Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mormon Family Nearly Doubles In Size: 5 Adopted Sisters From Ukraine

HERRIMAN, USA -- Dave and Lee-Ann Luke had made it — at least in the eyes of the world. They were financially sound, had five children out of diapers and were on their home stretch to becoming empty nesters.


The Luke family in 2011 includes five sisters adopted from the Ukraine.

With Krista, 21; Davie, 19; Spencer, 17; Ruthie, 13; and Zane, 9, many would say the Lukes had done their part.

But one night in 2005, while the couple was walking up the stairs of their Arizona home, they realized something might be missing.

"Dave and I were going to bed when he made the comment as he was turning the lights off," Lee-Ann Luke recalled.

"He said, 'You know, when we go to bed at night, we leave half of this house empty. I think one day we're going to be accountable for that."

Now, more than seven years later, the Luke family has become even closer after battling more than they could have imagined in order to complete their family.

The family of seven nearly doubled in size after the adoption of five sisters and one young boy from Ukraine.

Making the choice to adopt 

When Dave Luke first made the comment to his wife about empty rooms, she wasn't sure what he meant, but quickly became interested in the idea of adoption.

The decision seemed right, so the Luke family began to look into adoptions both in the United States and internationally.

After completing a "home study," they found a young girl in Kazakhstan who they were prepared to adopt.

The Lukes bought clothes and got a room ready for their daughter-to-be as they waited for Christmas to come, which was when they were told they could bring her home.

But one night an email came and the Lukes found out their little girl had been adopted by another family.

"It was pretty heartbreaking when we lost her," Lee-Ann Luke said.

"I just kind of shut the door to her room, like that was it for me. But then the rest of my kids said, 'No, Mom. If you felt like you were supposed to adopt, then you still need to do it.'"

So they began the process over again, this time learning about a young boy in Ukraine.

But after talking with the adoption agency, the Lukes found out it would be several months before the boy was eligible for adoption.

"My husband said, 'Well, couldn't we go sooner?' and they said, 'Well, if you want to adopt five girls you could go tomorrow.'

We just kind of all laughed about it, so we hung up the phone," Luke said.

"My husband said, 'Well, who's going to adopt five girls?'

And I said, 'Probably nobody,' and he said, 'We should.' I said OK and that was it — we phoned the adoption agency back and said we'd take the five girls."

The journey to keep them together 

Once they made the decision, the Lukes acted quickly to adopt the five Ukrainian sisters: Ana, 10; Ellen, 9; Katherine, 8; Nadia, 5; and Julie, 4.

Because their paperwork had been completed for only up to two adoptions, Dave Luke spent the next day waiting for a chance to change their paperwork to allow five adoptions.

With no appointment having been made, Dave Luke was forced to wait the entire day for an opening.

"He felt like we had to go right away, that we should hurry to go get these girls," Lee-Ann Luke said.

"That's why he was trying to push everything as fast as he could."

The paperwork was completed on a Thursday, and the Lukes bought their plane ticket to Ukraine on a Friday.

Saturday, they were on a plane.

"Monday morning we went to the agency for adoption in Ukraine, and they said, 'Do you have an appointment?' We said, 'No.' We didn't know we were supposed to have an appointment, we were just showing up to get these girls, and we didn't know how."

Eventually they were taken to the orphanage where the sisters lived.

"You just saw all these little faces, pushing on the glass," Luke said.

"They were so excited to see you coming. They knew that somebody was going to get a mommy and daddy, and they all wanted it to be them. If we hadn't already been adopting five, it would have been super difficult — we knew that five was the max that we could do."

After arriving, the Lukes soon found out that was the last day the orphanage was going to allow the sisters to stay together.

Because they had been in the orphanage for two years, with no adoption offers, they had made the decision to allow the girls to be split up.

Several people had already shown interest in adopting the girls separately.

"If we hadn't shown up on that day, we couldn't have had the girls," Luke said.

"The fact that Dave wanted to hurry was really good."

The Lukes were grateful they made it to Ukraine in time to adopt all five sisters. But having planned on only one or two adoptions, finances quickly became a problem.

The cost was more than $100,000 to adobt the five sisters.

Once their finances were in order, the Lukes met their new children.

"We were down on the floor, and they all came running in," Luke said.

"Dave scooped these girls up into his arms and he said, 'Aren't they beautiful?'”

His statement was heartfelt, Luke expressed.

The girls had not been living in the best conditions, yet her husband immediately expressed his love for them.

"They didn't get clean clothes. They stunk. Their hair was short. Nadia and Julie had scabies and they'd had lice," Luke said.

"They'd never had a tooth brush or toothpaste. Shampoo, combs, anything like that they'd never had. ... But they were just beautiful to him."

During the adoption process, the Lukes had to remain in Ukraine until everything was finalized.

"Luckily, Dave was in a job where he could just take off," Luke said.

"It was a long process. There were no hotels or stores, or anything like that — which actually turned out to be a good thing because we ended up just living at the orphanage with the girls. We ate what they ate, so we knew how terrible it was." 

Fighting for the adoption 

But in trying to adopt the five siblings, the Lukes say they were under constant scrutiny from those at the orphanage and the adoption agency. 

"They were very anti-American, so through the whole process they were very suspicious about what was going on," Luke said.

"Nobody in Ukraine even has five kids, and we already had five kids, so they wondered, 'Why would you have 10?'"

According to the Lukes, others tried to stop the adoption process for their own reasons.

A group from Italy had sponsored Ana to visit them every summer and did not want the Lukes to adopt her.

After forcing the orphanage director to give them the paperwork, the adoption process finally began.

Eventually, the Lukes ended up in a court hearing where the judge made the final decision on whether the adoption could take place, and how long the waiting process would be.

"It was a really serious, hard battle," Luke said.

"I got bacterial pneumonia and was really sick. I just wanted to go home, but we had to keep on going."

With Christmas approaching, the eager mother hoped and prayed for the minimal two-week waiting period.

"My husband wasn't at his job, and he's 100 percent commission, so he's not making any money," Luke said.

"Plus I was concerned for my kids who were being babysat by friends and relatives back home."

Before the hearing, each of the sisters were required to write letters stating they wanted to be adopted.

If each of them didn't agree, the adoption would not be permitted.

When they entered the courtroom, they sat across the room from the Lukes.

Each girl was asked to stand and asked if she wanted to leave everything she knew and all of her friends at the orphanage to go with these strangers.

"The girls got up and said, 'We don't have any friends there, and yes, we want to go with these people,'" Luke said.

"They had to be these brave little soldiers in front of all these people."

The judge then turned to the Lukes to make their statement about why they wanted to adopt the girls.

"They asked me questions, but they didn't want to hear from me, they wanted to hear from Dave," Luke said.

"They said to him, 'We heard you're Mormons; what does that mean? The girls have been baptized in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, so are you going to make them go to your church?'"

Luke expressed that she didn't expect such a question and was concerned that their answer would be viewed as disrespectful.

"People don't know about Americans very well over there, let alone Mormons. So I was thinking, 'OK, Dave. If you've ever lied in your life, tell the judge whatever she wants to hear.'"

Knowing how strong the Ukrainian people were in their beliefs, Luke simply wanted to take her new daughters home.

But just then, Dave Luke began to explain what it means to be a Mormon — the importance of the family and many of the church's beliefs.

It was then that he said, "Of course we're going to expect the girls to go to church with us. They're part of our family, and we go to church."

"I was just dying," Lee-Ann Luke said.

"I was thinking, 'Oh we are in such big trouble because they are not going to want to hear about these arrogant Americans.' ... But all of a sudden, it was like the floodgates opened and you could feel every prayer and blessing coming across from America. The room literally glowed — you could just feel a light come into the room, the faces on the people softened. I just knew what he was saying was the right thing."

A couple of hours later, the judge came back and read the adoption declaration.

The Lukes waited for their interpreter to turn to them and translate the decision:

"They're yours! The girls are yours!"

Five new sisters for the new year 

Once the decision was made, the Lukes only had to wait an additional two weeks before they could bring the girls home.

Christmas was coming, so Lee-Ann Luke traveled home to be with their other five children while Dave stayed with the five girls until they were allowed to leave the country.

Once at home, Luke began to make preparations for the girls, with the support of her children.

"My birth kids were extremely accepting, which was just incredible," Luke said.

"Ruthie had long blonde hair, and when she found out that the girls' hair was really short, she cut her hair off really short and donated it. She wanted the girls to feel like they fit in with her."

The youngest of her children, Zane, was willing to give up his cowboy-designed room for his five new sisters.

