Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yushchenko takes control of NUNS

As a counterpoint to my previous blog, which suggested a PoR/BYuT/BL parliamentary coalition could be soon formed, I've loosely translated portions of an article in the latest 'Segodnya' below:

Yushchenko will lead "Our Ukraine" to "Regiony"

NUNS held a closed congress last Saturday during which president Yushchenko replaced Vyacheslav Kyrylenko as chairman of the party. It increases the probability of creation of a coalition between NUNS, Lytvyn's Bloc [BL] and Party of Regions.

As head of the party, Yushchenko will be able to influence his parliamentary deputies more firmly. According to one expert, his appointment signifies that the president now intends to crush any resistance in his party - previously some NUNS deputies led by its previous head Vyacheslav Kyrylenko categorically refused to go on a coalition with Party of Regions. Now there was a possibility of such wide coalition, and it could mean postponement of any early election. But if a coalition does not materialize, the expert considers the most probable time for parliamentary elections to be the second half of February 2009. A decree naming the date could appear in the middle of December.

The next two weeks will be decisive for the political process - in parliament the question on appointing a new parliamentary speaker should be dealt with. Yushchenko has let it know that he sees Ivan Plyushch, who is a proponent of a broad coalition but against early elections, in that position.

However, events could develop under other scenario if 'Regional' Oleksandr Lavrynovych becomes the speaker, in which case, there is a probability that coalition a PoR-BYuT coalition could be created.

Nevertheless in 'Regiony' there is still no stable majority of deputies supporting union either with BYuT or with Our Ukraine. And position of Lytvyn, who could miss out on his fervent desire to become speaker, is not clear. Without Lytvyn and the pro-presidential part NUNS, the 226 deputy threshold required to form a parliamentary majority cannot be cleared.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

BYuT and 'Regiony' already dividing up posts between them?

'Segodnya' has an article on progress on the possible formation of a BYuT/NUNS/BL coalition. Below are some portions:

BYuT and 'Regiony' already dividing up posts'

Lytvyn Bloc [BL] people say that PoR and BYuT have practically come to an agreement.

December 2nd could become as stormy as September 2nd when PoR and Tymoshenko's bloc began to vote together in the VR for anti-presidential laws. One possibility would be a repeat of voting for the very same laws. Acting VR speaker Olexandr Lavrynovych has submitted for consideration changes in the law on the Constitutional court which narrows the possibilities for the president to cancel any decision of the KabMin and makes possible enactment of a realistic impeachment procedure.

Information on behind-the-scenes movement began emerging after Yulia Tymoshenko's statement [earlier this week] giving Yushchenko a last chance to support formation of a BYuT/NUNS/BL coalition, otherwise she threatened to negotiate with other possible partners. The president's side reacted quickly and firmly: head of the Presidential Secretariat Viktor Baloha declared that Tymoshenko, having wrecked the old coalition, has no right to blackmail Yushchenko. And the head pro-presidential UNP Yuriy Kostenko claimed the prime minister's statement was only a cover for a real arrangement which already exists between BYuT and PoR.

Volodymyr Lytvyn recently unexpected stated that he supports Tymoshenko in her aspiration to create "a coalition of three". However BL deputy Oleh Zarubinsky on Friday told 'Segodnya' that words of his leader were incorrectly interpreted: "He said that this coalition would be the optimum option of those that could lead the VR out of the current situation. Concerning our consent nothing has yet been said, because we cannot talk about virtual matters. And this coalition without NUNS is a virtual matter. We all see that the majority of NUNS are against such coalition, because the president is against it. As to a BYuT/NUNS/BL coalition, these negotiations were a reality. But the've been suspended to extent that it is not necessary at all to talk about its reality today. As to PoR having very deep negotiations with BYuT, there is information that they have already reached the stage of [allocating] personnel positions".

Both BYuT and "Regiony" respond ambiguously to Zarubinsky's statements - in principle they reject them. "We are negotiating with everyone, and it is not a fact that BYuT are closer to forming a coalition with us than with NUNS," a source close to the PoR leadership told 'Segodnya',"and Lavrynovych's projects could simply be a means of pressurizing the president to decide either a coalition, or elections".

