Category Archives: Politics

Current politics that may be unethical and or damaging to the majority or minority population

#Klimkin: #Russia still wants to make #war, not peace in #Ukraine


French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Ukraine's Foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting on the situation in Ukraine on August 17, 2014 at Villa Borsig in Berlin. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday he hoped a French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Ukraine’s Foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting on the situation in Ukraine on August 17, 2014 at Villa Borsig in Berlin. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday he hoped a “roadmap” for a sustainable ceasefire in Ukraine will emerge from talks in Berlin with his counterparts from Moscow, Kiev and Paris. AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ © AFP

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin acknowledged on Aug. 18 that Russia is not meeting conditions needed for an internationally monitored peace and ceasefire in Ukraine’s east. Kremlin-backed insurgents have waged war on the nation since mid-April, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where violence has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

“The Russian side today is not ready to take all the commitments…” Klimkin said, including controlling the Russian-Ukraine border to stop the flow of mercenaries and military equipment to the Kremlin-backed insurgents in Ukraine. Klimkin said Russia is also not willing to “recognize the facts” that Ukrainian forces are being shelled and fired upon from Russia in border areas.

Without such commitments, Klimkin said, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cannot work.

Klimkin’s press conference comes a day after he met in Berlin with three other foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, Germany’s Frank Walter-Steinmeier and France’s Laurent Fabius.

Klimkin also said that Western allies have not agreed on a military assistance package for Ukraine, but said they have not refused to offer one either.

He also confirmed the Aug. 23 visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Kyiv, a day before Ukraine celebrates its national independence.


Kyiv Post.

#Ukraine risks losing #IMF support over stalled anti-corruption laws


Politics — by Oksana Grytsenko.Pedestrians pass by the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund is seen June 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. © AFPPedestrians pass by the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund is seen June 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. © AFP

Ukraine’s chances to receive a new tranche of the International Monetary Fund is under risk due to slow progress in implementing anti-corruption measures, experts warn.

One of the key stumbling stones at the moment is a law that would allow to create an independent corruption investigation body. Two competing drafts of it are scheduled to be discussed at the Aug. 20 Cabinet meeting.

The IMF board is due to take a decision on whether to disperse the next $1.4 billion to Ukraine on Aug. 29. This would be the second tranche of a $17 billion, two-year stand-by package that was approved by the Fund in April. The country’s finance minister Oleksandr Shlapak said this money would be used to boost the ailing national currency, which has entered its second stage of sharp devaluation in just over half a year.

One of the preconditions for receiving new cash, however, is the creation of an “independent anti-corruption agency with broad investigative powers” and “adoption of legislation to support anti-corruption effort,” according to the July 18 statement by Nikolay Gueorguiev, IMF mission chief for Ukraine. There has been little progress on these issues, however.

Andrei Marusov, chairman of Transparency International in Ukraine, said that previously political parties of both the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko were resistant in parliament to forming a new anti-corruption body.

But the new government’s effort to draft an important bill that would establish a new anti-corruption body with broad powers erupted into a scandal on Aug. 18. Tetiana Chornovol, a government representative for anticorruption policy, threatened to leave her post and accused her colleagues in the Cabinet of lack of good will to fight with corruption by adopting her draft legislation on anti-corruption body.

“It is better to be a private individual that a government representative, when there are no political will,” she wrote in her emotional blog on Aug. 18.

But representatives of anti-corruption watchdogs say Chornovol’s draft is low quality and will cause more harm than good. For example, the IMF insists that the head of the anti-corruption bureau should be appointed through transparent competition, but her draft fails to provide for such a mechanism. It has many other shortfalls, experts say.

Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, said both proposed bills need to be analyzed by international bodies. The second one was drafted by a working group headed by Viktor Chumak, a parliament member from Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform.

“The price for a mistake is too high, both in terms of creation the highest body for fight against corruption and in terms of receiving money from IMF,” the expert said.Kyiv Post+ logoThe idea behind the anti-corruption bureau is that it has to be able to detect, stop and investigate cases of corruption committed by government officials.

Shabumin said that IMF expects that the new law will state that anti-corruption investigations have to cover officials of all levels, and the new term “illegal enrichment” should be introduced to the Criminal Code.

“For example, if now you work as a judge with a salary of Hr 20,000 yet drive a Bentley and live in mansion, and you can’t be imprisoned for it at the moment because it’s not a crime. The prosecutor has to prove a criminal origin of all this money, which is almost impossible,” Shabunin said.

