will not be Ukraine against England — it will be Ukraine against England and other countries.”

Exam board worker Nazar Maksymiv, 20, was among those training in the forest camp.

The balaclava-wearing thug said he followed Ukraine’s football team around the world — and gleefully recalled fighting England supporters in the past.

Maksymiv said he would be there when England meet Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19. He is eagerly anticipating more trouble in the city, which is one of The Patriots’ heartlands.

Maksymiv, from a hooligan group called The Berserkers, said: “I am looking forward to fighting the English fans again.

“The police will try to stop it but I don’t think they will.

“The football authorities are kidding themselves if they do not think there will be violence or that Ukraine fans will not boo."

“We are not apologising for it — we don’t want to see black players in European teams.”

Maksymiv said he was confident of getting into the England match despite not having a ticket because Ukrainian stadium security is poor.

Also among those training was 17-year-old psychology student called Vlad, who had a grim warning for England’s travelling footie fans.

He said: “Supporters who come here should be prepared for violence. England’s black players will be booed because we want our voice heard.”

Racism is endemic in Ukrainian football - but ignored by police.

Nazi regalia, such as the infamous Death’s Head symbol of Hitler’s SS, are regularly displayed during matches.

UEFA fined Ukrainian Premier League team Karpaty Lviv in 2010 after supporters waved a neo-Nazi banner during a Europa League match against Turkish side Galatasaray.

Source: The Sun

27 Injured In 4 Blasts In Eastern Ukraine City

KIEV, Ukraine -- Four explosions rocked an eastern Ukrainian city on Friday, injuring 27 people. Authorities say it was a terrorist attack but an opposition lawmaker claims it could be a government plot to divert attention from the imprisonment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

People assist an injured person after an explosion in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 27, 2012. Officials say four blasts within minutes have rocked the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, injuring dozens of people, including schoolchildren, in what prosecutors believed was a terrorist attack.

Top law enforcement officials rushed to Dnipropetrovsk, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Kiev, to investigate but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The violence undermined Ukraine's security just weeks before it co-hosts the European soccer championships in June.

Many Ukrainian officials called blasts terrorist attacks, including Deputy Prosecutor General Yevgeny Blazhivsky.

Ukraine has not been afflicted with political terrorism but there have been previous explosions connected to criminal extortion.

President Viktor Yanukovych vowed to investigate and punish the perpetrators.

"This is yet another challenge for us, for the whole country," Yanukovych told reporters in televised comments.

"We will think of how to respond to this properly."

The opposition party led by the jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, however, suggested that Yanukovych's government may have organized the blasts in order to deflect the world's attention from Tymoshenko's imprisonment and reported abuse in prison.

The president's office declined to comment on the opposition charges.

But Prime Minister Mykola Azarov commented on his Facebook page that the blasts "are profitable to those forces that are interested in destabilizing the situation in the country."

The first of four explosions rocked a tram stop shortly before noon, injuring 13 people, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Yershova.

The bomb was planted in a garbage bin.

The second bomb, also planted in a garbage bin, went off about 40 minutes later near a movie theater and a trade school, injuring two adults and nine teenagers.

A third blast in the city center wounded three people and a fourth, also downtown, caused no casualties.

Television footage showed passers-by walking among broken glass trying to help a moaning victim of the tram-stop explosion, while others bandaged a bloodied arm of another victim, a middle-aged man.

An elderly woman with blood on her legs lay motionless on the ground and pleaded with someone to call her daughter.

Other victims were put on stretchers and transported into ambulances.

"It's painful that such a thing can happen in broad daylight," one unidentified middle-aged woman from Dnipropetrovsk told Channel 5 television in a trembling voice.

Deputy parliament speaker Mykola Tomenko, who is member of Tymoshenko's party, suggested the blasts were orchestrated by the government in order to quiet Western criticism of the Tymoshenko case.

"I don't rule out that the authorities and law enforcement bodies may be among the organizers of a scenario, which involves deflecting the attention of the world and Ukraine form Tymoshenko's case on the whole and her beating in particular," Tomenko said in a statement.

Tymoshenko, 51, the country's top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of office in a case harshly criticized by the West as politically motivated.

She and Yanukovych are bitter rivals.

Tymoshenko came to power amid the 2004 Orange Revolution when Yanukovych's fraud-tainted win as president was thrown out.

He then beat her in Ukraine's latest presidential vote in 2010.

Tymoshenko has been on a hunger strike for a week to protest the alleged prison abuse.

She claims guards kicked her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while transporting her to a local hospital against her will to be treated for a spinal condition.

Prison officials deny mistreating Tymoshenko.

But photos taken by Ukraine's top human rights official, Nina Karpachova, of Tymoshenko in bed in her jail cell show splotches on her abdomen and lower arm.

Tymoshenko's daughter Eugenia said Friday that her mother is very weak after refusing food for seven days and fears that she will be force-fed by prison officials.

The European Union has expressed alarm over the investigation and Germany has pressed Ukraine to urgently treat Tymoshenko and investigate the beating allegations.

German President Joachim Gauck this week canceled a visit to Ukraine next month, and calls are growing for EU government officials to boycott the Euro 2012 soccer championship that Ukraine will co-host with Poland in June.

In a previous attack in January 2011, two pre-dawn explosions outside a coal mining office and a shopping center in the Ukrainian city of Makiyivka caused no casualties.

Authorities then received letters demanding money in exchange for an end to the blasts.

The perpetrators were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Source: Hindustan Times

Jailed Ex-Ukraine Prime Minister's Condition Is Worsening, Daughter Says

KIEV, Ukraine -- The daughter of Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Friday that her mother's condition has deteriorated badly since alleged beatings by prison guards and that she fears her mother will be force-fed to get her to stop a hunger strike.

In this photo provided by Ukrainian Pravda taken Wednesday, April 25, 2012, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko shows bruises on her body to Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights in Kachanovskaya prison in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which she said she sustained when prison guards attacked her on Friday April 20 when trying to transport her to a local hospital against her will. German doctors who have examined Tymoshenko said Friday they are "extremely skeptical" that she can be successfully treated for her back condition in her homeland. In Kiev, her daughter said the opposition leader's condition has deteriorated since the alleged beatings by prison guards.

