Ukrainian news round-up – April 2, 2009
Top news stories about Ukrainians, Ukraine and beyond!
- Ukraine’s parliament has called presidential elections for October 25, 2009, but the president said he would challenge that date to mid-January giving him a full five-year term. The uncertainty stems from the fact that Mr Yushchenko was elected in January 2005, three months after mass protests at the fraudulent victory of a pro-Moscow candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, in the original October vote. The race is likely to be heated amid an economic meltdown, one of the worst in Europe, exacerbated by constant political turmoil. Both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, whose parties voted to approve the election date, are eager to hold the vote sooner that Yushchenko wants it. The economic crisis has been quickly eroding Tymoshenko’s popularity and Yanukovych is eager to capitalize on the public’s discontent with the authorities.
- Party of Regions members blocked parliament’s doors with chairs and swarmed the podium, stalling a vote on crisis measures necessary for a crucial International Monetary Fund loan. The main opposition Party of Regions prevented the parliament session from starting because it says the government does not have a comprehensive anti-crisis program. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says it does and accuses the opposition of seeking to sabotage her work like "Somali pirates."
- The Verkhovna Rada has (finally) created an interim investigative commission to uncover the 2004 circumstances of the poisoning of then presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.
- President Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday suggested sweeping amendments to the constitution that would include creating a second chamber of Parliament that may de-facto strengthen presidential powers. The President’s powers had been stripped during his term by his rivals Tymoshenko and Yanukovych while they were Prime Ministers.
- Newsweek reports how the West is turning away from Kyiv.
- A whole series of new anti-Ukrainian books are being published in Russia. Some are meant to discredit President Victor Yushchenko before the election. Want to try “American salo?” If so, ask Russians where to find it.
- Dozens of unfinished buildings populate the Kiev skyline, their abandoned hulks embodying the damage that the world’s financial crisis has inflicted on Ukraine.
- Ukraine has signed a deal with the EU in Brussels paving the way for $3.4bn (£2.4bn) of Western investment to upgrade Ukraine’s gas pipelines. The EU gets 80% of its gas supplies from Russia via a network of more than 13,000km (8,060 miles) of Ukrainian pipelines, some of which are 40 years old. See map of countries hit by gas dispute. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said it would be difficult for Moscow to grant Ukraine financial credits to cover its deficit until the two states resolved their gas dispute. Russia has said the Ukrainian government, seeking help to extend credits to help cover its budget deficit, has asked it to secure a $5 billion loan. However, the two countries are also locked in a battle over gas supplies. Russia’s Gazprom will consider new projects to liquefy gas instead of supplying it to Europe through pipelines.
- BBC’s NewsNight programme asks How close is Ukraine to meltdown?
- The creative work of Nikolai Gogol, undoubtedly, belongs to the greatest achievements of a universal culture, he is a great Ukrainian, but his creative work has no borders and language barriers, President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the solemnities on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the writer’s birthday in Poltava.
- In Warren, Michigan (near Detroit), the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic School is the only Ukrainian school left in the state and one of only a handful in the country. Many of the parents of students are generations removed from Ukraine, but they want their children to know the language, customs and history of their ancestors. Originally founded in Hamtramck in 1936, about 20% of the students are not Ukrainian, but their parents were drawn to the school being close-knit, with a strong, traditional Catholic bent.
- On Friday, Oleksa M. Bilaniuk, 82, emeritus professor of physics at Swarthmore College, passed away from terminal brain cancer. Born in the Carpathian Mountains of Poland (now Ukraine), he was forced by German invaders in World War II to work on a farm in Germany until liberated in 1945. He languished for years in a displaced-persons camp until a scholarship allowed him to study engineering at the University of Louvain in Belgium. As a physics teacher at the University of Rochester in 1963, he spent a year in Argentina, helping the government there set up an atomic research installation. From 1998 to 2006, he was president of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S.A., housed in Manhattan, and was a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He contributed to an English-Ukrainian dictionary of physics and technology, to be published this year, and was on the editorial board of the Ukrainian Journal of Physics.
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