Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yushchenko packing bags already?

ProUA reports that president Yushchenko has accepted he will no longer be head of state in several months time. He sees no possibility of reanimating his political base, 'Our Ukraine', and the last straw was the cold shoulder he recieved from Joseph Biden and Barack Obama during his recent visit to the USA.

ProUA's sources claim that having received no guarantees of immunity from prosecution from either of the two front-runners in next January's presidential election, Yanukovych or Tymoshenko, president Yushchenko has already started packing his bags.

Several aircraft-loads of his stuff, including his antiques collection, was apparently seen departing from Zhytomyr airport for Canada and later transhipment to the USA - probably to his wife's home town of Chicago.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shuster show with Tymoshenko hijacked by PoR

I've just spent over two hours watching latest Savik Shuster program, on-line, here.

It's rivetting stuff.

The show was to comprise Yulia Tymoshenko being cross-examined by a battery of eminent journalists. She claimed during the programme that Viktor Yanukovych was to be present as well. Just as the programme opens, three PoR heavyweights - Mykola Azarov, Hanna Herman and Iryna Akimova gate-crash the proceedings, claiming this was 'in the interest of balance'. The PoR trio are seen milling around the studio floor while Tymoshenko is speaking, and two extra chairs are brought into the studio for them, perhaps suggesting that only one of them was to attend. The journos are all clearly pi**ed off by this as it is obvious they where not aware the PoR trio would be there. During the programmeTymoshenko answers hostile questions in her usual passionate manner complete with many diversions, as well as responding challenges from the 3 PoR guys. The whole atmosphere is very tense and the proceedings quite chaotic.

About 2 hours 20 minutes into the programme [which is on a TV channel owned by PoR deputy Rinat Akhmetov] Shuster, who many consider the most respected TV interrogator on Ukrainian television, tries to explain the mix-up about who was to attend the program and who was not.

He says he had been summoned to PoR headquarters earlier in the day, where he had been accused of pro-Tymoshenko bias and was told that PoR representatives had to be present during the programme. He responded that Tymoshenko may well not agree to this. Herman then accuses Shuster, live on air, of concocting a plan whereby the 3 PoR guys would enter unannounced, but he could carry on with the pretence that Tymoshenko would be questioned only by journalists. Shuster repudiates this, denying he was party to any conspiracy, whilst other journalists lay into Herman too for not trusting them to do their job properly in scrutinizing the PM in a fair manner, and for taking from them the opportunity to quiz the PM live on TV, whilst at the same time promoting their own political agenda and electioneering.

The intention of the programme was to give journalists the opportunity of grilling the PM on her handling/mishandling of the economy during the global crisis. PoR considered that the programme would give Tymoshenko the opportunity to promote herself for president, even though the campaign has not yet started.

In the end, it was Tymoshenko and the journalists who emerged with more credit. 'Glavred', in their 'write-up' on the program say her people are happiest about how it all worked out.

PoR have a real problem with Yulka T who is a star performer on TV. As in this particular programme, if she takes on all-comers on her own, answering their questions and challenges, she looks as if she is being unfairly bullied - neutral viewers feel sympathetic to her. She is a master of playing the delicate 'wronged woman'. If she goes one-to-one against anyone in a TV debate, paticularly Yanukovych, [if this were ever to happen], she would probably win hands down. Putting her in front of agressive journalists, who would have given her a hard time, would probably have been best for PoR at this moment in time. But PoR could not be content with this. By highjacking the programme they let Tymoshenko score some easy points and made PoR and Savik Shuster, who had to apologise to the journalists present for submitting to PoR's, in his words, "blackmail", look devious. And they annoyed the journalists big-time too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

British Royal Shakespeare Company play about Holodomor

Listen to a most interesting audio clip broadcast this morning on BBC Radio 4's flagship news programme "Today", about this new play called "The Grain Store", here

"The great famine of 1932 and 1933 in Ukraine, known as the Holodomor, may have killed as many as 10 million people. Some believe that it was a deliberate act of genocide.

BBC Correspondent Nick Higham reports on the Royal Shakespeare Company's world premiere of a play about the famine, written by a Ukrainian writer."

Much more fascinating information about the play, at the RSC site here and here

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Russia's time running out in Ukraine? Or maybe not..

Paul Goble has written a good summary in his blog of a recent important article published in 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya', by Volodymyr Horbulin [who was a National Security and Defence Council secretary under president Kuchma] and Oleksandr Lytvynenko, about the security trap in which both the Russian Federation and Ukraine find themselves. Paul Goble's summary can also be read here.

'Segodnya' yesterday published a riposte to the article by Horbulin entitled "Friendship between Obama and Moscow: the Ukrainian Atlanticist's nightmare"

The author argues that an improvement in relations between Russia, Europe and the USA will make it easier for Ukrainian politicians to maintain equally good relations both with Russia and with the West.

