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Friday, February 29, 2008

Finance and Friendship: Chernomyrdin Draws the Line

We’re working, we’re already finishing up February, and we still have no deal. Things don’t work this way. It’s unnatural. We can only do this out of friendship, out of accord. Time goes by, and yet our work is such a mess. And tomorrow they’ll say: We didn’t take this. We didn’t receive that.

There’s no confrontation. It’s just that you have to pay for what you take. When you go to the store, you pay. You go to the store, don’t you? The same applies here.

Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian ambassador to Ukraine since 2001

Seven years on the job, and there’s not a smidgen of clientitis about him!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Different News, Different Numbers

Below are two Novy Kanal reports dated Feb. 27. Try adding up the numbers.

And, of course, Gazprom claims that Ukraine hasn’t paid her bills yet.

Ukraine has settled her gas debt with Russia. Yulia Tymoshenko has filed a report to President Yushchenko. The PM had until 9 a.m. this morning to make a progress report on the debt repayment in person, but she went down with a cold. It was Oleksandr Turchynov who went to the meeting with the President. Viktor Yushchenko, after making sure the debt was settled, became content and went on to pacify Putin.

President Yushchenko: Yesterday, at about 10 p.m. some 2.2 billion hryvnias were remitted to the suppliers’ accounts by NAK Naftogaz. As of day, I’d put it this way: Out of the 5 billion of our debt — the debt of NAK Naftogaz — some 3.8 billion have been paid. Therefore, I’d say, at the time of our conversation, the brunt of the 2007 payments problem has been resolved.

Oleksandr Turchynov held a meeting of the Cabinet. The Vice Premier, too, started out with a report. He presented the officials and reporters with financial documents that signify full settlement of the debt due for the gas consumed prior to Jan. 1 of this year. As of today, the only amount unpaid is 414 million hryvnias. It is the debt that the Ukrainian side has not recognized and has challenged in court.

Vice-Premier Turchynov: The only amount that has been recognized neither by the Cabinet nor by NAK Naftogaz is the 414 million that were fraudulently charged for the gas consumed in 2006 based on 2007 price quotes.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Regionalist’s Digest

Sounds like the voice of experience, doesn’t it? Welcome to our latest digest on things Regionalist.

The opinion of the "people" who care so much about public opinion is nothing to be afraid of. Enjoy!

Introductory address of V.F.Yanukovych, the Chairman of the Party of Regions faction in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine at the opposition government

23.01.2008, 15:11

Dear colleagues!

Let me congratulate you at this year's first meeting of our government.

I should say that the first weeks of the new year and the first steps of the Cabinet of Ministers of Tymoshenko testify that the economy of Ukraine anticipates a crisis period.

Tymoshenko's government, as it is already visible, settles and will settle a political task exceptionally to prepare groundings for presidential elections of Tymoshenko.

Thus, this government will live only for today and care not for future generations, but for the upcoming elections.

Therefore we are those who should take care of our country's return to its long-term and stable development.

Our task is to return the society to reforms. We should realize the enormous dimensions of a danger that will face the state where the government instead of being engaged in effective management of the economy, instead of development has chosen a strategy of wasting, a path of flirting with voters for the sake of achieving the only aim – presidential elections.

What do I suggest today to concentrate our attention on?

The first and the most important. Today it has become absolutely obvious that the BYUT pre-election slogans about the best and the most modern program of all times and people, allegedly composed of the proposals of each and every, were only another example of populism and pre-election lie.

Instead of a specific program of action the Tymoshenko Government proposed a collection of populist slogans and dreams.

So-called "Ukrainian breach" is nothing but alienation from reality, from pragmatism, from specific approaches to settle particular tasks.

Yuriy Boyko: Ukraine is the most direct way from gas and oil fields of Siberia to Europe

26.02.2008, 18:37

‘The main suppliers of energy resources have grave alternatives given increasing demand. Ukraine is the most direct way from gas and oil fields of Siberia to Europe’, - stated People’s Deputy of Ukraine Yuriy Boyko today in Brussels in his speech at the 10th meeting of the EU-Ukraine parliamentary collaboration committee.

