Thursday, February 28, 2013

Murder And Selective Use Of Justice In Ukraine (Part One)

KIEV, Ukraine -- On February 25, President Viktor Yanukovych arrived to a frosty reception in Brussels for a European Union–Ukraine summit, less than two weeks after Kiev’s Pechersky District Court launched investigatory proceedings into the 1996 murder of then Ukraine’s wealthiest oligarch, Yevhen Shcherban.

Yanukovych in Brussels on February 25th, 2013.

The prosecutor’s office alleges the CEO of United Energy Systems of Ukraine (YESU) Yulia Tymoshenko and Shcherban had “a conflict of business interests” related to the supply of natural gas and its price.

Tymoshenko and Pavlo Lazarenko then allegedly put into effect a “joint criminal intention” to eliminate Shcherban, whereby Lazarenko was to find the murderers, while Tymoshenko was to pay for the assassination.

Tymoshenko purportedly paid $2.329 million from her accounts, while Lazarenko allegedly paid another half a million dollars in cash.

The Shcherban murder opens up a Pandora’s Box from the 1990s that many in Ukraine’s political elite would prefer to remain closed.

If the opposition returns to power, it will arguably be able to use this precedent to open up murder investigations of other high-profile Ukrainians from the 1990s.

According to Ukrainian journalist Sergei Vysotsky, “Following Tymoshenko’s conviction, the entire Ukrainian oligarchy and political class will lose their legitimacy. They will be taken back in time twenty years”.

Re-opening only one murder case and investigating only the 2009 gas contract are both selective uses of justice.

Vysotsky believes observers “will be entitled to ask the question, why only Tymoshenko? Did no other current oligarchs and political leaders give bribes, misappropriate state property and order the removal of their competitors in the 1990s?”.

Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, also a victim of the authorities’ selective use of justice, gave details of how First Deputy Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin released two alleged heads of organized crime groups, Aleksandr Melnyk and Givi Nemsadze, the alleged head of the bloodiest organized crime gang in Ukraine active in the Donetsk region in the 1990s where, Lutsenko said, he was responsible for 57 murders.

Nemsadze was released from criminal liability by Kuzmin who claimed that not Givi but his deceased brother Guram had led the gang.

Journalist Tetyana Chornovil’s investigations found that Nemsadze was a business partner of Borys Kolesnikov, currently Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister.

The Tymoshenko murder charge will increase the already high 70-percent distrust in Ukraine’s judicial system and further undermine the country’s already poor rule of law.

The prosecutor’s office has been led by Donetsk loyalists Svyatoslav Piskun (2002–2003 and 2004–2005), Hennadiy Vasylyev (2003–2004), Oleksandr Medvedko (2005–2010) and Viktor Pshonka (since 2010).

Vasylyev, Pshonka and First Deputy Prosecutor Kuzmin held senior positions in the Donetsk prosecutor’s office in the 1990s when they failed to investigate a single high-profile murder.

Eastern European expert Hans Van Zon writes that Vasylyev was in office “during the gang wars in the province without managing to capture a single one of the assassins of the dozens of politicians and gang masters”.

In 2007, the United States Embassy wrote from Kiev that the prosecutor’s office was stalling the investigation into the (still unresolved) 2004 poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko because Kuzmin is “prone to politically-motivated comments about orange politicians”.

The “blackmail state” pressures individuals and collects corrupted evidence.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said that Tymoshenko’s name was never mentioned in the Shcherban investigation.

Moreover, Serhiy Taruta, one of three current heads of the Industrial Union of Donbas (ISD), noted that the gas dispute between ISD and YESU had been resolved by January 1996, eleven months before Shcherban was murdered.

Yevhen Shcherban’s son, Ruslan, who survived the assassination that killed his father and mother, never mentioned Tymoshenko or Lazarenko during the trial of Vadym Bolotskykh (pseudonym Vadyk Moskovych) who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 for the assassinations of Akhat Bragin (1995), Alexander Momot and Yevhen Shcherban (both 1996) — who, with Rinat Akhmetov, were co-owners of ISD.

Bolotskykh claimed he had undertaken these murders on behalf of Yevhen Kushnir who allegedly led an organized crime gang that reportedly was behind 27 murders and 17 attempted murders.

The prosecutor’s office claims Tymoshenko and Lazarenko hired Kushnir’s gang. 

“New evidence” has now come from three “witnesses,” who investigative reporter Chornovil found had long-term business relationships with Oleksandr Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president’s son.

Furthermore, Serhiy Zaytsev and Ihor Maryinkov had testified in previous criminal trials in the 1990s in Donetsk.

Criminal cases were closed against Zaytsev in exchange for providing the right kind of testimony, according to former Deputy Interior Minister Hennadiy Moskal.

Moskal claimed the third witness, Ruslan Shcherban, gave testimony under pressure because he had been with a group of hunters where there had been an accidental death.

Additional evidence comes from Petro Kirichenko who resides in the US and testified at Lazarenko’s trial.

In Ukraine there had been two criminal cases pending against Kirichenko and one against his spouse, Isabella.

Their three Ukrainian apartments and one office had been seized by authorities.

In September 2011, Isabella Kirichenko travelled to Ukraine to sell the apartments and was imprisoned for three months, followed by one month under house arrest, on charges of fraud and forgery.

In August 2012, the charges against Isabella Kirichenko were dropped after the prosecutor’s office obtained from her “evidence” against Lazarenko and Tymoshenko.

Kuzmin travelled to the United States in summer 2012 to collect further evidence without informing the US authorities and his visa has since been revoked.

Four questions remain unanswered:

Firstly, in relation to the Shcherban murder investigation, journalist Serhiy Kuzin asks why nobody has questioned law enforcement officers about how it was possible for, “a group of people to freely sneak into the airport dressed as airport workers and police, shoot the deputy and quietly escape from the crime scene?”.

Secondly, why have the murders of Bragin and Momot not been re-opened?

Thirdly, why is there no investigation of the suspicious deaths of Bolotskykh’s two accomplices in jail?

Fourthly, why has there been no investigation of the two failed assassination attempts on Akhmetov in 1994 and Lazarenko three weeks after he was appointed prime minister in May 1996?

Planning for, and execution of, the murder charge against Tymoshenko has been in motion since Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2010 — irrespective of the torrent of Western criticism of his government’s selective use of justice.

Tymoshenko’s probable sentence for murder (Ukrainian courts have an incredibly high conviction rate of 95 percent) could bring about US and EU sanctions.

Indeed, on the same day that investigative proceedings were launched in Ukraine, the US Senate began discussing sanctions against Ukrainian officials.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Ukraine Wields Natural Gas Trump Card In Brussels

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The EU and US see democratic deficits in Ukraine, but still hope to expand their energy partnership. Shale gas discoveries are fueling the change of heart.

A key question for Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych during his trip to Brussels on Monday (25.02.2013) for a European Union summit is how the Ukrainian justice system is dealing with opposition politicians.

The former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, continues to sit behind bars.

Her punishment was the source of heavy criticism at the last summit between the EU and Ukraine.

However, past EU-Ukrainian meetings have shown restraint on the issue, as in February when the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Füle, visited Kiev.

The EU, for example, is fully prepared to assist Ukraine in modernizing its gas pipelines.

A pilot project is already under way, with Deutsche Bank and Ferrostal, a manufacturer of processing plants, taking part.

Ukraine's natural gas 

Notwithstanding Ukraine's role as the major transport route for Russian natural gas to Europe, there's another Ukraine-related topic that appears to be of far greater interest to both parties.

It is related to supplies of shale gas under Ukrainian soil.

In order to reduce its dependence on Russian gas deliveries, Ukraine would like to develop its own gas industry with the help of western companies.

In January 2013, Kiev signed an agreement with Shell.

It is still in billion-dollar negotiations with energy giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

In Brussels, Kiev's plans have not gone unnoticed.

EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger told participants at the Munich Security Conference in early February that, some day, Ukraine could export its own gas to Europe.

The news was enthusiastically received at the conference, especially the idea of developing shale gas production.

The name 'Tymoshenko' was never uttered - at least not publicly.

Economic interest, despite criticism 

But the question is: Will the European Union do business with Ukraine in spite of the fact that the country imprisons opposition figures?

Ruprecht Polenz does not believe it.

The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament told DW that he sincerely hoped that the persecution of opposition leaders in Ukraine would end.

The special representative for energy issues in the US State Department, Carlos Pascual, told DW that Washington would not restrain its criticism just to do more business with Ukraine.

