Friday, November 30, 2012

Clinton Warns Georgia, Ukraine On Political Prosecutions

WASHINGTON, DC -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Georgia’s new government Thursday not to engage in political prosecutions of former government officials.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She also sharply criticized Ukraine’s October elections and expressed concern about selective prosecution of opposition leaders there.

Clinton’s warnings were aimed at two countries that were once seen as the bright spots of emerging democracy in the former Soviet sphere.

Despite her comments on Georgian prosecutions, Clinton praised the country’s own parliamentary elections in October and the peaceful transition of power.

She was speaking as she welcomed Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze ahead of a State Department meeting.

“We do hope that everything that is done with respect to prosecuting any potential wrongdoers is done transparently in accord with due process and the rule of law,” she said.

The warning followed a pledge by new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to investigate allies of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Ivanishvili’s coalition defeated a government led by Saakashvili in elections in October.

Several officials have already been arrested and face charges ranging from illegal imprisonment to wiretapping of Saakashvili’s opponents.

Clinton’s criticism of Ukraine came later in a speech on Europe at the Brookings Institution.

“Ukraine’s October elections were a step backwards for democracy and we remain deeply concerned about the selective prosecution of opposition leaders,” Clinton said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s party won a majority in the parliamentary elections, but Western observers have deemed them unfair.

Opposition parties, including that of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have refused to recognize the results and plan to contest them.

Tymoshenko was jailed last year on charges of abusing her office.

The West has condemned the imprisonment as politically motivated.

The European Union has put on hold a key cooperation deal with Kiev over Tymoshenko’s jailing.

Source: The Washington Post

In Ukraine, Mystery Man Fakes A Natural Gas Deal

MOSCOW, Russia -- For two months, Jordi Sarda Bonvehi negotiated with Ukrainian officials on behalf of a Spanish utility company about participating in a $1 billion investment fund to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the Black Sea.


Jordi Sarda Bonvehi (Red Circle)

On Monday, he took part in a signing ceremony for the deal overseen by the prime minister in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

The only problem is that the utility company, Gas Natural Fenosa, has never heard of him.

“Gas Natural has not signed any contract to invest in an L.N.G. plant project in Ukraine, nor is it leading any consortium whatsoever,” the company said in a statement soon after the ceremony.

“Gas Natural Fenosa has nothing under study in this regard, nor does it have representatives working in Ukraine on this issue.”

Ukrainian officials have now conceded that Mr. Bonvehi, if that is indeed his real name, is certainly not a representative of Gas Natural.

The man’s motive for signing the agreement was still unclear Thursday, though it did not appear that he benefited financially.

“We never doubted he was authentic,” Vladislav Kaskiv, the director of the Ukrainian state investment agency, who signed the document with the man, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Kaskiv was reportedly initially shocked by Gas Natural’s denial.

The agency had harbored no suspicions, Mr. Kaskiv said, because Mr. Bonvehi, a bald man with a goatee, had been regularly showing up for talks over two months, once even traveling to the resort town of Yalta on the Black Sea, far from the capital, for a meeting about the investment fund.

At the signing ceremony in Kiev, however, the man had appeared nervous and spoke often on his cellphone.

Soon afterward, the Spanish-speaking man brushed past journalists who tried to speak to him. Mr. Kaskiv missed a cabinet meeting this week and said he was “disappointed” by the confusion.

A phone number Mr. Kaskiv provided for Mr. Bonvehi was not answered Thursday.

Reuters reported a telephone conversation with a man in Barcelona who identified himself as Mr. Bonvehi and said he had signed the agreement, though he had no authorization from Gas Natural to do so.

“I thought I could sign it and then settle it with the company,” he said, according to Reuters, which added that it could not independently establish the man’s identity. 

The development was a peculiar setback for a high-profile project, and one with geopolitical overtones.

The Ukrainian state investment agency had been seeking financing to form an investment fund worth 850 million euros ($1.1 billion) to build the re-gasification terminal on the Black Sea.

The contract was a nonbinding memorandum of understanding; Ukrainian officials have said they will continue talks with other potential investors.

The terminal was intended as a first, significant step for Ukraine to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia’s Gazprom, which has shut off natural gas supplies twice in the last few years in politically charged price disputes.

The facility to import gas from the Persian Gulf or the Caspian region would give Ukraine leverage in these talks.

With so much at stake, Ukraine’s government announced the deal on Monday with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Yuriy Boyko, the energy minister, presiding over the ceremony.

Edward Scott, a vice president of Excelerate, a company based in Woodlands, Tex., that specializes in liquefied natural gas equipment, signed a separate contract to supply equipment for the terminal.

His identity is not in question.

At one point during the event, a live video feed showed welders, sparks flying, at work on a pipeline ostensibly being built for the new gas terminal.

“We can call Nov. 26 energy independence day for Ukraine,” Mr. Kaskiv said at the event.

In a statement, the agency identified the man who signed the contract as a Gas Natural executive, Jordi Garcia Tabernero.

Gas Natural, though, denied in a statement having signed any agreement and said Mr. Tabernero was not in Ukraine on Monday.

Mr. Tabernero, as a photograph on a company Web site shows, has a full head of hair. Mr. Kaskiv said the initial statement had misidentified the man because of a clerical error.

The agency had expected Mr. Tabernero to attend, he said, but when he did not, another Spanish speaker signed in his place.

That man, of course, is still something of a mystery.

Source: The New York Times

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Workers Raise 1st Section Of New Chernobyl Shelter

CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER STATION, Ukraine -- Workers have raised the first section of a colossal arch-shaped structure that eventually will cover the exploded nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station.


Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. The new safe confinement, a structure that is being built over reactor 4 damaged in 1986 as a result of the world's worst nuclear accident, will cover a hastily built sarcophagus, which was erected shortly after the explosion.

Project officials on Tuesday hailed the raising as a significant step in a complex effort to clean up the consequences of the 1986 explosion, the world's worst nuclear accident.

Upon completion, the shelter will be moved on tracks over the building containing the destroyed reactor, allowing work to begin on dismantling the reactor and disposing of radioactive waste.

Suma Chakrabati, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is leading the project, called Tuesday "a very significant milestone, which is a tribute to the ongoing commitment of the international donor community, and an important step towards overcoming the legacy of the accident." 

The shelter, shaped like a gargantuan Quonset hut, will be 257 meters by 150 meters (843 feet by 492 feet) when completed and at its apex will be higher than the Statue of Liberty.

The April 26, 1986, accident in the then-Soviet republic of Ukraine sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced the evacuation of about 115,000 people from the plant's vicinity.

A 30-kilometer (19-mile) area directly around the plant remains largely off-limits and the town of Pripyat, where the plant's workers once lived, today is a ghostly ruin of deteriorating apartment towers.

At least 28 people have died of acute radiation sickness from close exposure to the shattered reactor and more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been detected in people who, as children or adolescents, were exposed to high levels of fallout after the blast.

Officials who showed reporters around the construction site Tuesday were clearly delighted at the colossus taking shape before them, but concerned about the challenges ahead.

The shelter is to be moved over the reactor building by the end of 2015 - a deadline that no one wants to miss given that the so-called sarcophagus hastily built over the reactor building after the 1986 explosion has an estimated service life of about 30 years.

The arch now under construction is only one of two segments that will eventually form the shelter, and so far it's only been raised to a height of 22 meters (72 feet). More structural elements have to be added before it reaches its full height of 108 meters (354 feet), and the work so far has taken seven months.

"There's no room for error ... the schedule is very tight," said Vince Novak, director of the EBRD's nuclear safety department, who added that staying within budget is also a concern.

The overall shelter project is budgeted at Euro 1.54 billion ($2 billion) - Euro 1 billion ($1.3 billion) of that for the structure itself - and much uncertainty lies ahead.

One particular concern is dismantling the plant's chimney, which must be taken down before the shelter is put in place.

The chimney is lined with radioactive residue that could break up and enter the atmosphere as it is taken apart.

Laurin Dodd, managing director of the shelter project management group, said some sort of fixative will have to be applied to the chimney's interior.

"This is one of the most challenging parts, because it's an unknown," he said.

Other possible delays could come if excavations for the shelter's foundation uncover radioactive waste or even buried machinery.

Dodd said other excavations unearthed several bulldozers and cranes that had to be decontaminated.

Even when the shelter is in place, the area around the reactor building will remain hazardous.

The shelter is aimed only at blocking radioactive material from escaping when the reactor is being dismantled; it won't block radiation itself.

But when the dismantling and cleanup work is complete, the radiation danger will decline.

How long that would take is unclear, but officials on Tuesday allowed themselves to envision a happier Chernobyl a century from now, with the plant's director speculating that the huge shelter may even become a tourist attraction.

Plant director Igor Gramotkin drew a parallel between the shelter and the Eiffel Tower.

"Originally, that was intended to be destroyed. But I think this (shelter) will be so impressive that even in 100 years people will come to look at it," he said.

