17th August 2012

SpongeBob

Ukrainian commission wants to ban ‘gay’ SpongeBob and Teletubbie ‘losers’.

First they came for the Simpsons and now they want SpongeBob Squarepants. The Ukraine is considering a move to censor several children’s shows after a new study from a conservative commission labeled the shows “a real threat” to the country’s youth.
The Ukraine’s National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality released the report, which attacks several U.S. and international programs as detrimental to the country.
Psychologist Irina Medvédeva is quoted in the study, alleging that children aged 3 to 5 years old, “pull faces and make jokes in front of adults they don’t know, laugh out loud and repeat nonsense phrases in a brazen manner,” after viewing the shows.
The Ukrainian paper Ukraínskaya Pravda reported on Thursday that some of the shows under fire include “Family Guy,” “Futurama,” “Pokemon,” “The Simpsons” and “Teletubbies,” which the report says are, “projects aimed at the destruction of the family, and the promotion of drugs and other vices.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the study results first appeared on “fringe Catholic website Family Under the Protection of the Holy Virgin.”
While the accusations sound a bit silly, a 2011 study by a University of Virginia professor claimed that watching just nine minutes of SpongeBob could adversely affect the attention span and learning abilities of 4-year-olds.
The Ukrainian commission had previously attempted to ban other shows, including “The Simpsons.”
Some of the accusations leveled against the programming in the study:
SpongeBob Squarepants: “gay”
Teletubbies: “Deliberately aims to create subnormal (men), who spend all day in front of the television with their mouths open swallowing all types of information,” and promotes the “psychology of losers.”
Shrek: “containing sadism”
South Park: “reincarnation propaganda”
Japanese Anime: “A clear example of sexist propaganda”
The study concluded that the programming represents “a large-scale experiment on Ukrainian children” to “create criminals and perverts.”

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17th August 2012

Lutsenko

Ukraine’s Jailed Former Interior Minister Sentenced In Second Case.

A Kyiv court has sentenced Ukraine’s former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko to two years in prison in a second case against him.
Lutsenko was found guilty on August 17 of ordering illegal surveillance of suspects while investigating the poisoning of former President Viktor Yushchenko during his presidential campaign in 2004.
In February, Lutsenko was found guilty of embezzlement and abuse of office and sentenced to four years in jail.
Judge Hanna Medushevska said that because Lutsenko had been already convicted to four years in jail for a separate felony, the harsher punishment supersedes the more lenient one and therefore Lutsenko’s general prison term will remain four years.
Lutsenko said after his verdict was pronounced that there is no justice in Ukraine.
“I feel sorry for a country that has this kind of justice,” he said. “This means that there is no possibility in our country for any person, ordinary [citizen] or not ordinary, to defend himself.”
He added that the judiciary and the law enforcement system in Ukraine should be fully reformed.
“It is necessary, first of all, to shut down the police because it has no legal possibilities to work,” Lutsenko said. “Secondly, to shut down the courts. And thirdly, to overthrow the authorities that have allowed a shameful situation of complete lawlessness in the country.”
Meanwhile, Lutsenko’s co-defendants in the latest case against him — Volodymyr Tarasenko and Oleh Pavlenov, two former employees of the Interior Ministry — were fined 8,500 hryvnyas ($1,050) each and deprived of the right to occupy managerial and administrative positions at enterprises and organizations.
In Lutsenko’s first trial in February, the court sentenced him to four years in prison and ordered the confiscation of his property, saying Lutsenko had failed to observe proper procedures while serving as interior minister from 2007-10.Lutsenko, an ally of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, pleaded not guilty in both cases and said the charges against him were politically motivated.
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence in a prison in the eastern city of Kharkiv after being convicted of abuse of office in late December. Her second trial on alleged tax evasion is scheduled to start on September 11.
The European Union and the United States have condemned the prosecution of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko as politically motivated acts by their opponents.
Viktor Klymenko, the chief prosecutor in Lutsenko’s second trial, told journalists after the verdict had been pronounced that Lutsenko would be transferred to a labor camp in the near future.
Lutsenko’s lawyer Oleksiy Bahanets said he plans to appeal the court’s decision.

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16th August 2012

Firms

Ukraine Picks Western Firms For Offshore Gas Project.