The room was decorated as a blue princess room, and Zane's bed was moved into his dad's study.

Members of the Lukes' local LDS congregation gathered clothes and other items in order to prepare for the girls' arrival.

It was Dec. 31, 2005, when Dave Luke returned home with his five new daughters. 

"The faith that these girls had to have was incredible," Luke said.

"They had to trust these complete strangers who don't even speak their language, who come from a different country — and they're supposed to get on a plane and go away from everything they knew, and trust us. They had a belief in God, even though they didn't go to church; they knew Heavenly Father was preparing them for this."

The change was very drastic for the sisters, who never had access to toilets that flush or showers.

Luke was quick to learn that her ideas were not always what the girls were most comfortable with.

When the girls finally came to the Lukes' home, Lee-Ann Luke had made arrangements for only two girls to be in each bedroom.

"I thought they would be thrilled just to have two of them sharing a room, to have these new beds and new stuff," Luke said.

"But the first night I went in and they were all in one bed together and wanted to sleep together. They were more comfortable being with each other."

As far as adapting to the English language, Luke said it was only about two months before they were speaking fluently.

While American food was not their favorite, their eyes lit up after seeing the produce section of a grocery store.

But it was after tucking her new daughters into bed for the first few nights that Luke realized how amazed her daughters were at fresh food.

"I would go tuck them in at night, and kiss them good night, and their pillowcases would be packed with food," Luke said.

"They brought food from downstairs and put it in their pillowcases because they just didn't believe that it would be there the next day."

Although the adoption — and continual financial demands — tightened the Lukes' budget, it has never been something they have regretted.

"The financial hardship was really rough — there's no question about it. We weren't millionaires. We ended up having to sell our house to pay for the adoption," Luke said.

"But when Heavenly Father asks you to do something, it's easier to do it than to not do it, and have to explain to him why you didn't."

The love the Lukes have felt for their adopted children has never deviated from their feelings for the rest of their kids.

"Dave and I personally have never felt difference between, 'These are my adopted kids and these are our birth kids.' They are all our kids," Luke said.

"I always tell the ones that are adopted that they are just as much a part of our family as the ones that I gave birth to. They were all meant to be with us, just some of them were delivered in a different way. They were always meant to be my children. I don't know why somebody else had to give birth to them." 

Sealed to five new daughters 

Before returning to the United States, the Lukes introduced Ana, Ellen and Katherine to the LDS Church through the sister missionaries in Ukraine.

The girls learned the basic principles of the church in their native language before leaving to America, where they finished their gospel-oriented lessons.

"We wanted them to know that the religion wasn't just an American religion, but international," Luke said.

Once arriving in America, the girls attended church with the Lukes and were welcomed by the ward.

Lee-Ann Luke's father flew down to visit with his new granddaughters.

His parents were originally from Ukraine and he could speak with the sisters fluently.

Ana, Ellen and Katherine were preparing for baptism and the baptismal interview.

Although Luke's father is not a member of the LDS Church, he attended each interview in order to help interpret for them.

"It was a huge help to have him be a part of it, and to be able to have him tell me what they were thinking," Luke said.

In February 2006, the three eldest sisters were baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Just a few days later, the Lukes joined with their five birth children and five adopted children to be sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple.

"They're part of our forever family," Luke said.

"They know they are adopted. We talk about their adoption all the time, but how we feel that they're a part of our family — it's all the same. It's how our birth kids feel, too. They are their brothers and sisters."

Source: Deseret News

Saturday, June 29, 2013

No More Gas For Ukraine’s Underground Storages – Gazprom CEO

MOSCOW, Russia -- In another episode of the gas row between Russia and Ukraine, Gazprom's head said the country would in no event pump its gas to Ukraine's underground storage facilities.


Chairman of Gazprom's Management Committee Alexei Miller.

Nor will it effect advance payments for gas transit.

“Gazprom has the experience of pumping gas into Ukraine’s underground storage facilities, which is exceptionally negative,” Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller told Friday's general shareholders meeting.

“We have pledged our word not to do that, that is why we are not interested in the idea of creating a gas hub in Ukraine,” he added.

This comes at a time when Ukraine underground storages have less than half of the gas needed to provide regular supplies to Europe.

Now Ukraine storages have about 7.5 billion cubic meters of gas, while 19 billion is needed.

Should Ukraine do nothing to cover the shortfall, this’ll create significant risks to gas supplies to Europe during the coming winter, according to Miller.

The Gazprom head also said his company wouldn’t prepay Naftogaz for gas transits through Ukraine anymore.

“We allowed the last prepayment of a billion dollars, which will last till January 1, 2015. We won’t prepay transit anymore,” Alexey Miller warned.

Advanced payments, which the Russian producer and exporter of natural gas OAO Gazprom made to the Ukrainian oil and gas monopoly Naftogaz Ukrainy Wednesday, are sufficient for paying up the transits of gas via the Ukrainian territory until the commissioning of the South Stream pipeline, Gazprom said in a press release.

Commissioning the South Stream will divert certain amounts of gas that is currently transported via Ukraine.

Wednesday, Gazprom took a decision to make an advanced payment of $ 1 billion to Naftogaz Ukrainy for the transits, bringing the combined advanced payments to $ 5.15 billion.

Source: Russia Today

Fitch Revises Ukraine's Outlook To Negative

LONDON, England -- Fitch Ratings has affirmed Ukraine's Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at 'B' and has revised the Outlooks on the ratings to Negative from Stable.


The short-term IDR is affirmed at 'B' and the Country Ceiling at 'B'.

KEY RATING DRIVERS 

The revision of the Outlook to Negative from Stable reflects an increasingly fragile external financing position, the likelihood that international reserves will decline further as Ukraine faces a heavy external debt repayment schedule through 2014, and greater challenges in borrowing on international capital markets.

The Outlook revision reflects the following key rating factors and their relative weights:

High - Financing flexibility and market access: 

Ukraine's large external financing requirement makes it vulnerable to adverse shifts on international capital markets.

The rating has derived support from the ability of the Ukrainian sovereign (as well as state-owned corporates and banks) to maintain access to international markets since mid-2012 despite poor fundamentals..

Ukraine could strike a new deal with the IMF, thereby unlocking the necessary funds to refinance liabilities to the IMF. However, barring a further sharp deterioration in external financing conditions, Fitch no longer expects Ukraine to reach an IMF deal in 2013.

The authorities have not budged on key, politically sensitive conditions: cutting subsidies on domestic household gas prices which cost an estimated 5% of GDP, and moving to a more flexible exchange rate.

Raising sufficient funds from alternative sources to refinance IMF repayments totalling USD6.4bn in 2013-2014 will prove a challenge.

Economic policy coherence and credibility:

Ukraine runs a wide current account deficit of 8% of GDP.

The national bank depleted its reserves by 18% (or USD $5.3 billion) to barely two months' of current account payments in the year to end-May 2013 to support the hryvnia.

The authorities have limited scope to resist any renewed pressure on the currency, raising risks of a sharp exchange rate depreciation.

High dollarisation and foreign-currency exposure makes government solvency, banks' balance sheets and the overall economy vulnerable to such an event.

Medium - Public Debt Sustainability: 

Sovereign credit metrics are deteriorating.

The fiscal deficit widened to 5.8% of GDP in 2012 (including the losses of state-owned energy company Naftogaz) and the trend has continued into 2013.

General government debt plus guarantees stood at 38% of GDP at the end of May 2013 and is rising, despite the repayment of debt to the IMF by the national bank and the government.

As a share of government revenue, direct government debt is still comfortably below the median.

But the risk of a sharp exchange rate depreciation pushing up debt/GDP and debt service ratios has increased.

External Debt Sustainability: 

Ukraine's gross external debt is higher than the 'B' median at 78.5% of GDP.

At a prospective 28% of current external receipts (CXR) in 2013, external debt service is among the highest in the 'B' category.

The 2012 external liquidity ratio of 48% is also low.

Concerns focus on the sovereign's external debt.

Fitch recognises that the share of private sector external debt owed to related parties and the 100%+ rollover rate of private external debt since 2009 mitigates the gross external debt position.

Private sector external assets are also high. Ukraine's 'B' IDRs also reflect the following key rating drivers:

A weak business environment and governance indicators, even relative to the 'B' median, constrain the country's ability to fully exploit its economic potential.

GDP and inflation volatility are high, reflecting overheating before the global financial crisis and a deep recession in 2008-09, followed by a slowdown in 2012.

The relatively large and still-distressed financial system remains fragile, burdened by non-performing loans (NPLs) of 30%, and represents a contingent liability to the sovereign, even after solvency support since 2008 worth 10% of GDP.

