Saturday, November 30, 2013

‘Another President May Sign It’: EU Eyes Ukraine Opposition As Kiev Rejects Trade Deal

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Ukraine has rejected a key integration deal with Europe. The EU ‘keeps the door open’ for Kiev, but doubts it would happen under the current government. It comes as opposition holds thousands-strong protests against the rejection.


Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (L) is welcomed by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L-R) at the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius November 29, 2013.

The deal was rejected on Friday in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, where European leaders have gathered.

Unlike Moldova, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which initialed association agreements with the EU, Ukraine stuck to its decision not to integrate with the union.

Even after announcing that there would be no deal, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich went to the summit to personally explain his government’s move.

He said it would be too painful for Ukrainian economy at present.

Kiev wants to integrate into the EU, but is not ready to do it at the moment even after four years of preparations.

“[Softening the economic blow] requires our joint work on a program of economic aid to Ukraine, which will allow us to implement the preparation for the signing of the agreement. We believe such a program should be the result of a joint effort by Ukraine and the EU,” Yanukovich said on Friday.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency and who was among the most vocal proponents of the Eastern Partnership integration project, didn’t take long in dismissing Yanukovich’s requests. 

“The Ukrainian elite, Ukrainian government could have changed their approach. The European Union will not bargain anymore. All the main terms [of the agreement] are well-known. There will be no additional terms,” she said.

“The EU still supports the intention of the Ukrainian people to become closer with Europe, but the Ukrainian authorities have to a large extent lost the EU’s trust,” Grybauskaite added.

In addition to the aid, the Ukrainian president requested that the EU settle its differences with Russia over Ukrainian integration through trilateral talks, a request that Europe has been strongly rejecting.

“We are talking about bilateral agreement between the EU and Ukraine. How can we involve a third country in it? We cannot allow a third to have a veto,” President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso said.

The scolding remarks are a sign of disappointment with Ukraine’s U-turn, which the Lithuanian president described as “choosing a road to nowhere” on Tuesday following a meeting between Yanukovich and European leaders.

Even as the meeting was about to start, EU leaders were not hiding that they have little hope of convincing Yanukovich to reconsider.

“We will make very clear here that the EU is ready to accept Ukraine as an associate member, to sign the association treaty. Then we will see. We have no hope that it will happen this time, but the door is open,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. 

Apparently the door will have to remain open for some time, until there is a new government in Kiev.

“What’s very certain is that the president of a country isn’t the country,” EU parliament President Martin Schulz said before the meeting.

“One can agree with Yanukovich or not. Maybe another government with another orientation will come to power.”

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called the EU’s offer “the most ambitious” proposed to a non-member.

Despite Ukraine’s decision, Rompuy said, the summit was successful.

“The European Union’s position [over Ukraine] remains clear. The offer of signing the most ambitious agreement the EU has ever offered to a non-member state is still on the table,” he said.

Rompuy stressed that the EU is ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine at “any moment”.

Streets to the rescue? 

The next presidential election in Ukraine is to be held in 2015, but the country’s recent history saw a vivid example of how a government can collapse under a pressure from the streets.

The same Yanukovich was called the winner of the 2004 elections, but was forced out by the crowds supporting his main competitor.

The past experience of the Orange Revolution lingers over Ukraine now, as tens of thousands of people gather in the streets to protest against the government.

Pro-EU integration protesters, many of whom are students, have linked hands to form a human chain.

Organizers said the “chain” should link Ukrainian cities and eventually reach the Polish border as a symbol of unity with the EU.

The ambitious feat would require some 522,000 people, according to the organizers’ initial estimate, a figure which skeptics say they have no hope of mustering.

Anti-government protesters also called on Washington to pressure their government.

An online petition on the White House website asking the US to issue travel ban on top Ukraine government officials unless Yanukovich signs the deal with the EU has gathered over 75,000 signatures.

The mass demonstrations, which started last week after the government first announced the decision, have been mostly peaceful.

But on several occasions groups of aggressive activists armed with pepper spray clashed with Ukrainian riot police.

There were also some calls on the internet for a takeover of government buildings, which prompted police to warn the protesters against such moves.

Cost doubts Kiev’s main argument against the trade agreement was that it would cost too much.

While the $830 million figure that Yanukovich voiced drew some skeptical comments from the Europeans, EU officials admit that without the union’s help Kiev would find it hard to adapt to greater openness of its market.

But Europe is not in the best economic shape and is not prepared to shoulder Ukraine as much as it would like it to.

Ordinary Europeans “are very uncomfortable with the idea of Ukraine coming to the EU. The EU right now is bankrupt with the crisis in the PIGS countries – Portugal, Italy, Greece and so forth” geopolitical analyst William Engdahl told RT.

“They don’t have money to do anything positive for Ukraine. The only thing they can do is to try to take advantage of the weakness of Ukraine.”

One of the reasons why Ukraine’s integration with the EU would cost so much is that the move would leave it barred from its traditional Russian markets.

Moscow warned that it would not keep export preferences with Ukraine after it signs free trade agreements with EU, because it would effectively open the Russian market to European goods.

EU officials are branding Russia’s position as harsh economic pressure and say it was due to that pressure that Kiev rejected the trade deal.

Moscow accuses Brussels of politicizing a purely economic issue and says the Europeans are the ones pressuring Ukraine into signing an unfavorable deal.

The head of Russia’s State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Aleksey Pushkov, has predicted that the EU will not support Yanukovich in the next presidential elections, saying the Union now “counts on” the opposition.

“The signal is clear: on the threshold of Ukraine’s 2015 elections the EU counts on the opposition and is already preparing a replacement for Yanukovich. Expect new Maidans [referring to protests at Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti)],” Pushkov posted on his Twitter page.

Source: RT

EU Grapples With Disappointment Over Ukraine

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Undoubtedly, it was an uncomfortable moment. President Viktor F. Yanukovich of Ukraine, who last week ditched plans to sign far-reaching political and trade agreements with the European Union, found himself confronted last night by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and by the host of the summit meeting here, President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania.


Yanukovich (L), Merkel (C) and Grybauskaite

Ms. Merkel, holding a glass of white wine, stood in front of Mr. Yanukovich, a beefy man who is at least a head taller than her.

“We see you here,” Ms. Merkel, said, nodding her head with a disapproving shrug.

“But we expected more.”

Next to her, Ms. Grybauskaite nodded in assent.

Mr. Yanukovich had nowhere to turn.

The scene, captured on a video released by Ms. Grybauskaite’s office, summed up the European Union’s Eastern Partnership conference here — an event that officials had hoped would mark a giant westward step by Ukraine toward European integration.

Instead, leaders had to settle for preliminary agreements with Moldova and Georgia, and were left grappling with how best to deal with a challenge from Russia, which pressured Ukraine to drop the accords.

Mr. Yanukovich, who has called for new negotiations with Russia and the European Union, had little to say beyond what was already well known.

“The economic situation in Ukraine is very hard,” he is heard saying on the video.

“And we have big difficulties with Moscow.”

Ukraine, a nation of 46 million people that borders on four European Union states – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania – faces an increasingly grave economic crisis and is in desperate need of a financial aid package.

Officials here said that Mr. Yanukovich had reiterated his request for assistance in a meeting on Thursday with the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, and the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy.

The request suggested that Mr. Yanukovich had received no guarantee of economic assistance from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

While some European leaders are calling for additional aid to Ukraine, it is not clear that the International Monetary Fund, which has been in negotiations with Mr. Yanukovich’s government for months, will ease the requirements that it has set for a large loan deal.

Those requirements include a number of painful austerity steps, including an increase in public utility rates.

While officials expressed excitement over the steady progress of Moldova and Georgia, and their initialing of preliminary agreements that keep them on track toward European integration, the disappointment over Ukraine was palpable.

There was less visible regret over a similar decision by Armenia in September, also made under pressure from Russia, to give up its plans for signing agreements with Europe.

“With Ukraine, look, we are very, very clear that we want to have a strong relationship with Ukraine,” Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said, with a note of exasperation in her voice, as she arrived for talks at the summit meeting on Friday morning.

“We believe that, particularly on economic issues, there is much to be done together to the benefit of the people of Ukraine and to the benefit of the European Union – and to do that in a way that is complementary to any other relationship they would wish to have,” Ms. Ashton said.

“We absolutely appreciate that.” 

She added, “The European Union’s door is open.”

President Grybauskaite announced Friday morning that there had been no change of heart by Mr. Yanukovich, and said she believed that it was a mistake.

Asked if she was disappointed, Ms. Grybauskaite replied, “I think that the Ukrainian people are disappointed. It’s not about Europe to be disappointed. I think today’s Ukrainian leadership chose a way which is going nowhere.”

Street protests in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and other cities, which began after Mr. Yanukovich’s government announced its decision last week, continued on Friday. 

Many supporters of European integration in Ukraine had been hoping for a last-minute surprise.

They were hoping that perhaps Mr. Yanukovich was simply seeking to increase his leverage, either to gain more favorable financial aid terms or to avoid some preconditions set by Europe, which included the release of his rival, the jailed former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko.

