Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ukrainian Parliament Asks Premier To Fire Interior Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Parliament on Thursday called on Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to sack the country's interior minister, a move that will remove one of President Viktor Yushchenko's strongest allies in the government and further weaken the president's position.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko

Yanukovych was expected to quickly endorse the decision, which lawmakers passed 232-69 - just six over the amount needed to pass.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a leading organizer of the 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests, was one of the few remaining members of the Orange Revolution team in the current government.

After Yanukovych became premier following this year's parliamentary elections, Yushchenko appealed to him to keep Lutsenko in his job. Yanukovych agreed, even though Lutsenko was deeply unpopular with Yanukovych's supporters, against whom he spearheaded numerous corruption investigations.

Thursday's vote came after a special parliamentary commission concluded that Lutsenko should be sacked. Lutsenko had been accused by the commission of failing to reform police agencies, politicizing his office and corruption. The corruption allegations involved granting officer ranks illegally and giving pistols to citizens without proper licenses.

"People, who are we appointing as ministers?" Yuriy Boldyryev of Yanukovych's Party of Regions said before the vote. "A revolutionary who called on citizens to seize the government? A terminator who has tried to destroy the police?"

Other lawmakers credited Lutsenko with gradually turning around corrupt law enforcement bodies.

"This is nothing more than a political show," said Valentyn Zubov of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc.

The Socialists broke ranks with the other members of the governing coalition and refused to endorse the dismissal of Lutsenko, a former Socialist. The coalition was able to pick up enough votes, however, by winning the support of some lawmakers in Tymoshenko's faction.

Following the vote, Lutsenko said he intended to keep working until the Cabinet formally accepts parliament's decision.

The loss further weakens Yushchenko and could add to tensions between the president and the premier. The pro-Western Yushchenko and the more Russian-leaning Yanukovych share power in an awkward arrangement that was initially billed as an effort to unite Ukraine, but instead has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Also Thursday, Yushchenko asked parliament to dismiss the head of the state security service, Ihor Drizhchany. The request was submitted with no explanation, and the president's office refused to comment, saying further details would be made available Friday.

An order posted on Yushchenko's Web site Thursday said that Drizhchany had been awarded the rank of army general. Ukraine's Interfax news agency, citing an unidentified official, said that Drizhchany was expected to be named to the president's Security and Defense Council, which would require his resignation from the security service.

Source: AP

Mixed Messages

KIEV, Ukraine -- The on-again, off-again, power tussle between Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Premier Viktor Yanukovych already has many diplomats confused as to who in Kiev is in charge, and which direction the country is heading.

Victor Yushchenko (L) and Viktor Yanukovych

Yushchenko, a proponent of speedy Western integration, has in recent months criticized Yanukovych’s stalling of reform initiatives while downplaying his arch rival’s attempts to muscle away control over domestic and foreign policy. But the question of who is ultimately in control, or holds more influence, is key.

Despite declarations from Yushchenko that his agenda would not be derailed, and assurances from high-level officials insisting Ukraine’s two Viktors are eager to be partners, both men still hold considerably different views on which direction Ukraine should go and at what speed.

Yanukovych has made an effort to appease Western diplomats, assuring them he has changed since Orange Revolution days - that he would support democratization and pragmatic Western integration while keeping relations with Moscow cool.

But his first moves as premier tell a different story. He has stalled integration initiatives. On the domestic front, his government has assertively interfered in the economy, slapping quotas on grain exports, for example.

Furthermore, the surprise announcement this week that Yanukovych would stop off in Moscow ahead of his big United States visit should not be taken lightly. The villain from the Orange Revolution has a history of favoring close ties with Moscow.

It is hard to remain calm as Yanukovych gradually eats away at Yushchenko’s authority. Equally disturbing is Yushchenko’s passive response. Harsh criticism and counter attacks against Yanukovych from Yushchenko-loyal political camps provides some relief. But the efforts do not eradicate rising uncertainty as to which Viktor is in control and which direction they are taking Ukraine.

Indeed, the wrestling match over authority on domestic and foreign policy has sent out a lot of mixed messages in recent months, but none as confusing as the events of this week.

As a front page article in the Post this week points out, Yanukovych will make his first trip to the U.S. since returning as premier. Ever more poised as Ukraine’s leading statesmen alongside an increasingly marginalized president, Yanukovych expressed his desire to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush.

While Bush has shunned the offer, it’s a clear attempt by the Donetsk strongman to further sideline Yushchenko.

Within Ukraine’s political arena, Yanukovych has played a game of cat and mouse, ignoring then partially acquiescing to Yushchenko’s demands.

Yushchenko issued a presidential order demanding he approve Yanukovych’s agenda for the U.S. visit. When Yanukovych failed to comply, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, a dedicated Yushchenko ally, notified the U.S. Embassy that the premier’s trip would be postponed.

Yanukovych responded with a repeat call for Tarasyuk to be fired; Tarasyuk balked at Yanukovych, confidently suggesting Yushchenko would once again ignore such an appeal.

But a day later, on Nov. 29, what was described by a Cabinet official as “a technical” issue was settled, and Yushchenko signed off on Yanukovych’s trip.

Why the confusion? Was it purposely masterminded to prevent a Yanukovych-Bush meeting? Or was the trip genuinely on the verge of cancellation amid a serious fight to control foreign policy? Were the events a repeat of smoke-and-mirror political backroom maneuvering devised by brilliant spin doctors and strategic masterminds?

More likely, the diplomatic fiasco was the aftermath of a chaotic fight for authority by power hungry politicians who have once again put Ukraine’s interests on the backburner to personal ambitions.

Whatever the reason, what we sadly have again on the world arena is another mixed message coming from Kiev.

As another front page article points out, Ukraine has progressed in recent years, jumping ahead of other former USSR states, establishing itself as a beacon of democracy on former Soviet turf.

A study produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research outfit within the Economist magazine group, tagged Ukraine as a “flawed democracy,” a status short of a clear-cut “democracy,” but noticeably ahead of other former Soviet states lingering in the abyss as “hybrid” or “authoritarian” regimes.

Ukraine’s leaders need to finally get their act together and avoid such diplomatic debacles.

Failure to do so could further alienate disenchanted Ukrainians and complicate diplomatic relations with countries eager to help Kiev shed its reputation as a “flawed democracy” to join the rest of Europe.

Source: Kyiv Post

Looking To 2009 On Ukraine’s Second Orange Anniversary

KIEV, Ukraine -- A year ago, there was still a great deal of optimism in Washington and other Western capitals that following the Orange Revolution, Ukraine would be able to consolidate its democratic gains.

Supporters hold a portrait of President Viktor Yushchenko during a gathering in central Kiev November 22, 2006. Ukraine marked the second anniversary of its 'Orange Revolution' with a minimum of fanfare

On the second anniversary of the Orange Revolution, this optimism has now been replaced by a greater degree of realism and, in some quarters, pessimism.

Was it our optimism that was misplaced or did Ukraine’s Orange leaders fail their voters and the one in five Ukrainians who participated in the Orange Revolution? Indeed, has Viktor Yushchenko ‘betrayed’ the Orange Revolution, as some of his own supporters now claim.

Orange politicians and revolutionaries never had a unified view of what policies they wished to see implemented after Yushchenko came to power. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and youth NGOs, such as Pora (It’s Time), strongly backed calls to implement the Orange Revolution campaign promise of “Bandits to Prison.”

President Yuschenko and the presidential party, Our Ukraine, have not moved on steps to criminally charge senior officials from the regime of President Leonid Kuchma for election fraud, abuse of office and corruption. Investigations into the two most notorious cases, the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze and the poisoning of Yushchenko, have stalled or only led to low-level arrests.

The issue of inaction on ‘bandits to prison’ in and of itself (coupled with undertaking strategic mistakes that permitted the return of Viktor Yanukovych to government) will most probably cost Yushchenko a second term. Voters in 2009 will focus on these two issues (no ‘bandits to prison’ and Yanukovych’s return) rather than democratic gains during his first term in office.

Besides a fractured policy agenda, the Orange coalition was notoriously broad, ranging from Socialists, free market capitalists to nationalists. This enabled a large coalition to be formed that could protest election fraud. But, after the Orange Revolution it proved unable to remain united and disintegrated after only nine months in office. The Orange coalition is never likely to be re-united.

Yushchenko’s election was a victory for democratic forces but never became a knockout blow to the old regime, unlike in Georgya where Mikheil Sakashvili was elected president with 96 percent of the vote (compared to Yushchenko’s 8 percent victory over Yanukovych). Yanukovych and the Party of Regions obtained 44 and 32 percent in 2004 and 2006 respectively, showing that this political force had a popular base.

On the second anniversary of the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is at a crossroads and faces two strategic questions.

First, will the Party of Regions transform itself into a democratic, post-oligarch party. Answers to this question are either pessimistic (as best represented by the Tymoshenko bloc), agnostic (‘lets wait and see’) or optimistic (‘they are already evolving’, ‘they have already evolved’).

Precedents do indeed exist in Eastern Europe for the transition from oligarch to law-abiding businessmen, but those countries had an external stimulant, the offer of EU membership, which Ukraine does not. In addition, one struggles to find an analogy to the Party of Regions in other central-east European countries.

The difference between the Party of Regions’ senior oligarchs and other Ukrainian oligarchs lies in what they did to make their money. Other oligarchs used their insider connections in what could be called white collar crime /corrupt activities. Senior Regions’ oligarchs, on the other hand, extensively used violence as well as white collar crime activities. This background has produced a schizophrenic, multi-vector Party of Regions with whom you never know if they are seeking to shake your hand, steal your watch or physically harm you.

The question of the Party of Regions’ legitimacy is a timely issue coming on the eve of Yanukovych’s Washington visit. Scepticism remains widespread in the USA that there is anything deeper than a Potemkin Perestroika from turtleneck to shirt and tie under his jacket. The onus is on Prime Minister Yanukovych and the Party of Regions to prove to the West and Ukrainians that there is substance to the hitherto Potemkin Perestroika.

Second, is the Orange Revolution reversible following the return of Yanukovych to head the government. Here responses are more guardedly optimistic. The Party of Regions, while controlling the largest parliamentary faction and government, is not in a position of exercising monopoly power to be able to return Ukraine to the semi-authoritarian Kuchma era.

As U.S. scholars such as Paul D’Anieri and Lucan Way have shown, Ukraine’s regionalism mitigates against the dominance of one ruling party and the imposition of an authoritarian regime, making Ukraine different from Russia. Its 32 percent victory in the 2006 elections will not permit the Party of Regions to monopolize power or reverse the Orange Revolution. At the same time, this relative power and control of government could stagnate Ukraine’s reforms into a stable status quo.

Ukraine’s post-Soviet transition was marked by frequently changed governments which lasted on average only 12 months. The last government to be dismissed in such a manner was the Tymoshenko government in September 2005, the first of many strategic mistakes committed by President Yushchenko. Any military officer would tell you that dividing your forces on the eve of a major battle (the parliamentary elections) is a major mistake.

Following constitutional reforms in 2006, the president no longer has the right to dismiss the government, which is now responsible to the parliamentary coalition. The Yanukovych government could therefore remain in place until the October 2009 elections.

The 2009 presidential elections will be fought by three well-known candidates, Yanukovych, Tymoshenko and incumbent Yushchenko. Current polls point to the second round contest being fought by Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, Ukraine’s two most popular politicians. As of today, it is difficult to see how Yushchenko can reach the second round. Indeed, sadly, the aftereffects of his poisoning could well impair him from doing so.

In 2009, Ukraine may therefore face a repeat of the 2004 elections between Orange and Blue forces in two ways.

First, Yanukovych will again launch his candidacy from a position of prime minister. But, on this occasion, Yanukovych will have a stronger launching pad, since the position of prime minister has been enhanced following constitutional reforms.

Second, the 2009 elections could again be a contest between Blue and Orange forces. As prime minister for three years and with a popular base of support, Yanukovych will be guaranteed to enter the second round. The difference would be that Yanukovych’s second attempt to gain the presidency would pit him against Tymoshenko. The former Orange Revolution coalition, which will enter the 2009 elections divided between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, only one of whom will go through to round two.

Only two years into his presidency, Yushchenko increasingly looks isolated. He seemingly rarely listens to advice (or at least does not take heed of it), allows personal conflicts to unduly influence his views, has adopted a disastrous personnel policy and has not shown leadership or strategic vision.

Yushchenko’s greatest weaknesses have been his weak charisma, concomitant inability to stay in touch with core Orange voters, and an inability to exercise power. On going discussions over revising constitutional reforms, ignore the fact that Yushchenko has neither exercised power under the former constitution last year or the revised parliamentary constitution this year.

It is Yushchenko’s overarching perception of being weak, coupled with his inability to implement key Orange Revolution policies, that has drained support away from him to Tymoshenko. Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine ignores the demands of its honorary chairman at its recent congress, oligarchs no longer fear him, while former ‘bandits’ return home no longer afraid of prosecution.

One enduring legacy of the Orange Revolution could well be that Ukraine holds free and fair presidential elections in 2009, as it did in March to parliament. The Party of Regions won this year’s elections and Yanukovych could well go on to win the presidency. The lure of this prize may force Yanukovych to modify his image to reach out beyond his Donetsk home base, even if it is only in a Potemkin Perestroika.

Tymoshenko, the head of the opposition, has the ability to block Yanukovych’s election in 2009. She will though have a formidable task of combining two positions, one of an aggressive opposition leader with another, that of a centrist presidential candidate. Tymoshenko needs to reach out beyond her core Orange voters in western-central Ukraine. One reason Yushchenko won in 2004 was that one section of the ruling elites was more afraid of Yanukovych than of him. Some of Ukraine’s elites may fear Tymoshenko, even though this fear may be misplaced.

The 2006 elections showed the Tymoshenko bloc as the only political force that possessed all-national support, as it came second to the Party of Regions throughout most of eastern and southern Ukraine. Yanukovych, on the other hand, will find it difficult to compete with Tymoshenko in central Ukraine while finding it impossible to penetrate western Ukraine. Tymoshenko will absorb the Socialist Party’s voter base in central Ukraine.

The narrowing of Ukraine’s political landscape to the Party of Regions and Tymoshenko bloc would also seem to be taking place inside parliament. Three of the five parliamentary forces are in deep crisis, although only the democratic force (Our Ukraine) admits to this. The Socialists and Communists are unlikely to enter the next parliament. Our Ukraine could be eclipsed by a new center-right political force led by Yuriy Lutsenko, Taras Stetskiv and Mykola Katerynchuk.

To sum up, the presidency is in crisis in its second year, a feature normally only associated with the latter stages of a president’s second term in office (not the first stages of his first term). In parliament’s first year in power, of the five political forces in parliament, three are in crisis and have little support outside.

On Ukraine’s second Orange anniversary, Ukraine is in danger of stagnation in its reforms and therefore an inability to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration. Status quo re-stabilization of the political system, punctuated by ongoing conflicts, in the domestic and foreign policy fields could again lead to Ukraine fatigue, both domestically and externally.

Source: Kyiv Post

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Hit Job Worthy Of The KGB

WASHINGTON, DC -- When the wolf at the door is big enough, the easiest way to deal with him is to invite him in for supper and hope he's content to eat just the wife and kids.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, is leading his country back into the dark ages of Soviet totalitarianism

This is the strategy much of the West, particularly Europe, has adopted for dealing with the threat of the Islamic fascists to put the world under Shariah law, and it may be the way the leaders of the West choose to deal with a resurgence of fascism in the remnants of the old Soviet Union.

Our English cousins are in justifiable dudgeon over the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the one-time colonel in the Russian secret police who fled Russia, landed in London and became an Englishman (sort of).

When Mr. Litvinenko started asking too many questions about the murder of a Russian journalist who was making trouble for the Kremlin, he was poisoned with radioactive polonium 210 and doomed to an agonizing death.

Nearly everybody assumes, rightly or wrongly, that the Russian government, probably with the assent if not the encouragement of Vladimir Putin, ordered the hit and assigned the hit man.

The hit has all the marks of a job by the KGB -- or the Federal Security Service, as the Russians now call the KGB -- even down to the sinister and esoteric choice of poison, polonium 210, which is familiar to nuclear scientists.

Swallowed, breathed and taken through a wound, polonium 210 destroys the internal organs, and death is slow, painful and sure. There is no antidote.

There's speculation that Mr. Litvinenko's death will change the relationship between Russia and the West, or at least between Russia and the leaders of the West who still have a pulse.

The incident recalls in dramatic fashion the bad old days of the Cold War, suggesting that the "new" Russia is not much different from the old one.

The Putin-controlled Russian television networks reported the death in the same surreal way that the old Communist commentators reported the sudden deaths of inconvenient critics of the state: Mr. Litvinenko did not die of poison, but of "intrigues" in the Russian exile community in London. Mr. Litvinenko was "a pawn in a game that he did not understand."

Murder becomes merely a bureaucratic exercise in Mr. Putin's "new" Russia. His secret police are known to take a close interest in critics of the "new" Russia.

Boris Berezovsky, once the deputy chief of the Russian security council but now an exile in Britain, befriended Mr. Litvinenko when he arrived in London.

He learned of the boast of the Russian security police that it "knows what he eats for breakfast, where he has lunch and where he buys his groceries."

Earlier this year, the Russian legislature enacted a law authorizing the Russian president to order the termination with extreme prejudice of "terrorists" in foreign countries.

Unnecessary, but bureaucrats everywhere like to have a piece of paper in hand, duly signed and decorated with the appropriate signatures, ribbons and seals.

Vladimir Putin is clearly not the man the West imagined it saw when he assumed power, nor is he any longer likely the man George W. Bush once described as "a man I can do business with."

Says David Satter, a Russian scholar at the Hoover Institution writing in the Wall Street Journal: "In the last six years, the makeup of the ruling elite in Russia has undergone a dramatic change.

Once in power, Mr. Putin filled the majority of important posts with veterans of the security services, many with ties to him dating back to his work in St. Petersburg. ... Russia was already highly corrupt under Boris Yeltsin, but according to IDEM, an independent Russian think tank, with the rise of oil prices, the level of corruption in Russia between 2002 and 2005 increased 900 percent.

The result of these developments was that Mr. Putin created [a state security apparatus] ruling class. As this class became rooted, the victims of contract killers began to include some of the most prominent political figures in the country."

Mr. Bush, like Tony Blair, may still regard Vladimir Putin as a man he can do business with. Presidents and prime ministers must have a certain polite tolerance for people they rightly loathe, however difficult civility may be.

It's a cost, you might say, of doing business. The rest of us must hope that that civility is all it is. Mr. Putin presides over what looks like "a mafia of peace," which is about as harmless as "the religion of peace."

Source: Washington Times

Conflict Erupts Among Cabinet Ministers Over Ukrainian Premier's Trip To U.S.

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's foreign minister clashed with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych Wednesday over the premier's planned visit to the United States, and called for the trip to be postponed.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych (L) and Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk (R)

Yanukovych, who would be making his first U.S. visit as prime minister, said in turn that Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk should be fired.

The visit was scheduled to start on Sunday.

Tarasyuk said that instructions for the trip were not approved properly or on time, and asked for the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine to postpone the trip. The U.S. Embassy had no comment.

The government has approved the trip instructions and sent them to President Viktor Yushchenko for approval, which his Cabinet representative said he would give.

"I understand that for these months we have failed to find possibilities to work jointly. The Foreign Ministry cannot run the government," Yanukovych said.

The Western-leaning and nationalist Tarasyuk has clashed frequently with the pro-Russian Yanukovych, as the two vie to influence foreign policy.

Tarasyuk is a strong advocate of NATO membership and of lessening Russia's influence over Ukraine. Yanukovych pledged to improve tense relations with Russia and put Ukraine's membership in NATO on hold.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych also share power in an awkward arrangement that was initially billed as an effort to unite Ukraine. Instead, it has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Yushchenko repeatedly defended embattled Tarasyuk, and warned that firing him could put Ukraine's pro-Western course at risk.

Source: AP

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ukraine Adopts Famine-As-Genocide Bill

KIEV, Ukraine -- Parliament adopted a bill Tuesday recognizing the Soviet-era forced famine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people in a vote seen as a victory for pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.

Kiev monument to 1932-1933 Ukrainian genocide

The bill passed in a vote of 233-1, a small majority in the 450-seat legislature. Many lawmakers chose not to participate in the vote, choosing silence on a highly divisive issue.

The 1932-33 famine, known here as "Holodomor" or "Death by Hunger," was orchestrated by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and killed 10 million Ukrainians, almost one-third of its population at the time.

"It is a belated move, but it is our obligation to remember," said lawmaker Borys Bespaliy, a Yushchenko ally. "Those who do not remember do not have a future."

The recognition opens the door to potential legal consequences including compensation for famine victims and recognition of the famine by the United Nations as genocide against Ukrainian people. Ten countries, including the United States, have recognized the famine as genocide. U.N. recognition would imply an international acceptance.

Moscow strongly opposed calling the famine genocide, contending that the famine did not specifically target Ukrainians and warning Ukraine not to "politicize" the issue.

Kremlin-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's party proposed using the word "tragedy" instead of genocide, in what was seen as an effort to avoid spoiling ties with Russia. Only two lawmakers from the party's 186-member faction supported the bill.

A total of 200 lawmakers registered in the hall did not cast a ballot in what analysts described as an effort to avoid Russia's ire, while not disappointing their constituents. An independent poll released last week showed that around 70 percent of Ukrainians support recognizing the famine as genocide.

Yanukovych, the pro-Russian politician who ran against Yushchenko in the fraud-plagued 2004 election sparking the Orange Revolution, told a small group of foreign journalists that Ukrainians were not alone in their suffering.

"It happened on the territory of many countries (former Soviet republics), maybe in Ukraine it had a greater effect as Ukraine is a more agricultural country," Yanukovych said.

Due to the resistance in parliament, the bill proposed by Yushchenko underwent several changes, including referring to genocide against the Ukrainian people instead of the Ukrainian nation. Lawmakers also dropped an initiative that would have made it a legal violation to deny that the famine occurred.

During the height of the famine, 25,000 people died each day, devastating entire villages. Cases of cannibalism were widespread as desperation deepened. Those who resisted were shot or shipped off to Siberia.

The mass starvation remained a closely guarded state secret during the Soviet era, but information trickled out over the years. Ukraine marked the 73rd anniversary of the famine on Saturday by lighting candles across the country in memory of the victims, and holding a solemn, fog-shrouded procession through the capital.

Genocide is defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group. It is a crime under international law.

Source: AP

Bush Says Door To NATO Membership Is Open To Georgia, Ukraine

RIGA, Latvia -- NATO remains receptive to the idea of Georgia and Ukraine eventually joining the western alliance, U.S. President George W. Bush said Tuesday.

U.S. President George W. Bush waves from Air Force 1, as he arrives for a NATO summit in Riga, Tuesday Nov. 28, 2006

"We will continue to support Georgia's desire to become a NATO" member, and membership also "will be open to the Ukrainian people if they choose it," Bush said in a speech before the start of a two-day NATO summit in the Latvian capital.

Bush also lashed out at oppression in Belarus, which he said "offends the conscience of Europe and the conscience of America."

He said he would not consider pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq until they accomplish their mission.

"There's one thing I won't do: I won't pull our troops from the battlefield before the mission is complete," he said in his speech at the University of Riga.

Defeating Taliban forces in Afghanistan "will require the full commitment of our alliance," Bush said, calling the mission NATO's No. 1 operation.

"The commander on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs," he said.

Source: AP

Orange Revolution's Foe Transformed in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Orange Revolution, strangely, has been kindest to the man who played the villain to the waves of protesters who rolled onto the streets of this capital two years ago.

Viktor Yanukovych talking to reporters

Viktor Yanukovych, once cast as the bluff hack who tried to steal Ukraine's presidential election, is back in power as prime minister thanks to free and fair parliamentary elections in March that were made possible only by the street protests of late 2004.

As he prepares for his first official trip to Washington, a four-day visit beginning Sunday, Yanukovych is suddenly projecting himself as the voice of democratic reform. He also appears eager to assure his White House hosts that his popular image as a pro-Russian straw man is a gross distortion.

Now, he suggests that he, too, was a catalyst in the transformation of this once stagnating country into the most politically competitive of all the post-Soviet states, a nation where debate is dynamic and where power, ultimately, resides with the people.

"There were many mistakes made by the previous authorities and many injustices," he said in an interview in his office here Monday. "The authorities lost trust. One should recognize that there is more democracy, that there is freedom of speech -- and that is an achievement of these historic events, although I don't call it a revolution."

Yanukovych bears little resemblance to the figure who provoked tens of thousands of Ukrainians to demonstrate against electoral fraud in 2004, eventually sweeping his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, into the presidency. And some question the sincerity of what they see as his self-serving rhetoric.

"He talks like he was part of it," said David Zhvania, a member of parliament and financier of Yushchenko's campaign and the protests in Kiev's Independence Square. "It's a game. We showed Ukrainians why he was scary, but we also explained to Yanukovych why he was scary, and from his first day in power we saw that he was listening."

For others, however, the fundamental legacy of the Orange Revolution, named for the color adopted by those advocating democratic change, is that Yanukovych must now bow to the electorate and that Ukraine, a nation of 47 million, cannot return to autocratic rule.

"He is forced to play within the rules of a new political culture," said Vadim Karasev, director of the Institute for Global Strategies in Kiev. "He understands that a dictatorial style is no longer permissible in Ukraine. The Orange Revolution made him a politician."

The change in attitude is immediately apparent to visitors to his office. The first visible image is a portrait of Yushchenko, which was placed in a prominent position on Yanukovych's orders, according to his media aides.