German doctors who have examined Tymoshenko said they don't believe she can get proper treatment at home.

The charismatic heroine of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution protest movement is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of abusing her powers in a Russian energy deal.

The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.

Tymoshenko launched a hunger strike a week ago to protest the alleged prison abuse.

She claims that guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while transporting her to a local hospital against her will to be treated for her spinal condition.

The opposition leader's daughter Eugenia Tymoshenko told The Associated Press that her mother's health is rapidly declining and she fears the prison will force-feed her.

"After the attack, she was in intense pain," she said in a phone interview.

"She tried to resist (being taken to the hospital) and that caused tremendous pain in her back."

She was on painkillers for two days after the alleged attack.

"She is very weak, she hasn't eaten for seven days, only drinking water. Prison officials threaten that they will force-feed her."

Eugenia claimed that authorities may try to take her mother to a court hearing Saturday against her will.

Tymoshenko failed to appear at the trial earlier this month due to her ill health.

"I asked her to stop the hunger strike and not to resist if they try to take her to court because they could hurt her even more. ... But she says she has no other choice, that she must do this otherwise they will walk away unpunished."

In Berlin, the head of Berlin's renowned Charite hospital said it is "unlikely" that Ukraine will be able to successfully treat Tymoshenko because the hospital where she is being taken does not have the expertise to carry out the complex procedure.

Karl Einhaeupl and his team inspected the Kharkiv facility earlier this month.

Tymoshenko has suffered severe back pain since October, but she refuses treatment in Ukraine because "she does not trust the Ukrainian medical system" and fears she will be deliberately infected, Einhaeupl told reporters.

"I appeal to the Ukrainian president to be guided by humanitarian values and let her travel abroad to Europe to receive treatment," he said.

The doctors declined to comment on Tymoshenko's claim that she was abused by prison guards.

Einhaeupl said he has seen recent photos of her showing what is "very obvious" bruising but said he couldn't elaborate because the alleged abuse happened after their April 17 meeting.

Photos that Tymoshenko's office says were taken by Ukraine's top human rights official, Nina Karpachova, of Tymoshenko in bed in her jail cell show splotches to her abdomen, lower arm and abdomen.

Tymoshenko's party suggested Friday that President Viktor Yanukovych's government may be behind a series of blasts in eastern Ukraine to deflect attention from her alleged abuse in prison.

The four blasts in the city of Dnipropetrovsk injured 27 people, including nine children, in what prosecutors believed was a terrorist attack.

Deputy parliament speaker Mykola Tymenko, a member of Tymoshenko's party said he "does not rule out" that senior government members were involved in organizing the blasts.

Germany has been leading the European Union's critical stance on Ukraine over the Tymoshenko case.

The government in Berlin is also offering to treat her in Germany, but Kiev has rejected the offer.

Recently, however, the Ukrainian leadership proposed that German doctors could come to Ukraine and treat her at the Kharkiv hospital.

But Einhaeupl and his colleague Norbert Haas rejected the proposal, saying it would take weeks and probably months for a team of physicians and specialists to treat her condition appropriately.

"The therapy will take months. A short visit would not yield any substantial results," Haas said.

"I am extremely skeptical that Tymoshenko could be successfully treated in Ukraine, even with the participation of two, three German doctors," Einhaeupl added.

Einhaeupl stressed the doctors are concerned by Tymoshenko's hunger strike, given her already weakened condition.

She appeared to be "desperate" during their visit April 17, and begged the German doctors to treat her, he said, adding that her condition had deteriorated significantly since their first visit in January.

"We hope that we can meet and examine her again within the next seven days," he said, noting that this still has to be approved by Ukrainian authorities.

In their evaluation report of the Kharkiv hospital, the doctors say Ukrainian authorities have made great efforts to provide the best possible conditions for her treatment there.

"But Ms. Tymoshenko's particular problems of physical and psychological nature, as well as the particular evolution of her illness let it appear unlikely that the therapy there will be successful," the report stated.

Tymoshenko denies the abuse of power charges, saying they are part of a campaign by Yanukovych, her longtime foe, to bar her from politics.

Yanukovych, who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential race, has denied involvement in the Tymoshenko case.

Ukraine is increasingly under pressure over its treatment of Tymoshenko.

EU officials have threatened her case and those of other jailed opposition members could derail a planned rapprochement between Kiev and the 27-nation bloc.

German President Joachim Gauck canceled a visit to Ukraine next month on Thursday, and calls were growing from opposition lawmakers for EU government officials to boycott the Euro 2012 football championship that Ukraine will co-host in June.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday Chancellor Angela Merkel's top adviser on foreign policy issues discussed Tymoshenko's case again with Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Thursday.

Seibert said the chancellor keeps herself "very informed about the Tymoshenko case."

Source: FoxNews

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ukraine's Jailed Ex-Prime Minister Cries For Help

KIEV, Ukraine -- Infamous Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has started a hunger strike after claiming mistreatment in prison.

Yulia Tymoshenko

She has stated that she was beaten by prison guards, and a human rights ombudsman has confirmed bruising on Tymoshenko’s body.

The Euronews video from Kiev shows an interesting reaction to Tymoshenko’s case: some politicians have very little sympathy, the human rights representative insists that Tymoshenko has been bruised by the guards, and the people of Ukraine are deeply confused and not sure what to think about the whole thing.

The politician who states that Tymoshenko’s hunger strike and her allegations of physical abuse are nothing but an attempt to keep the case fresh in the European Parliament is Inna Bohoslovska, a well-known hater of Tymoshenko and long-time politician with her own political agenda.

Earlier this year Bohoslovska produced evidence — seemingly out of nowhere — incriminating Tymoshenko for unlawful handling of gas negotiations.

A rival of the former prime-minister, now Bohoslovska has the upper hand in their long lasting rivalry.

It’s probably in her interest, too, to keep Tymoshenko in shackles because were she to go free she probably wouldn’t hesitate to resort to some low tactics of her own.

