Sunday, October 26, 2008

IMF Announces Agreement with Ukraine on US$16.5 Billion Loan

The International Monetary Fund announces outline plans to lend $16.5 billion to Ukraine to support a policy package the country has assembled to maintain economic and financial stability. Ukraine's economy has been affected by the global financial turmoil and falling steel prices.
Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement on Ukraine today:
"An IMF staff mission and the Ukraine authorities have today reached agreement, subject to approval by IMF Management and the Executive Board, on an economic program supported by an SDR 11 billion (US$16.5 billion) loan under an 24-month Stand-By Arrangement. Consideration by the Board would follow approval of legislative changes to Ukraine's bank resolution program.
"Ukraine has developed a comprehensive policy package designed to help the country meet the balance of payments needs created by the collapse of steel prices, and the global financial turmoil and related difficulties in Ukraine's financial system. The authorities' program is intended to support Ukraine's return to economic and financial stability, by addressing financial sector liquidity and solvency problems, by smoothing the adjustment to large external shocks and by reducing inflation. At the same time, it will guard against a deep output decline by insulating household and corporations to the extent possible.
"The IMF is moving expeditiously to help Ukraine, and this program is focused on the essential upfront measures needed to maintain confidence and economic and financial stability. The strength of the program justifies the high level of access, equivalent to 800 percent of Ukraine's quota in the Fund," Mr. Strauss-Kahn added.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Parliamentary disease

On Wednesday, 23 October I went to the Parliament, which was supposed to start to work (after the mentioned above decision of President) and even to approve anti-crisis package of legislation (as for that date there were two main (different) projects of law on this issue: presented by President and Prime minister).
The day appeared to be not lucky at all – the Parliament didn’t start to work and I’ve caught flu.
My “parliamentary disease” didn’t last for a long time: today I’m practically back to the camp of healthy members of society. But the health of the Parliament of Ukraine is still in very bad condition. After its dismissal and then mysterious call back, the Parliament simply cannot start to work and to pass legislation. Ukraine is facing the worst economical crisis in its history, but who cares about that. Ukraine and its citizens became like a hostages of a current political turmoil.
One member of Parliament told me on Wednesday that it will be more correct to say that all the Ukrainian citizens and a country are the hostages of a fight between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. He mentioned also that we are witnessing not a start of parliamentary campaign for a snap election, but a start of a presidential campaign. I agree with this point of view.
As I predicted, the parliamentary crisis will not finish before I will override my flu. On Tuesday I am going to visit the Parliament again. Everything will be exactly like a week before: even with almost the same anti-crisis package in the agenda. And I am very sceptical concerning the result of that day. Ukrainian Parliamentary disease seems very difficult to cure.

Monday, October 20, 2008

President reanimates Ukrainian Parliament

A couple of minutes ago President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko addressed the nation. He informad about his decision to renew a work of the Parliament of Ukraine of 6th convocation "for a couple of days" - in order to adopt a strongly needed "anti-crisis package" of laws.
A new date for a snap parliamentary election is 14 December 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is IMF trying to influence politics in Ukraine?

The International Monetary Fund is not simply an international financial institution anymore. It is a centre of political decision-making. At least, in Ukraine. At a news conference on Thursday, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko said that the IMF is ready to lend the country $3 billion to $14 billion to see it through the crisis, but only if the president postponed the elections. “It is very difficult for them to hold negotiations with Ukraine, when they hear all these proposals for early parliamentary elections,” she said. I wonder is the IMF is really trying to influence politics in Ukraine?

Friday, October 17, 2008

The voice of America

Today I've read very interesting interview with Brookings Institute Visiting Fellow and former US Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer. The interview was conducted by VOA’s Ukrainian Service a few hours before President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko dissolved parliament last week.