Yuriy Boyko: The situation with gas supply to Ukraine imposes a real threat

20.02.2008, 17:56

People’s Deputy, the Party of Regions parliamentary faction member Yuriy Boyko stated during the TV channel ‘Rada’ live broadcast that all accusations of Prime Minister Tymoshenko against ‘RosUkrEnergo’ company are aimed only at distracting public attention from what occurred in the country on the grounds of unauthorized gas extraction:

- Since 1999 our country has not had such ‘experience’ as unauthorized extraction and uncontrolled use of gas. Unfortunately, in January of this year we encountered this case. And any explanation introduced by the governmental officials on this occasion is not worth Ukraine’s loss of an image of a reliable, predictable partner on supply and transit of energy carriers to Europe.

Nickolay Azarov: The state should be interested in forming a competitive domestic producer

25.02.2008, 12:22

The Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Banking chairman Nickolay Azarov told ‘Economicheskie izvestiya’ about his vision of the economic policy that should be implemented in Ukraine.

- Social payments from the budget are currently the main reason of price increase. How long could a double rise in population’s profits relative to the economic growth rate be conducted?

- A challenge of priority between development and consumption is age-old for any government. It is even compared to the tale of eggs and a hen. However, consumption cannot advance without economic development of the country as a whole. It is just as difficult as to ensure high rate and high quality of development without appropriate improvement of consumption pattern. These two priorities cannot be contrasted with each other. But a source of financing these priorities is one - the gross domestic product of the country. It is constant and unique source.

Sergiy Lyovochkin: The programme of Viktor Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels has been confirmed

25.02.2008, 16:58

People’s Deputy, the Party of Regions parliamentary faction deputy head Sergiy Lyovochkin stated about confirmation of the programme of Viktor Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels.

It should be noted that the visit program of the Party of Regions parliamentary faction Head V.Yanukovych also includes a reserved time for his meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Anatoly Kinakh: Huge latent funds deficit at the rate of 4.7% GDP is inherent in the 2008 state budget

22.02.2008, 17:55

People’s Deputy, the Party of Regions parliamentary faction member, the USPP president Anatoly Kinakh noted that huge latent funds deficit at the rate of 4,7% GDP was inherent in the 2008 state budget, ‘RBC-Ukraine’ informs.

Iryna Gorina: Our leaders are wise enough to reach an agreement, define key priorities of the state development and begin profound work as soon as possible

22.02.2008, 17:45

People’s Deputy, the Party of Regions parliamentary faction member Iryna Gorina on the air of TV channel ‘Rada’ stated that a covenant on overcoming the political crisis that is planned to be signed by parliamentary factions leaders, should be based on agreements about key priorities of the state development.

Yuriy Miroshnichenko: The Prime Minister, understanding the failure of her Moscow intentions, has decided to launch repressions within our country now

22.02.2008, 16:05

A comment of People’s Deputy, the Party of Regions parliamentary faction member Yuriy Miroshnichenko about certain actions of the Prime Minister in the sphere of gas relations:

- Yulia Tymoshenko’s efforts to inspect agreements between the President of Ukraine and the President of Russia, her attempt to create her own corruption scheme of gas relations between Ukraine and Russia taking into account the «EESU», «ISD» and «Itera» interests (representatives of which took part in Moscow negotiations) proved to be vain.

Alexander Stoyan: The coalition should understand that we are the force that is to be considered

20.02.2008, 12:55

People’s Deputy, the Party of Regions parliamentary faction member Alexander Stoyan in an interview to ‘SN-Stolichnye Novosti’ newspaper stated that the coalition members gradually begin to understand that the opposition’s opinion should be considered and that compromise is inevitable:

- I wish people were socially protected. But one should take into account the state budget means. I think that we will return to it again when we pass the blocking stage. Our blockade does not impede the budget as it had been adopted earlier. As for the Government, it works very slowly in the view of having declared social programs that are practically impossible to fulfill. In particular, it is impossible to reimburse debts on soviet deposits, to pay support for mothers with children, to considerably increase salary for military men and much more. I am fully aware of it as I am head of the parliamentary subcommittee on social standards and social policy. I have already analyzed the programs of all political forces.

Honey, I Saved the Kids (From the Public School System)

Here’s another sermon from a president who wants to be perceived as a model citizen:

I wouldn’t want to have my kids’ curriculum framed by teachers who, some 30 years ago, framed Ukrainian history classes. The times are different. The values are different. The knowledge is different.