Tymoshenko has always been known as an opportunistic persona prone to dramatic self-promotion.

During the presidential elections in 2009 she declared a swine flu pandemic had hit Ukraine and called for the closing of all public events, large meetings and shows — postponing other candidates’ campaigns.

Meanwhile, she, as the prime-minister, occupied television screens visiting hospital sites, giving away masks and medication, using the so-called pandemic to bolster her own campaign.

There were no signs of an actual pandemic, except for unconfirmed number of incidents of unknown flu, but it gave Tymoshenko the opportunity to shine.

During the flood disaster in Western Ukraine in 2008, together with president Yushchenko, she visited flooded villages as part of a media blitz, promising help to people who had lost their homes and funding to areas in the disaster zone.

It was good for her public image.

Nobody has heard any updates on how much help that area actually received but Tymoshenko’s visible presence in the disaster zone has probably got her quite a few new supporters.

Despite her tendency for dramatization, the fact that Tymoshenko has now begun a hunger strike and says she’s been mistreated in prison doesn’t look like a mere plea for media attention.

After all, she is in prison — she’s been there for about six months now — and now human rights representative, Nina Karpachyova, also a member of Ukraine’s parliament, confirmed that there are signs of physical abuse and demands an investigation.

Since the case began, The EU and the US have stated repeatedly that they want to see Tymoshenko free .

Following news of the hunger strike, the European Union became very concerned.

Even Russia called on Ukraine to treat Tymoshenko with humanity.

The accusations of “abuse of the office” seem politically motivated.

There are still many unanswered questions and unclear moments, despite media reports and attempts to investigate the issue surrounding the gas contracts by Tymoshenko in 2009, for which she is imprisoned.

What is clear is that we have a person with signs of abuse confirmed by a human rights representative.

The further this matter develops, the more obvious it becomes that some independent international experts should get involved – the sooner the better.

Source: Forbes

Ukraine To Investigate Alleged Tymoshenko Abuse

KIEV, Ukraine -- Facing deepening Western criticism, Ukraine's president on Thursday ordered a thorough probe into the alleged beating by prison officials of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

A banner placed on seats usually occupied by opposition lawmakers is used to protest against the arrest of Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, during a session in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko alleged on Tuesday that guards at the prison where she is being held severely beat her and said she has begun a hunger strike.

Tymoshenko, 51, the country's top opposition leader, launched a hunger strike nearly a week ago to protest the alleged violence.

She claims that prison guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while transporting her to a local hospital against her will to be treated for a spinal condition.

Tymoshenko was soon returned to jail after refusing treatment from state doctors at the clinic.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych made his statement about Tymoshenko on Thursday hours after German President Joachim Gauck canceled a visit to Ukraine next month and opposition politicians in Germany urged their government to boycott the Euro 2012 football championship that Ukraine will host in June.

The European Union's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, meanwhile, canceled her planned attendance at the Euro 2012's opening match to protest the human rights situation in Ukraine, her office in Brussels said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said Thursday that she is "deeply preoccupied" by what is happening to Tymoshenko and called on Ukraine's government to properly examine her complaints.

Ashton asked that the EU ambassador in Ukraine be allowed to visit Tymoshenko in prison.

In Kiev, however, some observers doubted whether Yanukovych was sincere in his instructions to prosecutors to investigate the handling of Tymoshenko, since an investigation was already conducted this week and prosecutors concluded that Tymoshenko was not abused.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abusing her powers during negotiations about gas supplies with Russia.

The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.

Tymoshenko denies the charges, saying they are part of a campaign by Yanukovych, her longtime foe, to bar her from politics.

Yanukovych, who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential race, has denied involvement in the Tymoshenko case and said the investigations against her are part of an anti-corruption effort.

The opposition leader is suffering from a severe spinal condition, and a group of German doctors who examined her said she needs urgent treatment at a specialized medical clinic.

Instead, she was taken against her will on Friday night to a local clinic in Kharkiv.

She refused treatment and was moved back to prison on Sunday.

Tymoshenko has been refusing food for nearly a week and her health is deteriorating, according to her spokeswoman, Natasha Lysova.

Prison officials said she may be force-fed.

Germany has been particularly critical of Ukraine over the Tymoshenko case and the government in Berlin is offering to treat her in Germany.

Source: AP

Ukraine Marks 26th Anniversary Of Chernoby

KIEV, Ukraine -- Urging all nations to be extremely cautious with nuclear energy, Ukraine's president thanked donors for financing the construction of a new, safer shelter over the damaged Chernobyl reactor on the 26th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

A woman cries in front of a memorial dedicated to firefighters and workers who died after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster during a night service near the Chernobyl plant in the city of Slavutych on April 26, 2012.

President Viktor Yanukovych spoke during a ceremony Thursday inaugurating the initial assembly of a gigantic arch-shaped steel containment building to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor.

The structure — weighing 20,000 tons and big enough to house New York's Statue of Liberty — is due to be completed in 2015, allowing the delicate and dangerous job of dismantling the reactor and cleaning vast amounts of radioactive waste still around it to begin.

"The Chernobyl disaster underscored that mankind must be extra careful in using nuclear technologies," Yanukovych said.

"Nuclear accidents lead to global consequences. They are not a problem of just one country, they affect the life of entire regions."

The April 26, 1986, explosion spewed a cloud of radiation over much of the northern hemisphere, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in heavily hit areas of Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.

The Soviet government initially tried to hush up the explosion and resisted immediately evacuating nearby residents.

It also failed to tell the public what happened or instruct residents and cleanup workers on how to protect themselves against radiation, which significantly increased the health damage from the disaster.

A shelter called the "sarcophagus" was hastily erected over the damaged reactor, but it has been crumbling and leaking radiation in recent years and a new confinement structure is necessary.

Yanukovych said 2 million people have been hurt by the tragedy and it is the state's obligation to protect and treat them.

But his reassurances fell flat with some Chernobyl cleanup workers and victims.

About 2,000 protesters staged an angry rally Thursday outside parliament in Kiev, demanding an increase in compensations and pensions.

