Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ukraine to deliver first batch of armored vehicles to Iraq

October 28, 2010 (Interfax-Ukraine). Ukraine is preparing to deliver its first eleven BTR-4 armored vehicles to Iraq in November under a large-scale contract on arms supply worth over $550 million struck in 2009. This was reported by the Ukrainian deputy industrial policy minister in charge of defense industry, Kostiantyn Kucher. "January 6 is the Day of the Iraqi Army, one of the country's most important events and one of the largest holidays. Therefore in January our eleven BTR-4 vehicles will participate in the parade," he told reporters in Kharkiv on Thursday. In 2009, the subsidiary of state-owned Ukrspetsexport – state-run Progress specialized foreign trade firm – signed a contract with Iraq worth more than $550 million, which is supposed to be one of an upcoming series of contracts in the sphere of military and technical cooperation between Ukraine and Iraq. The contract foresees the delivery more than 400 armored vehicles, in particular the BTR-4, about 10 An-32 aircraft, and aircraft repair services over three to three-and-a-half years.Among the major contractors are Kharkiv-based Morozov Engineering Design Bureau, Kharkiv-based state-run Malyshev plant, and Antonov State Enterprise. According to Antonov State Enterprise, the first three An-32 aircraft will be delivered to Iraq by the end of this year, and another three in 2011-2012.

Cossack descendant and a conqueror of Paris

Born in the Kharkiv region, Serhii Vasylkivsky like nobody else felt and managed to portray the image of Ukraine that fascinated French art galleries.

Serhii Vasylkivsky is known as the poet of Ukrainian painting. The famous Kharkiv-based writer, historian, composer, social and political activist Hnat Khotkevych (one of those shot in the 1930s) said of his compatriot: “When a wide field, all shining with light, will look at you from the canvases, and you’ll hear the lark’s singing, how easily and freely you’ll breath the air that the painter is pouring on you in waves and even like a river. And he, who lived one life with nature, who cried over sounds and colors, makes you tremble before the mysteries of life discovered by him, listen to the nightingale’s splendid song and sorrowful cooing of turtledove…”
One of the famous Ukrainian painters of the late 19th-early 20th century, Serhii Vasylkivsky was born in the Kharkiv region. His works, mostly landscapes of Podniprovia, Podillia, Slobozhanshchyna, Poltava region genre paintings, and historical canvases, create a deep romantic image of Shevchenko’s Ukaine. Armed Cossack-riders in the steppe or a group of Cossacks on guard, in cavalry march, or resting — these are some of the main themes of Vasylkivsky. In order to convey the spirit of the era, Vasylkivsky interspersed his contemporary images of Ukraine with lyrical digressions and historical landscapes portraying Cossacks themes. A descendant of a Cossack, the artist was a child of nature. He tried to put on canvas everything that he saw, felt, and imagined.
However, it would be a mistake to believe that Vasylkivsky’s work has only a local Ukrainian dimension. His works were also understood and prized in Paris. After training at the Landscape Scenery Workshop of the St. Petersburg Art Academy in 1885, Vasylkivsky was conferred the title of first-grad artist. He received one golden and five silver medals for scenery sketches, in which the artist conveyed the picturesque qualities of Ukrainian nature. He also received a big golden medal and the right to go abroad for professional development for the painting On Donets at the All-Russian Academic Exhibition. His next victory was in Paris, which opened to Vasylkivsky the doors to exhibits of Paris art galleries — his works there were highly prized, a rarity for foreign artists.
Vasylkivsky was a very prolific painter. The artist produced 45-50 paintings every year, many of which are still stored in Ukainian museums, first of all, at the Kharkiv Art Museum.
Vasylkivsky’s creative work, with its timeless value, can also be useful for the modern Ukrainian society that is suffering from the East-West stereotypes imposed upon it. Vasylkivsky, an artist born in Kharkiv province, felt and reproduced the metaphysical image of Shevchenko’s Ukraine in a way that nobody else has ever done. And it was that very image that fascinated Paris.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ukraine’s top bribe-takers are traffic policemen and hospital staff

