Books on Ukraine
Richly endowed in natural resources, Ukraine has been fought over and
subjugated for centuries; its 20th-century struggle for liberty is not yet
complete. A short-lived independence from Russia (1917-1920) was followed
by brutal Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-22 and
1932-33) in which over 8 million died, and World War II, in which German
and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 million more deaths.
Although independence was attained in 1991 with the dissolution of the
USSR, true freedom remains elusive as many of the former Soviet elite
remain entrenched, stalling efforts at economic reform, privatisation, and
Update No: 282 - (30/06/04)
Skeletons rattling in the cupboard
The regime in Kiev is as corrupt and nasty as you can get in Central Europe. Neighbouring Belarus excepted. The president, Leonid Kuchma, is a suspected murderer several times over. He is an utterly ruthless character, whom few doubt is a killer.
Recently leaked confidential documents prove that senior government officials have tried to wreck investigations into the murder nearly four years ago of an Ukrainian journalist, Heorhiy Gongadze, allegedly killed on his orders. The cover-up apparently involved the killing of a key witness while in custody, Igor Goncharov, a high ranking police officer. Goncharov claimed to have inside information on how interior ministry officials carried out orders to abduct Gongadze, dangerous knowledge to possess in Ukraine. He died of 'spinal trauma,' while in police custody last year, it was revealed on June 21st at a press conference given by Sergei Ruidenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor-general's office. So it would appear that they broke his back!
The revelations are likely to put further pressure on the president. They come after a committee investigating the murder in September 2000 of the anti-government journalist recommended criminal proceedings against him. Opposition MPs have indicated their intention to impeach the president.
They may be partly inspired by the success of the Lithuanians in impeaching their president, Rolandas Paksas, earlier this year. He was guilty of something far less nefarious than Kuchma, if true. He was corrupt, that is all - a standard affair in Central Europe.
Striking one down from beyond the grave
Gongadze was the founder of an internet paper which accused Kuchma and his close associates of corruption. He was abducted on the streets of Kiev in September 2000; his headless corpse was found in woods outside the city weeks later.
Accusations of government involvement were brushed off for months until a former bodyguard of Kuchma fled Ukraine and revealed that he had secretly recorded hundreds of hours of the president's conversation, including excerpts where an angry Kuchma ordered that Gongadze be 'taken care of.' The recordings have been examined and accepted as authentic by independent experts.
The president has naturally denied everything, but nobody believes him. Gongadze is by no means the only journalist to have disappeared, just the only one where the evidence of who was responsible is plain as day.
Fresh evidence is damning; revelations to The Independent
The UK newspaper, the Independent, has come up with new damning evidence that the president is guilty. There has been obstruction of the case at the highest level. "The committee (of enquiry set up by his party) has established the fact that the key organiser of illegal activities in the Gongadze case was the president of Ukraine, " said Hryhoriy Omelchenko, a member of the opposition Our Ukraine party.
The key documents have been passed to The Independent by serving members of the Ukrainian law-enforcement authorities, who are dismayed that their enquiries are being suppressed.
The country's previous prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Piskun, was about to bring charges last autumn when he was removed from his post. His successor, Hennadiy Vasilyev, a close crony of Kuchma's, has naturally closed the case. He has released from custody a top-ranking police official suspected by the prosecutor's office of having destroyed key documents concerning it and of having had a hand in the murder himself.
General Oleksiy Pukach was arrested on October 23rd by prosecutor-general Piskun.Then Puskin was removed from his post six days later on October 29th and replaced by Vasilyev, whereupon Pukach was released from custody the next month.
But important documents survive and have been given to The Independent by officials, who prefer naturally enough to remain unnamed. They consist of witness statement gathered by the prosecutor's office from dissident elements prepared to talk in the security forces, who were shocked by what was going on. The officials handing them over feared that Mr Vasilyev could have had them destroyed in his cover-up operation.
The documents show that Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVS) undercover police teams kept Gongadze under surveillance for weeks until the time of his abduction on the orders of Patuch. He in turn would have received orders from the minister in charge of MVS at the time, Yuriy Kravchenko, one of Kuchma's closest associates.
