Community News

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shutting Down Diasporan Organizations

Vienna, March 19 – Even as the Russian government proclaims “a new era” in relations with Kyiv thanks to the election of “pro-Russian” Viktor Yanukovich and even as the new Ukrainian president announces plans to build a bridge linking Crimea and Kuban, Moscow is seeking to suppress the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians in Russia.

These various actions may seem contradictory to some, but in fact, they reflect a deeper and longstanding set of Russian attitudes, one that many in the West are loathe to admit or even share: the current Russian leadership and those in neighboring countries it can put pressure on do not view Ukrainians as a separate nation worthy of a separate state.

After the Soviet Union came apart, there were 11.4 million ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, something Moscow worked hard to ensure that the entire world knew and that the Russian government insisted the international community demand that Russian-language schools there be kept open.

But at the same time, few people paid much attention to the equally important reality that there were three to five million ethnic Ukrainians living in the Russian Federation, for whom there were no Ukrainian-language schools or other native-language institutions and who even faced loss of work in the early 1990s if they sought to acquire Ukrainian citizenship.

Although they received little support from Kyiv and none from the international community, the ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation took advantage of the freedoms of the 1990s to organize themselves not only in the heavily Ukrainian “Green Triangle” (“Zelenyi klin”) in the Far East but also in major industrial centers.

By 1998, there were four ethnic Ukrainian national cultural autonomy organizations in the Russian Federation, and they came together to form the Federation of National Cultural Autonomies of Ukrainians (FNCAU) in the Russian Federation, a group that for the last 12 years has sought to protect their individual and collective rights under the Russian Constitution.

If Moscow often points to the existence of national cultural autonomy organizations of some very small ethnic groups as evidence of Russian support for nationalities, the central Russian powers that be have never been especially happy about NCAs representing larger groups or those uniting the nationalities of neighboring countries.

In mid-2009, Glavred’s Aleksandr Mikhelson reported yesterday, the government of Vladimir Putin signaled that it intended to shut down the FNCAU. Some Ukrainians expected that Moscow would reverse course following Yanukovich’s election, but instead, the Russian powers that be has “not slowed down” (

Mikhelson documents Moscow’s persecution of the FNCAU over the last year. As a result of Russian government-required re-registration procedures, three of the nine regional organizations of the FNCAU were “excluded from the register of public organizations,” something one (in Krasnoyarsk) has now succeeded in overturning in court.

Because of these legal travails -- which exacerbated the autonomy’s financial situation -- the FNCAU was not able to hold a congress in 2009 and elect a new leadership, even though such actions were required by the organization’s own statute. And as soon as the old leadership’s term expired, Russian officials invoked that to move against the group as a whole.

But Moscow’s complaints against the group have become more hyperbolic in recent months. On the one hand, Russian officials now complain that the group should be banned because it continues to have on its official seal the words, “the Ukrainians of Russia,” rather just the FNCAU.

And on the other, in early February of this year, the Russian justice ministry publicized a letter from a Moscow resident who demanded that the powers that be “take measures” against the FNCAU because its continued operation represented in his words “a threat to Russian statehood” because it is promoting “separatism.”

Neither the author nor the justice ministry provided any evidence, but Russian officials don’t think any is needed, believing that “the Ukrainians of Russia don’t need Ukrainian language and culture” (, Mikhelson notes, whatever they say for international consumption.

Hearings on the fate of the FNCAU are scheduled to take place at the end of this month, with the organization itself contesting what it says is the Russian justice ministry’s illegal action. So far, Mikhelson says, the Ukrainian government has not taken a position on this or joined the suit, a failure that may create political problems in Kyiv.

Members of the opposition, he says, are watching what Yanukovich will do. And at least one deputy in the Rada is calling for that body’s foreign affairs committee to hold a hearing on what the Russian powers that be are trying to do, clearing hoping to force the new Ukrainian government to act lest it give more credence to charges that it is “unpatriotic.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Counter-revolution in Ukraine

By Taras Kuzio

Leonid Kuchma (woops Nikolai Azarov) has returned to power in Ukraine. Five things are certain with the formation of an unconstitutional coalition and government.

The first is that the president was only in his job a few weeks before he began infringing the Constitution by postponing local elections and changing parliamentary rules so that deputies could join a coalition.

The real coalition has only 219 deputies from three factions with the remainder defectors and independents. These, such as Taras Chornovil and Inna Boguslovska, have no moral right to be still in parliament as it was the party in a proportional system – not them as individuals – who won the votes in the 2007 elections.