In Minsk, the capital of Belarus, more than 1,000 demonstrators took part in a march protesting plans to build the former Soviet republic's first nuclear power station, in the town of Ostrovets near the Lithuanian border.

The plant will be built by Russia.

"This project is approved by the Kremlin, which through the nuclear power plant is binding all of the energy of Belarus to itself," said Anatoly Lebedko, one of the protest leaders.

A similar march in 2011 was banned by the authoritarian government, which routinely represses opposition actions, but this year's march was sanctioned and police did not interfere.

Yanukovych also thanked international donors for pledging €740 million ($980 million) to build the new shelter and a nuclear fuel waste facility.

The biggest donors are the Group of Eight industrial nations, including Japan, which itself is still recovering from last year's horrific Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"It feels good to note that Ukraine wasn't left alone with its pain. We felt that the whole world came to our rescue," Yanukovych said.

Vince Novak, director of the Nuclear Safety Department with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which manages and co-funds the project, praised Ukraine's commitment to the cleanup.

"It is definitely important for the bank and for the donors to know that there is a strong commitment in Ukraine to do everything necessary to ensure that the Chernobyl project progresses well," Novak told The Associated Press.

"We have no room or margins for delay, for errors or for poor performance."

Source: AP

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ukraine Wants To ‘Revitalize’ Chernobyl Area

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is currently working on an expanded governmental program aimed at sprucing up the contaminated territories adjacent to the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Monday.

Ukraine is currently working on an expanded governmental program aimed at sprucing up the contaminated territories adjacent to the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

According to experts, the radiation level in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone has significantly decreased in recent years, Azarov said, adding that outside the exclusion zone there are no inhabited areas in Kiev Region with elevated radiation levels.

“There are good reasons to revitalize, ‘give a second breath’ to these abandoned homes, cities and residential areas. These are additional work places and additional revenue for our budget,” Azarov said.

In late March, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych said the country would begin the construction of a new sarcophagus at the Chernobyl nuclear plant on April 26, the 26th anniversary of the nuclear disaster.

The Chernobyl sarcophagus will cost 935 million euro ($1.2 billion) to build.

Most of the money was raised through a donation drive among the world’s governments held last year, with Ukraine only contributing 6 percent of the total.

Construction of the confinement chamber, a metal facility 105 meters tall and 260 meters long that will cover the reactor, is to be finished by 2015, Ukrainian officials said earlier.

The destroyed reactor was covered by a concrete confinement chamber months after the disaster in 1986 but the facility has since decayed and now threatens to leak radiation.

Source: RIA Novosti

Ukraine Woman, 21, Claims To Be Real-Life Barbie

ODESSA, Ukraine -- A 21-year-old woman from Ukraine claims to be an all natural, real-life Barbie, ABC news reports.

Valeria Lukyanova, 21, has become an internet sensation in her home country of Ukraine for being a self-proclaimed real-life Barbie doll, the Daily Mail reports.

Valeria Lukyanova is gaining national attention with photos of her posted on her Facebook page featuring a wide-eyed, nearly fake-looking woman wearing risqué outfits that closely resemble the iconic doll.

Many people are not buying her claims to be a real-life Barbie doll.

Many of them believe she has either undergone plastic surgery or uses Photoshop to carve out her tiny waist.

On her blog, Lukyanova says she is the most famous woman on the Ukrainian Internet because of her doll-like looks.

She has hundreds of photos posted to her Facebook page that feature her looking eerily similar to a Barbie doll, with almost a mask-type appearance, disproportionately large breasts and wide, icy-blue eyes.

Channel 9 attempted to contact Lukyanova on her Facebook page for comment, but has not heard back from her.

Diane Levin, professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston, told ABC News the mystery of her existence is not the issue.

The problem is that her flaunted image epitomizes and exemplifies the issue of objectification of women in today’s society.

“Barbie has always been controversial and really changed the discussion on how girls play,” said Levin, author of the book, “So Sexy So Soon: The Next Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids.”

”When Barbie came around, play suddenly became about dressing up and looking right and it eventually played a role in how women wanted to look in real life.”

Source: WSOC TV

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ukraine's Ex-Minister Of Internal Affairs: Hepatitis Kept Under Wraps

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yuriy Lutsenko was keeping his hepatitis concealed for more than half-a-year. So says Irina Lutsenko, wife of the former Interior Minister, showing the results of her husband's blood test.

Yuriy Lutsenko in jail.

"Lutsenko asked: 'Give me my results of my last blood tests because I'm refusing to take them now.' So he was given the results of his recent tests, done on the September 19, 2011 in prison when his blood was tested for viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis TTV was detected", declared Lutsenko's wife.

According to Irina Lutsenko, her husband may have become infected during medical procedures in Lukyanovka Jail.

The wife of the opposition politician promises in the near future to make a formal complaint to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine because of a lack of medical care for her husband.

Valentine Telichenko, Lutsenko's Lawyer in the European Court, said: "It's lasted more than six months. And this despite the fact that the patient has a whole series of illnesses - this is criminal. This has confirmed two things: that this is an attack on his life and it indicates the presence of political motives in the pursuit and arrest of Lutsenko."

Representatives of the prison medical unit denied that Yuriy Lutsenko was discovered to have hepatitis.

Victor Pirogov, Medical Department Head, Lukyanovka jail said: "All the tests that could confirm the diagnosis of hepatitis are normal. One indicator without the presence of other indicators is not helpful."

Previously, doctors confirmed the presence of diabetes and a worsening of pancreatic and liver disease in the former Interior Minister of Ukraine.

Yuriy Lutsenko was a minister in Yulia Tymoshenko's government and one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution.

In February this year he was sentenced to four years on charges of abuse of power.

Lutsenko's supporters have filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: NTD News

The President Of Ukraine Makes A Philanthropic Gesture

KIEV, Ukraine -- In Ukraine, just like in some other post-Soviet countries, the idea of copyright and intellectual property law is still a very vague term that doesn’t mean much to entrepreneurs and consumers.

Viktor Yanukovych

Not surprising since it seems that even people holding high official positions at the government don’t respect the copyright law, even the Ukrainian president himself.