Ukraine has selected ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell to develop its Skifska hydrocarbon field in the Black Sea, choosing the American and Dutch companies over Russia’s Lukoil for the €8.15-billion project.
The Skifska offshore project is part of Ukraine’s plan to ease its dependence on gas imported from Russia, which amounted to some 40 billion cubic metres (bcm) last year and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the country’s consumption.
“Thanks to state projects aimed at increasing domestic production, we will be able to produce at least 45 bcm,” Eduard Stavitsky, the environment and natural resources minister, told Reuters after the announcement yesterday (15 August).Skifska, predominantly a gas field, is estimated to hold reserves of 200 to 250 bcm of gas, he said, and is expected to eventually produce 5 bcm a year.
Stavitsky said the winning consortium, which also includes Romania’s OMV Petrom and Ukrainian state company Nadra Ukrainy, would start work on the field this year.
Ukraine already has an extensive gas pipeline network which could transport gas from the Black Sea coast.
Ukraine’s decision to go with non-Russian companies demonstrates that Kyiv wants to diversify its energy portfolio away from Russia, writes Stratfor, the Texas-based global intelligence company.
Because of geographic constraints and political manoeuvring from Moscow, Kyiv has few other sources than Russia for gas imports. Ukraine is exploring the development of its indigenous hydrocarbon reserves.
The Siksfa field alone could reduce the country’s natural gas imports from Russia by 10%.
“Ukraine’s deal with two of the largest, most technically capable energy companies in the world shows that Kyiv is aware of its rapidly closin window of opportunity to escape Moscow’s grip,” Stratfor says in an analysis. “Should Ukraine and its new partners fail to develop significant indigenous hydrocarbon reserves, Russia will be one step closer to obtaining control over Naftogaz and consolidating its influence over the country.”
In May, the Ukrainian government picked Shell and US-based Chevron Corp as partners in projects to explore and develop two potentially large onshore shale gas fields.

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16th August 2012

Pussy Riot protest

Ukraine activist cuts down cross in Pussy Riot protest.

A topless women’s rights activist hacked down a Christian cross in the Ukrainian capital Kiev with a chain saw on Friday in protest at the prosecution of the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot.

The young woman staged her protest as a Russian court was due to deliver a verdict on three Pussy Riot members for performing a political “punk prayer” at the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral – a case that has been criticised by free-speech advocates around the world.

To show solidarity with the Pussy Riot defendants, Inna Shevchenko, a member of the Ukrainian group Femen which often stages bare-breasted shock performances, destroyed the four-metre high wooden cross bearing the figure of Christ. The cross, erected in 2005 on a hilltop looking down on the city centre, also served as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression and the famine of the 1930s.

Two other activists used ropes to direct the fall of the cross. “No business, not even one as successful as the church, has the right to attack women’s rights,” Shevchenko, 22, a veteran of several Femen protests, said after bringing down the cross.

A criminal case has been formally opened for hooliganism in connection with the incident, police spokesperson Ihor Mykhalko said. The maximum sentence for the offence is four years in jail. Shevchenko, who had “Free Riot” written across her chest and arms, demonstratively crossed herself Orthodox-style before taking the chain saw to the cross.

Afterwards she posed for photographers with her arms spread-eagled. There were no police at the scene. Femen’s move seems certain to trigger outrage, both among religious groups in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country and among relatives of the millions of victims of famine and repression that took place under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The cross had been installed near the former Kiev headquarters of the Soviet NKVD state security agency which was the main instrument of Stalin’s purges. Friday’s move represented a departure for Femen activists previously known for baring their breasts at public events to highlight their campaign against prostitution and sex tourism.

When Ukraine hosted the European soccer championship in June – a popular event that many Ukrainians saw as recognition of the country’s place in the European mainstream – Femen used the event to stage high-visibility protests. Femen activists attempted to steal the championship’s trophy and held several protests in the official Kiev “fan zone” where thousands of foreign tourists were gathered.

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8th August 2012

Passenger transportation in Ukraine

Passenger transportation in Ukraine 3.5% down in 7 months.

Ukrainian transport companies saw passenger transportation fall by 3.5% in January-July 2012 compared to January-July 2011, to 3.9 billion people, the State Statistics Service has reported.
Passenger turnover fell by 0.9%, to 77.4 billion passenger-kilometers.
In the period, 252.4 million passengers traveled by rail, which was the same year-over-year (taking into account transportation by city trains).
The number of passengers serviced by Prydniprovska railways grew by 0.2%.
Donetsk railways decreased the number of passengers serviced by 2%, Pivdenna railways by 1.3%, while Pivdenno-Zakhidna railways saw passenger transportation fall by 4.3%, Odesa railways by 2%, and Lviv railways by 2.3%.
In January-July 2012, two billion passengers traveled by road, including those serviced by private entrepreneurs, and this was 6.7% down on January-July 2011. Passenger transportation by private entrepreneurs alone fell by 10.4%.
Passenger transportation by sea contracted by 14.3% year-over-year. Sevastopol-based enterprises accounted for 80.4% of overall voyages by sea and decreased transportation by 17.7%.
Sea voyages abroad grew by 25% in January-July 2012 compared to January-July 2011. Crimean companies, which accounted for 98.3% of all voyages abroad, increased passenger transportation by 25.4%.
Airlines carried 4.5 million passengers in the period under review, which was 10.5% up year-over-year.
Municipal electric transport serviced 1.7 billion passengers in January-July 2012, which was the same year-over-year.