The second is that political stability, about which Yanukovych has set his heart on, is not likely to appear. This would have only been possible if a coalition had been established by the Party of Regions and Our Ukraine.

A grand coalition would have entailed Yanukovych compromising on his radical pro-Russian policies and dropping his revisionist platform, as well as giving the position of Prime Minister to Arseniy Yatseniuk. Yanukovych wanted to take neither of these steps and instead created a neo-Kuchmaite, Party of Regions-Communist coalition and government with ‘reformer’ Sergei Tigipko as mere window dressing.

The third is that the government has no reformist credentials and will deepen Ukraine’s stagnation leading to further regression from European integration. The choice of cabinet ministers is a telling sign that the old boys have returned. Dmytro Tabachnyk as minister of education brings on the threat of a direct attack on Ukraine’s nation-building project. This is the same person who wrote last year that "Galicians have virtually nothing to do with the people of Great Ukraine, mentally, confessionally, linguistically or politically. We have different enemies and different allies. Furthermore, our allies, and even brothers are their enemies, and their "heroes" (Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych) are for us murderers, traitors and accomplices of Hitler's executioners" Tabachnyk wrote in Izvestia in Ukraine (Sept. 23, 2009).

The Party of Regions gas lobby have also returned which means that the mass corruption of the Yushchenko era, when RosUkrEnergo was in place, will return.

The fourth is that pre-term elections are inevitable for two reasons. The first being that Yulia Tymoshenko will never agree to remain outside parliament until the next elections in 2012. This is what Yanukovych is counting on as he fears Tymoshenko heading the opposition inside parliament.

Ukraine is in legal no-mans land. The largest party in opposition in a democracy is the one to normally establish a shadow cabinet which in Ukraine is the Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT). But, Tymoshenko is not a deputy and it will be impossible to head a shadow opposition cabinet from outside parliament.

Yatseniuk has therefore stated his objective of establishing a shadow cabinet. Ukraine will therefore have two oppositions: a radical one led by Tymoshenko and ‘constructive’ opposition led by Yatseniuk.

The second point is that the Constitutional Court will inevitably find that Yanukovych and his counter-revolutionaries have infringed article 83 of the constitution and ignored a 2009 Constitutional Court ruling that only factions can establish coalitions. The coalition and government will be therefore officially unconstitutional.

The Communists, the Volodymyr Lytvyn bloc and Our Ukraine are all afraid of pre-term elections as they will not enter parliament. The Our Ukraine vote would go to Arseniy Yatseniuk and to Tymoshenko.

Viktor Baloga’s United Centre and Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine will not enter the new parliament and it is good riddance to both of them.

Yatseniuk supports new elections as he would receive his own faction with opinion polls giving him 8% (approximately 35 deputies). Yatseniuk came 4th in the first round of the elections and received 7%.

BYuT would receive about the same result as in 2007 (31%). In the first round of presidential elections Tymosenko received 25% which represents her hard core vote in support of BYuT. Her 45% second round vote included additional negative voters against Yanukovych. A 25% voter base can be easily increased in an election campaign.

Ukrainian Envoy: EU Will 'Always' Remain Kyiv's Main Priority

March 13, 2010

By Ahto Lobjakas

BRUSSELS -- "The EU was and will be the main priority for Ukraine" is a statement that sums up the main thrust of the message delivered by the Ukrainian ambassador to the EU, Andriy Veselovskyy.

This, Veselovskyy said, is a position confirmed by President Viktor Yanukovych during his visit to Brussels on March 1 -- his first foreign destination in the role -- and remains one that enjoys the support of the majority of Ukrainian people, who feel they "belong in the European family of nations."

Briefing journalists in Brussels on March 12, Veselovskyy hinted at a moment of doubt that appears to have seized Kyiv in the immediate aftermath of Yanukovych's defeat of Yulia Tymoshenko, who represented the overtly pro-Western forces in Ukraine in the runoff.

But Yanukovych was quickly reassured. The EU decision to dispatch foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement and Neighborhood Commissioner Stefan Fule, along with the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, to Yanukovych's inauguration in Kyiv on February 25 demonstrated the bloc's respect for Ukraine's maturity as a democratic country, Veselovskyy said. The seniority of the EU representatives present in Kyiv paved the way for the new Ukrainian president's decision to travel to Brussels a mere three days later.

The "signals" sent to Kyiv by the European Union, exemplified by a letter signed by the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, surpassed all expectations. Reading out parts of the message, Veselovskyy lingered on phrases such as "close European partner" and "member of the European family of nations."