For Viktor Yanukovych, according to some media outlets that have made an effort to investigate the issue, it was easy to take someone else’s text for his book The Opportunity Ukraine.

But now he’s giving everything he’s taken back to the people, but in the form of a good deed.

On April 15, Yanukovych declared that the profits from his books sales – some modest $2 million – would be used exclusively to help sick people, and primarily, children.

There is a number of witty articles that highlight the dubiousness of the whole thing and attempt to prove that it’s impossible for the president, who’s never been known as a best-selling author, to make such money in book sales.

There were repeated articles and opinion posts in both Ukrainian and international media not long ago, accusing President Yanukovych of plagiarism for his book.

Ukrainska Pravda has found that the descriptions of Yanukovych’s travels to Singapore and Brunei were extracted from articles written by various journalists without their permission and without referencing those original sources, as well as other examples of plagiarism.

In Ukraine it’s not uncommon for people to download and share music and video files illegally, copy and sell movies, reprint images, translate and republish articles, and open shops that use branding of famous companies like Starbucks, McDonalds, and Ikea.

As President, Yanukovych sets the tone for the rest of the country.

Until that changes, Ukrainians will keep making illegal copies of anything they can , and Ukrainian politicians will keep plagiarizing famous books and speeches, just like when Ukrainian defense secretary, Raisa Bogatyreva used Steve Job’s Stanford Speech as her own.

If the allegations of Yanukovych’s plagiarism are true, his philanthropic gesture seems semi-sincere and downright bizarre: he’s donating profits from a book he’s either partially borrowed without asking, or hasn’t written at all.

Source: Forbes

Ukraine Ex-PM On Hunger Strike After “Beating” – Lawyer

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in prison on abuse-of-office charges, has gone on a hunger strike after prison guards beat her up while forcibly moving the opposition leader to a hospital last week, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

Tymoshenko, 51, is the main opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich and her conviction last year drew condemnation from the West, which saw it as an example of selective justice.

The state prison service moved Tymoshenko, who has complained about back pain, to a state-run hospital in the city of Kharkiv last Friday, only to return her to a prison in the same city on Sunday after she refused to be examined.

On Tuesday, Tymoshenko’s lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, told reporters prison guards had beaten Tymoshenko in order to force her to leave her prison cell last Friday.

“Her arms are all bruised and there is a huge bruise on her belly which has not disappeared even after four days,” he said.

“Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on a hunger strike.”A state prosecutor denied allegations of beating but said Tymoshenko’s move last week had indeed been forced.

“She packed up and got dressed and then lay on her bed and said ‘I am not going anywhere’,” Interfax news agency quoted Kharkiv regional prosecutor Henady Tyurin as saying.

“The law… allows the prison service to use physical force: (guards) lifted her, carried her to the car and took her to the hospital.”

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last October on charges of abusing her power as prime minister in brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia.

Yanukovich’s government says the deal ran against national interests and has saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for vital energy supplies.

Tymoshenko is now standing a new trial, charged with tax evasion and attempted embezzlement, and faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.

Tymoshenko has denied any wrongdoing in both cases, dismissing them as part of a campaign of repression by Yanukovich’s government.

The European Union has warned Ukraine that its members will not ratify key bilateral agreements on political association and free trade while Tymoshenko remains in prison.

Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution which derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency.

She went on to serve twice as prime minister and lost the 2010 presidential vote to Yanukovich in a close race.

Source: euronews

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ukraine’s Former Defense Minister Ivashchenko Jailed

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Pechersky district court in Kiev on April 12 sentenced Valery Ivashchenko, who was acting Minister of Defense from June 2009 until April 2010, to five years in jail.

Valery Ivashchenko

This is despite the European Union’s warnings that more persecution of ministers from the former government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (2007-2010) would put into question Ukraine’s European integration. 

Ivashchenko has been the fourth imprisoned former top official from Tymoshenko’s government. 

Like Tymoshenko, former Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko and former Environment Minister Georgy Filipchuk before him, Ivashchenko was indicted under the same Article 365 of the Criminal Code “for excess of authority,” inherited from Soviet law, which President Viktor Yanukovych himself had admitted was outdated. 

Ivashchenko was arrested in August 2010, long before Tymoshenko, Lutsenko and Filipchuk. 

The Prosecutor-General’s Office holds Ivashchenko responsible for the illegal sale of the Defense Ministry’s shipyard in the Crimean port of Feodosia. 

According to prosecutors, he approved the shipyard’s bankruptcy and subsequent sale to a private company. 

This scheme has been widely used in Ukrainian privatization. 

The shipyard reportedly came under the ownership of a company linked to a people’s deputy from Tymoshenko’s party. 

The deputy in question, Andry Senchenko, has denied any involvement in the affair. 

The court said that while the shipyard’s market value amounted to the equivalent of $9 million, it was sold for a little more than $2 million so the state was defrauded of the difference in price. 

Ivashchenko claimed that evidence in the case against him had been fabricated by former Deputy Defense Minister Ihor Montrezor and former Deputy Prosecutor-General Vitaly Shchetkin in revenge for demoting Montrezor in 2009. 

Ivashchenko’s lawyers have the right to appeal within two weeks, but they are pessimistic about the outcome. 

Former Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko (2005-2007), who is a prominent opposition leader, has said that Ivashchenko’s case has obviously been one of score-settling as many other officials who had been involved in the Feodosia shipyard affair had not even been questioned, let alone punished. 

Commenting immediately after Ivashchenko’s arrest in 2010, Hrytsenko, who used to work with Ivashchenko, had opined that Ivashchenko was a person who could take a wrong decision under pressure. 

Unlike Tymoshenko or Lutsenko, Ivashchenko has never been active in politics. 

As a person who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Ivashchenko has been made a scapegoat for somebody else’s corrupt decisions. 

It is telling that the court decided not to punish Ivashchenko by property confiscation as is usually the case when somebody is indicted for corruption. 

Selective justice is too obvious in Ivashchenko’s case. 

The US Embassy in Ukraine released a statement on April 13 expressing its “deep disappointment in this latest example of selective justice” and calling for Ivashchenko’s release taking into account the state of his health. 

