Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ukraine will be a NATO member. Letter of the President of Ukraine published by the International Herald Tribune.

Viktor Yushchenko's letter will be printed tomorrow, but may be read online now: We're ready if you are - International Herald Tribune.
And one more link to the article appeared in print in the New York Times today - Claims of Secret Arms Sales Rattle Ukraine’s Leaders -

Orange fresh. Who is responsible for the failure of the Ukrainian democratic breakthrough of 2004?

Better late than never. Here is the topic I promised to write about yesterday, based on a letter of Joseph Gregg from San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Gregg is not a professional political analyst, but he is following the Ukrainian politics with a big interest. In the last two years he spent several months in Ukraine; he has also visited Russia a lot. In his letter addressed to me as an author of this web page, he expressed some thoughts about the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and the nature of failure of the Orange Revolution’ hopes and promises, and asked me for a follow-up opinion. At first, some quotations from the letter:

After the attempt on his life and subsequent events of Maidan, the goodwill of
the world was made available to him. Instead of promises delivered, he was
not interested in the running of the business of the country, only in its
ceremonial leadership with a tone of condescension. The shame is that
these things needed to be done are yet devalued by his other pernicious and ego
led actions. Convinced he is Messiah, he fails to notice no one longer

No matter whom you support, we are all embarrassed and diminished
by his actions to the PM. His latest protestations for her to
pay the Gazprom debt make him the lap dog of Medvedev at the expense of
every Ukrainian. It is as if he would gladly shout “Fire!" in a crowded
theater hoping someone might trample "the Braided One's" toes without even
momentary consideration of other lives that might be lost in the

The problems are huge, the solutions deceptively simple:
direct vote of the citizens for their representative to the VR; equality under
the law and the responsibility for it by elected officials and government
workers; a judiciary that is independent and righteous.

Let me start from the end. I agree that the problems Ukraine is facing today are huge, but the solutions are not as simple as it may seem. Ukraine is in need of deep structural reforms – yes, we have to improve our judicial system, but also we need structural economic reforms, new tax policy, land reform, changes in the model of local budgeting, re-building of a system of social security, new energy strategy, and a lot of other things, which are important and urgent. To accomplish these goals, first of all, we need the Parliament, which is able to work effectively. The experience of the last three years demonstrated that Ukraine will never get such a Parliament, using proportional system of vote – no matter, what kind of party list we would adopt (closed or open).

Ukrainian political parties do not have mass membership. They are built not on the values that have a strong public support, but around the charismatic leaders. “Batkivshchyna” party (and even Block of Yulia Tymoshenko) is nothing without Yulia Tymoshenko; the Party of Regions will break up without Viktor Yanukovych. The election of Viktor Yushchenko as an official leader of “Our Ukraine” is nothing more than an attempt to save the party, which is falling apart. All political system of Ukraine is highly corrupt, and even the essential democratic institutions like the Constitutional Court or Central Electoral Commission are fully packed with main parties’ protégés.

One of the public reasons of switching to the proportional voting system was the idea that it will help to build up a real party system in Ukraine. In fact, it just has led to the paralysing of the lawmaking branch of the state power. To cure that disease we should move back to majority vote – at least to give an opportunity for regional leaders to be present in the Verkhovna Rada, not selling themselves to any party (personality).

Next point I would like to mention concerns the President of Ukraine personally. I do not agree with people making from Viktor Yushchenko a kind of anti-hero, badly treating the country and innocent lady Prime Minister. For example, in the question of Russian Gazprom debt neither he nor she was an independent observer. The current non-transparent scheme of gas supply (and transit) in Ukraine was established after the Orange revolution, and was not changed in times when Yulia Tymoshenko was not a Prime Minister.

I agree that the ideals and promises of the Orange Revolution were ruined to a large extent because of Viktor Yushchenko personal weakness. Standing on Maydan, he declared that “criminals of Kuchma times” will be in prison, but in less than a half of a year he was shaking hands with people, whom he previously publicly called as thieves. In other words, he just failed to be tough with his opponents. The main problem of Viktor Yushchenko was that he talked a lot about the changes, but in fact didn’t change anything essentially. Except of his friends (the current team of Mr. Yushchenko is almost free from his comrades of Maydan times).

I want to believe that Viktor Yushchenko is a good person and a sincere patriot of Ukraine. But he is not good enough as the President. He would be a great leader of a country with well-developed democratic traditions, a country, which is not situated on the edge of geopolitical interests of the world powers. Ukraine is definitely not such a country. To govern Ukraine is a big challenge for every politician.

It’s easy to blame Viktor Yushchenko for political impotence. But let me remind that he wasn’t standing on Maydan alone. All the people leading the Orange Revolution are equally responsible for the weakness of today’s Ukraine. The leaders of the Orange revolution had a lot of nice-sounded slogans, but also a total absence of strategy on future governing. They asked us to shout, “Kuchma go away”, and “Yushchenko, yes!”, but in fact they didn’t even think, what to do after Leonid Kuchma would really go away. For almost four years the Orange leaders haven’t worked out a clear step-by-step plan on how to make Ukraine prosperous and democratic. They go on thinking how to get rid of each other. That’s the main problem of contemporary Ukraine. We are in terrible need of new fresh leaders who will end the deadlock. But there are no sigh of such a new movements. Just show me that growing-up centre of progress in Ukraine, and I will join this team.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Parliamentary cheating. What will and will not happen on the 2nd of December.

I was not blogging only for two days, but there are really a lot of things I want to say. First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Joseph Gregg from San Antonio, Texas for his letter and the ideas on Ukrainian politics (and one of its top-persons Viktor Yushchenko) he expressed. Mr. Gregg gave his kind permission to be quoted on this website, and I will be pleased to share his thoughts with the readers of my blog, and to have their feedback also. I’m going to post this new discussion-topic on this page later today, but now let me give a couple of ideas about current situation in the Parliament of Ukraine.