"Lavrynovych is being consistent," says Valeriy Pysarenko, a BYuT deputy. "He was then the author of these bills, and his principled position shows that he is a man of his word and deed. But I would not be so optimistic as regards December 2nd becoming a remake of September 2nd: we have already tried to work in an unstable majority mode, and now the emphasis will applied to coalition creation. We consider that in a coalition there can be parties having different views. And to frighten society with a PoR/BYuT coalition is silly right now, because society awaits exactly this both from PoR and from us. But in reality we are now as close to a coalition with PoR, as to a coalition with NUNS and BL."

From what deputies have told us one thing in undoubtedly clear: everyone is carrying out negotiations with everyone else. And they are being conducted feverishly as everyone is afraid that their competitors will outstrip them. But real arrangements, apparently, there are few. It is probable that PoR and BYuT have indeed agreed on joint voting on Lavrynovych's bill which suits both fractions, but to conclude from this a quick formation of a coalition will take place is hasty, just as it was hasty to forsee a coalition between those who removed [former VR speaker] Yatseniuk.

The life of this bill it could turn out to be short, the same as last time. Only this time it could be used as bargaining chip by 'Regionaly' who expect resolute actions on the formation of a coalition, or the announcement of early election, from Yushchenko. But if the president draws out his decision, a union between PoR and BYuT could make further progress.

*PRyBYuT in Ukrainian sounds a like 'they will nail down', or 'they will beat down..'

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tymoshenko no longer flavour of the month in Moscow

In recent times PM Tymoshenko had virtually gained the position of Ukraine's favourite politician amongst Russia's leadership. Memorandums on supply of gas had been signed and work had commenced on long-term co-operation in the gas sphere.

But a recent article in Unian explains why she is back 'in the doghouse' again. Threats to hike up the price of gas for Ukrainian consumers to stratospheric levels have been made, and prompt payment for gas bill demanded, i.e. a return to the normal situation in Russian/Ukrainian relations during any Autumn and Winter period.

Russian experts claim Gazprom have debts of over $40Bn. Until recently the company had a market value of nearly $300Bn, so the debt was managable, but now the company's value is well under $100Bn. Gas prices may be falling quite soon too as they are linked to the price of petroleum, so Gazprom need to squeeze as much as they can from their customers, like Ukraine.

Russia is having second thoughts on cutting out the gas middleman RosUkrEnerho after serious lobbying by Dmitro Firtash and Yuriy Boyko [and possibly others*].

Finally, the forthright position of the Ukraine's president on the commemoration of the 75th anniversay of the Holodomor famine has angered Russia's leaders.

Tymoshenko's measured attitude to the Georgian/Russian mini-war, in contrast to that of Yushchenko, pleased the Kremlin. The author of the Unian article claims he has reasons to reasonably assume that Vladimir Putin may have contacted the Ukrainian PM requesting she at least hints that the Holodomor may not have been a genocide, thus isolating Yushchenko and his rigid position on this issue. But this may have been a step too far for her - the political price would have been too great.

Unian concludes that Tymoshenko' recent article in 'The Economist' may have been an olive branch offered to the Russian side.

*An 'Obozrevatel' article by the excellent Sonya Koshkina sheds some light on the tangled webs linking RUE, Russian and Ukrainian businessmen, and Vladimir Putin.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Effects of global economic crisis on Ukraine's metal-bashers

Over a month ago I mentioned how hard the global economic crisis would hit Ukrainian industry, particularly in the eastern part of the country. This topic is now raising interest in the western media too.

Today 'Kommersant' provides details of the state in which a vital Ukrainian company, one that "makes machines that make machines*", finds itself.

Here are some loosely translated portions of 'K's' article:

Crisis in heavy engineering - metallurgists cancelling orders

Ukraine's largest manufacturer of heavy engineering equipment, Novokramatorsk Machine Building Plant (NKMZ), yesterday declared they are terminating the dispatch of products to Ukrainian enterprises in the mining and metallurgical complex [because] they are unable to pay for these previously ordered products and are also cancelling equipment orders for the future.

As a result, according to experts, NKMZ it will be soon forced to substantially reduce production. However, the absence of major debts will, in their opinion, help the enterprise to survive the crisis.

The NKMZ limited company specializes in the manufacture of equipment for manufacturing rolled stock, for forged and pressed components, hydraulic, mining, lifting-transporting, and specialized equipment, as well as castings. The principal owner of NKMZ is considered to be PoR VR deputy Georgiy Skudar.