Ivashchenko’s spinal problems forced him to lie down rather than stand during the hearing of his verdict. 

He also reportedly has problems with his thyroid. 

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton expressed her disappointment as well. 

Ashton said that in spite of repeated calls for Kiev to comply with international standards of fair trial, Ivashchenko’s trial demonstrated significant shortcomings as far as law and procedure was concerned. 

Ashton also expressed concern over the April 5 sentencing of Filipchuk to three years in jail. 

She stressed that respect for the rule of law was crucial to Ukraine’s political association and economic integration with the EU. 

The EU last December put off the signing of an association and free trade deal with Ukraine over Tymoshenko’s indictment. 

Lutsenko’s indictment on trumped-up charges in February strengthened the positions in Europe of those who believe that Ukraine’s ruling class is not ready for integration with the EU. 

If Ivashchenko and Filipchuk are not freed any time soon, their indictments will be two more nails in the coffin of Ukraine’s European integration. 

Meanwhile, Javier Solana, Ashton’s predecessor as the EU’s foreign policy chief, has called Ukraine one of the biggest frustrations of his life. 

He said he was not sure whether Ukraine and Georgia would ever become part of the EU. 

Solana, who took an active part in the talks between the government and the opposition during the anti-Yanukovych Orange Revolution in 2004, regretted that the Orange period was very short. 

While Tymoshenko remains in prison, former President Viktor Yushchenko is sitting at home having lost his political clout; at the same time, their arch rival Yanukovych, who lost the 2004 election, is running the country. 

Solana described Ukraine’s political class as immature and weak and the political institutions as shaky. 

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Ukraine And Poland Unveil EURO Ticket Design

KIEV, Ukraine -- With 46 days to go until UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off, the design for the tickets has been revealed at presentation ceremonies at Kiev's Olympic Stadium and the National Stadium in Warsaw.

The UEFA EURO 2012 ticket design has been unveiled at special presentation ceremonies in Warsaw and Kiev.

With 46 days to go before the opening match of this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine the design of the tickets was revealed at Kiev's Olympic Stadium, the venue for the final, and Warsaw's National Stadium, where the tournament will get under way on 8 June. 

The design was unveiled at the Kiev ceremony by UEFA operations director Martin Kallen, Ukraine's UEFA EURO 2012 tournament director Markiyan Lubkivskiy, Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) president Grygoriy Surkis and Darynka Kovtun, the young winner of a drawing contest.

"I'm very happy to award a symbolic ticket to this young girl," said Surkis before handing it over to the young artist, Kovtun, as her winner's prize.

"I believe our children will take advantage of this great opportunity we have as a country in hosting UEFA EURO 2012.

"I hope that coming generations will appreciate the great efforts that have been made by all those who have created new opportunities for self-improvement. I believe that for Darynka and many other children, this ticket will come to symbolise a permit for a better future."

The ticket is horizontal with a large flower on the front, the leaves of which depict the stadium hosting a match and the flags of the two countries involved.

The number of the match appears in a flower bud, with seat details also printed on the front.

Instructions on how to reach the stadium can be found on the reverse along with a security strip.

"There has been talk that the tickets are already in circulation in Ukraine, but it is not true," said Lubkivskiy.

"We only have the design now. The actual tickets will be received by fans three or four weeks before the beginning of the European Championship by registered post.

The tickets have several levels of protection and it will be almost impossible to imitate them." Poland's UEFA EURO 2012 ambassadors Zbigniew Boniek and Andrzej Szarmach attended the Warsaw ceremony along with Marta and Łukasz, the winners of Poland's drawing competition.

The youngsters each received a ticket for the opening match between Poland and Greece for their artistic efforts.

"I am really pleased that I took part in the contest," said Marta.

"I couldn't imagine winning it and it is really an extraordinary prize."

While tickets have sold out in Poland, Kallen reminded fans still interested in matches to be staged in Ukraine that they will get one last chance to purchase tickets next month.

"More than 95% of the tickets have been sold," he said.

"About 50,000 tickets will be on sale from the beginning of May, because not all participating federations have taken their full allocation."

Source: UEFA News

Ukraine's 2 Biggest Opposition Parties Unite For Autumn Parliamentary Election

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s two biggest pro-Western opposition parties announced Monday they will be joining forces in the fall parliamentary election in order to challenge President Viktor Yanukovych’s grip on power.

In this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007, file photo, Yulia Tymoshenko (L), speaks with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian Parliament, Kiev.

The parties led by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk said they will work together to reverse the democratic rollback that took place since Yanukovych came to power two years ago.

The alliance marks an attempt to break with years of infighting within the pro-Western camp that allowed the pro-Russia Yanukovych, whose fraud-tainted election victory was annulled in the 2004 Orange Revolution street protests, to make a comeback in the 2010 presidential election. 

“We will form a democratic majority in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), will limit Yanukovych’s unlimited power and return the power to the Ukrainian people,” Tymoshenko, 51, and Yatsenyuk, 37, who both ran against Yanukovych on a pro-Western platform, said in a joint statement. 

“There is no time to lose, it’s time to fight and win together!” 

Experts and opposition activists hailed the union with cautious optimism, saying it was high time that opposition leaders sacrificed their personal ambitions and united. 

But they noted that the union was fragile and did not include two other key opposition parties.

In the election, which is set for October, half of the 450 seats will go to deputies elected on party tickets, while the other half will be selected in individual races. 

Tymoshenko’s party will take Yatsenyuk’s votes in the proportional ballot, while the two parties will agree on individual candidates they will support. 

Four minor parties will also be part of the alliance. 

During his presidency, the often Russian-leaning Yanukovych, 51 has moved to reverse the democratic achievements of the Orange Revolution. 

He has curbed anti-government protests, sent security forces to investigate civil society groups, tinkered with the Constitution to boost his powers and sought to limit press freedoms. 

He has also presided over the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, the country’s top opposition leader and a key driving force behind the Orange Revolution. 

The West has strongly condemned the jailing of Tymoshenko and several top allies as politically motivated and threatened to freeze ties with Ukraine. 