"The United States, Europe and the international community have very clearly expressed their concern about the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko and the condition of her health," the former US ambassador to Ukraine said, adding that this position would not change.

At the same time, however, Washington was interested in expanding its economic relations with Ukraine, Pascual said.

Walking a fine line on Ukraine 

The West is walking a fine line on Ukraine, says Roland Götz, a former energy expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.

"On the one hand, it wants increased cooperation and better ties, and on the other hand, no one is happy with the current political leadership in Ukraine or Russia because they are so authoritarian," notes Götz.

In his view, the strategies of western energy companies have nothing to do with the foreign policies of the West.

"Companies, like Shell, Chevron or Exxon, follow a long-term commercial strategy in which the domestic political climate in Ukraine has no importance" Götz said.

Will Brussels alter its strategy? 

Western companies would pursue economic cooperation agreements with Russia, even though political freedoms there are even more restricted than in Ukraine, emphasized Jonas Grätz, from the Center for Security Studies at Zurich's ETH technical university, in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

He does not believe that the United States and the EU are interested in pursuing a containment policy toward Ukraine, like they did toward the old Soviet Union.

The West has "a vital interest in keeping Ukraine independent," he said.

Grätz thinks that the EU is on the verge of changing its policy toward Ukraine because, so far, it has been unsuccessful with its threats not to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

Brussels could now exchange the 'stick' for the 'carrot', wagers Grätz.

The EU is hoping that it can make Ukraine "see the concrete advantages to cooperation and in doing so achieve political changes."

Source: Deutsche Welle

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tymoshenko Murder Case Is Disaster For Ukraine, EU Official Says

KIEV, Ukraine -- The murder charge against jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is a “political disaster” for Ukraine, a European Union official said.

Aleksander Kwasniewski

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on Tymoshenko’s conviction for abuse of office may come next month, according to Aleksander Kwasniewski, an ex-Polish president who monitors her situation on behalf of the European Parliament.

Ukraine should maintain her medical treatment for back pain and free her former colleague Yuriy Lutsenko from prison, he said.

“The new case against Tymoshenko is a political disaster,” Kwasniewski told a conference organized by investment bank Dragon Capital today in the capital, Kiev.

“Lutsenko’s case isn’t serious. Each day he’s in prison is bad for Ukraine’s image.”

The EU postponed an association and free-trade agreement with Ukraine indefinitely after Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 in a case the bloc deems politically motivated.

It’s given the country three months to carry out changes to its justice and electoral systems to seal the pact, which must be ratified by the European Parliament.

Prosecutors accused Tymoshenko last month of organizing the 1996 murder of lawmaker Evhen Shcherban.

Tymoshenko, who’s serving seven years in prison for signing a 2009 energy contract with Russia that officials say damaged Ukraine’s interests, appealed to the Strasbourg-based rights court after exhausting domestic avenues for appeal.

While she’s currently hospitalized, which is delaying the start of her murder trial, a Health Ministry commission said last week that she should be discharged.

She denies involvement in the murder.

Lutsenko, an interior minister in Tymoshenko’s government, should be released by mid-April to show Ukraine’s commitment to closer European integration, according to Kwasniewski.

President Viktor Yanukovych, who attended the EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels on Feb. 25, said he’ll respect the European Court of Human Rights’ decision on Tymoshenko, Kwasniewski said, urging the authorities not to “complicate her situation.”

Source: Bloomberg

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Protests In Ukraine As EU Gives May Ultimatum

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- EU leaders say visiting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has until May to show his nation has made progress towards political reform.

The carrot is a free trade deal which would move Kiev further out of Moscow’s orbit.

Back in Ukraine, thousands saw the Brussels summit as an occasion to take to the streets.

The EU says democracy has taken a backward step since Yanukovich came to power, the imprisonment of his main opponent Yiulia Tymoshenko being an illustrative example.

“The hypocrisy of the current regime is that they want their accounts abroad but they don’t want to stop repression in Ukraine. Europe is waiting for Ukraine, but for a Ukraine free from repression, a democratic and independent state” said one campaigner.

“It is impossible for Ukrainian criminal investigators to get at the highest levels of corruption. So instead, to bump up the number of convictions, they go for those who are more vulnerable” said Oleksandr Banchuk from the Centre for Political and Judicial Reforms.

After talks with Yanukovich in Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the EU authorities would need to see tangible progress, at the latest by May.

Ukraine must also choose between belonging to the EU’s free trade agreement or Moscow’s customs union.

Source: euronews

Democracy And Rule Of Law Central To U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Governments of the United States and Ukraine held the fifth meeting of the Political Dialogue / Rule of Law Working Group February 22 in Washington under the auspices of the bilateral Strategic Partnership Commission.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Thomas O. Melia.

The purpose of the Working Group is to discuss topics relevant to strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine as a core principle affirmed in the 2008 U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Charter.

The Working Group was co-chaired by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Thomas O. Melia, and Ukrainian Presidential Advisor for Judicial and Law Enforcement Reform Andriy Portnov.

Also participating was USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige E. Alexander, U.S. officials from the Department of Justice, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrii Olefirov, and Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, Oleksandr Motsyk.

Observers from civil society and non-governmental organizations also attended the meeting.

The United States congratulated Ukraine on adoption of a new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), and noted the importance of effective implementation and the need for comprehensive prosecutorial reform to strengthen the CPC by eliminating the general supervision powers of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

At the same time, the U.S. expressed concern over politically-motivated prosecutions and detention of former government officials, electoral fairness and the shortcomings identified by international observers in the October 2012 parliamentary elections, resolution of disputed results in five single-member districts, the extra-legal decision by the High Administrative Court of Ukraine to strip the mandates of two members of parliament, and continuing problems of freedom of assembly, pressure on the media, and respect for rights of LGBT individuals and other vulnerable minorities. 

During the meeting, Ukrainian officials raised the case of U.S. citizen Andrew Butler, who was adopted from Ukraine in 2003.

The Department will continue to work to ensure that Ukrainian officials have access to the information they require.

The Working Group meeting was preceded by a parallel, roundtable discussion on Ukraine’s 2013 OSCE Chairmanship and the Human Dimension hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The discussion was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia and Mr. Portnov with the participation representatives of U.S. and Ukrainian civil society organizations. 

Source: US Department of State

Monday, February 25, 2013

EU-Ukraine Summit

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The 16th EU-Ukraine Summit will take place in Brussels on 25 February. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, will represent the EU.

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle will also attend.

Ukraine will be represented by President Viktor Yanukovych. 

Summit Agenda 

The main focus of discussions at this summit is expected to be Ukraine’s reform agenda, linked to the possible signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which will also provide for the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

Leaders will discuss the following themes:

Political association, as envisaged in the initialled EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and in particular the concrete aspects as set out in the Council conclusions adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council of 10 December 2012.

Economic integration, notably trade questions and the establishment of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, the macro-economic situation in Ukraine and possibilities for EU macro-financial and financial assistance, energy issues as well as public finance management and administration reforms.

Mobility, including the latest developments regarding the implementation of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation and the ratification of the amending Visa Facilitation Agreement.

Regional and international issues in the context of Ukraine’s OSCE Chairmanship as well as the preparation of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November, relations with neighbouring countries.

EU-Ukraine Relations

The European Union and Ukraine share common borders, extensive economic and trade relations, and a common cultural, linguistic and historic heritage.

EU-Ukraine cooperation is built on a shared commitment to the rule of law, human rights, democratic principles and fundamental freedoms.

EU-Ukraine relations are based on the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) which entered into force in 1998.

The partnership aims to promote political dialogue, trade and investment as well as economic, social and cultural cooperation.

On 30 March 2012, an ambitious Association Agreement (AA), including provisions establishing a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), was initialed.

The AA is intended to provide a new legal framework for EU-Ukraine relations.

It is a concrete way to sustain positive dynamics in our relations, focusing on support to core reforms, on economic and political governance and cooperation across a range of sectors.

The AA with Ukraine will also be the first of a new generation of Association Agreements with Eastern Partnership countries.

The AA could be signed in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013, if determined action is taken and tangible progress made by Ukraine in three areas: the compliance of the 2012 parliamentary elections with international standards and follow-up actions, progress in addressing the issue of selective justice and preventing its recurrence, implementation of reforms defined in the jointly agreed Association Agenda.

EU assistance 

The European Union and its member states continue to be the largest donor to Ukraine: since 1991, assistance provided by the EU alone has amounted to over € 3 billion ($3.95 billion).