Yesterday the press service of NKMZ reported that on November 21st the plant stopped production for practically all Ukrainian customers because of their inability to settle their debts and their turning away of previously ordered equipment. According to the President of NKMZ, Georgiy Skudar, the equipment whose production is now frozen was intended for the likes of 'Azovstal', 'Zaporizhstal', and the Poltava ore-enrichment plant [some of the largest plants in Ukraine..LEvko]

Skudar noted also that deliveries to Russia have been halved. "As of November 21st NKMZ has finished products on its hands having a value of 700 million [about $150m], for which customers have not yet paid.

He expressed confidence that the soon Ukrainian metallurgists will find the means to settle their debts to the plant, and this will allow NKMZ to survive the crisis. The deputy chairman of the board of enterprise, Aleksey Voloshin, added that the plant has orders to the end of 2009, but only 18% of these were from domestic customers.

The failures of metallurgical combines to acquire new equipment from NKMZ is due to the freezing by them of investment projects as a result of the economic crisis. The drop in the world demand for steel has forced Ukrainian manufactures to close down 21 of 43 blast furnaces. According to [highly optimistic? LEvko] forecasts by the Ukrainian Ministry of Economics, the downturn in manufacturing should come to an end at the end the first quarter of 2009. Financial experts consider the company is financially sound and reasonably well placed to survive the downturn.

A significant chunk of the $16.5Bn first tranche of the recently negotiated IMF loan for Ukraine has been earmarked to assist the 'metallurgists' get through the crisis. The money will help them upgrade their plant, and will help finance national infrastructure projects, e.g. bridges, road and rail construction etc.

* Many years ago a wise lecturer told me to always keep an eye on companies that "make machines that make machines".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tymoshenko in Sweden

PM Tymoshenko visited Sweden several days ago and gave an interview to the 'Dagens Nyheter' newspaper.

I've pushed it through a translation package - here is most of it:

We want to be part of a European security structure, but since only a minority of Ukrainians want to join NATO membership of the defense alliance is not relevant, the Ukrainian government chief Mrs Yulia Timoshenko told DN. However she hopes on an association agreement with EU as early as next autumn.

Ukraine's Prime Minister, Mrs Yulia Timoshenko is to visit Sweden - her first - the middle of an extremely difficult period at home. Right now shaken Ukraine of perhaps the worst political and economic crisis in the young country's history. The visit would have taken place in May but was postponed because of the permanent political internal strife that seems to be the Slavic nation's fate.

That she has arrived in Stockholm despite turmoil at home due mainly to Sweden occupies the presidency of the EU in the second half of 2009. The hope is that Sweden may steer the Ukraine to an association agreement with EU.

- It's almost like pure vacation to come to this clean and orderly country, she says with a smile just before attending a meeting with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The night before, she had been to dinner with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Swedish business executives. The latter are important, she stresses, given that Sweden is one of the biggest investors in Ukraine, and welcome even more.

All political forces in Ukraine agree on the approach to the European Union.

"The 'Eastern partnership', which was initiated by Sweden gives us a way into the EU. Next autumn, we expect a new association agreement, with a free trade zone. And a door open for a future Ukrainian membership in the European Union."

If the majority of Ukrainians want to enter the EU, the situation is reverse in the more iconic the NATO issue. On this point also marks the Mrs Yulia Timoshenko clearly cooler attitude than President Viktor Yushchenko, who urgently want to get Ukraine into NATO.

"Today is not more than 22-25 percent of the population supports NATO membership. Naturally, Ukraine can not stand alone, we must have been part of some form of collective security. But the most valuable for Ukraine is to preserve the unity of the country, and the NATO issue is a divisive factor. Therefore, all our parties agreed that a referendum must precede a possible entry into NATO."

The relationship with Russia is the constant question of Ukrainian politicians. Mrs Yulia Timoshenko was recently in Moscow and met Vladimir Putin, and accused ago to play under the covers with Moscow. But at the DN's question if she believes that Russia is seriously accept that Ukraine is independent she responds to Moscow lately has understood the need to have equal relationships.

"Russia is a powerful country, so they may have been difficult to reconcile with the former Soviet republics became independent states."

November 22 falls four anniversary of the "orange" revolution, led by Mrs Yulia Timoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko. Since then, the two revolutionary heroes relations turn sour, and twice their coalition has been broken. She admits that it is rooted in political ambition and competition.