The EU's charm offensive was crowned by assurances given to Yanukovych during his visit that visa-free travel for Ukrainians is an entirely realistic prospect provided the bloc's preconditions are met. Reassured, Yanukovych was said to have told his team to occupy themselves "day and night" with Ukraine-EU links.

Three main issues will dominate the relationship in the short and medium term. On visas, Veselovskyy said Ukraine is expecting an EU questionnaire, delayed by a few weeks. A "road map" with a detailed timeline should be in place by June, Veselovskyy said. He said it is "difficult but not impossible" that the EU could tentatively lift the visa requirement in time for the European soccer championship in 2012, to be hosted jointly by Ukraine and Poland.

A second Ukrainian goal is a free-trade agreement with the EU, along with the conclusion of an Association Agreement.

Gas Issues

On the part of the EU, reforms in Ukraine's energy sector remain the most urgent desirable. Yanukovych was told in Brussels a quick passage of the gas-market law was essential. The law would bring Ukraine's energy legislation into line with that of the EU and should significantly ease the inflow of foreign investment.

The main objective of the law is to liberalize the market. Veselovskyy said the signal was "received" by Yanukovych. A draft of the law has been approved by the relevant committee of the Ukrainian parliament. The country's first deputy prime minister has been charged with responsibility for the natural-gas sector.

Veselovskyy said that while Ukraine's new government is not looking to renegotiate the controversial gas accord struck by Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko in January 2009, Kyiv would like the deal to be adjusted to reflect a certain number of "changes."

He listed cheaper gas prices, the coming into being of a world spot market for gas, Europe's increased capacity to receive liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the current global gas surplus. Everything depends on Gazprom's realism, Veselovskyy said. "No reassessment would be unfair."

The Ukrainian ambassador rejected criticism of the state of the country's gas-transit infrastructure. He said the pipeline network was in "good shape," despite Russian actions in January 2009 that shut off gas flow in large parts of it. The network, Veselovskyy said, needed constant gas pressure at some six atmospheres like "the brain needs blood" -- or cracks in the pipes would result. But the ingenuity of Ukrainian engineers, who pioneered the technique of reverse flow, prevailed.

Veselovskyy also gave short shrift to proposed alternatives to Ukrainian gas transit -- in the shape of the Russian Nord Stream and South Stream pipelines. Gas transit through Ukraine was "at least twice as cheap as any 'streams,'" he said.

Veselovskyy said Ukraine was now ready to increase gas prices for domestic consumers, which are currently subsidized to the tune of 90 percent.

Navigating Brussels

Overall, Ukraine appears much more relaxed about its relationship with the EU than at any time in the past five years. Veselovskyy's predecessor until 2008, Roman Shpek, never wasted an opportunity to berate the EU for treating Ukraine as a neighbor, rather than as a potential member.

Veselovskyy said today Ukraine is content with the EU's Eastern Partnership project, describing it as a "strong tool for bringing European values and laws to Ukraine." In the long run, however, there is only one goal from Ukraine -- full EU membership. Veselovskyy has no doubt this is where Ukraine belongs. "Europe ends where people -- and not governments -- do not want to be in Europe," he said.

The Ukrainian diplomat is understanding of the teething problems of the EU's new leadership structure under the Lisbon Treaty -- which Yanukovych was among the first major outside leaders to personally test during his visit.

Veselovskyy said all three EU presidents seem to have clear-cut roles. Barroso, he said, represents the "government," or management of day-to-day EU affairs. Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, which consists of EU heads of state and governments, is a "strategist." Buzek's role is to lecture neighbors and others on values and democracy. Ashton and Fule, meanwhile, have "concrete things" to say in the field of foreign policy.

In Brussels, Yanukovych, who has a reputation as pro-Russian, said Ukraine's status vis-a-vis NATO "will not change" -- widely seen as code for putting membership aspirations on ice. Today, Veselovskyy said Yanukovych's failure to meet the alliance's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on March 1 was due to an absence of "time and need" for such a meeting in so short an order. The visit, he said, needed to be "quick and convincing, without sending too many signals."

But a meeting between Yanukovych and Rasmussen is in the offing soon, Veselovskyy said. NATO is "too important a partner" for Ukraine to "pretend" it doesn't know what it wants. Yanukovych has already made it clear Ukraine will not withdraw its contribution from the NATO Response Force. Veselovskyy said the president will support "everything that is positive for Ukraine's military forces."

Clearing The Air

Bemoaning the deep-seated political malaise in his country, Veselovskyy said the new government under Mykola Azarov, who became prime minister on March 11, will need a month for a thorough stock-taking. The "politicization of government" over the past five years has been so intense, Veselovskyy said, that the new ministers must find their bearings in terms of "what they govern and where their responsibilities lie."