Source: The Telegraph

Ukraine Rape And Murder: Trio Jailed

MYKOLAYIV, Ukraine -- A court in southern Ukraine has jailed three men for the rape and murder of Oksana Makar, 18, in a case which led to an outcry against abuse of power.


Oksana Makar

The court in Mykolayiv sentenced Yevgeny Krasnoshchok to life imprisonment, Maxim Prisyazhnyuk to 15 years and Artyom Pogosyan to 14 years.

Ms Makar was raped and set on fire during the attack in March.

There was outrage when two of the three suspects - both from political families - were freed early on in the inquiry.

Public rallies were held across the country demanding the investigators should be replaced.

The two men, who both had parents with political connections, were later re-arrested.

Attacked on 9 March, Ms Makar died in hospital 20 days later, her slow death from horrific injuries causing a wave of sympathy.

Krasnoshchok described in an interview broadcast by Ukrainian media how he and the others, all in their early twenties, had raped the victim in turn in a flat.

He said he had tried to strangle her after she threatened to go to the police.

The three of them later took her out of the flat to a building-site where she was set on fire.

Source: BBC News

Monday, November 26, 2012

US Crop Producers Eye Ukraine Market

KIEV, Ukraine -- Two of the world’s largest producers of agriculture products are seeking to launch production of high-quality seeds and other farming technologies in Ukraine to help the nation double its harvests.

Dupont Pioneer, a leading US developer and supplier of advanced plant genetics, has announced that it will invest more than $40m into construction of a domestic seed production facility.

Monsanto, also from the US, is eyeing similar possibilities, with an announcement expected in December.

Due to be completed in time for the 2013 season, Dupont Pioneer’s new facility will support the increased customer demand for Pioneer brand maize, sunflower and oilseed rape hybrids in Ukraine, Russia and the broader region.

“This investment will further expand our efforts to grow our business in one of the most productive maize, sunflower and oilseed rape growing regions of the world,” said Jeff Rowe, Dupont Pioneer’s regional director.

Ukrainian government officials said Monsanto could also announce plans to commence domestic crop production.

“Monsanto’s business is strongly aligned with Ukraine’s farm industry and government objectives for productivity and exports – to increase grains production [from a current 40-50 million tons] to 80-100 million tons, which will further strengthen the export position of Ukraine,” said Michiel De Jongh, regional head of business development.

“This will become possible, if Ukrainian farmers are able to choose the best seeds and have access to innovative farming technology.”

Some of the world’s largest grain traders – including Cargill, Toepfer, ADM and Bunge – entered the Ukrainian agriculture market more than a decade ago.

They have since invested billions of dollars into storage, processing and logistics facilities.

Although Ukraine is of the world’s largest exporters of corn, barley, wheat and other grains, inefficient farming techniques – including the usage of low-quality seeds – have kept yields for some crops at less than half of the EU average.

Ukraine prohibits use and sale of genetically modified organisms, but higher-quality seeds and farming technology could sharply boost yields.

“Pioneer sees Ukraine as one of the fastest agricultural growth markets in the world and an important player in the global food security issue,” said Csaba Molnar, Dupont Pioneer’s commercial director in Ukraine and Russia.

“Ukrainian agriculture is rapidly modernising . . . We are confident that Ukraine is able to reach the ambitious government goal of 80m metric tonnes of grain by 2015,” Mr Molnar added.

By luring in more investment and modern farming technology, the country could double its production of grain and oilseeds, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – which has supported this goal by pumping nearly $1.5bn in financing into domestic agribusinesses.

American agribusiness and food sector consultant George Logush, a former vice-president at Kraft and Ukrainian poultry producer MHP, said: “Ukraine will ultimately become the bread and meat basket of Europe.”

Source: ft

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ukraine Starts To Import Gas From Europe, Cuts Imports From Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- As Russia refuses to cut gas prices for Ukraine and proceeds with its South Stream pipeline project—aimed at diminishing Gazprom’s dependence on Ukrainian gas pipelines — Ukraine has announced plans to further cut Russian gas imports.


Even more notably, Ukraine began buying gas from the German company RWE this month.

The Ukrainian government believes this will allow the country to cut Russian gas imports by some four percent this year and by more than 16 percent next year.

Ukraine is also buying another two deep-water drilling rigs in order to boost gas extraction in the Black Sea.

RWE has been pumping gas to Ukraine via Poland since November 1, according to agreements signed in May and October.

RWE’s price is lower than the $430 that the national oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrainy is paying Gazprom this quarter per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

This is because both Russia’s price for Germany and gas prices on the spot markets in Europe are lower than Gazprom’s price for Ukraine.

RWE is going to deliver five billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to Ukraine by May 2013.

Both Naftohaz and RWE plan to renew their contract, and Ukraine hopes to receive eight bcm of gas from RWE next year.

Citing Ukrainian experts, the Russian news agency RBC said on November 7 that RWE’s gas will cost Ukraine $380–$390 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Yury Boyko said that RWE’s price was $40–$70 lower than Gazprom’s and that the difference would rise to $100 by next summer.

Ukraine has never imported gas from Europe before.

The breakthrough with RWE prompted Naftohaz deputy head Vadym Chuprun to announce that gas imports from Russia would be cut to 20 bcm next year from the earlier announced 24 bcm.

He said Ukraine could in theory import gas from Europe not only through Poland but also through Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Energy Minister Boyko said in June that Naftohaz would cut gas imports from Russia this year to 27 bcm from the 40 bcm imported last year, and in September he said Naftohaz would cut imports from Russia further to 24.5 bcm of gas next year. 

Speaking after Chuprun last Friday, Boyko said that thanks to RWE’s deliveries already this year, Ukraine would cut gas imports from Russia further to 26 bcm.

He said RWE’s gas would be imported not only from the Polish border, but also from Hungary starting on January 1, 2013.

The January 2009 contract signed with Gazprom obligates Naftohaz to import at least 41.6 bcm of Russian gas per annum until 2019.

According to a take-or-pay clause in the contract, Ukraine has to pay for that amount of gas even if it imports less.

However, Boyko said Ukraine would pay for no more than it physically imports.

Boyko said Ukraine was ready to go to court if Gazprom sued.

He noted that Gazprom recently lost several disputes over prices to its European customers.

Gazprom, which faces a European Union probe into its contracts, lost in disputes over prices to companies from Germany, Italy, France and Poland over the past several months as the local gas market is being reshaped by the non-traditional gas boom.

This must have inspired Ukraine.

In order to diminish dependence on Russian gas, along with importing gas from Europe Ukraine is starting the construction of an LNG terminal with a capacity of ten bcm of gas per annum near Odessa this month, which should be ready by 2018.

Moreover, Ukraine is planning to replace gas with coal at several cogeneration plants with the help of Chinese loans, and the country will introduce new energy saving technologies.

Ukraine invited Chevron and Shell to prospect for unconventional shale gas, and a consortium led by ExxonMobil last August was awarded the right to explore an oil and gas field in the Black Sea.

Domestic gas output, currently at some 20 bcm per annum while Ukraine consumes over 50 bcm, is also set to rise.

Ukraine pins special hopes on its Black Sea deposits, which are yet to be explored.

This year and last, Ukraine bought two deep-water drilling rigs for Naftohaz’s Black Sea subsidiary, Chornomornaftohaz.

On November 16, the Singaporean company Keppel won a tender to deliver two drilling rigs to Ukraine for $1.2 billion, which is less than the $1.4 billion Naftohaz was ready to pay.

Boyko said last September that a total of five deep-water drilling rigs would be used in the Black Sea so one more remains to be bought.

Chornomornaftohaz is going to triple its output to three bcm per annum by 2015 compared to 2011.

However, this has failed to change Russia’s position in the gas price dispute, which has been continuing since last year.

Despite Ukraine’s robust energy savings and diversification plans, the head of Gazprom’s foreign economic department, Pavel Oderov, said recently that Gazprom did not see reasons to cut prices for Ukraine.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Little Progress Reported At Natgas Talks

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russia and Ukraine made little progress in talks over natural gas prices, but have reached "certain understanding" in other economic and trade issues, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov suggested Thursday.


Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Mykola Azarov

Azarov visited Moscow on Wednesday for a meeting and a working dinner with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, primarily to discuss the lower prices for natural gas.

Azarov made his first comments on the meeting on Thursday, saying that besides natural gas there were other issues discussed and "certain understanding" had been reached.

"This is not only gas," Azarov said in report released by his press service.

"These also include steel pipes," a recently imposed duty on automobile imports, and a number of other issues.

"Yesterday, we reached a certain understanding," he said.

Ukraine for more than two years has been unsuccessfully trying to persuade Russia to lower natural gas prices to $250 per 1,000 cubic meters from about $432/1,000 cu m currently.

But as talks failed, Ukraine decided to cut imports of Russian gas dramatically, and to diversify imports by securing gas from Germany and seeking to secure imports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from Qatar.

Further underscoring the lack of progress on the gas prices with Russia, President Viktor Yanukovych will be visiting Qatar, one of the major exporters of LNG, later this month.