"Our party wants to re-create the coalition. But we have a political system that we continually find ourselves in an election campaign. Options each year prevents politicians from agreeing. That Yushchenko and I have been dismantled safely depends on next year's presidential election. He sees me, unfortunately, more as a competitor than as a partner."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

But me no buts..

I can recommend an hour-long BBC2 'This World' video documentary on 'The world's biggest arms dealer - The man that armed the world' a.k.a 'Merchant of death' - Viktor Anatolyevich Bout

Any relation to NUNS [NS] deputy, Yuriy Anatolyevich But, who in June this year, along with a BYuT deputy, walked out of the democratic coalition in the VR, turning it into a minority coalition? Or maybe not? [Check out this last (English language) link for info on some of the more mysterious characters elected into the VR]

In her excellent series of articles in 'Oboz' on Ukraine's arms barons, Tetyana Chornovil claims that officially the country accounts for about 2% of the world's arms trade - but unofficially this figure can be multiplied by five..

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baloha grounded before big week in VR?

BYuT are ready to support Volodymyr Lytvyn for parliamentary speaker later this week, if his bloc joins them and NUNS in a parliamentary coalition.

PoR mouthpiece Anna Herman hinted in a recent TV program that her party may not be supporting his candidature for VR speaker, even thought his eponymous bloc voted with PoR to dump Arseniy Yatsenyuk out of the VR speaker's chair last week. Lytvyn himself 'kept his cards close to his chest'.

Oh, and presidential attack dog Viktor Baloha may have undergone a heart by-pass operation today....

All this will influence how matters pan out later this week in parliament..

Saturday, November 15, 2008

TV debate between all of Ukraine's former VR speakers

Watch Friday's two and half hour 'Inter' TV programme on the crisis inside the VR and the speaker' position, in which Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Leonid Kravchuk, Ivan Plushch, Volodymyr Lytvyn, Oleksandr Moroz, and other major figures take part, here

It's clear none of the participants wants early parliamentary elections. The last 40 minutes are probably the most interesting. There are clues as to who PoR may be supporting for new speaker on Tuesday..

What happens after Yatsenyuk's dismissal

Following the recent dismissal of VR speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk by parliamentary deputies, many are predicting an early no-confidence vote and swift departure for the Tymoshenko government.

But, as ever, matters in Ukraine are never simple. PoR, the largest party in the VR, cannot, even with the assistance of the Communists and Lytvyn's bloc [BL], form a majority coalition.

I quite liked this article from Akhmetov-owned 'Segodnya' which discusses several different scenarios. I've loosely translated portions:

Possibility #1. A pro-Tymoshenko PoR source claims there are currently negotiations taking place between Bank Street [pres's secretariat] and the PoR leadership on the formation of a coalition comprising PoR, BL, and NUNS. "If they are successful, then Volodymyr Lytvyn becomes speaker, and Viktor Yanukovych prime minister. However an internal PoR fraction, that of Firtash-Lyovochkin-Boyko, has other plans. They see not Yanukovych as PM, but Yuriy Boyko (a former fuel and energy minister in Yanukovych's government). If the candidature of the latter is advanced, then there will not be enough votes to form the coalition. Many of PoR's pro-Tymoshenko wing will not support it."

Lyovochkin himself refuted the claim: "No coalition between PoR and NUNS will be created with the current composition of parliament.Yuriy Boyko is an effective minister, but in a Yanukovych government."

Possibility #2. NUNS deputies do not believe in the possibility of a coalition with 'Regionaly' either. "The fraction met on Thursday and the question of creation of a coalition with PoR was raised, but no-one of those present voted for it. Its true, that there were not many supporters for a coalition with BYuT and BL either. Only "Self-Defence" Rukh, and some other deputies supported this," reported a source in NUNS.
The source did not exclude, that BYuT will nevertheless attempt to pull over Lytvyn to their side by offering him the post of VR speaker together with loyal 'Nunsivtsi' and pro-Tymoshenko 'Regionaly' to form a situational majority, which would pass laws needed by Tymoshenko.

Elections. Everyone recognizes that none of the possible new coalitions or stable majorities are at all likely. This means, as before, Damocles' sword hangs above the Rada. Everything points towards early elections.On November 23rd a year will have passed from the day of adoption of the oath of office by the current parliament so all formal obstacles for conducting early elections disappear. (The constitution does permit early elections less than year after previous early elections).