Addressing relations with Russia -- which Yanukovych visited on March 5 -- Veselovskyy said Ukraine is looking for a "balanced, friendly, and open relationship." Significantly, he included the United States in the same formula. During the visit to Moscow, Yanukovych mostly discussed economic matters and "sensitive bilateral issues," including energy security and the management of the two countries' common border.

Asked by RFE/RL if leaders in Moscow had quizzed Yanukovych on the particulars of his Brussels trip, Veselovskyy's smiling response was: "You can guess. And you would be right, even more [than you can guess]."

Veselovskyy attached great significance to comments made in advance of Yanukovych's Brussels visit by his chief of staff, Iryna Akimova, who said Ukraine's membership in a customs union with Russia would be incompatible with the country's entry into the World Trade Organization. This assessment, Veselovskyy said, has not been "challenged" since. He said Yanukovych has also taken pains in Brussels to "explain" to his EU interlocutors that this "reality" is understood in Ukraine.

Old-new SBU: Yanukovych to shut KGB archives in Ukraine

I’m glad I got into the archives: Stepan Bandera had no illusions about Nazis.

President Viktor Yanukovych seems to be repeating a major mistake Yushchenko initially made when he came into office, namely doling out government posts as return for political favours instead of appointing the best people for the job. Judging from the list of ministers approved by the Rada on Thursday, Yanukovych said “thank you” to the Communists, his own Party of the Regions and the Lytvyn Bloc for their support during a tight election race he won by just over 880,000 votes. (The communists may have given Yanukovych the edge in the second round. In the first round of elections, commie leader Petro Symonenko attracted more than 870,000 votes).

Various groups and centres of power are represented and the new cabinet’s staying power will depend on Yanukovych’s abilities to keep the various players' appetites satisfied or in check, especially where business interests overlap. The new cabinet, led by 62-year-old Nikolai Azarov, was supported by an unconvincing 240 member majority in parliament. Yanukovych wields the spectre of dismissing the Rada to keep the newly-formed majority together. Yanukovych is also far more authoritarian in his leadership style than Yushchenko ever was and Yanukovych does not have an “ally” of Tymoshenko’s calibre to tend to. But internal contradictions and competition do exist and the challenge for this government to stay in power will be keeping everybody happy from capitalist Akhmetov to communist Symonenko. That means more back room dealings and (up to) two more years of the worst parliament the country has ever seen.

The people Yanukovych has brought to the nation’s helm are throwbacks to the Kuchma days. They will try to reverse many of the democratic advances made in the last five years. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with the dark pages of Ukraine’s Soviet past.

One of Yushchenko’s most progressive moves was the declassification of all Soviet secret police archives up until 1991. The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) opened up the archives, put a young team of researchers in charge and made the materials accessible to the general public. People could now find out the truth about what happened to their relatives or pay researchers to find that out.

But now Yanukovych has made Valery Khoroshkovsky – a billionaire with an opaque past and even murkier business interests in Russia and Ukraine – in charge of the SBU. It’s like making Ted Turner or Donald Trump the head of the CIA: he may look nice on TV, but he’s not in his league. That means that other people will be pulling his strings and those others are old KGB pros. Kremlinologists rejoice!

Yanukovych promptly got rid of the young team working on declassified Soviet archives. And newly-appointed SBU chief Khoroshkovsky announced a review of declassification policies. “The special service’s main concern is the protection of its secrets,” Khoroshkovsky was quoted by UNIAN as saying on March 11. In this statement Khoroshkovsky betrays his bias: as far as he’s concerned, it might as well be the KGB he’s heading. He cannot make a distinction between the pre-1991 Soviet era and Independent Ukraine. This is the problem with “komsomol” members of the country’s ruling elite: it’s all one big game for them. They don’t care what the country’s called, what colour flag is flown, language spoken – as long as they are in power and making money.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with declassified Soviet archives within the past five years. I have learned much about the fate of my family, whose name has been demonized by the Kremlin, communists and their fellow-travelling academics in the West. In the process, I gained some valuable insights into what Stepan Bandera was thinking before war broke out between Nazi Germany and the USSR.

In his relatively balanced piece in the Moscow Times on Bandera, Alex Motyl wrote that the Nazis actually did Bandera a favour by imprisoning him “in Sachsenhausen and inadvertently saving him and his supporters from a collaborationist and possibly fascist fate.” (‘Difficult task defining Bandera’s historic role,’ March 11.)