Of the 25 agents involved in the surveillance of Gongadze, two have given evidence that they were told by Pukach to lie to investigators that there never was an operation mounted against Gongadze. The actual abduction and killing was a separate affair, delegated to a powerful Kiev crime syndicate, led by a man called Kasil. Of the Kisil gang members, a certain Mr Myzkya did the murder.
But the real author of the deed is none other than Kuchma himself, just as surely as was Henry II of England of the murder of Archbishop Beckett in 1270 when he exclaimed: "Is there no-one to rid me of this pestilential priest?"
Huge political fall-out.
One of Europe's largest countries, the size of France, has a murderer as president. Not for much longer, it is true, since new presidential elections are due in October. Kuchma technically could stand again, according to the Constitutional Court. But this very scandal makes it impossible that he would. Otherwise it will continue to fester. Retirement under an immunity agreement with his successor is the best Kuchma can hope for.
This he is likely to obtain. Any successor, even if clean himself, would know that he would have to deal with a lot of crooks in the upper reaches of Ukrainian politics. It would not be sensible to scare them off at the outset.
One welcome consequence of the scandal is that it makes it less likely that a Kuchma crony will succeed him, such as Premier Yanukovich. The way looks clear for former premier Yushchenko, the ex-bank chief and the one honest figure on offer. Since he is also by far the ablest, a brilliant macro-economist, responsible for turning the economy around in the early 2000s, things might just be looking up shortly for Ukraine.
Ukrainian, Russian plants agree to jointly produce An-70 plane
The Kiev-based Aviant plant and the Polet state plant (Omsk, Russian Federation) signed an agreement in Kiev recently on cooperation in the first serial production of the Ukrainian-Russian An-70 military transport plane, Interfax-Ukraine News Agency reported.
The press service at the Aviant plant said that in accordance with the agreement, the Polet plant will supply its Ukrainian partner with part of the fuselage for the first serial plane to be produced in Kiev.
Ukrainian Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, said that it is planned to discuss a whole range of issues regarding cooperation with Ukraine in the project at a meeting of the mixed Ukrainian-Russian commission for cooperation in July.
Other countries have expressed interest in the An-70 aircraft, including India and China.
Coal production up 6.3%
Ukraine raised coal production 6.3% year-on-year to 7.06m tonnes in April, New Europe reported recently.
The Ukrainian fuel and Energy Ministry said coking coal production grew 1.4% to 3.135m tonnes and power-generating coal production grew 10.6% to 3.925m tonnes. Ukraine raised coal production 4.2% year-on-year to 20.523m tonnes in January-March. Coking coal production fell 1.4% while power-generating coal production grew 9.4%. Ukraine reduced coal production 3.2% to 79.255m tonnes in 2003. The country aims to produce 80.3m tonnes in 2004 and to put 161 new power-generating coal faces and 98 coking coal faces on stream.
Russia's Gazprom prepares to boost exports to western Europe via Ukraine
Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, Ukrainian state oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrainy and Germany's Ruhrgas plan to increase annual Russian natural gas supplies to European countries by 20bn cubic metres by 2010, an official with the press service of Naftohaz Ukrainy said recently, Prime-TASS News Agency reported.
Gazprom is to ensure additional gas supplies via Ukraine's gas transportation system, Naftohaz Ukrainy is to provide gas transit and storage, and Germany's Ruhrgas is to sell gas in Europe. A new transit corridor is to be built to ensure additional exports of Russian gas to the European market, the official said.
This year Russian natural gas transit via Ukraine is expected to amount to 127.8bn cubic metres, of which 110bn are to be exported to European countries.
In 2003, Russia's total gas exports to Western and Central Europe rose 2.8 per cent on the year reaching a record-breaking 133bn cubic metres.
Ukraine, Azerbaijan agree on oil transit
The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the government of Azerbaijan have signed an agreement on the principles of cooperation in the oil industry, UNIAN News Agency reported.