The prime minister also regularly speaks Ukrainian, not Russian, in public now; his vastly improved fluency clearly reflects an attempt to project himself as something more than the representative of pro-Russian business clans from eastern Ukraine.

The bulk of Yushchenko's support came from the Ukrainian-speaking west, while Yanukovych's base is in the Russian-speaking east.

"There is more and more desire among the people to unite under the state flag," Yanukovych said. "They want to build a strong unified state, a united Ukraine."

The coalition that had backed Yushchenko collapsed following bitter infighting, but Yanukovych strikes an accommodating tone in discussing the president's goals -- integration with the West, including membership in NATO and the European Union, while maintaining respectful but independent relations with Russia, Ukraine's giant neighbor.

"My goal, first, is to develop a strategic relationship between Ukraine and the United States that is predictable, effective and has a good perspective," he said of his Washington visit, during which he will meet with Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

His aides are still hoping for a meeting with President Bush, however brief. According to protocol, he should meet only with the vice president, since he is not the head of state, but a presidential handshake would imply some acceptance of Yanukovych's new incarnation.

On NATO membership, a prospect that a majority of Ukrainians oppose, according to opinion polls, Yanukovych said his compatriots first need to be educated about the goals of the alliance and its benefits for Ukraine.

"You cannot put a boat to sail without first building it," he said. "For Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people, the priority is first to improve the standard of living, build up the legal system and create a just state with democratic values and freedom, and only then a security system. The population will support integration with NATO when they see positive changes in the country itself."

Asked about his personal view of NATO membership, Yanukovych said, "I think we will do everything that serves the national interest." And that, he added, includes "a normal and stable working relationship with Russia which is of mutual benefit. It is extremely important for us. Russia is a very important strategic, trade and economic partner."

But he also said he wanted to pursue policies that reduce Ukraine's dependence on its neighbor, particularly its almost total reliance on Russia for energy. "We want to develop a diversification of energy supplies," he said. "And Russia is not obstructing us in this process."

Source: Washington Post

Monday, November 27, 2006

Was Litvinenko The Latest Victim Of A Power Struggle?

WASHINGTON, DC -- The death of former Federal Security Service (FSB) lieutenant colonel Alexander Litvinenko in London on November 23, and the subsequent release of his statement blaming his poisoning on President Vladimir Putin, has morphed into a serious international scandal.

Ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko

British Home Secretary John Reid said on November 26 that police, who were previously calling Litvinenko’s death “unexplained,” now regarded it as “suspicious”. This followed the revelation that Litvinenko had been poisoned with polonium 210, a radioactive substance.

Meanwhile, Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary, said in a BBC interview that there have been “huge attacks on individual liberty and on democracy” under Putin, and pointed specifically to the “extremely murky murder of a senior Russian journalist” – an apparent reference to the October 7 killing of Anna Politkovskaya.

Putin, for his part, said on November 24 that Litvinenko’s deathbed accusation was a “political provocation” by Kremlin opponents. The Russian president, who was in Helsinki for the EU-Russia Summit, denied any involvement in the murder and offered condolences for Litvinenko’s death.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s aide for EU relations, said in Helsinki: “I am hardly someone who believes in conspiracy theories, but in this case I think that we are witnessing a well-rehearsed plan to discredit Russia and its leader.”

Meanwhile, Russian state media have highlighted speculation that Litvinenko’s ally and employer Boris Berezovsky was behind the murder. The government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta speculated that the London-based exiled tycoon “masked the crime to bring suspicion on the FSB” or that Berezovsky’s associates killed Litvinenko as a warning related to a commercial dispute.

Before Litvinenko died, Alexei Mukhin, director of the Center for Political Information in Moscow, also said the poisoning could have been part of an “information war on the Kremlin” organized by Berezovsky and even suggested Litvinenko had poisoned himself.

Other observers, however, have suggested that Litvinenko was targeted as part of a power struggle between Kremlin factions. Some analysts said the same thing about Anna Politkovskaya’s murder.

During the November 26 broadcast of “Rossiiskaya Panorama,” a weekly political discussion program broadcast on RTVi (a satellite channel owned by the exiled oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky), Iosif Diskin, deputy chairman of the National Strategy Center, said he thought the murders of Litvinenko, Politkovskaya, and Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov (who was gunned down in Moscow on September 14) were linked, “coordinated,” and aimed at forcing Putin “to act in a certain way – namely, either to enter into negotiations with a certain group on the subject of the choice of a successor, or really to force him … to remain for a third term.”

Diskin added: “But, at the same time, I am deeply convinced that these are people, who now, [while] having maintained strong links to the special services, no longer belong to them formally.” This group, said Diskin, is bent on “changing the political course” because it “strongly fears for its future in a post-Putin era.”

Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Research in Moscow, told the BBC: “The death of Litvinenko -- and we already see this in the reaction of the British press – is a colossal blow to the reputation of Russia and the personal reputation of Putin, who can hardly be interested in that.

I am inclined to believe that not only the poisoning of Litvinenko, but also the whole series of recent events in Moscow, are part of an operation to destabilize the situation and completely discredit Putin in the West in order to persuade him to go for a third term, which is the goal of influential circles within his entourage”.

In a separate commentary, Piontkovsky speculated that Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, and Chechen special forces commander Movladi Baisarov, who was killed in Moscow on November 18, were murdered by a renegade “structure inside the special services that is conducting a deadly fight for power in the Kremlin”.

Similarly, Alexander Golts of Ezhednevny zhurnal wrote that it is “more than doubtful that Putin himself gave the order for Litvinenko’s liquidation,” given that “the harm this whole story has done to the Russian president’s reputation is too obvious.”

On the other hand, some of Putin’s close associates -- “officers of the special services” -- for whom Putin remaining for a third term is “a matter of life in death,” had a motive to kill Litvinenko, wrote Golts. “And for this it is necessary to create a situation that would completely exclude the possibility of Putin joining the informal club of retired leaders who cheerfully travel the world, give lectures, enjoy life,” Golts wrote. “For Putin to stay on, it is necessary to bind him with blood …

So it is necessary to leave as many obvious footprints leading to Russia as possible. For that, radioactive material is the most appropriate murder weapon”.

It should be noted that one leading analyst, erstwhile Kremlin insider Stanislav Belkovsky, put forward an alternative version -- that Litvinenko’s poisoning was, as the Moscow Times summarized Belkovsky’s theory, “an attempt by supporters of Dmitry Medvedev, the first deputy prime minister, to force Putin to push aside the siloviki by making it look like they were involved in an attack that had damaged Putin’s image in the West”.

Indeed, another newspaper quoted Belkovsky as saying the murder was “a deliberate provocation by the special services against its leadership with the intention of convincing Putin to fire the current heads of the federal power structures and as quickly as possible” determine who his successor will be.

Yet even Boris Berezovsky indicated he thought that those pushing Putin to remain in power were behind Litvinenko’s murder. On November 22, one day before Litvinenko died, Berezovsky told Ekho Moskvy radio that while the Kremlin “unquestionably” stood behind the poisoning, the idea that Putin participated in it “raises many questions” and the incident “undoubtedly hurts Putin’s reputation.”

Berezovsky added: “I have the impression that it is being done by people who are insisting that he [Putin] goes for a third term; people who are showing that he is not the only one who makes decisions of this kind in Russia.” The attempt on Litvinenko’s life and the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, said Berezovsky, were “links in the same chain”.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Lethal Polonium-210 Might Be Russian

MOSCOW, Russia -- The polonium-210 that doctors believe killed former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko could have come from Russia, but it will be difficult for investigators to pinpoint blame for the death even if the origin of the radioactive substance is determined, nuclear experts said.

A police van is parked outside the home of dead ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, in north London. Traces of deadly Polonium 210 were found at Litvinenko's home and at two other London locations he visited on the day he fell ill, a hotel where he met another ex-KGB spy visiting from Moscow, and a sushi restaurant where he met an Italian academic.

Coming after the mysterious poisoning of another prominent opponent of the Kremlin, Ukrainian politician Viktor Yushchenko, the death provoked accusations that Russia continues to use Cold War-style tactics to eliminate critics abroad.

London was the scene of the 1978 assassination of a Bulgarian dissident who was killed by a jab from an umbrella tip bearing the toxin ricin.

Polonium-210 is one of the world's rarest elements, first discovered in the 19th century by scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. The alpha rays emitted by polonium are extremely hard to detect, and a fatal dose of the element could have rapidly penetrated his bone marrow without raising immediate suspicion.

Polonium occurs naturally in very low concentrations in the Earth's crust, and small amounts -- but not enough to kill someone -- are used legitimately in Britain and elsewhere for industrial purposes.

Professor Dudley Goodhead, a radiation expert at the Medical Research Council, said that "to poison someone, much larger amounts are required, and this would have to be man-made, perhaps from a particle accelerator or a nuclear reactor."

That means the polonium used to poison Litvinenko probably came from a country with a significant nuclear program, experts said. With several nuclear research facilities, Russia fits the bill -- and it also has a major space program, another sector in which the element has been used.

"There are many laboratories in Russia where it could be produced," said Vladimir Slivyak, a nuclear expert and co-chairman of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense.

Alexander Pikayev, a senior analyst with the Moscow-based Institute for Global Economy and International Relations, said the polonium isotope would be "much easier" to acquire than weapons-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium because it is not considered weapons-grade.

Pikayev said that if a Russian intelligence agency had wanted to kill Litvinenko, it would have been foolish to use polonium because its source could probably be traced.

Slivyak also said British authorities might have a good chance of determining where the polonium was produced. But he argued that the information would be far short of proof of a plot in the country of origin because the substance could have been acquired on the black market.

If the Federal Security Service, or FSB, wanted to use polonium to kill someone, "from the point of the view of the FSB it would be better not to bring it from Russia but to buy it on the black market in Europe" to avoid leaving a trail, Slivyak said.

Conversely, he said, a country of origin other than Russia would not rule out Russian involvement.

John Henry, a toxicologist who examined Litvinenko before his death, said the type of polonium involved was "only found in government-controlled institutions." Henry said polonium-210 was lethal in doses so small, "you can lose it on the point of a pin."

Henry, who took part in the investigation of the 2004 poisoning of Yushchenko, then opposition leader and now Ukraine's president, said that polonium-210 "kills cell by cell" and that once it is administered, there's "absolutely nothing" that can be done to save the exposed person.

Britain's Health Protection Agency said the high level of polonium-210 found in Litvinenko indicated that he "would either have to have eaten it, inhaled it or taken it in through a wound."

Source: The Moscow Times

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Poisoning Of Russian Joins History Of Spy Intrigue

LONDON, UK -- In the new James Bond movie, "Casino Royale," Agent 007 gives a master class in what to do if you are unexpectedly poisoned by your enemies in a public place (for one thing, when you stagger dramatically from the room, make sure to do it in a suave manner).

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in his hospital bed after he was poisoned.

But while the fictional Bond has an array of useful resources at his disposal - a car filled with potential antidotes that serves as a mobile emergency room; a hotline to trained poison-control experts at MI6 headquarters; and a personal defibrillator that comes in handy during heart attacks - the ordinary real-life poison victim has no such advantages.

Nor is the sequence of events surrounding nonfictional poisoning generally as clear-cut as when Bond, played by Daniel Craig, falls deathly ill within moments of taking the first sip of his spiked martini.

In the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died in a London hospital Thursday night, the most confounding questions were also the most basic. Who gave it to him and when? And how did they get this particular poison?

Litvinenko, it emerged, had been given a substance even Bond would not have been prepared for: a highly toxic radioactive isotope, a cup of tea gone nuclear, so to speak.

The substance, polonium 210, "is not the kind of weapon that any kind of amateur could construct," said Andrea Sella, a lecturer in inorganic chemistry at London's University College.

By his and his friends' initial accounts, Litvinenko's illness seemed to have had all the hallmarks of the sort of attack favored, according to exiled critics of the Russian government, by the Russian security services in recent years.

His friends insisted that he had been poisoned on Nov. 1, perhaps during or after two meetings in London - one in a hotel, the other at a restaurant - and that he had been a target because of his vocal opposition to the government of President Vladimir Putin.

Before he became sick, Litvinenko said, he was investigating the death of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who was highly critical of Russian policy in Chechnya and who was shot at her apartment building in Moscow on Oct. 7.

Poison, an effective murder weapon for centuries, in recent years has been used as a weapon of choice in the former Soviet bloc. Yuri Shchekochikin, a journalist who wrote about corruption in Russia, fell ill and died in July 2003, for example.

The Russian authorities said he had suffered an allergic reaction; his colleagues said it was poison.

A Russian banker, Ivan Kivelidi, and his secretary died in 1995 after using a telephone apparently dosed with poison.

The current president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, was poisoned with dioxin in 2004 but survived and took office despite Putin's opposition. Politkovskaya herself became violently sick - poisoned, she insisted - after drinking a cup of tea on a plane while covering the hostage crisis in Beslan in 2004.

Shortly before he died, Litvinenko issued a statement saying he was certain he had been poisoned, and blaming Putin - who promptly dismissed the claim.

The Russians continued to deny responsibility, even as one British Foreign Office official said Moscow's ambassador had been called in and told "the situation was now more serious."

These days, political poisonings seem bizarre throwbacks, plucked from the pages of lurid spy thrillers or from movies like "Notorious." In that 1946 Hitchcock film, Ingrid Bergman, playing a spy infiltrating a group of former Nazis who are regrouping in Brazil after World War II, is slowly poisoned by her husband, played by Claude Rains. (Uranium ore secreted in wine bottles and meant to be used for bombs is a key element of the plot, but even Hollywood did not suggest that it might double as the poison itself.)

But there were real poisonings in the postwar era, too; the last well-known one in London took place in 1978, administered by a variation of the classic poisoned dart.

In that case, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was jabbed sharply in the thigh by a stranger's umbrella as he waited for a bus on Waterloo Bridge. He died three days later, and a postmortem exam found a pellet with the deadly poison ricin in his leg.

London has in recent years become a refuge for Putin's Russian enemies, from men like Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire businessman, to Litvinenko, a former KGB officer. But even for the suspicious émigrés, as well as for Britons, Litvinenko's death was a shock, given the nature of the toxin that killed him."

Most poisonings in Britain are smaller-scale affairs, removed from the realm of international politics, in both real life and fiction.

Agatha Christie was fond of poison as a way to dispose of her victims. Poisons employed by her murderers include, among others, strychnine, morphine, cyanide, chloral hydrate, prussic acid, arsenic, ricin, poison gas, digitalin, digitoxin and snake venom.

Some of her victims survived, just as Yushchenko has. But none did so as unrealistically as James Bond does in "Casino Royale." After being restored to life by a quick jolt to the heart with his trusty defibrillator, Bond changes his shirt, returns to the casino, and wins the poker game.

No health threat expected

The British authorities do not expect a major threat to public health after the disclosure that a former Russian KGB officer and enemy of the Kremlin had been killed by radiation poisoning in London, The International Herald Tribune reported from London.

The Health Protection Agency, however, urged people who had been in the same places as the victim, Alexander Litvinenko, to contact the authorities for urine tests.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Russia Turns On NATO Hopefuls To Stop Eastward Spread: Analysts

MOSCOW, Russia -- Moscow, which has failed since the break-up of the Soviet Union to prevent NATO's dramatic eastward expansion, is now turning pressure on the next two applicants, Georgia and Ukraine, in hopes of nipping their plans in the bud, analysts say.

NATO flag

More than two years after the three Baltic ex-Soviet states joined NATO, Russia and the Western military alliance remain at loggerheads.

Not even the formal Russia-NATO Council, set up in 2002 in the framework of the international campaign against terrorism, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, has managed to allay mutual mistrust.

Now, as NATO's 26 member states prepare for a summit in Riga on Tuesday and Wednesday, analysts say the Kremlin has changed tactics -- switching the focus of its diplomatic counter-offensive from NATO headquarters in Brussels to the next would-be members of NATO.

"Russia understood that instead of trying to fight the enlargement Brussels has already decided upon, it is more useful to dissuade candidates from joining," Ivan Safranchuk of the Center for Defense Information explained.

Viktor Kremenyuk of the USA-Canada Institute said that although Moscow still seeks a working partnership with NATO, Russia wants to draw a red line under the possibility of expansion reaching Georgia, Ukraine, or Moldova.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned of "colossal geopolitical upheaval" if Georgia and Ukraine join NATO.

Like most ex-Soviet countries, these Western-leaning, would-be NATO members remain tied in a number of ways to Russia.

For example, in order to join NATO, Georgia would first have to quit the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose grouping of 12 former Soviet republics.

"Georgia's joining NATO would mean a complete re-working of bilateral ties between the two countries," Kremenyuk said.

Georgia also depends on Russia for its energy -- oil, gas and electricity -- while its products, particularly agricultural, are exported mostly to Russia.

Moscow was furious when the impoverished Caucasus nation began an "intensified dialogue" with NATO in September, an important, if limited step on the road toward membership.

After Georgia broke up an alleged Russian spy ring a short time later, Russia imposed punishing economic sanctions and closed its border to all traffic, sparking the worst crisis in Georgia-Russian relations since the Soviet collapse.

On Sunday, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov pinned the blame on Georgia and NATO.

"The general tension is due above all to the fact that the Georgian leadership, with the help of those one could call 'NATO's young converts' and potential NATO candidates, is actively re-arming Georgia."

Russia is equally opposed to Ukraine joining NATO, but knows the chances of this happening are less clear.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who led the pro-Western "orange revolution" two years ago, is still pushing for NATO membership. However, he has lost much of his influence to pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovich, now the country's prime minister.

During his September visit to Brussels, Yanukovich declared that Ukraine was not ready for rapid integration with NATO.

Source: AFP

Ukraine Marks 73rd Anniversary Of Famine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine held solemn commemorations Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary of a man-made Soviet-era famine that killed one-third of the country's population, a tragedy that Ukraine's president wants recognized as an act of genocide.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his wife Kateryna hold candles during a commemoration ceremony for victims of the Great Famine in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2006.

At the height of the 1932-33 famine, 33,000 people died of hunger every day, devastating entire villages. Cases of cannibalism were widespread as desperation deepened.

Black ribbons were hung Saturday on the blue and yellow national flag, and in cities across the country, officials laid flowers at monuments to the estimated 10 million victims.

President Viktor Yushchenko and Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz unveiled the cornerstone of a planned memorial complex in the capital. Later Saturday, officials planned a procession and the lighting of thousands of candles on a centuries-old Kiev square.

"I would like for us never to tolerate the shame of having to hold discussions about what to call this," Yushchenko said at the ceremony. "This is one of the most horrible pages of our history, and for a long time now, it has had only one name."

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin provoked the famine in a campaign to force peasants to give up their private farms and join collectives. Authorities collectivized agriculture throughout the Soviet Union, but farmers in Ukraine known as the breadbasket of the U.S.S.R. fiercely resisted and bore the brunt of the man-made disaster.

Yushchenko has asked parliament to recognize the famine as genocide, but some lawmakers have resisted, and Moscow has warned Kiev against using that term.

Russia argues that the orchestrated famine did not specifically target Ukrainians but also other peoples in the Soviet agricultural belt, including Russians and Kazakhs, and this month said the issue should not be "politicized."

But historians say that the overwhelming majority of victims were Ukrainians, and the famine coincided with Stalin's effort to quash growing Ukrainian nationalism.

"Practically every family who lived in Ukraine at that time suffered deaths," opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said.

During the Soviet era, the mass starvation was a closely guarded state secret, but information trickled out over the years and Ukraine has since declassified thousands of files.

Ten nations, including the United States, have recognized the famine as an act of genocide, defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group. Genocide is a crime under international law.

Moroz said he supports recognizing the mass starvation as genocide, and predicted that the president's bill, which has run into some trouble among lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, would come before parliament next week.

Some lawmakers from Yanukovych's Russia-leaning Party of Regions have suggested calling the famine a tragedy instead of genocide, but party member Taras Chornovil predicted the president's version would ultimately pass.

Under Stalin, each village was ordered to provide the state with a quota of grain, but the demands typically exceeded crop yields. As village after village failed to meet the requirements, they were put on a blacklist.

The government seized all food and residents were prohibited from leaving effectively condemning them to starvation.

Those who resisted were shot or sent to Siberia.

Source: AP

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ukrainian Prosecutors Say Cheap Gas Intended For Ukrainians Was Sold Instead To Businesses

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian prosecutors accused a state-controlled gas company of redirecting cheap Ukrainian gas intended for the Ukrainian population to commercial enterprises in a bid to make a higher profit, the prosecutor's office said Friday.

Ukrnafta logo

The latest allegations against state firms in Ukraine's natural gas sector were made amid an investigation that has already led to the opening of 58 criminal cases against Naftogaz and its daughter companies.

The probes are part of the growing tussle between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and President Viktor Yushchenko. Yanukovych has called for management changes at numerous state-controlled gas companies.

The General Prosecutor's Office accused Ukrnafta of selling Ukrainian gas to commercial enterprises at higher rates, forcing the government to buy more expensive Russian-supplied gas for the population. The deals cost the state about 1.3 billion hryvna ($258 million), prosecutors said.

No one from Ukrnafta could immediately be reached for comment. Naftogaz, the parent company, refused to comment.

Russia's Vedomosti newspaper reported that the latest investigation was seen as an effort to change the management at Ukrnafta. Analysts have predicted a battle for control of the gas company between the current minority shareholder, which is affiliated with oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, and tycoons linked to Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Earlier this month, prosecutors opened criminal cases against state gas companies, accusing them of issuing licenses illegally, illegally writing off debts, allowing some companies to carry out gas exploration work without licenses and renting state property at below-market prices.

Prosecutors have also launched probes into the former leadership for alleged financial breaches. Former Naftogaz head Oleksiy Ivchenko, a Yushchenko ally, has denied the allegations.

Ukraine produces about 20 billion cubic meters of its own gas, which is supposed to be directed to the population in a bid to keep prices low. But that covers only about 20 percent of its needs, forcing Ukraine to rely on more expensive Central Asian gas, which it pipes in via Russia.

Earlier this year, a bitter pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine led to the temporary shut-off of gas supplies and a sharp increase in prices.

Source: AP

About 3,000 Protest Imminent Rise In Maintenance And Utilities Rates In Ukraine Capital

KIEV, Ukraine -- About 3,000 people blocked traffic in Kiev on Thursday to protest against an imminent increase in housing maintenance and utilities rates in the Ukrainian capital.

Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky

As of Dec. 1, many Kiev residents will see their monthly payments for maintenance, electricity, gas, heat and other services increase more than threefold.

The protest was organized by the parties of President Viktor Yushchenko and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and most of the anger was directed at Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, a former businessman elected in March.

Lyubov Grabarenko, a retiree in the angry crowd outside the mayor's office, said she would have to pay 500 hryvna ($100) per month, more than her monthly pension of 382 hryvna ($75).

"How can it be? How will I survive?" she said. "Chernovetsky wants people to become beggars."

Chernovetsky said the rates have remained unchanged for years, and said the protest organizers "just want to make a chaos at the mayor's office."

Many city administrations across the whole of Ukraine have increased maintenance and utilities rates this season, sparking protests. The increases in Kiev are the sharpest.

The minimum monthly wage in Ukraine is 400 hryvna ($79) as minimum monthly pension is 366 hryvna ($72).

Source: AP

Legacy Of Famine Divides Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A row of emaciated Ukrainian children stare out of a photograph. Their gaunt faces are full of despair and their bodies are little more than skeletons.

It is one of many images being shown on Ukrainian television in the run-up to Memorial Day, which is being held this weekend to mark the Soviet-era famine.

It was one of the bleakest moments in Ukraine's history. The famine which happened between 1932 and 1933 killed up to 10 million people.

It is widely believed to have been caused by the actions of the communist regime. The harvest was confiscated and people starved to death.

It was part of a brutal campaign by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to force Ukrainian peasants to join collective farms.

Ukraine is now trying to get this mass starvation recognised by the United Nations as an act of genocide.

But the issue is highly controversial and Russia is strongly against the move.


Now in his eighties, Ivan Leschenko was a child during the famine. He remembers how some people resorted to cannibalism.

"Such things really did happen. I know that one of my relatives ate human flesh. Just imagine how bad the situation was that people were forced to do that."

On the eve of Memorial Day, Ivan visited the capital's monument to the victims of the man-made famine to pay his respects.

"I remember walking the streets and seeing dead, bloated bodies of children and adults all over the place. I went up to one boy, he was saying something and suddenly he started shaking and then passed away," Ivan says.

"I was so scared; it was the most frightening experience of my life."

'Dancing on graves'

The famine had a devastating impact on villages across Ukraine. It is thought that around a quarter of the population was wiped out.

At the KGB archive in Kiev, recently released files are piled up on an old-fashioned desk. These are said to demonstrate how the famine was artificially engineered.

One document is an order from Moscow to shoot people who steal food. It is signed by Stalin in red ink.

Now Ukraine's president wants what happened to be recognised as an act of genocide.

Russia admits this was an awful tragedy but is angry at claims that it was an attempt to destroy the Ukrainian nation. It says that other parts of the former USSR were affected.

This issue has also divided Ukraine's parliament. Last week MPs refused to vote on a law proposed by the president.

He wanted parliament to declare that the famine was an act of genocide.

The ruling coalition which includes the Communist Party is pro-Russian.

It is led by the president's rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - the man who was defeated by mass protests in the 2004 "Orange Revolution".

"This is like dancing on the graves of the dead. Before it's been proved this was an act of genocide, the Orange authorities are doing their best to persuade everyone that it was," says Sergei Gmyrya, a historian for the Communist party.