I am not sure what Motyl’s sources are for this assertion, but my work in the KGB archives revealed quite a different picture: Bandera had no illusions about what Nazi rule meant for Ukraine or what the Nazi thought about Ukrainians.

I found the following bit of incidental information in the transcripts of the interrogation of Fr. Andriy Bandera – Stepan Bandera’s father. He was arrested in Western Ukraine in May 1941 and executed in Kyiv on July 10, 1941. He was shot by a firing squad as the Soviets prepared to flee Kyiv ahead of the Nazi advance just because he was the father of an anti-Soviet leader.

During one of his tortuous interrogations (I say tortuous because the transcripts indicate the interrogations lasted for hours but only a few questions were asked) Fr. Bandera was asked about the purpose of Stepan Bandera’s trips to Rome. Stepan had been in Rome on two occasions in 1939 and 1940 and passed along a cross for his father-priest through a courier. Stepan’s younger brother Oleksa lived in Rome where he completed a Ph.D. in Political Economy and married an Italian girl named Maria. (He was later killed in Auschwitz). But what the Soviet interrogator really wanted to know was the political purpose of Bandera’s trips to Rome.

Under extreme duress, Fr. Andriy Bandera told his interrogator that Stepan went to Rome for talks with the “Sicilian government” to negotiate a safe haven for Ukrainian soldiers in the event of defeat, because “the Germans could not be counted on” in the war against the USSR. The interrogator tried to break Fr. Andriy Bandera and he did reveal more information about Stepan and his seven children – five of whom were members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

By 1941, Bandera and the other OUN leaders had ample proof of the Nazis attitude towards Ukraine and Ukrainians. How could they harbour any illusions after reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf, where Ukrainians lands are designated as the “living space” (lebensraum) for all the beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed Aryans with the local Slavs serving as slaves.

In 1939, OUN’s leaders saw firsthand what the Nazis thought of Ukrainian independence, when independence was proclaimed in the city of Khust on the Ides of March by Transcarpathian Ukraine (Zakarpattya). Fr. Avhustyn Voloshyn was elected president by parliament. The Nazis ignored the proclamation and helped Miklos Horty and his Hungarian fascist forces crush that independence in three days’ time in the Battle of Krasne Pole. There, Ukrainians were, in fact,the first in Eastern Europe to do battle with fascist forces. Thus, OUN had very real proof of what Hitler and the Nazis thought about Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The Kremlin, communists and Yanukovych accuse Yushchenko of falsifying history. But the sad reality is that an accurate account of Ukraine’s 20th century history remains largely unwritten. Yanukovych’s first steps in dealing with that history are an embrace of the lies and Soviet consent manufactured in Moscow over the course of decades. Stepan Bandera was secretly assassinated on orders from Moscow and has been a victim of character assassination ever since. And he is but one of thousands whose true stories will be fully told. Well, maybe not while Yanukovych is president...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

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Constitutional Court to rule and possible new PM

Yanukovych Asks Constitutional Court to Rule on Coalition Law
By Daryna Krasnolutska

March 10 (Bloomberg) -- Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych will ask the Constitutional Court to rule on a law allowing parliamentary coalitions to be formed based on individual lawmaker affiliations instead of party groups.

The law, initiated by Yanukovych’s party, was adopted yesterday by the Kiev-based legislature and needs the president’s signature to take effect. Opposition parties called the move “unconstitutional.”

Yanukovych told European Union and G-8 ambassadors that he “decided to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether a coalition and a government formed under the new law would be legitimate,” according to a statement posted on his Web site today.

Parliament voted last week to topple former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost the Feb. 7 presidential run-off to Yanukovych. Yanukovych has until April 3 to form a new coalition, failing which he must call early parliamentary elections.

Last Updated: March 10, 2010 08:14 EST

Yanukovych Offers Key Post to Tigipko
10 March 2010

Serhiy Tihipko is a former central bank governor.

KIEV — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has offered the post of deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs to reformist former central bank chief Sergei Tigipko, Yanukovych's office said Wednesday.

It said in a statement that Tigipko, 50, had "agreed to work in the new government" but did not make clear whether he had accepted the post of deputy prime minister.

A spokeswoman for Tigipko could not confirm whether he had agreed to take the post.

Yanukovych's offer will fuel speculation that the job of prime minister will go to the president's Russian-born close ally, former Finance Minister Mykola Azarov, 62.

The nomination of a new prime minister is likely soon after the formation of a new ruling coalition in parliament, expected in the next two days.

Yanukovych's Party of the Regions is trying to stitch together a new alliance and a government to replace that of ousted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost a presidential runoff election in February to Yanukovych.

