Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Miraculous Healing. Government is to declare the conclusion of flu epidemic in Ukraine, but what will be the next ‘red herring’ for the nation?

After more than two weeks of alarmed statements of top Ukrainian officials concerning the flu expansion through all the regions of Ukraine, the tone of state evaluation of the health situation in country has changed dramatically. Now everyone, starting from functionaries of the Health Ministry and finishing with the Prime Minister herself, is talking about the end of the flu epidemic in Ukraine. Miraculous healing of the nation, isn’t it?

Tomorrow the decision on termination of quarantine state in Ukrainian schools, universities and other institutions is to be taken. Almost no one is wearing protection mask in public places. Candidates for Presidential election are vigorously preparing new multi-thousand public rallies.

The Ministry of Health went further, starting to deny the very fact that we had a noticeable amount of swine flu cases at all. Today, on 19 November 2009, First Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine Vasyl Lazoryshynets stated that “we had performed an examination of probes of 1168 people, and in 225 cases it was proved that it is a flu virus of A/H1N1 type” (the quotation according to the UNIAN information agency). 21 from 238 fatal cases have proved to be caused by the flu of A-type, and 17 from them – by A/H1N1.

Since the start of the flu epidemic on 29 October 2009, 1 million 120 thousand of people has recovered, Mr. Lazoryshynets added. ‘The situation is stabilizing and the quantity of regions, where the epidemic threshold has not been overcome is 12’ (half of the regions of Ukraine).

Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko also informed the members of Government during today’s Cabinet sitting that there is a substantial reduction of the quantity of sick people in Ukraine. ‘Step by step we are getting out of the epidemic we had at the end of October and at the beginning of November’, she said. ‘And Government has done all it had to do’. Thanks to the Governmental actions, 7 regions of Ukraine have not reached an epidemic threshold at all, Prime Minister declared.

So, the day after tomorrow Ukraine may start to forget the word combination ‘swine flu’. What will be the next alarming phrase Ukrainians will hear the most in the speeches of top politicians? ‘Russian gas’?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

World Health Organization: H1N1 has not mutated in Ukraine. Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, Ukraine - update 2

A copy-paste of the second issue of the World Health Organization report (just one question, which exactly vaccine are they talking about):

17 November 2009 -- Preliminary tests reveal no significant changes in the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus based on investigations of samples taken from patients in Ukraine. Analyses are being performed by two WHO influenza collaborating centres as part of the global influenza surveillance network.

Preliminary genetic sequencing shows that the virus is similar to the virus used for production of the pandemic influenza vaccine, reconfirming the vaccine's efficacy at this time.

Additional questions about the pandemic virus circulating in Ukraine will be answered as more data is available.

WHO commends the government of Ukraine for its open sharing of samples to inform global monitoring of the virus for signs of change.

A total of 34 samples were analysed independently by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, Mill Hill in London, UK, and the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Surveillance, Epidemiology and Control of Influenza in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

British scientists testing Ukrainian 'super flu' that has killed 189 people - The Daily Mail

A recent Ukrainian-swine-flu article from the Daily Mail.
Last updated at 10:41 PM on 15th November 2009

British scientists are examining the strain of swine flu behind a deadly Ukrainian outbreak to see if the virus has mutated. A total of 189 people have died and more than one million have been infected in the country. Some doctors have likened the symptoms to those seen in many of the victims of the Spanish flu which caused millions of deaths world-wide after the World War One.

An unnamed doctor in western Ukraine told of the alarming effects of the virus. He said: 'We have carried out post mortems on two victims and found their lungs are as black as charcoal. 'They look like they have been burned. It's terrifying.'

Neighbouring Poland has called on the EU to take action, fearing the mystery virus may spread westwards. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has written to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the EU presidency. The letter said: 'The character of this threat demands that rapid action be undertaken at the European Union level.' Russia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania have already launched health checks on Ukrainians entering their territory. Slovakia has closed two of five border crossings.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation. A team of specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv in an effort to identify the virus. President Yushchenko said: 'People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century.' In a TV interview, the President added: 'Unlike similar epidemics in other countries, three causes of serious viral infections came together simultaneously in Ukraine: two seasonal flus and the Californian flu. 'Virologists conclude that this combination of infections may produce an even more aggressive new virus as a result of mutation.'

Four men and one woman have died from the flu in Lviv, said emergency hospital chief doctor Myron Borysevych. Two of the dead patients were in the 22-35 age group, with two others over 60. He diagnosed the disease as viral pneumonia. 'We have sent the analyses to Kiev. We don't believe it's H1N1 swine flu. Neither do we know what kind of pneumonia it is.'

Universities, schools and nurseries have been closed, public meetings have been banned and theatres shut.

The virus from the Ukraine is being tested at the Medical Research council labs in Mill Hill North London . A spokesman said: 'We do not have a time scale for the results of the tests, although some preliminary results have been obtained. I cannot tell you what they are.
'We did not have enough of the virus samples so we will have to grow some more before we can come to a conclusive decision about its nature.'

Monday, November 16, 2009

Flu epidemic has reached its peak, the Health Ministry of Ukraine informs. Meanwhile the opposition accused Yulia Tymoshenko in making money on panic.

The flu and ARVI epidemic in Ukraine has already reached its peak, Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine Vasyl Lazoryshynets informed at the press-briefing today. According to Deputy Minister, 54% of people who were hospitalized since 29 October have already recovered from sickness.

Talking about the swine flu, Mr. Lazoryshynets said that there were 166 documented cases of swine flu (A/H1N1) in Ukraine, and 15 of them were fatal.

Though, it is well known that very limited number of Ukrainians had an opportunity to be examined, whether they have a swine flu or not. I asked my district doctor today (while she was filling in my sick-leave certificate), how many recommendations for a swine-flu examination had she signed in our district. The answer was ‘none at all’.

‘Some private clinics are practicing such an examination’, the nurse added. According to witnesses, one of the well-known Kyiv private medical centers performed a kind of PR-action in one of the shopping plazas in Kyiv: everyone passing-by was proposed to have a free swine-flu test.

The Health Ministry of Ukraine, and Vasyl Lazoryshynets in particular, also gave an interesting peace of indormation today. To receive any kind of swine-flu diagnostics an average Ukrainian should be either severely ill (hospitalized) or/and pregnant, or dead.

Meanwhile the opposition Party of Regions started to blame the Government and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in provoking total panic around the A/H1N1 epidemic, and even in making money on that. The MP from the Party of Regions Hanna Herman, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, has stated today during the popular TV-show that the epidemic is a way for the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko to earn money on selling drugs via affiliated and ‘friendly’ companies.

‘Yulia Tymoshenko made money on drugs during the epidemic’, Hanna Herman declared.
Now the Government says the epidemic has finished. And even more – Government is supporting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest to be held this Saturday in Kyiv. That suggests the flu epidemic panic was fake, MP assumed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

High mortality rate in Ukraine is caused by a wrong antibiotic treatment? A/H1N1 epidemic update.

With this post I would like to thank everyone who supported me during my flu-time. Thank you very much for your letters, comments and very kind words!

Now I feel much better and couldn’t stand but share with you the interview of Viktor Bachynsky, Head of the Chernivtsi Regional Bureau of the Medico-Legal Investigation. Mr Bachynsky was heading a group of medical professionals who were investigating the recent swine-flu fatal cases in Western Ukraine.

His conclusion is the following: it is not a pneumonia, but cardiopulmonary decompensation and cardiogenic shock, which causes death as a complication after the A/H1N1 virus. Simply said, the A/H1N1 virus in Ukraine is not causing pneumonia, but the toxic distress-syndrome, total lungs affection.

‘Antibiotics don’t help… One who has a strong immune system survives. One with weak immune system dies’, the medico-legal expert says. Viktor Bachynsky emphasized that high morbidity and mortality rate in Ukraine is caused not by a severe infection, but with wrong antibiotic treatment, when in lot of cases people were taking antibiotics without prescription.

Mr. Bachysnky also said that widely advertized in Ukraine Tamiflu may be useful only when is taken within first 48-72 hours.

The full Ukrainian version of the interview is here.

The Health Ministry of Ukraine informed yesterday that 1 million 308 thousands 911 Ukrainianы are sick with flu, ARVI or its coplications. 265 Ukrainians died since 29 October 2009, 26 of them – since Thursday.

Meanwhile, the WHO European Regional Office informed yesterday that the ‘initial analysis of information indicates that the numbers of severe cases do not appear to be excessive when compared to the experience of other countries and do not represent any change in the transmission or virulence of the virus’ in Ukraine.

Monday, November 9, 2009

1 million 31 thousands 596 Ukrainians plus Tetyana Vysotska. The latest statistics on flu, ARVI and their complications (like pneumonia) incidence.

As of 9 November 2009, 1031597 Ukrainians are sick with flu, ARVI or pneumonia, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine has informed today. One of the ‘victims’ comprised in this figure is me. I’m sick starting from Friday, but called a doctor only today. So, am moved from hidden sickness cases to the official statistics.