Vadim Karasyov, a political analyst with links to the government, said uniting was the only way the opposition could survive. 

“It’s better this way than to be eaten one by one,” Karasyov said. 

“The fewer opposition parties there are, the bigger a chance they have to succeed in limiting Yanukovych’s power.” 

But political expert Volodymyr Fesenko pointed out that a pro-Western opposition party led by WBC champion Vitali Klitschko as well as a smaller party led by the respected Former Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko would run on their own and thus split the pro-democracy vote. 

Fesenko also said the Tymoshenko-Yatsenyuk alliance was shaky and could easily collapse before the vote. 

“There is a lot of disagreement within the opposition and the chance of a split is real,” Fesenko said. 

Even if Tymoshenko’s and Yatsenyuk’s parties, who each have about 14 and 10 percent support respectively according to recent polls, do stick together, they are unlikely to win a majority of seats in the Verkhovna Rada, experts say. 

While Yanukovych’s party of Regions enjoys some 20 percent support, its members are expected to dominate the single-member races due to their wealth and political connections. 

Source: The Washington Post

Monday, April 23, 2012

KIEV, Ukraine -- Soccer fans are expecting a major event this summer: the final tournament for the biggest European soccer championship, Euro 2012.

For the first time UEFA is having the tournament in a land that for decades has been behind the Iron Curtain: Poland and Ukraine.

For co-hosting countries, the preparation for the tournament brought positive developments in some ways and caused a great amount of headache in others.

But despite the obstacles, it looks like the countries got their acts together and all the main preparations have been completed on time.

When UEFA chose Poland and Ukraine to be the co-hosts of Euro 2012, it presented a unique economic opportunity for the two countries, both still recovering from a Communistic past.

Excitement has been stirring ever since the two countries were selected to host the final games five years ago — not so much among soccer fans but among investors, businesses, city officials and contractors.

When the financial crisis of 2008 hit the world, Poland was the only member of the European Union to escape recession, and despite a high unemployment rate and slowing 2007 GDP growth rate, has expanded its economy in 2010 by 4%.

Ukraine, on the other hand, suffering yet another post-Orange Revolution political crisis, came close to being forced to default when the country’s economy shrunk by about 15% in 2009.

It was no surprise that both countries had some difficulties keeping up with their ambitious plans for the soccer tournament, with Ukraine being so far behind that for a while UEFA considered the idea of finding another hosting country.

Among Poland’s noticeable moments during the preparation was canceling a contract with a Chinese contractor that caused significant delays and financial problems with building a linking highway between Warsaw and Berlin about a year before the games.

In 2008 Poland’s government suspended the Polish Football Association over corruption issues which put the country at risk of losing the right to co-host and forced the government to act quickly to resolve the issue.

Not to mention, that in 2010 Polish president Lech Kaczynski, and other members of the country’s government and military leadership, died in the plane crush near the city of Smolensk.

Despite that setback, Poland completed building the National Stadium by November of last year, as well as the renovation of other venues for Euro 2012.

Ukraine was a little bit behind in its preparations but by now most of the work is done and the key objectives have been achieved.

According to the Ukrainian government, the total budget for the Euro-2012 is $14 billion.

Almost half of that has come from state funds, and remainder is from private investors.

Not all ambitious plans were realized but new stadiums and hotels have been built, airports have been expanded and some infrastructure improved.

Some of Poland’s officials couldn’t help making patronizing comments:

“We expected more [from them] but I am sure Ukraine is very determined,” Wojciech Folejeweki, the Chief Operating Officer of Poland 2012 organizing committee said, “UEFA, choosing us, they thought we were very similar, but the reality is very different.”

While the two countries are a bit different — Poland hasn’t been a part of the Soviet Union, even though it was part of the Soviet Block since the end of the WWII, and it has successfully managed to transition into a free market democracy and has a more stable political scene — the mentality of the people is not that different.

In both countries some ambitious plans to modernize the roads and infrastructure had to be downscaled, some investments vanished inexplicably, some palaces remain decrepit and some parks are unfinished.

But what’s attracting attention is that Poles, as well as Ukrainians, are planning to squeeze everything they can out of western tourists and fans from around the world.

In both countries the prices on average are much lower then anywhere in Europe.

The Polish National Bank said that the soccer championship will spur a “limited and temporary” boost in inflation as polish business are raising prices to take advantage of Euro 2012.

Ukrainian hotels will attempt to charge unreasonable rates – according to The Guardian, 1,500 Euro ($1,982) for three nights, several times more expensive than in Poland - for reservations during the time of the championship, and also beefing up prices for whatever else they can.

That said, overcharging for hotels during popular events is not such an uncommon practice, as 2010’s World Cup in South Africa and this summer’s Olympics in London have shown. 

Ukrainian and Polish business are getting ready to accommodate soccer fans from all over the world and deal with a high volume of tourists: transportation, security, additional mobile communication services, advertising and city tours for soccer fans who want to visit historical sites.

Any smart business would try to profit on such a moneymaking opportunity.

Poland and Ukraine’s emerging economies within Europe may justify price gouging during Euro 2012, it just might seem slightly more grotesque to a western observer.

In the end, only weeks before the tournament, it looks like Ukraine and Poland are not going to disgrace themselves in front of their Western visitors.

East is ready to meet West.

Source: Forbes

Ukraine Ex-PM Refuses Treatment, Returned To Jail

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose jailing last year damaged the ex-Soviet republic's ties with the West, has been returned to a prison after refusing to be treated for back pain at a state-run hospital, her party said on Sunday.

A supporter of opposition leader and former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko holds placard during a rally outside the President office in Kiev.

The seven-year prison sentence handed down last October to Tymoshenko, a fierce opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, has been condemned by the European Union as an example of selective justice. 

The European Court for Human Rights, which is looking into her appeal against her conviction on abuse-of-office charges, has urged Kiev to ensure Tymoshenko receives proper medical treatment. Tymoshenko, 51, who is now also on trial on graft charges, has suffered from back pain for months, her lawyers and family say, and has refused to attend the new hearings. 

She was taken to an out-of-prison hospital late on Friday but refused to undergo a medical check there. 