As the next parliamentary sitting is approaching, Ukrainian politicians, analysts, and journalists are trying to predict if any coalition is to be formed on 2 December, and if any person is to be elected as a Speaker of Verkhovna Rada. Yesterday I met with one of my ex-colleagues, who’s rather informed about the development of a dialogue between parliamentary factions. When I asked him what did he think on the future of Parliament, he gave a rather interesting answer.

So, according to his predictions, Volodymyr Lytvyn (the leader of a parliamentary block of the same name) will not be elected as a Speaker, although his candidature was supported publicly by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Moreover, nobody will be elected as a Speaker on 2 December. The Parliament will be left “on the hook” at least for a week or two. Or more. Then as an “urgent measure to save the country’s economy” a coalition between the Block of Julia Tymoshenko (BYT) and the “Party of Regions” (PR) of Viktor Yanukovych will be formed. This pact may be strengthened by a part of President’s faction “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence”. Volodymyr Lytvyn and his block will not join this coalition, as he will not have any political and practical dividends from that. The government will be re-structured to change “people of President” for people from the PR. After a while the Parliament will change the Constitution of Ukraine in order to switch to the pure parliamentary democracy, and to elect the President in Parliament. Posts of the President and Prime Minister will be divided between Mrs. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovych. Also they will divide all the Ukraine (areas of political and business interests), and will live long and happy. The end.

I would like to add that the idea of coalitioning of Mrs. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovych has been widely discussed in Ukraine for a long time. But previously personally I didn’t believe in that. My logic was the following: building of the coalition with the Party of Regions is surely an effective step in law-making process (as both parties have very strict party discipline, and may perform a positive vote on any topic their leaders would agree), but it will harm the image of Yulia Tymoshenko dramatically. Viktor Yanukovych was one of the guys the Orange Revolution and Maydan were about, and the electorate of BYT is consisted of people who believe in the ideals and promises of the Orange Revolution. Taking to the account the presidential ambitions of Julia Tymoshenko, the coalition with Yanukovych may lead her to failure.

But if the goal of the new coalition is to change the type of democracy, and to establish pure parliamentary republic, there is no need to care about electoral ratings. And that makes the coalition to look like a very well constructed step. But very cynical also, I should add. The BYT-PR coalition will be also supported by Russia as less nationally oriented. Actually that’s not good for Ukrainian independence, both economic and political. But in a short-term it may look like even profitable for Ukraine to fight crisis more effectively, using Russian gas at low-price again.

Anyway there are some contra-arguments. First of all, even if such a coalition is to be formed, it may not be liveable. Both political powers (and their leaders) don’t trust each other, and don’t respect each other. Secondly, there are really no rules in today’s Ukrainian politics. Every plan may be approved, but changed two hours later. Even this very moment a new way for development of political situation in Ukraine may be discussed.

P.S. One more question: and what about Viktor Yushchenko? May Ukraine come back to the situation of late 2004?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No way? Ukraine will not receive MAP-proposal during the NATO Summit next week, but may join the Alliance much more faster than we could predict.

The Council on Foreign Relations, an influential American think tank, published a very interesting interview yesterday called "NATO Foreign Ministers Unlikely to Push Georgia, Ukraine Membership". The U.S. ambassador to the NATO during the Clinton administration Robert E. Hunter is talking with Bernard Gwertzman, a former foreign editor and diplomatic correspondent at the New York Times, about future meeting of Alliance’s foreign ministers on 2-3 December, and the possibility for Ukraine to get the Membership Action Plan proposal.

“I don’t think anybody wants to run the risk of giving the Russians a pretext to do what they did against Georgia. Nor do people want to pretend that Ukraine is anywhere near ready to join NATO. Nor are NATO countries ready to give a security commitment to Ukraine”, Mr. Hunter emphasized. Though it is not new information for Ukrainians anymore.

Georgia is an out-of-the-way part of the world, which no one in the alliance, we discovered last summer, is prepared to defend. Ukraine, by contrast, is in Central Europe. It is on the classic invasion routes to and from different countries there, and it is very important that the Russians understand that doing something similar to what they did in Georgia, or even a good deal less, would call into question the fundamental understandings that were worked out in the last fifteen or so years, since the end of the Cold War”, he added. But “at the moment, no one really sees Ukraine or Georgia coming into NATO”, Robert E. Hunter assured. First of all, “Ukraine is having lots of internal problems. In Ukraine, NATO membership is not something that is particularly popular”.

Would countries really be willing to fight for Georgia or for Ukraine, under circumstances of foreign aggression? In Georgia's case, the answer is clearly no. In Ukraine, how do you convince the Russians that the answer is “yes” without actually doing things that might make a Russian intervention more likely? And that would include bringing Ukraine prematurely into NATO”, Mr. Hunter assumes. The link to the interview is right here.

The same day the International Herald Tribune published another article which demonstrates that the US didn't give up the very idea to grant MAP to Ukraine and Georgia. Judy Dempsey reports from Berlin that "the United States has started a diplomatic offensive among NATO capitals in Europe, urging top diplomats to offer Georgia and Ukraine membership to the alliance without first fulfilling requirements under the Membership Action Plan".

"In an unexpected new initiative, Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, has already held lengthy telephone conversations with French and German and other senior envoys, asking them to discard the Membership Action Plan", according to the NATO diplomats. It was not clear whether she or anyone else from the State Department had discussed the move with the incoming Obama administration.

"NATO envoys are already divided over the U.S. initiative. Up to 10 countries, including France, Germany, Norway, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy, opposed the proposal during a meeting Tuesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels", the newspaper states.