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27th July 2012

Fresh trial

Ally of Ukraine’s Tymoshenko convicted in fresh trial.

A Ukraine court sentenced an ally of jailed ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Friday to two years in prison, the latest conviction in what the opposition says is a campaign of political repression.
Yuri Lutsenko, interior minister under Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovich’s main rival, is already serving four years for a separate charge and Friday’s sentence should not add to that jail time.
But the ruling means he will stay in prison even if the European Court of Human Rights overturns his previous conviction. The court has already found his arrest on the initial charges illegal but has yet to rule on the actual verdict.
On Friday the court found Lutsenko acted negligently in authorizing an illegal extension of surveillance over another former official’s driver. The previous conviction was for embezzlement and abuse of office.
Lutsenko denied wrongdoing in both cases.
“This verdict means that no one can defend himself in this country … there is no justice in this country,” Lutsenko told the courtroom from a metal cage where he was seated.
His lawyer Oleksiy Bohdanets said Lutsenko would appeal.
Tymoshenko was convicted for abuse of office last October and sentenced to seven years in prison in a case that has damaged Ukraine’s relations with the West.
The European Union and the United States say Tymoshenko’s jailing and the prosecution of Lutsenko were examples of selective justice.After she lost the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovich in a close run-off, Tymoshenko and a number of her allies faced criminal charges in what she described as a campaign of repression.
Another ex-member of her cabinet, former acting defense minister has been sentenced to five years in prison, although an appeals court this week changed his sentence to a suspended one.
Former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn – pursued on similar charges – left Ukraine and has been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic.
Tymoshenko herself is appealing her conviction and at the same time standing trial on fresh charges of tax evasion and embezzlement.

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24th July 2012

Electronic government

Ukraine to adopt Korea’s experience in implementation of “electronic government”.

Ukraine and the Republic of Korea intend to develop cooperation in many fields including science, rocket and space, transport and aviation, as well as in the introduction of electronic management system, Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov said during a meeting with presidential envoy of the Republic of Korea Lee Jae Won, the press service of the Cabinet reports.
“Electronic management system is an interesting topic for Ukraine. We can cooperate effectively in this direction,” Azarov said.
In turn, Lee Jae Won stressed that Ukraine can use the experience of Korea in the issue of e-governance. “As for building of the system “Electronic Government,” Korea is considered to be a leading country in the world,” the presidential envoy of Korea said.
In general, Azarov noted that Ukraine and Korea have a good history of cooperation. “We have good political relations with Korea, visits are conducted at the highest level,” the Prime Minister said reminding that this year, two parties will celebrate the 20th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations.

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2nd July 2012

Cooperates

Ukraine Cooperates with Russia on $4bln AN-70 Project.

Ukrainian company Antonov together with Russian United Aircraft Corporation will participate in manufacturing Antonov An-70 transport airplanes. Russian defense ministry already placed an order for 60 such machines, USD 67 million apiece. Developed since 1978, An-70 can carry heavier cargo than existing transport planes and land on ill-equipped runways.
An-70 can carry 300 troopers, or 200 injured persons, or 47 tons of freight. Comparably, the closest alternative to An-70 – Airbus A400M Atlas – can carry 37 tons of cargo. Market price of the Spanish A400M is EUR 145 million, whereas the Ukrainian An-70 costs less than USD 70 million.
Planes An-70 will be produced at JSC Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Production Association in Kazan, Russia. The plane can fly at a speed of 780 kilometers per hour at distances of up to 7,800 kilometers. An-70 is capable of landing on 600-800 meter runways with earth surfaces. Onboard navigation equipment allows the plane to land and takeoff at airports lacking special earth-based equipment.
The four engines Progress D-27 make it possible for shorter takeoff and landing of An-70. By the end of August 2012, Ukraine plans to finalize testing of the three-shaft propfan engine. Ukrainian state enterprise Ivchenko-Progress developed the engine, while PJSC Motor Sich, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, will produce D-27.
An-70 will be built in compliance with the AP-25 norms of the Interstate Aviation Committee – Airworthiness Standards for Category Airplanes. This will allow certification of An-70 for civilian aviation in Western Europe and North America.
The planned amount of An-70s to be produced by 2020 is 80 machines. Specifically for the purposes of An-70 production Russia will build a separate plant at JSC Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Production Association, according to the Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev.
Besides Russia, Ukraine is currently cooperating with China (AI-222-25F turbofans), Iran (An-140, An-148) on aircraft production projects. Additionally, in July 2012, joint Ukraine-Russia Ruslan SALIS GmbH won NATO air transportation bid.
Ruslan SALIS will provide An-124-100s for air transportation services for the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution project. Within the framework of previous cooperation with joint Ukraine-Russia enterprise, NATO uses An-124-100s to transport troops to and from Afghanistan and peacekeepers in and out of Darfur, as well as to deliver aid to the victims of October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