On Tuesday, the Party of the Regions and its allies pushed through the parliament a rule change easing the creation of a ruling coalition by giving deputies the right to join as individuals, not necessarily as part of a parliamentary faction.

Yanukovych's lawmakers say they could announce a coalition on Thursday or Friday after the rule change is signed by the president and published in the official newspaper.

Lawmakers said Azarov was meeting leaders of the Our Ukraine faction of former President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday, a crucial bloc if the Party of the Regions is to clinch a majority in the parliament.

Tigipko, who came in at a strong third in the first round of the presidential election in January, previously ruled out accepting any job other than that of prime minister and demanded "unpopular" reforms to tackle a serious economic crisis.

Political analysts have questioned whether he could push such reforms through a government beholden in large part to Yanukovych's wealthy industrial backers.

Ukraine Stocks Rally for 7th Day to Highest Since June 2008

March 10, 2010, 6:41 AM EST

By Daryna Krasnolutska

March 10 (Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian shares rallied for a seventh day, pushing the benchmark PFTS Index to its highest level since June 2008, as Viktor Yanukovych moves toward forming a government after winning last month’s election.

The PFTS index added 3.1 percent, extending its longest winning streak since November.

Shares are rising as Yanukovych builds a parliamentary coalition after his party ousted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko last week. Yanukovych offered Serhiy Tigipko, who came third in the January presidential election, the post of deputy prime minister, according to a statement today on the president’s Web site. The International Monetary Fund has frozen its $16.4 billion loan program since November, waiting on the government to pass a budget for 2010 and reduce spending.

“Now there’s a chance for the country to have a president, prime minister and parliament that speak a common language,” said Dmytro Tarabakin, managing director of Dragon Capital, the largest investment bank in Kiev. “The government will be able to function, which is what Ukraine has been lacking for a long time.”

--Editor: Gavin Serkin

Campaign to bring home journalist's diarie

Regional press news - this story published 10 March 2010

by holdthefrontpage staff

A campaign has been launched to put the diaries of a revered Welsh journalist on display in his home town.

Gareth Jones, of the Western Mail, came to prominence in the early 1930s when he told the world of the famine Stalin inflicted upon the people of the Ukraine in which an estimated 10m people died.

His reports on the 'Holomodor', filed after walking for miles through the Ukrainian countryside, were widely discredited at the time by both Stalin's government and other western journalists.

Now Vale-based Welsh Assembly member Chris Franks is hoping to bring Mr Jones' diaries back to Barry to be put on display at a local library, following an exhibition before Christmas at the University of Cambridge where the reporter was a student.

Chris said: "Gareth Jones was a true campaigning journalist who was not afraid to report how peasants in Ukraine were starving while the Soviet regime exported grain to the west despite the terrible impact on his own life.

"The horror of Stalin's action is one of the forgotten tragedies of the 20th century and it would be great if people in his home town and across Wales could take a look at the historic diaries he compiled."

Welsh Assembly Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said that any loan of the diaries would be dependent on Barry Library being able to provide display conditions which met required standards.

An alternative venue in Cardiff might be a possibility for hosting the exhibition, he added.

In 2008, Mr Jones and Manchester Guardian correspondent Malcolm Muggeridge were given the posthumous Ukrainian Order of Freedom for their reporting.

Gareth was born in Barry in 1905 but his life was cut short aged just 29 when he was murdered in 1935 in Inner Mongolia.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

EU: Ukraine needs reforms for closer ties

Thu Mar 4, 2010 12:00pm GMT

* EU expects stability, energy system reform in Ukraine

* EU says Ukraine should resume talks with IMF, pass budget

By Marcin Grajewski

BRUSSELS, March 4 (Reuters) - The European Union is ready to deepen its ties with Ukraine in the areas of trade, energy, visas and others, if the country's new authorities push ahead with reforms, the bloc's senior official said on Thursday.

The EU hopes Viktor Yanukovich, the ex-Soviet republic's newly elected president, will prove to be pragmatic, despite his strong relations with Russia, capable of restoring political stability and overcoming the economic crisis.

Yanukovich faces a difficult task of stitching together a new ruling coalition after Ukraine's parliament dismissed the government of his rival, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

On Thursday his party proposed changing the law on the formation of a majority coalition to speed the process, a move Tymoshenko's bloc called a "constitutional coup d'etat". [ID:nLDE62314C]

"Presidential elections and the likely formation of a new government provide both opportunities and challenges for the EU," EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fuelle, told a seminar on the bloc's relations with eastern European countries.