In a briefing for German journalists on Friday morning as the summit drew to a close, Ms. Merkel said that she was thinking of Ms. Tymoshenko, as well as of the people in Ukraine and in Belarus, who she said were living under difficult conditions.

The initialing of preliminary agreements with Georgia and Moldova bring those countries to a point that Ukraine reached in March 2012, raising the possibility of further efforts by Russia to prevent the accords from ultimately being signed. 

Moldova had already come under substantial pressure from Moscow, including a ban on Moldovan wine, one of the country’s most important exports, and threats of an immigration crackdown that could expel more than 100,000 Moldovan citizens living and working in Russia.

Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, has been less vulnerable, in part because its relations with the Kremlin have been bad since then.

Source: The New York Times

Analysis: Ukraine Fiasco Raises Doubts About EU Neighborhood Policy

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- The European Union's failure to conclude a landmark agreement with Ukraine this week raises questions about a policy designed to surround the bloc with a "ring of friends" that has done little so far to stabilize its neighborhood.


Protesters gesture as they stand near an EU flag during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kiev November 29, 2013.

The fiasco at an Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius has been blamed mostly on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's opaque post-Soviet governance, and on pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But some critics, including one of the architects of the European Neighborhood Policy, say EU efforts to export democracy and the market economy to countries on the bloc's eastern and southern fringes have long been hampered by an unrealistic balance between carrots and sticks.

Brussels set too high requirements for partners to adopt EU standards of business regulation, governance and human rights in return for too small financial and political rewards, says Michael Leigh, a senior adviser to the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think-tank.

Supporters of the policy remain convinced that it will ultimately succeed in drawing the EU's neighbors into its economic orbit provided Europeans have the strategic patience to ride out short-term disappointments.

Yanukovich pulled back from signing an EU association agreement on Thursday after Russia pulled trade and energy levers to dissuade the former Soviet republic, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

Armenia dropped out in September after being subjected to similar threats. 

Yanukovich told EU leaders they had not offered enough money to help Ukraine's economic transition and had interfered in its domestic affairs by making the release of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko a condition for the deal.

"For the EU, the 'nyet' of Ukraine and Armenia, taken together with the situation in most Arab countries around the Mediterranean, mean the end of a 10-year effort to put into place a European Neighborhood Policy," Leigh, who was director-general for enlargement and neighbourhood policy at the European Commission until last year, said.

Current policy practitioners see things differently.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Vilnius the EU's offer to Ukraine remained on the table and the Europeans had to "drill through a think plank" and should set no deadline for a deal.

She rejected Yanukovich's suggestion that the EU, Russia and Ukraine should all get around a table and work out a strategy to help his country overcome its deep economic crisis.

"RING OF FRIENDS" 

Former European Commission President Romano Prodi first floated the idea of building a special relationship with the EU's neighbors shortly before 10 central and east European countries joined the bloc in 2004.

In his vision, a "ring of friends" from Russia to Morocco would share "everything but institutions" with the EU.

Free trade and common rules in areas such as environmental protection, public procurement and investment security would give those countries the benefits of the EU's single market and make them attractive to foreign investors.

Through a network of association agreements, they would adopt large chunks of the EU's rulebook and build democratic, clean governance structures with technical help and limited financial assistance from Brussels.

"This was misconceived from the outset and I was one of the culprits," Leigh said.

"Too closely modeled on the enlargement process but without the incentive of membership, the ENP provided too few benefits in exchange for political reforms which partner governments anyway had no intention of carrying out."

Without the magnetic pull of accession, the EU does not exert the same sway on partners with authoritarian rulers and entrenched economic elites that - often correctly - perceive EU policies as a threat to their positions.

Rival powers such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar wield chequebooks that dwarf EU aid, without attaching strings about democracy, judicial independence and fighting corruption.

"In retrospect, the EU made a number of serious mistakes. It was not necessary or appropriate to present Ukraine with an incredibly demanding Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement," Leigh said.

He argues that Brussels should offer lighter trade pacts on less intrusive terms to start with.

Even supporters of the aborted deal acknowledge it would have entailed high initial compliance costs for Kiev, which is struggling to avoid default, while the economic benefits would accrue more gradually.

The initialing of association agreements with Georgia and Moldova in Vilnius was a meager consolation for EU leaders who had hoped for the big prize of drawing Ukraine, a strategically located potential market of 46 million, into its orbit. 

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT 

The EU has been no more successful on its southern rim, 18 years after launching the so-called Barcelona process of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

European hopes that the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that toppled veteran autocrats would bring forth democratic partners committed to transparency and better governance have largely run into the sand.

Tunisia, where the ruling Islamist Ennahda party has agreed in principle to hand over power, seems to offer the last chance of an EU-sponsored democratic transition. 

Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, has reverted to military-dominated rule and remains in economic decay, kept just afloat by Gulf money, after the army toppled elected Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in July and cracked down hard on his Muslim Brotherhood.

Libya is in chaos with a weak government unable to assert its authority over rival militias.

Algeria, Europe's number two gas supplier, dodged the Arab Spring and remains an opaque system with an ailing president who has barely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in April.

In Morroco, King Mohammed's cautious experiment in sharing some power with moderate Islamists has been gradually put into reverse.

Supporters of European Neighborhood Policy are undeterred by the setbacks and say the EU strategy continues to offer the only realistic path for countries that aspire to modernize and lift their populations out of poverty.

Ukraine will eventually take that road, they say, possibly as early as next year, but maybe only after Yanukovich goes.

Pawel Swieboda, head of the DemosEuropa think-tank in Warsaw, said central European countries achieved this transition in the 1990s by adopting EU standards that attracted foreign direct investment and brought huge productivity gains.

"For a country like Ukraine, you need a change in governance and it was a smart idea for the EU to try to lure them into an arrangement in which step-by-step the system would have to be reformed from the inside," said Swieboda, a former Polish negotiator on EU accession.

"You have to give it time and patience, forget about the end destination of the journey and start getting them moving."

Source: Yahoo News

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day Of The Gangster Pygmy

KIEV, Ukraine -- History, as every schoolboy knows, is often shaped by the courage, zeal and evil of titanic leaders.


Despite the appearance of defeat, Europe might have won the battle of Ukraine.

Less famously, it is sometimes swayed by the venality and self-interest of pygmies.

That is frequently the case in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and seemed this week to be the tawdry fate of Ukraine.

Viktor Yanukovych, its president, decided against signing a trade deal with the European Union.

In the process he appeared to hand victory to Vladimir Putin in a struggle with the EU over Ukraine’s geopolitical orientation.

Yet for all the dismay he caused, this might prove a better outcome than it looks — if the Europeans stick to their guns.

“I want to live in Europe”, proclaimed some of the placards waved in Kiev this week.

By many historical measures, Ukrainians already do: parts of their country once belonged to Poland and Austria-Hungary.

Mr Yanukovych nevertheless turned his back on the agreement he was due to sign at a summit in Vilnius.

Facing an election in 2015, and desperate for cash to prop up an economy he has helped to ruin, he looked instead to Russia, which he hopes will offer cheap gas and loans with few conditions and little awkward oversight.

He may (or may not) join a rival customs union that Mr Putin is pushing.

The terms of Russia’s offer are murky — and Mr Yanukovych is now trying to placate the EU — but however he dresses it up, this was plainly a choice made more in his own interests than in his country’s.

His slipperiness is, ironically, one reason not to be too downbeat.

Had he signed the EU deal, Mr Yanukovych would probably have reneged on its terms, at the same time using the union’s imprimatur as evidence of his respectability.

Moreover the EU has — just — emerged from this squabble without seriously compromising its attachment to the rule of law and human rights.

Having unwisely been drawn into a tug-of-war with Russia, it was tempted, for example, to ditch its demand for the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, the opponent whom Mr Yanukovych has imprisoned.

Doing so would have suggested to both current and aspirant members of the EU that its talk of rules and democracy was so much can't.

To those who wait 

The other reason to be upbeat is the reaction of Ukrainians.

Tens of thousands went onto the freezing streets in protest — an uncomfortable reminder, for Mr Yanukovych, of the Orange Revolution of 2004, itself provoked by a bid to rig a presidential vote in his favor.

Back then, Ukrainians were demonstrating for clean government and fair elections.

Most have since concluded that integrating with the EU is their best hope of achieving them.

(Note to Mr Putin: few people freely demonstrate for sleazy authoritarianism.)

It is far better for the EU that the backlash against Mr Yanukovych comes from the streets of Kiev rather than from Brussels.

But the Europeans can still help.

To begin with, they should threaten and enact severe penalties if he uses force against protesters (as his side might have done in 2004, had outsiders not intervened).

Travel bans and frozen bank accounts have proved effective weapons against post-Soviet kleptocrats.

If he attempts yet another east-west auction of his country, the Europeans should be firmer in their principles: offering inducements only increases his leverage with Mr Putin.

They must remember that, in their values and reputation, they have more at stake than Mr Putin ever could.