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28th June 2012

Central bank

Ukraine’s inflation expectations keep falling: central bank.
Kiev. The consumer price index in Ukraine gradually decreases. According to the deputy director of the General Economic Department of the National Bank of Ukraine Oleksandr Petryk, July inflation made up 0.2%. At the same time, decline in inflation on an annualized basis stops and now the figure is almost zero, the National Bank of Ukraine announced for FOCUS News Agency.
The main factor of inflation decline stop in July on an annualized basis was the low base in comparison with the last year. Due to the rich crop in 2011, agricultural products turned out to be cheaper. As a result – July 2011 inflation rate was 1.3%.
Core inflation on an annualized basis was dropping for eleven consecutive months. In July it made up 3.1%. According to Petryk, it was caused by two factors: the deliberate monetary policy of the NBU, aimed at reducing the overall long-term inflation trend, and the influence of secondary effects caused by cheapening of raw foods in 2011 and the first half of this year.
The price for the administratively regulated services grew moderately. In July, they rose by 0.4% and practically had no effect on the overall inflationary background. Fuel prices decreased by 1.4% due to the decline in oil price in world markets.
Inflation expectations keep falling. In July, they were record low.
A relatively stable exchange rate of hryvnia and low inflation in the countries-main trading partners of Ukraine led to a slight increase (0.4% on an annualized basis) in prices for imported goods in total consumption basket of Ukraine.
In July, producers’ prices fell significantly – by 2.9%. As a consequence – the producers’ price inflation on an annualized basis slowed to 1.4% in July from 4.5% in June. The reason is decline in prices for major commodity groups in the world trading floors.
“Now the inflation environment in the economy is close to an optimal one. This means that on one hand inflation will not slow economic growth, on the other – does not cause excessive inflation expectations. And this situation can be a very good basis for further structural reforms and for ensuring sustainable economic growth of Ukraine in the coming years,” Olexander Petryk summed up.

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20th June 2012

Effective

‘Alarming’ smoking habits found in Ukraine, poorer countries.

Two fifths of men in developing countries still smoke or use tobacco, and women are increasingly starting to smoke at younger ages, according to a new international study which found “alarming patterns” of tobacco use.
Despite years of anti-smoking measures being encouraged across the world, most developing countries have low quit rates, according to the study in The Lancet medical journal on Friday – and tobacco is likely to kill half its users.
There are wide differences in the rates of smoking between genders and nations, as well as major disparities in access to effective anti-smoking policies and treatments.
“Although 1.1 billion people have been covered by the adoption of the most effective tobacco-control policies since 2008, 83 percent of the world’s population are not covered by two or more of these policies,” said Gary Giovino of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions in New York, who led the research.
Such measures include legislation in some developed nations banning smoking in public places, imposing advertising bans and requiring more graphic health warnings on cigarette packets.
The findings come as the world’s leading tobacco firms, British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco , Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco lost a crucial legal appeal in Australia this week against the introduction of plain tobacco packaging.
Australia’s planned “no logo” laws are in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations and are being watched closely by Britain, Norway, New Zealand, Canada and India, which are considering similar measures to help fight smoking.
Tobacco kills up to half of its users, according to the WHO. Smoking causes lung cancer, which is often fatal, and other chronic respiratory diseases. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, the world’s number one killers. O th er forms of tobacco use include snuff or chewing tobacco.
Giovino said his findings “reinforce the need for effective tobacco control”.