"I am furious that this is being used by the politicians in their games," he says.

Fragile relations

For Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko this is personal. "In my family we remember my grandfather Ivan, a strong and hard-working man who died. In my local village alone 600 people died," he says.

"It is important to realise that politics were behind the genocide. It's terrifying to know that the only aim of that experiment was to exterminate Ukrainian people."

Last year the president initiated the first ever Memorial Day to honour the victims. This Saturday, Ukraine will once again pause to remember the tragedy.

Kiev is determined to push for a UN resolution on the issue. But this could put the president on a collision course with his pro-Russian opponents.

It also threatens to damage the country's fragile relations with Moscow.

Source: BBC News

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dying Russian Ex-Spy Implicated Putin

LONDON, UK -- A former Russian spy who died in an apparent poisoning signed a statement in the waning hours of his life blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and accusing him of having "no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value," friends said Friday.

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko's last statement, before his death: "The bastards got me, but they won't get everybody."

Putin's government strongly denied involvement, calling the allegation "nothing but nonsense."

Alexander Litvinenko's statement [see full text at end of story], read to reporters outside the hospital where he died late Thursday, addressed the Russian leader directly.

"You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women," Litvinenko said in a statement read by his friend Alex Goldfarb.

"You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life."

Goldfarb said Litvinenko had dictated the statement before he lost consciousness on Tuesday, and signed it in the presence of his wife, Marina.

"It's so silly and unbelievable that it's not worth comment," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Helsinki, Finland, where Putin is attending a summit with European Union leaders.

"Now the case will be investigated by relevant British services and we hope that those who are standing behind this case will be brought to justice," he added.

Litvinenko, a former KGB agent and critic of the Russian government, suffered heart failure late Thursday after days in intensive care, London's University College Hospital said. Doctors said the cause of his illness remained a mystery.

Friends said Litvinenko had been on a quest to uncover corruption in Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, and unmask the killers of another trenchant critic of the Putin's government, the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

"He was completely convinced it was the FSB. There was no doubt in his mind who it was," Andrei Nekrasov told The Associated Press.

Nekrasov, who spoke to Litvinenko just before he lost consciousness, said Litvinenko had told him: "The bastards got me, but they won't get everybody."

Litvinenko told police that he believed he had been poisoned on Nov. 1, while investigating the slaying of Politkovskaya. His hair fell out, his throat swelled and his immune and nervous systems were severely damaged.

Doctors treating him said they could not explain his rapid decline, and they discounted earlier theories that the 43-year-old father of three had been poisoned with the toxic metal thallium or a radioactive substance.

Dr. Geoff Bellingan, University College Hospital's director of critical care, acknowledged he had no clue as to the cause of death.

London's Metropolitan Police said anti-terrorist officers were investigating the matter as "an unexplained death."

"It was an excruciating death and he was taking it as a real man," Litvinenko's father, Walter, said Friday.

"This regime is a mortal danger to the world," he added, his voice choked with emotion.

Nekrasov said the former spy had begun to lose consciousness on Tuesday.

"It was a darkened room, and he would open his eyes now and again. We were encouraging him, telling him that he would survive," Nekrasov said.

"It was so heart-rending. His son was just in a state of shock. He didn't know what to make of it. The family just huddled in a corner of the hospital _ it was terrible to look at."

Nekrasov said Litvinenko believed he had been targeted by the Kremlin because he had threatened to uncover embarrassing facts.

"He had a mission to uncover what he felt were crimes his former colleagues had committed," Nekrasov said.

Litvinenko worked for the KGB and its successor, the FSB. In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering him to kill tycoon Boris Berezovsky and spent nine months in jail from 1999 on charges of abuse of office. He was later acquitted and in 2000 sought asylum in Britain, where Berezovsky is now also living in exile.

On the day he first felt ill, Litvinenko said he had two meetings, the first with an unnamed Russian and Andrei Lugovoy, an-KGB colleague and bodyguard to former Russian Prime Minster Yegor Gaidar.

Later, he dined with Italian security expert Mario Scaramella to discuss the October murder of Politkovskaya.

Scaramella said he showed Litvinenko an e-mail he received from a source naming Politkovskaya's killers, and naming other targets including Litvinenko and himself.

Source: AP

Text of statement by Alexander Litvinenko

I would like to thank many people. My doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing all they can for me; the British Police who are pursuing my case with rigour and professionalism and are watching over me and my family. I would like to thank the British Government for taking me under their care. I am honoured to be a British citizen.

I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife, Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds.

But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

Alexander Litvinenko

Russia's Putin To Visit Ukraine Next Month Amid Efforts To Mend Ties

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Ukraine next month amid efforts to mend strained relations between the former Soviet republics, Putin's Security Council chief said Thursday.

Putin plans to visit on Dec. 22, Russian Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov said during a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Vitaliy Hayduk.

It would be Putin's second visit to Ukraine since the 2004 election of Westward-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko following a bitter campaign in which the Russian leader publicly backed Yushchenko's opponent, Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych returned to the prime minister's post this August after his party won the most votes in March parliamentary elections, and Ukraine is making a new push to improve ties with Moscow.

"The overwhelming majority of people in Ukraine and Russia are interested in improving relations," Ivanov said, expressing confidence the nations could "solve the problems that we mainly inherited after the collapse of the USSR."

Putin's visit should "open a new page in our relations," he said.

Yushchenko advocates membership in NATO and the European Union, but he now shares power with Yanukovych, whose support base is in the largely Russian-speaking east and has made good relations with Moscow a priority.

Russia is Ukraine's biggest trading partner, and Ukraine is heavily dependent on natural gas supplies from Russia. A dispute over gas prices earlier this year caused Moscow to temporarily cut off supplies to Ukraine, a shutdown that was also felt in western Europe, which receives much of its Russian gas via Ukrainian pipelines.

Since Yushchenko's elections, Russia and Ukraine have also sparred over issues including the presence of Russia's Black Sea Fleet on Ukrainian territory and the use of lighthouses on its Crimean peninsula.

Source: AP

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ukrainian Cop Swallows Bribe Money

UMAN, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian traffic police officer swallowed four $100 banknotes when he realized that he was being busted.

However, the marked banknotes were later taken out of his stomach.

Corrupt police have been a plague on the people of Uman, a town in the Ukraine, with their constant demands for bribes.

This corrupt policeman was arrested in a joint effort by internal security officers and local people.

The policeman was caught with the help of $400 - on each bill the word “bribe” was written in invisible ink - while counting a total sum of $12000 dollars in bribes he had extorted from locals.

According to a ProUA news agency report, the policeman swallowed the four $100 bills when he realized that he was caught red-handed after noticing the word “bribe” on the bills .

Since he managed to swallow the bribe money before he was handcuffed, he was hospitalized and the money was retrieved from his stomach, after which he was finally arrested.

Source: Cihan News Agency

PM Gets Poor Grades After First 100 Days

KIEV, Ukraine -- A report issued by a Kyiv-based think tank has given Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych low marks for his first 100 days in office, suggesting that the premier may be too caught up in a power struggle with President Viktor Yushchenko to steer the country properly.

Think tank gives low marks to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych

The report by the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) highlights the failings of Yanukovych’s government since coming to power on Aug. 4, coinciding with similar criticism of the premier by Yushchenko and recent polls that suggest Yanukovych’s popularity is waning.

“Over its first 100 days, many of the government’s actions appear to have been motivated more by an ongoing struggle for power between [President Viktor Yushchenko] and the premier than by long-term strategic plans for the country’s development,” the report says.

Yanukovych, head of the so-called Anti-crisis Coalition comprised of his Regions Party, the Socialists and Communists, marked his 100th day in office on Nov. 12.

President Viktor Yushchenko agreed to accept Yanukovych as premier through a compromise agreement this August. Yanukovych returned to the premiership following a humiliating defeat to Yushchenko in the contested 2004 presidential elections.

Despite inheriting more authority than previous governments thanks to constitutional reforms that shifted powers from the presidency to a governing coalition set up by parliament, Yanukovych’s team has failed to make concrete progress, the reports says.

This could doom his cabinet to the fate of previous governments, dubbed by the report as “ineffective and unpopular.”

In particular, ICPS faults Yanukovych’s team for not outlining its plans for the future, not consulting with interest groups when developing policy and for a lack of transparency in its decision-making process.

The report also criticized the government’s closed-door negotiations with Russia on natural gas prices, which are to increase 40 percent to $130 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007 after having nearly doubled earlier this year.

“The government has done little to prepare the public for continued increases in the price of gas. The murky deal has thus created a situation where the price of natural gas will continue to be a politically divisive issue in Ukraine,” the report states.

On Nov. 8, Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party faulted Yanukovych’s government for not securing an increase in the price for the transit of gas through Ukrainian territory while negotiating an agreement on supplies from Russia and Central Asia.

The ICPS report also expresses concern over the lack of consensus on Ukraine’s relations with Russia.

“The lack of a clear government position on just how far economic and political cooperation with Russia will go and which forms it will take arouses suspicions that the cabinet is ready to sell out national interests on strategic issues,” it states.

In a televised Nov. 21 interview, President Yushchenko reiterated many of the concerns laid out in the ICPS report. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the first 100 days of Yanukovych’s premiership, citing the gas issue and usage of non-market methods, such as export quotas for keeping prices on grain low as deep concerns.

“We don’t understand the formula used in setting the price [for natural gas]. To this day, I have not viewed the protocol which sets this price. I’m still waiting for it,” Yushchenko said.

“Without a formula for this price we have no logical formula for prices in the future. If $130 is a political price, then this situation will repeat itself each year ahead of December,” Yushchenko added.

Meanwhile, recent polls indicate that public support for Yanukovych, whose party mustered the highest voter support (about one-third) in last March’s parliamentary elections, could be on the decline.

A survey conducted in late October by Kyiv’s Razumkov Ukrainian Center for Economic and Policy Studies suggests that only 11 percent of Ukrainians feel improvements under Yanukovych’s government.

A total of 34 percent of respondents taking part in the study feel the situation has not improved under Yanukovych’s government, while 46 percent feel the situation in the country has remained unchanged.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukrainians In Mourning For Deceased Orange Revolution

KIEV, Ukraine -- On the second anniversary of the Orange Revolution (Nov. 22), it can now be said categorically: Viktor Yushchenko betrayed the Revolution. He never planned to do this. However, his deliberate, self-promoting actions as president over the past two years have dealt it a fatal blow.

Viktor Yushchenko betrayed the Orange Revolution

Today the millions of citizens, who stood bravely and vigilantly on city squares across Ukraine to protest a very fraudulent presidential election, are its walking wounded.

Anyone who still believes that Yushchenko is not to blame, that he is a victim of political intrigues rather than the victimizer of once ardent followers, needs only to recall these pointers of betrayal.

He capitulated needlessly to President Kuchma in December 2004, paving the way for today’s weak presidential system which he greatly regrets; he repeatedly compromised core Orange principles (notably, opposition to corruption, deception, and blame-game politics) and broke his solemn promise to send political “bandits to prison” by embracing a blatant enemy of the Revolution, Viktor Yanukovych; in 2005, he stalled unnecessarily and selfishly for months in forming an Orange coalition until it was too late and it crumbled; and he masked his conspicuous abandonment of Maidan (Independence Square) ideals with sweet-sounding but unconvincing rhetoric about the need to unify the country by joining forces with former arch rival, Yanukovych.

He also refused to accept any responsibility for his many policy failures and strategic miscalculations, and instead unswervingly promoted the myth that a weak presidency was to blame. In fact, Yushchenko accomplished preciously little on the domestic scene even when he had full presidential powers.

Curiously, the betrayal of the Orange Revolution has received only scant critical attention from political observers here and abroad, despite its obvious importance for Ukraine’s political and social evolution. Even more disturbing is the fact that no attention whatsoever has been paid to how millions of Ukrainians – former fervent supporters of the Revolution – will ever recover from this deep wound.

How can we better understand the profound impact this betrayal has had on an enormous segment of a nation in transition? And what can be done to lead Ukraine’s walking wounded to recovery?

The relevant theoretical and practical literature on betrayal offers several important insights into these burning existential questions.

To begin with, there are some axioms of betrayal that are inadequately appreciated and can inform our analysis; namely: It is difficult to find any adult who has not personally experienced betrayal; some betrayals are more hurtful and have a greater impact than others; few individuals like to speak openly about betrayal, most prefer to suffer in silence; feelings of betrayal last a very long time, often a lifetime, and lead people to have serious problems trusting others; often victims are unsure and even doubtful that a betrayal has occurred because the victimizers are generally very deceitful and manipulative; the first step in recovering from any betrayal is acknowledging that it has occurred and was a deliberate and calculated violation of trust; and, lastly, a victimizer is often motivated by a lust for power and control.

Viewed in this context, several conclusions about the betrayal of the Orange Revolution are inescapable. With few exceptions, political observers have gravely underestimated the impact President Yushchenko’s betrayal of the Orange Revolution has had upon his once loyal supporters.

Typically, they describe them simply as disappointed and disillusioned and assume these feelings will soon pass. Time heals, they say. However, this facile assumption does not withstand close scrutiny.

Betrayal, as the relevant literature makes poignantly clear, is much more than disappointment and disillusionment. It is a deeply traumatic experience ,which shatters its victims to the core.

In the case of Ukraine’s walking wounded, it is doubly traumatic because Yushchenko was once a beloved icon who had the unconditional support of millions of citizens but deliberately chose to betray their trust.

This betrayal is especially hurtful because citizens not only gave their votes for Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential election, they also risked their lives. They stood bravely and vigilantly on freezing streets across the country for days, and even weeks, in a very precarious political situation because they wanted a better world for their children and grandchildren.

A year later, when it became painfully apparent that the president was compromising Maidan principles, millions of his supporters defected and voted for Yulia Tymoshenko, leading her to victory in last March’s parliamentary election – a determined public effort to renew the faltering Revolution.

However, adding insult to injury, Yushchenko tellingly refused to accept the will of his own people. He suppressed their voices by stubbornly stalling the formation of an Orange coalition until it was too late. Once again, he placed personal political ambition above the public interest and, once again, with disastrous results for the Orange Revolution.

His selfish act also left countless Ukrainians feeling politically powerless. Moreover, this national betrayal is compounded further by the historic memory that Ukraine’s tragic past is replete with cases where rulers have repeatedly betrayed their very own citizens.

It has to be said that Yushchenko never aggressively defended Maidan ideals once he became president. He rode into office trumpeting them but later, deliberately and frequently, abandoned them. During his two years in office, he has steadily drifted away from his loyal followers and today is separated from them by a growing sea of indifference and arrogance.

Much of his time has been spent atop his own private Mount Olympus gazing endlessly and wantonly upon an often uninterested Europe, while demonstrating uncommon lack of attention to matters at home.

It needs to be stressed that this deep wound of betrayal, contrary to conventional wisdom, will not heal on its own. Left alone, it will fester and breed deep public cynicism about future politicians who, in particular, proclaim democratic ideals and European standards and practices.

And it is also likely to retard the emergence of a new democratic political culture. Furthermore, the road to recovery will be singular and lonely. No thunderous Maidan will rise up to relieve this deep wound. No spirited, heroic political leader can deliver victory in this struggle.

Where do we begin the healing process?

In a culture where homegrown litanies and chants have for ages helped troubled Ukrainians cope with their personal and national tragedies, embracing and repeating the following words on this special anniversary, and often hereafter, may offer the country’s walking wounded a measure of comfort and lead them to the road to recovery:

We grieve for Viktor Yushchenko, our tortured and once beloved icon, who solemnly promised to lead a crusade against corruption and lies, but who lacked courage and political will and quickly fell by the wayside. We grieve for our president, who, driven by a lust for power and control, frequently compromised our core principles with Orange enemies, despite his many Maidan promises.

And we grieve for a man who, amazingly, repeatedly turned his back on his closest Maidan ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, an indomitable spirit who never betrayed Orange ideals and never embraced enemies of the Orange Revolution. We remember that she sustained the Revolution during its darkest hours in 2004 when a severely poisoned and disfigured Yushchenko lay at death’s door because of his injudicious wining and dining with loyal servants of corrupt President Kuchma’s security services – an indiscretion which, no doubt, will haunt him interminably.

But we also rejoice for the Orange Revolution on this seemingly grave and funereal occasion. We never embraced its enemies. We never turned our backs on its faithful allies. And we rejoice because we – not Viktor Yushchenko – gave birth to a civil society on the Maidan, a budding society which struggles daily to survive, and we also keep the Orange dream alive for our children and grandchildren.

And so, on this second anniversary of the Orange Revolution, we grieve and we rejoice, and we hold our heads high, for we never betrayed the Maidan and never will.

Source: Kyiv Post

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Clouds Gather Over Yushchenko's Interior Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- The team of Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has mounted an offensive against Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, one of a handful of ministers loyal to President Viktor Yushchenko.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko

Lutsenko spearheaded the anti-corruption campaign that was launched after Yushchenko came to power in 2005. Several Donetsk-based Yanukovych cronies were among the targets of that campaign.

Now Lutsenko is the target of several investigations himself. He and Yushchenko dismiss them as political persecution.

It is technically easier for Yanukovych to get rid of Lutsenko than the two other Yushchenko loyalists – Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko – although Yanukovych dislikes them as well.

Tarasyuk and Hrytsenko were appointed to Yanukovych’s cabinet on Yushchenko’s quota, and nobody but he can replace them, but Lutsenko’s appointment was the result of a separate agreement between Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

Parliament, in which Yanukovych controls a majority, can dismiss Lutsenko any time, according to the constitution.

Parliament started its attack with a warning shot. On November 2, a parliamentary commission was set up to investigate allegations of corruption against Lutsenko, which were published in the September 8 issue of the 2000 weekly.

The paper claimed that he or his family were involved in car ownership irregularities – an allegation flatly dismissed by Lutsenko. On the same day, parliament approved a recommendation to Yanukovych to suspend Lutsenko for the duration of the commission’s work.

However, Lutsenko has not been suspended. Yushchenko came to his rescue the same day. His spokeswoman said that Yushchenko did not understand parliament’s move and that the legality of it was doubtful.

Lutsenko told 1+1 TV on November 2 that parliament has the right to dismiss him, but there is no law allowing parliament to suspend him. Lutsenko dismissed the action against him as “revenge of those who have legal problems.”

He said Yanukovych’s Party of Regions (PRU) and the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYT) were behind the controversial motion.

Lutsenko spoiled relations with the BYT last year when he publicly accused Tymoshenko’s right-hand man, Oleksandr Turchynov, of eavesdropping on top officials when Turchynov headed the Security Service (SBU) in February-September 2005.

Turchynov denied the accusation. On November 17, the BYT press service reported that a Kyiv district court had upheld Turchynov’s libel suit against Lutsenko, obliging Lutsenko to issue a denial.

The BYT has the second-largest faction in parliament, and if it backs the PRU on Lutsenko’s dismissal, nothing can save him.

Interviewed on the national TV on November 13, Yanukovych said Lutsenko must choose between his work in the cabinet and pursuing a party career. Yanukovych was probably reacting to Lutsenko’s fiery speech at the November 11 congress of Yushchenko’s People’s Union-Our Ukraine party, when he did not rule out becoming the leader of a new political force in spring 2007.

On November 14, Segodnya, a daily sympathetic to the PRU, quoted sources in parliament as saying that Lutsenko would be dismissed shortly. On the same day, Deputy Prosecutor-General Renat Kuzmin, a PRU loyalist, told a press conference that Lutsenko was suspected of “very serious corruption.”

He said that Lutsenko had given firearms to people who were not authorized to carry arms, and that he ad granted officer ranks illegally. Lutsenko did not deny the instances mentioned by Kuzmin, but said that those were his mistakes, rather than deliberate legal violations.

On November 20 the Pechersky district court in Kyiv – the same jurisdiction that had ruled in favor of Turchynov – ruled that Lutsenko was guilty of corruption and fined him the equivalent of $65. The size of punishment clearly demonstrated that Lutsenko’s “corruption” was probably not very “serious.”

Lutsenko promised to appeal anyway. The headlines about “the interior minister’s corruption,” however, have been conspicuous in newspapers, and the psychological pressure on Lutsenko is mounting.

The parliamentary investigative commission that was set up on November 2 to grill Lutsenko is scheduled to report on its findings in early December.

Yushchenko is prepared to strike back. The chief of his administration, Viktor Baloha, has accused Kuzmin of deliberately discrediting Lutsenko. Speaking in an interview with Zerkalo nedeli, Baloha also accused Kuzmin’s boss, Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Medvedko, of “destabilizing society,” and suggested that he should resign. The daily Delo quoted its sources as saying that Medvedko’s dismissal was only a question of time.

Yushchenko has been unhappy not only with the treatment of Lutsenko by the top prosecutors, but also with their recent decisions not to arrest a well-connected Crimean deputy who had been suspected of serious crime, and to release controversial former Sumy governor Volodymyr Shcherban, who returned from self-imposed exile in the United States.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Ukraine Quiet On Orange Anniversary

KIEV, Ukraine -- No orange banners hang from the street lamps; no stage is being erected on Kiev's Independence Square; no festivities are planned.

Orange Revolution two years ago

Quietly is how Ukraine plans to commemorate what has become for many a bittersweet occasion: the second anniversary Wednesday of the Orange Revolution. Ukraine's topsy-turvy politics have made any official celebration of the mass protests awkward.

Viktor Yanukovych, whose fraud-tarnished presidential victory sparked the uprising, is back in his old job as prime minister. And the Orange Revolution team is again in the opposition.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's popularity is so low that a recent opinion poll showed he would get less than 15 percent of the vote if the election were held now.

The revolution's slogans -- including "Bandits in Jail," referring to corrupt bureaucrats and their businessman cronies -- and its promises of a quick embrace by NATO and the European Union turned out to be naive. Now Yushchenko's camp, too, is accused of corruption.

And lives have not gotten any better since the popular uprising, with energy and food prices skyrocketing.

Even the hopes of shrugging off Russia's influence seem premature; analysts say Ukraine's energy dependence on Moscow means the Kremlin's shadow will continue to advance.

"We were very romantic and idealistic," said former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose glamour and fiery speeches made her the revolution's heroine. "We believed that everything would happen quickly and beautifully."

Today, the only prominent orange on Independence Square is on the hats and scarves of girls advertising a Ukrainian mobile phone company, and hawkers manning the souvenir tables have added buttons and T-shirts depicting Yanukovych to their stocks.

Portraits of the unpopular president have been dropped altogether.

"We stood on the square for a month in the bitter cold and what did we get? They're in opposition again," said Kiev resident Pavel Korneichuk, who said he spent a month freezing in the protesters' tent camp two years ago. "What kind of victory is that? I don't see anything to celebrate."

Yushchenko's party initially planned festivities on Independence Square but called them off after consultations with its "orange blood brothers," party spokeswoman Tetyana Mokridi said.

Instead, members of the Our Ukraine party will simply gather on the square to mingle with whoever shows up. Yushchenko is also expected to make an appearance.

Tymoshenko plans to be out of the country.

"Most people are disillusioned with politicians but not disillusioned with the ideals of the Orange Revolution," said analyst Serhiy Taran of the International Institute of Democracy. "They realize that what they did two years ago was the right thing, but there is still a way to go."

Source: AP

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Who Poisoned A Former KGB Agent?

LONDON, UK -- A former KGB agent who had accused the Russian security services of involvement in several killings was transferred to intensive care Monday after British doctors confirmed he had been the victim of a deadly nerve poison.

Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy, before and after the thallium poisoning

Alexander Litvinenko, 41, a Kremlin critic who has lived in Britain for several years, suffered a slight setback over the weekend and remained in serious condition, hospital officials in London said.

A toxicologist said he had tested positive for thallium, a tasteless, odorless chemical that has been used in political killings in Iraq and can be lethal in doses as small as a dash of salt.

An associate of the former spy said Litvinenko fell ill on Nov. 1, hours after meeting for tea in London with a former KGB agent who owns a private security agency in Moscow.

The meeting came just before Litvinenko met with another contact who provided him with documents he had been told could shed light on the slaying of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a longtime critic of Russia's war in Chechnya who was shot to death in the elevator of her apartment house in Moscow on Oct. 7.

"I think someone very high up in the Moscow security services ordered this hit," said Alex Goldfarb, a friend of Litvinenko's and director of the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, which was founded by exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky, who is a critic of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

A Russian lawmaker accused Berezovsky of engineering the poisoning scandal, and a Kremlin spokesman dismissed the allegation of government involvement as "sheer nonsense."

The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service said in a statement that Soviet-era intelligence agencies and their successors had not carried out "operations aimed at the physical liquidation of unwelcome personalities" since the "elimination" of Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera in 1959.

Two Russian intelligence agents were convicted in Qatar in 2004 for the car-bomb slaying of Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. They were returned to Russia and later freed.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko still has a badly scarred face and painful nerve damage from near-fatal dioxin poisoning during a presidential campaign in which he advocated freeing Ukraine from Russia's sphere of influence.

A Saudi-born financier of the Chechen resistance, Omar ibn Khattab, died in 2002 after opening a poisoned letter. Russia's Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, was blamed in the killing.

And Politkovskaya, whose slaying Litvinenko was reportedly investigating when he fell ill, became sick after drinking what she claimed was poisoned tea while traveling to Beslan during the 2004 siege of a school by Ingush and Chechen militants.

Stephen Rowley, a spokesman at University College Hospital in London, said Litvinenko, who was under armed guard and being questioned by police, had been transferred to intensive care as a precaution.