The sad reality is that Ukraine’s politics are too dysfunctional to expect much European integration soon.

Mr Yanukovych — whose rap-sheet features cronyism and claims of media harassment, alongside election-rigging and the selective incarceration of his enemies— has lost his chance to swap a gangster’s reputation for a statesman’s.

He has probably made his cherished re-election less, rather than more, likely.

But he is not the whole problem.

Ukraine’s current generation of leaders rose to power in its first, cut-throat decade of independence, and seem to regard government jobs and policies as assets to be milked.

And the milkers include Ms Tymoshenko’s orange revolutionaries, whose hypocrisy, greed and back-stabbing brought Mr Yanukovych to power.

The demonstrators in Kiev trust none of them and have no real leaders.

Until new ones emerge, the West should concentrate on the Ukrainian people.

That means kinder visa arrangements, more exchange visits for Ukrainian students, support for pro-democracy groups and election-monitoring.

The EU must show the protesters that their feelings are reciprocated, even if their rulers are too myopic to share them.

Source: The Economist Europe

Stealing Their Dream: Viktor Yanukovych Is Hijacking Ukrainians’ European Future

KIEV, Ukraine -- It was billed as a history play, but turned into a Ukrainian-style farce. Only ten days ago Ukraine, which has spent most of its 22 years as an independent country floating between Russia and Europe, at last seemed to be on the path towards Europe.


He wants to be part of history, too.

Viktor Yanukovych, the president, who had tried to rig elections in 2004, this time played the part of a statesman on an historic mission.

The performance was to culminate on November 29th with the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and European Union leaders.

The role appeared too much for Mr Yanukovych: a week before the summit, he rewrote the script.

He halted the talks with the EU, and turned to Russia instead, sparking mass protests from Ukrainians who feel their future is being gambled away.

Mr Yanukovych blamed his change of mind on Russia’s economic pressure and European stinginess.

He claimed that he had not expected Russia to carry through its threats to impose sanctions on Ukraine’s imports, even though Mr Putin never gave him reason to doubt the Kremlin’s resolve.

Mr Yanukovych evoked laughter with his attempt to justify his U-turn by the need to protect the nation’s vulnerable citizens—as he did with his “concern” for private business.

Petro Poroshenko, a businessman and a proponent of Ukraine’s European integration, whose exports of chocolates to Russia have been hit hard, says his business suffers more from being raided by Ukraine’s security and tax men than it does from Russia’s sanctions.

In fact, one of the main reasons why many oligarchs support Ukraine’s deal with the EU is because they see it as a protection against Mr Yanukovych.

Mr Yanukovych’s change of mind stunned the Europeans.

It should not have done.

His initial move towards Europe was not a strategic choice based on the long-term interests of his country, but one based on the short-term interests of Mr Yanukovych and his family, which, unlike Ukraine’s economy, seems to be thriving.

At a meeting with newspaper editors some time ago, Mr Yanukovych was asked which path Ukraine should choose.

His answer was apparently the path of money.

With Ukraine’s economy on the verge of bankruptcy and a presidential election looming in 2015, the need for funding has become acute.

Winning the election seems to be a question of life and death for Mr Yanukovych.

If he does not win, he may not only lose his wealth, but also swap places with Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and his arch rival who is now in jail.

Signing a deal with the EU may have offered Mr Yanukovych his best chance of defeating the opposition fairly, but he apparently preferred tried and tested methods, which include a mix of electoral bribery and a crackdown on dissent.

Unwilling to launch economic reforms, cut spending or tame the appetites of his cronies, Mr Yanukovych proceeded to trade the country’s most valuable asset: Ukraine’s geopolitical position.

“The talks with the EU were an auction. It was a position of a pimp who is offering Ukraine up for sale,” says Mr Poroshenko.

Mr Yanukovych let it be known that, if Europe wanted a modern, democratic Ukraine, it needed to pay.

His price was $160 billion by 2017.

European politicians were aghast at such blatant blackmail; Mr Putin seemed happy to haggle.

It is not clear what he and Mr Yanukovych agreed during their secret meeting in early November—the deal is said to include cheaper gas, credits and lucrative business contracts—but not, it is rumoured in Kiev, a requirement that Ukraine join a proposed new customs union with Russia.

Whatever the understanding, it has persuaded Mr Yanukovych to distance himself from the EU.

Though nothing is ever final in Ukraine, Mr Yanukovych’s favoured option seems to be to preserve the status quo and refrain from joining either camp while continuing to milk both—hence his new proposal of three-way talks.

A face-saving memorandum may yet be signed with the EU, but the collapse of the association agreement could be a blessing in disguise for the Europeans.

Teaming up with Mr Yanukovych, who would never have implemented it, would have only led to disappointment and recriminations, while helping Mr Yanukovych get re-elected.

Instead, the collapse brought pressure on Mr Yanukovych from educated middle-class Ukrainians who feel that their future has been hijacked and their dream stolen.

Haunted by the memories of 2004, Mr Yanukovych may try to crack down, but time is against him.

On November 24th tens of thousands of Ukrainians went to the streets in support of Ukraine’s European course.

More protests are planned after the EU summit.

Coming nine years after the Orange revolution, which failed to realise its promises, these protests are by a younger generation and aimed at both Mr Yanukovych and the entire political class.

For them the choice between the Soviet past and a European future is non-negotiable.

Source: The Economist Europe

EU Summit Shows No Sign Of Reviving Ukraine Deal

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- European leaders appear to have made no progress on reviving a landmark trade pact with Ukraine at the first day of an EU summit in Vilnius.


Ukraine deal has overshadowed the EU talks.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich abruptly froze plans to sign the trade and reform deal last week, under pressure from Russia.

EU leaders have been trying to persuade him to change his mind.

The deal was planned as the highlight of a summit aimed also at building ties with other East European states.

Protests 

But Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite told the Agence France-Presse news agency that EU "arguments did not reach Ukraine president's ear and mind".

"So far we see that positions have not changed," she said.

And when asked how negotiations went, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said: "They didn't. "It's over," he told The Associated Press.

Pro-EU protests are continuing in Ukrainian cities against the government's decision to back out of the agreement.

Mr Yanukovych has dismissed an EU condition for signing the agreement - that Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader, be freed from jail.

He has requested more EU financial aid.

The dispute has increased tension between the EU and Russia, with Ukraine complaining it is becoming a "battleground" between the two.

EU leaders said in a statement that they "strongly disapprove" of Moscow's pressure on Ukraine not to sign - while Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of "blackmail".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is expected to have talks with Mr Yanukovych on Friday, said on arrival in Vilnius that she had "no hope" of the agreement being signed "this time".

"But the door is open," she added.

In other summit business, UK Prime Minister David Cameron raised concerns about the free movement of people in the EU.

Britain is planning to restrict access to welfare benefits for new immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, when labour restrictions are eased in January.

'EU candy' 

The two-day event, billed as the third Eastern Partnership Summit, is being held in the capital of Lithuania, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. 

Initial political association agreements with Georgia and Moldova are due to be signed, as well as a visa agreement with Azerbaijan.

However, the centrepiece of the summit had been the association agreement with Ukraine.

Such agreements, which promote democratic values and economic co-operation, are seen as a key step towards EU membership.

On arrival in Vilnius, President Yanukovych met the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.

No details were given.

In a Ukrainian TV interview earlier, he accused the EU of offering his country an inadequate amount in loans to help reform the economy.

The EU has offered to lend 610m euros (£510m; $828) in macro-financial assistance, provided that Ukraine continues to meet the conditions of an IMF stand-by loan of 11.15bn euros ($15.18 billion), agreed in 2010.

Mr Yanukovych said Ukraine would need at least 20bn euros ($27.23 billion) a year to cover the costs of upgrading its economy to "European standards".

"For three years in succession they [EU leaders] have shown this candy in pretty wrapping to us," he added.

"We don't have to be humiliated like this. We are a serious country, a European one." 

Defending the EU's offer, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said:

"The Ukrainian economy needs huge investments but these are not costs. They represent future income, more growth, more jobs and more wealth.

"The only costs that I can see are the costs of inaction allowing more stagnation of the economy and risking the economic future and health of the country."

'European Time' 

Prominent Ukrainian opposition politician Vitali Klitschko, who is also in Vilnius, said he hoped the agreement would be signed after all.

"We Ukrainians want the changes," the world boxing champion added.

"We want to live with the European family, with European rules, with Europeans' life standards."

The Ukrainian president has attacked EU demands to free Tymoshenko, saying:

"What does the European Union have to do with this? Is the European Union a court?"

In a message from her prison cell in Kharkiv, Tymoshenko called on EU leaders not to let her continued imprisonment block the association agreement.

"If Yanukovych takes a positive decision, I sincerely ask you [EU country leaders] to sign the agreement without any preconditions, including my release," she said in the message, read out by her daughter Eugenia.

Source: BBC News

EU Commissioner Füle Talks To Euronews After Ukraine Halts Association Agreement

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- EU presidency holders Lithuania host the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on Thursday and Friday, where Ukraine was expected to sign an association agreement with the the 28-nation bloc.