And what makes you different from the oligarchs, who send their kids to private schools just like you did? What kind of value system is that? What kind of future is that?

If the President sends his kids to a private school, where does it leave the public school system? Does it make him an agent of change? A moral leader?

How can we have "one law for all" if we put this country through two "law" schools?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Former Naftogaz Chief on Stabilnist, Shyrka, Patriotism

Ukrayinska Pravda quotes from an RFE/RL interview with the former chief of Naftogaz, MP Yuriy Boiko, PRU, widely believed to be RosUkrEnergo’s agent of influence.

On the PRU's slipping approval ratings:
As of today, we’re not losing approval ratings. In any given society, if a party goes into the opposition, some people will stray. It’s normal practice. And we feel quite all right about this.

On Baloha’s plans to strike out on his own:
You know, nobody has spoken about this officially. In our turbulent political situation, rumors abound. I believe that the vast majority of them have no foundation. Well, perhaps some of our partners, our colleagues, are planning to launch a new political project. It’s the right of every person — to launch a new political project.

On Baloha-Akhmetov relations:
You know, big business has to cooperate with government. And the fact that it cooperates — if this benefits the country, benefits stabilnist — then it’s normal. If it benefits stabilnist, then it’s normal. And whatever political decisions out there are being made by Baloha, I believe that right now he’s realizing that the ruling coalition in its present format — it doesn’t work.

Is it normal? It’s normal because they live in the same country. They are all patriots because they’re not leaving the country. They work and live here.

On the speculation of having lobbied the idea of replacing Akhmetov with Firtash as the chief party financier:
I believe there’s no way a person can approach the party leader and make an offer like this, so it’s all rumors. I’ve already answered this question today for one of the reporters. The answer is short: It’s all rumors and hearsay. It didn’t happen.

Whew! Now we know who the real patriots are! They work and live this country. They can’t live without stabilnist. And nothing short of a shyrkanova works for them.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Baba Paraska Showers Yushchenko With Birthday Wishes

…to live a lifetime of 100 years; to know no sorrow and, as they say, to have, in his home and in our Ukraine, prosperity and goodwill. What he promised to the people — I wish he would deliver that. I pray to God for this.

Paraska Korolyuk (aka Baba Paraska, or Grandma Paraska), a 69-year old activist easily recognized as the icon of the Orange Revolution, knows her way around the kitchen of Ukrainian politics. Both Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have repeatedly fraternized with her before the cameras, treating her as the ambassador of the Ukrainian people to the Ukrainian government.

Perhaps unwittingly, Baba Paraska adds a comic edge to the “our Ukraine” in her statement. (Does refer to Our Ukraine, the party, or to our Ukraine, the country?)

One can also detect a hint skepticism in her voice, as she reads out her wishlist. Now that President Yushchenko has left so many prayers unanswered, the people she represents find themselves wishing upon a star.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kuchma Propagandist Sniffs Out Tymoshenko’s Gas Stance

A source I trust insists that, at the opening of the talks in Moscow, Tymoshenko offered the Russians, to put it nicely, an extra-gas solution to the gas problem: Namely, the soft-pedalling — through her effort and through her forces in our parliament — of Ukraine’s entry into NATO, plus access to the management of the Ukrainian gas transit system, in exchange for Naftogaz’s access to Russian fields. The bottom line: Securing a low gas price from Russia throughout Tymoshenko’s premiership. My source insists that this bargaining position, while well anticipated by the Russians, was still quite a bit of surprise for them, and that after Tymoshenko entered into her position, Miller had a word with the Kremlin.

— Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, host of the Epicenter editorial program at Channel 1+1

Vyacheslav Pikhovshek has a reputation for being the mouthpiece of Kuchma — Big Brother style. A career that took a dive during the Orange Revolution seems to have bounced back

His low credibility notwithstanding, it’s interesting to hear him talk. In Ukraine, the public’s right to know cannot be served without reading between the lines and sifting through half-truths. In the eyes of the public, PM Tymoshenko comes across as hawkish on RosUkrEnergo and diametrically opposed to a dovish President Yushchenko. The question is: How much does the public really know?

Based on the best public information available, the general impression is that Tymoshenko’s voyage to Moscow did not result in any breakthroughs. Despite not being warmly received, she reportedly engaged Gazprom in six hours of talks that also included representatives of RosUkrEnergo and UkrGazEnergo.