On Ukraine’s Chances for a NATO Membership Action Plan in December
“It seems to me that the chances for Ukraine getting a Membership Action Plan in December are practically zero. And actually that’s really because of a couple of reasons. One is, for countries like Germany, obviously, there is the Russian reaction. But the other question, and this goes back to April and the Bucharest summit, is – does the government, does the prime minister support the president’s policy on the Membership Action Plan. So right now there seem to be three scenarios, the most likely of which appears to be new elections. If there are new elections in December or January and when NATO foreign ministers meet in December, they won’t know who the next prime minister is going to be, let alone whether he or she will support a Membership Action Plan. And the other two scenarios would be either an alignment between Regions and the Tymoshenko Bloc or a reconstitution of the Orange coalition between Our Ukraine and the Tymoshenko Bloc in the next couple of days, but both of those scenarios would be very unlikely. It would seem to me that the Regions-Tymoshenko alignment is not going to produce a government that supports a Membership Action Plan. And even if you put back the Orange Coalition, after the problems and the debates between them and the infighting of the last couple of months, I’m not sure European governments are going to see that as sustainable. The other factor seems to me the U.S. government will continue to want to support Ukraine for a Membership Action Plan, but the problem is that in December it’s going to be the final days of the Bush Administration. That administration is just not going to have the diplomatic clout to make a MAP happen.”

More on the President Yushchenko’s Visit to Washington, DC
“Well, I think there are a couple of things here. I mean, you know, first of all, something was different in September from in July, and that is you had the conflict between Russia and Georgia. I’m not sure that represents a threat to Ukraine, but certainly this more assertive Russian foreign policy is a challenge for Ukraine. So it seems to me that a big part of that visit, having President Yushchenko meet with President Bush in the Oval Office, was basically to reaffirm U.S. support, to try to be bolstering of Ukraine. Because there are questions, given what happened in Georgia, does this now mean that Russia is going to behave in a different way towards Ukraine?”

On Whether President Yushchenko was looking for US Support in Ukraine’s Internal Political Squabbles
“I’m not sure. That’s a question you really have to ask President Yushchenko. But I think he probably understands, I mean, American policy’s been pretty consistent on this question. And even Secretary of Defense Gates made the point, I think, even today, is that, you know, deciding who will be the next prime minister for Ukraine, that’s a decision for Ukrainians. The U.S. government’s point of view, as far as I understand it, is we will work with whatever government is in Ukraine. I mean that’s for Ukrainians to decide, whether it’s a government headed by Tymoshenko or somebody else. My sense, though, is that, in talking with some people in the U.S. government, that if they had their choice, they would have liked to see the government continue, as opposed to new elections. And the problem here is, because the sense is that time is being lost and the opportunities are being lost, and the focus in Kiev seems to be on politics, rather than actually governing the country. And here is the scenario that I think worries some people if you want to see Ukraine move forward. If there are elections now, if those elections are held in, say, in December or January, it’s hard to get something done in terms of serious policy during elections. It’s hard in Ukraine. Certainly it’s hard here in the United States right now when we’re just a month out from our elections. But then, based on what we saw in 2006 or 2007, after the election it may take two or three months for Ukraine to form a coalition in the Rada and choose a prime minister. So that takes you maybe to April or early May. At that point you’re only six or seven months from the presidential elections, so everyone focuses on the presidential election. So the concern here is that – it’s my concern, but I also think it’s shared by some in the U.S. government – is that, you know, politics could dominate the next year and a half in Ukraine and it makes it hard for Ukraine to do things in terms of policies that Ukraine needs to push.

On Whether Early Election Will Have a Weakening Effect on Ukraine
“I’ll give you two answers to that. The first answer is -- there’s a lot of confidence, at least I have, that however the politics play out, it’s going to be democratic. I mean it seems all the major political forces -- Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, Yanukovych – understand that you’ve got to play by democratic rules and the Constitution. And that’s a good thing. It means Ukraine, fundamentally, is going to have democratic stability. The other side of the answer, though, is again that while you have the political debate going on, you’re not getting things accomplished, you’re not pursuing policies. I think, again, because I’m a little bit concerned, I wouldn’t call it a threat to Ukraine, but there’s a challenge -- in Moscow. And the question in my mind is – given this more assertive Russian foreign policy that you’re seeing now – is this a time for the Ukrainian leadership to be divided? You know, I think this would be the time really where it would make more sense to come together. Likewise, there are opportunities, the Membership Action Plan, that I think are going to be lost because the political infighting in Ukraine creates a situation where Germany and some of those countries that don’t support a Membership Action Plan could say, well, it’s not just about the Russian concern, it’s about we don’t have confidence in the sustainability of the political line within Kiev.”