The link to this article: U.S. starts diplomatic offensive on NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine - International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bad association. EU to sign Association Agreement not only with Ukraine, but also with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and even Belarus

On 3 December the European Commission is going to present its draft communiqué on the Eastern Partnership (EP) policy. The EC is to propose pulling the six post-Soviet neighbours – Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Belarus – closer to the West, to recognize their “European aspirations” and to create a new “European Economic Area”. This decision ruined the Ukrainian dream to establish “special relationship” with the European Union.
Previously, a mutual consent to call a new enhanced document to be signed by Ukraine and the EU “the Association Agreement” was interpreted in Kiev as a great achievement of Ukrainian diplomacy.

Our top officials are still talking about the Association as an essential step on the way to membership in the European Union. Most of them, including President, Prime minister and Foreign Affairs Minister use even a word combination “Associative membership in the EU” to emphasize the importance of the document. Now they should feel at least uncomfortable for saying that: the Eurocomission proposes to sign Association Agreements not only with its close and democratic neighbour Ukraine, but also with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Georgia, and Belarus with its semi-dictator Lukashenko.

So, instead of “special relationship” Ukraine is to receive a marginal status of “Eastern partner” of the European Union. “The conclusion of Association Agreements will be without prejudice to the partners' European aspirations”, the EU is declaring. Even the negotiations on Free Trade Area or free visa regime will be conducted in frames of the Eastern Partnership policy.

The EUObserver’s article with quotations of draft Commission communication on the EP may be read here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Window Dressing. What I didn’t like about 22 November Holodomor Memory Day.

Just for better understanding of my previous posts’ intonations, let me explain why I personally didn’t accept the Holodomor Remembrance Day on 22 November. That day I didn’t visit any of big events on the open air, in museum, opera or church. I didn’t light a candle as was suggested and didn’t put it on a window. It’s not because I don’t respect victims of the Holodomor, or don’t recognise it as a terrible crime. It is because this suddenly established Remembrance Day turned up to become a kind of huge “celebration” with strange and unnatural rituals.

There is no reason to invent artificial dates of memory and sorrow. In every religion there are special days to pray for people who left our world. The Holodomor Day of 22 November is surely an artificial thing, not supported by the Ukrainian society. I don’t know a single person who took the appeals of our officials seriously. All the events around this date – opening of huge and expensive memorials, big TV-screens in all the capitals of regions, translating films and documentaries about the Holodomor, thousands of guests and the all-country mourning with the ban on all not-sad TV programs, etc – reminds me a Soviet-time events, participation in which was obligatory for everyone.

There are a lot of questions. Why this day was scheduled on 22 November? Why not, for example, 23rd or 24th, or 25th? Why not December, or January, or February (when a critical point of hunger was reached)? And, for God’s sake, why this day is called “an Anniversary” in English copies of official documents?

Holodomor of 1932-33 is one of the worst pages of the history of Ukraine. It’s hard to imagine how people, who were ruling Bolshevik’s USSR, came to the very idea to kill peasants by leaving them without food. It’s scaring to think how that innocent victims were trying just to stay alive during almost two years, and to support their families and children. When I was a child, my father’s mother Lydia Pogorila told me how my grand-grandfather took all the family gold and went to the Western Ukraine, where he exchanged it for food. My mother’s mother Polina Orel (she left us 10 years ago) also saved memories about her mother, trying to make a flavour from some herbs and cook a kind of bread for her children. Thanks to God, nobody died in my family from both sides. But people did dye in their neighbourhoods, and it’s a fact. I keep their memories about those sad days, and I will tell these stories to my children.

I am very proud that, after such a terrible times, our grandparents – Ukrainian nation – found a power to go on, to live and love again, and to smile again. They never “celebrated” that horror times by lighting candles and cursing “the enemies”. They just tried to live their lives on the basis of the eternal human values, and were teaching their children to forgive and forget.

We, Ukrainians, have respect for Holodomor victims in our hearts. There is no need to be taught by anyone (is it President or whoever), how exactly we should remember this or that.

Meanwhile, I do know the answer to the question, why the Holodomor Remembrance Day was scheduled on 22 November. We should not forget that the same day previously was called the Liberty Day – to mark the Orange Revolution anniversary. Why the Orange holiday was almost forgotten? The answer is very simple. The inspirers of the Orange Revolution didn’t want to stay again on Maydan (the main square of Kiev) together.

Main leaders of the Orange Revolution preferred to hide behind the shadows of the Holodomor victims, than to come back to Maydan and to look into the eyes of Ukrainians who were standing there four years ago, who believed them blindly and took them to power. Now it’s time to report on the work they were supposed to do since 2004. But they’ve got just nothing to say.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What’s up, Ukraine? (15-22 November 2008)

Eternal Memory. Ukraine commemorates the 75th anniversary of Holodomor.
On 22 November Ukraine marked the anniversary of the start of a Soviet-era artificially organised famine – Holodomor – that killed millions of people in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan in 1932-33. The terrible cruel famine had a goal to force peasants to join collective farms. As a "breadbasket" of the Soviet Union, Ukraine suffered the most. Holodomor killed from 3 to 10 million of people. "This was not death through hunger – this was murder of people through hunger," the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko said in his speech. Among the guests at the event were President of Poland Lech Kaczynski, President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers, President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili, speakers of foreign parliaments, representatives of international organizations, foreign state officials, and diplomats.

Parliamentary holidays. The Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada) decided to make a break until the 2nd of December.
On 20 November Ukrainian MP’s were supposed to elect new Speaker, following the dismissal of Arseniy Yatseniuk. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the plenary was closed and a new one was scheduled on 2 December.

