Ukrainian news round-up – March 2, 2009

Politics

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and Polish President Lech Kaczynski have started a working visit through Lviv region. Then they attended the events to commemorate the victims of a tragedy 65 years ago in Brody.

Russia issued a DVD and a thick book of historical documents to dispute claims that the Holodomor was genocide. Out of the 90 major news agencies that picked up the story, all but one didn’t actually mention the Holodomor. No one’s really accepting this story anyways, well unless you’re Russia.

Russia cancelled a 1992 agreement on sharing radar information last year, saying the systems were outdated and that it would be “unthinkable” to have such installations in a country aspiring to join NATO.

Economy

Some private companies are not paying their staff salaries, which prompted Yulia Tymoshenko to threaten them with nationalization.

March 7th is the deadline for Ukrainian Naftohaz to pay their $400 million USD debt to Russian Gazprom, and the company warned last week it may default on their loans. The shakedown has been made very clear to me: Russia could demand that Ukraine pay the debt by allowing Gazprom to purchase a share of the Ukrainian gas pipeline to Russia. “Gazprom has sets its eyes on our transportation pipeline to the EU for years,” a Ukrainian official told New Europe, talking on condition of anonymity. Naftohaz has asked Gazprom to allow Ukraine to buy less natural gas this year than previously agreed. The Tymoshenko cabinet plans to nationalize regional heating utility companies which fail to pay the price stipulated by the gas agreements in Moscow.

The IMF said it is willing to adjust Ukraine’s loan program, to include a higher budget deficit and reflect worsening economic conditions. The IMF froze a second installment of the loan earlier this month after Tymoshenko refused to cut spending, prompting downgrades from rating agencies. Opposition Party of Regions refused to sign a letter to the group.

Viktor Yushchenko has signed a law providing national publishers of Ukrainian language literature will not be required to participate in rental tenders of state or municipally owned facilities.

Yatseniuk said that the Pension Fund’s deficit is Hr 17 billion. National Bank of Ukraine is saying that Ukraine’s GDP is down by 20%. Ukrainian State Statistics Committee has informed that average wages fell by 16.8% in January 2009 to UAH 1,665 per month. Things aren’t looking better soon.


Around the World

It turns out wealthy business oligarch Viktor Pinchuk paid the (now) $4 mil USD ransom for the safe return of the crew of the Faina hijacked by Somali pirates.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed emphasized the importance of maintaining strong U.S.-Ukrainian relations, in a speech presented Tuesday at a forum hosted by the Ukrainian Foundation for Effective Governance (FEG) and The Hill.

The Greek authorities have released the Vasyl Bozhenko vessel owned by the Kyiv-based Ukrrichflot shipping company, which they arrested on February 25 for the debt for fuel.

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