The European neighbourhood policy instrument allocates € 470 million ($619 million) to Ukraine for the years 2011 to 2013.

This goes to support action in three priority areas: good governance and the rule of law; facilitating the entry into force of the Association Agreement, and sustainable development, including energy and environment.

This amount includes funding under the Eastern Partnership for the comprehensive institution building programme (€ 43.37 million = $57.16 million)).

The latter is designed to improve the administrative capacity of partner countries and their compatibility with EU institutions, for instance through twinning programmes, professional training and secondment of personnel.

Trade relations 

The EU accounted for 29% of Ukraine’s external trade in 2011, being its second commercial partner (after Russia).

The EU-Ukraine trade relationship is dynamic: in the last ten years, bilateral trade grew by more than 160%, well above the average growth of EU trade with the rest of the world.

Investment flows from the EU to Ukraine have also shown remarkable growth, passing from € 14 billion ($19 billion) in 2008 to almost € 24 billion ($32 billion) in 2011.

In 2012, total trade between Ukraine and the EU was in excess of € 38 billion ($50 billion), including almost € 24 billion ($32 billion) of European exports to Ukraine and € 14.5 billion ($19.1 billion) of Ukrainian exports to Europe.

Food and drinks, raw material and machinery and vehicles represent the most significant Ukrainian exports to the EU market, while European exports to Ukraine consist mostly of machinery and vehicles, chemicals and other manufactured goods. 

The existing challenges in terms of competitiveness in the Ukrainian economy are reflected in the structural trade deficit it experiences with the EU, which has ranged over the past few years between € 5 billion ($6.6 billion) and € 10 billion ($13.2 billion).

Nonetheless, Ukraine has taken the right steps to address these challenges.

With the EU’s support, Ukraine joined the World Trade Organization in May 2008 and immediately launched negotiations for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).

Closer economic integration through the DCFTA will be a powerful stimulant to the country's economic growth.

As a core element of the Association Agreement, it will create business opportunities in Ukraine and will promote real economic modernisation and integration with the EU.

Higher standards, better service to citizens and, above all, Ukraine’s readiness to compete effectively in international markets should be the result of this process. 


Ukraine has an important strategic position in energy transit to the EU, both for gas and oil.

The major objectives for energy cooperation with Ukraine include: improved security for energy supplies and the development of sustainable and competitive energy markets in Ukraine.

An economically viable, sustainable, competitive and transparent energy market in Ukraine, conducive to foreign direct investments, would contribute to both objectives.

The EU is therefore promoting reforms of the Ukrainian gas market in accordance with EU rules and standards and the integration of Ukraine into the EU's internal energy market.

In this spirit, Ukraine also joined the Energy Community in February 2011, providing benefits in terms of needed investment into the energy sector, efficiency and supply diversification and thus security of supply.

The EU is also a key partner of Ukraine in the modernisation of its gas transit infrastructure.

During the EU-Ukraine Summit in December 2005, the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of energy.

Since then, the EU and Ukraine sign Progress Reports every year on energy cooperation.

The 7th progress report will be signed on the occasion of this summit.

Nuclear Safety 

The Euratom and Ukraine signed agreements in July 1999 on cooperation in the fields of nuclear safety and controlled thermonuclear fusion.

The Euratom-Ukraine Agreement for cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy entered into force on 1 September 2006.

Since the Chernobyl accident, the EU has been working continuously with Ukraine to improve nuclear safety and to deal with legacy of the disaster.

So far the EU has committed €580 million ($764 million) to Chernobyl-related projects, mainly for nuclear safety, but also to improve the living conditions of the local population and to reinforce research programmes.

In addition, the bilateral contributions from EU member states to the Chernobyl projects amount to €452 million ($596 million).


Justice and home affairs, especially mobility issues, have been key topics at previous EU-Ukraine summits and matters such as migration and asylum policies, border management, visas, the fight against international crime and terrorism, money laundering and human trafficking are regularly discussed.

An amended Visa Facilitation agreement with Ukraine was signed in July 2012 and will enter into force once the ratification process has been completed.

It will bring additional facilitations, for instance simplified lists of supporting documents will be required for certain categories of Ukrainian citizens; more persons will be eligible for multiple-entry long-term visas; obtaining multiple-entry visas will be facilitated and more categories of persons will be able to benefit from visa fee waivers.

An Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation (VLAP), setting out the conditions to be met before the possible establishment of a visa-free travel regime for Ukrainian citizens, is currently being implemented.

Eastern Partnership: Multilateral Cooperation 

Ukraine is a member of the EU's Eastern Partnership, its specific multilateral framework for the EU's Eastern neighbours.

It is based on a community of values and the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

In September 2011, the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw put forward several concrete ideas for enhancing existing relationships, notably by strengthening the role of civil society.

The Vilnius Summit in November 2013 will be another opportunity to demonstrate the EU’s commitment to the Eastern neighbourhood.

Security and Defence 

The EU and Ukraine collaborate on a number of foreign and security policy issues, including crisis management.

An example is Ukraine’s contribution to the Atalanta counter-piracy operation.

The EU and Ukraine also conduct regular dialogue on issues such as terrorism, non-proliferation and arms export control.

Thanks to the commitment made at the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw in 2011, Ukraine plays an important role in the EU’s reflection on how to foster cooperation with third countries in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy/Common Security and Defence Policy.

It is in the EU's interest to enhance the CFSP/CSDP cooperation with Ukraine.

The intensification of our dialogue and cooperation is also foreseen in the Association Agreement.

Ukraine plays a key role in the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict in the Republic of Moldova, notably with the Chairmanship in Office of the OCSE this year.

The EU and Ukraine have regular discussions on this subject, since both are members of the so called 5+2 settlement negotiation format.

Science and Technology 

In the EU's 2013 research work programme, Ukrainian entities are targeted, as part of the Eastern Partnership, for funding of up to €3 million ($3.95 million) for societal challenges, supporting policy dialogue and developing cooperation on innovation.

In addition, they are encouraged to participate in the research topic: ‘reinforcing cooperation with European Neighbourhood Policy countries: bridging the gap between research and innovation’ which aims to support the development of a common knowledge and innovation space between the EU and its eastern and southern neighbours.

This activity (budget €9.5 million = $12.5 million) will focus on bridging the gap between research and innovation by better aligning research objectives to socio-economic needs and improving performance in using knowledge resulting from research.

Source: Europa Press Release

Ukrainian Parliament Votes For EU Integration

KIEV, Ukraine -- Majority of Ukrainian MPs adopted a declaration of Ukraine's European aspirations and signing of the Association Agreement (AA) between Ukraine and the European Union.

The declaration is an integral part of the upcoming EU-Ukraine summit, which is to take place on Monday, February 25, in Brussels.

The adopted declaration affirms Ukraine's ambition to proceed with European integration.

According to the document, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian Parliament, will ensure implementation of recommendations of the EU Council and the European Parliament.

In the document the Verkhovna Rada calls for the European Union and its Member States to ensure the prompt signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU as soon as Ukraine demonstrates decisive actions and tangible progress in the areas identified in the conclusions of the EU Council, reported UNIAN.

Notably, the December 10, 2012, conclusions of the EU Council on Foreign Relations included the recommendations on the electoral, judicial and constitutional reforms in Ukraine.

In addition, Ukrainian Parliament requests the EU to ensure full and compulsory implementation of the agreement between Ukraine and the EU countries on a simplified procedure for issuing visas to Ukrainian citizens giving them the right to move freely within the EU.

The document also includes the request to provide adequate expertise and financial support to Ukraine in preparation for the implementation of the Association Agreement, especially while adapting the country's economy and the regulatory environment to operate in a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the EU.

Furthermore, Ukrainian Parliament called for the EU to look into the possibility of preliminary application of certain provisions of the AA regarding the creation of the free and comprehensive free trade area before the ratification process is completed by all EU Member States.

Importantly, the document was supported by 315 out of 349 MPs who were present at the Friday, February 22, parliamentary session.

About half of the votes - 150 - have been cast by the opposition parties of Batkivshchyna (83 votes), UDAR (34 votes) and Svoboda (33 votes).

The remainder of the 315 votes belonged to the ruling Party of Regions - 149, and MPs who didn't belong to any party - 16.

Source: PR Newswire

'DWTS' Karina Smirnoff - From Ukraine to the Valley

LOS ANGELES, USA -- Super hot Ukrainian dancer Karina Smirnoff just turned her "Dancing With the Stars" winnings into a brand new mansion ... in the San Fernando Valley -- which beats living under Soviet rule. Barely.