But that would change once the term “illegal enrichment” makes it to the Criminal Code. If a prosecutor proves that legal income of a particular official could not allow them to buy his property, it would be a basis for opening a criminal case against that official.

Ukraine ranks 144th out of the 177 countries surveyed by Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Few steps have been taken by the government to improve the corruption score. Ukraine’s parliament amended the public procurement law, which made the procedure for government procurement more transparent. But it was passed by a slim margin and only at the second attempt, indicating that there is little desire to fight with corruption in the current parliament, Shabunin said.

Moreover, when the government suggested amendments to the Criminal Code to allow courts to order confiscation of assets of government officials on the run, the parliament spent a week squabbling before finally passing the amendments at the second attempt on Aug. 15. The law facilitates the government’s next moves against the assets of fugitive former President Yanukovych and his cronies.

Shabunin said that the parliament has so far refused to open registers of land and real estate owners – another essential step in tracking and fighting corruption.

“With current composition of Verkhovna Rada it’s impossible to pass serious anti-corruption reforms,” he says.

(Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at grytsenko@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post+.

Russian sanctions bill could spur gas transit independence


Business — by Evan OstryzniukA law to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine could force European gas consumers to conclude transit contracts with Ukrainian counter-parties to use the nation's vast pipeline system of 38,600 kilometers. © AFPA law to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine could force European gas consumers to conclude transit contracts with Ukrainian counter-parties to use the nation’s vast pipeline system of 38,600 kilometers. © AFP

When European Union member states, Turkey and Moldova buy natural gas from Russia, they contract with the Russia party at Ukraine’s western border, thereby obviating the need for a Ukrainian counterparty. But soon, Western gas consumers might have to deal with the Ukrainian side.

Changes to the rules of gas transit might enter through the backdoor should Ukraine’s parliament pass a law on sanctions against Russia on Aug. 12, which would oblige European buyers to deal with Ukrainian companies instead of Russia’s Gazprom.

Russia’s state-owned gas behemoth has a separate agreement with the Ukrainian gas transit company, the state-owned Ukrtransgaz. Kyiv receives around $3 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers, depending on a formula that is based on the price of gas itself.

In 2013, Ukraine transited 86 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to Europe for almost $3 billion, according to Gazprom. Europe receives a third of its gas from Russia, half of which passed through Ukraine.

The measure is part of the proposed law on sanctions to be imposed on 72 individuals and 65 legal entities – mostly Russian – for supporting and financing terrorism in Ukraine. It forbids Russian gas transit services via Ukraine, according to an Aug. 11 statement by state gas giant Naftogaz Ukrainy. To compensate, the company is proposing that all European and Turkish counter-parties dealing with the Russian gas company Gazprom, which would be sanctioned, to sign transit deals with Ukrtransgaz in order to maintain a constant flow.

While Russia turned off the taps to Ukraine on June 16, it continued to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine’s vast pipeline system. “Naftogaz confirms its readiness to provide the same flawless transportation of natural gas to European consumers,” said Naftogaz Chairman Andriy Kobolyev.

The transfer of right to transit from Russia to Ukraine can be seen as a way of getting gas system reforms in through the backdoor. Since June, the government of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has wanted to split up the gas system so that it would conform to the EU’s Third Energy Package, whereby the gas transit component would become “unbundled” and an independently-run entity. Then, the Europeans would have no reason not to use Ukraine’s system.

According to Andriy Chubyk, energy analyst for the Centre for Global Studies Strategy XXI, “Ukraine is obliged within Energy Community membership to enact full-scale reform of Ukrtransgaz, including real obligations and rights to operate under EU energy law.”

The law to sanction Russia might also be the push Ukraine and Europe need to get the reforms moving, former presidential advisor on energy issues Bohdan Sokolobsky told the Kyiv Post. “This would force discussion on rebuilding the gas transit system,” he said.

Ukraine’s strategic gas transit system is worth $25-$35 billion, Kobolyev told journalists on July 23 at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Should European and Turkish counter-parties begin signing gas transit contracts with Ukraine, the country could reap other benefits. This first and most obvious is that Gazprom wouldn’t have to be dealt with on transit agreements, since the sale point would shift from Ukraine’s western to its eastern border. Naftogaz and Gazprom have been at loggerheads about debts and pricing for years, leading to periodic gas shut-offs.

A second benefit is higher transit fees. Ukraine has the lowest gas transit fees in Europe, argues Sokolovsky, so Ukraine should be able to eventually raise them.

