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Pedro Gonçalves

Ukraine's ruling party claims victory in election | World news | guardian.co.uk - 0 views

  • With former leader Yulia Tymoshenko in jail and widespread fears of election fraud, the west is paying close attention to the vote in the strategic ex-Soviet state, which serves as a key conduit for transit of Russian energy supplies to many EU countries. An election deemed undemocratic by international observers could freeze Kiev's ties with the west and push Ukraine towards Moscow.
  • Udar (Punch), led by world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, is set to get about 15%, according to the survey.
  • Opposition forces hope to garner enough parliament seats to weaken Yanukovych's power and undo the damage they say he has done: the jailing of Tymoshenko and her top allies, the concentration of power in the hands of the president, the snubbing of the Ukrainian language in favour of Russian, waning media freedoms, a deteriorating business climate and growing corruption.
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  • The strong showing by the far-right Svoboda party, which campaigns for the defence of the Ukrainian language and culture but is also infamous for xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric, showed the widespread disappointment and anger with the ruling party.
Pedro Gonçalves

Ukraine leader stirs Tymoshenko row with murder charge | Reuters - 0 views

  • Shcherban died in a hail of bullets as he stepped from a plane in the eastern city of Donetsk. The attackers, disguised as airport mechanics, also killed his wife and several bystanders.

    His killing followed several other murders in Donetsk, including a football stadium bombing that killed the owner of Shakhtar Donetsk club, and led to a realignment of political and business alliances in the key steel- and coal-producing region.

    Back then, both Tymoshenko and Yanukovich were big players in a turbulent region which seethed with intrigue and where fortunes were made and lost in murky dealings ranging from sales of state assets to protection rackets, extortion and theft.

  • Backing his president, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that after Shcherban had been removed, the company Tymoshenko headed, Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine, moved onto the scene and made big profits by selling Russian gas at a mark-up price to local companies.
  • Last month, general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka said Tymoshenko, 51, was being treated as a material witness in the Shcherban case and investigators were trawling through evidence in the case, including new testimony from the dead man's son.

    Ruslan Shcherban was 19 at the time and survived the attack by hiding under a car, but he has said recently he has evidence implicating Tymoshenko.

Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Husband of Ukraine's Tymoshenko wins Czech asylum - 0 views

  • Last year, the country granted asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn, a former economy minister in Tymoshenko's cabinet.

    A row ensued in which Ukraine expelled two Czech diplomats for alleged espionage.

    Mr Tymoshenko has a stake in the Czech company International Industrial Projects.

Pedro Gonçalves

Ukraine gives up its uranium | World news | guardian.co.uk - 0 views

  • oday, Ukraine announced a landmark decision to get rid of all of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium by the time of the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012. Ukraine intends to remove a substantial part of its stocks this year. Ukraine will convert its civil nuclear research facilities -- operate with low-enriched uranium fuel.
Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Ukraine's Yanukovych visit Russia visit to mend ties - 0 views

  • Ukraine's new President, Viktor Yanukovych, says his visit to Moscow will mark the first step in a major improvement in relations with Russia.

    Mr Yanukovych has arrived in Moscow ahead of talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and PM Vladimir Putin.

  • He says he wants good relations with Russia and the West, and has already visited EU headquarters in Brussels.
  • Gas supplies may be a source of friction in the talks. Officials say the Ukrainian leader is expected to lobby for lower gas prices, as well as seek billions in loans from Russia to help cover the country's soaring budget deficit.
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  • Other contentious issues include a border dispute and the fate of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol. Its lease is set to expire in 2017.

    The Kremlin is keen to extend the lease, but Mr Yanukovych's pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko had opposed the move. Mr Yanukovych has promised to seek a compromise.

Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Yulia Tymoshenko drops Ukraine election challenge - 0 views

  • Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has dropped her legal challenge against her rival's victory in Ukraine's presidential election.
  • International monitors deemed the vote free and fair, and Mr Yanukovych is due to be inaugurated on 25 February.

    Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission's declaration on Sunday that Mr Yanukovych had won the vote by a margin of 3.48%.