Karina Smirnoff

The season 13 champ -- who was born during Ukraine's U.S.S.R. days -- just dropped $1.35 million on a 6,350-square-foot crib in Woodland Hills, CA. 

According to docs, Karina took out a loan for $600,000 -- meaning she laid down some serious up-front cash.

The 5-bedroom, 5-bath pad is rockin' two-story vaulted ceilings, travertine floors, giant hanging chandeliers, huge spa-style tub and steam shower.

Take that, Communism!

Source: TMZ

Sunday, February 24, 2013

President Says Ukraine May Lease Its Gas Transit Pipeline In An Apparent Offer To Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signalled Friday that his country may lease its natural gas transit system to countries including Russia, in a move that is seen as reaching out to Moscow rather than the West.

Viktor Yanukovych with Russia's Vladimir Putin (L)

Speaking in a televised question-and-answer session, Yanukovych said that renting out the pipeline which carries Russian gas to Europe would provide funds to maintain the sprawling gas transit and storage system and ensure that Ukraine receives proceeds for pumping the gas.

"If the gas transit system brings money, Ukraine will have an opportunity to modernize this system and maintain it in a safe condition," Yanukovych said.

Disputes between Kiev and Moscow on gas prices and transit fees have caused disruptions in supplies several times in the past decade, leaving millions of Europeans with no heating in the dead of winter.

Ukraine, whose economy is in recession amid falling global demand for its main export, steel, has been lobbying Russia for a discount for its natural gas and Moscow has indicated that it may agree to a lower price in exchange for acquiring control over Ukrainian gas pipelines.

However, relinquishing some or all control over Ukraine's gas transit system will likely encounter fierce criticism from pro-Western opposition parties which see the pipelines as a symbol of Ukraine's independence.

Yanukovych also pledged not to raise household gas prices - a highly unpopular move which is a key condition to unlocking International Monetary Fund aid.

The statement indicated that Kiev is betting on stronger ties with Russia rather than fulfilling IMF austerity demands.

Source: The Canadian Press

Ukraine Joins NATO's Counter-Piracy Operation

KIEV, Ukraine -- NATO welcomed Ukraine’s decision on Friday to join its counter-piracy operation Ocean Shield, while Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Ukraine’s NATO membership was on track, but warned there was concern about Ukraine's use of "selective justice."

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“NATO and Ukraine are key security partners. For many years, Ukraine has been making substantial and very welcome contributions to all major NATO-led operations, including our engagement in Afghanistan,” said Rasmussen, who chaired a meeting of defense ministers in the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

The secretary general and Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev signed an exchange of letters confirming Ukraine’s intent to contribute a frigate and helicopter to NATO’s operation Ocean Shield, which fights piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Ukraine will contribute the frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, the flagship of the Ukrainian Navy.

“The exchange of letters serves to confirm Ukraine's offer and NATO's readiness to proceed to the last stage of technical certification, which is necessary to make sure that the Ukrainian contribution is capable of operating effectively with NATO vessels,” the NATO press service said in a statement on its website.

NATO said it provides significant support to Ukraine’s ongoing reforms of the defense and security sectors.

The ministers agreed on a set of priorities to guide cooperation over the next five years, including in training and exercises.

On the issue of Ukraine’s future membership, Rasmussen said NATO's decision that Georgia and Ukraine will eventually join the alliance "still stands."

“We fully respect the non-alignment policy, the non-bloc policy or whatever you might call it. That's for Ukraine to decide,” he said, adding, however, that there was "serious concern" about Ukraine's use of "selective justice."

NATO is committed to supporting Ukraine’s reform efforts, Rasmussen said.

“In particular, the determined implementation of reforms to reinforce democracy and the rule of law would benefit the people of Ukraine and the entire Euro-Atlantic community.”

Source: RIA Novosti

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ukraine's Government Introduces European Integration Priority Steps

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian government released its newly approved plan of 2013 priority measures regarding the European integration of the country.

The document provisions for the preparation of the Association Agreement signing and lists specifics of the development of Ukraine - EU cooperation in the areas of foreign affairs and security, justice, trade, and energy.

The first issue on the agenda for Ukraine is to intensify cooperation with member states and relevant institutions in order to facilitate the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU.

Currently, the Eastern European country ended the association talks with the Union, the parties finalized the text of the agreement, which is being translated into the 22 official languages of the EU (excluding English, the language of the original document) and into Ukrainian.

The nearest opportunity to further association would be the February 25, 2013, Ukraine - EU summit.

The next milestone meeting is scheduled for November 2013, when the Eastern Partnership summit will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Earlier, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, along with the foreign ministers of 13 EU countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, and Slovakia) stated their readiness to facilitate the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU no later than November 2013.

Additionally, the Ukrainian government further envisions its participation in European peacekeeping and security initiatives, including fighting piracy, states the plan of European integration priority measures for 2013.

The Eastern European country aims to join the EU tactical battle groups and continue cooperation with European defense institutions.

Cooperation in the field of justice will include guaranteeing compliance with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, cooperation with Europol and Eurojust, reforming public prosecution and defense, and conducting informal consultations with the EU regarding the reforms of the Ukrainian system of justice.

Ukraine also plans to facilitate public support of European integration.

Trade related issues include implementation of the 2012-2014 strategic framework for customs cooperation, which provides for safer trade and countering fraud.

Moreover, Ukraine wants to explore the possibility of joining the Europe-wide electricity transmission system ENTSO-E, as well as the European satellite navigation system EGNOS, and solicit the introduction of common airspace.

Source: Yahoo Finance

Yanukovych Acknowledges Prisoner Problem

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych, ahead of a key summit between Ukraine and the European Union, said he shares the EU’s concerns about political prisoners in Ukraine and understands the problem must be solved quickly.

Viktor Yanukovych

Yanukovych traveled to the Polish city of Wisla for a meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic ahead of the summit in Brussels.

The meeting was the last attempt by European leaders before the summit on February 25 to persuade Yanukovych to release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

The failure to do so may postpone indefinitely an agreement on political association and free trade between Ukraine and the EU, which Kiev hopes to sign at a summit in November.

"Touching the thorny question of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko I would like to once again to confirm: we are well aware that this issue should be addressed in the legal realm," Yanukovych said after the meeting.

The EU has repeatedly expressed serious concerns about the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko, Yanukovych’s political opponents, calling the cases examples of selective justice.

The failure to solve the problem of political prisoners has led to a de-facto boycott of Yanukovych in Europe with his traveling over the past year mostly limited to Asia and the Middle East.

Yanukovych’s remarks may be an early indication that he may have finally got the message.

"Sharing these concerns and anxiety that our friends have, we understand that finding solutions and compromises is one of the issues that must be solved soon," Yanukovych said.

Komorowski, along with other European leaders, has already tried to persuade – and received assurances from Yanukovych a year ago – that the problem will be solved. 

However, Tymoshenko, who was convicted to seven years in prison for pushing through a controversial 10-year gas supply contract with Russia in 2009, currently faces even greater pressure.

Prosecutors said earlier this year they will seek life in prison for Tymoshenko for allegedly ordering and paying for the murder of a prominent politician and businessman in 1996.

Tymoshenko, who owned a natural gas trading company in 1996, said the charges are politically motivated.

She denied having any connection to the murder of Yevhen Shcherban. 

Tymoshenko and Lutsenko remain to be the key obstacles on the way of Ukraine’s closer cooperation with the EU, including the singing of the political association and free trade agreement.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Ex-PM Tymoshenko Declared Fit For Prison Return

KIEV, Ukraine -- The health ministry in Ukraine has issued a statement saying former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is fit enough to leave a civilian hospital and return to prison.

Yulia Tymoshenko

She spent nine months undergoing back treatment.

Ukraine's health ministry announced on Friday that a medical commission "has concluded that the patient Y. Tymoshenko no longer needs further treatment or rehabilitation in hospital," apparently paving the way to return the opposition politician to a prison cell.

Yulia Tymoshenko was receiving treatment from Ukrainian and German doctors after leaving a Kharkiv prison in May last year with acute back pain stemming from a herniated disc.

The former prime minister, a key figure in Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" of 2004, was convicted of abuse of power in 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The court ruled that she had signed gas deals with Russia that disadvantaged Ukraine for personal gain; her legal team dismissed the charges as a government-backed attempt to sideline the political opposition.

Tymoshenko faces separate charges of fraud and tax evasion.

She was the main political rival to President Viktor Yanukovych for years.