It’s still unclear when and to what extent the current matryoshka system will be redesigned in favor of a more transparent one.

The system Ukraine has today — an octopus of cash and gas flows — hinders energy efficiency, destroys the public good, and operates as an incubator for overnight fortunes.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

This Day in History: Soviet Army Day

Today, President Yushchenko celebrates his 54th anniversary. The vast majority of Soviet-born Ukrainians also remember February 23 as Soviet Army Day.

Widely celebrated in Russia as Defender of the Fatherland Day, this holiday is still celebrated in Ukraine, somewhat less officially, though.

Being both the victim and the victor in the Red Army’s campaigns, Ukraine paid a heavy human price for both roles. Having sustained up to 7 million casualties in WW 2, Ukraine became a pillar of the Soviet military industrial complex in the Nuclear Age.

Aside from shouldering the burden of deterrence, Ukraine saw vast military and financial siphoned away from her and into communist regimes around the world. This Kremlin policy translated into a Spartan lifestyle for ordinary Ukrainians, especially for those living in the countryside. Essentially, kolhosp (Ukr for kolkhoz) workers toiled as surfs, with no internal passports issued to them until the mid 70s.

In the hyper-militarized Cold War culture of Soviet society, the army commanded respect and offered the most prestigious careers.

Below are fragments from two Brezhnev-era military blockbusters about a dream team of Soviet airborne rangers who win a war game against all odds. Guided by Lt. Tarasov, a strong and visionary leader, the characters exemplify teamwork, resolve, and humanism.

V Zone Osobogo Vnimaniya (In the Zone of Utmost Attention), 1978

Otvetny Khod (Counterstrike), the sequel, came out in 1981, with the Soviet Union already bogged down in Afghanistan.

These two films represent the cutting edge of Red Army propaganda. Devoid of Hollywood-caliber special effects and scenes of violence, they still employed a very sophisticated sales pitch. Aside from cultivating patriotic imagery, projecting a sense of Soviet military might, and boosting morale, they also put the best face on gender and age issues.

One can’t deny the euphoria that consumed the Soviet soul as jumbo jets soared into the sky and, propelled by the upbeat soundtrack, planted a myriad of mushroom-like parachutes.

Amid this muscle-flexing make-believe, hardly a soul realized what was in store for the USSR. Soon, the Evil Empire would embark on an adventure that, along with other developments, would wreck its already weakening faith in communism and would consign it to the dustbin of history.

No King Left Behind (Without a Castle)

If you don’t believe in affordable housing, this story of success will ruin your skepticism.

Ukrayinska Pravda has a tapestry of fantastic quotes from Yanukovych’s recent interview on the BBC’s Ukrainian Service. Among other things, the interview zeroed in on the state residence at Mezhyhirya, the humble abode built with taxpayers’ money, which Yanukovych intends to keep.

On this estate, there's a small patch of land, about half a hectare, on which there's a house of 250 square meters, no more than that. I’ve lived in this house since 2006, ever since President Yushchenko signed the related decree into law.

That’s one hell of a humble abode, and a mighty generous decree!

Once the house was granted to me by the decree, I, in cooperation with the State Affairs Directorate, renovated it to make it suitable for habitation. I invested my money in it.

What “money” did you invest in it, given your public income statement of 38,036.89 hryvnias ($7,532) for the year 2005?

After Mezhyhirya was privatized by this firm — I don’t recall their name — I signed a rental agreement with them.

What a selective amnesia case. But wait a minute, you mean Tetyana Chornovil’s story was actually not-so-unfounded? What a relief for her!

Initially, I was bargaining for the opportunity to buy out this property. They quoted a price that I — let’s just say — couldn’t agree with. They promised to perform an independent valuation, and I offered them to contact my lawyer, but they still haven’t provided me with the findings of this evaluation.

You don’t remember the asking price either, right?

And I stick around. That's not exactly what I want, as is all the talk surrounding this, as is the rent — I pay 11,000 hryvnias a month. But it so happened that I’ve lived on this estate since 1999 or 2000. My grand son grew up here. I occupy this house on legal grounds.

$2,200 a month for a 250 sq m mansion? You’re a lucky guy! In Kyiv, people shell out $500-600 a month for a no-frills single-room apartment. Even if "their" asking price for the house was a little too rich for your blood, the rent you pay sounds like the best deal in town!