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19th June 2012

GATS

301 MILLION CHINESE USE TOBACCO.
Using data from Global Adult Tobacco Surveys (GATS) carried out between 2008 and 2010, Giovino’s team compared patterns of tobacco use and cessation in people aged 15 or older from 14 low- and middle-income countries. They included data from Britain and the United States for comparison.
They found disproportionately high rates of smoking among men – at an average 41 percent versus 5 percent in women – and wide variation in smoking prevalence between GATS countries, ranging from about 22 percent of men in Brazil to more than 60 percent in Russia.
Rates of female smoking ranged from 0.5 percent in Egypt to almost 25 percent in Poland. Women in Britain and the United States also had high smoking rates, at 21 percent and 16 percent respectively.
The study found that around 64 percent of tobacco users smoke manufactured cigarettes, although loose-leaf chewing tobacco and snuff were particularly common in India and Bangladesh.
With an estimated 301 million tobacco users, China has more than any other country, closely followed by India with almost 275 million. Other countries included in the study were Bangladesh, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam.
The researchers said the rise in tobacco use among young women was of particular concern.
In a commentary about the study also published in The Lancet, Jeffrey Koplan from Emory University in the United States and Judith Mackay from the World Lung Foundation in Hong Kong called for more investment in tobacco control measures, saying current under-funding was “extraordinary”.
In low income countries, they said, for every $9,100 received in tobacco taxes, only $1 was spent on tobacco control.
The WHO says tobacco already kills around 6 million people a year worldwide, including more than 600,000 non-smokers who die from exposure to second-hand smoke.
By 2030, if current trends continue, it predicts tobacco could be killing 8 million people a year.

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28th January 2012

Ukrainian army

Ukrainian army to take up Sapsan missile system in 2017, says space official

The new Ukrainian tactical missile system – the Sapsan multi-functional missile system may be taken up by the Ukrainian army in 2017, Head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine Yuriy Alexeyev has said.

“We have every reason to say that in three or four years the test of the system may start, in five years the first batch will be put into service by the army,” the State Space Agency head said at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday.

According to him, the developer of the Sapsan missile system (the Dnipropetrovsk-based Pivdenne Design Bureau) has prepared the project of the new tactical missile system, the government funding of the program will start in 2012.

The financing of the program in 2012 approved by the Ukrainian government will be UAH 195 million, Alekseyev said.

Some 70 enterprises of Ukraine’s aerospace and defense industries will take part in the project to create the Sapsan multi-functional missile complex, and 99% of its components will be produced in Ukraine.

The Sapsan MFMC is among the key programs in the Ukrainian draft state armament program for a period until 2015.

The Sapsan should combine the features of tactical, tactical missile complexes and multiple rocket launchers.

The missile range stated by the developer (the Pivdenne Design Bureau in Dnipropetrovsk) is up to 280 kilometers.

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28th January 2012

topless Ukrainian protesters

Topless protesters detained at Davos forum

Three topless Ukrainian protesters were detained Saturday while trying to break into an invitation-only gathering of international CEOs and political leaders to call attention to the needs of the world’s poor.

After a complicated journey to reach the heavily guarded Swiss resort town of Davos, the women arrived at the entrance to the congress center where the World Economic Forum takes place every year.

With temperatures around freezing in the snow-filled town, they took off their tops and climbed a fence before being detained.

Davos police spokesman Thomas Hobi said the three women were taken to the police station and their papers were checked. They were told that they weren’t allowed to demonstrate, and will be released later, he said.

The activists are from the group Femen, which has become popular in Ukraine for staging small, half-naked protests to highlight a range of issues including oppression of political opposition. They have also conducted protests in some other countries.

Protesters from the Occupy movement that started with protests against practices on Wall Street held a separate demonstration in Davos on Saturday. A small group of protesters are camped in igloos in Davos to call for more help for the needy.

A member of the Occupy camp was invited to speak at a special event outside the Forum on Friday night discussing the future of capitalism attended by British opposition leader Ed Miliband.

Soon after the panel discussion began, some activists in the audience jumped up and started chanting slogans, and the protester panelist walked off the stage.

Other members of the audience told the activists to “shut up” and arguments disrupted the panel for about 20 minutes. The discussion then resumed, without the Occupy panelist.

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28th January 2012

Mykola Melnychenko

Israel refuses extradition in Ukraine murder

Ukraine’s prosecutor general says Israel is refusing to extradite a former presidential bodyguard charged with abuse of office after claiming his boss plotted the murder of an investigative journalist.

Mykola Melnychenko released tapes in which former President Leonid Kuchma is allegedly heard conspiring against Heorhiy Gongadze, who exposed high-level corruption.

Gongadze’s beheaded body was found in a forest outside Kiev in November 2000.

A Ukrainian court cleared Kuchma of involvement last year, while Melnychenko was charged with abuse of office and divulging state secrets, prompting him to flee to Israel.

Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka told the Interfax news agency Friday that Israel has refused to extradite Melnychenko.