Her imprisonment prompted criticism from the European Union, which is seeking a new political association and free trade deal with Ukraine.

An EU-Ukraine summit is set to take place next week debating the issue, with European leaders hinting at some of the sticking points ahead of time on Friday.

"Ukraine needs to implement some key reforms before the agreement can be signed, opening up a new era in our relations," EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso wrote in a joint editorial given to the German dpa news agency for publication.

"We are confident that in the coming summit … the Ukrainian leaders will show their determination to achieve these goals in time," the European duo said, adding that "the key is in Ukraine's hand."

Source: Deutsche Welle

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ukrainian Power Struggle: Tymoshenko Threatened With Life In Prison

BERLIN, Germany -- Yulia Tymoshenko is already serving a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of office during her term as Ukraine's prime minister.

Yulia Tymoshenko file photo

Now public prosecutors in Kiev are gearing up for a second trial that could extend Tymoshenko's sentence to life.

This time, the charge is murder.

The crime in question occurred so long ago that solving it would be difficult even in a country with a better functioning legal system than Ukraine.

In 1996, businessman Yevhen Shcherban was fatally shot at the airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Shcherban was a member of the country's parliament, but more importantly he was also one of the country's "bisnismeni" -- half entrepreneur, half mafia -- who made a fortune after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Shcherban worked in the gas trade and his company Industrial Union of Donbass made its profits importing gas from Russia.

In doing so, the public prosecutor's office argues, Shcherban became "one of the obstacles" to competing "bisnismeni" looking to expand their own interests in the city of Dnipropetrovsk.

Tymoshenko also comes from this city, which dominated the Ukrainian economy in the mid-1990s.

"Kiev may be the country's political capital, but its economic heart is in Dnipropetrovsk," the Financial Times wrote at the time.

Another businessman from this industrial center on the Dnieper River went on to become the country's prime minister during the same period, a man whose name is closely linked to Tymoshenko's in the prosecutors' charges: Pavlo Lazarenko. 

Transparency International named Lazarenko the eighth most corrupt political leader in the world and in 2006 a US federal court sentenced Lazarenko to nine years in prison for money laundering and extortion.

According to court files from that case, Lazarenko diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in Ukrainian public funds during his time in office, transferring the money to foreign bank accounts.

$3 Million for the 'Sailor' 

The natural gas business was considered particularly lucrative in Ukraine in the 1990s.

In 1995, Lazarenko wanted to award the monopoly in gas imports to Tymoshenko's company United Energy Systems.

In return, the prosecutors claim, Tymoshenko "systematically transferred 50 percent of all profits to bank accounts stipulated by Lazarenko."

Regional authorities in Donetsk, though, weren't willing to sit by and watch their rivals in Dnipropetrovsk edge them out of the lucrative gas business.

Instead, the regional government granted itself rights to gas imports in the region.

The company that benefitted from this arrangement was Shcherban's Industrial Union of Donbass.

Shcherban's Yak-40 aircraft landed in Donetsk on Nov, 3, 1996.

The businessman was returning from Moscow, where he had attended the silver wedding anniversary celebration of singer Joseph Kobzon, known as "Russia's Frank Sinatra."

The hired killers followed as Shcherban's red Cadillac drove onto the airfield and when Shcherban disembarked from the plane, they fired at him with a Tokarev pistol and a submachine gun.

Shcherban was fatally wounded, as were his wife and the flight mechanic.

Even for Ukraine, where at the time contract killings were not uncommon, it was a shockingly brutal crime.

A Shaky Case 

"He got in the way, so he was killed," says Renat Kuzmin, the country's first deputy prosecutor general and a powerful figure in Ukraine's legal system.

Prime Minister Lazarenko, he claims, hired the hit on Shcherban, while Tymoshenko paid the fee to a gangster known by the nickname "Sailor."

It is claimed that $3 million changed hands.

Prosecutor Kuzmin has a number of witnesses he says can prove Tymoshenko's involvement.

Serhiy Zaitsev, for example, claims Tymoshenko had received a threat:

One day, he says, someone brought a cake into her office bearing the inscription, "Greetings from Donetsk, the next time it will not be a cake."

In other words, the next time it might be a bomb.

Zaitsev says it was this that caused Tymoshenko to turn to Prime Minister Lazarenko, who set about "solving the Donetsk problem."

Another witness is Ihor Maryinkov, who was once "an important businessman in Donetsk with contacts to the criminal world," as he himself says.

Maryinkov admits that he never had anything to do with Lazarenko or Tymoshenko directly, but he claims those who carried out the hit confided in him that "Yulia was the one organizing it all."

Tymoshenko's lawyers want to know why Maryinkov is only now coming forward with his accusation, since he has appeared in court previously.

Maryinkov's answer is, "I don't know."

Tymoshenko's supporters are convinced current President Viktor Yanukovych is trying to frame Tymoshenko for the murder, to take his political rival out of the picture once and for all.

"If they could, they would shoot Tymoshenko," says the former prime minister's lawyer and confidant Serhiy Vlasenko.

The case against Tymoshenko is certainly a shaky one.

All witnesses named in the case so far have nothing more than rumors to draw on.

And proving the charge isn't made any easier by the fact that Shcherban's murderers themselves didn't live long either.

One was shot in 1997, another died in pre-trial detention and a third seems to have disappeared.

This means that the sole one of Shcherban's killers the authorities managed to catch alive plays a key role in the upcoming trial.

Hitman Vadim Bolotskikh, nicknamed "the Muscovite," was accused of firing shots at Shcherban and sentenced to life in prison.

Tymoshenko's lawyers fear the government will offer Bolotskikh early parole if he agrees to incriminate Tymoshenko.

Source: Spiegel

Ukraine Ex-Leader Rejects New Claims Over Journalist Murder

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma on Thursday described as a "provocation" new claims by prosecutors they had evidence implicating him in the murder of critical journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Years after Georgy Gongadze was killed, justice is still evasive. The journalist is seen here standing next to his wife, Myroslava, in a photo from 1995.

Kuchma compared the Ukrainian deputy prosecutor who made the claims to the Soviet prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky who was behind the arbitrary justice of Stalin's murderous 1930s purges.

Ukraine's deputy prosecutor general Renat Kuzmin had said there was now "enough evidence confirming Kuchma's involvement in" the murder of Gongadze in 2000, the country's most notorious post-Soviet crime.

"This is the umpteenth banal provocation," said Kuchma, who served as president from 1994 to 2005, told reporters in Kharkiv.

"I was reading a newspaper in the plane: there's a scientific theory that the souls of people who lived before get passed on to today's people," he said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

"Its seems that one of Stalin's henchmen like Vyshinsky got into the soul of our prosecutor. That's why we get this," he added.

Kuzmin had told Moscow Echo radio the day earlier that prosecutors were carrying out an investigation and collecting more possible evidence into Kuchma's alleged involvement.

The announcement surprised observers given that Kuchma was in 2011 charged with involvement in the murder but the case was then thrown out by a Kiev court when it went to trial.

"Kuzmin is in the process of ruining the image of the prosecutors and transforming them into a tool for intimidating society and creating an atmosphere of terror in Ukraine," said Kuchma.

Former senior interior ministry official Olexiy Pukach was sentenced to life in prison last month for strangling Gongadze to death but sensationally accused Kuchma and his former chief of staff Volodymyr Lytvyn in court after being convicted.

"The verdict will be clear to me only when Kuchma and Lytvyn are sitting next to me," Pukach said at the time.

Gongadze was the founder of the Ukrainska Pravda news site that is now one of Ukraine's loudest opposition media voices.

His supporters had long argued that the murder was ordered at a very high level. 

They point to tapes recorded by a former bodyguard of Kuchma and made public in 2000 where voices alleged to be of the former president and Lytvyn are heard speaking about eliminating Gongadze.

Kuchma has his roots in the Dnepropetrovsk region of central Ukraine, like jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who was an ally until they fell out after the Gongadze murder.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of power but is also accused by prosecutors of organising the 1996 murder of a deputy from the Donetsk region that is the stronghold of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Source: AFP

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ukraine Rejects Pre-Conditions For EU Deal

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Ukraine's top diplomat in Brussels says his country rejects any kind of pre-conditions for the signature of its Association Agreement with the EU ahead of the leadership summit to be held on Monday.

Ambassador Kostiantyn Yelisieiev

Ambassador Kostiantyn Yelisieiev's statement appears to be a response to Brussels' demands that Ukraine should respond to three conditions before the agreement could be signed.