“Topping” for crisis. The price of Russian gas for Ukraine may be more than $400 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Ukraine received an answer from the Russian authorities for non-friendly statements and media interviews. The President of Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev said that if Ukraine does not repays the $ 2.4 billion debt, direct gas supplies to Ukraine will be cut off. The Head of Russian gas monopoly Gasprom Alexei Miller added also that the price for natural gas for Ukraine may rise from the current $179.5 per 1,000 cubic meters to over $400.
Naftogas Ukraine (“Oil and Gas of Ukraine”) company rejected the mentioned amount of debt, and said in a statement on Friday there is actually $1.267 billion of debt, but it is owed not to Gazprom, but to an intermediary company RosUkrEnergo. “Naftogaz Ukrainy points out that in 2008, the only supplier of natural gas imported to Ukraine is RosUkrEnergo Company,” press service of Naftogas Ukraine informs.
Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko previously declared that Ukraine had reached an agreement with Russian Federation to switch to market gas prices step by step during next three years. The Head of Naftogas Ukraine Oleg Dubyna predicted that the gas price for Ukraine will not grow more than to $250-300 for 1,000 cubic meters.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has immediately accused Tymoshenko in “irresponsible actions” that permitted the accumulation of the debt. “I want to warn that such practice leads to colonization of Ukraine,” he declared at the country’s Security Council meeting on 21 November. One should fight corruption in the gas sphere, and move to transparent contracts, not to transfer all the responsibility to Government”, answered Yulia Tymoshenko the same day, being with official visit in Sweden.

The ghost from Kiev. Viktor Yanukovych visited Moscow.
The Party of Regions has almost ruined a years of work of its PR officers to eliminate the party's strictly pro-Russian image on the West. On 20 November the Head of the Party Viktor Yanukovych visited Moscow to take part in the 10th Congress of the United Russia party and to meet the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ukraine is playing with anti-Russian rhetoric

Five influential European newspapers ‘The Times’ (Great Britain), ‘Le Monde’ (France), ‘El Pais’ (Spain), ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ (Germany), and ‘Dziennik’ (Poland), published today the interviews of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, based on their joint meeting two days ago (on 18 November). The main topics of discussion were the 75th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine (Holodomor), Ukrainian bid for NATO membership and internal political and economic situation in country. Talking about these issues, President Yushchenko couldn’t manage himself not to be anti-Russian.

Among all the articles the real “must read” is the one in ‘El Pais’ named “Ucrania quiere garantías para no perder de nuevo su independencia” (“Ukraine wants the guarantees not to loose its independence”). Mr. Yushchenko told journalists that Ukraine needed to become a member of the North-Atlantic Alliance not to loose its independence. The most impressive – as for me – quotation of Viktor Yushchenko from this text concerns the letter of Dmitry Medvedev, mentioned in this blog: “The President of Russia humiliated millions of people who rest in peace, killed innocent people who had not done anything wrong to anyone”. (In the original: “El presidente de Rusia humilla a millones de personas que hoy descansan en paz, inocentes asesinados que no debían nada a nadie”).

The idea that the NATO may save Ukrainian independence from the Northern neighbour was quoted also in ‘The Times’. In article titled “Don’t turn deaf ear to Ukraine Nato bid, Viktor Yushchenko begs allies” the President “gave warning that expansion of the military alliance was vital to European security in the wake of Russia’s war with Georgia, and the only way to secure Ukraine’s independence”.

I’m just wondering why Mr. Yushchenko is so straight in his words. He may not like Dmitry Medvedev or Vladimir Putin, or all Russia as a whole phenomenon, but why he’s showing that on public?

To be pro-Ukrainian doesn’t mean to be anti-Russian. It is a mistake to demonstrate your national consciousness through international conflict. It’s twice big mistake if a half (if not more) of the population of your country speaks Russian at home. (Just for information: I speak Ukrainian). And it’s a three times big mistake, if you are provoking conflict with your neighbour who sells you gas, and whose businessmen own almost all oil refineries in your country. Ukraine is really playing with fire.

You may read full ‘El Pais’ article here, and ‘The Times’ here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Presidential Absenteeism. Following Dmitry Medvedev, foreign Presidents keep refusing to attend Ukrainian Holodomor anniversary

The International Forum “My Nation Will Live Forever” dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the 1932 - 1933 Great Famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine will take place in Kyiv on 22 November. It will be a huge event, with thousands of estimated guests from all over the world. As was previously announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Presidents of seven countries, namely Macedonia, Estonia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, confirmed their participation in the Forum. The participation of another 5 foreign delegations headed by Presidents was being discussed. The President’s press secretary Iryna Vannykova also said “the representatives of around 40 countries who were personally invited by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, will come to Ukraine”.

But the situation has been changing. More and more of high guests are refusing to visit Kyiv this week. Some Presidents, who previously accepted the invitation, have recently decided not to go.

The first President who publicly announced that he would not be present at the anniversary, was the President of Russian Federation Dmitriy Medvedev. He even wrote to President Yushchenko a rather critical letter to explain his point of view on a subject. (Some quotations and link to the English translation of the letter you may find here). The Presidents of Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Montenegro had cancelled their visits also.

Director of the Foreign Ministry's department for cultural cooperation Mykhailo Skurativskyi informed journalists today that the Presidents of three countries – Poland, Georgia, and Latvia – will surely attend International Forum. The confirmation from the President of Lithuania is expected soon. “A total of 25 official delegations had confirmed their participation in the forum”, Mr. Skurativskyi told. “The delegations will be mostly led by parliament speakers, vice speakers, and ministers”.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's up, Ukraine? (8-14 November 2008)

1. The Headless Parliament. Arseniy Yatseniuk is dismissed from the post of Head of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
My point of view on a situation you may read in one of my previous posts here.