Photographs released Monday night showed a thin, wan-looking man with no hair. Hair loss is a characteristic symptom of thallium poisoning.

"You've seen the picture of him. He looks like a ghost. To my view, he's worse today than he was yesterday," Goldfarb said.

The Metropolitan Police Service said it was awaiting the results of toxicology tests but was investigating a "suspected deliberate poisoning."

Clinical toxicologist John Henry, who examined Litvinenko, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the presence of thallium had been confirmed in a blood test.

The toxic metal, an ingredient in some forms of rat poison, causes progressive vomiting and diarrhea, and is followed by painful nerve damage and possible injury to vital organs, including the heart.

Litvinenko, who gave a few interviews before getting sicker, said he had met with a former acquaintance from the KGB, then had lunch at a sushi restaurant with another acquaintance, Italian academic Mario Scaramella, who had e-mailed Litvinenko and told him he had knowledge of Politkovskaya's killers.

Litvinenko said the document he received contained the names of some Federal Security Service officers.

Several Russian news reports said Scaramella had met frequently in the past with Viktor Kolmogorov, deputy director of the Federal Security Service, apparently in connection with the investigation of former Russian spies in Italy.

"I ordered the food, and he took just water and was hurrying me," Litvinenko told Moscow's Kommersant newspaper. "From the text, I understood that the mentioned people could have really arranged the murder. We parted nearly at once. As soon as I got home, I put down the papers and was down."

Scaramella has since contacted the British Embassy in Italy, according to news reports, and has reportedly gone into hiding for his own safety.

Litvinenko had publicly accused the Kremlin of involvement in Politkovskaya's killing. He also wrote a book outlining the possible involvement of Russian security services in the bombing of four Moscow apartment buildings in 1999.

The blasts provided much of the justification for Russia's second war in Chechnya and contributed to a wave of public support that helped elect Putin in 2000.

Mikhail Trepashkin, a lawyer and former KGB agent who had been advising a parliamentary commission investigating the bombings, is imprisoned in Russia.

Russian authorities have said Trepashkin and Litvinenko were providing documents about the apartment bombings to British intelligence agents as part of a plot to discredit the Russian government. They also suspected a link to Berezovsky.

In 2003, Yuri Shchekochikhin, a parliament deputy who was active in the commission's investigation, died of an unexplained allergic reaction. A poison was blamed. The head of the commission, Sergei Yushenkov, was shot to death the same year.

Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former KGB foreign intelligence officer now living in the United States, said that poisoning was a "trademark method" of the Russian security services and that it was quite possible Litvinenko had been targeted.

"I think Russian special services are returning to Stalin-time methods of murdering their opponents in secret operations both in Russia and abroad," he said.

Source: LA Times

Court Finds Ukraine's Interior Minister Guilty Of Corruption, Fines Him About $65

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Kiev court found Ukraine's interior minister guilty of corruption on Monday, a ruling that his lawyer criticized as a "political decision." He was fined just over $65.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a leading organizer of the 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests, has come under pressure since Russian-leaning Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych took over as head of government earlier this year.

The court, which fined Lutsenko 340 hryvnas ($67), ruled that he granted officer ranks illegally and gave pistols to citizens who did not have proper licenses. Svetlana Fivchuk, the spokeswoman for the ministry, said that Lutsenko plans to appeal the decision.

Earlier this month, lawmakers created a temporary parliamentary committee to investigate newspaper allegations of corruption and abuse of power and proposed suspending the popular minister for two months.

Lutsenko helped to stage the massive election fraud protests in 2004 that became known as the Orange Revolution and brought pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to power after he defeated Yanukovych in a court-ordered revote.

After Yushchenko became president, Lutsenko spearheaded corruption investigations into some of Yanukovych's closest allies.

Yanukovych's decision to keep him on after he became premier in August following his party's success in parliamentary elections was seen as a major compromise to the president, and was met with strong opposition within Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Lutsenko's lawyer Yuriy Bergelson accused the court of making "a political decision."

Source: AP

Former Russian Spy Is Moved To Intensive Care

LONDON, UK -- A former Russian spy allegedly poisoned with a toxic metal was transferred to an intensive care unit in London after his condition deteriorated, hospital officials said Monday.

Alexander Litvinenko at the University College Hospital in central London on Monday. His condition deteriorated overnight.

Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB and Federal Security Service agent, was under armed guard at a London hospital, where he is fighting for his life after apparently being given thallium - a toxic metal found in rat poison.

A Kremlin spokesman on Monday dismissed allegations that the Russian security services had tried to murder Litvinenko as "sheer nonsense."

Litvinenko "remains in a serious condition, but last night there was a slight deterioration in his condition, and he was transferred to intensive care as a precautionary measure," University College Hospital in London said in a statement.

Litvinenko, who had been looking into the killing of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, told reporters last week that he had fallen ill on Nov. 1 after a meal at a sushi restaurant with an Italian contact who claimed to have information about the murder.

Alexander Goldfarb, who helped Litvinenko defect to Britain in 2000, said the former spy told him more details on Monday morning about the day he was poisoned during a telephone conversation from his hospital bed.

Goldfarb said all options should be explored, including whether the poison might have been sprinkled into Litvinenko's drink during a meeting at a central London hotel on Nov. 1 before he went to the sushi restaurant.

Litvinenko briefly met two men from Moscow - one of whom was a former KGB officer that he knew - for tea at the hotel, Goldfarb said.

"I called Alexander in the hospital," Goldfarb said. "He told me it is true, on that day, before meeting the Italian, he met with two Russians." He said that Litvinenko had not previously met the second man.

Litvinenko told the police about the two men, he said.

Oleg Gordievsky, a former senior KGB agent who defected to Britain in the mid-1980s, alleged in an interview with The Times newspaper that those who tried to kill Litvinenko would have had to have obtained permission "from the top" for the operation.

Gordievsky alleged that the attack had been carried out by a former agent who was recruited from prison by the KGB's main successor agency, the Federal Security Service, the newspaper reported.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed suggestions that Russian intelligence services had been involved as "nothing but sheer nonsense," and declined to comment on the alleged poisoning.

The police said a specialist crime unit began an investigation Friday into how Litvinenko may have been poisoned. No arrests have been made, a Scotland Yard spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

The police said in a statement that they were awaiting the results of toxicology tests and did not want to speculate on what had caused Litvinenko's illness. They said they were interviewing witnesses and reviewing security video footage.

Earlier Monday, Goldfarb told BBC radio that the former agent had been poisoned because of his opposition to the Russian regime.

"It's very difficult to imagine the president ordered the killing, it's true, and nobody's saying that Putin personally ordered it, though it's very likely," Goldfarb said, speaking of President Vladimir Putin.

The Press Association, a British news agency, identified the Italian contact Litvinenko met at the restaurant as Mario Scaramella, an academic who helped investigate KGB activity in Italy during the Cold War. Scaramella could not immediately be reached for comment.

Politkovskaya, who had written critically about abuses by Russian and pro- Moscow Chechen forces fighting separatists in Chechnya, was gunned down Oct. 7 inside her Moscow apartment building. Her attackers have not been found.

A doctor treating Litvinenko told the BBC that tests showed he had been poisoned by thallium.

Dr. John Henry, a clinical toxicologist who treated the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, when he was poisoned by dioxin during his 2004 presidential election campaign, told the BBC that thallium can cause damage to the nervous system and organ failure, and that just one gram can be lethal.

Kremlin critics say that poisoning - which is extremely difficult to prove in court - is a common Soviet-era practice that seems to have reappeared since Putin, an ex-KGB officer, became president.

Litvinenko joined the KGB counterintelligence forces in 1988 and rose to the rank of colonel in the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

He began specializing in terrorism and organized crime in 1991, and was transferred to the FSB's most secretive department on criminal organizations in 1997.

Source: AP

Monday, November 20, 2006

Profile: Alexander Litvinenko

LONDON, UK -- Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian security agent fighting for his life in a UK hospital after allegedly being poisoned, has been a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin since before he became president in 2000.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Litvinenko. The former Russian spy and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin is fighting for his life in a London hospital after an apparent bid to kill him by poisoning

Mr Litvinenko is thought to have been close to journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another opponent of the Kremlin who was shot dead last month, and said recently he was investigating her murder.

It was after being handed documents apparently relating to the case that he was taken ill more than two weeks ago.

But he is perhaps best known for a book in which he alleges that agents co-ordinated the 1999 apartment block bombings in Russia that killed more than 300 people.

He now appears to have fallen victim to the kind of plots which he wrote about.

John Henry, a clinical toxicologist who has been treating Mr. Litvinenko, told the BBC: “He’s got a prospect of recovering. He’s a got a prospect of dying.”

Mr. Henry, who in 2004 treated President Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine, who was poisoned with dioxin, identified the suspected poison in the Litvinenko case as thallium, a toxic metal used in rat poison and insecticides. “It is tasteless, colorless and odorless,” he said. “It takes about a gram to kill you.”


Mr Litvinenko, 43, first became a security agent under the Soviet-era KGB, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in its later incarnations.

He is reported to have fallen out with Vladimir Putin, then head of the security service, in the late 1990s, after failing in attempts to crack down on corruption within the organisation.

In 1998, he first came to prominence by exposing an alleged plot to assassinate the then powerful tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who himself now lives in self-imposed exile in the UK.

He was subsequently arrested on charges of abusing his office and spent nine months in a remand centre before being acquitted.

In 1999 he wrote Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within, in which he accused the current Russian security service, the FSB, of carrying out several apartment house bombings in 1999 that killed more than 300 people.

The attacks, which Moscow blamed on Chechen rebels, helped swing public opinion behind Russia's second war in the breakaway republic.

Petrol bombs

Complaining of persecution, in 2000 Mr Litvinenko fled to the UK where he sought, and was granted, asylum.

But after settling in an unnamed London suburb, the former spy continued to behave as if on the run, constantly changing his contact details.

The Times newspaper reported that over the summer someone tried to push a pram loaded with petrol bombs at his front door.

Appearing alongside high-profile opponents of President Putin, he has continued to make allegations about his former bosses.

Perhaps most notably, he alleged that al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri was trained by the FSB in Dagestan in the years before 9/11.

Source: BBC News

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Poisoned: Spy Who Defected Russia For Britain

LONDON, UK -- Alexander Litvinenko was a friend of Anna Politkovskaya, one of the Kremlin’s most powerful critics, particularly over the war in Chechnya.

Alexander Litvinenko (L) and Anna Politkovskaya (R)

“We met at Piccadilly Circus,” said Litvinenko. “Mario said he wanted to sit down to talk to me, so I suggested we go to a Japanese restaurant nearby.

“I ordered lunch but he ate nothing. He appeared to be very nervous. He handed me a four-page document which he said he wanted me to read right away. It contained a list of names of people, including FSB officers, who were purported to be connected with the journalist’s murder.

“The document was an e-mail but it was not an official document. I couldn’t understand why he had to come all the way to London to give it to me. He could have e-mailed it to me.”

After the meeting the Italian had simply “disappeared”, although Litvinenko emphasised that he was not in a position to accuse him of involvement in his poisoning.

That night Litvinenko became violently ill. His wife Marina, 44, said: “At first I thought it was just a bug but then he started vomiting. But it wasn’t normal vomiting.”

She said her husband is a fit man who often runs three miles a day. He had no previous record of medical problems. He was admitted to Barnet hospital on the third day.

Nine days ago, his condition suddenly deteriorated and he lost all his hair. Doctors say Litvinenko has not eaten for 18 days and is receiving what little nourishment he can take via an intravenous drip.

Russian and East European agents have a history of using poisons to attack their enemies. Markov was poisoned with ricin and died three days later.

More recently Victor Yushchenko suffered facial disfigurement after being poisoned with suspected dioxin as he campaigned for the presidency of Ukraine.

Litvinenko, a specialist in fighting organised crime, came to prominence in 1998 after he accused the Russian authorities of trying to kill Boris Berezovsky, a tycoon close to Boris Yeltsin, who was then president.

He claims he was drummed out of the spy agency and subjected to harassment to punish him for speaking out. He was arrested twice on what he says were trumped up charges. Although he was acquitted, he spent months in Moscow prisons.

In 2000 he was arrested for a third time on charges of faking evidence in an investigation. Friends told him he was unlikely to escape lightly under the Putin regime.

Litvinenko decided to flee before he was arrested. Stripped by the authorities of his passport, he ended up in Turkey where he joined Marina and their son Anatoly, who had flown from Moscow on tourist visas.

They came to Britain and claimed asylum. He has been a thorn in Moscow’s side ever since.

Marina said she was hoping to find a bone marrow donor to save her husband’s life.

Doctors have moved him to another hospital offering more specialised treatment and police have taken his family into protective custody.

Source: The Sunday Times

Ukrainians See No Improvement With Yanukovych

KIEV, Ukraine -- Few adults in Ukraine believe their country is doing better under its current government, according to a poll by the Razumkov Center.

Viktor Yanukovych

Only 11 per cent of respondents think the situation has improved, 46 per cent believe it has stayed the same, and 34 per cent say it has worsened.

Ukrainian voters renewed the Supreme Council on March 26. On July 11, the "anti-crisis" coalition, which includes the Party of Regions (PR), the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) was formally announced.

On August 4, PR leader Viktor Yanukovych, who lost in the 2004 presidential election to Viktor Yushchenko of the People’s Union-Our Ukraine (NS-NU), was confirmed as prime minister.

On November 10, celebrating his first 100 days in power, Yanukovych discussed the success of the previous administration, saying, "After a year and a half in power, the government did not provide positive results. Quite the contrary, the ideology of social populism totally drained the economy and caused a number of serious problems."

On November 15, Yanukovych called for changes on current privatization regulations, declaring, "This process must become transparent, so that we never go back to this issue and nobody can accuse us of creating artificial conditions or hampering."

In February 2005, Yushchenko said his administration would verify the privatization deals signed by previous governments. Several state-run enterprises were sold during the tenure of head of state Leonid Kuchma.

Polling Data

After 100 days of the new government, do you think the situation in the country improved, stayed the same, or worsened?

Improved - 11%

Stayed the same - 46%

Worsened - 34%

Methodology: Interviews with 2,005 Ukrainian adults, conducted from October 27 to November 1, 2006. Margin of error is 2.3 per cent.

Source: Angus Reid Global Monitor

Ukraine Will Take Ten Years To Join EU: Foreign Minister

LISBON, Portugal -- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk said that he expects his country will become a member of the European Union in 10 years time, despite questions about the bloc's future.

Boris Tarasyuk

"Ukraine is a European country whose western part is geographically the centre of Europe, so it would be legitimate for us to become members of the EU in the future," he told the Lusa news agency during a visit to Portugal.

"When it comes to our prospects, given the experience of our neighbors, like Poland or Hungary, it will probably take us 10 years," he added.

The rejection of the EU constitution, which was voted down in French and Dutch referendums, meant the bloc was not yet ready to start entry talks with the former Soviet republic, Tarasyuk said.

"Our objective is to join the EU in the future but the EU is not ready to give a positive response to the Ukraine," he said.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko has pressed for EU accession talks to start in 2008 but last month Barroso said the country of some 47 million people had not made enough reforms to make it a contender for membership.

Source: AFP

Ukraine's President Defends His Record

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's struggling President Viktor Yushchenko defended his record nearly two years after the popular uprising that swept him to power, claiming to have brought his country in out of the cold internationally amid strong economic growth.

Ukraine's struggling President Viktor Yushchenko, defended his record nearly two years after the popular uprising that swept him to power, claiming to have brought his country in out of the cold internationally amid strong economic growth

"Ukraine has taken a course she can be proud of," Yushchenko told a news conference here, claiming his country had emerged from the "international isolation" it suffered under former leader Leonid Kuchma who was frozen out by the West.

The pro-Western Yushchenko also cited sharp economic progress in the former Soviet state. Growth was up 6.5 percent during the first 10 months of 2006 compared to the same period last year, while personal income had grown 20 percent since the first six months of 2006, he said.

A record 1.7 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) was invested in Ukraine in the first 10 months of 2006, he added, up from 490 million dollars in the same period last year.

He also claimed improvements in media freedom and in the "dialogue between government and businesses" in the country.

Support for Yushchenko has plummeted in recent months, despite the landslide that swept him to power in the so-called Orange Revolution election victory of 2004 amid popular outrage over vote-rigging in favour of his pro-Russian rival Viktor Yanukovych.

Yushchenko's presidency has since been fraught with political in-fighting and months of crisis this year after March parliamentary elections resulted in deadlock on forming a governing coalition.

His popularity rating fell below 10 percent in a recent poll, with the public apparently disappointed that infighting has prevented him from enacting reforms.

Source: AFP

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Some Lawmakers Want 'Genocide' Dropped From Ukraine Bill

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko’s bid to include the word “genocide” in legislation on the Soviet-era famine that killed up to 10 million people in Ukraine ran into difficulties Friday from lawmakers seeking to water the bill down.

Josef Stalin responsible for the Ukrainian genocide

Some lawmakers allied to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, bowing to Kremlin complaints, proposed dropping the word and calling the 1932-33 Great Famine a tragedy instead.

Ukraine’s 450-member parliament failed to consider the bill submitted by Yushchenko and instead registered their own version.

The move is a blow to Yushchenko, who had personally lobbied lawmakers to pass his bill ahead of the Nov. 25 anniversary, saying Ukraine must have the courage to convince the rest of the world of its position.

The Great Famine was started by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin when he ordered the government to seize crops as part of a campaign to force Ukrainian peasants to join collective farms. The famine is already recognized as a genocide by 10 countries, including the United States, but such a move is strongly opposed by Russia.

Moscow has argued that the famine was part of Communist repression that also targeted other ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union and should not be considered a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union, has been reluctant to tread too deeply on Soviet-era crimes.

Roman Zvarych, Yushchenko’s representative in parliament, criticized attempts to water down the bill.

“A tragedy is not necessarily a planned action. It can be caused by natural reasons,” said Zvarych, noting that if Yanukovych’s allies do not want to recognize the famine as genocide, they must say it openly.

Yanukovych’s ally Taras Chornovil, however, said that ultimately he thinks Yushchenko’s bill — with the word “genocide” — will be supported. “Some lawmakers just need time to study the real facts about the famine,” Chornovil told The Associated Press. “Recently, they’ve gotten a lot of confusing information.”

Ukrainian Communists also strongly oppose declaring the famine a genocide.

Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party won March parliamentary elections and formed a governing coalition, pledging to improve relations with Russia.

Source: AP

Rising Political Star Shifts Into Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Mykola Katerynchuk, an ambitious and increasingly popular politician, shook up Ukraine’s political arena on Nov. 13, announcing his departure from the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party.

Mykola Katerynchuk next to Our Ukraine banner

The center-right politician has also proposed forming a new opposition party that would include other leaders from the Orange Revolution.

A second opposition party could reshape the battle lines of the country’s parliament, but some analysts predict Katerynchuk and his supporters are more likely to be absorbed into the existing Orange opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

Who is Katerynchuk?

Katerynchuk, who was one of the leaders of Our Ukraine, has in recent months protested against the party’s attempts to enter into a coalition led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, labeling such a move as a sellout of Orange Revolution principles.

The departure of the outspoken Katerynchuk, a lawyer who played a role defending Viktor Yushchenko’s case in the Supreme Court during the disputed 2004 presidential vote, could split Our Ukraine.

At least a third of Our Ukraine’s members have in recent months threatened to break off if the party joined a coalition led by Yanukovych’s Regions party.

Katerynchuk’s announcement to quit Our Ukraine comes two days after the party adopted a decision to go into opposition to the government. Many, however, suspect the party’s leaders could still seek a coalition agreement with Yanukovych.

“This party [Our Ukraine] is over for me … I declare that I am leaving it,” he said, explaining that the party’s failure to elect new leadership at a Nov. 11 congress was the final straw for him.

A decision was adopted at the congress allowing for influential tycoons and politician – including Petro Poroshenko and Mykola Martynenko – to retain top posts in the party’s structure.

Katerynchuk has in recent months joined forces with many Our Ukraine ideologues calling for new leadership and resisting efforts to join a Yanukovych coalition.

High Ambitions

Katerynchuk’s exodus is viewed by many as an attempt to establish himself as a leading politician – possibly as a contender in the 2009 presidential elections.

Analysts said the young and handsome Katerynchuk has a chance in that he is viewed by voters as a fresh face, free of big business interests and corruption scandals.

It’s thought he will be able to attract disappointed voters and to split Our Ukraine by dragging many of its members toward his cause.

“Part of Our Ukraine is not satisfied and is seeking more serious changes,” said Dr. Oleksiy Haran, a political analyst at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

“Katerynchuk reflects this position.”

Our Ukraine could find itself struggling in the near term to prevent Katerynchuk from splitting up the party, he added.

“There are two possible outcomes: one is that Our Ukraine reforms. The second is that Katerynchuk leads Our Ukraine to a split,” he added.

Katerynchuk has been accused of working in the interests of the Tymoshenko Byut Bloc, which is currently viewed as the only opposition faction in the five-faction parliament.

Katerynchuk has pledged to cooperate with Tymoshenko, recognizing her as the leader of the opposition, Yet Katerynchuk said he plans on setting up a separate party that would adhere to a right-center platform, different from what he described as Tymoshenko’s left-center position.

Our Ukraine leader Petro Poroshenko tried to play down Katerynchuk’s walkout, describing it as “emotional.”

Our Ukraine is not expected to lose its influential position in parliament in the short term, even if some of its members in parliament shift allegiance towards Katerynchuk.

While quitting the Our Ukraine party, Katerynchuk said he would remain within the Our Ukraine faction in parliament for now. Ukrainian legislation envisions deputies losing their mandates if they quit the faction with which they got elected.

Deputies within the faction who side with Katerynchuk would also need to stay in the faction to keep their parliamentary mandate.

Borys Bespaly, an Our Ukraine deputy sticking to the party’s current leadership, predicted that Katerynchuk’s move would not significantly “shake up” things within his party.

“This will have more importance for [Katerynchuk’s] future than for [our] party,” Bespaly said.

Under Tymoshenko’s wing?

Haran does not expect Tymoshenko’s Byut bloc to suffer from the appearance of a new opposition force led by Katerynchuk. Rather, the analyst suspects that Katerynchuk is likely to cooperate closely with Tymoshenko.

The fact that Katerynchuk conducted his first press conferences since splintering off at the offices of a website ( loyal to Tymoshenko is a sign of his favor, Haran added.

Dmytro Vydrin, a political analyst within Tymoshenko’s faction in parliament, hopes Katerynchuk and his followers will eventually join the Byut bloc.

“He [Katerynchuk] has always been noticeable and attractive, but this is too little to create a strong political project. He will most likely join Byut,” Vydrin said.
Haran said Katerynchuk is “ambitious but there are doubts whether he has enough potential as a leader” of a major political force.

Source: Kyiv Post

AP Interview: Tymoshenko Asks Ukrainians Not To Celebrate Orange Revolution Anniversary

KIEV, Ukraine -- Two years ago, Yulia Tymoshenko helped lead hundreds of thousands in protests against a fraud-marred vote in what became known as the Orange Revolution.

Yulia Tymoshenko

This year, she is planning to be out of the country on the day Ukraine marks the anniversary.

"I believe that, until we have reached the aims of the Orange Revolution, it must be celebrated in our hearts — and not publicly," Tymoshenko told The Associated Press in an interview Friday in her party headquarters.

For Tymoshenko, whose fiery speeches made her one of the Orange Revolution's most visible symbols, the past two years have brought disappointment and frustration as the so-called Orange team crumbled, President Viktor Yushchenko sacked her as premier and Viktor Yanukovych, the man whose fraud-marred presidential victory they helped overturn, returned to power.

Ukrainians quickly grew disillusioned over rising prices and quarrels within Yushchenko's team. The promised foreign investment never materialized, and the European Union has remained skittish about opening its doors to this poor nation of 47 million.

A feud with Russia earlier this year over gas prices put further pressure on Yushchenko's pro-Western leadership, helping Yanukovych's pro-Russian party win the most votes in the March parliamentary election and knocking the main Orange Revolution parties back into opposition.

Tymoshenko, who now controls the biggest opposition faction in parliament, said she remained convinced that the day would come when Ukrainians would again wrap themselves in orange and feel pride.

"I hope that it will be our part of the Orange team who will do everything, so that sooner or later people take their orange cloths, their orange ribbons out of their trunks and wardrobes," she said.

Tymoshenko remains one of Ukraine's most popular politicians, and she is openly touted as a possible presidential candidate in the 2010 race. Even with the current president's popularity at rock bottom and most analysts ruling out his chances of winning a second term, Tymoshenko remains coy about her own ambitions.

But she states clearly about the president: "Yushchenko is not my political partner. I am not a fan of Yushchenko."

Yushchenko's party plans to mark the Orange Revolution's anniversary Wednesday, and invited Tymoshenko to participate in planning events. She refused, and instead accepted an invitation to Brussels to address European lawmakers in a speech entitled: "Ukraine: The Future is Still Orange."

"Her major strength is her own character. She uses the force of her personality, her debating skills and her woman's charm — for the near and the medium terms, she is the front runner," said analyst Ivan Lozowy, president of the Kiev-based Institute of Statehood and Democracy.

Tymoshenko, however, admits the election is a long way away. Her critics accuse her of being a populist, and note her heavy-handed approach to the economy when she was premier. Tymoshenko admits that she might have moved too quickly in her reforms, and she has launched a campaign aimed at getting the West better acquainted with her.

But at home, even though she is out of power, she remains in the spotlight.