He concludes: "[The] ideal economic situation for Ukraine [would be] to establish a free trade zone with the European Union and to preserve and widen free trade with Russia. To obtain investments both from the Russian Federation and from the West. To agree with Russia on an acceptable price for fuel, and with the West about the technological modernization of our industry and infrastructure. If such a most advantageous multi-vector policy seemed unrealistic in the past because of the complex relations between the West and Russia, then now, as a result the significant warming up of relations in the Moscow- European Union -USA triangle, it is fully possible. The main thing is that these large geopolitical comrades do not fall out between themselves again."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Medvedev's CNN interview

Below is part of the transcript of today's interview with president Medvedvev on CNN.

See video here

"F.Zakariya: Talking about Ukraine, when you say they should hold a referendum there, we should note that Ukraine is a sovereign state, and it’s free to enter any alliance it wants. There is no constitutional requirement for Ukraine to hold a referendum. Even though many believe that Russia is not satisfied with Ukraine being independent, as it believes Ukraine is still part of Russia to a large extent, that it cannot put up with the fact that it has lost Ukraine. In any case, we believe Ukraine has the opportunity to join any alliance; and according to the Constitution, it doesn’t need our direction on whether to do it or not.

D.Medvedev: You’re right. The question is that I am not making any recommendations to Ukraine; I just believe that Ukrainian politicians should think about it. I am not an expert on Ukrainian legislation. But we are talking about entering nothing else but a military bloc; and we had all been within one military bloc called the Warsaw Pact, which used to be NATO’s direct opponent. So if I was to make such a decision, I believe I would have to consult with the population on such issues. This is certainly their sovereign right; but as far as I know, a significant number of politicians hold the same position as me: that a referendum is required before acceding into NATO. The fact that the current Ukrainian president doesn’t think so is his own business. This is what I believe we should remember.

Regarding our attitude towards Ukraine, it’s a hearty and friendly one. We all have relatives and friends in Ukraine, and we have a need to communicate. Ukraine has been going its own way; it’s an independent state now, so let it develop itself. Ukraine has been experiencing economic difficulties and their own national problems; so let our colleagues deal with them.

What is it that I dislike? It’s something I had talked about in my recent address and in my letter to President Yushchenko. There is only one thing I dislike: that the anti-Russian position has become the main policy of the current leadership, meaning the country’s president, my colleague. Whatever they say, I am absolutely convinced this is their key policy. It’s a shame, and it’s wrong. Our nations have been so closely tied together that anyone who tries forcing a wedge between our two nations would be making a mistake, if not a crime, for the sake of future generations. So my address had only one meaning: to make Ukrainian politicians – and their president first of all – start to think about their policy. I really don’t like it that Ukraine has been heroising Nazi criminals, so to speak. [As a lawyer, Medvedev would certainly be aware he was deliberately making an erroneous sweeping generalisation here..LEvko] We had all actually fought against Nazism at some point. Other countries understand it, but the Ukrainian leaders are not willing to realise it for some reason. I have the right to make such assessments, as this is a common challenge, a common threat. Nazi criminals used to be judged by the Nuremberg tribunal.

So there are things that are truly crucial for the future of our relationships. We are not forcing anything on anyone; we are not addressing anyone. I’ve particularly emphasised that I wasn’t even appealing to the Ukrainian nation, because this nation has its own leadership. But as this country’s leader, I have to express my standing to my colleague. Considering everything that had been – and still has been happening there – I had to make an unpleasant decision and to delay sending a new ambassador to Ukraine, so that our Ukrainian colleagues would actually think about the consequences of such a policy."

In three of four months time president Yushchenko will be out of office, clearing his desk and packing a furniture removal truck. So why so hostile? Today was Medvedev's 44th birthday. Maybe he just didn't like the birthday prezzie from his Ukrainian counterpart...

'Segodnya's' "take" on this is: "Head of the Russian Federation has again criticized our president over [his] anti-Russian policies"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another presidential junket

President Yushchenko returned home empty-handed from a state visit to Turmenistan today.

He was accompanied by two airplane loads of officials, musicians [!?], and other personnel. A meagre four inter-government documents only were signed during the president's visit.

But I'd bet they almost cleared out the Ashkhabad duty-free shop before the flight back home..

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poisoners in Russia, claims Yushchenko

The last edition of the "Sunday Times" informs its readers that "President [Yushchenko] claims Kremlin is shielding his would-be killers"

Good job it was dioxin and not polonium..

Ukrainian intellectuals warn of Russian threat

Several days ago the big-selling 'Segodnya' ran this story on "Ukrainian intellectuals'" appeal to the world to save Ukraine from Russia. I've translated some portions below:

They call on the USA, Great Britain, France and China, the guarantors of the Budapest memorandum, to take part in an International conference in order to provide security guarantees for Ukraine.

The members of the intelligentsia have also appealed to leading organs in the European Union "on the need for a clear and unambiguous position on the question of the guarantee of the national sovereignty of Ukraine, and to express a warning against any form of interference by Russia into the internal affairs of Ukraine".

The members of the intelligentsia note: "The Russian leadership have consciously taken a course on the dismantling of the current security system, the key direction of which has become the aim of subordinating Ukraine in order to fulfill the geo-strategic interests of Russia".