EU Commissioner Štefan Füle

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Štefan Füle had headed up preparations for the deal from Brussels, but EU President Jose Manuel Barroso is yet to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who put a hold on the agreement last week.

He said Ukraine was humiliated by the amount of money the EU was offering as assistance.

However, with the possibility of a cold and hungry winter if there is a gas supply dispute with Russia, many Ukrainians are looking towards the EU’s promises of longterm prosperity if Kiev cooperates.

In contrast to Barroso, Russian President Vladimir Putin is actively involved in negotiations.

There has been a series of meetings with Yanukovych and widespread coverage in the Russian press, though Moscow denies offering any money.

EU Commissioner Štefan Füle gave euronews his take on the recent developments and the contrast in the EU’s and Russia’s approaches to Ukraine.

euronews: “Commissioner Füle, welcome to euronews. In Russia we see a huge media campaign and top level meetings, non-stop meetings between the presidents, in order to discourage Ukraine from turning to the west. Why there is no such sense of urgency here, in Brussels?”

Füle: “I think the sense we feel is the sense of responsibility and commitment. While the others might express the sense of urgency last couple of weeks, we have been the biggest donor to Ukraine since its independence. Over the years since 1991 we have provided Ukraine with grants of 3.3 billions of euros ($4.5 billion).” 

euronews: “Can the EU finance a bit more?”

Füle: “It’s not a beauty contest. I mean who pays more and who puts on the table at the last minute more money. The first year the Association Agreement would save Ukrainian exporters up to half a billion of euros ($0.68 billion) in import duties."

"The benefits to the GDP would see around 6.2 percent of extra GDP growth just because of the Association Agreement. Our friends in Kiev, they know better that we are not going to be engaged in some kind of ‘bazaar’ negotiations – who puts more – whether it will be Brussels or Moscow.”

euronews: “When will be the next chance for the major step in this direction?”

Füle: “We have worked hard to make it happen – that the Association Agreement is signed in Vilnius. And I guess it would require certain efforts to create such a possibility again. But as far as we are concerned, the commitment is definitely there, on our side.”

euronews: “What are you saying to countries who are committed to Europe, who want the future with it, but who are afraid of painful reforms, who are reluctant, not committed to modernisation as much as you want?”

Füle: “That there is no other way but through the reforms, that there is no shortcut to the prosperity than through the reforms. If you just compare Poland and Ukraine. In 1991, they were more or less on the same level in their GDP."

"And look where Poland is now and where the Ukraine is. So that would be my first message. My second message is that you could always count on our support.”

euronews: “Do you still believe in Eastern Partnership, with the only countries, Georgia and Moldova, commited to moving forward?”

Füle: “I do believe in Eastern Partnership, and I do believe in Eastern Partnership to be a fellowship of six partner-countries, each of them with its own aspirations, ambitions, its own historical experience – with us."

“On our side, we are trying to use some general policies for the benefit of all of them and strengthening the regional cooperation among them. At the same time we are putting on the table tailor-made programmes and supporting activities to help them. And the Vilnius summit is gonna be an extremely important event on that road.”

Source: euronews

Thursday, November 28, 2013

As EU Leaders Meet, No Deal With Ukraine For Now

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- As leaders of the European Union gather for a summit discussing the bloc's eastern expansion, both EU and Ukrainian officials said Thursday the suspension of talks on closer ties could still be revived after the two-day meeting.


EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele

Faced with pressure from Russia, Ukraine's leaders last week shelved plans for further integration with the EU, sparking massive protests at home setting back EU plans to pry a nation of 46 million people loose from Moscow's orbit.

Russia would like Kiev to join a separate union that aims to rival the EU.

The association agreement with Ukraine, with its provisions for closer trade ties, was supposed to be the signature event of the two-day summit in this former Soviet republic — now an EU member — and a clear indication the EU was pushing its geopolitical clout ever more eastward, right up to the Russian border.

Instead, the formal initialing of similar agreements with another two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Moldova, with populations of 4.5 million and 3.6 million respectively, will have to do as a possible summit highlight.

Pat Cox, the former European Parliament president who is now leading an EU monitoring mission in Ukraine, said that "Ukraine, as a sovereign state, is entitled to say 'yes,' 'no' or 'maybe' — and it seems to be 'maybe' at the moment."

Ukraine's first deputy prime minister, Serhiy Arbuzov, indicated that the suspension of the signature of a far-reaching association agreement was not final.

"My presence here means that we continue to work, are ready to meet and look for solutions," Arbuzov, a staunch ally of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, said, according to the Interfax news agency.

"I am sure that we will find a solution," he said Thursday, adding that his country "needs Europe, a European course."

Thousands of people have kept up daily protests in Ukraine's capital against Yanukovych's decision to drop further EU integration for closer ties with Russia.

It was mass popular protests in 2004, known as the Orange Revolution, that brought down Yanukovych, and he is wary of a repeat of the same scenario now.

Analysts believe that Yanukovych is trying to play both sides, while attempting to secure a better short-term deal with Moscow.

"The Yanukovych line at Vilnius seems to be to play for time-keep options open, and come away with something which he can then use in negotiations with Russia likely next week over a gas-financing deal," said Tim Ash, chief emerging-markets economist at Standard Bank in London.

"He probably hopes he can get enough 'warm words' from EU leaders in terms of the EU integration process to calm the mood on the streets, and take momentum out of street demonstrations," Ash said.

The EU itself seems resigned to play the waiting game.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said he is "ready to resume the preparations for the signature of the association agreement as soon as Ukraine is ready."

Source: AP

EU Leaders Set For Frosty Dinner With Ukraine's Yanukovich

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- European leaders will come face-to-face with Viktor Yanukovich on Thursday for the first time since the Ukrainian president spurned their offer of a free-trade deal and decided to seek closer ties with Russia instead.


A student attends a rally in support of EU integration in Kiev November 26, 2013.

In a meeting that promises to be one of the frostier moments of political theatre this year, Yanukovich plans to attend a dinner in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to honor the Eastern Partnership, the EU's four-year-old program of outreach to former Soviet states.

Ukraine had been expected to sign a far-reaching free-trade and political association deal with the EU at the Vilnius summit, the result of years of negotiation.

But last week, following intense pressure from Moscow and growing concerns about Ukraine's dire economic situation, Yanukovich announced he wasn't ready to sign the EU deal yet and would bolster links with Russia.

It is not clear what the Ukrainian leader hopes to achieve by attending the Vilnius dinner, especially after dismissing the EU's trade offer, which would have come with around 600 million euros ($800 million) of financial support, as "humiliating".

But he appears minded to keep his options open, accepting short-term support from Moscow, which supplies Ukraine with gas, without committing to Russia's Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, and all the while keeping the EU within reach. 

"When it corresponds to our interests, when we have agreed (with the EU) on normal conditions, then we can consider signing," he said on Tuesday.

"When will we sign? Soon or not soon? I would like the time to be as soon as possible."

EYE ON THE PRIZE 

Though Ukraine is not playing ball, the EU will go ahead with initial political association agreements with Georgia and Moldova in Vilnius, putting them on track to formally sign in around a year's time, and ink a visa agreement with Azerbaijan.

Belarus and Armenia will also attend the summit, though they are not taking further steps closer to the EU at this stage.

But the biggest prize in the Eastern Partnership was always Ukraine, a vast country of 46 million people that borders four EU member states, and it will be something of an elephant in the room during the dinner on Thursday night.

EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, will hold a pre-dinner meeting in Vilnius to work out how to handle the situation with Yanukovich, officials said. 

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, who liaises between the EU's 28 member states, has said the offer to Ukraine remains on the table, despite there being next to no chance Yanukovich will change his mind at the last minute. 

Instead, the dinner may be an opportunity for EU leaders to press the case of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a bitter Yanukovich rival who was convicted of abuse of power in 2011, after a trial the EU described as selective justice.

Tymoshenko declared a hunger strike on Monday and has given her support to the tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have demonstrated in Kiev against the rejection of the EU deal, the biggest outpouring of unrest since the 2004 Orange Revolution that helped bring Tymoshenko to power.

Yanukovich this week demanded that the EU stop meddling in her case.

WAY FORWARD? 

EU leaders may also try to understand from Yanukovich how he intends to balance his acceptance of help from Russia with his stated aim of moving closer to the EU.

Russia and Ukraine have suggested three-way talks with the EU, but that is not something officials in Brussels will accept.

"These are bilateral programs between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries. It's not about negotiating three-ways with Russia," said an official from Lithuania, which holds the EU presidency and has planned the Vilnius summit.

"Not only that, but it's an insult to the other Eastern Partnership countries if one of them needs to negotiate its position together with Russia. It just doesn't work like that."

It is not clear what combination of threats and inducements Russian President Vladimir Putin made to get Yanukovich to shift position, but diplomats in Brussels, Kiev and Moscow have suggested Russia will give Ukraine a more favorable gas-supply deal and better terms on repaying 1.3 billion euros ($1.77 billion) of debt.