  • "Given that the court is refusing to establish the truth in essence, I withdrew my lawsuit at today's morning sitting of the Supreme Administrative Court and asked the court to stop this show, which bears no resemblance to justice," she said.
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  • As recently as Friday she had appealed for the poll to be declared void, saying: "I cannot accept double standards and I cannot give up".

    The prime minister said more than a million votes, which she said were decisive to the outcome, were invalid.

Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Ukraine: Tymoshenko vows to contest election result - 0 views

  • "I want to clearly state: Yanukovych is not our president," Ms Tymoshenko said in a live televised broadcast.
  • But she said she would not call people on to the streets to protest, as she had done after the 2004 presidential election.

    "I will not call another Maidan [Independence Square demonstration] and will not allow public protests," she said.

Pedro Gonçalves

Russia and Ukraine in Intensifying Standoff - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • Late last month, the Ukrainian police briefly detained Russian military personnel who were driving truckloads of missiles through this port city, as if they were smugglers who had come ashore with a haul of contraband. Local officials, it seemed, were seeking to make clear that this was no longer friendly terrain.
  • President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia denounced Ukraine this month for “anti-Russian” policies, citing in particular its “incessant attempts” to harass Russia’s naval base in Sevastopol. Mr. Medvedev condemned Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and its support for Georgia, and said he would not send an ambassador to Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainians have not only briefly detained Russian military personnel transporting missiles on several occasions this summer. They also expelled a Russian diplomat who oversees naval issues and barred officers from the F.S.B., the Russian successor to the K.G.B., from working in Sevastopol.
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  • The current concern is that a spark in Crimea — however unlikely — could touch off a violent confrontation or even the kind of fighting that broke out between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia.

    The situation is particularly uneasy because the population in Crimea is roughly 60 percent ethnic Russian and would prefer that the peninsula separate from Ukraine and be part of Russia. (Sevastopol has an even higher proportion of ethnic Russians.)

  • People have been upset by new Ukrainian government policies that require the use of the Ukrainian language, rather than Russian, in government activities, including some courses in public schools. Throughout downtown Sevastopol last week, residents set up booths to gather signatures on petitions in an effort to overturn the regulations.
  • And on Monday, Ukrainian independence day, ethnic Russians in Crimea held anti-Ukrainian demonstrations.
  • Sergei P. Tsekov, a senior politician in Crimea who heads the main ethnic Russian communal organization, said he hoped that Russia would wholeheartedly endorse Crimean separatism just as it did the aspirations of South Ossetia and another Georgian enclave, Abkhazia.
  • Crimean separatists have been encouraged by prominent politicians in Russia, including Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, and a senior member of Parliament, Konstantin F. Zatulin, both of whom have been barred from Ukraine by the government because of their assertions that Sevastopol belongs to Russia.

    The Kremlin has not publicly backed the separatists, though it has declared that the rights of ethnic Russians in Crimea must not be violated.

Pedro Gonçalves

BBC NEWS | Europe | Ukraine PM to stand for president - 0 views

  • Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko has announced that she will stand in presidential elections in 2010.
  • The prime minister was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution, but her alliance with current President Viktor Yushchenko has become a rivalry.

    Scandals have left Ukraine without foreign, defence and finance ministers.

  • Defence Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, seen as an ally of Mr Yushchenko, was sacked by MPs on Friday in a motion put forward by Ms Tymoshenko's allies.
Argos Media

EU seeks greater links with ex-Soviet states - The Irish Times - Fri, May 08, 2009 - 0 views