Third, this proposal might create an opportunity for Ukraine to buy gas form EU operators at the Russian border instead of reverse gas from EU, which is limited, says investment company Eavex energy expert Dmytro Churin. Gazprom has argued that large volumes of reverse-flow gas would violate contracts signed with the Slovak operator Eustream, for example.

The Yatseniuk government has been trying and mostly succeeding in contracting gas supplies from Central Europe via the reverse flow method, whereby Russian gas that had been pumped through Ukraine is sold back to the transit country via European operators. So far, the government has convinced Poland, Hungary and especially Slovakia to sell gas to Ukraine by this scheme. On April 28, the Slovak government said that combined reverse flows from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland could reach up to around 16-17 bcm annually. However, for this year the total should be just 8-10 bcm, Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said at the time.

Last year, Ukraine consumed 50 bcm of gas, of which 28 bcm was bought from Russia, 2 bcm purchased from Europe, and 20 bcm extracted domestically. This year, consumption is expected to be in the mid-40s bcm range.

But things could get complicated on the legal side. On the one hand, Naftogaz says that this deal offers a legal mechanism for Ukraine to maintain Russian gas flow to Europe in light of sanctions. On the other hand,experts argue that European counter-parties have existing contracts with Gazprom, and by extension Ukraine, and so depending on the wording these contracts might not allow the counter-parties to sign transit deals with Ukraine. “An interesting thing here is whether EU companies will be able to renegotiate transfer of ownership for Russian gas on Russian border instead of EU-Ukraine border under current scheme,” explains Eavex’s Churin.

Investment boutique Dragon Capital agrees. “Such a scheme would require amending the existing gas supply contracts between Gazprom and European companies to change the transfer point and exclude costs attributable to transit via Ukraine. Gazprom will actively oppose any steps in this direction and EU counterparties are likely to react cautiously for fear of potential supply disruptions” the company wrote on Aug 11.

The European Commission said it was looking into the details of the proposal.

(Kyiv Post business journalist Evan Ostryzniuk can be reached at ostryzniuk@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post.

UK: David Cameron ‘must answer for Russian oligarchs’ donations’


Ed Miliband particularly questions £160,000 donation Tories accepted from wife of former Russian finance minister.

, political correspondent
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, made his comments on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. Photograph: BBC/ReutersThe Labour leader, Ed Miliband, made his comments on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. Photograph: BBC/Reuters

David Cameron has questions to answer over the money he is taking from Russian oligarchs, Ed Miliband has said.

The Labour leader particularly questioned the £160,000 donation the Conservatives accepted from the wife of a former Russian finance minister, who won an auction offering the chance to play tennis with Cameron and the London mayor, Boris Johnson.

Over the past week, the Tories have been under scrutiny over donations from people linked to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The US and EU have imposed sanctions in reaction to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine.

Figures from the Electoral Commission show that the Conservatives have banked more than £161,000 from people with links to the Kremlin, and Labour has calculated that the Tories have received almost £1m from Russians in general.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, Miliband said the money should be returned.

“David Cameron does have questions to answer on the money that he’s taking from Russian oligarchs, on the bidding for a tennis match, all of that stuff. Frankly, he can’t stand up one minute and say that ‘this is the biggest issue and we’re going to take the right action’. He’s got to really look very, very carefully at who he is getting money from.”

Labour has called for Cameron to cancel his tennis match with Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of Vladamir Chernukhin, who was Putin’s deputy finance minister in 2000. She won the auction last month, but some MPs, both Labour and Conservative, have questioned whether the prime minister should accept the money while attacking the Kremlin over the Ukraine crisis. Cameron has told parliament that if Putin “does not change his approach to Ukraine … then Europe and the west must fundamentally change our approach to Russia”. A Tory spokesman said last week that no date had been set for the match but that “all donations are transparent and permissible under the rules set out by the Electoral Commission”.

Miliband also criticised the reaction of the EU to the Ukrainian situation, saying national leaders need to get more involved in discussions about sanctions against Russia. The UK has been pushing for tougher penalties against Russian business sectors, such as banking, defence and energy, but so far the sanctions have been limited to individuals and firms specifically linked to Putin and his government.

“We need action. We need a European Council,” Miliband said. “The heads of government of Europe should be meeting, they shouldn’t have been leaving it to foreign ministers. We need to raise the sanctions on Russia, on individual corporations that have been part of what happened around the big decisions that have been made. We need action on this.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, joined calls on Sunday for Russia to face the axe as hosts of the 2018 World Cup as part of tougher sanctions over the shooting down of flight MH17.