NUNS in disarray. It is probable that the present the head of the NUNS fraction Vyacheslav Kyrylenko will soon depart, as demanded by the pro-Tymoshenko wing of NUNS. This matter was raised on Wednesday at the fraction's conference, but not resolved. According to a source: "Olexandr Tretyakov or Taras Stetskiv could replace him. Tretyakov is the man of influential oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskiy, who is co-owner of the 'Privat' group. The latter has been reconciled with Tymoshenko, (rumour has it that Yushchenko has balked from early elections because Kolomoyskiy has refused to finance the election campaign of his block, in contrast to last year). Stetskiv and Tretyakov have both denied they are being tipped for Kirilenko's position.

Tymoshenko's resignation. Tymoshenko's resignation from government has not been taken off the agenda. 'Regionaly' are demanding a goverment report in parliament on the communal housing situation - as a consequence a no-confidence vote against the government could be proposed.

However, even in PoR there is no united position on whether it would be better to force Tymoshenko into resignation directly now, or later. There is a view that it would be better to wait until the Spring. By that time the situation in the economy could well be critical, and her ratings could collapse. Her resignation, and either re-elections, or a new coalition headed by Yanukovych, could follow. At the moment Yulia T's ratings are still high and she still has the capability of returning to the power in the event of early elections according to source in PoR leadership.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

VR sacks speaker amidst shameful scenes

Today VR speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk 'had his chair pulled from under him', with the assistance of votes from pres. secretariat head Viktor Baloha's 'Yedynyi Tsentr' boys, even though Yatsenyuk was considered to be one of Yushchenko's 'blue-eyed' favourites.

The BBC have posted a video of today's scenes in the VR. They are reminiscent of an ice hockey brawl.

The president repudiates Yulia Tymoshenko's allegations that he was behind Yatsenyuk's "absolutely shameful" sacking. "I don't want to comment on this opinion - I have no respect for it because it is a cynical, lying, bribed position - its aim is to provide a smokescreen for the person undertaking these troublemaking schemes," said the president.

Some observers have noted that to date the president has neither condemned 'Yedynyi Tsentr' for voting with PoR, the Communists and Lytvyn's bloc, nor has sprung to the defence of Yatsenyuk in any meaningful manner. Others say that Yatsenyuk's proposal that parliament, government, and the president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, all sign an agreement on temporary collaboration, which look like a step in the direction of BYuT, [see previous post] infuriated the president's secretariat and precipitated his dismissal.

However, Rinat Akhmetov's 'Segodnya' speculates: "Some deputies seem to think that now Yatsenyuk will become an ally of Tymoshenko, but BYuTivtsi are sceptical:

"The reason we gave up the struggle at the last minute [see video link above] was because we understood that this is a game conducted by the president, with Yatsenyuk's connivance. The aim is to present 'Senya' [Yatsenyuk] as a victim of collusion between Baloha and Akhmetov-Yanukovych, and then set him up in the elections as the head of his own force, to take away votes from BYuT. Or, as a variant to make him head of the presidential administration instead of the odious Baloha".

Yatsenyuk himself has confirmed that he intends to stand for election but has not made clear whether this is for the parliamentary or the presidential elections: "Without changes we will get to one place only - oblivion. I am already engaged in formation of a political force for change in the country. They sacked me so that I will return. But not here," said the former speaker.

Whatever the calculations, it's clear that Yatsenyuk's sacking makes the fall of Tymoshenko's cabinet and VR elections in the New Year far more likely now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Signs of common sense returning?

The deputy head of the pres's secretariat, Andriy Kysylynskyi in a press release on the presidential website today says: "At the moment signs of political healing are absent, so elections will take place as soon as the economic situation settles. [But] at the same time the chances for unification of parliamentary forces in the face of the economic crisis are being maintained, as witnessed by the positive voting in the Verkhovna Rada supporting the president of Ukraine's anti-crisis bill. Any form of parliamentary majority is acceptable, be it a widened democratic coalition, or a coalition of 300 or more votes..."

"The forces that supported the president's anti-crisis bill [in the VR] - BYuT, NUNS and Lytvyn's Bloc [BL] can and should consider being coalition partners. [But] will such a coalition be viable? [...] The chance for political agreement, which the president of Ukraine has given, having halted the election process, is realistic in the [current] VR..."