As a result of a weak monetary policy regime and fragile confidence in the domestic currency, dollarisation is high.

Conversely, high levels of dollarization afford the sovereign an important measure of domestic financing flexibility in foreign currency.

Income per head is relatively high (at purchasing power parity), and private sector estimates suggest that up to half of GDP is unrecorded.

Human development indicators exceed both 'BB' and 'B' median levels.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The main factors that individually, or collectively, could trigger negative rating action:

A more rapid than forecast fall in international reserves, whether triggered by a shortfall in external financing, a terms of trade shock, or an upsurge in capital outflows.

The need for more state support to recapitalise the banking system, which is not Fitch's base case.

The main factors that individually, or collectively, could trigger positive rating action:

Successful refinancing of obligations due in 2013 and 2014 in such a manner as to reduce pressure on reserves.

A return to sustainable growth and a moderation in fiscal and external imbalances. 

KEY ASSUMPTIONS 

Fitch assumes that the economy will grow by 0.5%-1% in 2013 and 2%-3% in 2014.

A much weaker economic performance could trigger negative rating action.

Fitch's forecast assumes some further depreciation in the hryvnia to UAH8.5/USD by end-2013 and UAH9/USD by end-2014.

Depreciation on this scale would be manageable for the financial system and the economy.

A more severe depreciation could lead to a negative rating action.

Fitch assumes that the eurozone remains intact and that there is no materialisation of severe tail risks to global financial stability that could trigger a sudden increase in investor risk aversion and financial market stress.

Such a scenario would bar Ukraine from borrowing on international capital markets and would likely trigger a downgrade.

Tensions between government and opposition have risen since the legislative elections in October 2012, causing interruptions to parliamentary business.

Fitch assumes that the government can pass legislation if required.

A serious breakdown in governability would be negative for the rating.

Source: Fitch Ratings

Friday, June 28, 2013

Official Backs Constitutional Plebiscite

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s justice minister on Wednesday defended the idea that the government may amend the constitution through nationwide referendum, a controversial stance that may spark fresh protests from opposition groups.


Oleksandr Lavrynovych

Oleksandr Lavrynovych also defied pressure from European politicians insisting that Ukrainian parties must cooperate on any plans for amending the constitution to avoid escalation and standoff.

The comments raise concerns that President Viktor Yanukovych may resort to changing the constitution ahead of the next presidential election due in March 2015 to make it easier for him to win it.

Although no plans have been officially announced, the opposition groups suspect that Yanukovych may seek to amend the constitution to allow election of the next president in Parliament, scrapping a popular vote.

Other potential changes may include election of the next president in a one-round vote that could potentially benefit Yanukovych, analysts said.

The issue was recently discussed between Ukrainian and European experts in Luxembourg, when Lavrynovych said Ukraine has the right for the rule because at least two European Union countries amended their constitutions via referendums.

“At least two European Union countries made just that,” Lavrynovych said at a press conference.

“So, the question of whether to have this rule or not lies not with legal aspects, but with political strategy.”

Lavrynovych said that in order to be solved, the issue must be discussed at a “high political level, not at the level of experts.”

Yanukovych last year signed into law a legislation that regulates the use of referendums in Ukraine and that opens way for potentially amending the constitution.

The issue is highly sensitive as current legislation calls for any amendments to be approved by Parliament only and the approval requires 300 votes in the 450-seat legislature.

The current legislation makes it very hard to approve the amendments in Parliament as opposition groups can easily block such an approval.

Even among Yanukovych’s political allies there is an opposition to the plan. 

Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Rybak said in December that Ukraine should not try to approve constitutional amendments at a referendum and should rather do this by adopting amendments in Parliament.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Ukrainian Faces Trial For Disrupting Delta Flight

SALT LAKE CITY, USA -- A Ukrainian man who told authorities he had been drinking heavily for 50 days before trying to open an emergency exit on a Delta Air Lines flight has been let out of jail after seven months, and his family says it can explain why he was carrying 19 passports.

Anatoliy N. Baranovich

Anatoliy Baranovich was released on a long set of conditions after a court hearing Monday pending a new trial date of Dec. 3, said Melodie Rydach, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City.

Baranovich faces charges of damaging an aircraft, interfering with a flight crew, trying to bribe federal agents and resisting arrest.

He pleaded not guilty in November.

When Baranovich's flight from Boston landed in Salt Lake City in October, he woke up, yelled in Russian that a wing of the plane was on fire, ran to the back of the aircraft and tried to open an emergency door, a FBI affidavit says.

Federal authorities have said they found 19 passports in Baranovich's luggage, evidence they cited to persuade a judge to hold him for months behind bars.

They said 16 of the passports were issued for women in their 20s and 30s, and three for men.

Some were heavily stamped for travel, while others showed little travel.

Yet authorities have not charged Baranovich for any offense involving passports.

Nor have they revealed what their investigation determined about why Baranovich was carrying them.

Baranovich's son, Roman, told The Associated Press that all the passports were expired, some were for dead people, and had apparently been fished out of a trash bin outside a government office in Ukraine and placed in his father's luggage without his knowledge.

Roman Baranovich said the trash bin contained around 400 expired passports, prompting a minor scandal in Ukraine when media outlets seized on the discovery. 

Speaking from Portland, Ore., where his father has returned, Roman Baranovich said the family doesn't know who put the passports in his father's luggage.

Anatoliy Baranovich learned he was carrying 19 of the passports only when agents at the Salt Lake City International Airport searched his luggage, his son said.

Anatoliy Baranovich speaks only Russian and declined interview requests, his son said.

The family's account could not be verified Wednesday.

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic Bertram said she was unable to immediately provide any information.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, appeared to have dropped their inquiry into the passports.

"The discussion about passports came up in the context of a detention hearing where we talking about flight risk," Rydalch wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

"Anyone who appears to have access to a variety of travel documents would be a concern to us in that context. However, as you know, the indictment does not include charges related to the passports. We charged what we believe is appropriate given the evidence we have in the case. Our internal screening process is not something we can discuss."

Source: AP

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Portrait Of Stalin Sparks Brawl At WWII Ceremony In Crimea

CRIMEA, Ukraine -- In Ukraine, June 22 marks a day of mourning dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Great Patriotic War (Second World War).


Crimean parliament deputy Sergei Topalov (C) attacking Ukrainian police over a poster of Stalin, June 22.

On this day, Ukrainian war veterans, military service officials and government representatives in different regions of the country come together and commemorate this somber day alongside their compatriots.

This year in Crimea, that solemn day turned into a scandalous scuffle, when a national deputy of Ukraine from the Communist Party of Ukraine, Sergei Topalov, attacked the police in defense of a large portrait of Joseph Stalin that was placed next to the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Simferopol’s Gagarin Park by World War II veterans and members of the Crimean Communist Party.

The scuffle started when the tomb guards (law enforcement officials) asked the veterans to remove the portrait from the premises.

When the veterans refused to do this, the police officers attempted to remove the portrait themselves.

Suddenly, waving his parliamentary identification card, deputy Topalov came running in defense of those veterans and physically assaulted the police officers with his fists, starting a brawl, which continued until some of the WWII veterans pulled him back.

In the end, the portrait of Stalin remained in its place next to the Eternal Flame, even while representatives of the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Council of Ministers of Crimea, as well as other top city officials, later came to the park to lay down commemorative flowers and wreaths.

The ceremony was also attended by top politicians from Crimea and Simferopol, along with local representatives of the Party of Regions and members of the “Crimean Cossack Union.”

Defining the event as provocative, Zair Smedlaev, the head of the Secretariat of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (de-facto parliament), stated that the presence of Stalin’s portrait during the ceremony dismissed the Crimean Tatar mass deportation from their homeland by Stalin’s orders.

Moreover, Smedlaev added: “Stalin is a criminal, in accordance with the Ukrainian ‘Law of Holodomor of 1932–1933 [Famine],’ which was reviewed and accepted on January 12–13, 2010. Thereafter, a criminal court found Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet Union of that era guilty of the deaths of millions of people”.

Smedlaev also brought up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution adopted on July 3, 2009, in Vilnius, which recognizes Stalinism and Nazism as criminal and condemns both regimes for having committed genocide and crimes against humanity.

By not requesting the removal of Stalin’s portrait from the premises and by continuing the ceremony as if nothing has happened, the Crimean political authorities became accomplices of the criminal Stalinist regime, Smedlaev argued later in an interview with journalists.

Crimea has been a stronghold for the Communist Party for decades.