The accord was signed by the Azerbaijani First Deputy Prime Minister, Abbas Abbasov, who is the Azerbaijani co-chairman of the intergovernmental Ukrainian-Azerbaijani commission for economic cooperation, and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Fuel and Energy, Andriy Klyuyev.
The two sides agreed to ensure within their capabilities the necessary conditions for safe, efficient and unhampered transportation of oil through the territory of their countries, in particular, the oil belonging to third parties and transit oil.
The agreement provides for regular exchange of information on the current and future oil transport capabilities and infrastructure on the territory of the two countries.
As part of the agreement, Azerbaijan will provide Ukraine with an opportunity to purchase the necessary quantity of oil for the Odessa-Brody pipeline on commercial non-discriminatory conditions.
Ukraine and Azerbaijan will develop scientific, technical and investment ties and facilitate implementation of joint projects in construction, refurbishment and use of oil transport infrastructure, in particular on the territory of third countries.
Russian-UK firm supports reverse direction for Ukrainian oil pipeline
The Russian-UK company TNK-BP is still interested in using the Odessa-Brody Ukrainian oil pipeline in the reverse direction [to Odessa] to transport Russian oil, the company's deputy president, Aleksandr Gorodetskiy, said, UNIAN News Agency reported.
"We confirm our determination and readiness to work in this direction," he said, commenting on reports in the mass media saying that the Cabinet of Ministers discussed the possibility of temporary use of the oil pipeline in the reverse direction."
Gorodetskiy said that, while the oil pipeline's use in the original direction remains under the question mark, TNK-BP is ready to resume talks with the Ukrainian government on the reverse use.
Gorodetskiy did not rule out that the reverse exploitation of the Odessa-Brody could help stabilize the situation on the Ukrainian oil market. "These two (the pipeline's reverse use and the situation on the market - UNIAN) are not directly linked, but indirect aspects may appear," Gorodetskiy said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, quoting an informed source, the Ukrainian government is examining the possibility of reversing the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline for one to three years, so as to, among other things, stabilize the situation on the oil market.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Ukraine seeks Chinese cash flow
Ukraine has a stake in growing direct Chinese investment into its economy and intends to help Chinese capital come to the country, Ukraine's Ambassador to China Serhy Kamyshev said, New Europe reported recently. During a press conference timed to coincide with the opening by the AeroSvit-Ukrainian Airlines air company of direct regular flights on the Kiev-Beijing route, the ambassador spoke highly about the latest policy of the Chinese government, aimed at taking Chinese business to other countries' markets, which owes to a stable growth of Chinese economy in the past few years. In this connection, he called for drafting joint projects and preparing an appropriate cooperation programme by the Ukrainian side. According to the Ukrainian party, China's GDP increase in the first quarter of 2004 exceeded 7%. The volume of direct Chinese investments in Ukraine equalled US$10m by the beginning of the year. The general trade turnover between Ukraine and the continental China last year reached US$1.521bn, which is 58.9% up on last year.
Ukraine, Azerbaijan sign eight cooperation accords
Ukraine and Azerbaijan have signed eight intergovernmental documents, including an intergovernmental agreement on the main principles of cooperation in oil and gas machine-building. The documents were signed as a result of negotiations between Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, and Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, in Kiev, Interfax-Ukraine News Agency reported.
After the talks between the two countries' delegations, an intergovernmental agreement on the employment and social protection of Ukrainian citizens temporarily working in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani citizens temporarily working in Ukraine was also signed in the presence of the two presidents.
The parties signed an intergovernmental accord on industrial, scientific and technical cooperation between defence-industry companies, and an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in training pilots, technical and engineering personnel for the two countries' aviation.
In addition, an agreement was signed between the Ukrainian State Customs Service and the Azerbaijani State Customs Committee on fighting smuggling, other violations of customs rules and the illegal circulation of ammunition, explosives, narcotics, psychotropic substances and precursors.
The parties also signed a protocol on continued cooperation in civil aviation and adopted a joint declaration by the two presidents on the results of talks.
A cooperation agreement was earlier signed between the National Television Company of Ukraine and the Azerbaijani State Television and Radio Company.
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