Energy and Coal Industry Miniser Yuriy Boyko said earlier this month that Ukraine in three years will be importing natural gas from three sources, including Russia, Germany and Qatar, importing 5-7 billion cu m/year from each.

Meanwhile, Azarov's comment shows that Ukraine has rejected Russia's proposal to join the Customs Union, a Moscow-led trade bloc that includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The joining of the Customs Union would automatically derail Ukraine's European integration and place the country firmly into Moscow's orbit for years to come.

But Russia suggested that Ukraine will be able to buy natural gas at $160/1,000 cu m after joining the Customs Union.

The developments comes at a sensitive time as Ukraine is facing a financial crisis with downward pressure mounting on the national currency, the hryvnia, due to growing foreign trade deficit.

Ukraine reduced imports of Russian natural gas by 30% this year, but still was forced to pay $10 billion for gas imports in January through September, about the same amount as in the same period last year.

This, and falling exports of steel due to weakening demand worldwide, has reduced the amount of hard currency coming in the country, causing massive downward pressure on the hryvnia.

Worsening the problem is the fact that the International Monetary Fund has suspended its $15.2 billion loan to Ukraine two years ago after the government had failed to implement key economic reforms, such as hiking domestic gas prices. 

Ukraine has earlier suggested increasing cooperation with the Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan without joining the Customs Union, calling such cooperation the "3 plus 1" formula.

Moscow rejected the formula, insisting on the full fledged membership by Ukraine. 

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ukraine’s Options Wane As Payment Time Nears Amid IMF Freeze

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s government is running out of options to finance $4.3 billion of outstanding foreign- currency debt in the first half of next year.


Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych

The government, which raised $1.25 billion in a bond sale on Nov. 20, wants to extend a $15.4 billion IMF loan suspended in March 2011 that expires this year.

To regain access to funds, the government needs to give up resistance to raising gas prices and adopting a more flexible exchange rate.

The economy, among the world’s worst-hit during the 2009 global recession, is slumping as the euro area’s crisis curbs demand for such export products as steel.

President Viktor Yanukovych, who drew European Union criticism over the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has struggled to obtain alternative financing.

It’s testing investors’ patience.

“We would like to see more positive movement on the IMF deal before we would consider increasing our exposure,” Ronald Schneider, who helps manage 700 million euros ($910 million) in emerging-market debt for Raiffeisen Kapitalanlage GmbH in Vienna, said by phone Nov. 19.

“We would like to see more credible steps.”

Ukraine’s default risk is the sixth-highest among 93 countries tracked by Bloomberg.

The benchmark Ukrainian Equities Index has lost 41 percent this year, the world’s second-worst performance after the Cyprus General Market Index.

International reserves have plunged to $26.8 billion, the lowest since May 2010, as the central bank dipped into the stockpile to prop up the hryvnia.

The hryvnia, which lost 1.4 percent versus the dollar this year, traded at 8.1540 as of 1:35 p.m. in Kiev from 8.1535 from yesterday.

Russian Gas 

Ukraine has been trying to lower price for imported Russian natural gas, which widened the current-account deficit to $9.3 billion in the first nine months of the year from $5.9 billion in the same period of 2011.

Russia offered to cut gas price to $160 per thousand cubic meters of gas from $430 if Ukraine joins the customs union it formed with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Oct. 9.

The economy, which shrank 14.8 percent in 2009, contracted 1.3 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier.

To fight the shortage of foreign currency, the former Soviet republic’s exporters will be required to convert half of what they earn abroad to hryvnia.

Bond Yield 

The government this week paid 7.8 percent yield, or 6.187 percentage points above similar-maturity U.S. Treasuries, to attract investors to its junk-rated debt.

Ukraine is the lowest-rated country to have sold debt abroad this year.

The sale, along with other emerging market-offerings, benefited from stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank and investors’ hunt for higher- yielding assets amid near-zero rates in the developed world.

The yields make the Ukraine’s foreign-currency bonds attractive even at a time when the the “market is concerned about the country,” said Sergei Strigo, who helps manage about $750 million as head of emerging-market debt at Amundi Group in London, 3 percent of which is invested in the country.

“Ukraine has different means to improve the situation,” Strigo said by phone yesterday.

“The best thing for them to do is to have an agreement with the IMF or with Russia on gas prices. Both of these scenarios are very feasible.”

‘This Trick’ 

The fact that the government was able to tap international markets this week doesn’t mean that it will succeed in plugging the financing hole, said Alexander Valchysen, an economist at Investment Capital Ukraine.

“This trick may work once, but it can’t be repeated all the time,” Valchysen said by phone.

“They won’t be able to sell a Eurobond every time they face a sizable redemption of debt to the IMF. The bold solution for Ukraine is definitely the IMF because the IMF requires them to carry out the policies that would eliminate deficits. It’s a painful path.”

The Finance Ministry declined to comment on the government’s plan to finance its 2013 debt obligations.

Ukraine’s dollar Eurobond due 2017 fell this month, pushing the yield up 15 basis points to 7.29 percent yesterday.

A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

Credit-default swaps have widened 59 basis points since the beginning of November to 660 basis points, according to data provider CMA, which is owned by McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP) and compiles prices quoted by dealers in the privately negotiated market.

The increased spread reflects a worsening perception of risk.

Breathing Space 

The bond sale gives Ukraine some breathing space as the government seeks to secure financing without giving in to the IMF’s conditions of cutting gas-price subsidies for households and allowing the hryvnia to trade more freely, according to Liza Ermolenko, an emerging-markets economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London. 

“They will probably be pushed into a deal by the market, but until something drastic happens it’s unlikely there will be an improvement at the talks,” Ermolenko said by phone.

The country will have to repay $5.7 billion to the IMF next year, according to the Washington-based lender’s website.

The first payment of $404 million is due Jan. 30, with a further $2.4 billion scheduled by May 10.

Risk Appetite 

Should global risk appetite abate as the developing world recovers and central banks end quantitative easing, Ukraine would be among the first to suffer and might as well be locked out of markets, said Valchysen.

Without an IMF agreement, Ukraine’s options include turning to Russia or China for a loan, according to Olena Bilan, chief economist at Dragon Capital (VIETENI) in Kiev.

When Ukraine sought to lower prices for imported Russian natural gas to improve its external balance, Russia urged Ukraine to join its custom union.

“Given Russia’s regional integration ambitions, a new gas deal can hardly be reached without significant concessions from Ukraine ranging to a commitment to join the customs union,” Bilan said.

Ukraine may seek to use the fact that it was able to tap international bond markets to negotiate better terms with the IMF, said Timothy Ash, head of emerging-market research at Standard Bank (SBK) Group Ltd. in London.

“At the moment I think they are playing for time,” Ash said in a Nov. 20 phone interview.

“They are probably just keeping their options open and trying to improve their negotiating position. I doubt that they’ve got an option not to go to the fund.” 

Source: Bloomberg

Topless Feminism From Ukraine Takes To French Streets

PARIS, France -- France’s debate over the legalisation of same-sex marriage took a violent turn on Sunday, as conservative Catholics physically attacked activists from radical feminist group Femen.


Members from the topless women's rights group Femen, shout slogans as they react inside their 'training camp' at the Lavoir Moderne Parisen in Paris.

It was the latest in a series of combative protests the Ukraine-born movement has staged around the country since setting up a training centre in Paris in September.

RFI recently visited a training session.

A dozen recruits line up on the upper floor of the Lavoir Moderne, a politically-engaged cultural centre in a former warehouse on a side street of northern Paris’s Chateau Rouge neighbourhood.

Despite a few sculptures and bookshelves stuffed with old films, Femen’s presence dominates the space.

Strewn around the floor are posters with various slogans, including Let’s Get Naked, No Sharia and Kill Kirill, in reference to the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Hanging over the heads of the trainees is a large banner reading “Femen is a new feminism.”

“Everything we do is to get reaction back,” Ukrainian native and core member Inna Shevchenko explains to the recruits, who hail from France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“Our faces are always angry, aggressive, not smiling. Don’t show that you are scared, even if you see snipers around you.”

The women break into a drill resembling one of their protests, coordinated yelling of one of their slogans, “Nudity is Freedom”.

Femen calls its confrontational approach “sextremism”, and the training focuses on how to remain coordinated during their actions, which involve ripping of their clothes in public places, revealing bodies painted with political slogans and screaming at their “enemies”.

“We believe we need to destroy three manifestations of patriarchy, which are the sex industry, dictatorship and religion,” Shevchenko says.

“They are three things that always deny women and are always the illustration of men’s domination in the world.”

Shevchenko herself fled Ukraine after chopping down a cross with a chainsaw, in protest at the imprisonment of Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Since spearheading the launch of the Paris centre in September, she has seen Femen recruit 20 French activists and supporters and hold attention-grabbing protests against rape cases outside a French courthouse and inside the Louvre museum.

“Feminism is not about writing books or organizing conferences and talking to each other,” Shevchenko says.

“Feminism should be provocative, and feminists should be active. We train them to put them in the street, and show that women can act.”