Meanwhile, the doctor told me I’ve got ARVI with some complications with lungs. I was told it is impossible to have a test on whether it may be a swine flu. (I sincerely hope it is not). So, I’ve started to take antibiotic the doctor prescribed.

According to the Ukrainian Health Ministry, starting from 29 October 2009, 174 Ukrainians died (19 – during the last day).

Friday, November 6, 2009

871 thousand of Ukrainians are sick with flu, ARVI or pneumonia - Health Ministry of Ukraine

Official information of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine as of 6 November 2009: 871037 Ukrainians are sick with flu, ARVI or pneumonia. 135 died, 25 of them - has died today.

Deputy Head of Kyiv City Administration Irena Kilchytska has just informed at the TV-show I'm watching now that there are 7 proved A/H1N1 cases in the capital of Ukraine, and 2 women died.

Every second Ukrainian will be down with swine flu – Emergency Situations Ministry

About 60 percent of citizens of Ukraine will be sick with the swine flu. It is a prognosis of the Head of the Department of Healthcare and Medical-Biological Protection of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine Oleksiy Gromzin, expressed during the ministerial hotline today.

‘Professionals forecast a couple of waves of rise of ARVI, and also A/H1N1 incidence, because the population doesn’t have a layer with immunity to it. That’s why it is forecasted that about 60% or maybe a bit less or more, of the country population will fall sick with the swine flu.', he said

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Political Flu. President of Ukraine may extend his time in office, imposing the state of emergency in Ukraine due to A/H1N1 epidemy.

January, 17, 2010 may turn out to be just a common Sunday, nothing more. It seems possible that the day of election of the President of Ukraine will be one or even two or more months later. This situation will come true, if the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko imposes the state of emergency in Ukraine to fight swine flu more effectively.

Viktor Yushchenko made a televised appeal to Ukrainian people today. In his short speech he criticized strongly the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko, Speaker of Ukrainian Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn and the opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych (all of them are his rivals at the presidential poll 2010) in ignoration of the information on the epidemic situation in Ukraine in October 2009.

One of the risk factors of A/H1N1 in Ukraine is epidemic, fast-moving character of spread of the infection on the West of a country, President said. ‘Government, the management of the Parliament and opposition knew that as early as at the beginning of October 2009’, Viktor Yushchenko claimed. ‘First and the most effective preventive measure is a prevention of crowds. Ignoring this principle, hundreds of thousands of people were taken to Kyiv from different regions’.

President meant the big public gatherings during the presidential nomination of his main opponents. Especially crowded was the Maydan-based nomination show of Prime Minister.

All the measures taken by Government to fight swine-flu epidemy Mr. Yushchenko qualified as ‘collapse’. ‘The main center of the decision-making shall be the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine’, he declared. ‘Non-obedience to its decisions will be followed by the immediate reaction of the law-enforcement bodies’. It looks like a first step to the transfer of all the controls to the National Security and Defense Council, experts say.

Let me remind that the President chairs the Security&Defence Council.

Among politicians accused in ignorant attitude to the killing virus the fastest appeared to be Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Chairman of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. About two hours ago he gave a following comment during a television show: ‘…all are guilty except him… President and Prime Minister were informed on the flu epidemy a couple of weeks before. Why Parliament didn’t know about that?... Because our security agencies are privatized’.

Meanwhile, we’ve got the first A/H1N1 death in the capital of Ukraine Kyiv. Kyiv City Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky has appealed to Yulia Tymoshenko today with the request to announce quarantine in Kyiv. According to the Kyiv City Administration, more than 26 thousand of Kyivites are sick with acute respiratory viral infections as of 4th November 2009. Epidemic threshold is overpassed on 14%.

86 people are killed by the flu epidemy in Ukraine (Health Ministry of Ukraine, 4/11/2009).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

World Health Organization: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, Ukraine - update 1

Sorry, have no time to comment - just a Ctrl-Copy-Ctrl-Paste of a first press release of mission of the World Health Organization, arrived to Kyiv yesterday night. (bold accents are mine)

3 November 2009 -- According to the Ministry of Health of the Ukraine, the country has now recorded more than 250,000 cases of influenza-like illness, with 235 patients requiring intensive care. As of 2 November, 70 deaths from acute respiratory illness have been reported.

Regions in western Ukraine continue to show the highest rates of acute respiratory illness/influenza-like illness. The level of activity in the Kyiv area is also increasing rapidly.

Laboratory testing in Ukraine has confirmed pandemic H1N1 influenza virus in samples taken from patients in two of the most affected regions. As the pandemic virus has rapidly become the dominant influenza strain worldwide, it can be assumed that most cases of influenza in Ukraine are caused by the H1N1 virus.

As elsewhere, WHO strongly recommends early treatment with the antiviral drugs, oseltamivir or zanamivir, for patients who meet treatment criteria, even in the absence of a positive laboratory test confirming H1N1 infection.

At the request of the government, a multi-disciplinary team of nine experts has been deployed by WHO and arrived in Kyiv yesterday evening. Discussions with the Minister of Health were held this morning to brief the team.

Team members will now begin field investigations to characterize the clinical and epidemiological features of the outbreak. Work will initially begin in Lviv region, where reported numbers of cases showing severe manifestations of acute respiratory illness have been especially high. Two virologists on the team have started working at the National Influenza Centre and the laboratories of the Central Sanitary and Epidemiological Station in Kyiv to provide diagnostic support.

Samples sent by the Ministry of Health were received today by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, Mill Hill in London, UK. The laboratory will conduct confirmatory tests and further characterize the virus.

Many questions remain to be answered. The outbreak in Ukraine may be indicative of how the virus can behave in the northern hemisphere during the winter season, particularly in health care settings typically found in Eastern Europe.

Given the potential significance of this outbreak as an early warning signal, WHO commends the government of Ukraine for its transparent reporting and open sharing of samples.

WHO continues to recommend no closing of borders and no restrictions on international travel, including to Ukraine. Experience shows that such measures will not stop further spread of the virus.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ukrainian Masquerade. The Government of Ukraine gave 6 million meters of gauze from the strategic country reserves to make protective face masks.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has decided to give 6 million meters of the gauze, keeped for the use during the extraordinary situations like war, to make face masks for Ukrainians to protect them from the A/H1/N1 bacteria in public places. On the photos women from one of the Chernivtsi clothes factory are sewing new masks for the medical personnel.

My personal impressions about all the H1N1 stuff: I may confirm that there are no medical masks in Kyiv drug stores since Friday. Personally I was wearing a mask in metro today. A lot of people are doing the same. Very thrilling, I may say, and destructive for maquillage.

But, frankly speaking, it seems to me that the swine-flu-panic is more political than medical phenomenon. To be continued.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

J.P.Morgan: Tymoshenko victory in elections to lead to greater stability in 2010.

One of the news agencies of Ukraine UNIAN has distributed a link to the J.P. Morgan website*d_338911.pdf*h_7ostu6ta where the "economic research" about the consequences of Ukrainian presidential election 2010 is published.

The name of the research - Tymoshenko victory in elections to lead to greater stability in 2010 - tells for itself about the level of the impartiality of the J.P. Morgan experts. I quote here just a couple of statements of the report, rather peremptory, I may say.

"A Tymoshenko victory should bring fiscal consolidation in 2010 and an earlier return to growth."

"Although there are now few differences in policy programs between the main presidential candidates, we believe that a Tymoshenko victory will be the most positive outcome given the current make up of the Rada and Tymoshenko’s plans to strengthen the presidential post."

"We expect a Tymoshenko presidency to lead to fiscal consolidation, improved lending and capital inflows from 2Q 2010 culminating in brighter growth prospects in 2H2010 and 2011. A Yanukovych victory, meanwhile, may lead to early parliamentary elections and possibly a breakdown of the IMF agreement before stabilizing in 4Q2010."

"As for the pending IMF tranche, we expect the Fund to delay disbursement until December 2009 and reduce the scheduled disbursement of US$3.9bn to increase bargaining power next year."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ukraine shuts schools,cancels public events due H1N1 | Reuters

Ukraine shuts schools,cancels public events due H1N1 Reuters

(Adds schools closed, public events banned)

KIEV, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Ukraine on Friday closed schools, banned all public events and imposed restrictions on people's movements around the country for a three-week period after confirming its first death from H1N1 swine flu. "All educational institutions without exception ... will be switched on to a three-week holiday period," Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced. She indicated this period could be extended if it was deemed necessary.

"Apart from this, we will take the decision to cancel all mass meetings ... for three weeks," she said at an emergency government session. "We will introduce a special system to stop unnecessary travel by people from one region to another," she added.

Earlier, the health ministry confirmed that one of 30 deaths in western Ukraine since mid-October which had been attributed to flu and pneumonia had been caused by the H1N1 strain, commonly known as swine flu. "So far, not all the dead were tested (for H1N1)," a health ministry spokeswoman said. "However, tests on one dead (person) proved positive."