2. President announces the government change. The results of 4th Baku Energy Summit.
On 13-14 November the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko visited Azerbaijan to take part in 4th Energy Summit. Unfortunately, the main news from the Summit for Ukraine can not be put in frames of energy issues.
In his interview to journalists Yushchenko said that switching of the Odesa-Brody pipeline to avers (forward) mode has been blockading because of political motives. He expressed opinion that such attitude is explained by “political promises and obligations” of the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. “The consultations, the Prime Minister had before September in certain capitals and the decisions, the government made after that… blocked transportation of Caspian oil”, the President said.
Viktor Yushchenko also mentioned that “starting from the end of the first half of the 2009, we will be supplied with amounts of oil needed to start the avers mode. I am assured that that time we will have a new Government, which will be able to realise a healthy politics that corresponds to the national interests”.

3. NATO: yes, but not today. On 13 November 2008 the Minister of Defence of Ukraine Yuriy Yekhanurov took part in the high-level NATO-Ukraine meeting in Tallinn, capital of Estonia.
The main conclusion of the Summit: Ukraine has a lot to do before it will be ready to become member of the NATO. Ukraine was hoping to join the bloc’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the NATO Summit in December with the US support. But other influential members of NATO (like Germany and France) are thinking that to start the MAP with Russia’s neighbour is not a good idea as for today.
“Let me remind you that at the Bucharest Summit earlier this year, NATO heads of state and government welcomed Ukraine Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO and agreed that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance,” stressed NATO secretary general de Hoop Scheffer. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates also emphasiced his country’s support for Georgian and Ukrainian membership. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that “the fact that Ukraine is here today with NATO ministers of defence should convince everyone that NATO understands Ukraine's importance to European security… We should consider how to move beyond the current deadlock over timelines and political symbols.”
So, everyone is thinking positively. It means that Ukraine will become member of NATO in future. May I remind that the EU leaders also promised that Turkey will become member of the European Union. The question is about time-frames. Ukrainian NATO membership bid is really very complicated by internal political crisis and – what is more important – a lack of public support. It seems to me, we do have time to change the situation for better.

4. Holodomor: Distorted History. On 17 November the President of Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev wrote a letter to the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko.
I’ll just give English translation of the most interesting parts of this letter. No comments:
“In response to your messages concerning the so-called Holodomor as well as the steps taken by the Ukrainian leadership on the issue, I consider it necessary to elaborate on our views of and approaches to the issues at hand. We clearly see that in recent years this topic combined with persistent attempts to receive a NATO «membership action plan», have become a central element of Ukrainian foreign policy.
In our opinion, the tragic events of the early 1930s in Ukraine are being used to achieve immediate short-term political goals.
The famine in the Soviet Union in 1932-1933 was not aimed at the destruction of any one nation. It was the result of a drought, forced collectivization and de-kulakization [campaign of political repressions of the better-off peasants and their families] and affected the entire country, not only Ukraine. Millions of people in the middle and lower Volga regions, northern Caucasus, central Russia, southern Urals, western Siberia, Kazakhstan and Belarus died.
I do not consider it possible to participate in the activities surrounding the 75th anniversary of the «Holodomor» in Ukraine”.
Full text of this letter (translated to English) you may read on the official website of the President of Russia here.

5. Yulia Tymoshenko met George Soros.
As Ukrainian media have informed, on 8 November Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko met with famous billionaire George Soros. The meeting took place in Kiev, but not in a center, but in a restaurant near Boryspil airport. Ukrainska Pravda informs that the meeting was confidential, and a role of the interpreter performed the Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine Hryhoriy Nemyria (who previously worked as a head of Soros Foundation's institution in Ukraine). One of the main reasons of a meeting is future presidential election in Ukraine, journalists think.
President Victor Yushchenko is also tapping the same door. On 14 November we held a phone conversation with the newly elected President of the USA Barack Obama (George Soros was among his financial donors). Victor Yushchenko and Barack Obama agreed to hold a bilateral meeting shortly after the inauguration ceremony of the new President of the USA.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Viktor Yanukovych backs Viktor Yushchenko’s image?

“I don’t want to believe that Viktor Yushchenko wanted the resignation of Head of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine”, this is how the ex-Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk commented the situation around his dismissal in an interview for one of Ukrainian TV channels on 13 November 2008. “And moreover (I don’t want to believe. – T.V.) that he gave such a command”.

It seems to me nobody wants us to believe that.

Even the biggest enemy of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko at times of the Orange Revolution, and the main opposition leader as for the current moment Viktor Yanukovych. At least, the statement of leader of the Party of Regions on 13 November sounded very supportive towards President. “Yushchenko called me from Warsaw (on 12 November. – T.V.) and asked me to stop a process of dismissal of Yatseniuk and to have consultations. I refused to do that”, said Yanukovych.

Nevertheless, Arseniy Yatseniuk didn’t give any answer to a question on possibility for a new political party he’s going to form to join Yushchenko’s block at snap parliamentary election.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Parliament of Ukraine: The Headless Horseman

Speaker of Ukrainian Parliament Arseniy Yatseniuk was dismissed on 12 November. New Head of the Parliament has not been elected yet. Ukrainian parliamentary democracy – and a country Ukraine as a whole – is now again on the political hook. Analysing current situation I’ve got at least 14 conclusions:

1. As for today in the Parliament of Ukraine does exist a kind of “technical coalition”, which actually dismissed Speaker Yatseniuk.

2. This “technical coalition” consists of the factions of the Party of Regions (175 Members of Parliament), the Communist Party (27 MPs), the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn (20 MPs), and also of a part of pro-presidential faction “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence” (OU-PS), loyal to Head of the Secretariat of President Viktor Baloha (10 MPs; total size of faction – 72 MPs), plus at least 1 MP from the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT, total size of faction – 156 MPs).
Total: 233 MPs.