"As a rule, a woman who manages to force her way through a tough man's community is many times stronger than the men around her, stronger mentally, intellectually," Tymoshenko said. "When such women come into power, countries get real leaders."

After her trip to Brussels, she heads to Berlin and has hopes of traveling to the United States early next year.

"Today, political events in Ukraine are developing so unusually and unpredictably that in Western countries and generally all over the world, politicians who supported the development of democracy in Ukraine just stopped understanding Ukraine," she said.

"Because of this, politicians and big investors are losing trust in Ukraine," she said. "I would like ... just to try to restore trust in Ukraine, explain what is going on in politics, explain that soon we will be able to bring a democratic team into power in our country."

Source: AP

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ukraine's Yushchenko Raising Stakes In Clash With PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday launched an offensive against the government headed by his rival, vowing to give no ground in a struggle for power two years after mass protests that swept him to office.

Can Yushchenko win the war against Yanukovich?

Yushchenko has been increasingly at odds with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the rival he appointed prime minister in August after an electoral setback and months of failed attempts to form a government of his "orange" backers.

Subject to constant attempts to undermine his authority and attack his few remaining cabinet allies, the president marked out his territory days before the second anniversary of the "Orange Revolution" that led to his election.

He renewed his denunciation of a government bid to regulate grain export markets and threatened to veto a bill demarcating powers of the cabinet and president unless it underwent change.

Analysts predicted further confrontation giving way to backroom talks and compromise or a new parliamentary election.

"The president and prime minister have a rational understanding of what has to be done to act constructively, but the instinct of power is much stronger," said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta think tank.

"This is cold war. Sooner or later choices must be made. Either there will ensue a sort of detente or the cold war will pass into a more active phase, resulting in early elections."

Pro-Western Yushchenko defeated Yanukovich, friendlier to Moscow, in the rerun of a rigged 2004 presidential poll after three weeks of mass rallies in his favour.

But Yanukovich staged a comeback when his Regions Party came first in a March parliamentary election and the president reluctantly appointed him premier after four months of deadlock.

With the battle for influence raging, it is unclear whether Ukraine will even mark the revolution's anniversary next week.


Yanukovich has pointed to robust growth, improved ties with Moscow and relatively stable gas prices as achievements since returning to office. But analysts say that has been offset by lack of transparency and attempts to regulate the economy.

On grain, Yushchenko demanded urgent moves to resume exports stalled by restrictive government quotas intended to stabilise bread prices after a worse than expected harvest.

"This could create unpredictable consequences, a serious slowdown in the integration of the Ukrainian economy....with tensions emerging in relations with countries importing Ukrainian grain," he said in a press statement.

Hours later, the agriculture ministry said the first export shipments had resumed after a more than two-week stoppage.

Western ambassadors want quotas lifted, saying they could hurt Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

The confrontation is rooted in constitutional changes, approved during the 2004 protests, that reduced presidential powers, including the right to appoint most ministers.

New differences flared over parliament's initial approval this week of a bill on the rules of government which further cut presidential powers. Yushchenko said the draft was divisive.

"I will not allow the bill to go through in its current form and will use my veto," he told reporters.

Source: Reuters

Sessina, Godunko Share Titles At Rythmic Gymnastics World Cup

MIE, Japan -- World champion Vera Sessina of Russia and European champion Natalia Godunko of Ukraine have shared the individual titles on the first day of the two-day rhythmic gymnastics World Cup Final.

Ukraine's Natalia Godunko (C), Russia's Vera Sessina (L) and Godunko's compatriot Anna Bessonova wave on a victory podium after the individual rope competition at the 6th Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup Final in Ise, central Japan, November 17, 2006. Godunko won the event, Sessina was placed second and Bessonova was placed third.

The 20-year-old Sessina, who won the ribbon gold medal at the world championships last year, won the ball apparatus with 17.550 points, beating Inna Zhukova of Belarus who scored 17.450 points

The 22-year-old Godunko, also the winner of the ribbon gold at the European championships last year, took the rope apparatus with 17.300 points, beating Sessina into second with 17.275 points.

Anna Bessonova of Ukraine was third in the two categories with 17.175 points and 17.000 points, while Godunko was fifth in the ball.

In the five-woman team ribbons competition, Russia emerged victorious with 15.850 points. Belarus were second with 15.600 and Italy third with 15.100 points.

Source: AFP

Mr. Yushchenko: Are You Up To The Job?

KIEV, Ukraine -- It is now clear that Viktor Yanukovych wasn’t sincere last August when he pledged to preserve President Viktor Yushchennko’s speedy Western integration agenda through a compromise agreement that allowed him to return as prime minister.

Viktor Yushchenko appears lost

As predicted by Orange Revolution heroine Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych’s governing coalition seems to have been playing a double game, gradually consolidating full power while deceiving a gullible and increasingly marginalized president.

Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party seems to have finally caught on, realizing that the ever more popular Tymoshenko, whom they feared more than Yushchenko’s arch rival Yanukovych, was right.

Good, but it’s a shame it took so long for them to see what everyone else saw all along.

Tymoshenko’s inconsistent allies from the Orange Revolution finally raised the political stakes this week, joining her calls for a return to stronger presidential rule.

A resolution adopted last weekend by Our Ukraine calls for the reversal of constitutional reforms that came into effect this year.

Those reforms were clearly shoved down Yushchenko’s throat during the tense days of the Orange Revolution to prevent him from holding enough presidential powers to put bad guys in jail and keep them out of power.

The reforms shifted key presidential powers, namely a major role in forming the government, from the president to a parliamentary governing coalition.

The plan, now supported by Our Ukraine and long called for by Tymoshenko, is to file an appeal to the constitutional court asking for the reforms to be cancelled.

The reforms are widely believed to have been passed illegally. Tymoshenko claims that if the constitutional court rules fairly, the reforms will be cancelled, returning Ukraine to a presidential-parliamentary system of government.

This will allow Yushchenko to once again steer Ukraine in a direction of Western integration and liberal reforms. It will also give Yushchenko the power to fire Yanukovych in case of need.

Our Ukraine’s awakening is good news: better late than never. It is now important to move swiftly and effectively. This could be the last chance to prevent Yanukovych’s circle from seizing full power.

The power standoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych could trigger months of political instability. The constitutional reforms were intended to bring stability to the government and to prevent a repeat of the authoritarian rule experienced under Leonid Kuchma. But this hasn’t happened.

The theory that instability could be avoided by compromising with Yanukovych to avoid a divisive repeat election has also proved largely untrue. Ukraine has been caught up in a state of instability since Yushchenko inked his notorious compromise deal with Yanukovych in August.

Yushchenko has refrained from pleading for more powers, calling instead for the political reforms to be refined and clarified. It is possible that Yushchenko is deceiving Yanukovych with this tactic while supporting efforts to return powers he had earlier.

But given Yushchenko’s tendency of caving in to compromise at times of pressure (even when victory was just a day or two away, such as during the Orange Revolution) it would be no surprise if he simply relinquished all powers to Yanukovych.

Yushchenko has repeatedly defended his propensity for compromise as a positive trait. During the nail-biting coalition talks this summer, he gave Yanukovych a chance to change and prevented divisive elections that could set off instability and hurt economic growth. Finding a plausible explanation this time seems impossible.

Getting Yushchenko to fight for power is like asking Yanukovych to surrender authority. Deciding whether now is the time for such a drastic measure as canceling political reforms is, indeed, a tough call.

But with so much at stake and so few political cards left at Yushchenko’s disposal, it is too risky not too.

It is time for Yushchenko to get back into the driver’s seat, take responsibility and reclaim more presidential powers for the sake of keeping Ukraine on track and preventing the unthinkable.

The traits of a strong leader are more than that of a peacemaker who sticks to democratic ways. At tough times, great leaders recognize the need to take control (democratically and legally in this case) for the sake of their people.

A country as divided as Ukraine needs one self-assured Viktor, not two opposing ones splitting the country apart.

Mr. President – are you up to the job?

Source: Kyiv Post

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yushchenko Losing His Party

KIEV, Ukraine -- The People’s Union-Our Ukraine (NSNU) political party has ignored President Viktor Yushchenko’s call for change. The second stage of the NSNU’s third congress on November 11 failed to replace the party’s leadership, although Yushchenko -- the party’s honorary chair -- had urged this at the first stage, on October 21.

This has been another defeat for Yushchenko, who has lost all political battles since becoming president in 2005. Ukraine plunged into a government crisis in 2005, Yushchenko’s party lost the March 2006 parliamentary election, and most recently he lost control over the cabinet. Now Yushchenko is losing control over his own party.

Yushchenko apparently had lost the battle before it even started. He did not turn up for the congress on November 11, preferring to attend a concert by an Italian pop star with his family instead.

Prior to the congress, the party rejected Yushchenko’s proposal to dismiss the head of NSNU council, Roman Bezsmertny, who is the formal leader of the party and whom Yushchenko reportedly holds responsible for the party’s defeats.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko turned down proposals to head the NSNU. Addressing the delegates, however, he did not rule out the possibility that he might agree to head a new reformist coalition, possibly including the NSNU, which may happen no earlier than spring 2007.

Another individual that Yushchenko reportedly considered for Bezsmertny’s replacement, the first deputy head of Yushchenko’s secretariat Arseny Yatsenyuk, like Yushchenko, ignored the congress.

The leader of the NSNU’s reformist wing, Mykola Katerynchuk, tried to orchestrate a coup within the party, but the votes of the west Ukrainian party cells that backed him were not sufficient. Katerynchuk’s people managed to push through a motion of no confidence in the party’s leadership -- 678 delegates out of the 1,273 present voted for it.

But the old leadership, which is dominated by a group of big businessmen who are jocularly referred to as “the dear friends,” stayed. The congress voted for increasing the membership of the NSNU council from 185 to 214, but the new council consists mostly of the same old faces, including the “dear friends.”

For now, Bezsmertny remains council chairman. Addressing the congress, Bezsmertny rejected the criticism that Yushchenko had directed against him and the “dear friends.”

Instead, the former head of the presidential secretariat, Oleh Rybachuk, and former prime minister Yuriy Yekhanurov were blamed for the party’s defeats. Bezsmertny also hinted that Yushchenko should have been more active in the parliamentary election campaign if he wanted his party to win.

Katerynchuk gave up his party membership on November 13. He said his ambition is to set up a new pro-Yushchenko party, and he invited several reform-minded individuals from Yushchenko’s team, including Lutsenko and Yatsenyuk, to help him in that.

The newspaper Segodnya, which is close to the NSNU’s main rivals, the Party of Regions, has speculated that Katerynchuk would try and split the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction. He may set up his own faction numbering 12-15 defectors from Our Ukraine, Segodnya said on November 14.

It is not clear which political niche the NSNU will fill if it parts its ways with Yushchenko. The NSNU congress voted in favor of going into opposition to the cabinet dominated by the Party of Regions.

But the highly popular Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc has filled the main opposition niche, and the NSNU in its current form cannot compete with it. A coalition with Tymoshenko is also unlikely, as she and the “dear friends” have long been antagonists.

Yushchenko, in addition to losing control over his party, is rapidly losing the last levers of influence that he had over the cabinet. Seven people represented Yushchenko’s team in the cabinet of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych when it was formed in August.

On November 1, parliament accepted the resignations of Justice Minister Roman Zvarych and Culture Minister Ihor Likhovy. Of the five Yushchenko ministers remaining, the replacement of two is only a question of time, as Health Minister Yuriy Polyachenko and Family and Youth Minister Yuriy Pavlenko submitted their resignations in October, simultaneously with Zvarych and Likhovy.

Interior Minister Lutsenko is in a precarious position. In a recent interview with the UT1 state television channel, Yanukovych said that Lutsenko must choose between his current job and pursuing a political career.

It should not be difficult for Yanukovych to get rid of Lutsenko, as a vote by a parliament dominated by the Yanukovych-led coalition should suffice for that.

The two ministers whom Yushchenko will hold on to until the very end are Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko. These are the only ministers appointed to the cabinet on the presidential quota, rather than on the quotas of parliamentary factions, so Yanukovych has no legal tools to get rid of them.

Parliament can vote no confidence in them, which it reportedly is going to do during the next several days. But that would not oblige Yushchenko to dismiss them. Speaking on November 13, Yushchenko said that Tarasyuk’s dismissal would be tantamount to a rejection of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic course.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Vote Delayed On Yushchenko Allies

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament has delayed a vote on whether to dismiss the foreign and defence ministers.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk (R) stands near Defence Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko (L) in Kiev November 14, 2006

The pair - President Viktor Yushchenko's last remaining appointees in the cabinet - were expected to face the fateful vote on Wednesday.

They were summoned to defend their policies to parliament, but then told the vote was delayed for two weeks.

The moves are part of the continuing power struggle between the pro-Western president and PM Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr Yanukovych, who has a majority in parliament, favours closer ties with Russia.

Other ministers loyal to Mr Yushchenko have either resigned already or are expected to lose their jobs soon.

Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk and Defence Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko were summoned to parliament to present progress reports.

President Yushchenko, who hand-picked these cabinet ministers, called it an inquisition.

Impeachment fears

He has said that attempts to sack the foreign minister are a way of slowing down the pace of Ukraine's integration with the West.

Mr Yushchenko is pursuing membership of Nato and the European Union.

Some members of Mr Yushchenko's party have said that this could be the first step towards an attempt to impeach the president.

Source: BBC News

Lithuanian President Pledges Support For Ukraine's Pro-Western Aspirations

KIEV, Ukraine -- Lithuania's president on Tuesday pledged his country's continuing support for Ukraine and its pro-Western policies, as Ukraine's government faces a growing internal feud over the speed and direction of those policies.

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus

"Lithuania will further support the path of democracy and reform which Ukraine is following and the goals which Ukraine has, that is, the European path, the European-Atlantic path," President Valdas Adamkus said during a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko.

During his three-day visit to Ukraine, Adamkus, who helped mediate during the 2004 Orange Revolution that helped bring Yushchenko to power, was also scheduled to meet Premier Viktor Yanukovych and other top lawmakers.

Yushchenko has made membership in the European Union and NATO priorities for Ukraine. Along with neighboring Poland, Lithuania has been one of ex-Soviet republic's loudest cheerleaders, encouraging its efforts to move out Russia's shadow. Both Lithuania and Poland are members of the EU and NATO.

But Yanukovych, who returned to the country's No. 2 job in August, has indicated he supports putting Ukraine's bid to join NATO on hold and making improving frayed ties with Moscow a priority — moves that have cause friction with Yushchenko.

Most Ukrainians, particularly in the largely Russian-speaking east and south, remain deeply skeptical of NATO — due partly to lingering Soviet-era skepticism as well fears that NATO membership would harm relations with Russia.

Yushchenko on Tuesday insisted that all political parties have the same strategic goals for Ukraine.

"No changes will take place in Ukraine's foreign political course, including integration into the European Union as well as integration into the Europen-Atlantic defense union," he said.

Source: AP

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ukrainian President: Firing Foreign Minister Would Damage Nation's Pro-Western Course

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday defended embattled Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, warning that firing him could put Ukraine's pro-Western course at risk.

Borys Tarasyuk (L) with President Bush at the White House

Yushchenko's comments signaled open disagreement with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who said over the weekend that Tarasyuk should resign and that he could be forced out if he didn't comply.

Tarasyuk heads a nationalist party that is a strong advocate of NATO membership and of lessening Russia's influence over this country of 47 million.

After the party declared itself in opposition to the governing coalition, Yanukovych called Tarasyuk's position in his Cabinet untenable.

Yushchenko, however, on Monday gave Tarasyuk his verbal backing, saying firing him would "weaken the tempo of our country's Euro-integration," a course he said which "fully corresponds to the strategic interests of Ukraine."

Tarasyuk was appointed to head the foreign ministry after the 2004 Orange Revolution, and remained in the Cabinet even after the more pro-Russian Yanukovych returned to power this summer.

Yanukovych's supporters in parliament summoned Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko for questioning Wednesday, and many analysts expected the session to end with a vote to sack the ministers.

The Constitution is unclear, however, on what would happen if Yushchenko simply re-nominated them.

Relations between pro-Western Yushchenko and the Russian-leaning Yanukovych have deteriorated recently. The two share power in an awkward arrangement that was initially billed as an effort to unite Ukraine.

Instead, it has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Source: AP

Ukraine's Yuschenko Demands Prime Minister Turn Over US Itinerary

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday demanded Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich give him a detailed itinerary for the premier's upcoming official visit to the US, as gridlock at the top of the former Soviet republic's government worsened.

The honeymoon between the two Viktors is over

The unprecedented presidential order publicly instructed Yanukovich "to inform the chief executive as stipulated by law" about the details Yanukovich US visit planned for December 3 to 7.

There was no immediate comment from Yanukovich. The former Donbass-region political boss has argued that the prime minister has rights to negotiate with foreign governments on economic issues, and is not obliged to inform Yushchenko.

Relations between the two men, who hold the top two offices in Ukrainian politics, have been frigid for years, and have worsened in recent months.

During a visit to Brussels in September, Yanukovich declared Ukraine had no interest in joining NATO, despite years of efforts by the government towards that very end, reportedly sparking Yushchenko's ire.

Yanukovich, a supporter of closer relations with Russia, in October rallied to cut a deal for natural gas imports from Moscow without involving Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, which supports Yushchenko, in the negotiating process.

Yushchenko is Yanukovich's technical boss, but by constitutional statute cannot dismiss him. The pair were on opposing sides during Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, which propelled Yushchenko into office by reversing the results of a rigged election won by Yanukovich.

Parliament elected Yanukovich prime minister in August. Since then, Ukraine's government has stalled in a near-total deadlock, with Yushchenko controlling some ministries, Yanukovich others, and neither able to marshal a reliable majority in parliament.

Source: DPA

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gazprom Targeting Ukrainian Infrastructure For Hostile Takeovers

MOSCOW, Russia -- Gazprom is moving rapidly to take over Ukraine’s gas transport system through its monopolist offshoots in Ukraine: RosUkrEnergo and UkrGazEnergo.

Gazprom headquarters in Moscow, Russia

The immediate target is Ukraine’s internal gas distribution network, although the transit system is being targeted as well.

This month, on the threshold of winter, RosUkrEnergo’s front company, UkrGazEnergo, has refused to sign supply contracts with 16 Ukrainian companies, many of which distribute gas in Ukraine’s oblasts. The apparent goal is to take them over by creating Russian-controlled joint ventures with them.

This could not have come as a surprise. Already in September, RosUkrEnergo had announced plans to buy stakes in the gas distribution systems of seven of Ukraine’s oblasts (out of 26) and place them under UkrGazEnergo’s management, as a first stage in its intention to bring Ukraine’s distribution system under Russian control.

Conveniently for Gazprom, the Aval Bank -- a Ukrainian subsidiary of Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank, which represented RosUkrEnergo from the outset -- was entrusted with appraising those companies’ assets.

This is the first planned stage in a systemic takeover, and the number of targeted Ukrainian companies is growing. On November 10, Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko confirmed that RosUkrEnergo intends to take over 16 companies.

Boyko describes this method as normal and “civilized,” citing Gazprom’s practices in certain European countries. “We take the same path,” Boyko averred, ignoring the EU’s anti-monopoly policy and the opposition of many European governments to that type of arrangement with Gazprom.

Apparently, gas-dependent Ukrainian factories might increase the number of targets for hostile takeovers by Russian interests and their local auxiliaries. According to Deputy Prime Minister for Fuel and Energy Andriy Klyuyev, $130 per 1,000 cubic meters (the price to take effect in 2007) is a high price that Ukraine’s economy is not yet prepared to afford.

With Ukraine’s export-oriented chemical industry particularly affected, Klyuyev suggests resorting to a “merger of the chemical enterprises with the suppliers of gas” as a means of capping the price of Russian-delivered gas.

Moreover, Klyuyev insists that UkrGazEnergo’s stoppage of deliveries to those companies is a “purely commercial issue” beyond the government’s remit. On that same day in Moscow, Gazprom was identically characterizing as “pure commerce” its move to take Georgia’s trunk pipeline under the threat of stopping gas deliveries.

According to National Security and Defense Council Secretary Vitaliy Hayduk, those 16 Ukrainian companies risk either being forced to a halt or being forced to change owners. The NSDC plans to discuss the situation at an urgent session. Hayduk was a critic of the January 2006 gas agreements that paved the way to this situation.

Gazprom also seems to contemplate absorbing Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, Naftohaz Ukrainy, through RosUkrEnergo. Chuychenko proposes that Naftohaz Ukrainy join RosUkrEnergo’s stockholders.

Gazprom board member and RosUkrEnergo co-managing director Konstantin Chuychenko proposes that Naftohaz Ukrainy become a stockholder in RosUkrEnergo. Gazprom holds a 50% stake in RosUkrEnergo and claims unverifiably that two Ukrainian partners of Gazprom hold the remainder.

Merging Naftohaz into a network of Gazprom-controlled structures looks like a first step toward its absorption by Gazprom, whose ultimate target is Ukraine’s Naftohaz-operated gas transit system.

Airing this proposal in the leading newspaper of Switzerland (where RosUkrEnergo is nominally based), Chuychenko also explains the three-stage monopolistic arrangements whereby Russia supplies gas to Ukraine: Turkmenistan sells the gas exclusively to Gazprom; Gazprom sells that to [its creation] RosUkrEnergo as the exclusive supplier to Ukraine; and RosUkrEnergo sells that gas to [its creation] UkrGazEnergo as the exclusive distributor within Ukraine.

In the first stage, Gazprom buys the Turkmen gas at $100 per 1,000 cubic meters; RosUkrEnergo operates the transit through Gazprom’s pipelines, at a cost of $25 per 1,000 cubic meters for the entire distance to the Ukrainian border; and there, RosUkrEnergo sells the gas to UkrGazEnergo. With the price of $130 in 2007, RosUkrEnergo reckons to make $5 in profits for each thousand cubic meters of gas delivered.

While Chuychenko’s information on the profit margin must not be taken at face value, his description of the mechanism is realistic. In 2007, this mechanism will deliver no less than 55 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine -- a deceptive way to provide for “energy security,” designed to pave the way for massive transfers of assets to the supplier.

As Hayduk observes, it is “nonsense” to speak about “market relations between commercial entities” when RosUkrEnergo is a monopolist representing the Russian state. As long as this is the case, the NSDC and Presidential Secretariat take the position that Russia-Ukraine gas relations should properly be handled at the inter-state level.

Meanwhile, parliament and public opinion are still in the dark about the details of the October 24 supply agreement signed by Boyko in Moscow. This would seem to be an issue made to order for the Presidency and Yulia Tymoshenko to close ranks in the national interest.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Birth Centenary Of Brezhnev To Be Observed In Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine -- The central park of culture and recreation in the city of Dneprodzerzhinsk, Ukraine, will be given the name of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee.

Leonid Brezhnev

This is included in a programme of activities on the occasion of Brezhnev’ s birth centenary.

The programme includes as well the presentation of a catalogue of gifts given to Brezhnev at different times.

A scientific conference on problems of Soviet history will be held in Dneprodzerzhinsk in December.

It is being prepared now by workers of the Dneprodzerzhinsk Technical University and the local Historical Museum.

Souvenirs will be produced specially on the occasion of Brezhnev’s birth centenary.

Source: Itar-Tass

Ex-Governor Back Home - A Hot Potato For Ukrainian Politicians

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Sumy region governor Volodymyr Shcherban has returned to Ukraine from self-imposed exile in the United States. In Ukraine, he is suspected of several crimes, and for those who helped Viktor Yushchenko come to power in 2004, Shcherban epitomizes the corrupt regime of former president Leonid Kuchma.

Volodymyr Shcherban

For many years Shcherban was a member of Kuchma’s entourage. Ukraine, however, has changed since early 2005, when Shcherban left Ukraine, and now Shcherban hopes he will not be punished. His tarnished reputation, however, may prompt his former allies to shun him, and his return to politics remains highly questionable.

Shcherban was governor of Sumy from 1999-2005, with a short break in 2002. He fled to the United States in April 2005 “so as not to be lynched” by Orange Revolution activists in Kyiv, as he recently explained.

Shortly after his departure, Ukrainian prosecutors accused him of election fraud, extortion, tax evasion, and abuse of office. In July 2005 he unsuccessfully applied for asylum in the United States, and in October 2005 he was imprisoned in Florida after his visa expired. He was later released on bail, only to be arrested again in May 2006. In early 2006, Kyiv asked Washington to extradite him.

Shcherban returned to Ukraine on November 4, and Kyiv police escorted him to the Prosecutor-General’s Office. The prosecutors, however, released him almost immediately, as three parliamentarians from the Party of Regions (PRU) of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych vouched for him.

Since then, Shcherban has given numerous interviews to journalists, denying the accusations against him and claiming to be a victim of political persecution. Despite Shcherban’s release, however, no case against him has been closed, and the investigation is continuing.

Yushchenko expressed his disagreement with Shcherban’s release, saying that the deputies’ vouching for him was “a dubious gesture.” He warned them of possible negative consequences to their reputation.

Shcherban said that he returned to Ukraine voluntarily, but Yushchenko maintained that Shcherban’s case was “the expulsion of an individual suspected of serious criminal offences,” and expressed his gratitude to the U.S. government for sending him back home.

Internal Affairs Minister Yuriy Lutsenko expressed his dismay over the prosecutors’ decision, speaking after a meeting with Interpol director Ronald Noble in Kyiv on November 7. He complained that police had encountered difficulties detaining Shcherban at the airport, as other law-enforcement agencies, which Lutsenko did not name, “interfered.”