The training session progresses from Shevchenko’s coaching to a series of drills in basic self-defence.

Although Femen does not advocate violence, neither do its members shy away from staging protests that could provoke potentially violent reactions.

Many of their actions end in arrests, and some end with physical conflict.

Most recently, on Sunday, nine Femen activists dressed as nuns and infiltrated a march against same-sex marriage organized by traditionalist Catholic group Civitas.

They removed their habits and sprayed flour on demonstrators as they shouted anti-Church slogans.

A short but heated exchange followed, in which several members were physically attacked, and at least two came away with swollen lips and bloody noses.

Shevchenko herself suffered a broken tooth.

In anticipation of potentially violent situations, the training involves being prepared, come what may.

“Inna talks a lot about how she wants to build an army,” says jiu jitsu instructor Laura-May Abron, who approached Femen to offer training after learning about the group.

“Obviously she doesn’t want to build literally an army. I think she wants women to be empowered. It’s a new generation of feminists and they haven’t had all the stuff that was so outrageous before. Now it seems there are no problems in society, but now they’ve discovered that there are, and that we need to be angry.”

Quizzed between lessons, new recruits say Femen’s deliberately provocative approach fills a gap in feminist activism, even if it brings a mixed response of praise, derision and accusations of exhibitionism.

“In a country like France, with a long tradition of painting and the arts and the avant-garde, it’s very funny to see this reaction,” says Julia Javel, 25, who joined Femen when they came to Paris for the alternative it offered to French feminist groups.

“If you show breasts, people say it’s impossible, you’re not a feminist. They also say you’re pretty to be a feminist, too young, too thin, too tall, too white…. so why are you a feminist?”

Although Femen acknowledges the accomplishments of French feminism, they say it tends to rest on its laurels when there is still work to be done.

“We are a democracy, but women are still oppressed on different levels: social, salary inequalities, street harassments,” says Elo├»se Bouton, 29, a core member of Femen France, adding she observes a change in the women who join.

“[Our activism] is really moving, psychologically. It’s really radical. Most of the time, after their first protests, the women feel very powerful. They tell us they’re not scared anymore when they walk alone at night, when people harass them in the street or in the metro.”

For Shevchenko, the Paris training centre is a step in building a movement that is international in scope.

“Supporters here in France gave us this space, where new soldiers can be born”, she says.

“But they will be sent to different points of the world and share the ideology of Femen and new feminism.”

For Shevchenko, this new feminism has to be prepared to fight the same enemies everywhere.

“We want to be wolves and not sheep, and that’s how we are going to fight for equality and destroy patriarchy,” she says.

Then, lowering her voice, she adds with a slight laugh, “and maybe even matriarchy, too.”

Source: rfi

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ukraine Borrows As Hryvnia Faces Pressure

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine, whose national currency has been facing mounting downward pressure due to a widening trade deficit, issued $1.25 billion in 10-year eurobonds, people familiar with transaction said Tuesday.


Ukrainian hryvnia

The semiannual coupon bonds were to yield 7.8%, 618.7 basis points over 10-year US Treasuries.

It was earlier reported that the yield guidance for the placement came to 8%. 

Organizers were JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Sberbank CIB and VTB Capital.

The move comes as the government has been unsuccessfully seeking to restart borrowing from the International Monetary Fund, which suspended its $15.2 billion loan two years ago after the authorities had refused to implement key reforms. 

Ukraine is rated at ‘B+’ by Standard & Poor's, or four levels below investment grade.

Both Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service rate Ukraine one level lower, or five steps short of investment grade.

The National Bank of Ukraine has been tapping its foreign exchange reserves over the past several months to support the hryvnia, but downward pressure was so big that some analysts have predicted that depreciation is imminent.

In a desperate attempt to stop the hryvnia's decline, the NBU resorted to recently gained special powers to force exporters to sell a half of their hard currency earnings for hryvnias on the interbank market.

The measure is expected to be in effect for at least six months.

Vitaliy Khomutynnik, the head of the finance and banking committee in Parliament, submitted a bill to Parliament that seeks to slap a tax of 15% on any transaction selling hard currency by an individual in Ukraine.

The bill raised a storm of criticism among experts and opposition lawmakers, forcing Khomutynnik on Tuesday to postpone the controversial bill indefinitely.

The hryvnia strengthened to 8.18 to the U.S. dollar in trading between commercial banks on Tuesday, compared with 8.20/dollar on Monday and 8.30/dollar one week ago, when it had dropped to the lowest level in three years.

The NBU officially reported its foreign exchange reserves dropped 8% on month to $26 billion at the end of October, but analysts said the liquid reserves may have actually dropped to $24 billion, raising concerns to how long will the central bank be able to continue to support the local currency.

Ukraine’s economy shrank 1.3% in the third quarter from the same period a year ago as demand for the country's main exports - steel and mineral fertilizers - declined. 

Ukraine tapped international debt markets in July, when it sold $2.6 billion of eurobonds due 2017 at a yield of 9.25%.

The country also sold $1 billion of Eurobonds in August maturing in 2014 at a yield of 7.95%.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine: Hacker Haven

KIEV, Ukraine — When the hacker group Anonymous attacked the website of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe last week, it said it was responding to the OSCE’s “betrayal of democratic values” following Ukraine's October parliamentary elections.


Ukrainians participated in a hacking ring that stole more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers of customers shopping at TJX Companies, which owns the TJ Maxx chain, and other firms in one of the biggest identity theft cases on record.

President Victor Yanukovych’s Regions Party, which has backtracked on the democratic gains of the Orange Revolution, won a tiny majority in a vote OSCE observers criticized as showing the “democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine.”

That apparently wasn’t strong enough for the hacker group.

Tellingly, Anonymous also upbraided the OSCE for training Ukrainian police to combat activist hackers.

Its attack, which led to the release of restricted documents, marked the latest in a series of politically motivated hacking scandals involving Ukraine.

This country has long had a shady reputation when it comes to cyberspace.

But the attack has highlighted its growing role as a battlefield for political hackers and source of cybercrime.

“Ukraine is one of the largest centers of cybercrime,” Brian Krebs, a US-based computer security expert told Kyiv Post.

“Not only is much of the criminal network located here, but also considerable flows of dollars obtained by hacking go here.”

Others agree.

The Honeynet Project, an international cybersecurity group that maps cyberattacks, shows Ukraine to be one of the biggest players in a region that’s the world's top producer of malware — malicious software used to disrupt computers or gain access to computer systems.

Ukraine is also well known for its wildly popular file-sharing sites.

Earlier this year, Anonymous brought down several official Ukrainian websites after the government shut down Demonoid, the first so-called bittorrent site, which enables users to download music, video and other content by accessing small pieces of files from other computers.

Ordered ahead of the deputy prime minister's visit to Washington, Demonoid’s closure was seen as a favor to the US government, for which fighting copyright infringement is a priority.

Last February, distributed denial of service attacks took down dozens of official websites after the government shut down another popular Ukrainian file-sharing site, Ex.ua, which the Recording Industry Association of America lists as one of the world's top-25 pirating websites.

Ex.ua, which later re-opened, accounts for 15-25 percent of Ukrainian web traffic. 

Demonoid also resurfaced from an address in Hong Kong.

But it's one of the few such outfits to have left Ukraine.

Experts say Ukrainian cybercrime falls into a general pattern common for East Europe.

Tom Kellermann, vice president for cybersecurity at the Japanese security software firm Trend Micro, said in a recent report that post-communist cybercriminals tend to work in small, tightly-knit groups that attack financial targets for immediate financial gain, as opposed to their Asian counterparts, who largely operate within large organizations that perform broad sweeps of corporate and government information used to build databases.

The two groups also differ in their methods:

East Asian hackers typically opt for standard, proven programs without worrying much about being found out.

East Europeans rely on innovative, often unique malware to hit difficult targets and cover their tracks.

Kellerman characterizes their elegantly crafted programs as the “Faberge eggs” of the malware world.

But they’re not always crafty enough.

Two years ago, police arrested five Ukrainians who were part of a 60-person group that used hosts in Britain to steal $70 million from US businesses.

Half the proceeds were estimated to have gone to the Ukrainians.

The government's response so far has remained weak.

Ukraine's main information security body, the Computer Emergency Response Team, says on its website that the country lacks an agency that would coordinate responses to attacks.

That’s currently up to individual departments, companies and ISP providers, but they “work for their own interests or interests of their constituency.”

As long as state institutions remain weak, experts say, Ukraine will remain a safe haven for hackers.

Source: GlobalPost

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ukraine's 'Little Paris' Is A Journey Through Time

CHERNIVTSI, Ukraine -- Onion-domed Orthodox churches. Solemn Catholic cathedrals. Cobblestone streets lined with mansions. A movie theater built on the ashes of a synagogue.


The UNESCO-protected Chernivtsi Universtiy is seen in Chernivtsi, a city of 250,000 in southwestern Ukraine. Known as the Little Paris or, alternatively, the Little Vienna of Ukraine, Chernivtsi is a perfect place for a quiet romantic weekend trip and a crash course in the painful history of Europe in the 20th century.