3. Only 217 of MPs didn’t vote for the Speaker’s dismissal. It is not enough to build an “alternative” coalition.

4. Despite of all the controversial info on alleged quarrel between President Yushchenko and Head of his staff Viktor Baloha, Viktor Yushchenko was definitely involved in taking the decision on the future of Arseniy Yatseniuk.

5. At least, Viktor Yushchenko did know that the Speaker was to be dismissed. Otherwise Mr. Baloha would not be a Chief of President’s Secretariat anymore.

6. Viktor Baloha may lose his post after signing the coalition treaty with the mentioned group of factions leaded by the Party of Regions. But it will not mean that President is against this coalition.

7. The “technical coalition” may stay only “technical” or “situational”, and may never be legalised. As to my mind, a new coalition treaty will not be signed in the mentioned format, but all the “company” may vote synchronically on previously discussed and agreed questions.

8. The “technical coalition” will elect so-called “Technical Speaker” to make the results of their votes legitimate. (As only Head of the Parliament have a right to sign laws adopted by the Parliament).

9. The formation of technical or real coalition without BYT does not mean an inevitable dismissal of the Government and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. It’s easy to blame her in all the negative consequences of economy crisis and to harm her rating for future (current) presidential race.

10. Using a well known in Ukraine word combination “I’m leaving (this post. – T.V.) to be back”, previously used by Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko, ex-Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk have declared his presidential ambitions. But they are unlikely to be realised in a nearest future.

11. Yulia Tymoshenko already blamed President for a “betrayal” and for a “final ruining of any hope on a democratic coalition revival”. There at least two ways for her now: to make a “technical arrangement” with a “technical coalition”, and to stay in power or to fight with the Party of Regions and their new friends publicly, which will lead to resignation of the Government.

12. Third way, profitable for Julia Tymoshenko – snap parliamentary election. Her recent rhetoric (as well as the statements of members of BYT) shows that she may choose this way, trying to look as an innocent victim of President’s game.

13. Early parliamentary elections are inevitable. But the poll will definitely not happen this year. All the politicians need time for more populism.

14. Ukraine is in urgent need of a new generation of politicians to overcome “dirty game” tendencies, deep-rooted in Ukrainian politics.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hard hit. The IMF officials talk on Ukrainian economy

This morning I’ve finally read a transcript of a Press Conference on IMF Executive Board Approval of the Standby Arrangement for Ukraine, with participation of Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, IMF Mission Chief for Ukraine and Mark Flanagan, Deputy Mission Chief for Ukraine. It was held in Washington on Thursday, 6 November 2008. I would like to share a couple of quotations of mentioned IMF officials.

On current state of Ukrainian economy
Ukraine is a very open economy and has been hit hard with the global economic slowdown and the financial turmoil… Ukraine's economy has grown very rapidly since 2000, expanding more than 7 percent on average. However, by mid-2008, the economy was overheating with rapid credit growth, inflation exceeding 30 percent, very high wage growth, and surging imports. This led to a 7 percent of GDP current account deficit in the second quarter of 2008. At the same time, household and corporate borrowing increased and was mainly in foreign currency. With the sharp decline in commodity prices, especially steel, and the global financial turmoil, this had a considerable impact on the real sector in Ukraine as reflected in the sharp 5 percent contraction of the manufacturing sector in September. After the sixth-largest bank was put under receivership, deposit outflows increased, credit ratings were downgraded, and at the same time, confidence in the country's banking system and currency weakened substantially.

On the worst-case scenario
The worst-case scenario for Ukraine is obviously if the global conditions continue to deteriorate and that there is further deleveraging in terms of the global financial sector. The authority's program already includes a sharp decline in steel prices. The program has actually incorporates most of the new WEO assumptions except the gas and oil prices are higher in the program compared to the new WEO assumptions. So that actually gives a positive impact going forward in terms of higher growth and lower inflation. The key is to balance the adjustment in the exchange rate against the balance sheet mismatches.

On a possibility of a default
The public-sector debt is low compared to other countries; it is about 10 percent of GDP. The private sector does have large external debt service over the coming years. The authorities have been monitoring these carefully. Some of the external debt is from the banks' parents in European countries and the parent banks seem to be committed to their subsidiaries in Ukraine. In our discussions, we were told that they would be rolling over the credit lines to their subsidiaries.
In terms of the corporate sector, a large part of this external debt is actually intracompany loans and that will depend very much on the strength of corporate balance sheets and how many of these loans are actually the companies' own deposits in offshore accounts. This is a difficult component to know exactly in order to calculate rollover assumptions. But with a comprehensive program, especially with a strong bank recapitalization component, there should be possibilities for refinancing for the real sector.
The current conditions show the banking system is adequately capitalized according to the NBU inspections. But going forward as the situation changes, there may be a need for higher capital, and precisely because of that the program has a component of preemptive recapitalization to avoid the spiral of capital crunch, credit crunch, which could lead to the corporate sector not being able to refinance their loans.

The IMF prognosis
Inflation is expected to decrease to 17 percent by the end of 2009 from the projected 25 percent this year. The current account is expected to compress to about 2 percent the GDP deficit from the mid-2008 level of 7 percent.
We assume a global recovery in the second half of 2009 and with that the Ukrainian economy could be back at its estimated potential growth rate of about 5 to 6 percent by 2011 with inflation at single digits. Current account deficits are projected to remain small in 2010.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What’s up, Ukraine? (3 – 7 November 2008)

I haven’t been blogging from Tuesday, but it doesn’t mean that nothing happened in Ukraine during this time. I may say that much more should have been done, taking to the account the crisis situation in the country. Here are some highlights of the week from 3 to 7 November 2008.
Long-waited money. On 5 November the IMF Executive Board approved a Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine for US$16.4 billion.
It was a predictable decision. One interesting moment – the final negotiations were made not by Prime Minister or some member of the Government, but by Head of the Verkhovna Rada Arseniy Yatseniuk who previously didn’t take active part in talks with the IMF. A public reaction of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to the transatlantic voyage of Speaker Yatseniuk was rather calm (actually after the crisis had started, she didn’t make any rough statements at all, maybe trying to preserve her rating). Tymoshenko just noticed that the IMF decision was a result of “almost round-the-clock work of the Government and the National Bank with the INF mission”, not mentioning President, his office or Mr. Yatseniuk.