  • THE EU has invited six former Soviet republics to join an eastern partnership initiative promising closer ties amid growing fears of serious economic and political upheaval in the region.
  • At a summit yesterday, the union offered the prospect of free trade, additional economic aid, a gradual relaxation in visa restrictions and integration into the European single market. But the initiative stops short of offering the prospect of future EU membership to any of the participants and commits them to respect human rights and democracy.
  • “If we don’t export stability to this region, we will import instability,” said Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt who, along with Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, co-developed the eastern partnership plan in an attempt to stabilise eastern Europe.
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  • Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the 27 EU states signed up to a declaration promising a “more ambitious partnership”. The EU is also planning to boost the amount of aid it provides to the region to about €600 billion and provide technical assistance to the six states.
  • Moscow rejects European accusations of meddling in the region and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the proposed partnership when he met his European counterparts, telling them it should “not get in the way of the post-Soviet era”.
  • EU diplomats attempted to soothe Russian concerns to prevent tensions between Nato and Russia worsening. “This is not anti-Russian,” said Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. “They are our close eastern neighbours and we have a vital interest in their stability and prosperity. This is an offer, not an EU projection of force.”
  • However, the commitment of EU states to the eastern partnership initiative came under question, with several high-profile EU leaders staying away. British prime minister Gordon Brown, French prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and Spanish prime minister José Luís Zapatero did not attend.
  • Polish hopes that the partnership may be used to give countries such as Ukraine the chance to apply for EU membership face opposition from Germany and the Netherlands. Diplomats from both states insisted on watering down the declaration, which initially referred to the states as “European countries”. Instead, they were described as “partners” and promises of fast-track visa liberalisation were deleted.
Argos Media

EU Offers Aid, Loans to Six Eastern Nations - WSJ.com - 0 views

  • The European Union on Thursday offered six former Soviet states €600 million ($798 million) in incentives to promote stronger energy and economic ties and democratic reforms.
  • The plan, called the Eastern Partnership, has inflamed tensions between the EU and Russia, as Moscow worries that the bloc is encroaching on its traditional turf. The EU, for its part, remains wary following Russia's war in Georgia last year and a weekslong January cutoff of gas supplies to the EU during a dispute between Moscow and Ukraine.
  • "The EU knows, not just because of the Georgia crisis and the gas crisis at the beginning of this year, that safety and prosperity in Europe also depend on the stability of the Eastern partner countries," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a summit here of the six countries and the EU.
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  • In addition to the money, international institutions, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, have been asked to increase their lending in the six -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine -- some of which have been hit hard by the downturn.
  • But the EU may be losing the competition for influence with a more-determined Russia. Only €350 million of the money is new, suggesting limited commitment. Moscow sees the Eastern Partnership, which it has described as EU "meddling," as an attempt by the West to carry on with a failed attempt to expand NATO into the region, says Alexander Rahr, director of the Russia program at the German Council on Foreign Relations.
  • In a sign of EU divisions over the Eastern Partnership plan, Ms. Merkel was the only leader of a big EU nation to attend the summit. Leaders of the six Eastern Partnership countries also gave the offer a mixed reception. Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, and Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who have close ties to Moscow, didn't attend.
Argos Media

France 24 | EU offers partnership to former Soviet states | France 24 - 0 views

  • European Union nations gathered for landmark talks Thursday with six former Soviet states, aiming to foster stability without angering Moscow or offering anyone the hope of eventual EU membership.
       
    The main goal of the new Eastern Partnership is to "accelerate political association and further economic integration" between the 27 EU nations and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, according to a draft summit statement.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday warned against the creation of "new dividing lines" in Europe.
       
    However EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana assured in Prague that the Eastern partnership "is not against Russia with whom we also have a partnership".
  • Brussels says the new scheme is designed to foster stability in the region and is not handing out the carrot of eventual EU partnership.
       
    "This is not about building spheres of influence, this is not about building competition, this is a language that belongs to the past," EU commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said.
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  • The project was the initiative of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency till the end of next month.
  • Prague was unable to convince key EU leaders to attend -- with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi among the no-shows.
  • Overall the meeting was turned into something of a semi-summit, with just over half of the 27 EU nations represented by their heads of state or government.
       
    A senior European Commission official said the absences increase the danger of "policy for the East made by countries from the East (of the EU), and a policy for the Mediterranean made by Mediterranean countries".
  • The draft shows some of the tensions over the eastward rapprochement, with subtle but key text changes in the final version reflecting the wishes of western Europe -- France, Germany and the Benelux countries in particular -- not to go too far with the project.
       