These landmarks stand as testament to the shifting identities of the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi.

As wars raged and empires fell, Chernivtsi reflected the heritage and traditions of its residents and rulers: Austro-Hungarian, Jewish, Romanian, Soviet and Ukrainian.

Today, a walk around Chernivtsi is a journey through time, from a statue of a Habsburg emperor, to a deserted Jewish cemetery, to a Soviet tank.

But Chernivtsi has many faces.

While it offers lessons in the often painful history of 20th century Europe, its elegant prewar architecture and streetscapes have earned it the nickname of the Little Paris or Little Vienna of Ukraine.

Streets signs may be hidden by grapevines laden with fruit; wedding processions parade down romantic cobblestone streets, and portraits of Austrian rulers line the walls of a cafe.

Chernivtsi was founded as a Slavic fortress on the Prut River in the 12th century.

It was part of the medieval principality of Moldavia until being annexed by the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 18th century.

Renamed Czernowitz, it flourished under the Habsburgs and grew from a small provincial town into a bustling, ethnically diverse center of trade, crafts, culture and education.

With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918 at the end of World War I, the region became part of Romania. Soviet forces briefly occupied Chernivtsi at the start of World War II, but were soon ousted by Nazi-allied Romanian forces.

The Red Army retook it in 1944 and incorporated it into the Ukrainian republic, which is now Ukraine.

The jewel of the city is a giant palace-like complex that originally housed Orthodox church leaders. It is now the home of Chernivtsi University and a UNESCO heritage site.

Built in the late 19th century by the renowned Czech architect Josef Hlavka, the monumental central building turns into a landmark Orthodox church on one side and a soaring clock tower on the other.

On weekdays, the campus is filled with students, but on weekends, it's taken over by tourists walking slowly to appreciate its full magnificence.

The university's icon-lined Church of Three Saints is also a popular destination for exchanging vows, while the manicured bushes, lawns and park are perfect for wedding photo shoots, the brides in white and grooms in black, trailed by photographers and droves of friends and family.

University Street runs from the school to the Chernivtsi movie theater, which serves as an unlikely reminder of the city's Jewish history.

Before the war, Chernivtsi was a vibrant center of Jewish life, home to several dozen synagogues and some 45,000 Jews, or about a third of the city's population.

Only a third of the Jewish population survived the Holocaust and the war, and most of them then emigrated to Israel and the United States.

Today, Chernivtsi has a total population of 250,000 including little more than 1,000 Jews.

Signs of Jewish life are few: two synagogues, a small Jewish history museum, a Hebrew school and a rundown Jewish cemetery, one of the largest in Eastern Europe.

The remains of the city's main synagogue, which was partially destroyed during the war, were turned into a cinema by the Soviets.

Locals have dubbed the blue building the Cinegogue.

Nearby is Theater Square, which was once the site of a food bazaar and was called Elizabethplatz in honor of the Austrian Empress Elizabeth.

Now it is home to the highly regarded Chernivtsi Drama Theater, built there at the beginning of the 20th century.

Next to the Central Square and city hall is the pedestrian-only Olha Kobylianska street, named for a Ukrainian writer and women's rights activist who celebrated this region in her works.

Lined with elegant two- and three-story houses from the turn of the 20th century, the romantic cobblestone street, a popular site for wedding processions, is dotted with benches, trees and outdoor cafes.

Popular eateries on Kobylianska include the Videnska Kava (Vienna Cafe) and Koleso (The Wheel).

At Videnska Kava, customers slowly sip coffee under solemn portraits of Austrian monarchs and tackle giant servings of delicious cake big enough for two.

At Koleso, hearty Ukrainian fare includes banush, traditional porridge made of corn flour boiled in sour cream.

Count Vorontsov's Wine Cellar on Shalom Aleichem Street offers both regional and European cuisine.

Try to catch an evening organ concert at the 19th century Armenian Church, also built by Hlavka in a mix of Roman, Byzantine and Gothic styles typical of medieval monasteries of this region.

Farther down Armenian Street is St. Nicholas Cathedral, nicknamed "the drunken church" because the pillars of its side domes are canted as if falling over.

This is one of the few Chernivtsi churches that continued to operate during the Soviet era, which is why its icons, stained glass panels and the relics of Orthodox martyrs are well-preserved.

At the central bazaar on Chervonoarmiyska (Red Army) Street, you'll find salo, the salted pork lard that is a hallmark of Ukrainian cuisine.

Villagers will be selling eggs, milk "from just under the cow" and freshly skinned poultry, and you might even spot a tired middle-aged woman selling giant mushrooms picked in the woods to subsidize her meager pension.

It's yet another side to this city's many identities, and one you're not likely to find in the real Paris or Vienna.

Source: The Huffington Post

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ukraine Forces Conversion Of Foreign-Currency Revenue

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s central bank will order the former Soviet republic’s exporters to sell foreign currencies earned abroad to stabilize the balance of payments.


Ukrainian hryvnia

The Natsionalnyi Bank Ukrainy will require companies to convert half their foreign-currency revenue to hryvnia, spokesman Oleksandr Kutereshchyn said by phone today.

Individuals receiving more than 150,000 hryvnia ($18,342) from abroad will also be required to sell.

The International Monetary Fund, which froze Ukraine’s $15.4 billion loan program in March 2011 after the Cabinet refused to raise utility prices, urged policy makers to adopt a more flexible exchange rate.

Foreign reserves plunged 8.5 percent last month to $26.8 billion, the lowest since May 2010, as the central bank propped up the hryvnia.

“We expect pressure on the exchange rate to ease,” Vladislav Sochinsky, a treasury executive at the Kiev-based unit of Citigroup Inc., said by e-mail today.

“This norm shouldn’t be considered a permanent solution, as further progress with the IMF, in particular developments on a new program, will have more of a stabilization role.”

The hryvnia traded to 8.178 per dollar as of 4:25 p.m. in Kiev from 8.171 on Nov. 19.

The currency, which lost 44.61 percent to the dollar between September 2008 and September 2009, was stabilized in the following two years by central bank support.

It has declined 1.6 percent this year.

Current Account 

Lawmakers supported the obligatory conversion of foreign- exchange earnings on Nov. 6 to stabilize the weakening hryvnia, which is under pressure from the widening deficit of the current account, the widest measure of money flowing in and out of the country.

The gap widened to $9.3 billion in the first nine months of the year from $5.9 billion in the same period of 2011 as demand for exports such as steel slumped on world markets and energy imported costs rose.

Both the laws for individuals and for exporters will remain in force for six months, according to the central bank, which set a 90-day term for payments for export and import operations to be settled.

President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions submitted Nov. 16 a bill to introduce a 15 percent tax on individuals’ foreign-currency sales, according to parliament’s website.

The proceeds will go to the Pension Fund, according to the bill.

Individuals who receive less than equivalent of 150,000 hryvnia from abroad a month and sell the foreign currency immediately, wouldn’t have to pay the tax, according to the draft bill.

Source: Bloomberg

Shevchenko Rejects Ukraine Manager Job

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukraine star striker Andriy Shevchenko has turned down an offer to take over as manager of the national team, Interfax news agency reported Monday.


Andriy Shevchenko prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station in Kiev last month. The former Ukraine star striker has turned down an offer to take over as manager of the national team, Interfax news agency reported Monday.

"I consider that taking over the national squad will be a bit too hasty a move for me," Shevchenko told the Ukraine Football Federation's (FFU) media service.

"I hope that the FFU will accept my decision with understanding.

"I'm really grateful to the FFU and our football chief (Anatoly) Konkov for their top-level trust in me which they showed by offering me the post of the national manager."

Last week Ukraine football supremo Konkov offered Shevchenko the post, which remains vacant since Oleg Blokhin's departure for Dynamo Kiev in Septenber. 

"Shevchenko has experience of playing in great clubs such as Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan and Chelsea under the management of legendary coaches Valery Lobanovsky, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho," Konkov told the press.

"He had a unique opportunity to adopt their methods, their knowledge and talents." 

The FFU chief, who called Shevchenko into his under-21 and later Ukraine's national squad, said that he considered the 36-year-old's youth to be a "positive factor".

"Just remember that unknown young coach Josep Guardiola (Barcelona) has achieved tremendous results in just several years," Konkov said.

"I'm confident that Shevchenko is also capable of achieving serious heights as the national team's manager. He has enough experience and character for it. The federation meanwhile will provide him with all necessary to help him in his work." 

Shevchenko announced that he was quitting football for politics last July but his Ukraine Forward! movement failed to make it into parliament after collecting just a few percent of the vote last month.

Source: France 24

Monday, November 19, 2012

Psychologist Claims Real-Life Barbie Doll Valeria Lukyanova Lives In Fantasy World

LONDON, United Kingdom -- Ukrainian internet sensation Valeria Lukyanova captured global attention when she was declared a real-life Barbie doll, earlier this year.