"We are considering (imposing) a quarantine not only in the west, but also across the country because the virus is spreading very fast," Health Minister Vasyl Knyazevych told a news conference, without giving details. (Reporting by Natalya Zinets and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Endless Circle. Ukraine may have snap parliamentary poll in May 2010.

Ukraine may expect the comeback of a ghost of an early parliamentary election in 2010. This secret is widely known as after the presidential election in January-February 2010, the winner (whoever it will be) would surely want to take it all, and to form the majority in Parliament using the effect of his recent victory.

The same point of view has confirmed Volodymyr Lytvyn, Chairman of the Parliament of Ukraine and a newly registered presidential candidate. In May 2010 Ukraine will have snap parliamentary election, he told journalists today.

He emphasized that ‘under the current circumstances in Parliament, a lot of problems will appear’, that’s why the new President will surely try to nail down a success. The key position in country will be the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. Lytvyn added.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First-comers. The Central Election Commission of Ukraine received registration papers from first two presidential candidates.

On 20 of October the Central Election Commission of Ukraine started to accept registration documents from potential candidates to the presidential post. The first guy who submitted his papers to the Central Election Commission was some Oleh Riabokon, 36 y. o. lawyer. Mr. Riabokon is a co-founder of the “Master and Partners” law firm. Among other co-founders of this company was Sergiy Vlasenko (Member of Parliament, Yulia Tymoshenko block). Of course, Mr. Ryabokon has no chance to win any noticeable result during this election, except the PR for his name and his company.

The second fastest pretender for the first chair in the country is Anatoly Hrytsenko, MP from the “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence” faction, ex-Minister of Defense, and ex-team-mate of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko. The friendship with President finished after the dismissal of Mr. Hrytsenko from the ministerial office. Anatoly Hrytsenko also has no chance to become a next President of Ukraine, but his rating may rise up to the level of 5-6 heavyweighters, which will surely help him during the next parliamentary election (still expected next year). To whom it may be interesting, I am giving a link to the Ukrainian language website of Mr. Hrytsenko.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Get ready, get set, go! Ukraine officially launched a presidential election campaign on Monday. Today the nomination of the candidates starts.

Last time Ukraine elected president in 2004, when, after the Orange revolution, Viktor Yushchenko came to power, accusing his main rival Viktor Yanukovych in the falsification of the results of the previous tour of election. Now the situation has changed dramatically: according to polls, Mr. Yanukovych is a leading contender. Viktor Yushchenko – on contrary – may try to use his presidential administrative resource during his campaign, experts say.

The second rating has another hero of Orange revolution – the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko. Third – ex-Head of Parliament, and ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs Arseniy Yatseniuk.

Other pretenders are former Head of the National Bank of Ukraine Sergiy Tigipko, current Speaker of the Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn, Communist party leader Petro Symonenko, and radically right politician Oleh Tyagnybok.

The nomination of the candidates starts today, on 20 October 2009, and will last until 6 November. The last day for the documents’ submission to the Central Electoral Commission is the 9 of November. The CEC has to register all the candidates until 13 November 2009.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In 2009 Ukrainian economy will fall by 15-16%, ex-Minister of Finance of Ukraine Viktor Pynzenyk predicts.

In 2009 Ukrainian economy will fall by 15-16%. Such a pessimistic prognosis of former Minister of Finance of Ukraine Viktor Pynzenyk made public today. He has also said that the budget deficit may climb above 33% of GDP in 2009, and 15% in 2010.

The Government of Ukraine determined a fiscal deficit at the level of 3.97% of GDP in the project of State Budget for 2010.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Constitutional Threat. The election of the President of Ukraine, scheduled on January 2010, may be wrecked by the Constitutional Court ruling.

The President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko appealed to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on Monday, 14 October 2009, to examine the compliance of some clauses of the Law of Ukraine on the amendments to the Law on Presidential Elections (recently adopted by Parliament) with the Constitution of Ukraine. A lot of experts predict it may cause the disruption of the Presidential election, scheduled for the beginning of 2010.

If the Constitutional Court declares that some provisions of the law are unconstitutional, the Presidential election of January 2010 will be put in jeopardy – for sure. Parliament will definitely fail to pass the amendmends to the Law (due to the requirements of the Court) before the official starting date of the presidential race – 19 October 2009. Then it will be easy to question any result of the vote if it happens on 17 January: as the election was organize according to the “old”, unconstitutional version of the law. The only way to stay within the frames of a Fundamental law of the country will be to schedule a new date for the presidential election, extending the term of office of Viktor Yushchenko.

The Speaker of the parliament of Ukraine Volodymyr Lytvyn has recently said that he is ‘convinced that there are reasons for the Constitutional Court to define some clauses of the law as unconstitutional’. He thinks it may cause a political turbulence and lengthy court battles over the election, making the situation ‘disorganized’.

The “new version” of the Law of Ukraine ‘On Presidential Elections’, in particular, reduced the time of presidential campaign from 120 to 90 days. It also allowed adding people to voter lists on the day of election (as the clear and trustable Voter Registry has not been formed in Ukraine yet), and prohibited to vote for Ukrainians living overseas, if they are not included to the Consular register (these legislative innovations are mentioned in the President’s application as one may cause a huge fraud, and another restricts the citizens’ universal right to vote).

Pre-history: On July 24, 2009 the Parliament of Ukraine passed a bill amending the Law on Presidential Elections. On 18 August Viktor Yushchenko vetoed the proposed amendments on the Law on Presidential Elections. But the Parliament convened a special session on August 21, when 325 out of 371 members of parliament override the president's veto.
The presidential election is scheduled for January 17, 2010. If required a second round ballot is expected to take place in February 2010. The President of Ukraine is elected by the citizens of Ukraine for a five-year term, on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage, by secret ballot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lit-Crit. Reflections while reading the FT article ‘Yushchenko hits at Moscow ahead of poll’.

The Financial Times has published an article called ‘Yushchenko hits at Moscow ahead of poll’ on Monday, 14 of September. I’ve read this story only today, and couldn’t stand but to share my strong disagreement with some points, so categorically stated by the author. So, let me give some comments to this article.
‘Yushchenko hits at Moscow ahead of poll’
By Roman Olearchyk in Kiev
Published: September 14 2009 14:16 Last updated: September 14 2009 14:16
Viktor Yushchenko, the embattled Ukrainian president, complained of Russian meddling in Kiev’s domestic affairs ahead of a high-stakes presidential election, which the pro-western leader is expected to lose to a more Kremlin-friendly candidate.
---To be pro-Western doesn’t mean to be totally anti-Russian. I don’t think that the spoiled relationship with the official Moscow may be called as the advantage of the presidency of Mt. Yushchenko.
In a Financial Times interview, Mr Yushchenko said Moscow had waged a smear campaign against Kiev and could try to manipulate Ukraine’s electorate – claims that were also made in 2004 when Mr Yushchenko was propelled to power against a Kremlin-backed candidate. Voters remain split in an east-west axis between Russian and Ukrainian speakers.
--- It is wrong to state that the Ukrainian electorate is divided to Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers. The author either have never visited East of Ukraine (but I hardly think so), or just wanted to make a witty statement to attract more attention of foreign readers. I would say that there are a lot of Ukrainian speakers in Eastern Ukraine, especially in a countryside: even my own relatives who are living near Donetsk are using Ukrainian as a language of family communication. Yes, there are lot of Russian speakers in the Eastern and Central part of Ukraine – mostly due to the labor migration from other regions of Soviet Union caused by the industrialization growth. But let me assure the respected author of the article that most of the Russian speaking people are feeling themselves as citizens of Ukraine, not servants of Russia as some people want to demonstrate.
The problem of the split of electoral preferences in Ukraine is not the question of language, but sort of a regional solidarity. People from Eastern Ukraine support Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, first of all, because they think he is going to support their interests, and to make their own regions more prosperous. Such an antagonism to other opponents of Mr. Yanukovych is a simple reaction to their rhetoric, which often sounds unfriendly to the Eastern regions of Ukraine – people from there had been called as thieves, extremists, betrayers, Russian henchmen and so on. The same situation we may see in Western Ukraine, when some politicians are trying to win extra-support, setting Ukrainians against each other.