Traffic police and doctors extort bribes from Ukrainian citizens more frequently than any other profession. This was one of the findings of the sociological survey presented in Kharkiv by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, UNIAN reports.
Thus, according to the poll, 91 percent of Ukrainians believe corruption is strongly widespread or rather widespread in Ukraine. When asked about their personal experiences, respondents most commonly cited two cases: public hospitals demanding unofficial payments for better treatment, and the traffic police extorting money instead of fining offenders. Forty-six percent of respondents paid bribes in hospitals more than once, 12 percent indicated that they had to pay just once. The traffic police received bribes more than once from 22 percent of respondents, while only four percent paid once. However, the study showed that Ukrainians were less pessimistic about the direction of the country’s development. Thus, 44 percent (compared to 74 percent in 2009, and 76 percent in 2008) of respondents believed that Ukraine was heading towards instability and chaos, while 21 percent (seven percent in 2009) believed that Ukraine was heading towards stability and prosperity. However, most respondents (83 percent) were dissatisfied with the economic situation this year, with 60 percent also being dissatisfied with the political situation (92 percent in 2009). 75 percent of respondents expressed concern about inflation (58 percent in 2009). Serious concerns were also expressed regarding other economic issues. These included unemployment (56 percent), poverty (51 percent), corruption (37 percent) and general economic issues (36 percent). This year’s political problems concerned 11 percent of respondents. The study was conducted September 8 through 20, with 1,519 respondents throughout Ukraine.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Three bombs went were detonated in Kirovohrad on Oct. 22 hours before President Viktor Yanukovych's scheduled visit to the city.

Three small bombs went off next to government buildings in the Ukrainian city of Kirovograd on Thursday night, hours before a visit by President Viktor Yanukovich, the Interior Ministry said on Friday. A ministry statement said it regarded the blasts, which shattered several windows in one of the buildings but did not cause any injuries, as acts of hooliganism. Parts of an artillery shell, a clock and a battery were found next to one of the buildings targeted, the state prosecutor's office. Two other blasts targeted police and court buildings, the statement said. The ministry has not reported any arrests or detentions in connection with the case and the president's visit went ahead.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the situation, said the blasts early Friday outside the prosecutor’s office, a police building and the courthouse were the work of regional gangs and were a local affair. Yanukovych earlier said an investigation had begun, and if the blasts were staged by his opponents to intimidate him, they would be brought to justice. As reported, the blasts rang out early Friday at 02:50 in the city of Kirovohrad in central Ukraine, where Yanukovych later arrived on a working visit. Fragments of an artillery missile, parts of a clock and a cylindrical battery were found at the scene. No injuries were reported, and no details were disclosed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met on Monday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, during a visit to Ukraine focussed on aerospace cooperation. Chavez was scheduled later in the day to tour the Antonov aircraft assembly plant in the capital Kiev, the Interfax news agency reported. 'This visit for us is not simple protocol, we are not just passing through here,' Chavez said. 'This is an extremely important visit for us.' Cold-shouldered by most developed nations for his outspoken criticism of the United States, Chavez has said his two-week international trip is devoted to increasing trade between Venezuela and European and Middle Eastern nations. It is his first visit to Ukraine.
Kiev is keen to find buyers for the Antonov Company, a state-owned producer of cargo and passenger aircraft with customers primarily in the former Soviet Union and Africa. Over the weekend, Chavez met with Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko and signed an agreement on oil. The deal will see Venezuelan crude transported to the landlocked former Soviet republic via a pipeline running across Ukraine from the Black Sea. The pipeline would give Belarus for the first time an alternative to importing oil from Russia. Chavez was in Russia last week for talks with the Kremlin on possible arms deliveries to Venezuela and possible construction of a nuclear power plant in Venezuela by Russian engineers. The Venezuelan leader is scheduled to travel onwards from Ukraine to Iran, Syria and Portugal.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prosecutor: Khodorkovsky's words prove his guilt

October 14, 2010 (Associated Press). Prosecutors said oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's own testimony has proven his guilt, as closing arguments got under way Thursday in his 20-month-old fraud trial. Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and is on trial in a second case on charges of fraud and embezzling $25 billion in crude oil. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 more years in prison after his initial term expires in a year.He denies all charges in the politically driven legal onslaught.