"First Tymoshenko was secretly taken to a hospital at night... (late on Friday) and then on Sunday she was suddenly returned to jail," her political party Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) said in a statement. 

"It is absolutely clear that nobody had planned to treat the former prime minister and all of this was done only for negative publicity - to tell the whole country again that Tymoshenko refuses to get treated at the Kharkiv hospital." 

Tymoshenko had previously said she did not trust any state-appointed doctors. 

The hospital in Kharkiv belongs to the state-owned railway company and is located in the same city as her prison. 

Tymoshenko was convicted in October on charges of abusing her power as prime minister in brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia. 

Yanukovich's government says the deal ran against national interests and made energy imports exorbitantly expensive. 

In the new trial, she faces charges of tax evasion and attempted embezzlement which carry a sentence of up to 12 years. 

Tymoshenko has denied any wrongdoing in both cases, dismissing them as part of a campaign of repression by Yanukovich's government. 

The European Union has warned Ukraine that its members will not ratify key bilateral agreements on political association and free trade while Tymoshenko remains in prison. 

She was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution which doomed Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency, and served twice as prime minister before losing the 2010 presidential vote to Yanukovich in a close race. 

Source: Yahoo News

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ukraine’s Kolesnikov Fixes UEFA PR Disaster

KIEV, Ukraine -- Since UEFA president Michel Platini blasted hotel owners in Ukraine for alleged price gouging of fans intent on visiting for the 2012 Championships, officials there have been on something of a charming political rampage.

Borys Kolesnikov

Everything from guarantees of more rooms to cut rate airfares now garnish what should have always been a fair sports travel shake. 

Ukraine and Poland, hosting the 2012 UEFA Championships, this is a huge deal for both countries. 

Billions having been spent to pave the way for a massive influx of fans, real earth being turned upside down to make both countries suitable for the coming onslaught of media and new visitors, and Ukraine hotel owners take it upon themselves to try and pull off a bit of highway robbery? 

What a PR nightmare! Platini called them “bandits and swindlers”, and Ukraine President President Viktor Yanukovich slammed an order for his government to fix the problem. 

Then, Boris Kolesnikov, Deputy Prime Minister overseeing preparations for UEFA 2012, announces that his government will promote low cost air travel in order to pressure hotels to cut their rates? 

Now get this. 

In a stroke of what has to be called brutal genius, Kolesnikov announces a deal with RyanAir to fly in fans daily, versus paying some Ukraine hotel skalleywag their extortion fee. 

Kolesnikov was quoted by Reuters: 

“We are finalising an agreement with Ryanair on its entry to the Ukrainian market and all fans will be able to compare the cost of flying in for every game with the cost of staying in Ukraine.” 

Now there’s the sort of proactive leadership the world needs. 

Talk about seeing a wrong (or stupidity) and righting it! 

Maybe Kolesnikov should be in charge of the EU altogether? 

No bureaucratic red tape, no political jockeying, just fix the problem. 

Now, if anyone wants to catch the finest football action on the planet, and then be back home in time for breakfast, BINGO! 

Spend the extra cash on the kids, a trip to the beach this Summer. 

Heck, get two vacations for the price of one. 

So you know, the cheapest hotel room in Lviv for the match between Germany and Portugal on June 9, is listed as $250 bucks per night on the UEFA site. 

No doubt RyanAir can beat that price from Frankfurt Hahn, and then some. 

In a lightning stroke Yanukovich’s administration has both punished and reconciled Ukraine’s greedy business people and the world’s football fans respectively. 

Brilliant. Stay tuned for Lviv hotel prices to drop dramatically. 

Source: Argophilia Travel News

Hotels Available In Ukraine, Says Euro 2012 Boss

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Euro 2012 tournament director Markiyan Lubkivskyi insists hotels are still available in the country at affordable prices.

This summer will be the first time the Eastern European nation has hosted the tournament, which it will do so alongside Poland from June 8.

Both nations have overcome a series of problems in their preparations, although issues remain over the price of accommodation in Ukraine with some hoteliers looking to take advantage of the unprecedented number of visitors.

UEFA president Michel Platini accused these hotel owners of being “bandits and crooks” earlier in the month, but Lubkivskyi insists this issue is being overcome.

“I think president Michel Platini was too emotional,” he said.

“This was only in terms to push these hoteliers, not to say that Ukraine is a bad country.

“We don’t have any big risks, you can’t find bandits or mafia walking on the streets."

“But, from the other side, his message was very clear as he asked Ukrainian hotel owners to go down in price and I think it will work."

“This was maybe our biggest problem in the last two or three months, but we have also solved this problem."

“If supporters go to one of our recommended Ukrainian websites they will find hotels, even in Donetsk."

“We tried to do our best, we tried to find the best solutions for this."

“For instance, if a supporter cannot find accommodation in Donetsk they can find it in Kiev, which is only an hour’s flight and can then come back after the match."

“This is one of the solutions that every day we are looking to overcome.” 

Despite reasonably-priced rooms on websites such as – run by UEFA’s official accommodation agency TUI – fans are still being quoted huge sums by some elsewhere.

Given an example of one Kiev hostel advertising a twin room for £700 ($1,126) a night, Lubkivskyi said:

“It has been our biggest problem."

“We have told hoteliers several times not to run with high prices because in this case people will not come."

“We stopped this by speaking to hoteliers and now the price is not going up."

“There are still high prices but I believe they will go down in coming months."

“We tried to do our best, we spoke to them as we can’t use any administrative mechanism – we have to push them.”

Lubkivskyi admitted time is of the essence with less than two months remaining, although he is pleased with preparations.

“It cost us a lot in terms of enormous pressure that UEFA put on Ukraine, but I am really happy to say that today we are on track,” he said.

“We managed to overcome a lot of problems, a lot of huge issues related to financing, related to time pressures and the readiness of all infrastructure objects."

“For example, new airports with terminals, runways, aprons, taxiways have all been constructed in the last two and a half years."

“We still have to finalise mostly operational parts of preparations but we will do that in the coming two months.”

Source: Irish Examiner