Valeria Lukyanova in V Magazine.

The hype around the young woman cooled off after the initial burst of interest.

However, a recent photo shoot, in lingerie, for V Magazine, has put the 21-year-old model back in the spotlight.

Lukyanova has drawn praise and criticism in equal measure over claims that she has used cosmetic surgery to alter her physical appearance.

A number of people insist this human Barbie doll has an unhealthy obsession with her looks, and psychologists have speculated that Lukyanova lives in a fantasy world because she finds being her "authentic self" uninspiring.

Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr Seth Meyers detailed why, he felt, the Ukrainian had gone to such extreme lengths to alter her physical appearance.

"The interview from V, as well as photos of the so-called beauty, suggest a woman who finds her authentic self and the reality around her to be empty and uninspiring, causing her to create and live in a fantasy world of her own making," said Dr Meyers.

It should be noted that Dr Meyers has not treated or consulted Lukyanova in any way.

"Considering her from a strength-based approach, her efforts indicate an innovative and truly artistic orientation, where she uses her body as post-feminist performance art," he explained.

"The problem, however, with such a perspective is that her ultra-contrived appearance caters exclusively to men's fantasies of tiny waistlines and enormous breasts in women.

"Because men can't find this fantasy in real life, pictures of the Human Barbie send these men flocking to the internet for a cybersexual experience that casts the real women in their lives aside because they simply can't - and shouldn't - measure up," Dr Meyers added.

Meanwhile, plastic surgeon Dr Anthony Youn (who has not treated Lukyanova either) claimed that despite denials, he feels sure Lukyanova has undergone surgery to alter her natural physical features.

"Her face is impossibly sculpted and chiseled, as if made from a plastic mold.

It appears to me that she's either wearing two pounds of fancy, special-effects makeup or has had some plastic surgery to reshape her eyes and her nose.

Her nose is as thin as a popsicle stick," the surgeon told Radar Online.

Source: IB Times

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ukrainian Activist Denied Entry To Russia

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The leader of Ukraine's radical feminist movement FEMEN, Anna Hutsol, has been denied entry to Russia, officials at Russia's Pulkovo airport confirmed on Friday.


Anna Hutsol (R)

"She is denied entry, the 11 o clock flight will take her back to Paris, her point of departure for her flight to St. Petersburg," the border service official said.

He noted that Hutsol had not been arrested, but declined to offer any detail as to the reasons for denying her entry.

In October police in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev questioned Hutsol over the activists' chainsaw attack on a wooden cross in the city center.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych said that the country's law enforcement system must be respond firmly to such acts.

FEMEN activists have carried out semi-naked or topless protests in Ukraine and worldwide in support for women's rights.

Source: RIA Novosti

Ukraine’s Tymoshenko Now In ‘Increased Pain’

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is in “increased pain” following her two-week hunger strike, but is too weak to receive full-scale treatment, her doctor said yesterday.


A screen capture of Yulia Tymoshenko from a late-September video.

The jailed former prime minister, however, pledged to continue her protest against alleged fraud in polls won by the party of arch rival President Viktor Yanukovych.

In a statement read out to journalists by her daughter Yevgenia, the opposition leader said that she would “continue fighting the corrupt regime of Yanukovych in every other way.

“I see that I have reached the goal for which I started the hunger strike,” her statement said.

“Nobody can consider this Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) legitimate and democratically-elected anymore,” she said.

Tymoshenko, serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power while in office, is currently facing a second trial on new charges of embezzlement and tax evasion, but the hearings have been repeatedly delayed due to her health condition, with the new date set for November 23.

Tymoshenko, who took her first sips of fruit juice late Thursday, appeared “rather depressed” to doctors visiting her from Germany, who said her medical condition was aggravated by her protest.

“The hunger strike process brought a rather negative effect on her pain symptoms, and the pain has now increased considerably,” said doctor Lutz Harms, who is in Kharkiv to treat Tymoshenko.

“Currently she is beginning rehabilitation procedures, but the scope of these procedures will be very limited, because she is very weak... and her body will not be responding to drugs very well,” he told journalists outside the clinic in Kharkiv, where the 2004 Orange Revolution leader is being treated.

Tymoshenko has been since this summer in the hospital, where she was moved from her prison cell following complaints of back pain.

She continues to serve out her controversial seven-year sentence.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cited Tymoshenko’s detention as one of the reasons why “democratic progress appears to have reversed” in Ukraine’s October 28 parliamentary elections.

Tymoshenko has branded her prosecution a political vendetta on the part of her rival President Viktor Yanukovych.

She decided to stop her hunger strike after consulting with German doctors, and Harms said yesterday that her rehabilitation will take about two weeks.

Source: AFP

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Berkut Riot Police Used To Falsify Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ministry of Interior’s Berkut riot police has never intervened in Ukrainian elections to the same degree as during the October 28 parliamentary elections.


Berkut riot police on election day, October 28, in Pervomaysk, Mykolaiv oblast.

Berkut assisted regional governors in securing victories for pro-regime candidates through electoral fraud by storming election precincts, taking away counted votes and spraying tear gas to disperse those protesting against the fraudulent practices. 

During the 2004 Orange Revolution, Berkut was unreliable and sympathetic to the opposition; President Leonid Kuchma was forced to rely on Crimean Interior Ministry BARS Internal Troops to prevent an opposition takeover of the presidential administration.

In 2007—while Ukraine had a parliamentary system of government—Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and President Viktor Yushchenko clashed over who had jurisdiction over Berkut and other law enforcement agencies.

In fall 2010, Yanukovych returned Ukraine to the presidential system defined by the 1996 constitution, and all security forces are now under his control.

The growing “Putinization” of Ukraine’s security forces has been taking place since early 2010.

Berkut has received additional budget funds and new equipment and is increasingly used as the president and Party of Region’s “Praetorian Guard.”

Berkut has been deployed more and more to intimidate anti-government demonstrators and prevent them from gaining access to buildings and open spaces where they seek to protest.

In November 2011, in Donetsk, Berkut attacked veterans of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident who were protesting cuts to their pensions, leading to the death of a pensioner.

Since 2010, Amnesty International has issued statements protesting police violence and torture and mistreatment of prisoners.

Berkut forces used tear gas for the first time in July 2012 against those protesting the controversial new language law.

In the October 28 elections, on the orders of regional governors, Berkut intervened on behalf of single mandate candidates supported by the Party of Regions.

Ruling party–linked candidates were defeated by the opposition in Kiev, Cherkasy, Volyn, Vynnytsya, Mykolaiv and other oblasts, but these results were allegedly overturned through Berkut interventions in election precincts.

Opposition candidate Arkadiy Kornatsky won 39 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent cast for deputy regional governor and Party of Regions candidate Vitaliy Travyanko.

Fearing election fraud, protestors began arriving from throughout the oblast to support Kornatsky, and villagers organized by the Peasant Front used five Kamaz trucks and burning tires to block the path of Berkut vehicles.

Berkut reinforcements were brought in from neighboring oblasts and rumors circulated that Interior Ministry Internal Troops had been mobilized.

Fifty heavily armed and masked Berkut officers stormed the election commission and brutally attacked everybody present, including commissioners, firing tear gas.

They grabbed the tabulated election ballots and retreated to their truck.

With the roads barricaded, Berkut officers attempted to destroy the ballots in their vehicle.

Berkut and officials from regional governor Mykola Kruglov’s administration changed the election results on the computer openly in front of witnesses from a 5.9-percent victory for Kornatsky to a 5.88-percent victory for Travyanko.

Kornatsky is a successful and popular local entrepreneur in the food processing business in Kherson and Mykolayiv oblasts.

Since 2010, Kornatsky’s Agrocompany has been the subject of numerous attempts of corporate raiding through tax inspections, fabricated criminal investigations, as well as personal, telephone and mail surveillance by the Security Service (SBU).

These actions paralyzed the work of his company; and with 20 criminal cases opened against Kornatsky, he fled abroad with his family.

Similarly, in Cherkasy oblast, opposition candidate Leonid Datsenko defeated Bohdan Hubsky by 4,000 votes.

In retaliation, Hubsky used Berkut forces to steal the ballots and official electoral stamps.

In total, there are 13 disputed districts where the opposition is demanding repeat elections.

The 13 opposition candidates from the disputed districts discussed similar fraud tactics used against them on the independent television channel TVi.

When the ballots with opposition victories were delivered to District Election Commissions (DEC) to be counted, fraud began in the form of power cuts inside the building, delaying tactics, seizure of votes by unknown persons of “sporting appearance” (i.e. organized crime enforcers) and tampering of bags containing the votes.

The opposition drew up an extensive list of officials and judges they accuse of involvement in election fraud.

However, Prosecutor-General Pshonka said Berkut’s intervention in the electoral procedures was “legal”.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) November 9 Interim Report has confirmed this use of riot police by the authorities and “observed the presence of special security forces outside or inside seven DECs […], in some cases blocking access to the premises.