Nobody was interested in this estate. Huge government funds were spent on its maintenance and security. It wasn’t cost-efficient. My opinion on such issues: Decisions have to be made. We should keep a small number of state residences. As for the remaining dachas, we shouldn’t have them. They should be sold, privatized. That will be cost-efficient.

Yeah, it breaks my heart when I think of all the rusty-dusty state residences sitting idle across the country, waiting to be privatized. They’re such a liability for the public. I wish we had more people like you, who have the guts to cut the costs of government in Ukraine.

Here’s a clear-cut case for cost-efficiency. In the name of stability and prosperity, may every public official be allowed to privatize his or her state residence at a discount price. Just name it and claim it!


Friday, February 22, 2008

Prom Queen Gets Earful of Gas Talk from Principal

The accord reached between the two presidents stipulates that a debt of 7.5 billion hryvnias [$1.49 billion], which Ukraine owes for the past four months, should have begun being repaid starting February 14. As of today, of the 7.5 billion hryvnias, through tremendous effort — including my own — some 1.5 billion have been repaid. Yesterday, I had a talk with Naftogaz: Why are the payments not forthcoming? Why hasn’t the Ministry of Finance paid Naftogaz a kopiyka in the way of compensations earmarked in the budget? I simply consider this situation to be sabotage. I will prepare a progress report for the Russian side on the payments Ukraine was obliged to make.

This looks like a scene from the principal’s office: Mr. Good Guy trying to slap some sense into Bad Girl, who smokes pot in the ladies’ room, cheats on finals, and still gets to be Prom Queen.

Smoke gets in your eyes until you start dissecting the whole role-playing game. Then you realize that no girl is too bad and no guy is too good as long as they overtly or covertly endorse certain gas suppliers or make deals behind the scenes.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Body Art ‘Carnavalia’ Rocks Kyiv City Hall

Kyiv’s eccentric and extravagant Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky (aka Kosomos), who positions himself as a devout Christian, appears to have a penchant for traditions rooted in pre-Christian Rome.

No, it’s not those regular “bread and circus” traditions. It’s not those uber-nutritious food programs and spectacular public appearances with which he has brightened our days.

It’s extraordinary events like Carnavalia that put things in perspective.

One should note, however, that, compared to Saturnalia, Carnavalia involved less egalitarian behavioral patterns. Unlike Saturnalia, Carnavalia precluded the swapping of roles between patricians and plebeians. As far as we can see, it was a “be yourself” Bacchanalia kind of event.

Tabloid has some juicy snapshots of the body artists who attended the event.

A word of critique would be in order here. While such casual outfits may be suitable for a private party, or for the recent Miss World Ukraine pageant, wearing them in the City Hall creates an ethical disconnect, doesn’t it?

Even Nero, the bombastic Roman emperor-artist responsible for sophisticated persecutions of Christians, would gasp in awe at the event decorator who introduced such a carnal-oriented dress code into Chernovetsky's self-styled enclave of Christianity.

Well, many things have changed since the dawn of Christianity. Today, many folks can’t tell Christianity from Carnavalia.

Now that the last gladiator fight has left so much pride untouched, Kosmos is free to fiddle while Kyiv burns.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

PRU Losing Ground to BYuT, NUNS Losing Members

A recent poll by the Razumkov Center gives the following approval ratings:

BYuT 30.2%
PRU 23.1%
NUNS 10.1%
KPU 5.1%
LyB 3.7%

Analysts attribute the stellar — 19% in the east, 33% in the south — surge in the BYuT base to the paltry yet popular $200 compensation payments for Soviet savings. Some 18 percent of Yanukovych supporters have reported an improved opinion of Tymoshenko.

Nationwide, Tymoshenko's approval ratings have climbed a staggering 35 percent.

The numbers look good. But will they be any good if the Orange Coalition falls apart before it changes the electoral equation in any significant way? Citing micromanagement by party bosses, six NUNS MP abandoned membership in Nasha Ukraina on Tuesday, without vacating their parliamentary seats.

A few days earlier, presidential chief of staff Viktor Baloha had resigned from the ranks of Nasha Ukraina to pursue a future in a party of his own making. Interestingly enough, one can find friends of Baloha among the six NUNS dissenters.