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28th January 2012

Ukraine European integration

Swedish foreign minister: Ukraine falls off path of European integration

Ukraine has fallen off the path of rapprochement with the European Union and found itself at a crossroads, according to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

“The question is: can Ukraine return to the path of European integration, or we are stuck at what is in fact a departure from European integration?” he said on Friday during the 8th Davos Ukrainian Lunch organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.

Bildt noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had clearly expressed its position that the signing of an association agreement with the EU now depended on how long the former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko remained in prison.

The minister said he did not hear the explanation of this situation in the speech of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Bildt added that Tymoshenko’s case was not the only one, but the most famous of those that cast doubt on the rule of law in Ukraine.

Member of the European Parliament Marek Siwiec, in turn, noted that the main challenge for Ukraine in 2012 would be the elections.

“If they are free, then Ukraine may become the part of Europe, otherwise that’s all – that’s the end of the dream.”

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28th January 2012

Ukraine

Ukraine to launch first telecommunications satellite in late 2013

Ukraine plans to launch its first telecommunications satellite – the Lybid – in the fourth quarter of 2013, Head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine Yuriy Alekseyev told journalists in Kyiv on Friday.

Alekseyev said that the satellite is being assembled at the Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems (ISS-Reshetnev, based in Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk territory, Russia) and its construction is being financed using a $254.6-million loan by Canada’s export credit agency – Export Development Canada (EDC), which was raised against government guarantees in 2009.

According to Alekseyev, the payback period of the project is seven to eight years. In addition to Ukraine, the satellite will cover the territory of Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Foreign customers, in particular India, have already shown interest in the use of Ukraine’s telecommunication satellite, the State Space Agency head said.

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28th January 2012

Ukrainian hockey

Ukrainian coach charged (UPDATE)

A Ukrainian hockey coach charged with fondling a teen player in Philadelphia will remain in custody until a bail hearing next week.

A public defender told a judge Friday that he needs more time to find local friends of Ivan Pravilov, 48, because Pravilov has not had access to his cell phone contacts while in custody. Defense lawyer Mark Wilson said he hopes to find someone willing to house Pravilov until trial.

Federal prosecutors oppose bail, calling the coach a danger and flight risk. There is also an Interpol warrant for his arrest stemming from a 2007 fight in the Ukraine, they said. The bail hearing will resume Wednesday.

Pravilov ran an elite hockey school in the Ukraine from the 1980s until about 2007, when he came to the U.S. to run camps for standout players from the U.S. and abroad. Players from the Ukraine and elsewhere typically enroll for about a month, staying with host families and traveling with Pravilov to various U.S. cities for tournaments and clinics.

On Jan. 3, he allegedly brought two 14-year-old Ukrainian boys to his Philadelphia apartment from a family home in Wilmington, Delaware, and fondled one of the boys during the night, according to the indictment returned Thursday. The other boy was later threatened in a locker room, authorities allege. A host parent contacted police.

Pravilov has been in custody since Homeland Security agents arrested him last week.

An official with the Ukrainian consulate in New York came to court Friday to monitor the hearing, but said he was not authorized to comment.

Pravilov faces six to eight years in prison if convicted of taking a minor over state lines for sexual purposes.

The charges come less than a month after Maxim Starchenko, one of Pravilov’s former players, published a book alleging the coach regularly abused team members physically, mentally and sexually.

Starchenko, the author of “Behind the Iron Curtain: Tears in the Perfect Hockey ‘Gulag,’” played for Pravilov from the age of 8 through 18.

“People need to know what happened,” Starchenko said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. He added, “I hope others will tell their story, the way it was — the way it really was.”

Wilson, the assistant federal public defender representing Pravilov, declined to comment Friday on the case.

The coach’s proteges include New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, who’s enjoyed a 15-year career in the NHL. Pravilov uses the New Jersey, home of Zubrus’ mother as his permanent mailing address in the U.S.

Zubrus has not returned requests for comment left with his mother, Irene Zubriene. However, she has said she believes the accusations stem from lingering rivalries in the Ukraine.

“It’s not true. It’s not true,” Zubriene told the AP last week. “Somebody wants to do for him (something) bad. It comes from the Ukraine.”

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28th January 2012

Ukraine’s space industry

Ukraine’s space industry increases output by 62 percent in 2011

Ukraine’s space industry increased its output and sales in 2011 by 61.9 percent year-on-year to Hr 3.4 billion.

The industry reported some Hr 76.7 million in net profit in 2011, Interfax-Ukraine learned at the State Space Agency of Ukraine.