Apparently there is not much that Lutsenko can do, as he has no authority over the prosecution, and, moreover, the chair under him is shaky. On November 2 the PRU-dominated parliament passed a motion asking Yanukovych to suspend Lutsenko over allegations of official abuse at his ministry.

Lutsenko doubted the legality of the move, and both Yushchenko and Yanukovych came to his defense, saying that he will carry on as minister. Yanukovych, however, made it clear that he may change his mind. Speaking on TV on November 3, Lutsenko linked the threat to suspend him to Shcherban’s upcoming return.

Shcherban is apparently confident of his future. Speaking on his arrival, Shcherban announced that he would like to return to politics and said he hopes for protection by well-positioned “friends” who, he noted, are not only members of the PRU, but also of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party and the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

Among such friends, he named Yanukovych, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Vitaly Hayduk, Hayduk’s business partner and board chairman of the Industrial Union of Donbas (IUD) Serhy Taruta, and people’s deputy Renat Akhmetov, reportedly Ukraine’s richest tycoon.

In an interview with Ukrayinska pravda, Shcherban told amusing anecdotes about several of these friends, including Akhmetov and Hayduk with whom, according to Shcherban, he founded the IUD in 1995. He hinted that he might tell more about people in top positions. Many of them hail from Donetsk, and Shcherban, who was Donetsk governor in the mid-1990s, was the cradle of “the Donetsk clan,” now Ukraine’s most influential regional group.

Association with the disgraced Shcherban may taint the PRU’s image, Segodnya quoted analyst Mykhaylo Pohrebynsky as saying. Pohrebynsky should know, as he helped the PRU in previous election campaigns. Shcherban is a political hot potato now. Those who helped Yushchenko come to power using the famous slogan “Bandits to Prison,” like Lutsenko, cannot do much about Shcherban, as their hands are tied.

And the heavyweights like Hayduk and Yanukovych are unlikely to be happy to hear Shcherban calling them his friends. Speaking at a press conference on November 8, Yanukovych reluctantly admitted that he used to be on friendly terms with Shcherban, but tried to distance himself from him. “I just don’t remember,” he said, when asked by a journalist whether he once presented Shcherban with the gun that police found at Shcherban’s home in 2005.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Sunday, November 12, 2006

PM Accuses Orange Revolution Governments Of Pushing Ukraine Toward Crisis

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's premier marked his first 100 days in power Friday by accusing the post-Orange Revolution governments of pushing the country to the verge of crisis.

PM Viktor Yanukovych

"After a year and a half in power, the government did not provide positive results," Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said of his political rivals. "Quite the contrary, the ideology of social populism totally drained the economy and caused a number of serious problems."

In August, Yanukovych returned to the country's No. 2 job which he held before the 2004 Orange Revolution. Yanukovych's comeback was secured after his party won more votes than any other in the March parliamentary elections, defeating the party of his one-time election rival, President Viktor Yushchenko.

Yanukovych's harsh attack on his predecessors comes amid deteriorating relations between the premier and Yushchenko, who had pledged to try to put aside their differences for the sake of national unity.

Yanukovych accused his predecessors of raising taxes, pushing Naftogaz, the state gas monopoly, to the edge of bankruptcy, scaring away investors with talk of re-privatizations, as well as devouring money from privatization sales.

Last year, Mittal Steel bought the giant steel mill Kryvorizhstal for 24.2 billion hryvna ($4.8 billion) in what was billed as Ukraine's biggest and most profitable privatization auction ever.

"Privatization incomes were just eaten up," Yanukovych complained at an invitation-only ceremony in the Ukrainian capital. "I ask where is the 25 billion (hryvna) received from Kryvorizhstal privatization. And I fail to find an answer."

The premier, meanwhile, said his government deserved credit for improving strained relations with Ukraine's neighbor Russia and for putting this nation of 47 million on a pragmatic course toward Europe and NATO.

The pro-Western Yushchenko had made winning NATO membership and joining the European Union priorities for his country, but Yanukovych has slowed the push toward NATO and emphasized the need for better ties with Moscow.

"After a long, cool period, a so-called pause in the development of relations, we managed to sit again at the table of negotiations," Yanukovych told his supporters.

Guests who came to mark the occasion were greeted by a long red carpet and by flag-waving supporters of Yanukovych's party and the Socialists.

Yanukoych's close ally and head of his parliamentary faction, Raysa Bohatyreva, called the 100-day celebrations one of the brightest since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.

Opposition leader and former Orange premier Yulia Tymoshenko scoffed at this, telling reporters later: "It is the same blasphemy as if to call Sept. 11 a holiday for the U.S."

Tymoshenko defended her time in office and lashed out at Yanukovych, blaming him for the rising tariffs on gas and electrical usage and increasing prices in the marketplace.

"Tariffs are increasing, pensions and salaries are frozen, the country is humiliated and criminality has been restored," she said.

Source: AP

Shevchenko In Italy Return?

LONDON, England -- After notching up three goals in three games, rumours persist that Andriy Shevchenko yearns for a return to Italian football.

Striker Andriy Shevchenko

This morning every Sunday tabloid I`ve picked up contains a reference to the Ukraine striker apparently wanting a return to Serie A.

The story appears to be gaining substance from a phone call that reportedly occurred between Shevchenko and Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi the former Italian Prime Minister and current AC Milan supremo apparently talked to Andriy just hours after the Ukrainian striker celebrated the birth of his son during the week.

If Berlusconi is to be believed then the conversation he had with tabloid journalists eager to hawk his story went something like this,

"I spoke with Andriy on the telephone on Friday. He called me. I was very happy to hear form him and I was with several other people and we all sent him our warmest greetings."

"Naturally we all started singing - Sheva come back to us, come back to us - and he said - I would very much like to."

However, we here at Vital Chelsea suspect that our Ukrainian striker may merely have been just appeasing his former employer. After all, his natural politeness would prevent him form telling Berlusconi anything else.

Naturally, the tabloids try and put another slant on it, suggesting that Shevchenko is struggling in the Premiership and that it took until October 21st for him to score his first Premiership goal.

I think we`ll put this rumour in the trash can for the time being, unless off course Milan want to talk about a part exchange deal involving Kaka?

Source: Chelsea Football Club News

Screen's Ultimate Tough Guy Lived Life On His Terms

LOS ANGELES, USA -- Jack Palance, the craggy-faced villain in ''Shane,'' ''Sudden Fear'' and many other films who turned successfully to comedy in his 70s with his Oscar-winning self-parody in "City Slickers," died Friday. He was 87.

Jack Palance, born in Pennsylvania coal country of Ukrainian parents, died at age 87

The actor died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family, said spokesman Dick Guttman.

In 1992, when he accepted an Oscar for best supporting actor, he delighted viewers by dropping to the stage and performing one-armed pushups to demonstrate his physical prowess.

''That's nothing, really,'' he said slyly. ''As far as two-handed pushups, you can do that all night, and it doesn't make a difference whether she's there or not.''

That year's Oscar host, Billy Crystal, turned the moment into a running joke, making outlandish remarks about Mr. Palance's accomplishments during the show.

It was a magic moment that epitomized the actor's 40 years in films. Always the iconoclast, he had scorned most of his movie roles. ''Most of the stuff I do is garbage,'' he once said, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too. ''Most of them shouldn't even be directing traffic."

Movie audiences, though, were electrified by the actor's chiseled face, hulking presence and the calm, low voice that made his screen presence all the more intimidating.

Earned early acclaim

His film debut came in 1950, playing a murderer named Blackie in Elia Kazan's ''Panic in the Streets.''

After a war picture, ''Halls of Montezuma,'' he portrayed the ardent lover who stalks a terrified Joan Crawford in ''Sudden Fear'' (1952). The role earned him his first Oscar nomination for supporting actor.

The following year brought his second nomination when he portrayed Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the classic Western ''Shane.''

That role cemented his reputation as Hollywood's favorite villain, and he went on to appear in such films as ''Arrowhead'' (as a renegade Apache), ''Sign of the Pagan'' (as Attila the Hun) and ''The Silver Chalice'' (as a challenger to Jesus).

Weary of being typecast, he moved with his wife and children to Switzerland at the height of his career. He spent six years abroad but returned home complaining that his European film roles were ''the same kind of roles I left Hollywood because of.''

TV career was varied

He also appeared frequently on television in the 1960s and '70s. He and his daughter Holly Palance hosted the oddity show ''Ripley's Believe It or Not,'' and he starred in the short-lived series ''The Greatest Show on Earth'' and ''Bronk.''

Forty-one years after his film debut, Mr. Palance played against type, to a degree. His ''City Slickers'' character Curly was still a menacing figure, but with a comic twist. And the veteran actor delivered his one-liners with surgeonlike precision.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Mr. Palance won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He left after two years, disgusted by the sport's commercialization, and later studied at Stanford University.

He made his Broadway debut in a comedy, ''The Big Two,'' in which he had but one line, spoken in Russian.

The play lasted only a few weeks, and he supported himself as a short-order cook, waiter, lifeguard and hot dog seller between other small roles.

His career breakthrough came when he was chosen as Anthony Quinn's understudy in the road company of ''A Streetcar Named Desire,'' then he replaced Marlon Brando in the Stanley Kowalski role on Broadway. The show's director, Elia Kazan, chose him for ''Panic in the Streets.''

Born Walter Jack Palahnuik in Pennsylvania coal country on Feb. 18, 1919, he was the third of five children of Ukrainian immigrants.

He once told an interviewer he had ''a good childhood, like most kids think they have. It was fine to play there in the third-growth birch and aspen, along the sides of slag piles."

Source: AP

Klitschko KOs Brock In Seventh Round To Retain IBF Title

NEW YORK, NY -- Wladimir Klitschko stunned Calvin Brock with a sharp left, then finished him off with a thunderous right late in the seventh round Saturday night to successfully defend his IBF heavyweight title in a surprisingly competitive fight.

Wladimir Klitschko, from Ukraine, knocks down Calvin Brock, from Portsmouth, Va., to win their IBF/IBO heavyweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden in New York, Saturday

Klitschko rarely threw the right as he piled up points with his jab. But he found the range with the right midway in the bout, and Brock had no chance when Klitschko opened up the challenger's defense with another quick left. The big right immediately followed and Brock fell face-down to the canvas.

He got up at eight, but was wobbly and referee Wayne Kelly stopped it at 2:10.

"I knew it was over there," Klitschko said. "I should have tried that earlier, but it took me time to get my distance and rhythm. He was a good defensive fighter."

Klitschko, in his first defense of the crown he won from Chris Byrd in April, was cut over the left eye in the sixth round by an inadvertent head butt.

Perhaps wary of the cut getting worse, he unloaded several massive punches late in the sixth and through the seventh rounds.

"It was easy to hit him with the right hand there," Klitschko said of the knockout punch.

Did he feel any urgency because of the cut?

"Yes," the champion said. "But I was leading at that time."

The native of Kazakhstan, who represents Ukraine, improved to 47-3 with his 42nd knockout. Brock, 2000 U.S. Olympian, lost for the first time in 30 bouts.

"I saw the punch coming, but I couldn't react fast enough," Brock said. "He had a better jab than I thought he did. He was very strong."

Klitschko's brother, Vitali, now retired, once held the WBC crown and was considered the better of the two fighters. But Wladimir showed Saturday why he generally is looked upon as the best of the four heavyweight champions.

He certainly thrilled the Madison Square Garden crowd of 14,260 that often chanted his name by leveling the game Brock with the classic left-right combination.

Until then, Klitschko was ahead on all three judges' cards, but he was getting a stiff challenge from Brock -- even though Brock came into the fight with unimpressive credentials despite never having lost as a professional.

Although he looked nervous and was awkward in the first two rounds, Brock began landing some body shots and avoiding Klitschko's jabs for awhile. But it was temporary, and the 30-year-old Klitschko took charge again in the fifth round.

After he was cut in the sixth, Klitschko became more aggressive, and Brock couldn't cope, even as some fans chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Klitschko climbed the ropes in each corner after the win and saluted the fans. After he left the ring, his smiling brother motioned former champion Lennox Lewis, who was working for HBO, to come into the ring. Lewis shook his head and said, "I'm too fat."

Wladimir Klitschko then got serious about his future.

"I want to fight any titleholder, anyone who has a belt," he said.

Source: AP

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ukraine's Blokhin Wants More Nationals In Club Sides

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine national coach Oleg Blokhin said on Friday that reducing the number of foreigners playing for the country's club sides was critical to the future development of his squad.

Oleg Blokhin

"I have repeatedly spoken in favour of a serious review of this issue. It is not right when on the field the majority of players are foreigners with more capable Ukrainians sitting on the bench," Blokhin told a news conference.

"I do not want to interfere in coaches' affairs. I can only ask them to change the situation."

Blokhin, who led Ukraine to their first World Cup in June, said national players Olexiy Belik and Andriy Vorobei were repeatedly being kept out of the line-up at Shakhtar Donetsk with the same applying to Andriy Nesmachny at Dynamo Kiev.

"Most of our players are reaching 30 or in their 30s, with fewer and fewer from the new generation," he said.

"And the main reason for this is the high numbers of foreigners in our championship. I believe that we must toughen our stand on this issue."

Blokhin also said a joint bid by Ukraine and Poland to stage the 2012 European Championship depended on urgent action over the construction of a shopping centre by Kiev's Olympic stadium.

Soccer officials have threatened to withdraw permission to stage international matches there because of the complex, citing concerns over crowd control.

"I believe Ukraine has good chances here, no worse than any of its rivals," Blokhin said.

"The most sensitive issue is the construction by the stadium. If it remains as is and no measures are taken then our chances of course fade sharply. We must resolve this urgently."

His comments on the joint bid followed a visit to Kiev this week by UEFA experts assessing security issues. UEFA has put off announcing a winner from next month until April 2007.

Also in the running are Italy, beset by a match-fixing scandal, and a joint bid by Croatia and Hungary, which has been hit by mass political demonstrations.

Source: Reuters

Klitschko Faces Unbeaten Opponent Brock

NEW YORK - Calvin Brock will bring an unblemished professional record and very little acclaim into the ring Saturday night in his first heavyweight title bout.

Calvin Brock (L) and Wladimir Klitschko (R)

Brock, a 2000 U.S. Olympian, has won 29 straight fights, 22 by knockout. The list of victims isn't particularly impressive, though.

In fact, IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko has fought more established opponents in his last two bouts than Brock has in his career.

Still, with the other heavyweight titleholders uninterested in facing Klitschko, Brock is getting his opportunity. At Madison Square Garden, no less.

"This is something I've been aiming for my whole life, ever since I got into the ring," the 31-year-old Brock said. "And to do it at the Garden ...

"A lot of people asked me if I would think this ever was coming when I began to box at the age of 8 and when I went through the amateurs and the professionals. I always thought it would."

Now what will he do with it? Brock never has been in with anyone as talented as Klitschko (46-3, 41 knockouts), and will be outweighed 241 pounds to 224 1/2.

The native of Kazakhstan - he represents Ukraine - whose brother Vitali once held the WBC crown, thoroughly dominated Chris Byrd before stopping him in the seventh round of his most recent fight.

"Klitschko is very good, he is the best and most respected of the heavyweight champions," Brock said. "That won't matter when we get in the ring. I have to hit him, man, that's the main thing. I know he don't want to get hit."

Brock, whose versatility is his biggest asset, might hit Klitschko, but can he hurt the champion? Byrd, a far-more accomplished fighter than Brock, didn't come close.

While Klitschko and noted trainer Emanuel Steward paid tribute to Brock, they also pretty much dismissed losing to him. Steward even predicted that Klitschko is about to join the level of great champions.

"At this point in time, I don't think there is any heavyweight in the class of Wladimir," Steward said. "Eventually, they'll all have to come to him, because he's the golden boy of the heavyweight class.

"I think you'll see the emergence of one of the great heavyweight fighters Saturday night."

Perhaps. But Klitschko's name rarely has been mentioned in association with Marciano, Louis, Ali or even Lennox Lewis. Except when Klitschko, who owns one thing the other famed champions didn't - a doctorate, from the University of Kiev in Ukraine - does the mentioning.

"It's been a long, long way and many years and many workouts to have a chance to fight at Madison Square Garden," said Klitschko, who also fought in the Garden in 2000, stopping David Bostice in the second round. "I will stay in the ring and have a chance to be attached to history. Think of all these great fighters who fought here: Rocky Marciano ... Muhammad Ali ... Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis.

"Don't miss any rounds, any minute. It's going to be an exciting event."

The fight will be telecast by HBO, which also will show highlights of Ali's daughter, Laila, in her defense of the WBC super middleweight belt against Shelley Burton. Laila Ali is 22-0 with 19 knockouts, and her father is expected to attend.

Local favorite Kevin Kelley fights Mexico's Manuel Medina in an IBF lightweight elimination bout. The winner among veterans who have a combined 149 ring appearances could get a title shot next year.

Klitschko is donating a portion of his purse - at least $250,000 - to UNESCO to support education in the third world.

Source: AP

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ukrtelecom Going Mobile With 3G Equipment Deal

KIEV, Ukraine -- State-owned Ukrtelecom inked a deal last month that will pave the way for the rollout of the country’s first third-generation mobile communications network, in anticipation of the fixed-line monopolist’s much talked about privatization.

According to the three-year agreement, signed by Ukrtelecom and Finnish-based telecom equipment maker Nokia on Oct. 27, Nokia will supply Ukrtelecom with third-generation, or 3G, network equipment, which will allow Ukrtelecom’s mobile subscribers to enjoy high-speed data transfer, including video and audio streaming.

Users of 3G will be able to view images and hear sounds as they arrive without downloading large files, additionally getting better mobile phone connections than those currently available in the Ukrainian market.

In a tender that was first announced by Ukrtelecom at the beginning of this year, Nokia beat out four other global telecom equipment providers – France’s Alcatel, Sweden’s Ericsson, China’s Huawei and Germany’s Siemens – to supply equipment for the 3G network, which will initially be launched in Kyiv and Kyiv Region, and later extended to other parts of the country.

Ericsson had been chosen earlier this year to provide Ukrtelecom with equipment and services for testing 3-G technology free of charge.

Ukrtelecom would not disclose the value of the contract with Nokia, but industry insiders have said that building a 3G network in Ukraine from scratch could cost over a billion dollars.

Ukrtelecom said in a Oct. 31 press release that it would develop its 3G network on the basis of its fully owned long-distance subsidiary, Utel, servicing its corporate clients.

“We are counting on huge demand for 3G technologies among business people” Ukrtelecom quoted Stanislav Hurskiy, the director of Utel, in its statement.

Ukrtelecom is currently the only Ukrainian telecommunications company with a license to provide 3G-based mobile communications in Ukraine. Ukrtelecom received the 15-year license from Ukraine’s State Telecommunications Commission in December of last year.

The Commission refused all other applicants for the license, including mobile services providers Ukrainian Mobile Communications (UMC) and Kyivstar, which control the lion’s share of Ukraine’s mobile services subscriber market between them.

Ukrtelecom receives about 76 percent of all its revenues from its fixed-line business of around 10 million subscribers, according to the Ukrainian affiliate of iKS Consulting, a Moscow-based telecom think tank, but has no share of the country’s mobile phone market of nearly 40 million subscribers, which represents subscriber penetration of more than 80 percent out of a population of 47 million.

Industry experts have tied the State Telecommunications Commission’s issuance of the 3G license to Ukrtelecom to the government’s efforts to beef up the state-owned monopolist ahead of its privatization.

The state has repeatedly announced its intention to privatize Ukrtelecom, one of Ukraine’s largest companies in revenues, since 2000. But the sale has been repeatedly put off due to political bickering.

Now, efforts to privatize the company appear to be back on the agenda, but the value of Ukrtelecom has fallen in recent years due to poor management and subscribers shift toward usage of mobile communications.

According to UMC press officer Vitaly Mukhin, UMC envisages its launch of a 3G mobile services network at a later date, due to 3G’s high costs and uncertain demand for such services in Ukraine.

“Today, a very tiny part of the market is ready to pay a premium price for such services as stream mobile television or video communication,” Mukhin told the Post.

“UMC recently received a license for a CDMA 450 network, which allows it to provide services that are almost the same in quality as 3G, but less expensive,” he added.

Serhiy Tovstenko-Zabelin, a spokesperson for Kyivstar, said that Kyivstar applied to the State Telecommunications Commission for a 3G license in 2005, but still doesn’t know when the company will get the license.

“Kyivstar considers 3G a logical development of the existing nationwide GSM network,” he said.

Tovstenko-Zabelin noted that the launch of 3G technology would require significant investments into Kyivstar’s GSM network, but ”that is much easier than creating a network from zero.”

Kyivstar and UMC offer mobile phone services in the GSM 900 and 1800 standards.

Source: Kyiv Post

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Time To Take Sides

KIEV, Ukraine -- It’s time for President Viktor Yushchenko to decide about the future of his Our Ukraine bloc. Is it in opposition to the government of his nemesis, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, or with the coalition in parliament that supports Yanukovych?

It's time for "Our Ukraine" to join Tymoshenko's opposition bloc

Politics is largely about compromise, but the ongoing indecision exhibited by Yushchenko ever since he was swept into power by the 2004 Orange Revolution smacks more of weakness, which forebodes nothing good for the president or the country that elected him.

If Our Ukraine cannot agree on the most basic principles of foreign and domestic policy with Yanukovych’s Regions party, that means they share no common ground, and it’s better for the bloc, as well as its “honorary leader,” to go into opposition. Yushchenko may genuinely seek compromise, but Regions is looking out for itself.

The Donetsk-based political force has undermined Yushchenko’s stated policy goals, such as joining NATO and the WTO, and appropriated the president’s authority in the provinces and the Cabinet.

Yushchenko has to fight back and fight back now, or he may not have anything to fight back with. The recent replacement of two pro-presidential ministers was the latest wake-up call.

On the other hand, if the president really is bent on forging ties with the people he referred to as criminals during the 2004 presidential elections, in the interests of national unity, he should act now, entering the three-party coalition without representation in government and forcing out the Communists from within.

Signing a policy document this summer achieved nothing. Is this the best the president could do after months of post-election negotiations, which left the country without a functioning parliament?

The president tried for more and got less. Even the Socialists came out better, getting their leader appointed parliamentary speaker after leaving the so-called Orange camp for a deal with the Regions and the Communists.

As predicted by Yulia Tymoshenko, the head of the country’s fifth parliamentary bloc and the only real opposition, Our Ukraine’s August compromise with the coalition was a farce meant to keep her out of power.

So much for national unity! If Our Ukraine does decide to go into the opposition, it should put aside personal ambitions and join Tymoshenko’s BYut. Avoiding this conclusion would mean more of the kind of childish behavior that landed the pro-presidential party in the mess it is in today in the first place.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukraine Should Implement The Recommendations Of The UN Human Rights Committee

NEW YORK, NY - The Ukrainian government should promptly implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee, which issued its concluding observations on 3 November 2006 following its examination on 23 October 2006 of Ukraine’s sixth periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Domestic violence is a major problem in Ukraine, due to the high rate of alcoholism in the male population

The findings of the Committee echoed concerns expressed by Amnesty International regarding torture and other ill-treatment in police detention, conditions in pre-trial detention, domestic violence, the failure to protect the rights of asylum-seekers and in particular the deportation of 10 Uzbek asylum-seekers in February 2006, and the failure to protect religious and ethnic minorities from racist and anti-Semitic attacks.

Amnesty International supports the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee, which include among other things that the authorities “provide for the independent inspection of detention facilities, with the authority to interview any inmates in private”; that the authorities “should not expel or deport aliens to any country where there is a risk of torture or ill-treatment”; that the government should “intensify its efforts to combat domestic violence” and ensure that social and medical centres for victims of domestic violence are available to all women and that the provision in the law regarding “victim behaviour” should not be used to provide impunity for the perpetrators; that the government “should ensure that all members of ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities are protected against violence and discrimination”.

Source: Amnesty International

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eriksson Linked To Dynamo Kiev Job

KIEV, Ukraine -- Dynamo Kiev have held talks with former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson about taking charge of the struggling Ukrainian premier league side - local media have reported.

Sven Goran Eriksson

The daily Sport-Express said the Swede, whose tenure as England coach ended in July following their quarterfinal exit at the World Cup, was in Kiev last week to meet Dynamo chief Ihor Surkis.

Dynamo coach Anatoly Demyanenko said he was unaware of any talks with Eriksson about the Kiev post.

"My job is to coach the team, not worry about some comments in the press," said Demyanenko after Monday's 1-0 league victory over arch-rivals Shakhtar Donetsk.

"So my answer is no, I don't know anything about it."

Eriksson has been linked with several European clubs in the past few months, although he has denied holding any negotiations.

Dynamo were unavailable for comment on Monday.

Though Dynamo top the Ukrainian league table, they have had a disappointing European season. Ukraine's most successful club have lost all four of their Champions League matches, conceeding 13 goals and scoring only two.

Despite their poor showing in Europe, Surkis has backed under-fire Demyanenko. "I trust Demyanenko more than I ever trusted anyone else," Surkis said last week.

Source: CNN

Yushchenko Demands Ukrainian Translations For All Foreign Films

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko said Tuesday that all foreign movies - which in Ukraine typically are broadcast in Russian - should be translated into Ukrainian.

He asked Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko to take all measures to ensure that a requirement to translate foreign films into Ukrainian is put back into place.

In January, the government of then-Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov issued a decree saying that by September, at least 20 percent of foreign movies shown in theaters should be translated into Ukrainian, with that percentage going up to 50 percent by January 2007 and 70 percent by July 2007.

However, movie distributors, who mainly buy films in Russia, complained of financial losses, and last month, an Appeals Court overturned the order.