In Mykolaiv Oblast, special forces entered DEC 132 and seized Precinct Election Commission (PEC) protocols, following a court order to deliver them to the court.”

The OSCE “noted two cases where changes in the preliminary results posted on the CEC [Central Election Commission] website after 100 per cent [sic] of polling stations had been processed resulted in the candidate who had initially come in second winning the seat.”

This occurred in Vinnytsia and Mykolaiv Oblasts) where changes were made to “the results after they had already been entered into the system”.

In addition to flagrant interference in election procedures, after the elections, Berkut also attempted to prevent and disperse large numbers of opposition protestors gathering near the Central Election Commission.

The riot police confiscated tents to prevent permanent protests.

The high-level order given to Berkut to retreat was probably out of fear of similar incidents occurring that led to widespread Western condemnation of post-election police brutality in Minsk in December 2010.

The authorities are resorting to such blatant fraud, widely condemned in the West, because the elections have not gone well.

The Party of Regions has lost between 25–30 percent of its votes (2 million voters) compared to elections in 2006 and 2007.

The ruling Party of Regions and Communist Party were defeated in the proportional vote, winning 43 percent compared to the 50 percent of the vote received by the three opposition parties.

The Central Election Commission declared a winning margin of parliamentary seats of just 185 Party of Regions to 178 opposition deputies.

And of the remaining 51 single mandate deputies in the legislature, 13 are still disputed by the opposition.

Frustration built up over two years among Ukrainians was evident during the 2012 elections.

The October 28 election and its consequences is a harbinger of what awaits Ukraine in the presidential elections campaign, which begins in eighteen months.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

President OKs Law Extending Powers Of NBU

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday signed a bill into law that gives extra powers to the National Bank of Ukraine to prop up the hryvnia in the event of any financial emergency.


National Bank of Ukraine (NBU)

The legislation, which was approved by Parliament last week, allows the NBU to unilaterally introduce mandatory selling of hard currency earnings by exporters for a period of up to six months.

It also gives the NBU the authority to temporarily change the time needed for making settlements to close export or import contracts, which may potentially regulate the supply of hard currency on the forex market.

The legislation comes amid concerns that the hryvnia has been facing a new wave of downward pressure against the U.S. dollar, caused by skyrocketing natural gas bills and weak foreign direct investments in Ukraine.

The combination of these factors have increased demand for dollars on the one hand and reduced supply of hard currency on the other hand, triggering the hryvnia’s sudden fall on Tuesday to the lowest level in three years.

The hryvnia recovered some value on Thursday closing at 8.24 to the dollar in trading between commercial banks, compared with 8.26/dollar on Wednesday and 8.30/dollar on Tuesday.

The NBU has a key role in helping the hryvnia’s recovery on Wednesday by openly declaring it will tap forex reserves and sell dollars at below market rates - at 8.05/dollar.

On Thursday, however, the NBU changed tactics and did not officially participate in the trading, while instead the state-owned savings bank Oshchadbnk has been selling dollars at 8.25/dollar.

Oshchadbank has earlier repeatedly sold dollars for the NBU, when the central bank hasn’t felt comfortable in going to the market.

In this case, the NBU would tap the reserves and transfer the dollars to Oshchadbank, which would simply sell them on the market.

Olena Shcherbakova, the head of the main monetary and credit policy department at the NBU, said on Thursday the NBU will make a separate announcement on when the bank will use the new powers to back the local currency.

“We are currently watching the market,” Shcherbakova said at a press conference.

“It’s a subject of a separate meeting” to announce the measures mandating the exporters to sell a half of their hard currency earning on the forex market.

The measures are considered to be effective and helped to stabilize the hryvnia after financial meltdowns in 1990s.

Shcherbakove dismissed criticism of the legislation as an administrative pressure on businesses by saying that exporters eventually anyway sell 75% of their hard currency earning on the foreign market.

“But it happens not evenly,” she said.

Ukrainian exporters, such as steel and chemical companies, keep an estimated $8.5 billion denominated in hard currencies.

The money is kept in foreign banks at corresponding accounts of Ukrainian banks, she said.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ukraine Seeks To Cut Russian Gas Imports By A Quarter

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is planning to cut its imports of Russian gas next year by more than a quarter of the present level in a bid to reduce its fuel bill from its giant neighbour, a high-ranking official of Naftogaz oil and gas firm said on Friday.


The former Soviet republic, whose government is trying to re-negotiate a 2009 gas deal with Moscow which it says sets too high a price for supplies, is seeking alternative energy sources to reduce its reliance on Russia.

It has signed a contract with Germany's RWE for alternative gas shipments, which might provide about 5 bcm of gas in 2013.

Kiev says it plans also to draw on its own limited domestic gas sources and make more use of abundant coal reserves to power industry and heat homes.

Vadim Chuprun, a deputy head of Naftogaz, said Ukraine planned to reduce Russian gas imports to 18-20 billion cubic metres (bcm) next year from this year's 27.5 bcm. 

But he expected opposition to the idea from Russia.

"Our opinion is that in 2013 we could import about 20 bcm of gas from Russia, or even 18 bcm," Chuprun told reporters.

"We know that (Russian gas giant) Gazprom will oppose, but we do not need such a large volume of Russian gas at such high prices," he said.

The government had earlier put a higher figure on Russian gas import requirements of 24.5 bcm for next year.

Moscow says it will cut prices only if its gas export monopoly Gazprom is allowed to buy into the pipelines that carry Russian gas across Ukraine to markets further west in Europe.

Kiev has so far refused to agree.

Kiev is due to pay $430 per 1,000 cubic metres in the fourth quarter of this year and the price could rise further to about $432 per tcm in the first quarter in 2013, according to analysts' calculations.

Naftogaz paid $400 in the fourth quarter of last year.

Naftogaz is also planning to explore oil and gas deposits on the Ukrainian Black Sea shelf and said on Friday it had chosen Singapore's Keppel FELS as a supplier of two new offshore platforms.

The company will pay $1.226 billion for the two rigs, which are due to be delivered to Ukraine in 2014.

Earlier this year Ukraine selected a consortium led by ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell to explore the Skifska oil and gas field on the Black Sea shelf.

The Skifska field has a potential annual yield of 3-4 billion cubic metres of hydrocarbons.

Another Black Sea field, Foroska, could yield 2-3 billion cubic metres a year. 

Source: Yahoo News

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ukraine Try To Entice Shevchenko Back Into Soccer As National Coach

KIEV, Ukraine -- Legendary Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko called time on an 18-year soccer career back in July in order to concentrate on a new profession -- politics.


Andriy Shevchenko's last action as a player for Ukraine came at Euro 2012 in July.

But just four months after turning his back on football, Shevchenko has been offered the chance to immerse himself in the beautiful game once again, as coach of the national side.

As Ukraine's most capped player and their highest goalscorer of all time, with 56 goals in his 111 games, Shevchenko is the finest player the country has produced since gaining independence in 1991.

He won five consecutive league titles with Dynamo Kiev between 1995 and 1999 before joining Italian giants AC Milan, where he played his part in their 2003 European Champions League triumph.

Shevchenko was signed for English club Chelsea by Jose Mourinho in May 2006 for a reported fee of $47 million but failed to make an impact in his two years at the club.

After another loan spell with Milan he returned to Dynamo Kiev for three final seasons and signed off from the national team after they failed to get out of their group in Euro 2012, which Ukraine co-hosted with neighbors Poland.

Though the 36-year-old has no previous coaching experience, he is the Ukrainian Football Federation's (FFU) first choice to take over from Oleh Blokhin, who left the post to coach Ukrainian club side Dynamo Kiev.

A statement on the FFU's official website read: "President of the Football Federation of Ukraine Anatoliy Konkov has decided to invite Andriy Shevchenko to take the post of head coach. "

Andriy had a prominent schooling at renowned clubs such as the Dynamo Kiev, Milan and Chelsea, led by legendary coaches Valeriy Lobanovskiy, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho.

"He had a unique ability to absorb their talent, their knowledge and their experience.

"It should be noted that at one time Andriy Shevchenko debuted in the youth national teams under the leadership of Anatoly Ridge.

And today the FFU president offers Shevchenko a new debut!"

The statement quoted Konkov as saying: "I'm sure Shevchenko will also be able to conquer great football countries as head coach of this country. He has enough experience and character.

"The federation, in turn, will ensure to give him all the help he needs with the national team."

Source: CNN

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Says Parliament To Convene Despite Protests, Economy To Improve

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s prime minister said Tuesday that the newly elected parliament will convene as planned, even as opposition parties challenge the election results.


Ukraine PM Mykola Azarov

The Central Elections Commission has announced the results for 445 of the 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada and called for a repeat of voting in five disputed districts. 

Three opposition parties won a total of 178 seats, with the rest going to President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and smaller parties or independents likely to be allies, including 32 seats for the Communists.

The West has called the vote unfair, and the opposition has refused to recognize the results and plans to contest them in local courts and the European Court of Human Rights. 

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said parliament will begin work in mid-December, while new voting the five disputed districts will take place later.