The issue of Russian interference in Ukraine’s election emerged last month when Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, accused Mr Yushchenko of waging “anti-Russian” policies by seeking membership in the Nato military alliance, and urged the country’s future president to be more friendly.
--- What is a problem with being friendly to your neighbors?
Mr Yushchenko said he expects Russia to stir up separatist sentiment on Ukraine’s Russian-leaning Crimean peninsula. But he ruled out escalation into a military conflict of the kind seen last summer in Georgia, another pro-western ally on post-Soviet turf. Moscow continues to firmly back the independence aspirations of two Georgian breakaway enclaves, one of which, South Ossetia, was at the centre of the war.
Many in Kiev fear a similar scenario in Crimea.“They will try to exploit the ‘Crimean Card’. But, I don’t see a risk that the situation in Georgia would repeat,” said Mr Yushchenko when asked if separatism or military clashes could erupt. “Ukraine is not Georgia,” he said, referring to the country’s larger population, military and geopolitical significance.“Strength today is not in a military position. Employing it would be complete stupidity,” he added.
--- I agree with the statement about the ‘Crimean Card”. Nevertheless, the military scenario in the Crimea is unfortunately possible, but rather in a form of a provoked inside disorder.
Referring to last January’s natural gas stand-off between Kiev and Moscow, which disrupted European supplies, and relentless Russian warnings that recession-battered Ukraine was unable to pay its gas bill, Mr Yushchenko said: “There are a lot of hidden and cynical schemes being played through information airwaves, aimed at discrediting Ukraine” in the eyes of Europe and the world.
Mr Yushchenko said: “We are witnesses of how the politics of totalitarianism is reaching its apogee against the principles of democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Georgia is a sign of how, unfortunately, the Pan-European community did not stand up to defend these fundamental principles. It was a setback,” he said.
--- Nothing to say. Was the EU supposed to dig up the hatchet against Russia?
The Ukrainian president said he hoped soon to meet US President Barack Obama to discuss these and other issues and expressed solidarity with a plea to Western leaders made last week by members of Ukraine’s intelligentsia. In an open letter, politicians, artists and experts had called for western leaders to provide Ukraine with stronger security guarantees against an increasing threat from Russia.
--- ‘to discuss these and other issues’ – it’s rather strange interpretation of the interview with the President of a country.
Mr Yushchenko trails three frontrunners in the election who are actively seeking to harmonise relations with Russia. They include Yulia Tymoshenko, prime minister and erstwhile Orange Revolution partner, and ex-prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed candidate in 2004. Mr Yushchenko accused them of pandering to Moscow, selling out Ukrainian interests as “trading cards” to get Russia’s support for their candidacies.
--- Is it bad to seek to harmonize relations with a neighboring super-power? I think that the most preferable way for Ukraine to build its foreign policy and strategy of its implementation is making friends, not enemies. Russia will never disappear from Ukrainian border, and the smartest way is to try to build a system of checks and balances based on the multi-vector policy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time management. The highweighters of Ukrainian politics have opened presidential race long time before its official start.

There is no such a thing as “a lack of time” for a person who understands, what the time-management is. That’s why I’ve decided to come back to blogging, despite of a pretty much pressed working schedule. Ukrainian politicians don’t want to waist the time left before the official start of the presidential race also (according to the 'new edition' of the Law on elections, it's 19 October 2009): streets of the cities, towns and villages of Ukraine, as well as the sides of big roads, are already stuffed with the billboards with political promises.

To my impression, the most active in the pre-electoral advertising are the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko and ex-Chairman of Parliament Arseniy Yatseniuk. Their PR-ideas are rather original as well. Though, it seems to me that Mr. Yatseniuk is simply wasting money: his strangely colored boards and bizarre slogans are kind of shot in the eye for his ratings, imho.

So, Yulia Tymoshenko plays with contraposition. 'They promise, she works', 'They block, she works', 'They obstruct, she works', 'They ruin, she works', etc, her billboards are declaring. No names, but everyone understands, who is She.

The visual messages of Arseniy Yatsenyuk are supposed to use a kind of military symbolism to emphasize his willingness and ability to become a strong leader. But, frankly speaking, it doesn't look very convincing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko: “I'm ready to hold early presidential election”.

A couple of quotations from today’s press-conference of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko:
"The ruling coalition in Parliament is de facto absent".
"The majority voting system will never be presented again in Ukraine".
"The parliamentary coalition should prove it has 226 MPs, and re-introduce a candidature of PM".
"I'm ready to hold early presidential election, if the parliament agrees to hold early parliamentary election on a base of a new electoral law, and to abolish unlimited parliamentary immunities"
"Decision of the Constitutional Court shall be the base for future actions (concerning early parliamentary election. – T.V.)"

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made public its World Economic Outlook today. The Fund revised its forecast of GDP of Ukraine to a drop of 8 percent this year, from the earlier figure of 3 percent. It also predicted the economy of Ukraine would grow 1.0 percent in 2010.
The World Bank also revised its 2009 forecast this month, and said that the Ukrainian GDP will drop to 9 percent from a previous prediction of minus 4 percent.
Ukrainian government still thinks that GDP-2009 will grow on 0.4 percent. In 2008, the economy grew 2.1 percent.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The April Fool’s Day. Ukrainian Parliament scheduled presidential election to be held three months earlier than it was expected – on 25 October 2009.

The Parliament of Ukraine has decided today to schedule the next presidential election on 25 October 2009. Just to remind, previously most of MPs and experts suggested the election of President has to be held in January 2010 – 4 years after the Inauguration day. The decision of Verkhovna Rada was a kind of an answer to the Presidential address to Parliament (yesterday).

Actually the real background of today’s vote of Ukrainian Parliament is hiding not exactly in the speech of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, and even not in his unexpected idea to change a Constitution by himself, or to introduce a two-chamber Parliament with a rather weak Lower House.

There is a rumor that the Presidential Secretariat has already drafted a Decree to dismiss the current Parliament and to call for a snap parliamentary election in a nearest future. To stay ahead, all the parliamentary factions united in common decision: to cut the presidential term of Mr. Yushchenko for 3 months. The second, but not less significant goal of the MPs was to secure their immunities: the Constitution says the Parliament shall not be dismissed during 6 months before presidential election.

401 of MPs voted in favor of “25 October”, 7 – the Presidential part of Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence faction (United Center party) – voted against. Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, member of OU-PSD, addressed his colleagues during the parliamentary debates: “What are we afraid of? Early parliamentary election? Dear Mr. Speaker, do you have information on the respective Decree of the President? Please, make this information public!”

What's next? Viktor Yushchenko is going to challenge the decision of Parliament in the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. “This decision is not legal, this decision does not correspond to the Constitution”, he said today. “All of them are going to lose before the October… The election will be held in due time, provided by the Constitution of Ukraine”.

The version of the Constitution of Ukraine acting in 2004 (when Mr. Yushchenko was elected) says the presidential election should be held every four years. A current edition of the Constitution provides that the President shall be in power during four years after he assumed the office.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

“After this speech, I’ll pass to Speaker Lytvyn my project of a new Constitution ”. Viktor Yushchenko addressed the Parliament of Ukraine.

The President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has addressed the Parliament today with his annual speech. Mr. Yushchenko failed to appear in Verkhovna Rada with his speech last year - the parliamentary tribune was blocked - but this time he has fully made up for lost opportunity.

The ordinary presidential speech with the expected call for all the political leaders to stop fighting and unite all the forces for saving Ukrainian economy in crisis times was finished with a surprise. President informed that he's going to introduce to Parliament of Ukraine a new project of the Constitution of Ukraine - right now.

Viktor Yushchenko proposes a dramatic change of the very system of powers in Ukraine. First of all, he wants Ukraine to have the two-chamber Parliament, and to reduce a number of MPs.

According to President, the Lower Chamber of the Parliament of Ukraine shall be elected by proportional voting system (like today) with open political party lists. The Lower Chamber will form the Government and control its work. "The inability to form the Government will lead to the dismissal of the Lower Chamber, but not all the Parliament. In this case the work of the Parliament will not stop," Viktor Yushchenko noticed.

The Upper Chamber should be elected among the representatives of regions of the country - using the majority voting system. It will work in lose connection with the President of Ukraine, in particular, dealing with the security issues. Every district of Ukraine will have 3 Senators elected.

"The political turbulence will be left in the Lower Chamber of Parliament", Viktor Yushchenko thinks. "President, together with the Upper Chamber, will secure stability of the state".

The President of Ukraine called for an urgent examination of his project of the Constitution of Ukraine in Parliament.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Open Lists. Ukraine has learned how to hold free and fair elections, but it’s not enough to be called a true democracy.

In this post I would like to turn back to the question of the reform of electoral law in Ukraine. There are a lot of talks about how to change the way Ukrainians are electing the Parliament (I’ll stay away from the analysis of re-distribution of powers) or local Councils, but the very idea of reform is completely distorted. Instead of having a serious talk about the very details of a new electoral system that will fit to Ukrainian realities in a best way, most politicians are trying to switch the public attention to active, but non-effective discussions around one point – a need to move from the closed-party-lists to open-party-lists scheme, in frames of the current proportional voting system. I think it’s not enough at all.

Since the Orange revolution of 2004, all the elections in Ukraine were recognized as free and fair. But as a result of these free and fair elections, we, Ukrainians are receiving – again and again – the Parliament full of come-and-go people. The majority of Members of Parliament of Ukraine doesn’t make any serious decisions, but only thoughtlessly presses the “yes” or “no” buttons, in accordance with order of faction leaders. It has to be changed.

According to the current electoral law, Ukraine elects its Parliament on a base of proportional representation system with closed party lists. The system stipulates that Ukrainian citizens vote not for individuals, but for parties, which are receiving seats in Parliament proportionally to the amount of votes they had won. Every party draws up a list of its candidates for the seats in Parliament, but it must make public only the names of five first persons from the list. A couple of hundreds of other candidates may be hidden until the end of the vote – it’s a provision of the closed-party-lists type of proportional voting system.