It will also reopen trade flows that have been interrupted since Yanukovich started making his overtures to Brussels.

Yanukovich may need Moscow's support if he is to be returned to office after elections in 2015, political analysts say, and by rejecting the EU deal he has sidestepped two dangers: the demands for Tymoshenko's release and the cost of adopting EU regulations that come with the free-trade agreement.

Some EU diplomats are quietly relieved that the deal with Ukraine fell through, saying a bullet had been dodged.

Ukraine's many problems, including a collapsing currency, vast debts and no lifeline from the International Monetary Fund, are now Moscow's burden more than Brussels'.

But it's also not clear whether Ukraine can live up to Russia's expectations, including joining the Customs Union.

If not, Kiev could be left out in the cold again, and might return to the EU deal in a few months' time, some officials say.

Source: Yahoo News

Ukraine U-Turn On Europe Pact Was Agreed With Vladimir Putin

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's decision to shelve an integration pact with the EU was taken by Viktor Yanukovych, the president, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian prime minister said.


Ukrainians stage a protest in Kiev on 26 November to demand the government signs the key EU pact.

The prime minister, Mykola Azarov, disclosed that the abrupt Ukrainian U-turn on six years of negotiations with Brussels was taken when Putin demanded a say in, and a delay to, the EU accord.

Azarov and EU officials added that the final blow to the pact, touted as historic, came last week when the International Monetary Fund presented very stiff terms for loans to avoid an economic collapse in Ukraine.

These were demands that Kiev felt impossible to meet and that the EU also found too harsh.

Yanukovych and the Russian president, Putin, met secretly on 9 November; then last Wednesday there was a meeting in St Petersburg between Azarov and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

Azarov said: "The main so-called agreements were not during my visit to St Petersburg, where we were just clarifying the details, but, of course, at the meeting of presidents. The Russian government made it clear to us that signing of an agreement means it would be subsequently impossible to discuss trade and economic relations." 

EU officials said on they were disappointed and surprised by the Ukrainian U-turn.

The EU and Ukraine political association agreement, and a free-trade pact, were to have been signed at a special EU summit in Lithuania opening on Thursday.

Brussels has concluded that there will be no last-minute reversal of the Yanukovych decision.

The EU also said that the issue could be discussed with Russia but that there could be no direct Russian involvement in the proposed EU-Ukraine pact.

"I don't think a three-way discussion is particularly productive," said an official involved in organising the summit in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

Yanukovych said that he would attend the summit to explain why Kiev had turned down the deal.

"Today my plans have not changed. I have repeatedly said that I am planning to go to Vilnius," he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

In a television declaration he described the EU aid offer as humiliating.

"We don't have to be humiliated like this. We are a serious country. A European one," he said.

Russian retaliation against Ukraine had entailed almost $7bn (£4.3bn) in lost exports over the past year, Azarov said.

This threatened thousands of jobs, he added, arguing that Brussels should compensate Kiev for the losses.

"There wasn't a single meeting when I did not raise this issue," he said.

"The EU didn't give us any concrete help." 

The EU official agreed that the Europe-Russia "tug-of-love" over Ukraine had been costly for the pivotal country of 46 million people straddling the EU and Russian borders.

"It would appear Ukraine lost trade because of actions taken by Russia. We regret the pressure being put on Ukraine because of this process," he said.

The Yanukovych volte-face brought tens of thousands people on to the streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in the biggest anti-government protests since the 2004 orange revolution.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned former prime minister and arch-rival of Yanukovych, announced a hunger strike in protest at Kiev's decision.

Her release and departure to Germany, refused by the president, had become a central demand by Europe for the accord to go ahead.

Amid a severe economic crisis the credit ratings of Ukraine have been cut; the country's foreign reserves fell in October to their lowest level since 2006.

Ukraine has been negotiating a $4bn IMF rescue.

The Yanukovych decision brought veiled warnings from Brussels and from Washington of non-support for the IMF package.

But officials in Brussels also complained that last week's letter from the IMF was poorly timed and may have tipped the balance in Kiev's calculations.

Azarov said the IMF demanded increases in heating and hot water rates, and an end to farming subsidies.

"I got the impression the IMF either doesn't understand the economic situation in Ukraine or gives us conditions that cannot be accepted," he said.

Source: The Guardian UK

Ukraine At A Crossroads

KIEV, Ukraine -- More than 100,000 demonstrators flooded the streets of Ukraine’s capital over the weekend after President Viktor Yanukovych called off talks on a free-trade agreement with the European Union.


Putin applied intense pressure on Ukraine not to join the EU.

As recently as two months ago, Yanukovych promised to approve the landmark deal, which would have pushed the former Soviet republic toward Brussels and away from Moscow.

That promise should be honored.

A more democratic Ukraine with closer ties to the EU, rather than Russia, is in the best interest of the United States.

But persuading the government to change its mind again will be no small hurdle.

Ukraine depends on imports of Russian gas, and pipelines across Ukraine pump Russian gas to many EU states.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Ukraine couldn’t afford a deal with the EU that hurts trade with Russia.

As a warning, Russia has already imposed painful restrictions on some Ukrainian exports.

Indeed, the turnaround is a huge victory for the Kremlin, which has been lobbying hard against the EU deal.

Russia has its own customs union with two other former Soviet republics — Belarus and Kazakhstan — and has been urging Ukraine to join it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin surely also feels threatened by a more democratic Ukraine, which would stand in sharp contrast with his own government’s manipulated elections and intolerance for dissent.

A further sticking point in the EU negotiations is the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych’s top political opponent.

Her imprisonment is entirely politically motivated, and Brussels has rightly said that it won’t sign the deal unless she is freed.

But Yanukovych, who only narrowly defeated Tymoshenko in 2010, appears more concerned that her release would mean a new challenge to his reelection in 2015. 

Polls consistently show broad popular support for integrating with the European Union, giving Ukrainian businesses better access to Europe’s $16 trillion economy and more than 500 million potential customers.

Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan certainly can’t offer comparable markets.

The weekend’s protests were the biggest in Kiev since the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned a fraudulent presidential election and brought a Western-leaning government to power.

The crowds, waving banners, chanted, “We are together. We are united. We are Europe.”

Yanukovych would be wise to listen.

Source: Boston Globe

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Russia Urged Kiev To Delay Key EU Deal - Ukrainian PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russia had urged Kiev to delay signing a key deal with the EU, Ukraine's prime minister has admitted, as mass protest rallies continue across the country.


Mykola Azarov

Mykola Azarov said Moscow had offered to hold trilateral talks on the issue, without giving "any ultimatums".

Kiev last week put on hold the association and free trade deal with the EU, prompting Brussels to accuse Moscow of exerting pressure on Ukraine.

The move triggered huge pro-EU protests in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied putting any pressure on Kiev, accusing instead the EU of "blackmailing" Ukraine into signing the agreement.

'Battlefield' alarm 

Speaking to reporters in Kiev on Tuesday, Mr Azarov acknowledged that Russia had suggested "to delay signing the treaty and to conduct negotiations" between Kiev, Moscow and the EU.

He said Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych would still attend this week's EU summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, to discuss the possible consultations with Brussels and Moscow.

It had been originally planned that Ukraine would sign the treaty with the EU at the 28-29 November summit.

Mr Azarov said such three-way talks would be in the best interests of Ukraine:

"We absolutely do not want to be a battlefield between the EU and Russia. We want to have good relations with both the EU and Russia."

He also added that separate "road-map" talks with Russia aimed at reviving economic ties would start next month and no agreement had been finalised on possible new financial support from the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, President Putin said it was solely up to Ukraine whether to sign or not the agreement with the EU.

During a visit to Italy, Mr Putin also urged EU leaders to refrain from "sharp words" on the issue.

New revolution? 

Ukraine's government said last Thursday it was halting preparations for signing the deal with the EU, amid concerns this would have a negative impact on Kiev's trade relations with Russia and cause mass job losses as a result.

Moscow had earlier warned it would be forced to defend its market by raising custom duties on Ukrainian goods.

In a statement on Monday, President Yanukovych said he had been forced to halt treaty preparations by economic necessity and the desire to protect those "most vulnerable".

Tens of thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets of Ukraine's major cities since last week.

On Sunday, more than 100,000 people rallied in the capital, Kiev, in the largest show of public discontent since the Orange Revolution in 2004 - which saw Mr Yanukovych ousted and a Western-leaning government brought to power.

Mr Yanukovych returned to power in the 2010 presidential election.

Solidarity rallies have also been staged in a number of European capitals, the US and Canada.

Protesters are accusing the president of bowing to growing pressure from Mr Putin, who wants Kiev to join the Moscow-led Customs Union.

The grouping also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Kiev have opened an investigation into an attack on Monday by protesters in European Square against a security services bus.

In a statement, the security service said staff on board were carrying out security measures including checking for radio channels that might be used to detonate bombs.

Protesters apparently thought they were using monitoring equipment to eavesdrop. 