Štefan Füle, commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, recently repeated in Kiev the three conditions for the signature, including judicial reforms. 

Yelisieiev said his country fails to understand why conditions are imposed on Ukraine.

He said, for example, that the United States is not being forced to abolish the death penalty before the EU moves forward in setting up a free trade area with its transatlantic partner.

“You try to treat Ukraine as an accession country,” Yelisieiev said, referring to the stringent requirements candidates must meet to become an EU member.

The Commission treats Ukraine as a neighbourhood partner outside the EU enlargement framework.

Nevertheless, the diplomat praised Füle and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for what he called their good understanding of his country’s situation. 

Yelisieiev sounded more critical towards individual member countries, which he said were holding back the progress of bilateral relations.

“Don’t neglect the pro-Russia lobby in the EU,” he said, without elaborating. 

‘Shame-and-blame’ policy 

Yelisieiev said the “shame-and-blame” policy promoted by such countries had failed, and that the EU had “understood the importance to engage in dialogue” with Kiev.

From December 2011 to December 2012, bilateral relations had been brought to a minimum.

But now, as the diplomat said, the dialogue has intensified and there was a “good climate” in relations.

The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is expected to be signed at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit in November, during the Lithuanian presidency of the EU.

Yelisieiev said that 2013 was a “make-or-break year” in EU-Ukraine relations, although he declined to comment what would be the fallout in the case of failure. 

Disappointment with EU’s ‘lack of solidarity’ 

The envoy told journalists his country was disappointed with “the very passive approach of Brussels” on issues relating to the gas supply from Russia and its transit through Ukrainian territory.

In particular, he expressed bitterness over the lack of response from Slovakia to pump back Russian gas to Ukraine, though he said Poland had agreed to sell Russian gas to Ukraine.

Despite additional transit taxes for re-routing Russian gas from Germany through Poland to Ukraine and a commission paid to German company RWE, the gas was 20% cheaper than Gazprom’s supplies to Kiev, he said.

Yelisieiev also expressed bitterness at the “failure to implement the solidarity principle” against South Stream, the Gazprom-favoured project to bring gas to Western Europe bypassing Ukraine, through an offshore pipeline under the Black Sea.

He blamed some EU countries for reportedly having requested an exemption for South Stream from the EU’s Third Energy Package.

Despite these setbacks, the Ukrainian ambassador conceded his country did not stay idle and several projects aimed at decreasing energy dependence from Russia were under way, including the development of shale gas. 

Regarding the $7 billion (€5.2-billion) bill his country was recently presented by Russia under a 'take-or-pay’ clause, according to which Ukraine has to disburse even if it hasn’t imported the gas, he also blamed the EU for having kept “silent”.

The Ukrainian ambassador also criticised EU countries for not applying in full the Third Energy Package, and also for the Commission allowing EU standards to be applied on an arbitrary basis.

“We would like to see the EU more pro-active, less shy,” Yelisieiev said.

Source: EurActiv

Ukraine Prosecutor Accuses Ex-President In Journalist Death

KIEV, Ukraine --A senior Ukrainian prosecutor has said he has evidence that the former president was involved in the killing of journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrives at the public prosecutor's office in Kiev, March 28, 2011.

Renat Kuzmin said the government had collected enough evidence to implicate Leonid Kuchma, who led the country between 1994 and 2005.

Mr Kuchma has always denied involvement in the journalist's murder.

Last month, a former police general was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime, which rocked the country.

The court in Kiev found that Olexiy Pukach had killed the journalist, then cut off his head.

Pukach confessed but said he had acted on the orders of former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, who has since died.

Pukach claimed that Mr Kuchma should also have been in the dock.

An attempt to prosecute Mr Kuchma for ordering the killing collapsed in December 2011.

The judge in that case ruled that secret audio recordings that apparently incriminated him could not be used as evidence as they had been obtained through "illegal means".

A few months before his death Georgy Gongadze founded the news website Ukrainskaya Pravda, which was sharply critical of the Kuchma presidency.

The decapitated body of the well-known investigative journalist was found outside Kiev after he disappeared in December 2000.

At the time his murder sparked protests against Mr Kuchma.

Source: BBC News

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tymoshenko Agrees To Attend Murder Trial

KIEV, Feb. 18 – Jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko officially asked prison authorities to take her to a murder trial in Kiev on Tuesday as court prepared to question a key witness.

Yulia Tymoshenko in file photo

Hours later, however, the court told prison authorities telling that the unnamed witness had gotten sick and would not attend the trial on Tuesday.

"This information was brought to the attention of [Tymoshenko],” the authorities reported in a statement.

“Due to this, there is no need for taking Tymoshenko [to Kiev].”

The developments underscore a major change in Tymoshenko’s defense tactic as she had earlier tried to distance herself from the trial by refusing to join it citing health reasons.

The judge at the Pecherskiy district court in Kiev last week even fined Tymoshenko the equivalent of $2,000 for refusing to attend the hearing.

Prosecutors accused Tymoshenko of plotting with others to order the murder of Yevhen Shcherban, a prominent politician and businessman, in 1996, a charge she had vehemently denied as politically motivated.

The request to be taken to the trial, which is heavily covered by Ukrainian media, shows that Tymoshenko has been seeking to use the occasion to attack President Viktor Yanukovych and his allies.

The developments come as political crisis has been growing with opposition lawmakers blocking Parliament for the past two weeks, postponing indefinitely approval of urgent economic and financial legislation drafted by the government. 

The European Union has warned Ukraine that the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and the perceived lack of reforms threaten deals on more trade and closer political ties. 

Attendance at the trial would give Tymoshenko access to media that she has been denied for most of the time she has spent behind bars since August 2011. 

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 for abusing power while on the post of the prime minister to push through a controversial 10-year natural gas agreement with Russia in January 2009.

She said the sentencing was politically motivated and ordered by Yanukovych, her biggest political rival, to remove her from politics.

Although the name of the witness to be questioned by the court was never disclosed, some media reports identified him as Volodymyr Shcherban, a former governor of the Donetsk region.

Volodmyr Shcherban has no relation to the murdered Yevhen Shcherban. 

Prosecutors will seek life imprisonment for Tymoshenko, who they claim has paid for the murder $2.8 million by making a wire banking transaction.

The transaction was made to accounts allegedly controlled by former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who prosecutors claim worked closely with Tymoshenko.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukraine Tycoon Pledges Fortune To Charity

KIEV, Ukraine -- Viktor Pinchuk, the Ukrainian metals and media tycoon who is the country's second-richest man, said on Tuesday that he would give at least half of his estimated $US3.7 billion fortune to charity.

Viktor Pinchuk

Pinchuk, 52, becomes the first national from ex-Soviet Ukraine to join the effort by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the world's richest people to share their wealth.

Pinchuk said he felt it was his duty to invest at least half of his fortune in education, healthcare and the arts.

"The post-Soviet transformation process was very painful for Ukaine and other countries in the region," Pinchuk was quoted as saying in a statement by his charitable foundation.

"Some of us had the chance to use the opportunities that arose to make our fortunes," Pinchuk said.

"It is time to give back, so that as many citizens as possible can benefit."

The initiative dubbed the Giving Pledge, announced in 2010, was launched by Microsoft founder Gates and investment guru Buffett who want to convince the richest people to give 50 per cent or more of their fortunes to charity.

Pinchuk did not say how much he would be committing to charity but the Ukraininan edition of Forbes magazine estimates his fortune at $US3.7 billion.

Pinchuk, a former Soviet engineer who built his fortune after the collapse of the USSR, is the former Soviet nation's second-richest man, according to the magazine.

A prominent patron of the arts, Pinchuk is married to the daughter of Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president between 1994 and 2005, and is a proponent of Ukraine joining the European Union.

In 2010, he became the first Ukrainian to join the list of 100 most influential people in the world put together by Time magazine.

A total of 105 people from nine countries have so far joined the Giving Pledge initiative including Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Star Wars director George Lucas and Ted Turner, the founder of the CNN news channel.

Source: news au

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Interview With Vogue Ukraine’s First Editor-In-Chief

KIEV, Ukraine -- For almost seven decades, Ukraine’s identity was stifled by the Soviet Union and even after its fall, was commonly referred to as “Little Russia.”

Masha Tsukanova

Yet slowly, Ukraine is making a name for itself in the fashion industry and garnering recognition for its innovative surge of creativity.

One measure of the country’s success is the September announcement that it would launch its own edition of Vogue, the magazine’s 20th.