As a result, according to the closed-party lists scheme, Ukrainians are voting not for all members of Parliament, but are only choosing between “groups of five”. Even if a party makes public the entire list, the electoral campaign has been centred on a little group of party leaders. And after the elections Ukrainian voters may realise that the party they voted for has in its list, for example, a personal massager of the party chief, or the secretary of a party sponsor. A very big problem of the current electoral system is also the fact that the Members of Parliament has almost no officially established connection with the regions of a country. People simply don’t feel they have a real representative in Parliament: there is no one to be called “my MP”.

It is naive to think that the problem will be cured, if all the party lists were open in its literal meaning – becoming public before the elections. Ukrainian parties are mostly based not on the ideology, but on their leaders who are associated with all the party. And the majority of Ukrainians will keep voting for the personalities they like, not taking care about any lists. (And even if an old woman from the village has an opportunity to read all the lists of all the parties, she will surely not be able to analyse them properly, and to estimate how much people from the list she may see in Parliament after the elections. To make the outcome of the parliamentary election more democratic, there is a need to change the voting system as a whole.

As to my point of view, the best thing for Ukraine is to come back to the majoritarian (plurality) system of vote: the person, not a party should win support of voters, and should represent Ukrainian people in Parliament. Ukraine still doesn’t have a developed party system. Imagine, only about 3% of the citizens of Ukraine are members of any party. That means that 97% of Ukrainians doesn’t feel close to any political party at all. Proportional system was established, among other issues, in order to build up the party system in Ukraine. This idea failed: new-formed Ukrainian democratic political parties in reality are something between the oligarchic lobby groups and fan clubs of charismatic leaders.

In frames of the current proportional, party-based system of vote, the easiest way for Ukraine would be to switch to one of the models of open party lists, when a voter receives a right not only to vote for a party, but also to express his or her preference for a particular candidate(s) in frames of the party list. That means that voter indicates not only a name of the party he or she favours, but also names the favourite candidates from this party, or even indicates the order of preference. Such a model is widely used in the countries of Western and Central Europe. I would propose also to move forward from a single constituency scheme Ukraine currently has. In this case the parties will have to draw up several regional lists of candidates, giving a chance for regional leaders to be elected, and also establishing a stronger link between regions and Parliament.

There are other things which I think have to be done to make the parliamentary election in Ukraine closer to the best democratic standards:
1. To adopt an Electoral Code, a single document, which would incorporate all the rules (including technical) concerning holding parliamentary, presidential and local elections.
2. To form the Registry of voters (at long last) to avoid fraud.
3. To change the provisions of electoral law, re-establishing the so-called “absence certificates” for people who are not at home at a day of election (for ex., they are in the other region of Ukraine or abroad) to have a possibility to realize their Constitutional right to vote.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Open Vote. Ukrainian authorities want to change the electoral law: to use it at the early parliamentary poll, combined with the presidential election.

Viktor Baloha, a Head of the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine, informed on Wednesday, 11 March that the Secretariat’s legal services are drafting proposals to change the electoral legislation in country. The objects of change are parliamentary and local elections. In particular, the Secretariat is going to propose to switch to the open party lists (in frames of proportional system). The relevant projects of law will be tabled in Parliament soon.

“Due to a current election system, we have the Parliament, which is considered by the majority of experts as the most unprofessional. Yesterday massage therapists, office-girls, guards, and drivers of party bonzes are working now as People’s Deputies (Members of Parliament. – T.V.). I am sure that they are exactly not the people Ukrainian voters wanted to delegate to power. Ukrainians want to know, whom they are electing”, Mr. Baloha emphasized.

One day before – on 11 March 2009 – the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko released the Member of Parliament of Ukraine Sergiy Holovaty (the oppositional Party of Regions) from his duty as a Member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the advisory body of the Council of Europe. Starting from this week, Maryna Stavniychuck, the Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat, is representing Ukraine at the sittings in the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice.

The dismissal of Sergiy Holovaty, a lawyer, who is very respected in Europe, and in the Council of Europe in particular, was not a coincidence: the Venice Commission has examined two documents concerning elections in Ukraine on 14 March. Unfortunately, I still have no information about the decision of the experts of the Venice Commission on a Draft law of Ukraine amending the Constitution of Ukraine, initiated by Members of Parliament of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych (Head of the Party of Regions) and Oleksandr Lavrynovych (Vice-Speaker of Parliament, member of the Party of Regions), and a Draft law amending the Law on Election of People’s Deputies of Ukraine, initiated by Oleksandr Lavrynovych and Andriy Portnov (Block of Yulia Tymoshenko). I know only that the Venice Commission is not over-enthusiastic about the ideas to cut off dramatically the presidential powers in Ukraine. Anyway it is clear that the current President wanted to have a bit of influence on this decision.

The amendments to the electoral law may be used earlier than expected. The Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine Volodymyr Lytvyn mentioned on 12 March that after the presentation of a mew electoral system, the call for the simultaneous presidential, parliamentary and local elections is quite possible. A Member of Parliament from Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence block Vladyslav Kaskiv also thinks that the early parliamentary election may be held as “the most easy way out”. Viktor Yanukovych also said he’s in favour of the simultaneous parliamentary/presidential poll in his televised interview.

Another news of the expiring week is that the leader of the Communist Party Petro Symonenko said he has already prepared the motion for the impeachment of the President of Ukraine. “Serving President has not ever infracted the Constitution and laws of Ukraine”, answered the Head of the Presidential Secretariat in the newspaper interview. “It is easy to explain the words of a member of democratic coalition Petro Symonenko. He is so inspired by Tymoshenko’s instructions that voters may not understand, whether he is a member of her party or the Head of the Communists”. According to Mr. Baloha, the presidential election will be held on 17 January, 2010. The Head of the Secretariat did not inform journalists, whether President is going to take part in the election.

Meanwhile, we had a very interesting public event here in Kyiv on Friday: around 350 people gathered near the building of Parliament, demanding to introduce the direct presidential rule in the country. “Crisis is a right time for the presidential rule”, their slogans said.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Camouflaged Gas. Naftogaz Ukraine paid the February-2009 bill to Russian Gazprom; the same time agents in masks were raiding its headquarters.

Today the State oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukraine has paid $50 million to Russian Gazprom. Together with yesterday’s payment of $310 million it settles the gas supply bill of Ukraine for February 2009. Now all the Europe may breathe a sigh of relief: this month there will be no gas cut-off.

(Besides, I’ve noticed at least one mismatch – in figures. The figures I’ve mentioned above, given according to the information of the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine, have in total $360 million – which means that Ukraine imported only 1 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Russian gas in February. Gazprom’s officials have recently mentioned that Naftogaz has to pay $400 million. Hopefully it will not be a purpose for a new gas-fight between Ukraine and Russia).

Nevertheless, the gas supply remains in a center of a domestic turmoil in Ukraine. Muscular men wearing black masks and camouflage entered the Naftogaz Ukraine headquarters yesterday. They passed by the helpless company guards, and started to question the accountants of the company, and to search for something in the management office. All the main TV channels were translating this fascinating story in almost live regime (it’s a democracy!). “Armed people in camouflage pushed aside security, and showed no documents,” a spokesman of Naftogaz Valentyn Zemlyansky said to journalists.

The masked men appeared to be the secret service agents, who came to the Naftogaz Ukraine to take off the documents, related to Russian-Ukraine gas supply agreement, signed in January. The spokeswoman of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Maryna Ostapenko informed press that the national security service is investigating criminal case on the illegal appropriation of 6,3 bcm of gas by the State company Naftogaz Ukraine. “Everything is within the frames of law”, Mrs. Ostapenko assured, and added that the Naftogaz authorities knew that the documents are to be seized that day. (The last remark explains such a huge media support of the action).

Anyway, the most interesting thing is not a scary picture, but the reasons of the scandal. As every contemporary problem in Ukraine, it has origins in the struggle for power between the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko.

The story begins in November 2008, when the Ukrainian Customs office refused to perform customs clearing of 11 bcm of Russian gas, pumped to Ukrainian gas storages by Russian Gazprom. The gas was dedicated for the well-known Swiss-registered intermediary RosUkrEnergo, half owned by Gazprom, and half – by Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash. The Customs of Ukraine bonded all the amount of gas (for some reasons), until the gas conflict with Russia started. (Here I would like to suppose again that the gas “war” with Russia was a planned thing).

In January 2009 – in frames of a settlement of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute – Russians transferred to Naftogaz Ukraine the rights to claim from RosUkrEnergo the debt, which it has to Gazprom. The same time Russia received a 20 per cent discount on pipeline transit fees. A new set of bilateral Agreements eliminated RosUkrEnergo from Russia-Ukraine gas trading scheme.