On the Stance of John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s Campaigns on Ukraine
“My sense is that when you look at what both campaigns have said, what both candidates have said, I think – and this reflects the fact that support for Ukraine going back to 1993-1994 has really been a bi-partisan issue. I mean both sides support it. And certainly there’s not much difference when you look at what Senator McCain has said and what Senator Obama has said. They both support strong relations with Ukraine. They both support a Membership Action Plan. So, I think they differ on some questions, but I don’t think Ukraine is one of them.”

On Whether John McCain Can Be Perceived As Tougher on Russia
“It may be. But I think in both campaigns there is concern about Russia, I mean, certainly what we saw in August changed the assessment in Washington, and I think elsewhere in Europe about the rules that the Russians are prepared to play by. And it’s caused a greater degree of concern.”

On How the Russia-Georgia Conflict Impacts the Prospect of a NATO Membership Action Plan for Georgia and Ukraine
“I still think that ultimately a Membership Action Plan makes sense for Georgia and Ukraine. But you’re going to have to look at it in the current political realities. And at this point, when you’re looking at December, again, because of the position of some of the European states, because, I think, of the inability of the Bush administration in literally its last days to persuade the Europeans, given concerns about Russia, but also given the questions about what is going on within Ukraine, it just doesn’t seem it’s going to happen.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ukraine-EU: Signs of crisis

I spent most of the time of my working day yesterday, trying to monitor a visit to Brussels of prime minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko. My goal was to understand the signals Europe should be sending to Ukraine and its politicians, and then to write about this for one of the Ukrainian magazines. As a result, I wrote nothing. Europeans are tired of Ukraine and its long-lasting political problems and confrontation between politicians – they simply don’t make loud public declarations on “Ukrainian question”. For example, Javier Solana didn't even join Mrs. Tymoshenko on a mini press conference after their 45-minutes meeting.

I didn’t find (and haven’t heard) any statement of any European top-politician on 15 October with a condemnation of early parliamentary election in Ukraine. Also nobody had praised it. Though, on evening news I’ve heard a comment of Mrs. Tymoshenko who said that Javier Solana and other her counterparts in Brussels’ talks called the possibility of early election in Ukraine as a mistake, taking to the account world economic crisis.

Today in the morning I've got the statement of the President of the EPP, WIlfried Martens on tpolitical crisis in Ukraine:

The EPP strongly supports the revival and strengthening of the coalition of democratic pro-European forces in Ukraine. It is essential to have an effective and a stable government in the face of the global financial crisis. Political stability is a key precondition for the successful European integration of Ukraine.

New elections, the third in merely 3 years, will undermine the stability. What Ukraine needs today is NOT new elections, but a responsible leadership and a stable government. Now is the time for unity, not for division. We express our full support for those leaders in Ukraine who are doing everything to stabilize the governmental coalition, those who continue with social market reforms. Political instability and the economic crisis are a direct threat to the Ukrainian people.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Early election in Ukraine will be postponed?

Today prime minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko refused to allocate money to finance early parliamentary election, scheduled by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko on 7 December 2008. Mrs. Tymoshenko informed about her decision (and the decision of the majority of ministers of her government) during the press conference in Kiev that finished a couple of minutes ago.

Yulia Tymoshenko emphasized that the early election should be “simply cancelled”, and members of Parliament should come back to Verkhovna Rada building to adopt a legislation (49 law projects) needed to fight with the consequences of the world economic crisis in Ukraine.

“To spend 0,5 billion of gryvnas (100 million dollars) on adventure with the snap election is the straight action against national interests,” she added. “The early election is a tragedy for Ukraine”.

Meanwhile, the Kiev Appeal Administrative Court has postponed the hearing of the “snap election case” to 10.00 am on Friday, 19 October. It seems to me that early elections may also be postponed to a later date – late December or even January. But the elections will take place, it is for sure.

Monday, October 13, 2008

No court, no problem?

In my last post I wrote about the appeal of Yulia Tymoshenko party to Kiev’s District Administrative Court that led to suspension of the Decree of President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko calling for early election on 7 December 2008. Election officials refused to start preparations for the early vote after a court suspended the decree.

What happened next. To cancel the order of Kiev’s District Administrative Court Mr. Yushchenko’s office had appealed to a higher court – Kiev Appeal Administrative Court. They claimed that the Court’s order had no authority since President had already fired the judge before he made the ruling.