The first issue of Vogue Ukraine, March 2013, hits newsstands this week.

We sat down with Vogue Ukraine editor-in-chief Masha Tsukanova for her first ever English-language interview about the magazine.

In the process we got a lesson in fashion history, and learned why Ukraine deserves not a red, but a gold star.

Fashionista: Can you describe your personal style a little bit? Every editor-in-chief–I’m thinking of your colleagues Emmanuelle Alt and Anna Dello Russo–seems to have a theme to her style. 

Masha Tsukanova: Unlike Anna dello Russo, I like convenient things.

These should be things I feel comfortable in for the whole day–like really comfortable trousers and some nice shirts.

Nothing extravagant, but just made of high quality materials.

If it is a sweater, it should be cashmere.

If it is a shirt, it should be silk.

If it is shoes, they should be really nice leather.

Because it is winter, I prefer something more practical like flat shoes.

It is really snowy and cold [in Ukraine] and you can’t wear heels because you don’t want to break your leg–you have to be a little bit more down to earth.

Fashionista: I read that you came from a “black and white” newspaper, how do you think that experience will influence you as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Ukraine?

I think we will think about facts thanks to my experience at a black and white newspaper.

This is something unusual for glossy magazines in Ukraine.

Everyone is so concentrated on the images that no one actually thinks about what is written behind them.

I would like to change this practice.

I hope that the experience which I gained from newspapers will help us not only promote the beauty but also the brains of Vogue Ukraine.

Fashionista: People often associate Ukraine with Russia. How is Vogue Ukraine going to create a separate identity from Vogue Russia? 

Well that is easy: we have our own news, our own shops, and our own designers.

Maybe we speak the same language sometimes and the magazine is going to be in the same language and we both came from the Soviet Union–but this is it.

We are very different and have nothing to do with Moscow–we have our own identities.

In terms of geography, Russia is really huge–it expands from the border of Ukraine to China which means that there are a lot of nationalities with a lot of different ethnical tastes.

Ukraine is much is smaller and much closer to mainland Europe.

Our tastes are more Western compared to Russia’s.

In Ukraine our styles are more calm, more relaxed while Russia’s styles are more aggressive, flashy, and statement-making.

Here we have a more understated and sophisticated look–maybe we are still not like those in France, but we are something in between France and Russia.

Fashionista: How was the fashion industry in the Soviet Union? 

We didn’t have any fashion in the Soviet Union; everything was planned.

The government decided how many trousers, shirts and skirts should be produced, in which color and in which fabrics.

People had absolutely no choice.

Everyone wore the same clothes or shoes and colors were the same and ugly.

You couldn’t express yourself with clothes.

It was simply impossible.

Fashionista: And post-Soviet Union? 

About 15 years ago after the fall of the Soviet Union, we started to have our first boutiques.

Six years ago we got our first luxury shopping street in Kiev.

Recently, for the last five years, the market has been rapidly developing.

New retailers are coming and brands have finally become interested in the country.

Five years ago, the trend was super-luxury.

Now we have become more sophisticated, and aren’t just interested in huge brands and famous names.

The audience is starting to become interested in the smaller, more sophisticated and lesser-known brands.

I think it is a high time for us to come to the market.

Fashionista: Ten years ago did you think Ukraine would ever have a Vogue? 

Talks about having Vogue in Ukraine have been around forever.

It was around eight years ago when I first heard about Conde Nast’s plans to come to Ukraine.

Every year, people from Conde Nast International were coming to Ukraine to investigate how the market was developing, to see the stores, to talk to retailers and advertising people.

Every time, they went back saying that Ukraine wasn’t ready.

When the final decision for Ukraine to have Vogue was made, we were really surprised.

We didn’t expect this endless negotiation to ever end.

Fashionista: Are you going to feature Ukrainian designers in Vogue Ukraine? 

Yes, we are going to put them in the editorials, shoot them in fashion stories and support them in all possible ways.

Fashionista: Do you think Ukrainian fashion has potential to influence trends internationally or in the US? 

Not at the moment but it could be a really fresh look at fashion.

We are probably not strong enough to influence the American market but we could really be interesting to some of the buyers, that is for sure.

Fashionista: What can you tell us about the first issue? What’s the feel like? 

There are going to be plenty of fashion stories.

There is going to be a glance at Ukrainian designers.

It is really a huge magazine; Ukraine hasn’t seen a magazine produced locally to such an extent as this one without syndication.

It will be very much focused on Ukraine because we need to introduce the country to our readers abroad.

Our local readers really expect a lot of Ukrainian content–they are tired of the magazines reprinting stories from American, French or Italian magazines.

It is going to be part glamour, part rock n’ roll, and part casual.

Fashionista: How is Vogue going to appeal to such a diverse range of people in Ukraine, given there is a huge divide between those in Kiev and those from more provincial villages.

Everyone has internet and everyone has mobile phones.

Somehow the cultural landscape is not so different between a person in Kiev and a person in Simferopol.

Everyone can go to and see the same material.

It doesn’t mean that those outside of Kiev have less information than those in the city.

Maybe at the moment they don’t have the fantastic shopping boutiques and fantastic shopping streets.

But that is going to come.

As for information, your ability to travel, see the world and learn about people–you are quite equal.

Also, Vogue is not just about buying stuff — it is about dreaming about things and a certain lifestyle.

Source: Fashionista

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ukraine: Chernobyl Nuclear Roof Collapse 'No Danger'

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine -- A section of the roof at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear plant has collapsed - but there has been no increase in radiation at the site, authorities say.

The roof that collapsed was installed after the 1986 nuclear disaster.

No-one was hurt when the roof over a turbine hall gave way under heavy snow.

The "sarcophagus" used to seal off the failed reactor was unaffected, officials said, but around 80 construction workers were moved away.

The 1986 explosion and reactor meltdown at Chernobyl was the world's worst-ever nuclear accident.

Correspondents say the roof collapse will revive concerns about the condition of the defunct power plant.

"There are no changes in the radiation situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant or in the exclusion zone," Chernobyl's administrators said in a statement.

'Stay calm' 

The affected area was about 50m (165 feet) away from the sarcophagus built to contain leaking radiation from the exploded reactor, Chernobyl spokeswoman Maya Rudenko told the Associated Press.

"Everyone should stay calm," Ms Rudenko said.

"Yes it is unpleasant, but there is no danger."

A huge new containment structure is currently being built to slide over the reactor, amid concerns about the long-term viability of the existing encasement.

The concrete shell is being built by French construction companies and funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as other donors.

After the roof collapse, two firms, Vinci and Bouygues, moved their workers away from the site as a precaution.

The explosion at Chernobyl's number four reactor in 1986 - when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union - sent a huge plume of radiation across Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in Ukraine, western Russia and Belarus.

The number of people who died because of the accident remains controversial, but thousands are thought to be at higher risk of cancer as a result of exposure to radiation.

The area around the plant is heavily contaminated and a 30km (19 mile) exclusion zone is in force.

Source: BBC News

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ukraine: Breakthrough For Cancer Pain

NEW YORK, USA -- Ukraine’s recent registration of oral morphine, a strong pain medication used most frequently to treat severe cancer pain, is a major step toward improving end-of-life care, Human Rights Watch said today.

Vlad Zhukovsky, a cancer patient, in his bed.

The registration, on February 1, 2013, will allow Interchem, a Ukrainian pharmaceutical company in Odessa, to begin production of 5mg and 10mg morphine tablets.
The medications are expected to enter the market by March 2013.

“This is good news for cancer patients in Ukraine,” said Diederik Lohman, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“This change can bring relief to tens of thousands of Ukrainians who live and die in avoidable severe pain.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has considered oral morphine an essential pain medication since 1977.

The medicine is also the cornerstone of its treatment guideline for cancer pain.

Yet, today, only an injectable form of morphine is available in Ukraine’s public healthcare system.

The producer of injectable morphine currently holds a monopoly on the medication.

Analgesic patches are also available in some pharmacies, but patients must pay for them out-of-pocket and their cost is prohibitive for most.

In a May 2011 report, “Uncontrolled Pain, Ukraine’s Obligation to Ensure Evidence-Based Palliative Care,” Human Rights Watch concluded that tens of thousands of cancer patients in Ukraine die every year in severe pain because they cannot get adequate palliative care services.

Human Rights Watch found that some patients contemplated or attempted to commit suicide because their suffering was unbearable.

According to WHO, most, if not all, cancer pain can be relieved with existing medical treatments.