Considering these migrations, I'd prefer not to count my Regions before they’re hatched.

Instead, I’m watching this beautiful video.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Road Rage: Yatsenyuk Gets Bird from Deputy Chief of Special Highway Patrol Force

While driving about town incognito last Saturday, Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk had a unique opportunity to test the street cred of “one law for all” firsthand.

Ukrainian driving culture, characterized by giant power distance and little respect for traffic rules, didn’t keep him waiting.

Absent a police escort, Yatsenyuk got cut in front of a Porsche Cayenne, whose driver flipped an obscene gesture at him, obviously having misidentified the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada for a non-god.

And you know what? It turns out the funny guy was the deputy chief of Kobra, a special highway patrol force authorized to inspect officials’ cars.

At a MoI staff meeting Monday, President Yushchenko demanded immediate resignation from the top highway patrol brass.

More than 34 thousand drivers’ licenses have been suspended in the first six weeks of 2007 in a nationwide traffic control effort.

Last year, some 9,500 people died from car accidents in Ukraine.


Some of the Blogs I Like (Updated)

After receiving a Thinking Blogger Award from Marta Salazar last October, I thought I’d return the courtesy in no time.

But then I put the whole thing on the back burner.

After receiving an Excellent Blog Award from Michelle Knisley last Thursday, I thought differently. I thought that bloggers like me are neither “thinking” nor “excellent” as long as they thoughtlessly excel in proving that “one today is worth two tomorrows.”

Which proves my thesis that there is no cure for procrastination like political pressure.

I view blog memes as a combination of thanksgiving and cross-promotion, a blogospheric rite that spreads netocracy. My ranking is not rigid, nor is my list all-inclusive:

Neeka’s Backlog — a blog of all times by Veronica Khokhlova, a fellow Kyivite, who blogged the Orange Revolution, often lives in Moscow (but not in the Kremlin), and runs the Eastern European section at Global Voices. Life. News. Links. Views. Human touch. Veronica also blogs at Work Log.

Orange Ukraine — a veteran and voluminous blog by Dan McMinn and guest blogger IIU. This blog chronicles the ups and downs of post-Orange Revolution Ukraine. It is the first blog I started commenting at after I started my own. Frequent updates. Heated debates.

AESYD (Alemania: Economía, Sociedad y Derecho) — Marta Salazar's blog is my cultural bridge with the Spanish-speaking blogosphere. She noticed mine last fall. Since then she’s done 47 (!) posts sobre Ucrania. I used to speak some Spanish in college but, without practice, I lost my grip. Today, I use online translators. It’s my “dirty little secret.” Hablo español un poco. Muy poco.

Scenes from the Sidewalk
— Michelle Knisley is a Christian missionary living in Kyiv for the past 9 years and working with homeless and orphaned children. She blogs about life in Ukraine from a non-glamorous perspective. You can also find her at Greetings from Kyiv.

Nash Holos
— a blog by Paulette “Pawlina” MacQuarrie, producer and host of Nash Holos, BC's longest-running and only bilingual Ukrainian radio program. A Ukrainian Canadian, Paulette exposed me to the hardships suffered by early Ukrainian settlers in Canada. I, in turn, exposed her to the hardships suffered by modern-day Ukrainians.

Marginalia — a blog by Pēteris Cedriņš, a Latvian repatriate and former speech writer for President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. Not only is Marginalia my gateway to the Baltic blogosphere, but it is also one of the first blogs to link to Ukrainiana. I visited Latvia in July 1990, and I hope it’s not my last visit.

Cat in the Gulf — a slice-of-life blog by a former Kyivite, of Greek origin, living in Qatar and in Cyprus. It’s a small world, isn’t it?

Leopolis — another veteran blog, with a focus on Eastern Europe, by Adrian J. Erlinger, a Warsaw-based American my age, a Fulbright scholar, and a masterful translator of some of Vysotsky’s lyrics.

Srebrenica Genocide Blog — Daniel keeps a blog dedicated to the tragic events in Bosnia, a genocide fueled by the international community’s ignorance and inaction.

Ukrainian Musical Matters — Orest gives you all you need to know about the Ukrainian music of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Foreign Notes — from the days of the Orange Revolution, LEvko and Scott W. Clark bring the latest business news and analysis, not without a sense of humor.