As the PM says, Gazprom agreed to give the gas to Ukraine at a privileged price of $1,7 billion for all the 11 bcm of gas, and these money were to be considered as a payment for a transit of Russian gas to Europe. (I haven’t seen the documents, but it sounds like a true). This fact permitted to the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to declare that the average gas price for Ukraine in 2009 is $228 per tcm.
After the signing of the Agreements with Gazprom, Naftogaz Ukraine faced a new problem: a Head of the State Customs office of Ukraine Valery Khoroshkovsky refused to perform a custom clearing of mentioned amount of gas. He claimed the gas belongs to RosUkrEnergo.

The Prime Minister solved the problem: Mr. Khoroshkovsky was fired. But the President appointed him as a Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

At long last, the Ukrainian Customs released the 11 bcm of ex-RosUkrEnergo-gas from the bond – in favour of the State company Naftogaz Ukraine. After that the SBU started the investigation mentioned above. On 3 March at night Deputy Head of the department of Energy Customs office Taras Shepitko was arrested. The next day men in mask appeared on the threshold of Naftogaz.

As for this moment, there is a ruling of a court, which states the SBU should stop the actions concerning the mentioned Naftogaz-case. Pro-presidential and pro-government experts are giving controversial comments. RosUkrEnergo still insists that is owns the gas. Gazprom didn’t make any statements concerning this concrete question.

Mrs. Tymoshenko is condemning the actions of the SBU. “They simply wanted to paralyze the activities of Naftogaz and destroy the gas distribution system in Ukraine,” she said. She also accused Mr. Yushchenko of lobbying on behalf of RosUkrEnergo. First Vice Prime Minister Alexander Turchynov also declared yesterday that “Viktor Yushchenko was patronizing RosUkrEnergo”, and that Mr. Khoroshkovsky “has joint business with Mr. Firtash”.

The press secretary of the President of Ukraine Iryna Vannikova informed yesterday that “President fully supports the actions of the SBU”. “The Security Service acts in frames of law. The actions of the Security Service agents are rather tough, but it is a demand of the circumstances of this case, - Mrs. Vannikova said. - President is sure that it is necessary to show a determination and insistence in the investigation of the identified corrupt practices”.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What’s up, Ukraine: a headless Foreign Ministry and new talks on early presidential race.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko declared she is in favour of the early presidential election in her country. “The sooner there will be presidential election in Ukraine, the better it will be politically cured”, she said in the column for French Le Monde, published today. Today Mrs. Tymoshenko is on the travel to France, where she’s meeting with French President Nicolas Sarcozy.

Yulia Tymoshenko thinks that the biggest mistake of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko is that he used some dirty weapon against her. “I always offered him my hand. I was only person during the Orange revolution he could rely on. I had never betrayed him. The struggle will end with his political suicide”, she added. When asked what could stop her from becoming president in the near future, she said: "Nothing!"

Meanwhile, The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine was sacked yesterday. 250 Members of Parliament of Ukraine voted in favour of the dismissal of Mr. Ogryzko: the oppositional Party of Regions, the Communists, and 49 lawmakers from the parliamentary Block of Yulia Tymoshenko. As the authoritarian rule inside the Prime Minister’s faction is a well-known fact, the result of this vote means that Mrs. Tymoshenko was in favour of the dismissal. “Ohryzko did not suit me as a minister,” PM said. “He is not professional, he is a person who has been making provocations against the government.”

Mr. Ogryzko, always loyal to Viktor Yushchenko, recently was in a center of scandal with Russian foreign ministry: he warned the Ambassador of Russia in Ukraine, ex-Prime Minister of Russia Viktor Chernomyrdin that he may become persona non grata in Ukraine for his critical statements. Before his dismissal, Volodmyr Ogryzko addressed Parliament on the recent ruling of the U.N. court, establishing the maritime border between Ukraine and Romania – it is considered as a big fiasco of Ukrainian diplomacy, as Ukraine in fact lost a big part of its territory inside the Soviet Union border (the UN-court decision may become a dangerous precedent for future attempts to change existing post-Soviet borders).

The press-secretary of President Iryna Vannikova said the dismissal of Ohryzko “was untimely and ungrounded.” “It makes absolutely no sense to weaken the country’s foreign policy, and to create new source of tensions in the middle of the economic crisis,” she emphasized.

Some Western media say that the dismissal of Ogryzko may shift Ukrainian foreign policy from pro-Western to pro-Russian. I would not agree with that. I’d better say that the Ministry of Foreign affairs was clearly not friendly to Russia, and also was often acting against the interests of its own country – Ukraine – moving the domestic political quarrels on the international stage. However, taking to the account the recent statements of Mrs. Tymoshenko in Le Monde, the last tendency mentioned above is not going to change.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Credit History. Ukraine will receive the second bailout of the IMF credit, but it is not enough to support the economy.

I was not blogging here for a long time due to some personal reasons, but also because it was rather difficult to write about the messy situation we’ve got here in Ukraine. Every day we receive a portion of new information on what’s wrong in the country. And the picture really frightens. Ukrainian economy is getting worse, national currency is falling down (starting from the last week, the price of one dollar is more that 9 hryvnias, it’s twice more than five months ago).

To save the economy Ukraine is in need of the external financing. Here is also the problem: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) refused to issue to Ukraine the second bailout of its $16,4 billion dollars (Kyiv was supposed to receive $1,864 billion on 15 February), because Ukrainian authorities failed to comply with the requirements of the Arrangement with the IMF.

As a result, all the main world rating agencies have cut Ukraine’s credit rating. Fitch Ratings cut the rating to B, the fifth-highest non-investment grade, and kept the outlook “negative”. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut Ukraine's foreign currency sovereign credit ratings by two notches, to CCC+/C from B/B. S&P left Ukraine's outlook negative, indicating it may reduce the ratings further. I have to remind, that the next letter after C is D, which means ‘default’. The new S&P rating for Ukraine is the lowest in Europe – one of the ‘rating colleagues’ of Ukraine is Pakistan.

Experts said that Ukraine has no chance to attract investments and receive new loans, until its relations with the IMF will not be ‘repaired’. The only country that is ready to give money to Ukrainian economy is Russia, but the interest of Moscow is the geopolitical influence and the control on some of the strategic centers of the economy – for example, the gas transport system of Ukraine, which is a key to Ukrainian and all the European energy security. Besides, there is an evidence of upcoming problems in gas area. The 7 of March is a deadline date for a new payment of Naftogaz Ukraine to Russian Gazprom. Gazprom has already warned it may cut off gas supply to Ukraine on March 8.

Coming back to the troubles of Ukrainian economy, I have to add that people who were making such a sad prognosis on the destiny of the IMF loan didn’t take to the account the fact that the IMF as an Organization is not interested in loosing of such a big borrower as Ukraine is (actually a biggest one for the current moment). The break-up of the cooperation with Ukraine would also mean for the IMF the failure of the IMF policy, which may question the appropriateness of all the system of anti-crisis measures, worked out my the IMF experts.

As a result, the IMF decided to change the tone of a dialogue with Ukraine: if the country cannot accomplish its obligations and commitments, one of the ways out is to change the rules. Ukrainian authorities were asked to write a new Letter of Intent to the IMF, listing a new set of measures, more appropriate for the today’s economy state. I wrote about this issue for one Ukrainian newspaper, and here and here are the links to my recent articles (in Russian language).

So, next week (or a bit later) the Mission of the IMF will be back to Kyiv. Ukraine may receive the second tranche of the loan in March 2009. But it will not resolve the whole problem. To deal with the essential budget deficit, Ukraine has to ask for extra-loans (back to question of Russian ambitions), or to monetize it (back to the question of a severe inflation). Let’s see, which evil will be chosen by Ukrainian authorities?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hugging to Death. The gas consortium of Ukraine, Russia, and Europe will not solve a problem of EU energy security, but undermine Ukrainian interests.

There is at least one clear conclusion from the “Cold war” of January 2009: to avoid a future gas supply crisis, Europe needs a common energy security policy. I would suggest to read a blog-post of Charles Tannock, Member of the European Parliament for London, and an article of Andrew Wilson, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, published in the Wall Street Journal, for extra thoughts and information on this point.

I agree that the unified energy supply scheme is a very positive thing for Europe. But what worries me is that the new European energy security concept is moving step-by-step against the national interests of Ukraine – not without help of Russia and powerful trans-national corporations. In a widely proposed system of co-operation, which foresees a foundation of gas consortium with the participation of the EU, Ukraine and Russia, all the parties are winning some benefits, except Ukraine, which is supposed to lose control over its gas pipelines’ system for decades (or for ever, depending on ‘flexibility’ of Ukrainian officials).

To my point of view, the first step to the formation of the united system of European Energy Security should be a very straight price talk. Europe cannot be united in the gas supply questions, until it doesn’t have a common formula of price for gas and its transportation. Without such an agreement all the other steps would be inefficient.

I liked very much a recent speech of the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, 7 February 2009. “The price of the gas transit has not been formed in unified way. The question is: Why?” she said. “If we find such common approaches, we will be able to eliminate a political component from the system of pricing and supplies of gas to all the European countries.”