Today, on 13 October the things have got even worse. Both Tymoshenko and Yushchenko sent to the Kiev Appeal Administrative Court building the representatives of security forces “to prevent any illegal actions”. No one has crossed the line of law, but the situation was rather frightening. As a result – no agreement and no decision.

The way President of Ukraine have decided to resolve the “Court issue” looks a bit strange. He simply liquidated the Kiev District Administrative Court with his Decree No 922/2008 (of 13 October 2008). No Court, no problem.

The third potential candidate for a post of President of Ukraine in 2010 – leader of the Party of Regions, ex-prime minister and a “lost side” in the Orange revolution Viktor Yanukovych – who is not involved in the Court conflict (as today he doesn’t obtain any influential post) tries to raise his own rating, criticising his political opponents. In his statement, distributed by the party of Regions’ press service he stressed that the snap parliamentary poll must take place in Ukraine as soon as possible. “Force structures are already involved in the conflict”, he said, “This is a catastrophe”.

It seems to me, Ukrainian politics is in strong need of new faces. And also we should not forget, what the rule of law is.

Friday, October 10, 2008

There will be no early parliamentary election in Ukraine – prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Today I watched on TV one political show with a debate of the prime minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko and the leader of oppositional Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovich. The most important things that I’ve noticed are the following:

1. Yulia Tymoshenko declared that there will be no early parliamentary election in Ukraine. “President’s Decree is throwing Ukraine into big troubles, - she said. – Until a middle of summer the parliament will not work”.

2. Yulia Tymoshenko will never form an honest coalition with Viktor Yanukovich as she accused him in a lot of terrible things (even including the economical crisis in Ukraine) in a rather rude form. The answers of Mr. Yanukovich were also not very polite.

As I know, today Julia Tymoshenko block took to Kiev District Administrative Court a question of the legitimacy of the Decree of President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko concerning the call for early election on 7 December and the dismissal of current Parliament of Ukraine of 6th convocation.

I’ve got information that today another Decree of president of Ukraine dismissed also a Judge of the Kiev District Administrative Court Mr. Keleberda, because “He did not have a power to examine the appeal of Yulia Tymoshenko block to suspend the President Decree “On prescheduled cessation of powers of Verkhovna Rada (Parliament – TV) of Ukraine of 6th convocation and scheduling early election” No 911/2008". It was a quotation of Ruslan Kyryliuk, Head of Service for the representation of interests of President of Ukraine in courts.

Viktor Yushchenko is shuffling cards

On 8 October 2008 president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko made a big step on a way of weakening Ukrainian democracy and making impossible a fast realisation of essential reforms to fight the consequences of the world financial crisis. He dismissed current parliament (Verkhovna Rada) of 6th convocation and scheduled early election on 7 December 2008.

Now Ukraine is facing a new period of political instability and huge economic problems. The most sorrowful is the fact that after the election nothing is going to change in political spectrum of our country. The same deck of political playing cards will just be set out in a bit different position. The main malaise of Ukrainian domestic politics – artificially built party system and deep personal antagonism between the “first faces” of leading political powers – is not going to be eliminated.

Ukraine is in need of reforms of electoral law, Ukraine is in need of new faces and new ideas, but will face almost the same unstable parliament and a new problem with forming a ruling parliamentary coalition (taking to the account future presidential election in early 2010 and a fact that Viktor Yuschenko, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the leader of the biggest (and very much supported) Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovich are planning to ballot for a presidential post).

While reading a book on history of Ottoman Empire yesterday, I liked one paragraph telling about the sultan Abdülhamit II, who is known as the last Ottoman sultan with absolute power. Enthroned in 1876, Abdülhamit II received a nickname “Bloody” for his rough style of country management. Trying to correspond to the time in late 1876 he gave to the Ottoman Empire a constitution and assembled a parliament, but only to dismiss it very fast (in 1878) and to re-establish an autocratic rule. Between 1878 and 1908 there were also 18 changes of government in Istanbul. But the dismissed grand viziers (prime ministers) were not leaving top-politics – they were kept in reserve and from time to time were put back on their positions.

In independent democratic Ukraine after the Orange revolution at the end of 2004, there were 4 governments – a new government was formed every year. First post-revolution prime minister was Yulia Timoshenko (as the closest Yushchenko’s ally). In September 2005 she was dismissed and Yuri Yehanurov took her place. Then in July 2006 (as a result of the victory of Party of Regions at parliamentary elections) Viktor Yanukovich became a prime minister. After the early election of September 2007, this post was gained again by Yulia Tymochenko. While dismissing parliament on 8 October 2008, president Yushchenko accused Yulia Tymoshenko in a failure of a ruling “Orange”coalition in early September.