Switched-off democracy. Russian TV channels were cut-off and then turned on back to the Ukrainian media space.
On 1st of November Russian cable TV channels’ broadcasting had been cut off in Ukraine, following a decision of the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council (NRTR). All the main Russian TV channels – Channel One, RTR, REN-TV, TV-Centre and TNT – were banned. NRTR explained the necessity for the Ukrainian cable TV operators to stop broadcasting the mentioned channels because they “violate Ukrainian copyright laws”, and also don’t provide Ukrainian-language subtitling.
I didn’t watch Russian channels a lot, so, it was not a big loss for me personally. But I think it’s really stupid just to switch them off because they are produced in Russia and use Russian language. The fact that it IS a discrimination of media on a political ground is easy to prove – for example, nobody switched off the CNN or the Euronews, though they do have a lot of advertising (not paying any fees in Ukraine of course) and don’t provide Ukrainian subtitling. I am not pro-Russian or something, I also think that some times Russian news are not loyal to Ukraine and its politics, but to switch the Russians off for political reasons is not democratic at all. The tendency was really frightening.
In a middle of the week two of the Russian channels – Channel One and REN-TV – were back. Thanks to the negative public reaction, and also the work of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But the broadcast allowance, according to the NRTR, in only permanent. It may happen that the channels will be switched off again in accordance to a new early parliamentary elections date (the elections will be definitely held next year).

Gaddafi visits Kiev. The Leader of the Lybian Revolution Muammar Gaddafi returned home on Thursday evening after visiting Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
In Ukraine, the last and longest stop of the seven-day trip, Gaddafi met with President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and other officials: lot of talks, but no real outcome. Viktor Yushchenko had made to Gaddafi his favourit proposal he’s making almost to all the foreign presidents he meets – to establish an oil refinery at Western borders of Ukraine (to give job to Ukrainian oil pipeline Odessa-Brody, very ambitious project that has no chances to be realised).
During a press conference in Kiev on Thursday, the Leader mentioned that Libya profits from competition of Western and ex-Soviet nations for access to its lucrative arms market. Also Gaddafi said he predicted the victory of Barack Obama in his Green Book, published in the 1970s. “Everything that is happening now was written in the Green Book 30 years ago already,” Gaddafi said at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital. “And the Green Book says that dark-skinned people will rule the world.”

Big friend of Georgia. President Yushchenko is accused in accepting 4x4 bribe.
Valery Konovaliuk, Member of Parliament of Ukraine (the Party of Regions) said in an interview with the Russian “Izvestia” daily that Viktor Yushchenko sold weapons to Georgia with a 20% discount in exchange for two luxury Land Rover cars, according to a parliamentary inquiry. The prise of the gifts – $100,000 each. Yushchenko's press secretary, Irina Vannikova, released a statement saying the Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, has never given the Ukrainian president Land Rovers as gifts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Snap parliamentary elections are not forgotten in Ukraine

After a joint vote in favour of an anti-crisis law by three parliamentary faction – Presidential OU-PS, Prime minister’s Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT) and People’s party of Volodymyr Lytvyn – all the weekend in Ukraine was dedicated to the discussion on whether a new democratic coalition will be formed in Ukrainian parliament. Some people were also mentioning a "secret meeting" of President and Prime minister, where they had allegedly reached an agreement not to have early elections and to try to keep parliament working. Even on Monday analytics were trying to calculate whether a uniting (at least between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko forces) is possible. But the same day this dream was ruined: at first, by a person from President’s Administration and at second, by Viktor Yushchenko himself.

The first newsmaker was Deputy Head of the Secretariat of President of Ukraine Andriy Kyslynskyi. “The adoption of anti-crisis law can not be seen as a renovation of the Verkhovna Rada’s ability to work”, he told at the press conference on Monday morning. “It means that the ground on which the Decree on early termination of credentials of the Parliament was signed has not lost its actuality.”

The Constitution of Ukraine provides the only legitimate way out of political crisis – early election. Election is as an instrument, not an end in itself. No imitation of work of the lawmakers, blocking of a tribune or frightening by the economic problems can put obstacles in the way of democratic procedures… We learned that more than 1,5 years ago, when the Government of Viktor Yanukovych had used the same arguments as the Government of Tymoshenko today”, Mr. Kyslynskyi has added.

After that speech of the Secretariat’ functionary one might think that the officials are declaring the things the President simply is a bit concerned to tell by himself. But this guess was also broken very soon. Giving a press conference in a little Western Ukrainian town of Vyzhnytsia (Bukovyna region), Viktor Yushchenko told that he doesn’t see any political force in the parliament who is in favour of the current Prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, except of faction of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko.

I am sure: if Prime minister had acted honestly towards the coalition, hadn’t negotiated behind-the-scene, hadn’t taken consultations how to turn the course of Ukraine to another direction, this coalition would have worked for a long time”, said Viktor Yushchenko. He added that his faction OU-PS doesn’t want to come back to coalition, because it has no trust to ex-partners: that’s why the early election is the only constitutional way out.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween in Ukrainian style. Part 2.