In 2002, in his book Post-Communist Ukraine, Bohdan Harasymiw defined Crimea as the “oasis of communism,” where pro-Russian deputies consist of a “combination of conservative retirees from the Soviet Communist Party, the military, and the KGB.”

But eleven years later, as this recent incident indicates, although there are only nine communists (five actual members of the Ukrainian Communist Party and four without any party affiliation) in the Crimean parliament, they are still untouchable in Crimea.

Currently, there are 99 deputies in the Crimean parliament.

In addition to the 9 communists, 27 parliamentarians are from the Party of Regions, 17 from the Yanukovych Bloc (Za Yanokovycha), 10 from the Kunitsin Bloc, 4 from the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, 4 from the political party Batkivshchyna, 4 from Ne-Tak!, 7 from the Natalia Vitrenko National Opposition Bloc, 9 from the Soyuz party, and 8 from the regional Narodniy-Rukh or People’s Movement of Ukraine.

Of the eight deputies of Narodniy-Rukh, seven are Crimean Tatars.

Although they were elected to the Crimean parliament through a regional organization, they do not have a direct party affiliation.

And while several factions exist in the Crimean parliament, most of them are like-minded and collaborate with one another, especially when it comes to anti-Western and anti-Tatar rhetoric.

Currently, out of 17 members of the Yanukovych Bloc, 8 are also members of the Russian Bloc, whose members are well-known in Crimea for their sporadic attacks on Crimean Tatars and their anti-American attitudes.

In 2006, when the United States warship USS Advantage arrived in Feodosia port as a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)–Ukraine joint military exercise “Sea-Breeze 2006,” the main protestors of this event included members of the Yanukovych Bloc, the “Russian Bloc,” the Russian Community of Crimea, Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, the local “Yanukovych Bloc” (za Yanukovicha), Natalia Vitrenko’s National Opposition Bloc, as well as the Crimean Cossack Union.

These protestors carried banners, such as “NATO is worse than the Gestapo,” burned US flags, and chanted anti-American slogans until the Advantage left Crimea, succumbing to the will of the protestors .

Many of these same actors were also involved in attacks against Crimean Tatars with rocks, hand grenades, Molotov cocktails and fog bombs at the Azizler (Saints) holy site in the Crimean city of Bahchesaray on July 8, 2006 and later on August 12, 2006.

During these attacks, the then-leader of the Russian Bloc, Oleg Rodiviliov, a deputy in the Crimean upper parliament, was captured on film instigating the attacks.

This video was broadcast on Crimean television Channel 10 numerous times.

The two attacks left approximately 100 Crimean Tatars seriously injured with brain damage and broken bones, yet no arrests were made.

The June 22 event indicates that seven years after these conflicts, the same groups and individuals are still enjoying the benefits of their political status in Crimea, and willfully lay flowers next to Stalin’s portrait.

In doing so, they disregard the significance of their action as well as the 2009 OSCE Resolution against totalitarianism, even though in January 2013 Ukraine assumed the OSCE chairmanship.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

Roger Federer Stunned On Centre Court As Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky Defeats Defending Champion In Style

WIMBLEDON, England -- And so the giants continue to tumble. If it was a shock to see a brittle and damaged Rafael Nadal depart from this year’s Wimbledon, what are we to make of a fully fit Roger Federer stumbling out in the second round to a man ranked 116 in the world?


Roger and out: Federer departs Centre Court following his defeat to world No 116 Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.

How are we to react to the news that, with the tournament barely under way, Andy Murray’s principal opponent on his side of the draw is now seeded 15?

It is simply unprecedented.

All around the All England Club the natural order is tumbling.

Sergiy Stakhovsky, the barrack room lawyer of the men’s circuit, the union rep who led the demands for increased prize money across the game, earned his crust out on Centre Court on Wednesday night as he dethroned the champion, winning 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

Not just any champion either, but the greatest player of his and many other generations, someone who had not been dispatched this early from Wimbledon since 2002.

And the extraordinary thing is, this was no fluke.

Stakhovsky’s work ethic throughout was astonishing.

He flung himself around the court in pursuit of everything; for him no cause was lost, no pursuit forlorn.

But unlike many a challenger, he kept on doing it.

He was not simply fuelled by adrenalin, running out of effort after a set or two.

He drove on, fearless of the lofty reputation opposite him.

After losing the first set on a tie-break he showed no inclination to be cowed.

He seized the second set also on a tie-break.

After two long hours, he was the first to break service, taking down Federer in the third set.

And then he triumphed in the fourth, again on a tie-break, and with it the match and the headlines.

Throughout it all, his defence at the net was unbreachable.

The statistics tell the story: he scorched 72 winners to the champion’s 57.

That is what you call dominance. “I’m still in disbelief that that happened,” he said.

“I was playing the best tennis I have ever played, I am incredibly happy. When you play Roger Federer it’s like your playing two players. You play him the player and him the ego. I couldn’t play any better today.”

Good as Stakhovsky was, from the other side of the court, however, there were hints that this might be his day from the start.

Federer, that smoothest of operators, a man so preternaturally unflustered sweat has never been an issue in his laundry, kept making unforced errors.

A ballooned backhand, a gasp-inducing misdirected forehand, an attempted return of service which pinged off the frame of his racket and shot into the 10th row of the stand: this was not the control we were used to from the champion.

More alarmingly, even when he opened up Stakhovsky he failed to apply the finishing touch, missing forehand winners that he would normally have fired off in his sleep.

Was this just an off day?

Or did it signal a wider malaise?

In this season’s slams, Federer has lost in a quarter-final and a semi.

Were that the England football team, it would be enough to signal a run on the souvenir T-shirts.

But this is Roger Federer and those are not good results.

Now to see him stuttering and staggering here in the second round was a new phenomenon.

And one which clearly perplexed those who had come to engage in their standard act of worship in centre court.

Between games a buzz of chatter filled the stands, a nervy fear among the red-clad Feddites that what they were witnessing here was the harbinger of the end.

As Federer struggled to find his usual imperious rhythm, even among the neutrals there was no impassioned adoption of the underdog, the cries of “c’mon Sergiy” took their time to arrive.

Had this been Serena Williams struggling out there, a wave of excitement would have immediately swelled behind her opponent.

But not many here wanted Stakhovsky to roll the Swiss.

Federer is loved at Wimbledon because they see in him an embodiment of the place: smooth, unflappable, elegant and enduring.

Now here he was showing undeniable signs of decline.

And it was at times painful to watch.

Mind, decline is a relative thing.

A slip by Federer from his Olympian normality merely brings him down to the level of the mortal.

But it was enough for Stakhovsky.

And at times his game was sublime.

In the fourth set tie-break he produced the shot of the tournament so far.

A fantastic pass – controlled, beautifully flighted down the line – that had the Ukrainian celebrating as if he had just scored the winner for Dynamo Kiev.

He stood on the baseline pumping his fist, savouring his chance.

Tactically, it may have been thought he was tempting fate.

But Federer kept spurning opportunities to show him who is boss.

In one game he had Stakhovsky twice vulnerable with break points and twice missed the chance to put him away.

At one point Stakhovsky was winning 70 per cent of his second serves, while Federer was averaging no more than 57.

Mighty second serve as it may have been, regularly measured at over 110 mph, that did not speak of a man any longer fully equipped for the physical demands of the game.

Ultimately, however, we should be talking about the victor, not the vanquished.

And how the Ukrainian deserved the ovation that filled the court at the end in honour of his effort.

How appropriate it was to see him stop and address the autograph hunters on his way to the locker room, taking the opportunity to sign something other than a letter of complaint directed at officialdom.

Those oversized fluffy balls have sudden value: they are signed by the man who slayed the king.

Federer's defeat ... 

Was his earliest at Wimbledon since losing in first round in 2002.

His earliest at a Slam since losing in the French Open 1st round in 2003.

Ended his run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances.

His worst at any event since losing to world No 154 Mario Ancic at Wimbledon in 2002.

His first by a player ourtside the top 10 since losing to No 101 Richard Gasquet in 2005 in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals.

The earliest for a defending Wimbledon champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

His first second-round exit at a grand slam, having won all 49 previous matches at this stage.

Will drop him to No 5 in the world rankings, his lowest since June 23, 2003.

Source: The Telegraph

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ukraine Communists Submit Draft Bill To Nationalize ArcelorMittal Plant

KIEV, Ukraine -- Lawmakers from the Communist Party of Ukraine have submitted a draft bill to parliament proposing to renationalize ArcelorMittal's (MT) Kryviy Rih steel mill, the latest attempt to reverse the company's acquisition of the plant in 2005.