"We need to convey a strong message to the new administration: the Commission is committed to having strong relations with Ukraine," he added.

But for that to happen, Ukraine needs to put its political and economic house in order, notably renewing its cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and passing the 2010 budget that would help the country dig itself from deep recession.

It should also overhaul its energy infrastructure, Fuelle said.

"The president should be ready to cooperate with a wide political spectrum, including the opposition," he said. "Ukraine must be serious in its efforts to fight corruption."

A new association agreement with Ukraine, still being negotiated, could include free trade, strong cooperation in energy issues and "a roadmap to a long-term goal of a visa-free travel," he said.

Political rows before the presidential election have thrown Ukraine's economy into disarray, contributing to a crisis that saw gross domestic product contract by 15 percent in 2009.

They also led the suspension of talks with the IMF on a $16.4 billion bailout package.

Yanukovich chose Brussels for his maiden foreign trip as president this week to signal his readiness to boost ties with the 27-nation bloc despite pro-Moscow views and opposition to joining the NATO military alliance.

The EU is eager to see political stability in Ukraine, a country of 46 million that is a transit route for natural gas from Russia to the bloc. Rows between Moscow and Kiev over gas have twice interrupted supplies to the EU in the past. (Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Yanukovych inaugurated: a pseudo Kuchma era?

March 03, 2010

By Pavel Korduban

Viktor Yanukovych was inaugurated as Ukraine’s new president on February 25. His first steps and statements have proved reminiscent of President Leonid Kuchma’s (1994-2004) first term. Yanukovych selected Kuchma’s former secretary as the head of his administration and demonstrated that in foreign policy he will revive the multi-vectored approach of the Kuchma era, when Ukraine played on differences between Russia and the West. Yanukovych also confirmed his inclination toward populism in economic matters.

Yanukovych pledged in his inauguration speech to reform the government, in order that it should become “a team of professionals,” most likely meaning that a future successor to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will chair a technical cabinet rather than one representing the parties in a coalition. Yanukovych said he would cut spending on government administration to increase pensions and wages. Immediately after the inauguration, he decreed trimming the presidential staff by 20 percent. His team also said that he would cut the presidential salary by 50 percent and trim the staffs of regional governors by 20 percent in order to decrease administrative spending. Similarly, he instructed prosecutors to ensure that the government adheres to parliament’s decision from late last year to increase wages and pensions (Channel 5, Ukrainska Pravda, February 25). This populism is due to the fact that the elections, when popular decisions are important, are not over for Yanukovych. Parliament is expected to schedule local elections for later this year, and early parliamentary elections are possible if Yanukovych fails to form a new coalition in parliament to oust Tymoshenko.

Yanukovych renamed the presidential secretariat into the presidential administration, as it was known under Kuchma. He appointed Serhy Lyovochkin, 37, as head of the administration. Lyovochkin has been a key aide to Yanukovych, and had been Kuchma’s secretary, and officially first assistant. In another move aimed to wipe out his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko’s legacy, Yanukovych removed the banners featuring information about the 1932-1933 famine from the presidential website, (Segodnya, February 27). Yushchenko had cherished the memory of the famine as an important nation-building myth, but this vexed Moscow and many Ukrainians.

In a move aimed against Tymoshenko, who refused to admit her defeat in the February 7 presidential election runoff and to resign, Yanukovych instructed the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Accounts Chamber to check government spending. This concerns both domestic funds and International Monetary Fund loans which accounted for the bulk of foreign assistance received by Ukraine in 2008-2009. Yanukovych also expressed his concern over the situation with regard to taxation. In particular, he instructed prosecutors to ensure that “the tax administration should not levy taxes three months in advance,” as reportedly was the case under Tymoshenko (Ukrainska Pravda, February 26).

Yanukovych said in his inauguration speech that Ukraine would strive to be an equal partner for Russia, the EU and the US as “a bridge between the East and the West” (Channel 5, February 25). It is becoming clear that Yanukovych is not aiming to make Ukraine Moscow’s puppet as many in the West feared. Ukraine will not join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Yanukovych’s economy aide Iryna Akimova told Inter TV on February 26. She said such a union is not on the agenda because it would complicate Ukraine’s relations with the World Trade Organization. Moscow apparently hoped Ukraine would join the customs union under Yanukovych. President Dmitry Medvedev instructed the Federal Customs Service to start preparing the union for Ukraine’s possible membership (ITAR-TASS, February 19). Yanukovych also reiterated his election promise to push for a revision of the 2009 gas accords with Russia so that “the price of gas should be fair” (BBC Ukrainian Service, March 2). However, this may come at the price of accepting Russia’s old plan for an international consortium to manage Ukraine’s gas pipelines.