According the State Space Agency, last year six launch vehicles produced by Ukraine put twelve spacecraft into orbit including under the orders from foreign customers. Of these, four launches of Zenit rocket were made in the frames of Land Launch project from Baikonur cosmodrome, one Zenit rocket was launched in the frames of the international Sea Launch project from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean, and one Dnepr rocket was launched from the Yasny launch site in Orenburg region, Russia.

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28th January 2012

PACE

PACE: Council of Europe’s patience with Ukraine running out

Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Marietta de Purba-Lundin expects that the Ukrainian authorities will pay heed to the recommendations of the PACE resolution “The functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine.”

“Ukraine must fulfill all its commitments undertaken while joining the Council of Europe. However, many of them haven’t been fulfilled yet. We can say the Council of Europe’s patience is running out. The Ukrainian judicial system is still very flawed, which is best exemplified by Yulia Tymoshenko’s case. However, these deficiencies affect not only her. Much needs to be changed still,” the rapporteur said in an interview with Deutsche Welle radio.

She stressed that they studied positions of both the Ukrainian authorities and the opposition before adopting this tough resolution.

“I hope that they will listen to us, in particular members of the authorities. I would rather it didn’t come to the talks about sanctions. But I want to emphasize that we listened to both points of view at the beginning of the week. Therefore, they can be sure that both sides were heard,” she added.

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28th January 2012

Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr

Two launches of Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr rocket scheduled for 2012

Two launches of the Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr rocket from the Yasny launch base (Orenburg region, Russia) are scheduled for 2012, Head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine Yuriy Alekseyev told journalists on Friday.

“An application has been prepared for two launches from the Yasny launch base in 2012,” he said.

According to him, the Dnepr launch vehicle is to place the KomSat-5 South Korean Earth monitoring satellite into orbit in April-May. In September-October, the launch vehicle is to put several Arabian satellites plus Ukrainian payload into orbit. They also plan to continue working on experimental avionics.

Ukraine and Russia have settled all the issues related to cooperation in the Dnepr program, Alekseyev said. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev personally supported the continuation of the program, and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov reported this to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

The bilateral cooperation on the Dnepr program is to be discussed soon at a meeting with the new supervisor of the defense industry in the Russian government, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the Ukrainian official said.

The Ukrainian-Russian-Kazakh space company Kosmotras specializes in converting RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missiles (the SS-18 Satan by Western classification) into Dnepr launch vehicles and uses them to put small satellites into orbit. Until recently, Dnepr rockets were launched from the Baikonur space center. At present, the Dnepr rocket is launched from a launch pad belonging to the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces’ division in Orenburg region.

Seventeen Dnepr launches have been carried out since April 1999, including 12 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and five from Orenburg region.

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28th January 2012

Vkontakte.ru

Russian Facebook rival eyes 2012 stake sale, IPO

Russia’s biggest social network Vkontakte.ru may sell a small stake ahead of an initial public offering in 2012 or 2013, its co-founder told the website Gazeta.ru, as it seeks to cash-in on the huge popularity of Russian internet IPOs.

The search engine Yandex (YNDX.O) and the internet group Mail.ru  have raised nearly $2.5 billion in New York and London between them in the past 15 months, a quarter of the total raised in all Russian IPOs since the 2008 financial crisis.

“We think it will be possible to proceed with an IPO in 2012 or 2013,” the website’s founder Pavel Durov told Gazeta.ru.

“We may sell a small stake — around 3 percent — before the IPO in order to increase the market capitalization of the company,” he said, adding there were no ongoing talks to sell the stake to Mail.ru, Yandex or Google .

Durov would not comment on how much the company wants to raise or whether it was in talks with investment banks.

Vkontakte.ru, known as Russia’s answer to Facebook, is 39.9 percent owned by Mail.ru, and is therefore likely to need the support of its biggest external investor were it to proceed with the float.

Mail.ru offered to increase its stake to over 50 percent last year in a deal that would have valued the company at $3.75 billion, according to business daily Vedomosti, but Durov and his co-founders did not want to give up a controlling stake.

Mail.ru could not immediately be reached for comment, while Vkontakte did not respond to e-mailed inquiries.

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David Ferguson, an analyst at Renaissance Capital, said Vkontakte.ru could be valued at anything between $1.5 billion and $3 billion, depending on the model used. He added that an acquisition by Mail.ru would generate cost savings as the two companies could share web-hosting operations.

Vkontakte.ru says it has over 100 million registered users and 33 million unique visitors a day, although it is also known to have an issue with spam and with internet piracy.

It generated revenue of $93.8 million in 2010, the last available period for financial figures.

Internet firms have proven more popular with foreign investors than other Russian private companies as they are seen as immune to country-specific risks such as corruption, investors told Reuters last year.