The Guardian.

Nick Clegg says Russia should not host World Cup 2018


Fifa has ruled out calls for boycott after the shooting down of MH17, insisting the tournament could be ‘a force for good’.

Nick Clegg believes it would be 'unthinkable' for the World Cup 2018 tournament to go ahead in Russia. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesNick Clegg believes it would be ‘unthinkable’ for the World Cup 2018 tournament to go ahead in Russia. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Nick Clegg has joined calls for Russia to face the axe as hosts of the 2018 World Cup as part of tougher sanctions over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The deputy prime minister said it was “unthinkable” at present that the tournament could go ahead in the country blamed by the west for supplying arms to the separatist rebels accused of causing the deaths of all 298 on board.

Football’s world governing body Fifa this week ruled out calls from some German politicians for Russia to be boycotted, insisting the tournament could be “a force for good“.

But Clegg told the Sunday Times that allowing it to go ahead without a change of course by president Vladimir Putin would make the world look “so weak and so insincere” in its condemnation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels.

The EU has added another 15 individuals and 18 entities to the list of those subject to asset freezes and ambassadors in Brussels are expected to extend the punitive actions to state-owned banks’ access to capital markets and to the arms and energy sectors.

Clegg said however that sporting events should also be part of the package of measures – including the cancellation of Russia’s first F1 Grand Prix, which is due to take place in Sochi in October.

“Vladimir Putin himself has to understand that he can’t have his cake and eat it,” he said.

“He can’t constantly, you know, push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point, destabilise a neighbouring country, protect these armed separatists in the east of Ukraine and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.

“That’s why I’ve come to the view that if he doesn’t change course it’s just not on, the idea that Russia will host the World Cup in 2018.

“You can’t have this – the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

“Not only would Vladimir Putin exploit it, I think it would make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere about our protestations about Vladimir Putin’s behaviour if we’re not prepared to pull the plug.

He said that despite F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s insistence that there was no case for abandoning the Grand Prix, “the question marks I’m raising will only increase over the next coming weeks and months, over the summer and up to the Grand Prix, about Russia’s entitlement to host these major events.

“Vladimir Putin is a past master at attending these sporting events and, sort of, pretending almost as if everything’s utterly normal and nothing untoward is happening around him.

“And if anyone needed any reminding of how dangerous this conflict is in the heart of Europe, just ask any of the family and relatives of those loved ones they lost in that plane incident last week.”

Clegg said the threat of withdrawing the World Cup would be “a very potent political and symbolic sanction”.

“If there’s one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it’s his sense of status.

“Maybe reminding him that you can’t retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking.”

He did not rule out the UK as an alternative host given its recent history of putting on successful global sporting events.

“We’ve got the stadiums, we’ve got the infrastructure, and we’ve got the public backing and enthusiasm to host it,” he said.

“That’s a decision for other people. But I’m not saying this just as a, sort of, British land grab to snatch the World Cup from under Vladimir Putin’s nose.”

He joined David Cameron’s criticism of the French deal to supply warships to Russia, saying it would be “wholly inappropriate” for it to proceed in the present circumstances.

“Whilst I can entirely understand that the French may have entered into that contract with the Russians in entirely different circumstances, it is wholly inappropriate to go ahead with that now,” he said.

“And as you know, the Prime Minister has reviewed the outstanding licenses that we have got to make sure that we deliver what we unilaterally announced back in March, which was that there would be no exports from Britain of arms products which could in any way fuel or fan the flames of the conflict in Ukraine.”

He said he had been assured by business secretary Vince Cable that “great care” was taken to check the remaining licences.

Clegg predicted that any adverse effects on EU member states of tougher economic sanctions against Russia would be “probably not very significant” and urged all countries to consider the wider benefit.

“We are now moving, I think, towards a situation – and both the prime minister and I would be united in this – in saying to other European Union leaders, look, even if this incurs short-term political damage to this economy or that economy, this sector or that sector, there is something bigger at stake here and it is the stability of the European continent.”

Clegg said the furore over the £160,000 paid in a Tory fundraising auction by the wife of a Russian oligarch who was a minister in Putin’s first government for a game of tennis with Cameron and Boris Johnson mostly demonstrated the need for reform of political party funding.

“They need to make their own judgments,” he said, when asked if his coalition partners should meet Labour demands to repay the money.

“But all parties … continue to be damaged because of the haphazard way which we have to go around fund raising,” he added – calling on both main parties to stop blocking reform.

The Guardian.