The language issue is sensitive in Ukraine, where Russian was heavily promoted during Soviet times.

Ukrainian nationalists see protecting and promoting the Ukrainian language as a way to prevent meddling from Moscow.

The Party of the Regions, whose head, Viktor Yanukovych, is now prime minister, campaigned on a promise to make Russian a second state language.

Six regional governments in the east and south, where Russian is mainly spoken, earlier this year granted Russian a special status - decisions that were heavily criticized by Yushchenko.

Source: AP

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Street Violence In Ukraine In Wake Of Communist Memorial March

KIEV, Ukraine -- Hundreds of diehard Communists demonstrating their loyalty to the Soviet Union sparked off street violence in two Ukrainian cities, witnesses said Tuesday.

An elderly communist holds a portrait of Soviet leader Josef Stalin as he takes part in the rally dedicated to the 89th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006

A peaceful gathering of several dozen Communists at a World War Two memorial in the centre of the western city of Lviv was met by a counter-demonstration by more than fifty Ukrainian nationalists, who initially used boat horns and chants to drown out Communist speakers.

When Communists in Lviv's central Stirisky Square attempted to hoist a red flag to mark the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union, nationalists broke through police cordons to assault the flag-raisers with fists and boots.

Lviv police re-established order before either side was able to inflict serious injuries. There were no reports of arrests.

Police in the Ukrainian capital similarly experienced difficulty keeping the peace, with passers-by hurling smoke bombs and epithets at a group of some 500 Communists marching down Kiev's main street en route to the city's single statue of the Soviet Union's founder Vladimir Lenin.

A police cordon blocking roads and snarling midday traffic allowed the mostly elderly Communists to lay flowers at the monument without further incident.

Police presence in the centre of the city was heavy, clearly outnumbering the marchers with hundreds of law enforcers on the scene or waiting in reserve on nearby sidewalks or in buses.

Socialist demonstrations marking the anniversary of the Communist overthrow of Russia's government are annual events in most former Soviet republics.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians remain loyal to Communism, in no small part because the 1989 break-up of the Soviet Union forced millions of mostly retired Ukrainians into destitution overnight.

The Communist regime is, however, far from universally loved in Ukraine, as the country suffered millions of starvation deaths in the 1930s, when the Soviet regime used force to create collective farms.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Ukraine Officials Outraged At Shakhtar Coach Lucescu

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian soccer officials were outraged at accusations by Shakhtar Donetsk's Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu that his team were victims of a conspiracy in their bad-tempered league defeat by Dynamo Kiev.

Mircea Lucescu

Lucescu blamed Portuguese referee Paulo Gomes -- and Ukraine's soccer federation -- for his side's 1-0 loss in Kiev on Monday in a match marked by four red cards, including one issued to the Shakhtar coach.

Ukrainian Soccer Federation boss Hrihory Surkis, brother of Dynamo Kiev president Ihor Surkis, was blunt about Lucescu's allegations.

"It would have been better had I not heard them," the popular Web site Dynamomania quoted him as saying after the post-match news conference.

"I am afraid I don't understand Romanian very well. Perhaps the translation was inaccurate. I intend to be more proper in my approach than Mr Lucescu." The head of the Ukrainian federation's referees' committee, Viktor Derdo, praised Gomes, who was brought in by the federation to officiate, for his handling of the key game.

"The players failed to control their nerves today and took it out on the referee," Dynamomania quoted Derdo as saying. "He was strong, decisive and unafraid to take the decisions he took."

Lucescu, fined $5,000 by the league earlier this year for using bad language during a match, said the referee "pushed Dynamo forward".

The daily Gazeta Sportilor said television cameras had caught Lucescu shouting in Romanian after the match: "Thieves! Bravo to the federation!"

Gomes sent off Shakhtar's Ukraine defender Dmitro Chigrinsky for his angry reaction to a tackle by Dynamo's Brazilian striker Kleber late in the first half before banishing Lucescu for protesting about the decision.

He later ejected Dynamo's Artem Milevsky after the Ukraine striker picked up his second yellow card midway through the second half. Shakhtar's Croatia international Darijo Srna was red-carded for unsportsmanlike conduct after the final whistle.

"I simply went up to the referee and told him he had made a series of bad decisions," Srna told Shakhtar's official site. "I was ashamed for him. But he showed me the red card. I was shocked."

Maxim Shatskikh scored the winner from close range in the 73rd minute to give Dynamo 35 points from 13 matches.

Last season's champions Shakhtar remain on 29, six points ahead of third-placed Metalist Kharkiv.

Source: Reuters

Political Battle In Ukraine Over The Conduct Of Foreign Policy

KIEV, Ukraine -- The governing Party of Regions and its leftist allies have launched a systematic offensive to wrest control of Ukraine’s foreign policy from the president and his appointees.

The rift between Yushchenko (L) and Yanukovych (R) widens

This offensive is forcing President Viktor Yushchenko to defend his positions more resolutely than has hitherto been the case, beginning with the issue of the Russian Fleet’s basing in Ukraine’s Crimea.

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to prolong that Fleet’s 1997 basing agreements beyond 2017, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych hinted that he is in favor while Yushchenko obliquely indicated that he is opposed.

However, amid the contest over the conduct of foreign policy, their respective positions have quickly polarized.

Speaking on November 1 in the Party of Regions’ stronghold Kharkiv, Yushchenko came out clearly against prolongation, citing the constitutional ban on foreign bases and the agreement’s 2017 expiry deadline as definitive: “There is no point mulling over this issue anymore, let’s put a full stop to it.” Ukraine will fully observe the 1997 agreements, expects Russia to do the same, and meanwhile it seeks repossession of Russian-used lighthouses and other installations, Yushchenko declared.

All differences will be discussed in the Putin-Yushchenko commission, “but let no one try to revise those agreements or do anything that would turn our relations into something other than good-neighborly”.

Equally clearly, Yanukovych is now speaking in favor of prolonging the stay of Russia’s Fleet: “Ukraine has an interest in our partners operating some naval installations, as this will bring in revenue….

A decision will depend on how beneficial and necessary this will be to both Ukraine and Russia. The [prolongation] issue will be considered in the framework of Ukraine’s political and economic relations with Russia….Unquestionably, Ukraine is interested in good relations with Russia”.

On the institutional level, the Regions-led coalition seeks a transfer of prerogatives from the presidency and the presidentially controlled Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministries to the coalition-controlled parliament and government.

A joint working group of the Party of Regions, Socialist, and Communist parties is well advanced in drafting a new law on the foundations of the state’s domestic and foreign policies.

Ever since this government’s formation in August, Yanukovych and his allies have cited a constitutional stipulation that the parliament “determines the foundations of domestic and foreign policies” to question the president’s authority over foreign policy.

By now, they want to turn that vague stipulation into a clear-cut law not just questioning, but counterbalancing and even reducing the president’s authority in that domain. According to Yanukovych, the new law will take account of the constitutional reform and the consequent redistribution of competencies from the presidency to the parliament and government.

On November 3, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution to summon the presidentially appointed ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Borys Tarasyuk and Anatoliy Hrytsenko, to report on their activities to a plenary session of parliament on November 15.

The 241 votes of the Regions, Socialist, and Communist parties were sufficient to pass this resolution. Yushchenko has termed the planned sitting an “inquisition”.

The Rada’s majority coalition took that step promptly on Yanukovych’s cue. Yanukovych had declared on November 1 and 2 that he has differences over foreign policy with Tarasyuk; that the latter cannot remain a minister and the leader of an opposition party (Rukh, within the bloc Our Ukraine) at the same time; that “the situation “must be resolved very soon; and that, while the two ministers’ appointment and dismissal is not within the government’s competency, the parliament should take up that issue citing its authority to “determine the foundations” of policies.

Major elements in the Party of Regions and allied parties deeply resent Tarasyuk as a symbol of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic orientation and Hrytsenko for his efficient implementation of NATO-assisted military reforms. Moscow almost certainly seeks the removal of these ministers.

Meanwhile, Yanukovych is building up a strong professional staff on foreign and national security policy, mainly drawn from ex-president Leonid Kuchma’s administration and governments.

The goal is to duplicate and counterbalance the presidentially controlled structures (National Security and Defense Council, the Presidential Secretariat), encroaching on the president’s constitutional authority on that front as well.

On a symbolic level, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a statement of solidarity with Cuba’s regime (referenced as “the people”) on November 3, the same day as the summons to Tarasyuk and Hrytsenko.

Out of 436 deputies registered for the sitting, 318 voted in favor of the statement on Cuba. Russia’s Duma also adopted a declaration of solidarity with Cuba on that same day.

Some of the protagonists of these efforts heralded their intentions in Moscow just before taking action in Kyiv to take foreign policy under their control. Yanukovych announced those intentions in a wide-ranging interview with the governmental Rossiiskaya gazeta on October 30.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, writing in the October 27 issue of the governmental Rossiyskiye vesti, charged that the European integration rhetoric of certain Ukrainian officials largely “covers up” the wish to join NATO.

Ukrainian and Georgian membership in NATO “would allow Washington fully to control the energy transit to Europe and severely restrict Russia’s political and economic leeway in the Black Sea region,” Tabachnyk warned.

Arguing that Western Europe does not want Ukraine in the European Union, partly in deference to Russia and partly due to the EU’s own enlargement pause, Tabachnyk argues that “Ukraine’s European vector must be substantially corrected.”

Following his mid-October visit to Moscow, Rada Chairman Oleksandr Moroz is also explicitly espousing a two-vector policy while becoming openly critical of NATO and the United States.

In a speech to Kyiv students, Moroz claimed, “NATO is not coping with the post-9/11 challenges“ and that “Ukraine’s entry into NATO is being advocated by only one superpower, in pursuit of its own geopolitical interests. We must not become a bargaining card”.

Thus, an effort to change Ukraine’s external orientation seems to be suddenly and openly gathering force on several fronts simultaneously.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ukraine Eager To Boost Military Technical Ties With U.S. - PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is interested in expanding military-technical cooperation with the United States, the country's prime minister said Monday.

Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command William Ward

"Ukraine is interested in the development of cooperation with the U.S., particularly in the military-technical sphere," Viktor Yanukovych said during a meeting with Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command William Ward, who is currently on a visit to Ukraine.

The stated goal of Ukrainian defense policy has long been to integrate with NATO, which meets the key objectives of the United States.

Since 1992, bilateral military cooperation has improved in terms of quality and interoperability, and set the stage for preparation, execution, and support of U.S.-Ukraine joint peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the current campaign in Iraq.

Every year the U.S. Departments of State and Defense allocate about $1-3 million to Ukraine's participation in Partnership for Peace Program through the so-called "Warsaw Initiative," founded by the United States in July 1994.

The initiative primarily helps to promote the ability of the Ukraine's armed forces to cooperate with NATO members, as well as to prepare the country for joining NATO.

In terms of security cooperation, the United States has also provided significant technical support in Ukraine's nonproliferation efforts and the strengthening of the country's export control system.

During the current talks, the sides also discussed Ukraine's future accession to the European Union and stressed the importance of NATO as a system of collective security, the Ukrainian government's press service said.

The drive for EU and NATO membership was one of the key policy issues agreed to by Ukrainian lawmakers in August, through the national unity pact proposed by President Viktor Yushchenko.

However, President of the European Commission Jose Barroso said in late October that Ukraine still has to implement a number of economic and legislative reforms to be able top join the European community and the EU member countries are not prepared to take responsibility for another member yet.

Source: RIA Novosti

Ukraine Condemns US-Cuba Blockade

KIEV, Ukraine -- By an almost unanimous vote, the Ukraine parliament approved a resolution condemning the U.S. blockade of Cuba, an unprecedented historic event for this institution, diplomatic sources affirmed today.

John F. Kennedy announces Cuba blockade in 1962

This is the first time that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. People's deputies of Ukraine (parliament) voted for a condemnation of this policy with a vote of 318 in favor, 2 abstentions and none against, Cuban ambassador to that country, Julio Garmendía said.

One of the points of the texts highlights the bonds that exist between Cuba and the Ukraine, evidenced by the Cuban program of medical attention to the children of Chernobyl.

The Cuban diplomat recalled that it is the only country that has maintained, for 16 years, a massive and free program of help for more than 20 thousand children affected by nuclear catastrophe.

The resolution condemns economic, trade and financial sanctions and demands an end to more than 40 years of punitive action against Cuba.

The parliamentary parties called for all UN member nations to join in the international condemnation against the U.S. blockade of Cuba.

Source: Prensa Latina

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ukrainian Modernists, All Alone, Here at Last

NEW YORK, NY -- Don’t mistake them for Russians: Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Alexander Archipenko and Alexandra Exter were actually born, or identified themselves as, Ukrainian.

“Relief A” oil on plywood, by Vasyl Yermilov, from the 1920s

According to a new exhibition at the ambitious Ukrainian Museum, it was the Ukrainian-ness of some of the greats in modern Russian art that informed their contributions to the Modernist movements of the 20th century.

“Crossroads: Modernism in Ukraine, 1910-1930” displays more than 70 works by 21 artists — each shown for the first time in the United States. The exhibition was organized by the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev with the Foundation for International Arts and Education.

Ukraine, a nation of nearly 50 million, regained its sovereignty from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has been eager to acquaint the world with its own considerable cultural strengths. One, of course, has been art, with a history going back to the Greek and Byzantine eras.

Ukrainian classicism and folk art were carried over into 20th-century avant-garde creations, but within the two decades covered by the show, there was also stellar participation in experimental work.

The painter, idea man and exhibition organizer David Burliuk (1882-1967), for example, embraced a “primitivist” approach that became allied with Italian Futurism; Archipenko produced Cubist sculpture; Malevich developed the nonobjective movement known as Suprematism, which for all its abstraction was partly inspired by Ukrainian folk themes; and Rodchenko associated himself with the architecturally oriented art known as Constructivism.

Partly because most of their works are in collections outside Ukraine, these leaders are skimpily represented in the show: Burliuk by his clamorous “Time” (1910), a whirl of Cubist and Futurist elements; Archipenko (who had a full-scale show at the museum last year) by a small Cubist standing female figure of 1914; Malevich by a Suprematist composition of 1920, along with two very rough sketches from 1930 for the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev; and Rodchenko by a 1919 Constructivist composition of bars and circles in red, black and white on a green ground.

Happily, a bit more of a spread is given to the work of Exter, who studied in Paris and had a firm grasp of the new European art. Her rhythmic color abstractions and her exuberant designs for ballet costumes are a dazzling mix of Cubist forms and Futurist dynamism with Ukrainian motifs like icon-derived colors, patterns from village embroideries and weavings, and bright peasant costumes.

But what makes this show well rounded is the inclusion of other, far less familiar talents — some, to be sure, more interesting than others. The effort made to expose the period’s wide range of styles has produced a couple of wonderful surprises.

One is the brilliantly “decadent” work of Vsevolod Maksymovych (1894-1914), a painter drawing on Symbolist sources who represented the Ukrainian “style moderne,” or Secession.

Heavily influenced by the campy erotica of the British graphic artist Aubrey Beardsley, Maksymovych did mural-size paintings drawn from classical themes, but his most striking creations use stark black-and-white schemes and sinuous lines.

They are seen here in a fierce, quirky self-portrait against a backdrop of bubbles and in a high-comedy masquerade scene whose focus is a bewigged, semi-nude, queenly figure attended by courtiers, a peacock and a kneeling genie. A drug user, Maksymovych committed suicide at 21 after the failure of his one-man show in Moscow.

Also eye-grabbing are the “Experimental Compositions” done in the ’20s by Vasyl Yermilov (1894-1967), a leader of the Constructivist school in Kiev and a crucial figure of the avant-garde. His four works here — three of them designs for graphic mediums — consist of simple geometrical figures, letters and other elements, in combinations of materials and textures.

They derive from folk art and primitivism as well as from contemporary movements. The most striking here is his relief painting, a cool composition of painted geometric elements in wood on a bright blue ground.

A serendipitous discovery is Anatol Petrytsky (1895-1964), little known in the United States, who made a major contribution to stage design. A creator of opera and ballet sets for both classical and avant-garde performance groups in Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov, he was also a painter, working in several styles.

In the late 1920s and early ’30s he produced more than 150 portraits of Ukrainian modernists, meant for an album; three are shown here.

When Stalin began his operation against “nationalist deviation” in the early 1930s, he exterminated many of the subjects of Petrytsky’s portraits. The artist destroyed several of the canvases, and the majority of those remaining were lost during World War II.

Most engaging, though, are his lighthearted, collage-like sketches for various operas and ballets. He shows his Constructivist tendencies in “Europeans,” a delightful costume sketch of a couple for the ballet “The Red Poppy” in 1927.

Being an artist with anything other than a Soviet agenda was dangerous in the later years of Stalin’s regime. A case in point was Mykhailo Boichuk (1882-1937), an influential teacher at the Ukrainian Academy of Arts, who envisioned creating art for the masses based on Ukrainian traditions.

He pushed for Ukrainization via the study of medieval frescoes, folk art, Italian Renaissance painting and Byzantine art (a major influence on Ukrainian culture), rather than adopting the heroic realism clichés favored by the Soviet leadership in the late 1920s.

At the same time, he and his followers, known as the Boichukisty, were keenly aware of international Modernism, though his painting in this show of a dairy maid from the early 1920s would indicate that his teachings were perhaps more vital than his art.

But with the beginning of collectivization, the state turned hostile toward the rural and ethnic content of Boichuk’s and his students’ work, and he was denounced as an agent of the Vatican. Amid the purges of the late 1930s, he and some disciples were declared enemies of the people, arrested and executed.

This show, for all its spottiness, surely proves the importance of Ukrainian participation in Modernist art. For American viewers, its significance lies as much in its exposure of lively talents, largely unknown.

Source: New York Times

Ex-Governor Accused Of Extortion Returns To Ukraine From U.S.

KIEV, Ukraine -- A former governor accused of extortion was taken into custody Saturday for questioning after returning to Ukraine from the U.S. He later was released on bail, reports said.

Volodymyr Shcherban

Volodymyr Shcherban, 55, is accused of extortion and abuse of power during Ukraine's tumultuous 2004 presidential election.

Shcherban, who was in the U.S. when the charges were filed, applied for asylum in July 2005 and was detained in October of that year, four days after his visa expired.

The United States has no extradition treaty with Ukraine but officials from both countries began the deportation process.

He was questioned by prosecutors upon his arrival in Ukraine and then released on bail after three lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's party vouched for him, news agencies reported.

Shcherban said he had returned voluntarily.

"I had no aim to commit a crime. I just fulfilled my obligations. The truth will triumph," Shcherban said in remarks shown on Ukraine's TV5.

No one at the Prosecutor General's office was available for comment Saturday.

Shcherban was governor of the northeastern Sumy region until January 2005, when Viktor Yushchenko took office as president and fired several high-ranking regional officials.

Shcherban previously had been a supporter of Yushchenko, who was an opposition leader before he won the bitterly contested presidential race. But in 2002, Shcherban fell out with Yushchenko's camp and joined the People's Choice party, which was allied with ex-President Leonid Kuchma.

Yushchenko expressed his concern over the decision to grant bail to Shcherban, Interfax reported.

The pro-Western Yushchenko and the Russian-leaning Yanukovych share power in an awkward arrangement that initially was billed as an effort to unite Ukraine.

Instead, it has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Yanukovych, who lost the 2004 presidential race after hundreds of thousands protested his fraud-marred victory, was named prime minister after his pro-Russian party won the March parliamentary elections.

Source: AP

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Film Company Bets On Crimea

CRIMEA, Ukraine -- With a breeze-cooled warmth that recalls the Mediterranean, and dramatic sea-battered cliffs that serve as the ideal backdrop, Crimea may yet become Ukraine’s answer to Hollywood and spearhead the development of the country’s underdeveloped film industry.

English-language “Sappho,”a film about a destructive love triangle being filmed on the Crimean peninsula

In the meantime, industry insiders say that Crimean film crews are capable, but talent from Kyiv is sorely lacking.

Once a prime location for major Soviet film productions, the peninsula’s contours are now attracting renewed interest from Russian and Ukrainian movie makers, who for their part employ talent from as far away as the United States and the U.K.

In the latest transformation of Crimea’s landscape by a Ukrainian-based filmmaking outfit, a new film called “Sappho” turns the peninsula into the Greek island of Lesbos, the birthplace of the ancient Greek gender-bending poetess after whom the picture is named.

Artur Novikov, the film’s Ukrainian producer, said that in addition to wanting to make “Sappho” a commercial success, he also hopes to return Crimea to the former glory that it enjoyed as an important filmmaking location during Soviet times.

Novikov is a co-owner of Yalta Film, the production company behind “Sappho”, which is based in the Crimean Black Sea resort city but has a branch in Moscow.

Using an international film cast and crew comprised of a British director, Crimean film production specialists and Russian and American actors, Yalta Film chose Balaklava – a former top-secret Soviet submarine fleet stronghold nestled under Sevastopol – as the Greek-tragic backdrop for its debut film.

Novikov said that although he wants the film to succeed commercially, falling short of that goal would not upset Yalta Film’s further filmmaking efforts.

“We have enough resources to make several films. If we make a profit [on this film], that means we are doing well,” he added.

“Sappho” is being shot in English and has a budget of up to $4 million.

Novikov said he has already been approached by Russian and European distributors, as well as by a new American channel for sexual minorities, which are interested in buying the rights to the movie.

“We refused it [the offer] immediately, since it [“Sappho”] is not intended to be a movie about gay love – just about love as it is,” said Novikov.

Set in 1926, “Sappho” is not about homosexual affinities between women, as alluded to in some of the scraps of lyric poetry preserved from the Greek poetess’ reportedly voluminous writings, but rather a destructive love triangle that the press release to the movie describes as “uncontrollable love and passion, or just, girl plus boy plus girl.”

Novikov said he plans on making his money back from Russian movie theaters and investing any profits on promotion of the film in the United States.

According to him, the money to produce the movie was made from a packaging business owned by him and his brother in Russia and Ukraine.

Prior to starting work on “Sappho,” Novikov said that Yalta Film, which began operating in 2003, provided production services and equipment rental to, primarily, Russian crews shooting in Crimea. He said the company’s turnover reached $2 million in 2005, nearly $1.5 million more than in 2004.

Novikov estimated that it took him and his partners nearly 10 years of work to prepare for the filmmaking business, adding that total investments into creating Yalta Film, not including the budget for “Sappho,” were about $5 million.

British-born director Robert Crombie, another co-owner of Yalta Film, and the director of “Sappho,” said the movie would not be a sleazy production, but rather, “a serious feature film … more like Roman Polanski’s ‘Bitter Moon,’ or even ‘The Last Tango in Paris’ by Bernardo Bertolucci.”

“Only an idiot would call them erotic – it is about something else,” he said.

Crombie said that the movie tells the story of an American couple that gets involved in a love triangle with another girl, who is Russian, and that the plot of the movie is loosely based on the ancient Greek tragedy of the poetess Sappho herself, who, according to some sources, died by throwing herself off a cliff due to unrequited love for a male sailor.

Crombie said the crew working on “Sappho” is international, with the protagonists being played by young American and Russian actors. To create an authentic Greek feel, the movie also casts up to 50 Greek actors. One of the supporting characters is played by famous Ukrainian actor Bohdan Stupka.

Avalon Barrie, the 19-year-old American star of “Sappho” who starred in her first, five-minute feature film earlier this year, said “Sappho” is a professional challenge and a welcome source of income.

The second-year college student does her own erotic scenes, without using a stand-in, according to Yalta Film’s Crombie.

“It’s my job ... it helps make the movie interesting,” Barrie told the Post.

According to Novikov, Barrie gets paid about the same as a mid-range Russian actress.

“I keep being astonished by the professionalism of American actors,” said Crombie. “Unlike the Russian ones, they don’t need to be complimented for coming on set on time and … sober.”

Crombie – who spent the last seven years in the advertising business in Russia, Eastern Europe, the United States and Ukraine, and has such films as “The Keeper of Time and “Cuba Libre” to his directing credits – said that it’s not the Ukrainian filmmaking industry that has a future in Crimea.

“The future of moviemaking in Crimea is linked to the Russian film industry, not to the Ukrainian one, and that will never change.”

He said that he avoids using film crew from Kyiv and has had to fire all crew members recruited for “Sappho” from Ukraine’s capital.

“Every time I have to deal with them, I am amazed at their low level of professionalism. The professional standards of people in Yalta are significantly higher – you can feel the difference.”

According to Crombie, the support crew for the film is largely Crimean, with key crew positions taken by Russians and Americans.

Volodymyr Voitenko, the editor of the Ukrainian Kinokolo quarterly film magazine, and the host of the “Argument Kino” television show on Channel 1+1, said the reason for such an attitude, as held by Crombie, toward the Kyiv-based film industry can possibly be explained by the lack of constant filmmaking practice in Kyiv.

By comparison, he said that in Yalta, local film crews gain more experience as a result of the prime locations in Crimea that are attractive to Russian film studios, which use the services of technical crews in Crimea.

“Crimea is arguably the most potentially profitable spot for filmmaking in all of Ukraine,” Voitenko said.

Among the increasing number of highly popular Russian film titles made in Crimea in the last two years is “Devyataya Rota,” a Russian war movie made in 2005 on a $9 million budget, which grossed over $20 million at Russian box offices.

Set in 1989 in the last days of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, “Devyataya Rota” became Russia’s official entry to the Academy Awards’ long list for 2007.