They attacked the bus, seizing equipment and using tear gas, injuring staff inside the vehicle, the statement said.

It also said members of parliament were involved in the clashes.

In a separate development, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution who was jailed in 2011 for abuse of power, said on Monday she was starting a hunger strike in solidarity with the protesters.

Ukraine: The past was Orange 

  • 2004 Nov: PM Viktor Yanukovych declared winner of presidential election. Amid widespread claims of fraud, mass street protests become "Orange Revolution", and Supreme Court annuls election. 
  • 2004 Dec: Orange leader Viktor Yushchenko elected president; his PM is Orange ally Yulia Tymoshenko 
  • 2005 Sept: The Orange alliance disintegrates, Yushchenko sacks Tymoshenko as PM 
  • 2006 Jan: Russia cuts Ukrainian gas supplies in mid-winter, citing a price dispute. Kiev accuses Moscow of using gas as a weapon 
  • 2006: Yanukovych returns as PM, after winning polls and failure of Orange coalition 
  • 2007: New polls, Tymoshenko back as PM 
  • 2009 Jan: Russia cuts gas supplies again 
  • 2010 Feb: Yanukovych wins presidential elections, apparently cleanly, Tymoshenko ousted as PM 
  • 2011 Oct: Tymoshenko jailed for abuse of power, prompting strong Western protests 
  • 2013 Nov: Ukraine abandons historic deal on closer EU ties, under Russian pressure 

Source: BBC News

The Euro Virus Is Haunting Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Massive uprising continues in Ukraine after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych halted a European Union deal due to pressure from Russia.


An estimated 100,000 protesters at the rally in European Sq. in Kyev on Sunday, November 24.

People took to the streets to demand Yanukovych sign the agreement for trade and cooperation agreement with the EU at the end of the week so the country might continue with European Integration.

Ukrainians throughout the country – from Lviv in the West to Kharkiv in the East, with thousands of protesters in the capital, Kiev – want stronger economic and political ties with Europe.

How have Ukrainian authorities responded, realizing that the pro-European movement is stronger than anyone expected and refuses to fade?

In some regions they responded creatively: in order to keep crowds out of the streets and squares, local administrations declared massive flu outbreaks and prohibited any public gatherings.

In Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine bordering Russia, the mayor signed an illegal ban on all public gatherings in the city because of the phantom pandemic.

Needless to say, citizens are not fooled and recognize the decree as an attempt to keep the Euro virus under control.

In Kiev police clashed with protesters, hurling tear gas into the crowds.

According to media reports and live coverage by Radio Svoboda, the government hasn’t unleashed tanks in the streets at this point.

The European Parliament has been very clear that it will not tolerate Ukrainian authorities using force against peaceful pro-European protesters.

So, the flu pandemic seems like a safe way to tame mass outrage, at least in the regions, where local governments have practically absolute powers and people seem more passive and obedient.

However, in Kharkiv, despite the ban on protests due to the phantom flu, European fever continues, quietly.

Judging by YouTube videos and online news, some people remain in the streets while wearing flu masks and distributing them to others.

Mainstream national media, controlled by pro-Yanukovych oligarchs, keeps the protest coverage to a minimum, downplaying the scale of the indignation in the populace.

Kiev’s decision to abandon the EU path and turn to Russia has outraged a majority of Ukrainians who showed growing support for EU integration, according to various opinion polls, and people say they feel that the future of their country has been stolen.

In protest, a wave of peaceful rallies with Ukrainian flags and pro-democratic slogans spread around the globe, from Europe to Asia.

President Yanukovych got too caught up in his gambling—maneuvering between the EU and Russia and trying to see who’d offer him a better deal.

The Euro virus has spread even among his own supporters and members of the ruling party (47% of his Party of Regions supports the EU Association Agreement, according to a GFK survey) Ukrainians don’t want Putin and Yanukovych to decide their future – they proved it by voicing their opposition to the government’s actions.

They are indeed ready to live in a free society, accept democratic norms and the rule of law, and do business with western partners.

Their government, surely, is not.

Source: Forbes

Ukraine In Turmoil After Leaders Reject Major EU Deal

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yuri V. Lutsenko, a one-time field commander of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, looked out across the tens of thousands of people who gathered on Sunday to protest the government’s decision to back away from a far-reaching political and trade deal with the European Union.


Yuri V. Lutsenko

Standing onstage under an ash-streaked sky, Mr. Lutsenko felt a powerful sense of déjà vu — and a deep need to apologize.

“I am sure that every person who stood at the glorious Orange Square nine years ago has to do the same,” he told the crowd.

“I would like you to accept my personal apologies for what was not finished.”

For the second time in a decade, Ukraine is in turmoil, with tens of thousands of protesters in recent days loudly demanding that the country shake off its post-Soviet identity and move once and for all into the orbit of a more prosperous Europe.

They exploded in anger last week when their leaders, buckling under pressure from Moscow, said they would walk away from a deal that many here, especially the young, see as a vital step in escaping the clutches of the Kremlin and joining fellow ex-satellite countries of Eastern Europe on a path to modernization and greater wealth.

At stake here is not just the fate of a free-trade pact but whether the hardball tactics of Russia, willing to use very bit of economic muscle — including trade threats and its stranglehold on energy supplies — to exert blunt force in negotiations, will prevail over the national aspirations of millions of people.

The effort to draw in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics is also crucial to Europe, which has invested heavily in it and can ill afford a humiliating defeat at a time when its stature is already being called into doubt by the continuing economic strains within the euro zone.

Calls for Europe to answer the Kremlin’s threats of retaliatory sanctions against Ukraine with sanctions against Russia are raising the prospect of a bitter trade war that could complicate numerous efforts by Western powers to cooperate with Russia on security matters.

“Russia really depends on the EU buying gas and all this other stuff, “ said Andreas Umland, who teaches political science at Kiev-Mohyla Academy here.

“The EU has leverage.”

With street protests continuing in Kiev and cities across the country on Tuesday, there was a distinct sense that Ukraine has been here before.

More than 20 years after declaring its freedom and hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country of 46 million remains caught between Russia and the West, its aspirations for independence upended by the rivalries of bigger powers, its domestic politics riven by corruption, violence, revenge and ethno-regional strife, its people impoverished and fearful about the future.

Many Ukrainians say they regard the country’s political leaders since the end of the Soviet era to be a collective failure.

At the same time, they say they recognize the constraints of being almost entirely dependent on Russia for energy, especially natural gas for heat, as well as the historic burden of being home to vital Russian military assets, including major installations for its Black Sea fleet.

“The foundation has to be completely changed in our country, so that it would not remain a post-Soviet barrack temporarily repainted in yellow and blue,” Mr. Lutsenko told the crowd, referring to the colors of the country’s flag.

“We have to understand that not only the president has to be changed but the entire system.”

Mr. Lutsenko knows the perils of the system well.

From his role as field commander, he went on to serve as a leader in Parliament and as the interior minister, under President Viktor A. Yushchenko, who was poisoned by dioxin in an assassination attempt during the disputed 2004 election.

After Viktor F. Yanukovich, the revolution’s antihero, won the presidency in 2010, Mr. Lutsenko was arrested and jailed on abuse of authority charges, only to be pardoned earlier this year as Mr. Yanukovich came under pressure from the West. 

Supporters of European integration had been pinning their hopes on the political and trade agreements, which had been in the works for more than four years, and Mr. Yanukovich had long talked about signing them at a major conference that begins on Thursday in Vilnius, Lithuania.

In contrast with 2004, they say they are focused entirely on raising standards of living, and putting Ukraine on track to become a member of the European Union so they could obtain the benefits that they see are now enjoyed by neighboring Poland and by the fellow ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics.

“I want to live in a country where the law is not just a word in the dictionary,” said Kateryna Zhemchuzhnykova, 25, a journalist who has been leading protests in the city of Donetsk in the traditionally Russia-friendly eastern half of Ukraine.

She said she wanted a country “where people are free to tell what they think; to do what they want; to go where they dream.”

Ms. Zhemchuzhnykova said that while her demonstrations had been relatively small, numbering 150 to 200 people each evening, and that protesters had faced some heckling, there had been no rallies in Donetsk in opposition to the accords with the European Union.

Taras Berezovets, a political consultant whose clients include members of Parliament, said expectations were raised by the president, partly with an eye to the 2015 election.

“Yanukovich promised them something; he promised them Europe,” Mr. Berezovets said in an interview. 

Ukraine’s domestic politics are deeply complicated by ethno-cultural, religious and linguistic divisions.

The mostly Russian-speaking and Russian Orthodox eastern and southern sections of the country tend to favor close ties with Moscow.

In the West, Ukrainian speakers predominate, the Ukrainian Catholic Church has many adherents and Russia is regarded with suspicion or even hostility.

In Kiev on Wednesday, there were scattered reports of protesters clashing with the riot police.

Also, the jailed former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, said she had begun a hunger strike in support of protesters.

Ukraine is also a country with a bloody and tragic history.

Experts say about 7.5 million people died in Ukraine during World War II.