ArcelorMittal bought Ukraine's largest mill for $4.8 billion after the government reversed an earlier sale to two Ukrainian tycoons.

Earlier this month, a Kiev court revived a case against the cancelation of the original sale to businessman Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk for $800 million.

Messrs. Pinchuk and Akhmetov say they have nothing to do with resurrection of the case.

A judge postponed a hearing on June 18.

In comments carried on the Communist Party website, Serhiy Balandin, a co-author of the bill, said that there were "objective and weighty reasons" for nationalization, including the current owner's failure to fulfil social commitments undertaken during the privatization.

Volodymyr Tkachenko, head of Kiev office of ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, said June 18 that a May inspection by the State Property Fund found no violations of social or other commitments.

He said the company has seen a dramatic increase of the number of government inspections this year.

A spokeswoman for ArcelorMittal in Ukraine said she had no immediate comment Tuesday.

It was unclear Tuesday when the draft bill will be debated.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

EU-Ukraine: Good Progress But Still More To Be Done

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg -- Remarks of Commissioner Štefan Füle to the press after the EU Ukraine Cooperation Council in Luxembourg:

Štefan Füle

"One year ago, I started the press conference after the Cooperation Council by noting that discussions had focussed on how Ukraine could get back on track to political association.

Today, we are in a different situation.

Since the adoption of the FAC December conclusions - with concrete benchmarks and a concrete time perspective for the possible signing of the Association Agreement/ Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (AA/DCFTA) - there is a renewed sense of commitment and direction in our relations.

But the window of opportunity is short and there is no plan B if we would miss the Vilnius target.

Ukraine has made good progress in some areas, for example the release of Mr Lutsenko and re-instatement by Mr Filipchuk's in his rights; the progress in the implementation of the Criminal Procedure Code; and the recent opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft changes to the Constitution with a view to strengthening the independence of judges.

However, more needs to be done by Ukraine to achieve tangible progress on all the benchmarks.

As the EU will evaluate Ukraine's progress – and the opportunity of signing the agreement in early autumn – time is running preciously short.

Increased determination and reinforced action is now needed.

I emphasized the need for a clear strategy to deal with the issue of selective justice and encouraged Ukraine to work closely with the Cox and Kwaśniewski mission to this end.

Increased attention also needs to be given to the necessary judicial reforms to prevent any recurrence: the recent opinions by the Venice Commission need to be taken into consideration and its assessment sought on the other outstanding reforms, notably the key reform of the functioning of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

On electoral reform, we stressed the need for inclusive discussions and to take into account the recent joint opinion by Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)/ Venice Commission.

Prime attention should be given to the consideration of an Election Code to ensure uniform electoral procedures for all types of elections.

We also look forward to dates being set for the five single mandate constituencies and for the Kiev elections this year.

I called on PM Azarov to make every effort to create an environment conducive for dialogue and cooperation on EU related reforms and actions.

I would like to make a similar appeal to the opposition to engage constructively on the European agenda, in particular in the crucial months ahead.

The EU reaffirmed its commitment to the shared objective of visa-free travel, providing that the conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place.

I called on Ukraine to swiftly address the remaining issues to complete the first phase benchmarks of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation - anti-discrimination and anti-corruption legislation needs to fully take into account the Commission's recommendations."

Source: Europa

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interview: Vitali Klitschko -- Ukrainian Politics Has Become A 'No-Rules Fight'

KIEV, Ukraine -- World heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the leader of the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms, met on June 21 with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.


World heavyweight boxing champion and Ukrainian opposition politician Vitali Klitschko

Shortly after that meeting Klitschko sat down with Inna Kuznetzova of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and discussed his own political future, the case of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and the state of Ukrainian politics.

RFE/RL: What issues did you and other opposition figures discuss with Guido Westerwelle? 

Vitali Klitschko: We talked about the opposition's activities.

We also discussed Mr. Westerwelle's request -- a very important request -- that we unite our efforts and work jointly, not only in the parliament, but also to have a united candidate in the 2015 presidential election.

RFE/RL: Westerwelle said on [June 21] that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko did not have a fair trial. He also offered to arrange for her transport to Germany so she can receive adequate medical treatment. How would it be possible for Tymoshenko to travel to Germany without actually being freed? 

Klitschko: The Germans can take Mrs. Tymoshenko in for treatment.

But this, unfortunately, depends not on the Germans.

It depends on one person whose last name is known to everybody – this is Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych. 

RFE/RL: In April you called for early parliamentary and presidential elections? Do you intend to run for president? 

Klitschko: I will answer that question a little later.

Today, I am not ready to give you a clear answer.

I fight every day in the parliament.

Ukrainian politics is really a fight, because every day you meet with people that you have to convince, that do not want to listen to you, who conduct different schemes to deceive.

And Ukrainian politics, unfortunately, resembles not a sport, which operates with rules, but a "no-rules fight."

It is hard, but we all want to have not only politics, but life with rules. 

RFE/RL: I'd like to ask you a question from one of our listeners, which was posted on the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service's Facebook page. Why don't you want to unite with Tymoshenko's party and other opposition parties to form one fist that would pack a strong punch? (Eds: the acronym of Klitschko's party is Udar, which in Ukrainian means "punch.") 

Klitschko: We are sure that we should unite and we do unite our efforts in the parliament.

But outside parliament we are different parties.

We have different platforms. We have different voters.

One-plus-one does not always equal two.

There were proposals before elections to the Verkhovna Rada (eds: the Ukrainian parliament) and we clearly decided to function separately.

RFE/RL: There have been allegations that Udar is not a true opposition party and that you are the protege of the presidential chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin. Can you comment on this? 

Klitschko: I can say that there are no rules here in Ukraine.

There is mudslinging and during parliamentary elections there was mud coming from all sides.

They said our party is a technical project.

They said that if we got into the Verkhovna Rada we would work 100 percent with [Yanukovych's ruling] Party of Regions.

They said ours is a party of traitors.

I can say that we are real and we are not playing games.

We work in the opposition and there are no traitors among us.

We are a unified faction.

We do not need [government] positions and we do not need money.

We entered politics to fight because we want to live in a normal European country.

RFE/RL: An increasing number of Ukrainian media outlets appear to be coming under the control of people close to President Yanukovych. Since February, Lyovochkin has been a co-owner of Inter, Ukraine's leading television channel. Now Serhiy Kurchenko, a young rising business star in Ukraine with reputed ties to one of Yanukovych's sons, has just bought Ukrainian publishing group UMH. 

Klitschko: As they say, Ukraine is a country of unlimited possibilities -- where a 27-year-old man is a billionaire.

Maybe [Kurchenko] is very smart.

Maybe he will become a Nobel laureate.

But I believe, and there are rumors to this effect, that he is a so-called front for others.

They are known to all, but they do not want to go public. 

RFE/RL: Can you name them? 

Klitschko: I have no facts and I do not want to comment on rumors.

But this is very strange, when such a young person achieves this.

He is [also] involved in soccer (eds: Kurchenko owns the FC Metalist Kharkiv soccer club) and oil.

RFE/RL: What would you like to change about Ukraine? 

Klitschko: Recently I heard some very unpleasant things.

Ukrainians rank no. 1 in Europe among people who would like to leave their country.

Ukraine ranks second in the world in per capita mortality rate.

And we are in third place as vodka consumers.

This data is not very good.

We want to live in a normal country.

We want to look forward to the future.

We want to live in a European country by European rules and standards.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Poland's FM: Ukraine Not Ready To Sign Key Co-Operation Deal With The EU

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's foreign minister says that Ukraine's key co-operation deal with the European Union is in jeopardy because the former Soviet republic lags behind in justice system standards.


Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski

Radek Sikorski said Monday that Ukraine's justice system still needs improvements, especially the electoral law and regulations concerning prosecution.

The EU believes that jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has not been given a fair trial and insists the matter be resolved before the deal can be signed.

The signing of the agreement is scheduled for the fall in Vilnius.

It would be a major step in Ukraine's bid to join the European Union.

Poland supports Ukraine's European aspirations.

Sikorski said, "There will be no signing if Ukraine does not do what it should do." 

Source: Edmonton Journal

Monday, June 24, 2013

How Ukraine Can Survive 2013 Without The IMF

KIEV, Ukraine -- The global bond market rescued Ukraine from budget revenue shortages during the first half of this year allowing it to meet its foreign debt obligations.


The Ukrainian government issued successfully a number of sovereign and domestic bonds that were fully subscribed.

While this financial influx helped government cover state budget gaps without an IMF program, Ukraine's luck so far does not guarantee a repeat in the near-term. 