    The six partner nations are clearly referred to as "Eastern European Partners" whereas the Czechs wanted to drop the "Eastern" tag.
  • The reference "long-term goal" was also added to a paragraph on visa liberalisation.
  • No mention of EU membership goals for the six is made, with several EU nations feeling they have enough on their hands with the European aspirations of the Balkan nations.
  • The Eastern Partnership was promoted by Czech, Polish and Swedish concerns that the EU's political focus had moved to areas where it had little real influence rather than stay on more "European" states.
Argos Media

EU pact challenges Russian influence in the east | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • A summit of 33 countries in Prague brought the EU's 27 governments together for the first time with the leaders of the post-Soviet countries of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus to inaugurate the so-called "Eastern Partnership".
  • The attempt to ringfence Russia's clout in a region that Moscow views proprietorially as its "near abroad" has been triggered by the destabilising events of the past nine months, notably Russia's invasion of Georgia last August and its gas war with Ukraine in January.

    "This is only happening because Russia has annoyed everyone," said Michael Emerson, a Brussels analyst and former European Commission chief in Moscow.

  • Yesterday's summit also coincided with a fresh bout of worsening tension, with Russia and the west engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and spies over the past week, Moscow raging at Nato military exercises in Georgia starting this week and the west incensed at Russian assertion of border controls in Georgia's two breakaway regions.
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  • Senior Czech officials organising yesterday's summit openly acknowledged that the eastern partnership was aimed at countering Russia's influence in its backyard.

    "Foreign policy is always about the projection of interests," said Alexandr Vondra, the outgoing Czech deputy prime minister. "You can project your interests, but you must give the respective countries the freedom to make choices."

  • The policy launched yesterday breaks new ground by seeking to entice the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. The instability in Georgia, the recent unrest in Moldova, and the permanent feuding among Ukraine's political elites all point to the formidable challenges for a policy that the European Commission describes as "a strategic imperative".
  • The new policy treats the six countries as a regional bloc, aiming to establish free trade areas between them and the EU, to tap their energy resources, and to promote human rights and democracy-building projects. But while the initiative is aimed at bringing the six countries in, it is also intended to keep them out. The declaration adopted yesterday was changed to call the six countries "east Europeans" rather than "Europeans" lest the latter description encourage applications to join the EU, as pushed by Ukraine and Georgia and opposed by western Europe.

    Eastern clamour for visa liberalisation to make it easier to travel to the EU was also blocked, with the issue parked for the long-term.

Argos Media

General Wesley Clark on NATO's Future | Newsweek International Edition | Newsweek.com - 0 views

  • Was President Bush's membership push for Georgia and Ukraine productive?
    The idea that you bring these countries into NATO and then there's no problem doesn't make sense. … One of the problems we saw [in the Bush years] was the overmilitarization of U.S. foreign policy and too much focus on just the areas where there was an imminent national security threat.
  • What does NATO do now that the U.S. has stepped up ownership in Afghanistan?
    When the U.S. gave this mission to NATO, it didn't deliver a success strategy. It was more like, "Take the mission. We'll leave a few forces there just in case, and good luck!" In terms of development, you can't simply corral villagers when they don't have a livelihood. You can't limit yourself to poppies just because the Taliban makes money from poppies. So do villagers! … NATO is not really able to deal with economic developments.
  • If the U.S. resets relations with Russia, does it still need a missile shield in Poland?
    It's really about Iran. If there's a way to assure Russia of our intent, we should.
Argos Media

Foreign Policy: Ukraine's Dangerous Game - 0 views

  • "I try to defend our interests so that we can find a balance in our relations both with the EU and Russia," Tymoshenko explains, meaning she wants her country to get into the EU without giving the impression of antagonizing Russia.
  • Could the same strategy apply to Ukraine's relations with NATO? Here the prime minister sighs for a split second: "There, it's more complex." It's not so much that she is frightened by Georgia's experience, something she never mentions though it's clearly on her mind. While recognizing it would be "uncomfortable" for Ukraine to remain "in a void, outside all existing security systems," she still sees several "political barriers" between Kiev and NATO.
  • The first problem she sees is that barely 25 percent of Ukrainians favor joining NATO. "Even the president accepts we need to hold a referendum on this," she acknowledges.
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  • The second "problem" is rather a carefully managed swipe at those Europeans cozying up a bit too much to Russia -- especially Germany and Italy, one suspects. In Tymoshenko's own words, "There is no unanimity in the EU on Ukraine's joining NATO as we have not yet witnessed a favorable attitude in every country."
  • At the moment, Tymoshenko narrowly trails Yanukovych in opinion polls but remains far more popular than Yushchenko, whose support has fallen to the single digits. Nonetheless, she remains a controversial figure. In an identity-obsessed Ukraine that declared independence six times over the last 90 years, even her family origins fuel much debate. She grew up speaking Russian and perfected her Ukrainian only after she moved to politics in her 30s. Through a spokeswoman, she also "doesn't comment" on rumors that part of her family comes from Armenia. It's hard to imagine her receiving the kind of voter acceptance enjoyed by Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy with their foreign-born fathers.
Argos Media