Throughout its history, it has been dominated by larger powers, including Austria-Hungary and the Soviet Union.

Ukraine has also been a major battleground, including a devastating 30-year stretch of war in the 1600s that involved Russians, Cossacks, Poles and Turks.

Russia’s desire to dominate is taken for granted in Ukraine.

“This problem is going on for several hundred years; Ukraine lives in a polygon between Moscow, Istanbul and Warsaw,” Mr. Lutsenko said in an interview.

“Figuratively speaking, the two heads of the Russian eagle from its coat of arms are looking in different directions, but every day they try to bite Ukraine.”

He said Russia used several levers of power, including its ability to egg on separatist movements in the Ukrainian south, the Russian Orthodox Church’s ability to stoke unrest, the possibility of levying trade sanctions and, of course, the ability to shut down natural gas pipelines.

Mr. Lutsenko said that in two and a half years in prison he had spent much of his time thinking about Ukraine’s problems and why the 2004 revolution failed, and that Ukraine needed to develop an entirely new approach.

He has formed a new political party called the Third Ukrainian Republic and hopes to help the process along.

European officials have said that Russia had threatened to retaliate with severe trade sanctions that would be particularly devastating in eastern Ukraine, a main base of political support for Mr. Yanukovich.

Ukraine is already facing a severe economic crisis and has been in talks for months about securing a loan package from the International Monetary Fund.

Many Ukrainians have tempered their criticism, hoping Mr. Yanukovich will somehow resurrect the agreements and sign them at the Vilnius conference, which he still plans to attend.

“He can either become a hero, or become the biggest loser in Ukrainian history,” Mr. Berezovets said.

“Whatever happens, the only man that people hold responsible for failure is Yanukovich himself. He has personalized European integration to that extent.” 

Source: The New York Times

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Police, Pro-Europe Protesters Clash In Ukraine, EU Condemns Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian police fired tear gas at pro-Europe demonstrators and authorities sought to isolate jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday as she launched a hunger strike over Kiev's rejection of a European trade pact under pressure from Moscow.


Protesters clash with riot police during a rally to support EU integration in front of the Ukrainian cabinet of ministers building in Kiev November 24, 2013.

European Union leaders issued unusually strong criticism of Russia, stressing the offer to Ukraine remained on the table despite little indication it would sign the pact with the EU at a summit on Friday as originally planned.

Police clashed with protesters who gathered for a second day in Kiev and speakers urged people to stay on the streets, although numbers were smaller on Sunday, the largest turnout since a pro-democracy "Orange Revolution" nine years ago.

President Viktor Yanukovich, acting to defuse pressure from the streets, which denied him the presidency the first time in 2005, said rejecting the pact had been difficult but unavoidable -- implying EU rules were too tough on the fragile economy.

He pledged to create "a society of European standards".

"My policies on this path always have been, and will continue to be, consistent," he said in a television address which did not mention relations with Russia or refer to EU pressure to release Tymoshenko, his fiercest opponent.

Within minutes of his address, a second round of clashes broke out near Kiev's European Square in which special force units used batons and tear gas for several minutes against a small group of protesters away from the main body of the rally. 

Former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition leaders, denounced Yanukovich's address as an attempt "to justify his absurd policy" and Tymoshenko's lawyer told the crowd she would stop eating to persuade Yanukovich to change his mind. "

As a sign of unity with you, I declare an unlimited hunger strike with the demand to Yanukovich to sign the association agreement," declared the 52-year-old Tymoshenko in a message to the protesters read out by her defense lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko.

The Ukraine prison service said it was stopping all visits to patients in the hospital in the town of Kharkiv where Tymoshenko is being treated, citing a health risk because of an outbreak of respiratory infection in the town.

Public health regulations meant that mass meetings would be suspended too, it said, - something that might rule out any protest demonstrations on behalf of Tymoshenko. 

Yevgenia, Tymoshenko's 32-year-old daughter, said that when she went to visit her mother on Monday she was refused entry.

"This is the deliberate, unlawful isolation of my mother," she was quoted by the web site of her mother's party as saying.

"To take away from a daughter her visit to her mother is humiliating and immoral," she said.

The proposed far-reaching trade and political association agreement with Ukraine was the biggest prize in Brussels' efforts to draw states in the former Communist East closer to the EU fold.

But Kiev suddenly announced last week it had decided instead to seek closer trade relations with Moscow.

The decision followed months of Russian pressure, including threats to cut off Ukraine's gas supplies and impose trade restrictions.

Moscow has accused the European Union of putting the squeeze on Kiev, too.

The EU's two most senior officials, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, denounced Russia's actions and said the EU offer remained open.

"The European Union will not force Ukraine, or any other partner, to choose between the European Union or any other regional entity," they said in a joint statement.

"We therefore strongly disapprove of the Russian position and actions in this respect."

WIDER STRUGGLE? 

Some saw the protests as part of a wider struggle in a country that houses both native Ukrainian and Russian speakers and which many Russians see as culturally part of their nation.

"I have turned out for revolution because I have understood that the promises of Yanukovich to go into Europe were just pure comedy," said Anatoly Gurkalyuk, 33, a builder.

At the end of last week, the EU appeared minded to quietly accept Ukraine's decision to back away from the trade deal.

But the protests - with their hallmarks of Ukraine's 'orange' democracy drive of 2004-2005 - look to have spurred the EU into a renewed effort to court Ukraine.

"It is up to Ukraine to freely decide what kind of engagement they seek with the European Union. Ukrainian citizens have shown again these last days that they fully understand and embrace the historic nature of the European association," the joint EU statement said.

While it seems unlikely Yanukovich will change his mind between now and the Vilnius summit, he might still attend the event, which includes a dinner with EU leaders on Thursday night.

He did not say whether he would go to Vilnius in his Monday address and some commentators noted he dropped an habitual reference to 'Eurointegration' in his speech.

EU officials said the occasion might be an opportunity for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, to convince him of the benefits of looking West, even if he doesn't budge now.

It remains unclear what Russian President Vladimir Putin said to Yanukovich to convince him to turn away from the EU.

Diplomatic sources in Moscow, Kiev and Brussels have indicated it probably involved a combination of threats to withdraw political support, targeted economic pressure and the inducement of cheaper Russian gas.

Russia set up its own customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2010 and wants Ukraine, as well as other former Soviet republics, to join it.

Ultimately, it sees the customs union as an alternative to the 28-member European Union.

Yanukovich's prime minister reproached the EU for pressing Ukraine to fulfil reform criteria, including releasing Tymoshenko.

Mykola Azarov said the IMF's refusal to soften its terms for fresh financial assistance had been 'the last straw'.

EU officials have said Russia told Ukraine that introducing EU rules would have cost as much as $100 billion, while Russia cutting off trade would have hurt the country to the tune $500 billion, although it is not clear over what period. 

While an EU free-trade deal might help Ukrainian business and growth over time, it is not a first step towards EU membership, the ultimate prize.

And it was not clear whether signing up with the EU would have done much to bolster Yanukovich's reelection hopes in 2015, either.

One of the many issues Brussels wanted Yanukovich to resolve before signing the deal was the imprisonment of former prime minister Tymoshenko, a potential election challenger.

Source: Google News

Ukraine Protest: Police Clash With Pro-EU Crowd In Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian police have used tear gas in fresh clashes with pro-EU activists in the heart of Ukraine's capital Kiev.

Activists erected tents in central Kiev in a scene reminiscent of the Orange Revolution.

Reports say some protesters tried to enter the government building but were pushed back by police.

Thousands of protesters gathered on European Square again after a huge rally on Sunday - the biggest since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

They are angry at the government's decision not to sign a major trade and association deal with the EU.

In recent weeks the government has come under Russian pressure not to sign the pact, but to join a Russian-led customs union with former Soviet states instead. 

Opposition leaders, including world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, called the government's decision "shameful" and vowed to keep up mass protests in central Kiev indefinitely.

The activists included supporters of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who urged the government to release her - a plea that has also been made by EU politicians.

Ms Tymoshenko wants to get treatment in Germany for chronic back pain and the EU has made her release a key condition for signing the pact with Kiev.

But last week Ukraine's parliament rejected legislation that would have enabled her to go.

More than 100,000 people rallied in Kiev on Sunday, the opposition said.

Police estimated the crowd at about 50,000.

Hundreds of protesters stayed in tents on the square overnight, despite an order from the authorities not to do so.

Tents were a big feature of the pro-Western Orange Revolution, which challenged Russia's traditional influence in Ukrainian politics.

Viktor Yanukovych is president now, having been elected in 2010, but back in 2004 he was toppled by the Orange Revolution after an election widely condemned as fraudulent.

The authorities have launched criminal proceedings against some activists who clashed with police on Sunday.

The Interfax-Ukraine new agency said several hundred protesters gathered outside the government building on Monday and various objects "started flying in the direction of the police", prompting the police to don gas masks and form a human chain.

Some activists told a BBC reporter at the scene that there were athletic-looking young people in the crowd whom they suspected of being agents provocateurs.