VR Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk today proposed that parliament, government, and the president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, all sign an agreement on temporary collaboration.

And according to the official government portal, this afternoon PM Yulia Tymoshenko signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine's leading mining and metallurgical enterprises. The memorandum was also signed by the owners and top managers of these enterprises, and by trade union leaders.

The cabinet of ministers undertakes to provide lines of credit at minimum rates, and to make Value Added Tax reimbursements as quickly as possible.

The enterprises, in return, will maintain their payrolls, wage levels and other social guarantees for their workers. Industrial strikes and disruptions are the last thing anyone needs right now, so not a bad day's work. Previous history would suggest that it is too early to consider today as any kind of turning point though.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Workers' protests to be manipulated for political ends

As I mentioned several days ago, the effects of the worsening world economic crisis may soon lead to workers' strikes and street protests in Ukraine.

The current 'Kommentarii' weekly claims trade unions that are under the control of Party of Regions will use their protests to effect the removal the Tymoshenko government.

Trade unions under control of BYuT will direct their protests against the oligarchic 'fat cats' who own much of Ukraine's industrial base. Many, but by no means all, are PoR donors and supporters.

BYuT's position was expressed by the leader of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, BYuT parlimentary deputy Mykhaylo Volynets, who claimed there is no reason to "throw out people onto the street". He said that he ready to lead 10 million workers in protest.

The presidium of Central Committee of Trade Union of Metallurgists and Miners of Ukraine are to meet on November 12th. Even though it is employers that are breaking agreements forcing employees to take holiday leave early and terminating pay raises, their protests will have an anti-government character.

The Federation of Trade Unions and Trade Union Associations of Ukraine held a press conference recently and complained that trade unions were not consulted prior to a parliamentary bill on minimising the effects of the world financial crisis on the Ukrainian economy being passed. The bill, the Federation claims, rides roughshod over previously agreed workers' rights. Even though it was president Yushchenko who was the author of this bill, the Federation will direct its fire at Yulia Tymoshenko rather that at the president.

In recent days there have been two meetings at the highest level between the goverment and trades unions representatives, the first attended by the minister of labour, and the second by the PM herself, but tripartite talks involving the Federation of Employers of Ukraine have not taken place because its head, PoR VR Deputy and ex-Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko, has, apparently, been away.

The 'Kommentarii' article concludes that PoR are prepared to use trade unions and 'take to the streets' in order to force Tymoshenko out of government with the tacit consent of the President. The prime minister in her turn, is seeking counter-measures and is preparing for 'street battles' too. Whoever's street actions turn out to be more radical will become the leader of the future presidential race even though any possible protests will be irrelevant in solving the problems caused by the world economic crisis.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Everybody does it in Ukraine*

I recently blogged here and here about the alleged supply of arms by Ukraine to Georgia during the latter's recent mini-war with Russia in Southern Ossetia, and on the setting up of a temporary Ukrainian parliamentary committee to investigate this matter.

The temporary investigative committee has recently returned from Southern Ossetia and Russia. Its head, PoR VR deputy Valeriy Konovalyuk, spoke to journalists today and claimed the committee had received documents indicating that Ukrainian military experts had taken part in the conflict. "There is no doubt that a question will arise about the political assessment and responsibility, primarily of the president, who provided for the full control over the export of arms sphere from Ukraine," said Konovalyuk.

He also alleged that during their verification serious irregularities in the activities of 'Ukrspetsexport' and other companies were revealed. The temporary investigative committee will be ready to produce its report next week. They will be calling for managers of several of these companies to be sacked.

Also today the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) passed a criminal case against NUNS VR deputy Hennadiy Moskal to the Prosecutor’s General Office for their consideration. Acting head of the SBU, Valentyn Nalyvayckenko, at a press conference alleged the case concerned granting of war veteran status to certain persons, in return for bribes. By coincidence [or not?] Moskal is first deputy chairman of the VR Committee for combating corruption and organized crime.

Nalyvayckenko also 'fingered' two BYuT VR deputies for illegal financial operations, possibly involving contraband.

Recently several members of the the Committee for combating corruption and organized crime, including Moskal, won an appeal to cancel a presidential ukaz appointing Tyberiy Durdynets deputy head of the Committee. Durdynets had worked for a long time in Transcarpathia where head of presidential secretariat Viktor Baloha had developed his business empire.