Foreign Policy: Ukraine's Dangerous Game - 0 views

  • This is a tough day for her and an important time for Ukraine. Later she will speak before parliament to defend controversial new budget measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for unblocking a badly needed financial rescue package. The amount at stake is relatively small, a $1.8 billion second installment of a $16.4 billion loan. But without the IMF, there is little hope Ukraine will regain enough market confidence to roll over the $40 billion in bank loans and bonds coming due this year. By mid-April, Tymoshenko needs to push pension reform and higher gas tariffs through the legislature - hardly a comfortable position for a leading candidate in the presidential elections expected on Oct. 25.
  • It is especially ironic that this businesswoman turned anti-Russian revolutionary is now disparaged by Yushchenko as a thinly disguised Russian pawn.
  • Not that dealing with Russia has gotten any easier. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin did not like Tymoshenko's recent deal with the European Union on the modernization of Ukraine's gas infrastructure, and Moscow is holding up a $5 billion loan to Ukraine to mark its dissatisfaction.
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  • "All this crossfire shows what I really stand for is our own national interest," she says. Then she is quick to add: "The Russians worry that we are trying to privatize our pipelines by stealth, but that's not the case and would be illegal. We have to reassure them on that."
  • "There is no doubt we want to join the EU. At least 60 percent of our public opinion favors this option, and we are now closer to this goal than, say, one year ago. This policy must be the essence of all our actions," she says. But, she warns, it cannot succeed by confronting Moscow or ignoring its concerns.
Argos Media

On Its 60th Birthday, NATO's Future Is Looking Cloudy - TIME - 0 views

  • Most of today's leaders of NATO member states were not yet born when the Alliance was forged, and almost two decades after the Soviet Union's collapse, military analysts see the Alliance as mired in an identity crisis.
  • "It's entirely unclear what NATO's reason for existence is after 1989 [the year the Berlin Wall came down]," says Tarak Barkawi, senior lecturer in international security at Cambridge University's Center for International Studies.
  • "The Taliban does not accept defeat, so how can you win?" says Karl-Heinz Kamp, director of the research division for the NATO Defense College in Rome, which trains all ranking NATO officials and diplomats. "NATO might not be able to lose or win in a classic military way," he adds.
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  • the limited reinforcements made available by the Europeans — and the restrictions to noncombatant roles in order to win the consent of Europe's mostly antiwar electorates — has raised questions about the purpose of the Alliance. "NATO lost its credibility when it refused to commit the resources needed," says Barkawi.
  • In Europe, says De Hoop Scheffer, a former Dutch politician, "fighting is not very popular."
  • During the 1990s, the Alliance began expanding, inducting nine new members from Eastern Europe's former Soviet territories and satellites that sought protection from Russian power.
  • But that program seemed to hit a wall last August, when Georgia fought a five-day war against Russia for control of South Ossetia.
  • Georgia, whose bid to join the Alliance had been strongly backed by the U.S., was viewed by many Western officials as having provoked a senseless fight, which would have obliged NATO to get involved had Georgia been a full member. Last summer's confrontation put Georgia's membership in the deep freeze, as well as that of Ukraine, whose accession to NATO would also be taken as a provocation by Moscow.
  • Moreover, NATO's passivity in the face of Russia's pummeling of Georgia will have left member nations along Russia's western frontier wondering what extent of support they could rely on from NATO allies in the event of a confrontation with Moscow.
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