The elections commission says voting was flawed in those districts; the opposition says its candidates won those seats.

“A line has been drawn,” Azarov said in a meeting with foreign reporters.

“The session will open on Dec. 17, lawmakers will take an oath and parliament’s formation will start.”

Azarov also invited all political parties and lawmakers in the new parliament to form a broad governing coalition.

“We are ready for the broadest possible dialogue,” Azarov said.

“It is time to sit down to talk.”

However, the opposition was unlikely to heed his call, accusing the ruling party of rigging the vote and robbing their candidates of victory in over a dozen districts across the country.

Azarov sought to allay concerns about the economy, promising that growth will resume in the second quarter of next year.

The Ukrainian economy is heading into a recession as global demands decline for metals, the country’s key export commodity.

The national currency is under strong pressure, as Ukraine must repay foreign debt and International Monetary Fund lending is frozen.

“Yes, the situation is crisis-like, but it is not fatal, not tragic,” Azarov said.

“It is manageable, it is under control and we will calmly solve it.”

“There will be no collapse of the hryvna,” the premier said of the Ukrainian currency.

Azarov laid partial blame for the recent depreciation on the hryvna on the media, claiming reports on a decrease in the National Bank’s dollar reserve prompted Ukrainians to rush to convert their hryvna savings into dollars.

“Had you all been silent about it, I guarantee you, we would have sailed through it in a completely calm way,” he said.

Source: The Washington Post

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ukrainian Singer Suing Over 'Call Me Maybe' - Carly Rae Stole My Song!

LOS ANGELES, USA -- Ukraine is not weak ... Ukraine will sue -- at least that's what one hot Ukrainian singer is doing, claiming Carly Rae Jepsen shamelessly stole her slutty Christmas song ... and turned it into "Call Me Maybe."


The singer -- who goes by Aza -- is filing the lawsut in L.A., claiming "Call Me Maybe" is a carbon copy of her song "Hunky Santa" ... which producers simply tweaked before adding Carly Rae Jepsen's voice.

According to the lawsuit -- to be filed today by Aza's lawyer Barry Rothman -- she's suing for unspecified damages ... but based on how insanely popular "Call Me Maybe" is, a ton of money's on the line.

Aza tells us, "I'm shocked and surprised that these people wanted to sample my lyrics on their song. They didn't ask me for permission, they just took it. That's why I filed this lawsuit."

"When I first heard it on the radio, I was driving and almost got into an accident. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

As for how similar the songs really are -- you be the judge.

Scooter Braun -- Justin Bieber's manager -- is also named in the suit.

Carly's rep tells TMZ, "This is completely false and [Carly's] lawyers will deal with this. Everyone knows [Carly] is a songwriter. She is not spending a lot of time listening to Ukrainian radio."

Ukraine is game to you?!?!

Source: TMZ

YouJail: My Mother's Video Hell In Orwellian Prison, By Deposed Ukraine PM's Daughter Yevhenia Tymoshenko

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- The grainy video footage reveals a woman frail yet unbowed.


Video grab from a Ukrainian TV station showing the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in her prison cell.

In a series of intimate scenes we see her in her dressing gown; moving with the aid of a walking frame; performing her daily exercises.

We cannot see her face but the flaxen hair is instantly recognisable, certainly to the millions of Ukrainians who watched this footage first on YouTube and then on their television screens.

For this is their former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, in her cell in the Central Clinical Hospital No 5 in Kharkiv, known locally as the Ukrainian Siberia.

At least six cameras record every minute of the opposition leader's day.

Already a gross invasion of privacy, last month video captured by the cameras was uploaded on to the internet in a bid to humiliate her in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections.

Though in prison, she still forms the main opposition to the President, Victor Yanukoych.

Last week, Tymoshenko's daughter Yevhenia, 32, travelled to Britain to meet with human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson to put together an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

She also came to plead for David Cameron's help, admitting that she wakes each morning terrified that this will be the day she learns her mother has died.

Yevhenia is her mother's daughter, with the same blonde locks, penetrating brown eyes and determination.

'My mother is under 24-hour surveillance. It is like a mental torture. They're trying to break her morale, to get her to give in and say, “I'm out of politics.” '

Tymoshenko, the heroine of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 for supposedly abusing her powers as Prime Minister when she forced through a 2009 gas deal with Russia.

The charges are widely acknowledged to be politically motivated, a way of removing her from public life.

But 51-year-old Yulia refused to go quietly.

Still head of her Fatherland party, she denounces the president as a crook and a dictator.

In jail, she has been refused treatment for a serious spinal condition, and was attacked by prison guards in May, provoking worldwide condemnation.

It is for this reason that Yevhenia believes the authorities are trying to crush her mother.

'She's isolated from family, colleagues, friends: she's not given access to the phone. It's illegal to deny her phone calls but they do. All the time, in the cell, she has video cameras. She has done since her arrest, but the number of devices has increased exponentially.'

Yevhenia says her mother has been denied every last vestige of privacy.

'We organised for her to have physio for her back. It meant she had to undress. The camera was over the bed. She asked if they would cover it during the treatment. They refused so she refused to have the treatment.'

Yulia was first held in jail in Kiev, before being transferred to Kharkiv.

Yevhenia says of the cameras in her mother's cell: 'Whenever she finds a spot where they can't see what she's doing, maybe where she can crouch down so she can't be seen, they put another one there.'

Yulia's family and supporters learnt there were six cameras keeping watch on her at all times.

'We appealed to the court and the penitentiary said, “Yes we know about these six cameras but the other three we don't know who put them there.” '

The authorities deny putting the footage in the public domain, yet it has been used by her opponents to suggest that Yulia's medical condition is not as bad as she has suggested.

Yevhenia is incensed by such doubts.

'This is outrageous. They're trying to say, “Look, here she is doing exercises, there is nothing drastic.”

I tell you what is drastic.

One guard showed her a hidden camera, above her shower.

So they always see her, even in the shower, the toilet, everywhere.'

After the footage went on YouTube, all the TV channels in Ukraine, which are owned by oligarchs linked to the president, began broadcasting it.

In another clip, Yulia bangs on a door.

Yevhenia says the release of the video proved to be a mistake by her mother's enemies.

She explains: 'She has the right to meet with her party colleagues every month. Before the elections it was very important but, when they arrived, the guards wouldn't let them in. So in protest she started banging. The people loved it, they said we see her spirit, she still has her strength and power to fight.'

Yanukoych won the election amid allegations of flagrant vote-rigging.

Yulia is determined to oppose the results, which were described by international observers as a 'backward step for democracy'.

Many countries have spoken out against Yanukovych's regime, but Britain has been markedly silent.

Yevhenia says: 'We're really trying to understand the position of the UK Government. Since her arrest my mother's political team have met so many people, so many prime ministers, presidents, from Spain, Greece, Italy, Germany, Sweden. They have all been so helpful.'

Maybe through this interview I could appeal to Prime Minister Cameron to meet Yanukovych or his foreign minister to talk about this.

'It would be a signal to the Ukrainian government that we cannot accept this violation of human rights, these election violations of everything democracy should stand for.

'We would really appreciate it if the Prime Minister would give this case attention and make his opinion public. That would really help us in our fight.'

The day after the October 29 election, Yulia announced she was going on hunger strike and has only had water since.

Yevhenia says: 'I went to see her and asked her to stop but she's determined. No one can talk her into giving up. 'For her it's the only thing she can do, to protest. She cannot talk, she cannot appeal, her voice is blocked.

She said, “You understand if I don't do it, people who voted for me, the democratic opposition, will be disillusioned. By me doing this I am showing them I will fight to the end for their rights.”

Sacrificing her freedom was one of the costs – really high costs – she paid for this.'

But Yevhenia has paid too. Her father, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, had to leave Ukraine before he was arrested and was granted asylum in the Czech Republic.

Educated at Rugby and the LSE, Yevhenia ran two restaurants in Ukraine but has rented them out so she can devote herself to the campaign.

She never takes a break and can reel off articles of the Human Rights Act the way others might talk about books or films.

She travels the world, lobbying for her mother, but insists she will never go into politics.

She's already lost too much to it.

'I try not to think deeply about this,' she says, her composure crumbling for a second.

'Because if I start then I will lose my hope, my power to go on. Our only dream is to have her back, for us to be left alone as a family. I want her to go back to being a mum, but she's always been, for as long as I can remember, fighting and choosing not easy roads.'

Each day Yevhenia dreads it might be the day her mother dies.

She says: 'Every morning I wake up with a feeling of horror. Until I – or somebody – goes to see her, that horror doesn't go away. '

At 12 o'clock, that's the earliest time we can see her. Until then, each morning, it's critical. She doesn't have any contact with us.

If something was to happen to her, nobody would notify us, they would probably try to cover their tracks.

'That is why I'm appealing to David Cameron for help.

'Britain has stood for justice for centuries. We always aspire to their standards, especially on human rights. We need their help to release not only my mother but all political prisoners in Ukraine. Because their lives are in danger.'

Source: Daily Mail