— A self-absorbed Canadian guy interested in politics and pumpernickel. Pumpernickel grills corruption in Canada, follows the U.S. presidential campaign, and, from time to time, blogs about Ukraine, where, as I understand, some of his ancestors come from.

Buffalo Expat — Elise Garvey is a Fulbright scholar completing a year of studies in Kyiv, where she specializes in working with organizations that combat human trafficking. She also blogs at The Human Trafficking Project.

Kremlin, Inc
— Fulbrighter Hans Stege blogs about pipeline politics and its impact on the West. Comprehensive coverage of energy issues.

And finally, a special thank you to my commenters: IIU, dlw and Elmer. Without their timely, insightful and challenging comments, this blog would be underexplored.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rescue Raid Gone Awry

We didn’t understand why some 32 SWAT officers were invited, to put it mildly, for a "talk" with three MPs, as a result of which MP Lukyanov’s car, with Lukyanov inside, was displaced. When I came up and said, “What are you doing? There’s a live human being in that car,” for some reason, they lost composure and dropped it. And it so happened that they dropped it on my leg.

— MP and former Emergency Management Minister Nestor Shufrych, PRU recapturing his Friday “free Rudy” experience outside the private clinic Borys.

Nestor, you know more about emergencies that I do. Therefore, let me keep my pep talk simple and stupid: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. My high-octane cheerleader songbook of choice would be:

Tatu “Not Gonna Get Us”
Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers Theme
Meat Loaf “I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth)”

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

No Country for Bold Men

They called me because I'm in the donor database, and they asked me to donate blood for a kid suffering from cancer. I went there and spent two hours standing in line just to take a blood test — to find out if I’m a good match for this kid as a donor. And you know why? It’s because the moms there told me what kind of conditions they have in that miserable oncological center at Lomonosov St — how they live there in gloom, how they are purposefully mistreated — and that the impression it creates is that they [hospital personnel] do it to get as many kids as possible dying and freeing up beds. Otherwise, expedient donation would have been streamlined in this country a long time ago.

Instead, everything is being done to make the person who came here in the morning to take a blood test never come back — so that the moms will never find those donors, because there’s hardly a person who can afford to spend more than two hours just to take a half-minute blood test. They still make handwritten medical records there. Can’t the Ministry of Health Care scramble up 200 bucks for a vintage PC? Can’t this country have a computerized database? What else is there to think but that hidden cannibalism is at work? For…where do these people go? Nobody wants them.

Our authorities care about hospitals only when some other Kushnaryov dies at Izyum rayon (county) hospital. Short of that, nobody cares about it, because if the Health Care Minister’s kid gets cancer, he will not be treated at Lomonosov St. He will be treated at the world’s best clinics. That’s how we live.

— lawyer and activist Tetyana Montyan

Tetyana Montyan surprised everyone when she chose to represent Vasyl Tsushko in court. She obviously places a high value on her time, but the case she makes in this report has stood the test of time.

Our men would rather take part in breakaleg “free Rudy” rescue raids than take a trip to the nearest public hospital and see what it’s like.

We know that Rudy and Shufry have private clinics at their disposal. But what about those countryside folks, whose villages NUNS promised to equip with ambulances? How many ambulances have been delivered?

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Putin, Yushchenko Talk Gas

Watch two more videos related to President Yushchenko’s recent visit to Moscow and the ripples it sent through the Kremlin.

It is highly important that neither side — I mean, neither Naftogaz (and, in the end, Ukrainian industry) nor Gazprom…uh — ends up…uh…worse off than stipulated in the existing contract.

Agreed, in Ukraine they don’t want the Russkies to gain possession of the gas transit system. Well, the Russkies have long abandoned this…this idea. We want it [the gas transit system] to run smoothly. The same applies to gas prices. Even inside Russia, we’ve made a decision to adopt market pric…pricing for energy supplies. We’re doing it nice and easy for ourselves. We’re also offering our partners to do it nice and easy. And…it is with him — it was exactly with President Yushchenko that we had managed to agree on this a few years ago, and yesterday he reaffirmed his position once again.

Are they both talking about RosUkrEnergo?