Ukrainian authorities will concurrently move along two paths: continue talks with the IMF in hopes of a new stand-by agreement and simultaneously search for alternative financial instruments to meet debt obligations.

Among them are domestic investors, Russian banks and Chinese loans.

These alternatives may be financially less attractive than IMF loans; however, they are much cheaper politically than the potential public fall out from unpopular reforms.

A new IMF mission is due in Kiev at the end of June.

However, doubts remain whether an agreement will be reached because the fund is not ready to change its position on state budget financing of loss-making monopolies.

The government is slow to move on important structural reforms in public utilities and breaking up energy and transportation monopolies.

The IMF should continue to press for not only quicker government decisions on reform but, more importantly, their implementation prior to a new stand-by agreement for Ukraine.

Building consensus around reforms within the ruling Party of Regions and the government has been a challenge.

Oligarchs close to government don't want to sacrifice rents and other favors from the state budget. Instead, they want to prolong them as much as possible.

Technically, the central bank has enough financial resources to continue propping up the national currency through emissions well into 2014.

Second, government has the ability to last the year without significant changes to state budget expenditures.

With time, these problems will exacerbate due to President Viktor Yanukovych's intent to increase social spending and other budget expenditures ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

Ukraine's economy has been shrinking for eleven consecutive months.

Not only is the economy stagnating from a lack of foreign direct investment, more onerous, production is declining.

Under these circumstances, government talk about increasing budget expenditures based on the flawed assumption of modest economic growth could lead the economy into deeper crisis.

Paradoxically, retail sales continue to grow, meaning that the population is getting its income from non-official sources.

To improve the budget situation, Ukraine's parliament desperately needs to pass laws to help increase budget revenues by reducing the shadow economy.

First order of business would be real reductions to the gray economy, as proposed by the Revenues and Duties Ministry.

For example, an initiative to introduce a control strip for cash registers is a promising step, which numerous governments before have considered but failed to adopt.

It's now time for this initiative to be implemented and applied to all trade channels without exception — from taxi services to open-air markets.

Not only will this bring significant revenues to the state budget, more importantly, it could drastically bring retail trade out of the shadow economy.

Another government idea is to reduce the single social tax.

This will help legalize incomes only if government can create good will within the corporate sector for cooperating with tax authorities, as well as simplifying tax legislation overall.

Current tax norms place entrepreneurs in a difficult position; even if they attempt to follow the law they are unable to do so fully due to loopholes in the regulations and corruption within the tax collecting authorities.

Third, parliament must pass amendments to transfer pricing laws that close loopholes used by Ukrainian companies that shift their profits to offshore entities in tax havens such as Cyprus.

Forcing Ukrainian companies that produce raw materials and commodities to pay tax on their profits onshore would help government close the budget gap.

Finally, the budget has an additional safety net known as tax break optimization.

For example, tax breaks to the depressed metallurgy and chemical industries, controlled by oligarchs, are absolutely unnecessary.

On the other hand, a special tax regime for the agriculture industry is needed to further spur modernization and growth.

Government should give limited term tax breaks only for infrastructure projects that facilitate modernization.

The government needs to take unpopular steps to implement a number of fiscal reforms that will negatively impact oligarchs close to it.

Government should forget about hopes for an economic miracle, like a sudden increase in global demand for steel and other commodities, which have pulled Ukraine out of past recessions.

The investment community is waiting for government reforms that might boost economic growth in the second half of this year and into 2014.

Instead, the government continues to muddle through with half measures that could lead to greater economic crises right before the 2015 presidential election.

Soon enough Ukraine might need a bailout from the IMF instead of a stand-by agreement.

Source: The Moscow Times

Taliban Killed Ten Foreign Tourists From China, Russia, Ukraine

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- "I want to leave this bastard land of the Taliban for any other country, even for a desert", said a source when he told eTN about the killing of 10 foreign tourists as the worst incident of terrorism against tourists in his country.


Gilgit's Fairy Medows

"Good people in the tourism industry wanting to make a difference here but have no support, financially and morally. Tourism against terrorism! I wish the largest industry in the world would stand up to this".

It happened in Gilgit's Fairy Medows, a beutiful tourist region in Pakistan.

Fairy Meadow is a lush green plateau, at 3,300 meters (10,827 feet), offering a breath taking view of Majestic Nanga Parbat (The Killer Mountain).

Many people have called it the "Heaven on Earth".

These lush, green meadows and forests lie at the base of Nanga Parbat at the western edge of the Himaliyan range in Pakistan.

Fairy Meadows is a very peaceful and relaxing place to enjoy the mountain atmosphere and hospitality of the local people.

The name Fairy Meadows is part of the legend that Fairies have their heaven on this lush green plateau.

Hermann Buhl, the Austrian climber who made the first ascent of Nanga Parbat in 1953, named it Fairy Meadow due to its wonderful scenery.

The victims were tourists from China, Russian, Ukraine and other countries.

Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the incident and asked the security forces to find the terrorists roaming around in the area at any cost. 

Meanwhile, Interior Minister of Pakistan Ch Nisar Ali has suspended the Inspector General of Police and Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan after the incident.

Speaking in the National Assembly, he was of the view that the security personnel were not performing their duties as per the requirement.

He said that a red alert has already been issued in federal capital Islamabad and adjoining garrison city Rawalpindi after the Chilas incident.

Firing incident took place at camp site along a mountain stream near Buner Das, Diamer district of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region.

This is almost same area where 35 bus travellers were shot dead by Taliban last year.

This route also goes to Fairy Meadows and when forest starts, this area is called a part of fairy Meadows.

Chilas and its adjoining areas are under the control of Taliban since last July but Pakistan government has been denying this situation and no advisory was ever released to stop foreign tourists to use this route that is one of the most beautiful but dangerous nowadays.

According to details, armed men entered a hotel and shot dead 10 foreign tourists in Fairy Meadows, base camp of Nanga Parbat peak.

Security was beefed up in the area following the incident as police was investigating the murders. 

Taliban are against tourists and tourism stating that meeting with non-Muslims is Haram (forbidden in Islam) and that is the reason they have been attacking tourists all over the world, especially Pakistan.

It may be mentioned that Taliban kidnapped two Czech Republic girls from Chaman area of Balochistan province on April 15, 2013 and there are no whereabouts of these girls but sources in government of Pakistan claim that they have been shifted to Afghanistan and will release after getting ransom from Czech government or families of the girls.

Source: eTN

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Grace To Ukraine Introduces Orphans To Southern Life

BIRMINGHAM, USA -- I've lived in the South practically all my life. And after speaking with Suzette Davie, I realized I've taken so many blessings for granted.


Suzette Davie enjoyed Birmingham Zoo with youngsters from the Grace to Ukraine program.

The lush foliage and rolling hills. The great food. The Southern hospitality.

It's a culture that we embrace, and one that Davie has spent her life sharing with others.

"Our kids are drawn to the warmth and beauty of Alabama; the warmth and kindness of the people here," she said.

Davie's "kids" are a group of youngsters from Ukraine who have spent the past few weeks in Alabama as part of the Grace to Ukraine program.

The nonprofit organization hosts Ukrainian orphans in Birmingham each summer and conducts outreach trips to Ukraine in the fall and spring.

"For us, it's a chance to love them and show them what family life is like," said Davie, Grace to Ukraine's board president.

They also get a taste of Southern hospitality with a dash of ministry too.

"About six years ago, my husband (Gabe) said 'the bible calls us to do more to care for orphans,'" Davie said.

That spiritual awakening kicked off the Davies' work with children in need.

Last year, as part of Grace to Ukraine, the Davies hosted 10 children in their home.

This year, they're hosting 19.

Ukrainian "orphanages close in the summer and the children are put in government camps," Davie said.

"During that time, they're allowed visit other countries for cultural enrichment." 

That's the time when Davie opens her home and heart to orphans.

In fact, she's adopted three Ukrainian children over the years.

While in the states, the kids are immersed in American culture, giving them the opportunity to learn English, have medical needs met (like eyeglasses, for example) and be exposed to good nutrition.

Most of all, they're just allowed to be kids.

When I spoke to Davie, many of the boys were with her husband and son for a day of motocross in Montgomery.

Meanwhile, the girls were preparing for a shopping excursion, which will include a stop to get manicures.

A few days earlier, I tried unsuccessfully to chat with Davie – she was busy with the kids at Birmingham Zoo. 

Our amenities are giving orphans a new outlook on life.

"In Ukraine, everything is the same color scheme," Davie said.

"Here, they notice the cleanliness, the green spaces.

"You don't see a lot of public smiling in Ukraine," she added.