But why indeed the EU, not talking about the European continent as a whole, hadn’t manage to form the unified gas price and transit approach for all the time of its existence? The question is not rhetoric, and the answer is simple: the formation of the common Energy Supply (or Security, if you want) System for Europe is disadvantageous for the main European energy corporations. It is not a secret that the oil and gas trade business is very profitable, inter alia, by its shadow or semi-shadow schemes, which would be impossible to realise, if all the business were totally transparent and understandable even for members of the European Commission or the European Parliament. So, the establishment of a really clear system of gas trade in Europe looks like a miracle at the moment.

What next? The international investment conference on the modernisation of Ukrainian gas transit system is going to take place on 23 March in Brussels, according to the mutual arrangement of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso of 27 January 2009. The talk-work on the preparation of public opinion has already started. Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's ambassador to the European Union, said to journalists on 4 February 2009 that “the fact that the Ukrainian pipeline network was neglected ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union is recognised by everybody... The fact that its technical status is not up to standard is recognised by everybody. The fact that money supposed to be spent on maintenance from transit fees was spent on something else is recognised by everybody”. Only the last question may be considered as a full truth.

The potential members of the future Consortium are: Gazprom, Naftogaz Ukraine, and directly involved European companies – like E.ON Ruhrgas AG, GDF Suez SA., Gaz de France, BASF SE's Wingas, and Eni SpA. Russians, Ukrainians and Europeans would own the one third of the company each. People from GDF Suez, E.ON Ruhrgas AG and Eni SpA have already had the consortium-related meeting with the Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin in Berlin on 16 January 2009.

Ukraine is supposed to give (rent) to the consortium its gas pipelines system, Russian Gazprom – gas fields, European companies – money. Some Western analysts say that Ukrainian government could sell a stake in Ukraine’s gas transit system to a new consortium. I don’t think it’s a good idea for Ukraine and its future.

Yes, Ukraine needs money for the gas transit system upgrade, but it may find money by itself (it will be not difficult to take a credit for a good-written & well-thought project), going on with receiving the full profits from the transit of the Russian gas to Europe. Ukraine is going to receive from Russia from $2 billion in 2009 to $4 billion per year, starting from 2010.

As for the European Union there is no economic difference at all, whether there is the Russia-Ukraine-EU consortium or not. Russia may find a purpose to switch off gas anyway, and the possible consortium-profits will be collected in hands of managers of the multinationals. And what is good for Ruhrgas, Shell or Gaz de France is not automatically good for Germany, Netherlands, or France. Don’t even mention the interests of tax-payers: the companies, which may directly operate with Ukrainian gas pipeline system, would be for sure an affiliated structures of famous brands, registered in offshore zones.

The establishment of the European common energy security system is not a question of today. It is even not a question of tomorrow. But the Europe has to start preparations for the day after tomorrow right now, working out all the papers needed, and communicating with partners – especially hard talks are supposed to be with Russia. Moreover, I may bet that the talks would finish with nothing. The real goal of Russia, Gazprom, and European energy corporations in Consortium-project are extra profits they may have, fooling Ukraine around. The sorting out the system of the gas supply to Europe looks like not profitable for them at all. The common sense had never beaten the business strategy. It’s a rule for today. What will be the day after tomorrow or later (I mean in long-term period)? Nobody knows, but the little strokes fell great oaks.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An old ghost is back. Ukrainian politicians re-started to talk about the early parliamentary election in April or May 2009.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko has reported to the Parliament of Ukraine on the state of Ukrainian economy today. Now she’s answering the questions of the MPs. After that the project of law named “On the responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine” may be put to vote. The author of the document, the leader of the opposition Party of Regions (PR) Viktor Yanukovych proposes to dismiss Prime Minister.

The idea of the Yulia Tymoshenko’s dismissal is most likely going to fail. The next vote of non-confidence, according to the Ukrainian law, may be performed only in six month – in September 2009. But at time of the presidential campaign the dismissal of Mrs. Tymoshenko will play in favour of her ambitions. That’s why more and more Ukrainian politicians have started to talk again about the forthcoming dismissal (or self-dismissal) of the Parliament.

The Block of Yulia Tymoshenko was insisting on reporting in Parliament as soon as possible – for the Party of Regions of Viktor Yanukovych not to have time to find (buy) enough votes to dismiss Prime Minister. But the Regions didn’t permit Mrs. Tymoshenko to give a speech in Verkhovna Rada on Tuesday, 3 February: after the “short meeting” of Viktor Yanukovych with the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, MPs from the Party of Regions blocked the tribune of the Parliament.

It was almost impossible for the Party of Regions to find enough votes against Prime Minister during Tuesday and Wednesday. The Block of Lytvyn will surely not support them: the Speaker of Parliament, member of the coalition with the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko, doesn’t want to lose his post. Regions may convince the faction of Communist party, but they will not have enough of votes anyway. Yulia Tymoshenko may be dismissed only if the members of pro-president part of the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence block vote against her. It would mean that the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko decided to play together with the Party of Regions openly, working not for his rating before the presidential election, but against the rating of Mrs. Tymoshenko.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Head of the Party of Regions’ parliamentary faction Oleksandr Efremov told to journalists that it is possible that the MPs from his party may give up their credentials, and this action, according to law, will lead to the self-dismissal of the Parliament and early election. The leader of the non-parliamentary Socialist party, ex-Speaker Oleksandr Moroz also said that the President would probably call for early parliamentary election in April or May 2009 to dismiss the Government of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The theater of the absurd. President Yushchenko's address to the Ukrainian nation - full text.

State of Ukrainian politics is getting worse, more and more resembling the theater of the absurd. I would like to give here a full text of President Yushchenko's urgent televised address to the Ukrainian nation of 30 January 2009 (the official tanslation, provided by the Press office of President).

Dear fellow countrymen,
I decided to address you to provide clear and honest information on economic, budgetary and financial situation in Ukraine. I appeal to you, dear fellow countrymen, to back up the demand to Ukrainian government and parliamentary majority to stop the flow of lie, hypocrisy, aspersions and to immediately, I emphasize that, immediately start acting to save national economy.
The state has absolutely misbalanced financial system.State institutions are knowingly being ruined because of lack of financing. I am not speaking of personal accusations now. I leave this dirt aside.
We were witnesses to a witches’ sabbath in the parliament around the question of the National Bank. It was evidently explained by single intention – to gain access to money printing in order to cover losses in the State Budget. This can result in inflation unseen before. This can result in social catastrophe. I am forced to say this to bring politicians round. Ukrainian industry is falling. People are being fired or forced to long-term leaves. In Moscow, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko made gas deals disadvantageous for Ukraine. The contracts do not correspond with my directives.
The Prime Minister made that decision personally, without consulting collegial opinion of the government. The majority, supporting Yulia Tymoshenko, beginning with her block and to communists, must explain this. The state was put before the fact. The contracts were signed and we must abide by them. In 2009 Ukraine will have to pay for gas 25 billion hryvnyas more than last year. However, Naftogaz’s profit from the transit remains the same as in 2008.The Prime Minister undoubtedly knows that finding additional resources to pay for gas is only possible at internal market, meaning increase of prices for the consumers. Every passing minute is priceless now.
I demand immediate alterations to 2009 State Budget. This is the only way to put things right. I have warned the government and parliamentary majority, who were authors of this year’s state budget, that the document is a cloud-castle. For today the government has not collected even a half of the amount of taxes and dues, planned for January. The cause is the same again – unreal budget. My conclusions are based on evaluation by Minister of Finance Viktor Pynzenyk. The opinion of this Minister is decisive in preparation of estimate in any state. Today he is not heard, first of all in the government.
I address Yulia Tymoshenko and the majority she has organized. This is your responsibility. Respected Yulia Volodymyrivna, you knowingly put unrealistically high numbers and promises into the budget, which you are unable to keep up to today. The funds, including those meant for next repayment of savings, are not concentrated, they are scattered. I address each deputy from Yulia Tymoshenko’s majority. Respected deputy, you support populism, which will tomorrow result in unpaid wages, pensions, scholarships, and other social support. I emphasize that – it is your responsibility. Because of your silent consent – doctors, teachers, and military men will not get their money. There will be no funds for schools or hospitals. You will be answering for that before Ukrainian people.
I address Verkhovna Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. Respected Volodymyr Mykhaylovych, you perfectly understand that current budget is top provocative factor to the crisis in Ukraine. For the sake of state interests I ask you to consolidate the parliament to make alterations to the budget and approve urgent anti-crisis decisions. On behalf of the whole country I demand that the government and the parliament immediately worked out honest budget, where expenses would correspond with capabilities of the economy. This is your constitutional, state and political duty.
I emphasize – all the responsibility for economic situation, for disruption of budgetary process, for destruction of banks system in accordance with the Constitution is upon Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in person. When she reaches deadline, she will not be able to hide in opposition. Enough lies.
I appeal to all fellow countrymen to stay calm. You will be protected. We are able to protect the country and people. The most important thing now is to find political will and courage and to approve a realistic budget for 2009.In order to achieve that I will use all instruments necessary in the state of crisis.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: "If there is a Russian-Ukrainian dispute on energy security I think NATO allies should pick that up".