Photo1. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is seen behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, is serving an 8-year prison sentence on tax evasion charges and faces decades more if convicted on a new set of embezzlement charges in his second trial currently under way.
The criminal cases and the bankruptcy of his Yukos oil company, once Russia's largest, are seen as punishment for challenging the power of Vladimir Putin, who has led Russia since 2000, first as president and now as prime minister.Prosecutor Gulchekhra Ibragimova told the Moscow court on Thursday that Khodorkovsky's own testimony points to his guilt. She cited his acknowledgement of sanctioning stock swaps between Yukos and some regional companies that prosecutors deem illegal.Khodorkovsky, looking pale and dressed in a worn-out black suede jacket and black slacks, made notes while listening to the prosecutors' arguments. Khodorkovsky's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told reporters during the recess that prosecutors have no real evidence, which is why "they produce flows of words, senseless and inconherent."Putin's successor, President Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to reform Russia's judicial system, which suffers from endemic corruption and is subject to political influence. Khodorkovsky's ability to receive a fair trial has been seen as a test of Medvedev's commitment to reform and willingness to break with Putin's policies.Putin has not softened toward Khodorkovsky.
Photo2. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is escorted to a court in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. (AP)
In recent months he has responded angrily to questions about the former Yukos chief executive, suggesting he deserves no leniency because he "has blood on his hands." This is a reference to the former Yukos security chief and a former business partner who have been accused of organizing contract killings in the 1990s to further the company's interests.The verdict is not expected for several weeks. The defense team said it expects closing arguments to continue through the end of next week and then for the judge to call a recess for no less than a month before issuing a ruling.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bus-train crash kills 38 in Dnipropetrovsk region

KYIV, October 12, 2010 (UKRINFORM). 38 people have been killed in a collision between a train and a local bus in the town of Marhanets, Dnipropetrovsk region (central Ukraine), Tuesday morning. Another 12 are in grave condition, railway authorities reported.
The accident occurred at an unguarded railway crossing of the Prydniprovska Railway.
"The crossing was closed, an alarm system was activated, which determined that the crossing was closed to traffic," officials said. Investigators have found that the alarm system was operative. According to the national railway carrier Ukrzaliznytsia, a preliminary cause of accident was the violation of traffic rules by a bus driver in terms of movement through the railway crossings. "The bus driver ignored the prohibition light signals and moved to the crossing in close proximity to the approaching train that resulted in a collision with a locomotive," Ukrzaliznytsia officials confirmed.

The Splendor of the Cossack Era in the Historic Context of the Ukrainian-Swedish Alliance on Display for First Time in North America

The Ukrainian Museum in New York has unveiled an important and exciting exhibition: Ukraine–Sweden: At the Crossroads of History (XVII–XVIII Centuries). The exhibition originated in Kyiv, where it was chosen the best exhibition in Ukraine for 2009. King Charles XVI Gustavus of Sweden and President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine participated in the opening ceremonies.
It is presented at The Ukrainian Museum in an expanded format. Comprising the exhibit are 116 unique and historically significant items from 28 museums, library and archives in Ukraine, Sweden and the United States, as well as private collections. The exhibition explores a pivotal period of European history through the prism of the alliance between Sweden, then a preeminent European power, and Ukraine whose Cossack leaders (Hetmans) were striving to establish an independent state.
An era of treaties, shifting alliances and glorious battles whose victories and defeats had lasting consequences, comes to life in the exhibit. The viewers stand before actual Cossack flags, including the imposing flag of Hetman Ivan Mazepa, admire the armor and other fascinating artifacts and examine original historic documents written by the prominent leaders of the period.
The exhibition also conveys the achievements and splendor of the era with magnificent works of religious, cultural and political significance. Many of the items were commissioned by Hetman Mazepa and bear his coat of arms. They are testimony to his generosity and vision. His immense contribution had a powerful, lasting impact on the Ukrainian people. Works in the exhibition include Mazepa's exquisite book of Gospels, silver and gilded Royal Gates from the early 18th century iconostasis of Saints Borys and Hlib in the Cathedral in Chernihiv – a splendid example of metalwork, and the majestic eleven-foot high silver icon enframent from the Troitsko-Illinsky Monastery in Chernihiv. Regalia such as Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky's hat and Hetman Pylyp Orlyk's mace (bulava) are also on display. Every object in the exhibition has crossed the Atlantic for the first time and represent the most cherished treasures of the period.
The exhibition opened at a propitious time of key anniversaries related to the period. Dr. Yurii Savchuk, Senior Research Associate at the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and curator of Ukraine–Sweden notes that "October 2007 marked the 350th anniversary of the 1657 Treaty of Korsun in which Sweden recognized Ukraine as 'a free people, subject to no one.' March 2009 saw the 300th anniversary of a 1709 treaty that sealed their military-political union and included Sweden's agreement not to accept peace with Moscow until Ukraine was free from Russian rule. Aimed at legitimizing the newly founded Cossack state and providing it with military guarantees, the two agreements were defining moments in Ukraine's development as a modern sovereign state." Later in 1709 the allied forces of Ukraine and Sweden lost the decisive Battle of Poltava against Peter I of Russia, which changed the course of history and saw the emergence of Russia. The battle is remembered by Ukrainians as a noble and heroic act of self-determination – one that has never been forgotten. April also marks the 300th anniversary of Hetman Orlyk's constitution of 1710 – one of the most advanced legal documents where for the first time governing functions are divided into three branches. Orlyk's constitution predates the American and French revolutions by many decades.
As Ukrainians throughout the world approach the twentieth anniversary of national independence in 2011, it is fitting that we pay homage in the present exhibition to the great historical leaders who three hundred years ago had the vision and courage to fight for the right to live free. It is also important to acknowledge those who stood with them.