"But here, people are always smiling. They are drawn to that."

Another big draw are the helping hands that are willing to assist the orphans.

Churches and organizations have stepped forward to sponsor activities and meals for the kids.

Not only is it great for the youth to see a community united for a good cause, it also opens the community's eyes to the plight of orphans.

"When you work with (orphans) you realize they're people just like us," Davie said.

"They just haven't had the same blessings and benefits."

This summer's program only lasts three weeks, and they're nearly up.

Davie admits that the hardest part is saying goodbye, but knows that she's made a permanent mark on the lives of her visitors.

"People say, 'Isn't it cruel to bring them here and make them leave?' No, they would rather come here and leave than never be here at all," she said.

Is our state imperfect? Oh, you bet.

But Alabama is home to a beauty and charm that is neglected by residents but embraced by visitors.

What's mundane to us provides wonder and hope to Ukrainian youngsters.

They love our state.

And that helps me appreciate my Sweet Home so much more.

Source: The Birmingham News

Visit To Ukraine Orphanage Soul Changing

WEYBURN, Canada -- Debra Button is waiting for a sign, something that will point her in the right direction and tell her what she is supposed to do.



Mayor Debra Button

Uncertainty is uncomfortable for this accomplished woman.

She’s sat on Weyburn’s city council since 1997 and is in her seventh year as mayor.
 

She was recently elected the first female president of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and is a representative to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.


“I always have a plan,” she said.


However, she had none when she walked out of the first orphanage she visited while on federation business in Ukraine in 2010 and left all the children behind.


She has returned to the country’s orphanages twice since then, and each time it hits her hard.


On her last trip in March, she hardly slept the first several nights because of the tears.
 

“Those children have definitely touched my heart,” she said.


But what to do about it?


“I’ve been put on this path for a reason, but I haven’t figured out what it is yet,” she said.


It took Button and her husband 25 years to put together their own family.

In vitro fertilization treatments didn’t work.

They became foster parents, and have adopted four children who are now four to eighteen years old and include a biological brother and sister. 


The fourth adoption is expected to be final by July, when the four-year-old, who has been with them since he was two days old, officially becomes their own.


Foster homes exist in Ukraine and domestic adoptions are possible.

In 2007, the country launched a national adoption program called Take a Child Into Your Home.

An estimated 2.5 million Ukrainian families were believed to be unable to have children of their own. 


However, it takes three to four years for a child to become officially eligible for adoption.


Button said the most adoptable age is about three years old, which leaves many children in hundreds of orphanages.


International adoption is available, but only after the children are five.


In February, Ukraine’s minister of social policy, Natalia Korolevskaya, said foreigners had adopted 806 children in 2012.


There are widely varying estimates of how many children live in care.


UNICEF estimated that 94,383 children lived in institutions in 2011.
 

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in Washington, D.C., cited numbers from the Ukrainian president’s annual report in 2006 that about 103,000 children lived in orphanages and baby homes.

Only 9,000 are actually biological orphans.

Most are called social orphans.


The foundation said many of these children have bleak futures once they leave institutional living.

About 80 percent end up in prisons.


Button said it’s difficult to think of the babies and young children she has met ending up on the street.


In March, she visited an orphanage in Vinnytsia where 120 children younger than five lived.

She met with the city’s mayor, who she said understood her concern about the children’s futures.


Two families in Weyburn are working to bring over Ukrainian children, and Button takes donations with her when she travels to Ukraine.


She said the trips to the orphanages have been soul changing.


“That those kids should grow up without the love of a family is wrong to me,” she said. 


“People say, ‘you can’t save the world.’ Who said?”

Source: The Western Producer

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A “Laboratory Of Ecumenism”: Cardinal Koch Visits Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, visited Ukraine from June 5 to 12, 2013.


Cardinal Kurt Koch (L), president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Upon his arrival the curial official was welcomed at Borispol Airport by the primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), and by Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, apostolic nuncio for Ukraine.

Since it was the first journey of the honored guest to Ukraine, his chief purpose was to meet with the Greek, Latin, and Armenian Catholic communities and their respective leaders in a country that Bl. John Paul II had called “a laboratory of ecumenism” during his pastoral visit in June 2001.

Cardinal Koch spent two days in Kiev, the capital, then traveled on Saturday to Lviv in Galicia (Western Ukraine), a Catholic stronghold, and finally on Monday to Uzhorod and Mukachevo, near the border with Slovakia and Hungary.

Cardinal Koch is also the co-chairman of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

In that capacity he held talks, during his visit, with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church leader, Metropolitan Volodymyr, of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), and other representatives of that Church.

He also learned about the inter-confessional fellowship that takes place within the framework of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, and about the work of Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv.

Past documents of the official Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical dialogue have typically ignored or papered over crucial differences in how the two sides understand Church and authority.

The keynote of Cardinal Koch’s visit, however, was a refreshing candor on the part of the Catholic speakers.

On June 10, in a lecture at Ukrainian Catholic University, he explained that: from the Orthodox point of view, the Church is present in every local church that celebrates the Eucharist, so each Eucharistic community is a complete church.

Instead, from the Catholic point of view, a separate Eucharistic community is not a complete church.

Therefore, a basis of the Catholic Church is the unity of separate Eucharistic communities with each other and the bishop of Rome.

That is, the Catholic Church lives in the mutual intersection of local churches in one Universal Church.

Earlier, on June 7, during a round-table discussion in Kiev entitled “Ukraine in the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue,” the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church boldly argued that both theological and historical reasons compel Ukrainian Christians to seek unity.

Anyone who considers himself a faithful Christian has no right not to remember the Commandment that Christ gave to the apostles at the Last Supper, saying: “Father, that all may be one, as You are in Me and I in You, so that they be united in Us, so that the world may come to believe that You sent Me.”

The Head of the Church Himself says that evangelization can be successful only when there is a deep-felt unity among Christians.

This year together with our Orthodox brethren we will celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the Baptism of Ukraine-Rus.

If we look into the spiritual mystic memory of the Kiev Church, then we will find the recollection of an undivided Christianity of the first millennium.

Therefore, every time that we speak of the necessity of one apostolic Church in Ukraine, a search for unity among us, the Holy Spirit speaks in our hearts and reminds us of this commandment of Christ and that experience which the Kiev Church had.

Possibly, other Churches—daughter Churches of Kiev Christianity, which emerged after the Great Schism [of 1054]—do not possess this church memory that the inheritors of Kiev Christianity have….

And today, we should thank the Holy Spirit, that He reminds us of this shared profound inheritance.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav went on to say, in effect, that ecumenism is too important to be left to “diplomats and politicians.”

On another occasion, during an ecumenical prayer service in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Dormition in Lviv, he reminded his listeners that unity in Ukraine can be fostered by spiritual ecumenism (prayer), by “the ecumenism of martyrs” (the recognition that both Orthodox and Catholics gave their lives for Christ during the Communist persecution), and by “the ecumenism of the sacrament of Baptism” (the acknowledgment of baptismal grace at work in all Christian Churches and ecclesial communities).

He went on to recommend another possibility that he called “the ecumenism of meeting” whereby people who may have different histories and perspectives can learn from one another and be enriched.

Ever since the emergence of the UGCC from the underground in 1990, the Moscow Patriarchate has complained of Catholic “proselytism” in its “canonical territory.” 

When asked about this by a journalist in Lviv on June 10, Cardinal Koch replied: 

“Such accusations are not heard as often right now as they were in the past.”

He emphasized that the issue of proselytism is very complicated because not every accusation of proselytism has a basis in fact.

“Behind this issue stands the issue of the freedom of choice of every individual. Each person has a right to choose that confession and Church to which one wants to belong.”

These remarks were particularly striking in light of a public statement made on May 27 by Boryslav Metropolitan Antoniy (Pakanych) of the UOC MP, after consultation with Bishop Filaret of the UGCC Eparchy of Lviv, that “in Western Ukraine there are no misunderstandings between the Orthodox and the Greek Catholics and relations between the two Churches in this region are stable.”

In his lecture at the UCU in Lviv on “Prospects of the Ecumenical Dialogue” on June 10, Cardinal Koch insisted that “the Catholic Church should strengthen the argument for the importance of the primacy of the pope in the life and work of the Church.” 

He also called for the Orthodox Church to “boldly examine its main ecclesiological problem, namely autocephaly of national churches and their inclination toward nationalism.”

Perhaps the greatest reason for hope that the Church in Ukraine may one day again be united was mentioned by His Beatitude Sviatoslav during the round table discussion in Kiev.