According to their appeal, "the consequence of such a strategy is the rapid escalation of stress in bilateral relations. Unprecedented aggravation has taken the form of information warfare against Ukraine".

"In Russian society Ukrainians are presented as the enemy, and Ukraine is labelled as the main destabiliser of relations between the European Union and Russia," they add.

Commenting on the President of Russia's recent message to the President of Ukraine and the new Russian legislation on the use of the Russian armed forces beyond the limits Russian Federation, the intellectuals claim:

"For the first time in many years signs are appearing that the Kremlin is not excluding use of power in its arsenal of foreign policy tools relative to Ukraine".

"The subordination of Ukraine to Russia's strategy will renew the division of Europe, will carry a direct threat to the international and national security of the European Union, will lead to a decrease in the overall level of confidence and security in Europe, and will escalate tension and resistance in foreign relations as a whole", warn the signatories. They include former President Leonid Kravchuk, former top man at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskiy, who is now working for Rinat Akmetov's Foundation for the Development of Ukraine, former ambassador to Great Britain, Serhiy Komisarenko, Levko Lukyanenko, and many others.

Full text here

Saturday, September 05, 2009

BBC radio report on Donbass Arena opening ceremony

Listen to a 5-minute BBC Radio 4 "From Our Own Correspondent report, broadcast on Saturday 5th September 2009, on last weekend's opening ceremony at the new Schaktar Donetsk Arena here. The report starts about 7 minutes into the 30 minute-long audio clip.

Also worth watching is Shaktar's official video of the event here

Friday, September 04, 2009

Con artists all..

British PM Gordon Brown is not the only major world figure doing dubious and disreputable deals with Libyan supremo colonel Gaddafi. At the 40th anniversary celebrations of the coup that brought Gaddafi to power, Ukraine's Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko was amongst the first foreign leaders to greet him.

According to the 'Independent' newspaper : "Prim and pretty with her braided hair, she seemed like a girl receiving a school prize. Her presence was among the more obvious clues as to why the rest of the world puts up with Ronald Reagan's "mad dog" of the Middle East. At least one half of the Ukrainian political establishment is desperate to break clear of its energy dependency on Russia and the political limitations that come with that."

Don't be fooled by the looks - Tymoshenko has had experience in the past of dealing with autocratic and 'loopy' leaders of oil and gas-rich countries to secure beneficial deals for her own [former] companies and for Ukrainian consumers.


I also particularly liked this story from today's 'Independent' about a 17-year-old graffiti artist who stole several pencils that formed part of a sculpture by one of Viktor Pinchuk's favourite artists, Damien Hirst. [Pinchuk's gallery in Kyiv is currently staging a major retrospective Hirst exhibition].

The teenager was arrested by British police and released on bail - he is waiting to find whether he will be formally charged with causing damage to an iconic artwork worth, wait for it, £10m! The pencils were valued at £1/2 million. [They were, apparently, in 'as-new' condition, but it is not clear whether they were the sort that have an eraser rubber at the upper end.]

'Philantropist' Pinchuk, who made his money in no small part thanks to to his father-in-law, former Ukrainian president Kuchma, has been spending millions on what some commentators regard as "not masterpieces..[but] the icons of idiocy".

Now however, the contemporary art market is in meltdown and prices are plummetting. Still, easy come - easy go I suppose.

p.s. It's an inspiration to know that the British police and legal system are ruthlessly pursuing these adolescent thieves and vandals who have no respect for art..

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Kremlin further out of step

Listen to a concise 5 minute audio clip from the 'Guardian's' Luke Harding explaining yesterday's events in Gdansk and the new Kremlin doctrine directed at its neighbours, here

And read his article on some dubious documents on Poland's supposed dealings with Hitler produced in Moscow yesterday, here

Poland - supporting Ukrainian nationalists in the 30's? I don't think so..

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Poland is start of long, uncomfortable season for Russia

Amongst the many articles on the commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of WW2 in Gdansk today, I particularly liked one entitled "We must not forget the real causes of the war", by the acclaimed British historian Norman Davies.

"As the Russian government must realise, however, Poland will only be the start of a long, uncomfortable season. After Poland, it will be Finland's turn, and the 70th anniversary of the Winter War. Stalin's aggression against Finland in November 1939 was every bit as blatant as his actions against Poland. His German partner was not involved, and the despatch of a million troops into a neighbouring country to deport the entire population of the frontier area can hardly be described as the doings of a neutral well-wisher. It led to the expulsion of the USSR from the League of Nations. And after Finland, there will be Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. At every stage, there will be scenes of peace-loving tanks, of executions and deportations, and of weeping patriots..."

Hence the current propaganda war orchestrated by the Kremlin?

p.s. PM Tymoshenko has spent a few interesting few days lately. Over the weekend she was in Donetsk for the opening of Shakhtar's new stadium and was warmly embraced by Rinat Akhmetov, while Beyonce Knowles was singing on stage. Today she met Vladimir Putin in Gdansk, and flew off to Libya for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's bash.