Click to view the slideshow (73 images):

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Russia poses no threat to Ukrainian economy - Yanukovych

KIEV, October 9, 2010 (RIA Novosti) Russia will not "swallow up" the Ukrainian economy as a result of the blossoming relationship between Moscow and Kiev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said. Relations between Russia and Ukraine, which sunk to post-Soviet lows in the past five years during the presidency of pro-western Viktor Yushchenko, have improved significantly since Yanukovych's election in February. However, the Ukrainian opposition claims that the country's new leadership does not defend properly Ukraine's national interests in relations with Russia. "Ukraine is integrated into the world's economy to such a degree that this [the strengthening of ties with Russia] has little impact [on the state of Ukrainian economy]. But we are watching closely and Russia realizes that," Yanukovych said in an interview with the Ukraina television on Friday night. He added that his frequent meetings with the Russian leadership were necessary to restart the economic mechanism that had been idle for years. "We have an obligation to 'jump start' the bilateral economic mechanism that has been partially destroyed...and, of course, both sides defend their national interests," the Ukrainian president said. According to Yanukovych, Kiev and Moscow are both interested in the revival and development of infrastructure in many branches of the Ukrainian economy, as well as the steady growth of the Russian economy.
"Russia is interested in Ukraine's development because it provides a colossal consumer market [for Russian business]...and we are interested in Russia's development because our trade is already $40 billion," Yanukovych said. The new Ukrainian leadership has set the strategic aim of joining the EU, but says the country will continue developing closer ties with Russia.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kremlin attacks Belarusian leader

MOSCOW, October 3, 2010 (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev harshly criticized Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday, accusing him of waging a "hysterical" anti-Russian campaign to boost his bid for re-election on Dec. 19. Ties between the ex-Soviet neighbours have deteriorated sharply in recent months and analysts say the Kremlin could complicate veteran leader Lukashenko's bid to repeat his landslide 2006 victory."The election campaign there is entirely built on anti-Russian plots, hysterical accusations of Russia's unwillingness to support the Belarussians... and on curses against the Russian leadership," Medvedev said in his weekly video blog ( President Lukashenko in his comments has gone far beyond not only the diplomatic rules, but also basic human decency," he said. "There is a clear desire to set our two states, and hence our two peoples, against each other." For most of his 16 years in power Lukashenko, 55, has enjoyed Russian support as a counterweight to antagonism from Western leaders who accuse him of prolonging his rule through rigged elections and the suppression of dissent. But a series of diplomatic and trade spats have poisoned their relationship in recent months. The Kremlin is furious at Minsk's failure to recognize the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after Russia's 2008 war with Georgia. In his blog, Medvedev described Lukashenko as "dishonest" for reneging on a pledge to recognize the regions that he said was made in front of five other heads of state.Relations between were soured further when Belarus in April gave refuge to former Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was criticised by Moscow. Lukashenko's intermittent efforts to woo the West have also infuriated Moscow.As ties deteriorated, Moscow hiked energy prices and withdrew $2 billion worth of effective annual subsidies on oil supplied to Belarus refineries. In June, Minsk threatened to cut Russian gas transit to Europe in a pricing dispute. Lukashenko, Medvedev said, had proved ungrateful for years of generous Russian financial support. Medvedev's attack comes after Russian state television this summer ran three documentaries that accused Lukashenko of rampant corruption. Lukashenko in turn accused officials in Medvedev's administration of orchestrating "an intentional flow of shameless lies, absurdities and outright misinformation about Belarus" at a press conference in Minsk on Friday. Despite its criticism of Lukashenko, Moscow has not backed any of the 14 candidates running him in December. The opposition has failed to chose a united candidate as they did in 2006.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rolls-Royce eyes cooperation with Antonov Company