Let me not to tell anything about Ukrainian politics today. Everything is going well here in Kiev, the politicians are going on with presidential campaign, claiming each other in all the possible sins. The main topics of discussion: gas contracts (Presidential secretariat has issued a new research, making the conclusion that the papers signed in Moscow are not good for Ukraine and may - and possibly should - be revised), the date of Presidential election (December 2008 or January 2009), and a couple of dismissals and appointments - current and prospective. Instead of Ukrainian domestic politics saga, I propose some NATO-reading for today: Transatlantic Leadership For A New Era: Speech by the NATO Secretary General at the Security and Defence Agenda - 26 January 2009. This speech, followed with questions and answers session, really worth to be read. I will give here the words of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, which were concerning directly Ukraine and its geopolitical role in global processes.

"We have seen how the need for reliable energy supply is transforming from a mainly economic question into a central security issue. For many nations, being cut off from energy is a matter of national survival. The recent quarrel between Russia and Ukraine was only the latest reminder of this. This latest crisis showed how a bilateral dispute can have a powerful knock-on effect, both in terms of the heat in houses and a chill in international relations".

"Clearly, no one gets a veto over NATO enlargement. That process is central to our aim of consolidating Europe as an undivided and democratic security space and it is not negotiable. The pace and direction will be of our choosing. But the NATO-Russia relationship is too valuable to be stuck in never-changing arguments. We need a positive agenda, one that befits the importance of both Russia and NATO".

"Considering the political, security and energy issues that run through Central Asia and the Caucasus, I believe we need stepped up focus on those regions as well. I think NATO should consider its role in energy security much more seriously. There is, to my mind, clear added value for the Alliance".

"It is simply not enough to have Heads of State and Government provide NATO with a mandate in energy security, yet to have Allies hesitate to use NATO as a forum for discussion during crises".

"The Bucharest decision was rather clear, or was very clear, I should say, and as I said in my introductory remarks, we will set the pace and we will decide upon the moment. But the moment is performance-based. So I cannot give you a timeframe. It is not around the corner, I would say, as we speak, as far as, of course, Ukraine and Georgia are concerned. We are intensifying our relationship, as you know, through the NATO-Ukraine Commission, the NATO-Georgia Commission, but I do think that enlargement in this sense is not around the corner, but I can't be more specific here in that regard".

"If there is a Russian-Ukrainian dispute on energy security I think NATO allies should pick that up. Not because we have any ambition, or we pretend to play any role. Please, no! There was a Czech presidency which immediately was proactive and involved. That was the European Union involved. Other people were involved. Certainly not NATO. But that does not mean that those subjects are irrelevant for NATO, if you agree with me that NATO is a political military organization".

"I think Russia cannot afford to have a non-dialogue with NATO, and NATO cannot afford to have a non-dialogue with Russia".

"Of course I'm discussing protecting pipelines in times of crisis. I said protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there's a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land".

"NATO is not in the energy business. So if in a situation like we had over the past weeks NATO allies are totally deprived of gas you will not see a NATO Secretary General stepping forward, raise his finger and tell the Europeans or the Russians or the Ukrainians for that matter, listen, guys, you have to stop this. We have other international organizations, other people to do this, and certainly not a NATO Secretary General, the European pres... the European Union presidency, rather, or others.
So we are not in the energy business, but of course when a nation is for a long time deprived of all gas, or all energy, in the North Atlantic Council, and quite rightly so, when a nation raises its finger and says, Secretary General, we would like to discuss the energy situation, should NATO then say no, that's none of our business? I don't think so. Although you'll not see us in the forefront in the energy business because we are not in the energy business. We're in the security business.
And I say again, we usually use the word energy security. And that's our business".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Europe wants action, not talks. While the President of Ukraine was visiting Brussels, he was criticized in Strasbourg.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted the resolution on the state of investigation of a murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze, mentioned in my previous post. Here is the press release with some highlights: PACE wants action to bring to justice those who ordered murder of Georgiy Gongadze. One more interesting thing about the Council I'd recommend to read is a speech of Terry Davis, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (January 26, 2009).

The same time the President of Ukraine held talks in Brussels, giving a lot of attention to the issue of gas supply to Europe. Here is the interview of Mr. Yushchenko to the Financial Times, given during the visit. “The myths cranked out by the Russian government or Gazprom are apparently aimed at discrediting Ukraine as a reliable gas transport partner, to get political and commercial control of the Ukrainian gas system,” he said, talking to the FT correspondent.

One of the results of the visit - the scheduling of a high-level conference on March 23 in order to find investments for the modernization of Ukrainian system of gas transit pipelines. Some details of the Brussels talks are given here in the article of the Guardian.

At a joint press conference with Jose Manuel Barroso Viktor Yushchenko said also that the Gongadze case has to be solved as soon as possible. "I hope that using our joint efforts, including those of Interpol, we will find this criminal and finalize this case. This is a priority for me. I promise that Ukraine will devotedly and transparently do all it can to solve this case as soon as possible," he added.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to come back to the case of murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze.

The Winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) started its work today in Strasbourg, France. Among a lot of important questions like the August war between Russia and Georgia, world economy crisis or recent conflict in Gaza in the agenda of the PACE there is one question, which concerns Ukraine directly. It is a report of the member of the Monitoring Committee of the PACE Mrs. Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (MP from Germany, ALDE group) called Investigation of crimes allegedly committed by high officials during the Kuchma rule in Ukraine – the Gongadze case as an emblematic example, which will be discussed by the Assembly tomorrow afternoon. Full text of the report may be read here.

As the resolution and recommendation of the PACE, proposed by Mrs. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, may (and will) be amended tomorrow, during the debates, I’ll give just a couple of quotations from the mentioned report, which is obviously very important for a future of Ukrainian democracy."

"The Gongadze case and other crimes allegedly involving high officials of the Kuchma regime in Ukraine have been on the agenda of the Assembly for an unusually long time – for a reason: the official investigations also took an unusually long time, and they are still far from being completed, some eight years after the disappearance of the journalist.

The importance of this case, for Ukraine and beyond, stems from the fact that the long list of journalists killed in the exercise of their profession, in Ukraine and in other Council of Europe member states, requires a clear political signal that such crimes are not tolerated.

The first of the two motions underlying the present report was motivated by the failure of the investigations conducted until then to shed any light on the circumstances of the disappearance and murder of the journalist Georgy Gongadze, despite – and some say, because of – widely-publicised information pointing to the possible involvement of high government officials. The second motion drew attention to the fact that the investigations into other crimes allegedly committed by high officials during the Kuchma era were equally stalled, possibly for similar reasons.

A common thread between the two topics consists in the recordings of many hours of conversations in the President’s office allegedly produced by one of his bodyguards, Mykola Melnychenko (“Melnychenko recordings”). These recordings could provide important clues to the political, and possibly also the criminal responsibility of a number of high-ranking officials surrounding the former President. These recordings, their treatment, and the political games played around them, may shed light not only on the political culture which prevailed in Ukraine under the Kuchma regime, but also on the seriousness and determination of the “Orange Revolutionaries” to make good on their earlier promises that, once in power, they would investigate and expose the whole truth, without regard to the rank and political role of the suspects.

The Gongadze case was clearly one of the catalytic events leading up to the “Orange Revolution” brushing aside the Kuchma regime. Given the symbolic importance of the Gongadze case for ordinary Ukrainians, it is my view that President Yushchenko would be well advised to act in such a way that cannot give rise to any suspicion that he is no longer on the side of those who want to see not only the perpetrators of the crime against Gongadze brought to justice, but also all those who ordered and organised it. The award by President Yushchenko, in February 2007, of the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise to former Prosecutor General Mikhail Potebenko has given rise to doubts in this respect, as Prosecutor General Potebenko is widely regarded as responsible for the disastrous conduct of the crucial initial phase of the investigation.

Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko has also promised publicly several times that the elucidation of the Gongadze case was a priority for her administration. I was therefore surprised that she failed to answer two parliamentary questions on this matter that were addressed to her following her speech before the Parliamentary Assembly during its April 2008 part-session.

In my view, two phases of the investigation can be distinguished, which roughly coincide with the period before and after the so-called “Orange Revolution” in December 2004. I tend to share the point of view of the authors of the “Gongadze Inquiry” reports, who summed up the evolution of the political will as follows: whilst under the Kuchma regime efforts were made to hamper, delay and block the investigation at all levels, the political interferences after the “Orange Revolution” were aimed at focusing public attention on the prosecution of the actual perpetrators of the crime whilst diverting attention as much as possible from the organisers and instigators of the crime.

On 15 March 2008, the three policemen were convicted – of premeditated murder committed following a conspiracy, and of abuse of official functions with severe consequences. But the investigation aimed at identifying the organisers and instigators of the crime has barely progressed since 2005 – in particular as regards the possible evidentiary use of the “Melnychenko recordings” and the inquiry into the responsibilities for the blunders committed during the crucial initial phase of the investigation.