Source: Kyiv Post

Ukraine's Parliament Summons Foreign, Defense Ministers In Challenge To President

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament on Friday ordered the foreign and defense ministers to appear before the legislature to answer questions about their performance in office, lawmakers said.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk (L) and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko (R)

The ministers are among the three most prominent Cabinet members appointed by President Viktor Yushchenko to remain in their jobs under the president's political rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Their summoning before parliament on Nov. 15 has led to speculation that lawmakers could hold a vote of confidence to dismiss them.

On Thursday, parliament recommended that Yanukovych suspend another Yushchenko ally in the Cabinet, Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

Earlier in the week, parliament accepted the resignations of two other ministers from Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party who had asked to step down after the president's party declared it was moving into opposition.

The party's two other ministers have also submitted their resignations but are waiting for parliament to vote to release them from their duties.

Relations between President Yushchenko and the governing coalition led by his rival have deteriorated recently.

The pro-Western Yushchenko and the more Russian-leaning Yanukovych share power in an awkward arrangement that was initially billed as an effort to unite Ukraine.

Instead, it has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Calling Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko to appear before parliament was viewed as another challenge to the president's authority.

Some members of the governing coalition have accused the two ministers of trying to undermine the work of Prime Minister Yanukovych's Cabinet.

Tarasyuk and Hrytsenko have championed Yushchenko's efforts to push Ukraine into NATO and set it on a firm pro-Western course, whereas Yanukovych has said Ukraine is not ready yet for NATO membership and has made improving ties with Russia a priority.

"We will demand that these ministers carry out the policies of the ... coalition, as one cannot have his legs in the government and his head in the opposition," said Yevhen Kushnaryov, a lawmaker from Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Yushchenko's chief-of-staff, Viktor Baloha, insisted that the president was unconcerned about the summons of his foreign and defense ministers. "It's a normal thing," Baloha said.

Yanukovych has made it clear that he does not like working with Tarasyuk, who is one of the strongest champions of NATO membership and Yushchenko's pro-Western course, and he publicly suggested that Tarasyuk should go.

But Yanukovych has taken a cautious approach to openly challenging Yushchenko, and it was unclear how far he would push it. Yanukovych has so far ignored parliament's request to suspend the interior minister.

Source: AP

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ukraine Clubs Sack Skippers After Poor European Showing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Dynamo Kiev skipper Oleksander Shovkovsky and Anatoly Tymoshchuk, his counterpart at Shakhtar Donetsk, have paid the price of failure by the two Ukrainian clubs in this season's Champions League.

Oleksander Shovkovsky (L) and Anatoly Tymoshchuk (R)

Both captains have been stripped of their positions following Shakhtar's meagre haul of two points from their opening four Group D matches and Dynamo's run of four straight defeats in Group E.

Shovkovsky was sacked as skipper of Dynamo by club president Ihor Surkis for failing to turn up to watch his side's home game with Olympique Lyon two weeks ago which Lyon won 3-0.

Shovkovsky was suspended from playing in that match after being sent off in the 5-1 defeat at Real Madrid in September -- for which he was largely blamed for the result.

He told the Dynamo internet site that he watched the Lyon game at a bar but said president Surkis had no right to take the decision to sack him.

"It is the team who chose me as captain and if it is to be decided that I am no longer to have this honour, the players should decide that at a meeting," he said.


Tymoshchuk was dismissed as Shakhtar's skipper by coach Mircea Lucescu and replaced by Brazilian Matuzalem after the club's poor run in the competition -- and disagreements with Shakhtar management over his ambitions to join other European sides, including Scotland's Celtic.

Lucescu said in an interview in August that he supported Tymoshchuk's proposal to find another club -- but he insisted on an acceptable transfer fee for a player of his calibre.

He turned down an offer of €4.0 million from the Scottish champions, saying he wanted at least €10.0 million.

Lucescu has made it clear that he sees Matuzalem as the team's natural leader. Last month, he described the Brazilian as the only player to perform up to his standards in the 2-0 defeat at Valencia.

Tymoshchuk told the popular web site that he was not upset at being replaced as captain but added to the dissent within the ranks by saying Matuzalem was not worthy of the honour.

"Matu says himself that Shakhtar is only a means of earning lots of money," he said.

Although the Champions League ambitions of both teams are over, both could yet gain a UEFA Cup spot by finishing third in their groups -- although the harmony and form at both clubs would need to improve very rapidly for that to happen.

Source: Reuters

Russian Ambassador: Moscow Will Ignore Court Order To Return Crimean Lighthouses To Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Moscow will ignore a Ukrainian court order to return Crimean lighthouses used by the Russian naval fleet to Ukraine, Russia's ambassador said Thursday.

Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin

A court in Ukraine's Black Sea port of Sevastopol ruled in September that 22 lighthouses and other navigational devices held by the Russian Black Sea fleet must be returned to the control of Ukraine's Transport Ministry.

The ruling cannot be appealed. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry followed it up with an official note to Russia demanding their return.

Asked if Russia would comply, Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin said no. "There are international rules, there is an agreement ratified by both of our parliaments," he said in remarks shown on Ukraine's TV5.

Russia has argued that the court's decision violated a 1997 agreement that divided the Soviet Union's Black Sea fleet between Russia and Ukraine.

Under that agreement, the Russian navy was allowed to remain in Sevastopol until 2017, paying an annual rent of $93 million.

Ukraine insists the lighthouses - scattered along the coast of the Crimean peninsula - were not part of the deal.

The presence of the Russian troops on Ukrainian territory has sparked anger among Ukrainian nationalists, and given rise to a number of disputes between Ukraine and Russia.

Earlier this year, Russia accused Ukraine of trying to seize the lighthouses.

Source: AP

Ukraine PM For More Balanced Approach To Russian Fleet Bases

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's prime minister said Thursday that extending the lease for Russian fleet bases in his country's Crimean peninsula has to be addressed in a long-term political and economic perspective.

Yanukovych (L) with his mentor Putin (R)

The presence of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine has been a source of contention between ex-Soviet neighbors, who clashed earlier in the year over the ownership of lighthouses, and Ukraine's demand for a hike in the rent Russia pays.

Ukrainian media have speculated that future deals on the base will be linked to the price Russia offers for natural gas supplied to Ukraine.

Viktor Yanukovych, widely seen as a pro-Kremlin premier, called for a careful approach to Russian fleet problem, and warned against politicizing the issue.

He conceded the possibility of extending the lease agreement for some of the fleet facilities.

"There are some facilities which it is in Ukraine's interests for our partners to rent, bringing income to the country," Yanukovych said, adding that Ukraine sought to maintain good relations with its neighbor.

Under a 1997 agreement, Russia rents facilities for its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea for $93 million a year until 2017. However, Ukraine's leadership, which has committed itself through a national unity pact to pursue integration with NATO and the European Union, has said it wants Russia to withdraw from the peninsula after the accord expires.

During the 2004 presidential race, Yanukovych was heavily backed by the Kremlin against the current West-leaning president, Viktor Yushchenko.

The two former arch rivals, however, now have to share power since Yanukovych's appointment as premier in August ended five months of political turmoil in the country.

Source: RIA Novosti

Opposition To One-Party Rule In Order

KIEV, Ukraine -- There is no doubt that there is much to criticize in Ukraine’s political system. Significant portions of President Viktor Yushchenko’s pro-Western agenda have been rolled back, the current government is attempting to consolidate control over businesses and media outlets in the regions.

Yulia Tymoshenko the only real opposition in Ukraine

There is significant confusion over who should be in charge, and important agreements, like the latest natural gas deal with Russia, are opaque and confusing.

But, in the midst of these criticisms, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The fact is that Ukraine may be on track to become the first (semi) authoritarian country in the 21st century to make a successful transition to democracy.

In this case, the term “democracy” does not suggest just a transition to Western-oriented policies or to a government friendly to the United States and the EU. In this case, Ukraine has the potential to change over to a real, functioning democratic government based on political pluralism.

In 2004, Ukraine was a country ruled by fear and intimidation, with little to no free press, and a political opposition that faced not only oppression but threats against the lives of its leaders.

Today, there is regular political debate, a press that (largely) provides information necessary for voters to understand the actions of their leaders, and the existence of strong political parties/blocs that are happy to disclose the littlest negative tidbit about each other. It is a political environment that is characterized at the moment by deep disappointment in the country’s politicians, but grudging engagement in the process.

Of course, the country has far – and possibly many years – to go before a true democracy can be consolidated. Rule of law and government transparency remain major obstacles to be overcome. None of the progress already made is irreversible. Nevertheless, in under two years, Ukraine has come a great distance.

Now, the country stands at the pivotal point. Its leaders must decide how to consolidate and institutionalize the progress already made. If they do not, it could easily be lost.

Until now, the largest gains in Ukraine have been in the areas of press freedom and fair — sometimes freewheeling – political competition. These two achievements, which separate it from the rest of the countries of the former Soviet Union, have largely resulted from continuing battles among elites for political control.

These political battles have led to a de facto pluralism, as no group has been able to consolidate its power entirely, and no leader has been strong enough to control the work of journalists. Not insignificantly, President Yushchenko also has supported the rights of journalists to monitor the government.

But the situation is changing in Ukraine. There are signs that one party, the pro-government party of Regions, is beginning to successfully consolidate one-party control throughout large portions of the country.

This lack of political competition could negatively impact the freedoms that recently have developed. Therefore, Ukraine’s political parties must develop a system of checks and balances that will protect gains already made and guarantee that progress continues. De facto pluralism is no longer enough.

The first step should be the legal recognition of a political opposition, and the passage of laws that will allow members of this opposition to effectively monitor and pressure the government.

Ukraine’s opposition should be granted at least the status of a parliamentary committee. Its members should be guaranteed the right to review, comment on and introduce priority amendments on bills introduced. In short, they should be provided with the tools necessary to undertake their role as a check on the authorities.

To this point, in Ukraine, there is one strong functioning opposition bloc – a fact which places the country far ahead of its former Soviet neighbors. It is led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and includes members of her eponymous bloc, two Socialists and the non-parliamentary Reforms and Order Party.

Tymoshenko has proposed a sweeping “Law on the Opposition,” based on the guarantees given to opposition structures in Western European countries. Passage of this law, or one similar to it, would place Ukraine in the company of some of the most democratically developed countries in the world. In fact, the majority of Western European states provide significant rights – either legally or based on “historical convention” – to their opposition(s).

Tymoshenko and her allies have had difficulty getting this law considered. This is partially due to the apparently ambivalent position of President Viktor Yushchenko, who on the one hand values the concept of an opposition, but on the other has stated repeatedly that he values compromise and political unity more.

The president and his allies have shown limited understanding of the value of a political opposition, sometimes reflexively falling back on characterizations used during both Soviet times and the regime of former President Leonid Kuchma. At that time, those opposed to the government were characterized as “trouble makers” interested in “destabilization of the state.”

Ironically, given the president’s views, his Our Ukraine parliamentary bloc recently confirmed its transition to the opposition against the government – over Yushchenko’s objections. It is unclear, though, what type of opposition they intend. Some members have spoken of developing a sort of joint opposition institution that might include government officials.

This would, of course, negate the purpose of an opposition, which is primarily intended to protect voters against inappropriate use of government resources and power. This purpose cannot be fulfilled if opposition members are associated with that very government. Therefore, opposition blocs in Western democracies are not connected to government institutions.

Tymoshenko also has spoken of revoking constitutional amendments passed in 2004 that increased the power of the prime minister at the expense of the president. This would be a mistake. It is true that consolidation of power in the prime minister’s hands is generally negative for Ukraine.

But the remedy is not a return to the presidential system that allowed the previous regime to build a borderline authoritarian state. Instead, Tymoshenko and her allies should continue pushing for the creation of a system that allows for an effective opposition, and laws that will increase the independence of the judiciary. Her initiative to eliminate deputy’s privileges also sends an important message of accountability.

She should be supported in this work by the president, who is known to support the need for checks and balances on government structures, and by Our Ukraine, which contains a number of dedicated reformers.

Uniting behind the goal of creating a system for monitoring the government will ensure that Ukraine remains a country making slow but steady progress toward democracy - and an important example of real success for countries facing similar transitions.

Source: Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology & Policy

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ukrainian Lawmakers Propose Suspending Interior Minister For 2 Months During Corruption Probe

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament on Thursday proposed suspending the interior minister — a politician closely allied with President Viktor Yushchenko — for two months as part of a corruption probe.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko

The 450-seat parliament voted 235-5 to create a temporary parliamentary committee to investigate newspaper allegations of corruption and abuse of power on the part of Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and other high-ranking ministry officials. Lawmakers proposed that Lutsenko be suspended during the two-month investigation.

Parliament's recommendation to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to suspend Lutsenko is nonbinding, and it was not immediately clear what Yanukovych would do.

The parliamentary move is risky. In addition to angering Yushchenko, it also could trigger conflict within Yanukovych's governing coalition. The vote divided the coalition, with Yanukovych's Party of Regions and the Communists supporting it and the Socialists opposing the measure by refusing to cast ballots. Some 195 lawmakers registered in the hall didn't cast ballots as a sign of opposition.

Lutsenko, a former Socialist, was named to Yanukovych's Cabinet at Yushchenko's personal request, keeping the job he had held since Yushchenko became president after defeating Yanukovych in 2004's bitter presidential race.

Lutsenko was one of the organizers of the massive election fraud protests in 2004 that became known as the Orange Revolution and helped Yushchenko win the presidency.

After Yushchenko came to power, Lutsenko spearheaded corruption investigations into some of Yanukovych's closest allies. Yanukovych's decision to keep him on after he became premier in August was seen as a major compromise to Yushchenko, and was met with strong opposition within Yanukovych's own Party of Regions.

Party of Regions lawmaker Evhen Kushnaryov said the parliamentary committee was created to investigate allegations that appeared in a September newspaper article alleging "systematic, widespread abuse of position and corruption activity by Interior Ministry officials," according to Ukraine's Interfax news agency.

"It's the beginning of political reprisals against one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution," said Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, a member of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine.

The move came a day after parliament accepted the resignations of two Cabinet ministers allied to Yushchenko who had asked to step down after the president's party declared it was moving into the opposition. Two other Our Ukraine ministers — in charge of health and youth and sports — also submitted resignations, but they were asked by Yanukovych to temporarily stay in their jobs.

Source: AP

Putin Testing Ukraine's Political System With His Black Sea Fleet Proposal

WASHINGTON, DC -- Official Kyiv seems divided in its initial response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to prolong the basing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine’s Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is clearly not opposed to the idea while officials loyal to the president are firmly opposed.

In a flurry of media interviews in the wake of Putin’s October 25 proposal, Yanukovych has made the following comments: Russia should determine for itself whether it is more advantageous to build new naval bases on its territory in the area of Novorossiysk or to continue renting installations in the Crimea.

The issue should be resolved jointly by Russia and Ukraine, well in advance of the 2017 expiration deadline of the 1997 basing agreements. Further according to Yanukovych, the Russian Fleet’s presence may be prolonged beyond 2017 by mutual agreement, if beneficial to Ukraine.

The prime minister went on to tell Kyiv journalists that prolongation is possible and that national interests would in any case guide Kyiv’s decision in this regard. These comments open wide the possibility that prolongation of the basing agreements could be deemed consistent with Ukraine’s national interest by Yanukovych’s definition.

In contrast to Yanukovych, the presidentially appointed Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko has ruled out any prolongation of the Russian Fleet’s presence in the Crimea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has all along shared this position as part of Ukraine’s adherence to all the terms of the 1997 basing agreements, including the 2017 expiry date.

The first deputy minister, Volodymyr Ohryzko, reaffirmed that adherence and that deadline in a special briefing on October 31, calling for preparations to start in due time to meet that expiration date.

One of President Viktor Yushchenko’s political advisers, Taras Stetskiv has -- not surprisingly from a veteran of the Ukrainian national-democratic movement -- has publicly rejected Putin’s proposal, insisting that 2017 will be the last year of the Russian Fleet’s stationing in the Crimea.

Stetskiv argues, as do Hrytsenko and Ohryzko, that any extension would require an unlikely two-thirds majority in the Verkhovna Rada to change the constitution, which bans foreign military bases from Ukraine’s territory while allowing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to stay for the specific duration of the basing agreements.

Others in the presidential entourage seem to be biding their time, however. Yushchenko himself, while undoubtedly opposed to the extension proposal, has reacted with evident caution thus far.

Official Kyiv is also divided over the issue of raising the rent and service charges on Russian naval installations in the Crimea in response to Gazprom and RosUkrEnergo price hikes on gas to Ukraine. Hrytsenko and Stetskiv have come out publicly in favor of such a linkage while Yanukovych rules it out.

According to Yanukovych, the rental charges and the gas price are each calculated according to a specific methodology and can therefore not be linked. However, Yanukovych and his energy team have all along refused to disclose the methodology of calculating the price for Russian-delivered gas, defying both the presidency’s and the parliamentary opposition’s calls for disclosure.

The time-frame issue did not figure on the prescheduled agenda of the October 27-28 session in Sevastopol of the Russia-Ukraine subcommission on Black Sea Fleet issues -- a body within the dormant interstate commission chaired by the two presidents.

Co-chaired by Ohryzko and his Russian counterpart, Grigory Karasin, the subcommission agreed in essence merely to continue discussions over disputed issues of the Fleet’s operation on Ukrainian territory and the legal status of its installations and personnel.

Moscow’s priorities include:

1) “military-political issues” (as termed by Karasin and a Russian MFA commentary) such as full leeway to conduct maneuvers, modernize the Black Sea Fleet’s assets, re-equip the ships and upgrade weaponry, in accordance with plans and programs of Russia’s naval forces;

2) regularize the legal status of the Fleet’s military personnel and their dependents on Ukraine’s territory in the Crimea; and

3) introduce new navigation and safety systems in the Black and Azov Seas.

During the years since the signing of the 1997 agreements, Ukraine has on the whole taken the position that the Russian Fleet may not conduct hostilities against any party or bring net increases to its combat assets during the period of its stationing in the Crimea.

The Russian priorities in the subcommission’s negotiations would seem to challenge those Ukrainian positions and implicitly to add some elements of permanence to the Fleet’s presence there.

Ukraine’s priorities in those negotiations include:

1) making a full inventory of land plots and the installations on those plots, many of which have been used by the Russian side for years de facto (“unaccounted-for properties”); returning those properties to Ukrainian authorities and local communities or including them in the list of properties for which rent must be paid to Ukraine; ending the Russian Fleet’s unlawful subleasing of such properties to local Ukrainian entities;

2) handing over lighthouses, communications stations, and navigation safety systems to Ukraine as the sovereign state responsible for safety of navigation;

3) removing the signboards marking Russian Fleet-used installations in the Crimea as “territory of the Russian Federation” and limiting the use of Russia’s flag to the Fleet’s headquarters only;

4) legally controlling the activity of Russian law-enforcement bodies at places of deployment of the Russian Fleet on sovereign Ukrainian territory; and

5) regulating the movement of Russian Fleet personnel on Ukrainian territory outside the places of deployment and registering Fleet personnel residing outside the military encampments.

Putin’s proposal to extend the time frame of the basing agreement is the boldest challenge yet to the status quo in the Crimea and beyond, potentially affecting the entire Black Sea region. According to Putin’s proposal, the prolongation would be linked to some kind of special security arrangements between Russia and Ukraine involving the Russian Fleet.

The proposal is testing the Ukrainian political system’s capacity to respond to this challenge. The Ukrainian president, as guarantor of the constitution, can still shoot down Putin’s trial balloon before it takes flight.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ukrainian Lawmakers Accept Resignations Of 2 Cabinet Ministers Allied To President

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian lawmakers on Wednesday accepted the resignations of two Cabinet ministers allied to President Viktor Yushchenko amid a growing rift between the president and the premier.

Ukraine Cabinet of Ministers

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych immediately proposed replacements for the justice minister and the culture minister. However, he asked that two other Yushchenko-allied ministers — in charge of health and youth and sports — remain in their jobs.

All four ministers had submitted their resignations last month after talks broke down over the president's Our Ukraine bloc joining Yanukovych's governing coalition. Their resignations had to be approved by parliament.

"It was convenient for me to work with these ministers," said Yanukovych, who visited parliament for the vote. "I sympathize for them ... they have to leave only for political reasons."

The resignations are another sign of Yushchenko's weakening influence over this nation of 47 million. Yanukovych, who lost the bitter 2004 presidential race to Yushchenko, rebounded earlier this year, making his party the top vote-getter in the parliamentary elections.

After Yushchenko's former Orange Revolution allies failed to reunite and form a majority, Yanukovych put together a coalition with his Party of Regions, the Communists and the Socialists.

Yushchenko had tried to maintain influence by having some of his allies in the government, and Yanukovych had agreed. But ties have been frayed amid complaints that Yanukovych was backtracking on a unity memorandum that was supposed to ensure Yushchenko's agenda remained at the forefront.

Yushchenko also appears to have lost influence with his party. Last month, he sharply criticized its decision to move into opposition and order the ministers' resignation.

A Yanukovych ally, lawmaker Hanna Herman, proposed keeping the two Our Ukraine ministers in their jobs as a way to leave the door open for creating a broader governing coalition.

But Our Ukraine's leader, Roman Bezsmertny, immediately rejected that idea. "The ministers of Our Ukraine are leaving the government and nobody plans to recall their resignations," he said. "We don't plan on returning to negotiations."

Yushchenko's allies still head the foreign and defense ministries — two jobs that the constitution stipulates the president must fill.

Another Yushchenko ally, Interior Ministry Yuriy Lutsenko, remains in his post, although a parliamentary committee recommended Wednesday that Yanukovych consider sacking him.

Such a move, however, was unlikely because it would be seen as a direct challenge to Yushchenko, and would worsen already tense relations between the president and premier.

Source: AP

Rockville Biotech To Test Tuberculosis Patch In Ukraine

WASHINGTON, DC -- Rockville-based Sequella has partnered with an international nonprofit group to test its tuberculosis patch in the Ukraine.

TB has reached epidemic proportions in Ukraine

With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development among other sources, Sequella will be working with PATH to test the efficiency and effectiveness of its TB Patch on 300 Ukrainian patients.

For the past three years, Seattle-based PATH has been working to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in the Ukraine, one of 14 countries in which it operates.

Sequella has already tested the TB Patch, which is designed to detect the disease within four days of wear, in four Phase II trials in the Philippines, Peru and South Africa. The company wants to enter into partnerships that help it fund further testing of the technology in hopes of launching it worldwide.

Along with the partnership, the company has added a new chief medical officer, Gary Horwith, a former clinical vice president at Nabi Biopharmaceuticals and Genetic Therapy, a Novartis subsidiary.

Horwith, who has a background in infectious diseases, will be responsible for moving Sequella's products through the pipeline.

Source: Washington Business Journal

Health Ministry Says 500 Ukrainians Poisoned By Inedible Mushrooms In 2 Months

KIEV, Ukraine -- More than 500 Ukrainians sought medical treatment in the past two months after eating poisonous mushrooms, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

Poisoned mushroom

Altogether, 614 Ukrainians have been poisoned by mushrooms since the start of the year, a 55 percent increase over last year, the ministry said.

Forty people have died, including three children. In the last two months alone, 511 Ukrainians sought treatment.

Gathering mushrooms is a favorite pastime in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations.

Health officials blame the large number of poisonings on people confusing inedible mushrooms for the edible kind, and of improperly cooking mushrooms before eating them.

The poisonings were spread across the country, with the biggest number in the densely populated Kiev region.

Last year, health officials said that 397 Ukrainians were poisoned by mushrooms up to Oct. 30 last year.

Source: AP

Kiev Rejects Proposal On Sevastopol Lease

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine on Thursday rejected President Vladimir Putin's proposal to extend the Russian military's lease on the Black Sea port of Sevastopol.Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko said his country would uphold the 1997 agreement that allows the Russian navy to remain in Sevastopol until 2017.

Russian sailors in Sevastopol

But when that expires, Ukraine would expect Russia's Black Sea Fleet to leave, Hrytsenko said, according to his office.

"I am convinced that there shouldn't be and won't be any permanent foreign military base on Ukrainian territory, whether it be members of NATO, members of the Tashkent agreement or the Commonwealth of Independent States collective security agreement," Hrytsenko said.

During a televised call-in show Wednesday, Putin said Russia would be interested in discussing an extension of the Sevastopol lease.

Russia pays Ukraine $93 million per year to base its fleet in Sevastopol. The presence of Russian troops in Ukraine has sparked anger among Ukrainian nationalists and given rise to a number of disputes between Ukraine and Russia over who has ownership of lighthouses and other property in the region.

Analysts had suggested that in exchange for promising Ukraine a below-market rate for gas imports for several years, Ukraine might agree to extend the port's lease to the Russian navy. Hrytsenko, however, insisted that no such talks were underway.

"If someone is carrying out such talks, they are behind the scenes, secret, and ultimately, illegal," Hrytsenko said.

Hrytsenko is an appointee of Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who was in Helsinki on Thursday in advance of an EU-Ukraine summit scheduled for Friday.

Yushchenko reiterated the importance of closer integration with Europe. "We hope that the discussions tomorrow will present us with a good initiative, with a clear mandate ... for our role in the future negotiations with the EU," Yushchenko said. "One of the strategic goals is to get a European perspective in our foreign policy."

On Friday, the Ukrainian leader will participate in a summit with EU officials, which is expected to launch negotiations on an economic and political cooperation agreement.

Ukraine hopes for eventual membership in the EU but the bloc is noncommittal amid growing wariness over expansion as it prepares to take in Romania and Bulgaria and is engaged in negotiations with Croatia and Turkey.

Source: The St. Petersburg Times