October 1, 2010 (UKRINFORM). Roll-Royce, the British automaker and the world's second-largest maker of aircraft engines, is interested in cooperation with Ukraine's state-owned aircraft concern Antonov, Paul Kaye, Rolls-Royce director for Central and Eastern Europe, has said at the AviaSvit-XXI International Aviation & Space Show in Kyiv region. In his words, Ukraine is one of the leading countries in civil cargo aircraft design. According to Kaye, one of the advantages of Rolls-Royce's aircraft engines is a well-developed maintenance network. "We provide technical support to 600 airlines," the British firm representative said. In this connection, he recalled that the Ukrainian DniproAvia airlines operate Embraer-145 aircrafts equipped with Rolls-Royce engines. During the Ukrainian-British Business Forum, held as part of the airshow, Kaye also stressed the interest in developing cooperation with the Ukrainian scientific-research and design institutes.
According to him, the company is thereby looking for new ideas rather than trying to reduce development costs. "Here the question is not about money, but intellect," the Rolls-Royce top manager underscored.

Ukraine's generous pension system close to collapse

(Reurets) Those who think the French pension system is bloated should take a look at Ukraine, a nation which has not only preserved but enhanced generous Soviet retirement benefits -- which now threaten to bankrupt it. Street protests might come easier to the French than they do to the Ukrainians. But the government of President Viktor Yanukovich, who is being urged to raise the retirement age to 65 years for men and women, is still wary of a possible backlash. Relatively small on an individual basis -- about $140 a month on average -- total pension expenditure is a big burden on the ex-Soviet republic's budget, making up 18 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, one of the highest rates in Europe. Ukraine's ageing population means the system's financing needs will only increase unless it is changed. There are already nine pensioners for every 10 working people paying into the pension fund in Ukraine -- and this ratio is set to get worse. "No system can withstand those demographic trends," said Marcin Swiecicki, director of EU-sponsored think tank Blue Ribbon Analytical and Advisory Centre. "This would be a financial catastrophe. "The World Bank said in a report this month that fiscal reform, which includes an overhaul of the system, was "the most urgent priority" for Ukraine."The unreformed pension system and Ukraine's ageing population threaten short-term fiscal stability (with growing deficits that are becoming unfinanceable) and long-term sustainability," it said. Ukraine was taxing payrolls at 35 percent in order to finance pensions -- "one of the highest rates in the world", Swiecicki said.


But even that is not enough. Without reforms, by 2050, Ukraine will have to reduce its average pension to 28 percent of the average wage from the current 40 percent. And if it wants to keep pensions at the same level, the nation will have to raise the retirement age to 65 years for both men and women. Under the current rules, Ukrainian men can retire at 60 while women retire at 55. "Ukrainian women hold the world record in correlation between the length of retirement and the work period needed to obtain a pension: 7.1 years of staying retired for every 10 years of work," Swiecicki said. That compares to 6.2 years in Italy and just 4.6 years in Germany, according to Blue Ribbon data. Opponents of change say earlier retirement in Ukraine is justified by the fact that life expectancy at birth in Ukraine is 7.8 years shorter than in the EU for women and 13.3 years shorter for men. Among other worries are the disparity between pensions in different sectors -- miners and military officers, for example, enjoy much higher benefits than an average pensioner -- and the fact that only 75 percent of workers pay pension contributions.


In his long-term reform programme announced this year, President Viktor Yanukovich promised to radically change the pension system by switching to an accumulative system used in countries like Chile and ex-Soviet peers Russia and Kazakhstan. But the government has so far committed only to gradually raising women's retirement age to 60, as spelt out by its $15 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund made in July. It also plans to reduce early retirement benefits and increase the qualification period for full benefits by 10 years. "This is not a complete solution but it represents a significant step forward," said Blue Ribbon's Swiecicki.The plans have not been clearly articulated at home. The Yanukovich government has prudently shelved discussion of the issue until after the October 31 regional elections so as not to damage his Regions Party's prospects at the poll.However, signalling that even modest reform plans could be reviewed, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko said this month the government would try to avoid retirement age adjustments -- a policy that could displease the IMF. "If we find ways to compensate (growing pension expenditures) without raising the retirement age, we will not raise it," Tigipko told reporters. "If we don't find ways to compensate we must stimulate people to continue working -- by enabling them to earn more for working every additional year and so on."Carrying out pension reform in a slowly growing economy was "a big risk", he added.
On the picture: An elderly woman sleeps as she sells cigarettes to make some money in the centre of Kyiv.