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Friday, February 15, 2008

War and Peace: Putin Targets Ukraine

Part 1

It’s not just the words, one shudders to think that Russia — in response to such deployments, possible deployments of such ABM sites (and theoretically we can’t exclude the possibility) on Ru…on Ukrainian territory — will target Ukraine with her…her missile systems.

First, he prematurely congratulates Yanukovych. Then he prematurely flashes Ukraine with that missile hardon. (We gave up our own in the mid 90s.)

Well, at least his Freudian behavior hasn’t gone unnoticed in Washington.

Part 2

The vast majority of the Ukrainian citizenry oppose accession to NATO. Nevertheless, the leader…the leadership of Ukraine has readily signed a piece of paper initiating the accession process. Is that democracy? Has anybody asked the citizenry whether they want it or not? Now, if it is done in this clandestine mode, it is in the same clandestine mode — without asking anyone’s permission — that military bases may also be deployed there along with some fourth or fifth ABM site. And what do we do then? It is then that we will be forced to retarget our missiles at facilities that we believe are a threat to our national security.

Russia has legitimate security concerns, and so does Ukraine. But when it comes to democracy, the Kremlin is no teacher. Putin’s patronizing overtures are just the tip of the missile. It is the whole gamut of neo-imperialist rhetoric, chauvinist-driven vandalism, and habitual meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs that will ultimately land Ukraine in NATO. The only thing that’s missing is a public relations campaign to neutralize the diehard Soviet antagonisms surrounding NATO.

Some experts believe that Ukraine will not be able to join NATO until the Russian Black Sea Fleet leaves Crimea. The rental agreement expires in 2017. Ukraine has promised to hold a referendum, once ripe for membership, and has vowed not to deploy ABM sites on her territory in the event of becoming a NATO member.


Yushchenko Meets With Putin

Uploaded by kalina_ukr

Putin: Despite the internal political developments in Ukraine, our volume of trade has grown. Nothing obstructs trade growth, at least there’s nothing significant to cause obstruction. Diversification is taking hold in our relations in all areas. There are issues that require special attention. First and foremost, these are the issues connected with our partnering in aviation, in space, and in certain other areas of our cooperation. I know that our foreign affairs ministries are in touch on border issues.

Yushchenko: That’s right.

Putin: We have developments there as well. It is all being discussed at the expert level, but I very much hope that just as we’ve managed, so far, to resolve issues of this kind not only at the expert level, but at also at the political one — by entering into bilateral agreements — we will be moving in this direction just as positively. In summary, we have enough to talk about. The stockpile of issues is big, and I’m very glad to see you. Welcome!

Yushchenko: Thank you. Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. First of all, Vladimirovich, I’m very glad to visit Russia and to meet with you. And as for the assessments, I think our views match. Over this period of time, I think we’ve worked out a decent action plan: a total of 26 items, I guess, which will supply the answers to a wide range of economic and trade relations in various industries. Certainly, there are issues that we should discuss separately. Maybe they are highly sensitive. Uh…we are ready for this dialogue, and we proceed from the notion that Russia was, is, and will be our strategic partner, and it is in the context of this understanding — in the context of such values — that we will do our business with Russia.

Off the record, are we to understand that, just like Putin, RosUkrEnergo will stick around for a while in some sort of reincarnation?


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kosmos Comes Back: “I missed you. You missed me. But that’s…uh…I...that’s not the point.”

We haven't met in a long time. It was due to certain circumstances. I missed you. You missed me. But that’s…uh…I…that’s not the point. I don’t want to make public appearances in a bad mood.

Yes, it’s stable. I feel like it’s stable [in response to questions about his health condition]. The Mayor is absolutely stable, absolutely sane and…uh…I don’t respond to…uh…all sorts of nasty things that…uh…come from…uh…various sources.

He’s back! And he sooooo stable! I missed him with every beat of my heart, with every piece of land Kyiv got. Now let me serenade him with my Valentine’s compilation:

Natalie Cole "I Miss You Like Crazy"

Michael Bolton "Missing You Now"

Whitney Houston "All the Man That I Need"

Mariah Carey "Without You"

Toni Braxton "Breathe Again"

Everything But the Girl "Missing"

Lisa Loeb "Stay (I Missed You)"

Mariah Carey "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)"

East 17 "Stay Another Day"

Take That "Back for Good"

Bonus track from Lutsenko:
The Police "Every Breath You Take"

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