The report identified the lack of oral morphine as a key obstacle to the provision of quality end-of-life care in the country and recommended its introduction throughout the public healthcare system.

“Now that oral morphine will become available, the government will need to make sure that doctors are trained in its use, and that public clinics have budget allocations to procure the medication,” Lohman said.

Ukraine’s drug control regulations and inadequate training of healthcare workers in end-of-life care were on-going obstacles to palliative care, Human Rights Watch found, urging the government to address these issues as a part of a comprehensive palliative care strategy.

A working group convened by the National Drug Control Service has drafted new drug control regulations that would remove many barriers to the use of strong pain medicines, such as morphine.

Ukraine’s new government, which was appointed December 24, 2012, is considering the draft regulations.

“The adoption of the new drug control regulations would provide another major step,” Lohman said.

“It would signal the government’s commitment to ensuring no patient has to suffer unnecessarily from severe pain.”

Source: Human Rights Watch

Ukraine's Police Open Criminal Case Over Lenin Statue Dismantling

KIEV, Ukraine -- Police in Ukraine have opened a criminal case against nationalist activists who dismantled a statue of Bolshevik revolution leader Vladimir Lenin in the country’s Sumy Region, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

Vladimir Lenin in his office in the Kremlin in 1918.

A group of the nationalist Liberty party activists, led by its head and Supreme Rada deputy Ihor Miroshnichenko, on Friday dismantled the Lenin statue in the town of Akhtyrka.

“There is no place for Communist symbols and ideology in European Ukraine and if the authorities cannot get rid of them, we will do it ourselves,” Miroshnichenko said.

According to police, Miroshnichenko climbed the statue and put a rope around Lenin’s figure, which was then pulled down by a truck.

Police detained the activists who face charges of hooliganism.

It's been more than twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but scores of Lenin statues can be found in former Soviet republics.

Source: RIA Novosti

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Russian President Putin Assassination Plotter Osmayev On Trial In Ukraine Went To Wycliffe College in Stroud, Gloucestershire

LONDON, England -- If it came up in the pages of a John Le Carre novel, it might be dismissed as being a twist too far – but a former pupil of one of the region's top public schools is on trial for allegedly plotting to blow up the Russian president.

Adam Osmayev

Adam Osmayev, 32, who is accused of being involved in a bizarre plot to kill Vladimir Putin, attended the sixth form of Wycliffe College in Stonehouse, near Stroud, for a couple of years more than a decade ago, his guardian at the time, Robert Workman, confirmed yesterday.

Britain's top public schools were fertile recruiting grounds for MI5 and MI6 during the Cold War.

But even in the most fevered imagination of a fiction writer, it is unlikely any schoolboy plot to kill the Soviet president would have seen the light of day in print. 

But truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction and Osmayev is currently appearing in court in Odessa, in southern Ukraine.

The allegation he faces is that he planned to detonate a homemade bomb next to Putin's motorcade as it was driven through Moscow.

Lawyers for Chechen-born Osmayev have however claimed Russian and Ukrainian security services have fabricated the prosecution.

Mr Osmayev has managed to avoid extradition to Russia, but is nevertheless facing the grim prospect of a 15-year prison sentence if found guilty by the Ukranian court.

Retired Mr Workman acted as guardian to 130 Wycliffe students during a 13-year period.

He and his wife's role for the fee-paying public day and boarding school was to provide a home for students unable to return to their families during half-terms and holidays.

"I am amazed he is still alive, to be honest," Mr Workman said.

"We hadn't heard of him for ages. It's extraordinary to think of him facing such charges."

Mr Workman said he clearly remembered his wife asking the teenage Osmayev at the dinner table what he wanted to do when he was grown up.

"He said: 'I want to be president'," recalled Mr Workman.

"My wife thought he perhaps meant president of a company in industry. But he said 'no, president of Chechnya'."

Mr Workman added that on another occasion, Osmayev hired a limousine when his family visited him in the UK.

"He drove it from Heathrow to Stroud and it bottomed-out on a bridge," said Mr Workman, who lives near Stroud.

Other notable Old Wycliffians include BBC newsreader Charlie Stayt and Gloucestershire cricketer Alex Gidman.

Source: The Citizen

Sudan Wants To Buy Five Antonovs From Ukraine - Minister

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan is in talks with Ukraine to buy five Antonov planes, its transport minister said on Wednesday, seeking to work around U.S. trade sanctions that have devastated its air fleet.

Made in Ukraine An-158

Sudan Airways, one of Africa's oldest airlines and which used to fly across the continent and as far away as London and Frankfurt, is a shadow of its former self.

Largely shut off from the airline industry due to a U.S. trade embargo, Sudan Airways is down to less than 10 Airbus, Boeing and Fokker aircraft - most of them were bought second-hand, some more than 15 years ago.

To end the daily struggle to find a maintenance firm willing to ignore the embargo and sell Airbus and Boeing spare parts for a hefty premium, Sudan Airways wants to use Ukrainian-made Antonovs in the future.

The government signed with a preliminary deal with Ukraine to buy five Antonov planes choosing An-158 and An-148 models, transport minister Ahmed Babiker Nahar said after visiting Kiev last week.

Sudan hopes to finance the planes with a loan from Antonov, he said.

Kiev-based Antonov confirmed talks with Sudan.

"A contract about delivering planes has not been signed yet. Talks are going on," a spokeswoman said, adding that the question of financing the deal was still being discussed.

While Airbus and Boeing refuse to deal with Sudan to avoid upsetting U.S. authorities due to their large U.S. business, Antonov has been long delivering planes to Sudan.

The Sudanese army and the government's fleet operation have Antonovs, several of which have been involved in recent crashes.

A military Antonov An-12 crashed near the capital Khartoum in October, killing 13 people.

A government minister and 31 other people died when an Antonov An-26 went down in bad weather in mountains in South Kordofan state in August.

"The new models have a very high standard and their safety is very good," Nahar said.

He said the deal, which would be probably finalised during the visit of an Ukrainian delegation in March, would involve a maintenance arrangement with an Antonov workshop in Khartoum.

The minister gave no details on the value of the deal, saying only that part of it would be probably be funded by a loan.

Sudan struggles with a budget crisis after losing most oil production, the biggest source for state income, to South Sudan when it became independent in 2011. 

Source: Yahoo News

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Faces Turbulent Murder Trial

BUDAPEST, Hungary -— Jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is facing a trial on murder charges. Proceedings continued Thursday after she was fined for refusing to appear at the Kiev court while riot police pushed protesters out of the courtroom.

Former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in file photo.

The trial resumed after police dressed in full riot gear stormed the courtroom and pushed out deputies of her party.

The legislators are furious at what they view as a political trial against the opposition leader, who already is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of power.

Unmoved by the protests, the judge at Kiev's Pechera District Court fined Tymoshenko the equivalent of $2,000 for refusing to attend the hearing into the killing of a Ukrainian parliamentarian more than 16 years ago.

Public prosecutor Ihor Pushkar defended the punishment.

He said Tymoshenko "released a statement in the afternoon saying she wished to be brought to court."

But, the prosecutor added, "This was clearly an attempt to delay the trial and manipulate public opinion.”

Yet her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, told reporters that his client wanted to face the court.

The lawyer explained that “Yulia Tymoshenko stated both verbally and in written form that she demands to be present at the hearing."

But, he said, authorities "are afraid of Tymoshenko appearing in public. They are afraid she will discredit their witnesses.”

Last month, Ukraine's prosecutor-general said Tymoshenko was a suspect in the murder of Yevhen Shcherban at an airport in eastern Ukraine in 1996.

There is controversy, however, over a key witness asked to testify in the trial. 

Journalists said they were unable to hear his name and that the man acknowledged his information came from other sources.

This is not the only trial faced by Tymoshenko, who has been treated for serious back pain in a prison hospital.

On Tuesday, separate tax evasion proceedings against her were postponed again after she did not appear in court.

Tymoshenko claims the charges are politically motivated and an attempt by the president and government to stifle the opposition, a view shared by the European Union, the United States and human rights groups.

This week, her former acting defense minister, Valery Ivashchenko, was reportedly granted political asylum in Denmark amid concerns he could be jailed again on controversial charges of financial wrongdoing.

Last year, Tymoshenko's husband, Oleksander Tymoshenko, received political asylum in the Czech Republic.

The European Union has already warned Ukraine that the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and the perceived lack of reforms threaten deals on more trade and closer political ties.

Ukraine's leadership has strongly denied wrongdoing in Tymoshenko's case, saying courts are independent.

Source: Voice of America