Yanukovych is scheduled to visit Moscow on March 5, but on March 1 he first visited Brussels to meet with EU officials. There he pledged, like both Kuchma and Yushchenko did before him, that European integration would be Ukraine’s key priority. Yanukovych optimistically predicted that an association agreement and a visa-free regime with the EU would be attained within one year (BBC Ukrainian Service, March 2). Ahead of Yanukovych’s visit, the European Parliament sent a powerful message to Ukraine, by declaring that as a European state that adheres to the principles of democracy and freedom it may apply for EU membership in the future.

Yanukovych’s initial steps are reminiscent of Kuchma, but Kuchma ended his second term as an international pariah. That was due not only to his own mistakes, but also arguably to George W. Bush’s short-sighted foreign policy. Yanukovych, who understands how much depends on America, wants to build his transatlantic bridge. He said in his most recent interview that he wants to meet with Barack Obama to discuss “many questions” (BBC Ukrainian Service, March 2).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fresh talks likely as Kiev alliance fails

By Roman Olearchyk in Kiev

Published: March 3 2010 02:00 | Last updated: March 3 2010 02:00

Ukraine's governing coalition formally collapsed yesterday, setting the stage for fresh alliance talks that could help the country's new president, Viktor Yanukovich, consolidate his grip on power by forming a government loyal to him.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister who was narrowly beaten in last month's presidential election, is expected to remain in office until a new government is formed.

Volodymyr Lytvyn, parliamentary speaker and a former Tymoshenko ally, announced: "In line with the constitution of Ukraine . . . I announce that the coalition in parliament has ceased its activity."

Ms Tymoshenko alleged that Mr Lytvyn had "illegally" exploited a loophole to declare an end to her fragile coalition.

The announcement came after three factions in parliament that had backed Ms Tymoshenko's coalition failed to submit enough signatures to show they still held a 226-strong majority in the 450-seat legislature.

They include the factions of Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Lytvyn and the Our Ukraine grouping that had backed Viktor Yushchenko, former president.

Ms Tymoshenko warned that the coalition's collapse could concentrate power in Mr Yanukovich's hands and allow him to pursue what she called "anti-Ukrainian" policies.

She could yet challenge the move in the constitutional court, and some commentators forecast that she may cling on as premier for weeks or months.

Monday, March 1, 2010

European integration a `priority`: Ukraine leader

Mon Mar 1, 8:12 am ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European integration is a priority for Ukraine's foreign policy, the country's new president said on Monday as he sought to reassure Europe by tempering his pro-Russia image.

"For Ukraine, European integration is a key foreign policy priority," President Viktor Yanukovych told a joint press conference with EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

Yanukovych arrived in Brussels earlier in the day, markedly making the EU headquarters his first overseas destination since taking power last month.

His predecessor Viktor Yushchenko was a strong proponent for Ukraine joining both the European Union and NATO, prospects which have angered former Soviet overlord Russia.

Yanukovych appeared to retreat from that stance, at least as far as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is concerned.

He said he wanted to "maintain" his country's relationship with NATO at the current level, but that any further moves would depend on future negotiations.

He has previously said he sees the former Soviet republic as a "non-aligned European country", effectively putting an end to any ambitions to join NATO.

The Ukrainian leader and his host fixed the objective of sealing an association agreement -- for closer trade, political, social ties -- within a year.

Discussions on the agreement, which would include the key free-trade deal, are already underway but have made little progress so far.

Yanukovych also promised that his country would in future guarantee the safe transit of Russian natural gas to Europe, after problems in recent years.

Barroso, standing beside him, stressed that "Ukraine is already a European country" but added that it was more important to help Kiev make necessary reforms rather than setting any time-lines for EU membership.

"Ukraine is a European country... by its civilisation, by its culture and its history," said Barroso.

The prospect of inviting the former Soviet republic into the European club divides the EU nations.

Ukraine's EU neighbours and near neighbours, Poland and the Baltic states, are lobbying in favour of Ukraine's adhesion to the EU, to help it avoid being dominated by Russia.

Others feel the 27-nation bloc still has work to do to bed in all the central and east European nations which have gained membership since the 1990s, following the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Barroso urged Ukraine to resume cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, a condition for the European Union to unblock key funding for Kiev.

The EU Commission chief also held out the prospect of future visa-free travel between Europe and Ukraine saying the EU executive would consider this possibility "in a favourable manner", a prospect which will concern those EU nations concerned at the prospect of large-scale immigration.

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