Former deputy head of the SBU, now deputy head of the BYuT VR fraction, Andriy Kozhemyakin claims these accusations have just been organized by the pres's secretariat and the SBU to discredit his political force.

A while ago I challenged a Ukrainian friend for committing a minor criminal motoring offence. He replied: "Don't worry, its OK, everybody does it in Ukraine."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Splits in NUNS widen

Representatives of six of the nine political forces that form NUNS have responded to President's statements that NUNS deputies do not want to renew the democratic coalition with BYuT, and that parliamentary elections remain the only way out of the crisis.

They declared: "We, the leaders of the majority of the political forces on which the NUNS bloc and fraction is based, are extremely surprised by the president's assertion about "the absence of trust in Yulia Tymoshenko" and about the disinclination of the NUNS fraction to return to the democratic coalition."

They accuse the NUNS leadership of avoiding party meetings because: "the puppet-masters from Bank Street [pres's secretariat] are fearful that at the first sitting of the fraction a decision will be approved to return the fraction to the ranks of the democratic coalition.. We yet again responsibly declare that the coalition of democratic forces in parliament should, and must be renewed in a matter of hours. For this only one thing is required - the wish and politicial will of the president." The signatories of the declaration "call on the president to cease his motiveless attacks against the government, the PM, and the coalition of democratic forces, particularly today, when the country needs unity to meet the challenges to Ukraine from the world financial crisis."

So...big trouble in the NUNS camp..

PM Tymoshenko, in light of the world economic crisis, today called for talks between the Federation of Ukrainian Trade Unions, employers' organisations and the government. "The world has never experienced such a shock, so today, appreciating the true situation, it is necessary to discuss how we can find mutual understanding," she said.

Yesterday that had been talk of a country-wide strike by the Federation if the government representatives refused to talk to them about measures to ameliorate the effects of the crisis.

p.s. The best translation I can provide of Mykola Azarov's comment to Tymoshenko during Friday's TV debate was: "First of all I would like to say, as a women, personally, I like you [nravitisya] very much....[guffaw's of laughter in the studio..close-up of Yatsenyuk, the pres. Yanuk] there’s no need for the accusation that our faction does not like you.." [See a video clip of this here ] I think Tymoshenko was really taken aback by this. An experienced politician like her should be able to cope easily with this type of comment - normally she is quick-witted enough to give as good as she gets, or better; sometimes using double entendres. Maybe she wanted to play the 'wronged victim role' which she does well, or maybe was just having an off-day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ukraine's public debt

During Friday's live marathon TV debate in which president Yuschenko and PM Tymoshenko sat with a couple of metres of one another, the president accused the PM's government of plunging into debts "like a bitch into fleas”. [This was not the only mysogynistic remark made during the debate.]

In fact Ukraine's public debt as percentage of gross domestic product ratio was recently a remarkably low 12%. Well over one hundred countries, including all the world's major democracies, have a higher public debt to GDP ratio.

In August this year this ratio dropped to 9%.

Your blogger has an iron rule not to make disparaging remarks about any politician, and will not make an exception for Ukraine's president who was talking with head head up his ****

p.s. Watch Yulia Tymoshenko answering questions in Sunday night's hour-long '5-iy Kanal' broadcast here

In a masterful performance she bitterly complains about her treatment in Friday night's 'Inter' broadcast almost at the end of this video recording.

p.p.s. There are reports that there could be mass protests by metallurgical workers and miners by the end of the week. Forced lay-offs and axing of wages resulting from the global economic down-turn are beginning to bite in Ukraine..There could be half a million more unemployed workers in Ukraine by Christmas..

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ukraine's politicians in major TV debate

Watch yesterday's unprecented 4 hour TV broadcast on overcoming the economic crisis facing Ukraine, in which virtually all of Ukrainian political 'big beasts' took part, here

A nice resume here

There is plenty for body language experts to analyse in the broadcast. The seating arrangements, as others have noted, were absurd. Government and opposition should be afforded equal status - Viktor Yanukovych, who is leader of the largest parliamentary fraction, should not have been sitting in the 'cheaper seats'. The president, from now on, may be nick-named emperor Viktor Napoleonovych..

In my view the programme's producers should have included unbiassed analysis and background on the current global economic crisis, and how this affects Ukraine for its viewers, before the debates took place.

The glitzy studio set contrasted sharply with amateurish visual aids presented by some of the politicians.