It is really very sad that the political situation in Ukraine – after Orange Maydan and so huge democratic opportunities – with every day much more resembles the history of the empire, falling into pieces.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama, McCain, and Ukraine

This morning I woke up very early: to watch a second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain at 4 AM by Kiev time. Presidential candidates started with economic crisis and domestic politics. In this boring discussion Obama looked more self-confident and sounded more clear and knowing-how. That’s good for his rating, but it was not a point of my almost sleepless night. I was waiting for foreign block of a discussion. It was worth of waiting.

Usually Ukraine never becomes a significant topic of the debates of American presidential race. Today (yesterday – for USA) this rule was broken. Accompanied by Georgia, Ukraine became a part of the discussion of Obama and McCain. And I can say that in the knowledge of the topic McCain is much more stronger than his opponent. Knowing better, doing better?

Giving an answer to the question concerning a possibility of starting another Cold War (obviously with Russia), McCain said the following:
“I think that we're not going to have another Cold War with Russia. But Russia's behavior is certainly outside the norms of behavior that we would expect for nations which are very wealthy, as Russia has become, because of their petro dollars. Now, long ago, I warned about Vladimir Putin. I said: I looked into his eyes and saw three letters - K G B... He has exhibited most aggressive behavior, obviously, in Georgia. I said before, watch Ukraine. Ukraine, right now, is in the sights of Vladimir Putin, those that want to reassemble the old Soviet Union.
We've got to show moral support for Georgia. We've got to show moral support for Ukraine. We've got to advocate for their membership in NATO. We have to make the Russians understand that there are penalties for these this kind of behavior, this kind of naked aggression into Georgia, a tiny country and a tiny democracy".

Barack Obama showed much less knowledge about post-soviet region. He declared that Russia should be one of the central issues of the US presidency. But as I could notice Mr. Obama have no real interest in post-soviet developments. Talking about post-soviet countries and satellites, which should become a priority for American help to develop the economies, he mentioned only three states – actually members of the European Union:
“I agree with Sen. McCain on many of the steps that have to be taken. But we can't just provide moral support. We've got to provide moral support to the Poles and Estonia and Latvia and all of the nations that were former Soviet satellites. We've also got to provide them with financial and concrete assistance to help rebuild their economies. Georgia in particular is now on the brink of enormous economic challenges. And some say that that's what Putin intended in the first place”.

In the same style Barack Obama gave an explanation of the situation in Georgia:
“Back in April, I put out a statement saying that the situation in Georgia was unsustainable because you had Russian peacekeepers in these territories that were under dispute. And you knew that if the Russians themselves were trying to obtain some of these territories or push back against Georgia, that that was not a stable situation. So part of the job of the next commander-in-chief, in keeping all of you safe, is making sure that we can see some of the 21st Century challenges and anticipate them before they happen”.

But the very last point of Mr. Obama have hit me directly in the heart. He proposed American citizens to fight Russia by… reducing the energy consumption:
“And one last point I want to make about Russia. Energy is going to be key in dealing with Russia. If we can reduce our energy consumption, that reduces the amount of petro dollars that they have to make mischief around the world. That will strengthen us and weaken them when it comes to issues like Georgia”.

The follow-by comment of McCain sounded much more promising as for Ukraine:
“Obviously energy is going to be a big, big factor. And Georgia and Ukraine are both major gateways of energy into Europe. And that's one of the reasons why it's in our interest. But the Russians, I think we can deal with them but they've got to understand that they're facing a very firm and determined United States of America that will defend our interests and that of other countries in the world”.

All I can say is that I hope that if Barack Obama become the President of United States, he will manage to find professional foreign politics counsellors to work with him in the White House.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Independence day

Just for information for readers of my blog. Due to some reasons yesterday I offered my resignation from the position of the Director of Foreign Affairs of Ukrainian MP’s Club “Parliament”. As for today I am planning to work as independent journalist to cover recent developments in Ukrainian politics and main trends of foreign policy of my state. I am sure that my new status will help me to continue to write and think freely, without any restrictions and self-censure.