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The European security watchdog, the OSCE, says Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels have agreed ‘in principle’ on a ceasefire in the Luhansk region. A months-old ceasefire has been frequently broken.
epa04481972 Ukrainian servicemen take up positions near Luhansk, Ukraine, 08 November 2014. A new wave of violence was reported although there is a cease-fire declared in the main separatist city. Ukraine on 06 November accused Russia of continuing the latest military build-up along the border of the two countries. Some 60 armoured vehicles, including 50 T-64 tanks, were moved by train to a town close to the border in Russia’s southern Rostov region, the Security Council in Kiev said. Latest reports on 07 November state that Ukrainian claims that a column of Russian military vehicles, including tanks, had crossed into eastern Ukraine. EPA/DMITRIY LIPAVSKIY
The government in Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists agreed to a ceasefire in the eastern war-torn region of Luhansk in Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement released late on Monday.
“All agreed in principle to a total ceasefire along the entire line of contact between Ukrainian Armed Forces and those under control of the (Luhansk People’s Republic), to be effective from 5 December,” the OSCE said.
“They also agreed that the withdrawal of heavy weapons would start on 6 December.”
A fragile truce signed between Ukraine and the separatist rebels in Minsk in September helped reduce some of the bloodiest fighting but fighting has continued since then. The UN said in late November that almost 1,000 people had died since that truce was signed, and more than 4,300 since fighting began in April.
Heavy battles now rage around the devastated airport in the main rebel-held city of Donetsk. Ukraine’s military said on Monday that a temporary truce had been declared, but it is unclear whether it is holding up.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday accused Russia of violating the Minsk ceasefire, by sending large deliveries of weapons to the pro-Moscow separatists – charges the Kremlin has always denied.
jr/ksb (AFP, dpa, AP)
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (wearing glasses), parliament leader Volodymy Groysman (L) and President Petro Poroshenko (back towards camera) talk during the Nov. 27 session of Verkhovna Rada. © Anastasia Vlasova
Ivan Verstyuk, Kyiv Post.
Lack of public service professionals on the Ukraine labor market has pushed the government to look abroad for qualified applicants who can take positions.
Prague-based Pedersen & Partners and Korn Ferry, global headhunting firms, have found 185 potential employees, many of whom are members of Ukrainian community in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
After the job interviews, 24 candidates were recognized as fully qualified to serve in Ukraine’s public offices. However, their names haven’t been disclosed so far.
Four of them are expected to be employed with the Agrarian Ministry and another four with the Finance Ministry.
The Renaissance Foundation, a global network of policy consulting centers launched by American billionaire George Soros, has sponsored the headhunting process. It paid as much as $82,200 to two companies involved in finding the capable employees for the government agencies.
As of now, Ukrainian legislation doesn’t allow the foreigners to hold any public offices, which is why those who’ll accept the government’s job offers will have to take Ukraine’s citizenship. Meanwhile, dual citizenship is not allowed.
President Petro Poroshenko during his Nov. 27 speech in parliament offered to allow the foreigners be officially employed in the country’s government. Moreover, he asked the lawmakers to provide him with legal tools to grant Ukrainian citizenship through special decrees.
Central Bank Governor Valeriya Gontareva also thinks this should be changed. “Unfortunately, current Ukrainian legislation does not allow me to hire foreign citizens and to get the best experts on the NBU staff,” she said.
“Ukraine is facing very special challenges – complicated situation in the economy, aggression from the side of the Russian Federation, necessity of pivotal reforms and efforts focused on fighting the corruption,” commented Dmytro Shymkiv, deputy head of presidential staff. “Ukraine needs Western practicians of public administration, fight against the corruption, financial planning, anti-crisis management.”
Meanwhile, Natalie Jaresko, U.S. citizen of Ukrainian descent and chief executive officer of Horizon Capital, a private equity fund with $650 million in assets, is considered to be a candidate for the position of finance minister, according to the Kyiv Post research.
Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is currently a political science lecturer at Tufts University in the U.S., may become Ukraine’s deputy prime minister.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko together with his wife Maryna Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko visit the Holodomor memorial in Kyiv to commemorate the victims of the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33. © Anastasia Vlasova
Anastasia Vlasova, Kyiv Post.
The great famine in Ukraine of 1932-33, which was engineered by Soviet Union Secretary General Joseph Stalin and leading members of the Communist Party in Moscow and Ukraine, was commemorated in Kyiv on Nov. 22.
People lay flowers and light candles on the Holodomor memorial in Kyiv on Nov. 22. © Anastasia Vlasova
Thousands of people paid their respects to the victims of the Holodomor, which is Ukrainian word for the great famine of 1932-33, as well as to the victims of other Ukrainian famines at the Museum of Famines near Pecherska Lavra. The Ukrainian government recognizes Nov. 22 as the official day of commemoration.
A woman cries near the memorial to the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-33. © Anastasia Vlasova
People walk by a currency exchange outlet in Kyiv offering dollars for Hr 15.2 each for those who don’t trust either deposits in banks or other investment instruments to preserve their savings amid 20 percent inflation this year. © Volodymyr Petrov
Valeriya Gontareva, head of Ukraine’s central bank, has all the reasons to reiterate her popular saying that the country’s financial system is like a terribly sick person who’s got an open wound and is bleeding.