In addition to Vitali Klitschko, opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleh Tyahnybok addressed the crowd.

They urged President Yanukovych to sack Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and to sign the association agreement with the EU.

The signing had been set for 29 November in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, where several other ex-Soviet states will forge closer ties with the EU.

Economic pressure 

Russia has threatened unspecified economic measures if Ukraine signs the deal with the EU.

In the past Moscow has suspended gas supplies, in disputes over prices, and this year it blocked imports of Ukrainian chocolates.

Russia has also boycotted wine and mineral water from Georgia and Moldova - two other ex-Soviet states seeking favourable trade terms with the EU.

In television interviews on Sunday Mr Azarov accused the EU and International Monetary Fund of failing to offer Ukraine enough financial support.

He told Russian TV a letter from the IMF had been "the last straw" because the fund had linked the granting of a credit to "conditions that were absolutely unacceptable to Ukraine, such as raising the tariffs for housing and utilities, freezing wages and pensions".

On the EU, he said :"We are being told: you carry on working and carry on moving forward but don't expect any money.

"So far we have only been given a verbal promise that in the next seven years Ukraine can expect 1bn euros [£835m; $1.3bn]. And what is 1bn euros? It is nothing," he said.

Ukraine depends on imports of Russian gas, but recently the supplier, Gazprom, complained that Ukraine had fallen behind in payments.

Pipelines transiting through Ukraine pump Russian gas to many EU member states. 

Mr Azarov told Ukrainian TV that Russia had promised to review the terms of its gas sales.

However, Gazprom later denied that there was any such promise.

Analysis 

The crowds have diminished considerably after Sunday's gigantic and historic demonstration in central Kiev.

But tensions have not lessened.

More confrontations between protesters and police early Monday morning in front of Ukraine's government building indicate that the situation remains very volatile.

A few thousand people turned out on Monday, and around 200 spent the night on two main squares, where rallies continue.

In an echo of the Orange Revolution nine years ago, protesters set up a tent camp in front of the main demonstration's stage.

Ukrainian opposition leaders say political actions will continue through the week until the Vilnius summit, where Ukrainian officials were supposed to sign the free trade agreement with the EU.

Many demonstrators say that they believe President Viktor Yanukovych will succumb to the pressure of the rallies and complete another about-turn - and sign the agreement.

This of course depends on whether the protesters can maintain their own momentum over the coming days.

Source: BBC News

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ukraine Hit By Media Censorship And Cyber Attacks

KIEV, Ukraine -- Watchdog groups here are warning that the consolidation of media in the hands of a few of the country’s wealthiest businessmen connected to President Viktor Yanukovych is stifling free speech and depressing media pluralism.


Riot police at at pro-European protest. Ukraine says it won't sign landmark agreements with the EU this week. One condition would have been protecting free speech.

They also say a so-called black PR campaign is damaging the reputations of the most influential journalists and independent news outlets, and that the two efforts are part of a single grand scheme.

Experts blame the government, which they say is concerned about criticism ahead of a presidential election in 2015, when Yanukovych will attempt to solidify his grip on power.

Taras Berezovets, director of the political consultancy Berta Communications, says efforts are being made behind closed doors to exert control over news cycles.

“In the next months we will see this campaign escalating,” he says.

That will include “cleaning up” publications already under official influence and implementing stricter editorial policies at others recently acquired by government-friendly owners, says Natalya Ligacheva, editor-in-chief of Kiev-based media watchdog Telekritika.

“By 2015, almost all influential media in Ukraine will have been made to be loyal to Yanukovych’s government,” she says.

As a result, journalists are exiting publications en masse.

The chief editor and at least one journalist resigned from the country’s leading news magazine Korrespondent last week.

Days earlier, 14 editors and journalists signed a letter announcing their intentions to leave Forbes Ukraine magazine.

UMH group, which owns both titles as well as some 50 more internet, television and radio brands, said in a statement that the decision by Korrespondent chief editor Vitaliy Sych to resign after more than a decade at the magazine was made by “mutual agreement.”

However, Oksana Romaniuk, director of media watchdog Institute of Mass Information in Kiev, believes Sych was pressured out because he’d refused to adhere to the new management’s editorial policy changes, which limit which topics journalists may cover.

“I don’t rule out that they [UMH management] tried to introduce the same editorial policy [as Forbes Ukraine] in Korrespondent,” she says.

Forbes Ukraine journalists were told they weren’t to pursue stories about lawmakers from Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions, she adds, nor were they allowed to investigate the shady dealings of a leading official, Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, a previously approved project.

Members of the Ukrainian civic group Stop Censorship!, of which Romaniuk is a member, reported that the magazine’s new editorial policy allows just two politics stories per week on its website, and none about the Party of Regions.

“The blacklist of forbidden topics published by Forbes Ukraine ex-journalists shows that Ukrainian authorities are afraid of being criticized, and the new management of the mass media holding UMH will attempt to remove any criticism from the mass media it controls,” Romaniuk wrote in an op-ed for the Kiev Post newspaper.

The resignations came days after an estimated $340 million deal to sell 99.9 percent of UMH group to East European Petrol and Energy Company, or VETEK, owned by 28-year-old Serhiy Kurchenko.

His fortune is estimated at $400 million.

Boxing champion turned opposition lawmaker Vitali Klitschko called the purchase a political deal.

“According to the information I get, he is just a person who has been made the public face, a front for other people who are well known but they do not want to go public with this business,” he told journalists in June after the UMH group deal was announced.

Kurchenko was relatively unknown little more than a year ago, until Forbes Ukraine profiled his meteoric rise to oligarch status after he snatched up the Odessa Oil Refinery, Kharkiv Metalist football club and other key assets along the way.

The magazine’s investigation highlighted his ties to Yanukovych and a close-knit group of confidants, commonly known as “the Family,” that includes Arbuzov. 

Arbuzov himself is widely believed to stand behind a number of mainstream media, notably Kapital business daily and the BTB TV channel.

Kurchenko, who said he plans to invest $100 million in the UMH group, promised to preserve its publications’ editorial independence, including that of Forbes Ukraine. 

US-based Forbes, Inc. spokeswoman Mia Carbonell said in a written statement to GlobalPost that editorial independence remains central to the magazine’s mission. 

“All of our foreign licensees are required to adhere to the same high editorial standards and guidelines that Forbes embraces,” she said.

Ukraine’s media campaign is taking place against the backdrop of the government’s decision to abandon landmark agreements it was expected to sign with the European Union at an EU summit together with other members of its Eastern Partnership program in Vilnius, Lithuania, later this week.

The deals promised to pull Ukraine closer toward Europe, which Russia strenuously opposed with economic and political pressure aimed at keeping Kiev in its orbit.

The main stumbling block for Ukraine appeared to be the EU’s pressure to address the political persecution of opposition figures, especially the demand to release jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

But the 28-member bloc also insisted that Kiev deal with human rights issues, including free speech.

Earlier this month, the non-profit Internews Ukraine reported that the country had fallen to fourth place in press freedom among Eastern Partnership countries, behind Moldova, Georgia and Armenia.

Anatoliy Martsynovskyi, chief editor of Internews Ukraine's Eastern Partnership Media Freedom Watch website, cited cyber attacks against journalists aimed at discrediting them and the creation of a printed clone of independent online news site Ukrainska Pravda among the main causes for the country’s drop.

Romaniuk, the Institute of Mass Information director, is the latest cybercrime victim.

Her computer was hacked last month, which she noticed after she received an email from the address ukrkryvda@gmail.com that read: “Wait until tomorrow. You will want to drown yourself.”

The next day, Ukrainska Kryvda (Ukrainian Lies), a website that media experts believe is connected to the Family — and behind smear campaigns that target prominent Ukrainian journalists and civic activists — published a story alleging that she had stolen donor money from her organization.

The article also directed readers to RomaniukOnline.com, where the contents of her home computer were available for viewing and downloading, including documents Ukrainska Kryvda said were proof of theft.

Romaniuk says the files were doctored.

Hackers were able to remotely access Romaniuk’s computer hard drive after she clicked on a link infected with malware in an email from what appeared to be the Interior Ministry notifying her of criminal proceedings. 

Eva Galperin of the US-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, who analyzed the emails, called them part of a “targeted attack.”

“The emails had the official domain of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry and were tailored to appeal specifically to Oksana,” she said. 

Others received similar malware-infected emails from addresses using the ministry’s domain.

Most have refused to discuss the matter publicly for fear of further retribution for their work as investigative reporters.

In September, a campaign appeared to discredit Ukrainska Pravda, a leading online investigative news site, when a printed newspaper of the same name appeared in five cities outside Kiev.

In what experts say is no coincidence, Ukrainska Kryvda’s website appears identical to that of Ukrainska Pravda, and the name given for its editor is the same as the Pravda deputy chief editor’s, a renowned investigative journalist.

Political analyst Berezovets says that shows significant efforts are being made to ruin the credibility of well-respected newsmakers and publications.

“The primary task of the whole plan,” he says, “is to sideline the most-read and influential media.”

Source: GlobalPost