“Today all the confessions in Ukraine are undergoing rejuvenation. There is a new generation of monks and nuns, clergy, bishops and even Church Heads. All Churches without exception have borne the brunt of wounds from the Communist totalitarian system, and the youth are to a certain degree free of these wounds. Therefore I am truly am optimistic.”

Source: The Catholic World Report

Germany Presses Ukraine Over Jailed Ex-PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Germany's foreign minister urged Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday to let his jailed opponent Yulia Tymoshenko go to Germany for medical treatment and he warned against the use of "selective justice" in the ex-Soviet republic.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko attends a pre-trial hearing at a city court in Kiev June 25, 2011.

"I told the president frankly that we are following the Tymoshenko case closely and that our proposals for providing medical treatment for her in Germany remain on the table," Guido Westerwelle told reporters after meeting Yanukovich.

Tymoshenko, 52, a former prime minister and arch foe of Yanukovich, was jailed for seven years in October 2011 for abuse of office linked to a 2009 gas deal she brokered with Russia.

The Yanukovich administration says the deal saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for gas supplies.

But the European Union says her jailing smacks of political vengeance and many EU officials say a planned signing of political association and free trade agreements with Ukraine later this year could be in jeopardy unless she is freed.

"It is very important that 'selective justice' is not used in any system of values in Europe. It must not be allowed in either Europe or Ukraine," Westerwelle said.

The Yanukovich leadership says it favors European integration over forging a closer relationship with Moscow in a Russia-led customs union and hopes the landmark EU accords can be signed at a summit in Lithuania in November.

But freeing Tymoshenko, a fierce political campaigner, and lifting other pending charges against her could be risky for Yanukovich as he prepares to run for a second term in 2015.

Westerwelle declined to say how Yanukovich reacted to his plea over Tymoshenko, who was a major player in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that doomed his first presidential bid.

She later ran him close in a bitterly-fought run-off vote in February 2010. 

The free-trade agreement potentially on offer from the EU would open up a huge market for Ukrainian exports - steel, grain, chemicals and food products - and provide a powerful spur for much-needed foreign investment.

German officials say allowing Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for medical treatment for chronic back trouble might present Yanukovich with a way out of the stalemate.

Westerwelle also met in Kiev leaders of opposition parties and Tymoshenko's daughter Yevgenia, who has toured Western capitals to drum up support for her mother.

Source: Yahoo News

Friday, June 21, 2013

Intellectual Piracy In Ukraine: Where It Comes From And How To Fight It

KIEV, Ukraine -- The United States has initiated an investigation against Ukraine regarding protection of intellectual property rights.


In its annual “Special 301” Report on protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) the U.S. Trade Representative designates Ukraine a Priority Foreign Country (PFC) due to severe deterioration of enforcement in the areas of government use of pirated software and piracy over the Internet, as well as denial of fair and equitable market access through the authorization and operation of copyright collecting societies.

Discussions and public hearings on the issue will be held on July 18.

In turn, vice PM Konstantyn Hryshchenko declared that designating Ukraine as one of the main violators of IPR is not quite true to the actual state of affairs in this sphere and does not take into account effort of the government to improve the situation. 

According to the official, protection of IPR is a priority task under the program of development of innovation economy and IT industry, and the country has reached significant results since the year beginning.

In particular, the government has started legalizing software, being used by the executive branch of power and allocated 100 million hryvnias ($12.3 million) for these purposes.

Separate decree of the Prosecutor General sets public prosecutor's supervision over observance of IPR in all ministries and departments.

Moreover, the parliament has passed in first reading two draft bills on strengthening responsibility for violation of copyright, including in Internet.

At the same time, Hryshchenko admits that Ukraine still has a lot to do to provide proper protection of intellectual property rights in the country.

"We count on support of our American and other foreign partners, and the decision of the U.S. Trade Representative does not help much. However, the Cabinet will continue taking measures on strengthening respect to IPR and will seek the revision of Ukraine's status in the "Special 301" Report in six months," the official said. 

ForUm has asked experts, market operators and special-purpose state agencies on possible consequences of the decision for Ukraine.

Andriy Kulikov, managing partner of A Ventures Capital company: 

Designating Ukraine as the world biggest pirate, the U.S. probably wants to set an example for other countries, like this is what you can expect if you do not meet world standards on fighting piracy and protection of intellectual property.

However, such demonstration punishment will harm Ukraine's image and economy.

The fact is that the investment climate in Ukraine is still developing and improving, mostly thanks to Internet and IT sector, but the "pirate" status can kill all the efforts at the grassroots level.

Vitaly Leshan, political expert: 

The State Service on Intellectual Property started developing a draft bill on copyright and related rights in 2010.

The bill stipulated to oblige all data centers to ban pirate websites at first request of right holders and in case of refusal to prosecute for violation.

The draft bill had passed its first reading in 2010, but was not included into agenda of the next parliament.

However, international organization kept insisting on reformation of the legislation on copyright and related rights, and in February the parliament started developing a new draft bill.

At the same time we should not forget that piracy in Ukraine has become a part of social culture.

It appeared in 90s when the economy withdrew into the shadows.

Thus, the question of licenses is related to basic social problems, and until we solve these problems, at least partially, the situation will not improve.

Vitaly Kulik, director of the Research Center for civil society problems:

It is obvious that for the formation of civilized legal field in Ukraine we should observe international standards on intellectual property and copyright.

It is also obvious that the problem cannot be solved in one minute, but we should keep trying.

As the saying goes, walk and ye shall reach.

Pirated software is so popular in our country not because we are bad, but because in chaotic 90s there were hard factors for such situation.

Reasoning was obvious: why to buy an expensive license if there is a possibility to get it free of charge.

Moreover, many common citizens still cannot afford buying licensed Windows, Microsoft, etc.

Put it crudely, if everyone had used licensed software, the development level of IT technologies in our country would have been way lower.

However, if we want to reach the world standards and be considered a developed country we have to learn to stop freeloading and establish modern rule of law.

For any man of sense the choice is obvious.

Oleksandr Mamunya, patent counsel, partner of the legal firm "Vasyl Kysyl and partners":

The legislation of Ukraine on intellectual property is outdated and needs changes.

No amendments have been adopted since 90s.

And if 15-20 years ago the country had up-to-date legislation and big problems with its realization, today the problem remains but the legislation is no longer up-to-date.

Russia, for example, is working hard on improvement of the situation on intellectual property - forms special courts, changes law, etc.

We seem to be very close neighbors, but Russia is way ahead in understanding of importance of the role intellectual property plays in the economy.

Oleksandr Sydorov, deputy head of the Interior Ministry department on economic crimes: 

Under the "Intellect" operation held by the department, we shut down 41illegal manufactories and withdrew counterfeit audio and video products at the sum of 2.4 million hryvnias, as well as fake brand products at the sum of 5.8 million hryvnias ($0.29 million).

Some days ago the Interior Ministry launched a new campaign on protection of intellectual property.

The most widespread violations of IPP include software piracy, falsification of consumer goods and illegal use of brands and logos of famous Ukrainian and foreign companies.

Thus, piracy includes not only computers and Internet.

Mykola Kovynia, chairman of the State Service on Intellectual Property: 

To improve the situation we have worked out a draft bill "On protection of copyright and related rights" aimed at fighting piracy in the net.

In case of detected violation of their rights, right holders should appeal directly to our Service providing all necessary documents (originals and legalized translations for foreign companies).

At the same time, right holders should address a hosting-provider, which host pirated content, and the latter should inform its administration within two days.

Our Service has ten days to consider the appeal, run investigation and publish the list of addresses, which host pirated materials.

Administrations of resources-violators have two weeks to provide documents proving legitimacy of content distribution.

Once received the documents the Service has ten days to investigate and decide whether there is a crime, as well as to inform administrations about the decision.

If the content is recognized pirated, a hosting-provider must block the access to the files or cut off the violator from Internet.

Data centers are also obliged to break contracts with sites, caught publishing pirated content for three times in one year.

I believe the adoption of this law will enable us to fight piracy more effectively. 

Dmytro Shymkiv, director general of "Microsoft Ukraine": 

70% of software being used in Ukraine is counterfeit, and this is a big problem, as we face billions of losses.

Moreover, we can be excluded again from the generalized system of preferences, as it happened in 2012.

Sanctions were removed later thanks to the agreement reached between the Cabinet and Microsoft, but Kiev has failed to observe the agreement.

Losses may make up to $90 million, but it is not the only risk we face.

Ukraine and U.S. signed a number of agreements on protection of investors, and under these agreements sanctions may be severer.

We speak about billions.

Source: ForUm