The national currency, hryvnia, has declined in value by 47 percent since January, reaching 15.5 to the U.S. dollar during the Nov. 10 trading session on the interbank market. This reflects banks’ high demand for hard currency as people prefer it as the best savings option. Hryvnia deposit rates have reached 28 percent in some banks, though many still feel it’s better to invest in U.S. currency in times of economic crisis caused by war in the east.
Banks agreed they would not allow the hryvnia slip below 16 per dollar during the Nov. 10 emergency meeting at the National Bank headquarters on Instytutska street in Kyiv, according to Interfax-Ukraine, a news agency.
The nation’s economy is expected to shrink by 6.5 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, while Gontareva’s agency thinks it’s going to be a 7-percent contraction.
Central bank reserves fell by 23 percent in October, all the way to $12.6 billion, mostly due to covering the debt obligations of state-owned oil and gas company Naftogaz. This means the regulator will have less capacity to calm down the banks starving for dollar cash. “The National Bank doesn’t plan to leave the interbank market (and will keep injecting dollars into it),” Gontareva said during the Nov. 3 news conference.
Central bank reserves are as low as $12.6 billion, while the regulator’s head Gontareva says her Yanukovych-era predecessor Serhiy Arbuzov spent $22 billion on a populist policy focused at keeping hryvnia at a rate 8 against the dollar.
The central bank plans to sell dollars daily through the auctions. Since January, it has sold $6 billion to cover the demand from commercial banks and their clients.
However, Gontareva is trying hard to persuade everyone that the hryvnia’ll do fine. “I wouldn’t put anything into the state budget project for 2015 but a hryvnia rate of 12.95 against the dollar,” she said in an interview with TSN, a television news program. She said the regulator is pushing forward a ban on early deposit withdrawals to secure the banking system’s liquidity. Meanwhile, it’s not planning any new restriction regarding the foreign exchange market.
At the moment, a bank client cannot withdraw more than Hr 150,000 per day.
“In October, the behavior of our clients was better,” says Volodymyr Lavrenchuk, head of Ukrainian unit of Austria’s Raiffeisen bank. People felt less panicky, which is why their demand for U.S dollars dropped.
Andriy Pyshny, chief executive officer of state-run banking giant Oshchadbank, adds that as much as $8 billion in cash are stuffed under the pillows of average Ukrainians, which keeps the capital-short economy from growing. “Right now, the market is seeking an equilibrium between the real economy and banking system,” he says.
This year, the central bank recognized as many as 26 commercial banks as insolvent, while 11 of those “had nothing to do with banking at all,” according to the central bank governor. An oligarch-dominated economy that bets on avoiding taxation, for instance through reporting profits in offshore zones, is the key reason why so many banks were involved in fraudulent schemes.
Overall, Ukraine’s banking system consists of 166 banks with $85 billion in assets. “There are too many banks in Ukraine, so the banking sector needs consolidation,” said Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in an interview with the Kyiv Post in May. “The central bank has not been close enough to the banks.”
The IMF mission will be checking Ukraine’s macroeconomic performance, that includes analysis of the state of the things in the banking system, during its Nov. 11-25 visit to Kyiv.
Kyiv’s historic Zhovten cinema after suspected act of anti-LGBT motivated arson on Oct. 29. © Ilya Timchenko.
In response to a series of attacks in Kyiv over the past month, the party of President Petro Poroshenko said they support introducing criminal liability for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
“We support safety guarantees for the LGBT community and criminal liability for discrimination based on sexuality,” the party said in a recent letter addressed to the National LGBT Portal of Ukraine.
On Oct. 29 Kyiv’s historic Zhovten cinema was devastated by fire in what authorities believe to be an act or arson. At the time an LGBT themed film was being show as part of the Molodost film festival. On Oct. 31 a group of men in camouflage attempted to force their way into a screening of another LGBT film being shown as part of the festival but were stopped by police.
The film festival’s organizers later said on Facebook that the men were wearing far-right Pravy Sektor insignia though the group itself denied being involved in the attacks.
The state-own Zhovten cinema has been at the center of real-estate development disputes making it unclear whether LGBT issues were the real focus or whether the attacks were a cover for an attempted land grab.
Following the incidents critics said that politicians had failed to keep promises made during the EuroMaidan protests to meet European human rights norms.
“It seems that not everyone understands human rights. Not everyone understand that LGBT rights are human rights and we are not talking about something special for one community,” said the Director of Amnesty International’s Ukraine branch Tetyana Mazur.
The National LGBT Portal of Ukraine received the letter from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc signed by the head of the party secretariat Maksym Savrasov after sending out appeals ahead of the Oct. 26 parliamentary election to all major Ukrainian political parties. In these appeals, they asked whether the parties would support legislation introducing criminal liability for LGBT discrimination.
The Petro Poroshenko Bloc was the only political party to respond to the inquiry, according to the LGBT rights group.
The letter the party sent emphasized that the path to EU membership was also a “tool” for change that allowed implementing “European standards of life” in both economic and social spheres. It did not mention any time frame or specific plans for introducing a bill supporting criminalizing LGBT discrimination in the new Rada, which is expected to convene in December.
A previous attempt to pass a similar law in 2013 failed.
LGBT rights groups experienced a setback in July when Kyiv police asked them not to hold an equality march saying they couldn’t ensure their safety. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko who recently ran as number one on the party list for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc compared the event at the time to a “carnival” and said it was not a time for celebrating.
An LGBT march had taken place the previous year when now ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was still in power.