Russia has also fast become Europe’s biggest online market, overtaking Germany in terms of number of unique visitors online, according to internet monitor Comscore.

The high profile of the Yandex and Mail.ru IPOs have echoed the heavy interest in online floats in the United States, including online games maker Zynga (ZNGA.O) and professional network site LinkedIn LNKD.O.

However Yandex shares have halved since the first day of trading following its blockbuster Nasdaq IPO last May, while Mail.ru’s stock is down around 20 percent from its peak.

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28th January 2012

Physicists

Russian physicists protest government consolidation

Physicists at one of Russia’s top research institutes say that policies being imposed by the government are hindering their work and have mounted an Internet campaign to recruit help from colleagues elsewhere.

In a bid to bring government-funded fundamental physics research under a single organization, the Russian government has moved the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) in Moscow, along with two other institutions, out of the state-owned nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and into its newly expanded Kurchatov Institute.

“In principle, the idea is not bad — fundamental science should be supported by government” rather than by a state-run corporation, says Pavel Pakhlov, an experimental physicist at the institute who is helping to coordinate the protest. But, Pakhlov says, strict new budgetary and security rules mean that “ITEP will be killed if some reasonable solution cannot be found in the next months”.

The protestors say that the new administration began imposing impossible restrictions on scientists, many of whom work closely with researchers in Switzerland, Japan and the United States, almost immediately after the move was completed on 1 January.

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28th January 2012

Kurchatov Institute

Pakhlov’s work, for instance, depends on use of the Belle particle detector in Japan, but when he sought to make a routine trip there, his request fell afoul of ITEP’s new leadership. “The administration wants to know why we need to go to Japan,” he says. “It really has no idea what is done here at ITEP from a scientific point of view.”

Furthermore, new security procedures have made it nearly impossible for foreign scientists to visit, says Andrei Rostovtsev, another protestor based at ITEP. When an American colleague tried to visit the institute, “he was not even allowed to come to the gates”, Rostovtsev says. And other researchers have had to find off-site locations to meet colleagues from abroad.

Alexander Gorsky, who studies quantum mechanics at the institute, says that that it’s not just experimentalists running into trouble. He says that he received a letter from administrators at the Kurchatov Institute telling him that ITEP theorists should focus on nuclear medicine and ion-beam physics. This “administrative ignorance”, as Gorsky calls it, fails to recognize the lab’s world-class research into areas such as fundamental particle physics and string theory.

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28th January 2012

ITEP’s

Teething troubles

Pakhlov says that much of their frustration stems from uncertainty surrounding the arrangements. Researchers have not been given clear rules for travel or for how to vet visiting researchers. Even their salaries remain in limbo, amid confusion over a new pay system.

Neither Yuri Kozlov, ITEP’s director, nor the press centre at the Kurchatov Institute responded to Nature’s queries by deadline. However, several of ITEP’s alumni say they hope that the tense situation can be salvaged. Andrei Golutvin, a particle physicist at Imperial College in London who worked at ITEP in the 1980s says that the consolidation is the “only possible step” for the institute, because it no longer meets the needs of Rosatom. The shift will inevitably be painful for ITEP’s researchers, he says, but “if things will go right, then I think there is a real possibility to get resources”.

Boris Sharkov, an ITEP alumnus who is now scientific director of the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research being built in Darmstadt, Germany, agrees, but points out that the institute must also keep its international reputation. “ITEP has to keep its open character to the international community,” he says. Losing the institute in this transition “would be a very big pity”.

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28th January 2012

Russian security forces

Russian security forces clash with militants in Dagestan; 9 killed

Russian security forces clashed with militants in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan on late Friday evening, leaving four service members and five militants killed. Several others were injured.

The clash happened during a police operation in a forest between Chernyayevka and Ukrainsky in the district of Kizlyar, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. It said the operation, by forces belonging to the Interior Ministry, was carried out to find militants in the region.

“The militants opened fire with a machine gun and sub-machine guns when the police tried to block them in a dugout,” said National Counter Terrorism Committee spokesman Nikolai Sintsov, as quoted by Itar-Tass. He said the militants were members of the so-called Kizlyar group which has previously carried out attacks in the district.

Sintsov said four service members were killed while another four were injured, although their conditions were not immediately known. “All the five militants in the dugout were (also) killed in the clash,” the spokesman added. He said the dugout was found to contain food, equipment, weapons and bomb-making materials.

Militants in the region continue to carry out attacks against security forces, police, and civilians, more than a decade after a separatist war ended in Chechnya. The volatile region of Dagestan neighbors Chechnya where about 50 percent of all militant attacks in Russia took place in 2010.

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