As I’ve promised, here is the second part of my impressions from the live TV programme with participation of all the main actors of a global show named Ukrainian Politics. Near 1 AM on 1st of November President Viktor Yushchenko had a possibility to give a conclusion speech, which was supposed to resume all the 4-hours-long talks on economic and political crisis in Ukraine.

“If you only knew how it is difficult to work as President of Ukraine,” were the very first words of a night declaration of Mr. Yushchenko. Almost all his following speech demonstrated how exactly he understands this uneasy role. It seems to me that Viktor Yushchenko feels like no more, no less but a pure conscience of a nation, standing above all persons and processes in the country and having a right to judge and blame everyone and everything – without any personal responsibility.

First hint that I want to mention is the most likely not planned but occasionally sounded out will of Viktor Yushchenko to push
Yulia Tymoshenko down from a post of Prime minister in near future. Talking about an economic crisis, he underlined that “there are a list of measures to be taken by the Government, whoever will lead it”. “Who caused that (the crisis in Ukraine. – T.V.)? World crisis? It’s lye. All the crisis is sitting here,” prolonged President pointing on all the politicians present.

The point of view of Viktor Yushchenko on a government property is also worth to notice. I completely do not agree with the following statement: “The worst owner that could ever exist is a state”. And how about the strategic economic sectors and profitable state enterprises, Mr. Yushchenko?

I would like to bring attention to the “poetry” style of guarantor of the Constitution of Ukraine. I don’t know who wrote that exact speech for him, maybe it was an impromptu, but Viktor Yushchenko said the following: “The Government plunged into debts like a bitch into fleas” (Ukr.: Набрався боргів, як сучка блох”). Nice, huh?

The conclusion of a speech was not very pleasant at all. From the role of independent high arbiter President moved to prosecutor. “Shaking hands with you, I would like not to count my fingers after that (meaning that one or more might be stolen. – T.V.)”, addressed he to the BYT, looking not directly to Yulia Tymoshenko but to leader of BYT parliamentary faction Ivan Kyrylenko sitting not too close to him. “Not a world crisis destroyed us this year, but a social populism”, declared President, this time appealing in a Prime minister’s direction.

I wonder how people who even cannot talk to each other in a normal way – even on public – may lead the country out of a crisis to a better future.

P.S. President didn’t even use a word combination “snap election”. Conclusion: there will be no early parliamentary elections, at least in December 2008.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween in Ukrainian style. Part 1.

One of the features of contemporary Ukrainian top-politics is a strong commitment to epistolary genre. If President wants to say something to Prime minister, he will not call her or schedule a meeting, au contraire, he will write an official letter mentioning all the points of discontent and criticism. The answer will be most probably given also in a form of a letter or with help of mass media. Members of parliament, party leaders and other politicians very often use the format of open letters to say something to their opponents.

Generally speaking, Ukrainian politics has a big problem with communication (in particular, with interpersonal communication) between the main players. But yesterday all the Ukrainians witnessed an unprecedented democratic achievement: all the political “top managers” of Ukraine appeared in a live TV-show.

President, Prime minister, Speaker of Verkhovna Rada, leaders of opposition – all of them spent the beginning of Halloween night talking about economy crisis in Ukraine. The programme started at 21.30 and lasted almost for 4 hours. During that time nobody left the studio. The closing speech of President finished at 01.24. Pretty late.
I was waiting much more from that evening. The main part of the show appeared to me rather boring and not very dynamic. Everyone was talking exactly what he (or she) was supposed to say. No breaking news, no lively noticeable discussion. That’s why I did have a plenty of time to notice a lot of interesting details, including strangeness of a decorations.

The President Viktor Yushchenko was sitting in a massive chair on a kind of a big podium, surrounded with two flags. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko had a chair near the podium on the left from President, and the Head of Parliament Arseniy Yatseniuk – on his right. It resembled very much a throne of some fairy tale king and looked strange and pretentious. Maybe President’s aides were thinking that it should emphasize the presidential power, who knows. But I’ve suddenly thought that the previous President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, the main anti-hero of the Orange revolution, never made such a show from his TV appearances.
Other noticeable politicians, including leader of the People’s Party Volodymyr Lytvyn and the leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych – were situated on the opposite side of a throne, sitting in rows on a simple chairs. The Chairman of the Communists Party of Ukraine Petro Symonenko was not invited, though communists are noticeably represented in Parliament.

The most interesting part of a show started near 1 o’clock in the night, when all the political leaders were to answer two questions:
1. Does a joint vote for anti-crisis-law-package of President’s Party Block (OU-PS), Block of the Prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT) and People’s Party of Volodymyr Lytvyn on 31 October mean that a new parliamentary coalition in formed?
2. Do you believe in a stable future work of Ukrainian Parliament? (Which means that no early election will be held in a nearest future).
I will not give all the answers here, as I’ve already got a rather long post. I will just chronologically give some quotations as they reflect the current situation in Ukrainian politics in the best way.

Ivan Kyrylenko, leader of parliamentary faction of the BYT:
“Parliament will work… I am sorry for all the troubles we have caused to our colleagues by blocking the parliament”.

Arseniy Yatseniuk, Head of the Parliament:
“With God’s will we will work”.

Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, leader of parliamentary faction of OU-PS:
“We haven’t united with anyone yet, we’ve just voted for a law… No, unfortunately it’s not possible to say that there is a new coalition”.

Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the oppositional Party of Regions:
“We have been watching this performance during all the year… Yulia Volodymyrivna (Tymoshenko. – T.V.), you shouldn't fool people so cynically as you are doing now".

Volodymyr Lytvyn, leader of the People’s Party:
“The consolidation demonstrated here looks like made in a 5 minutes before the shooting execution”.

An answer of a President Yuschenko was also very interesting and symbolic a lot. I will write about it in my next post. Have a nice weekend.