Kodak

Posted on : 01-08-2012 | By : admin | In : Corporate Fights, Empire Building, EU, Kodak, Oligarch Evolution, Poland

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Kodak loss rises to $299 million.

Eastman Kodak Company posted a wider second-quarter loss, as it prepares for a crucial auction in which it hopes to sell more than 1,100 patents to help repay its bankruptcy creditors.
The Rochester, New York-based company, which is shifting its business towards printing from photography, said its quarterly loss increased 67 per cent to $299 million, or $1.10 per share, from $179m, or 67 cents, a year earlier.
Excluding costs related to its reorganisation, the second-quarter loss totalled $139m, Kodak said.
Revenue fell 27pc to $1.08 billion, reflecting what Kodak called its exit from the digital camera business, lower sales of traditional products, and a stronger US dollar.
Kodak is selling more than 1,100 digital imaging patents, which cover technology used in digital cameras, smartphones and tablets.
It has said it has earned more than $3bn in revenue since 2001 from licensing these patents, which comprise roughly 10pc of its patent portfolio.
An auction of the patents is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, and Kodak said a winning bidder should be named by August 13.
Kodak remains in litigation with several companies over some of its patents, including Apple, and Research in Motion.
Kodak, founded in 1880, filed for bankruptcy protection after being hurt first by Japanese competition and then by its inability to keep pace with the shift from film to digital photo technology over the past decade.
The company subsequently announced plans to stop making digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames, saying that it sees home photo printers, high-speed commercial inkjet presses, workflow software and packaging as the core of its future business.

Poland

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : Poland, Ukraine, Ukraine associate membership, Ukraine faces, Ukraine oligarch, Ukrainian City of Lviv, Ukrainian Parliament Backs Bill, Unconventional Russian trainer

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Russian unions blast anti-rally law, plan moving protests to Poland.

The head of a trade union from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad has said that local opposition groups are planning to hold protest rallies in Poland as they could not afford the fines imposed by the new Russian law.
“The draconian law on rallies forces us to move our protest to Polish territory,” Viktor Gorbunov, the head of the “Labor Brigades” union told the Interfax news agency.
The activist said that that both the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, made up of the Communists and Yabloko, planned pickets in the Kaliningrad Region, but decided to move the event to Poland, which is currently hosting the Euro 2012 football championship.
The protesters plan to picket against problems associated with kindergartens in Russia’s westernmost region.
“Local residents and the citizens of other EU countries will see these protests as they move across the Russian-Polish border in both directions,” Gorbunov said.
He told reporters that his organization had already held 45 illegal rallies over the kindergarten problem and paid 45,000 rubles ($1,500) in fines, but added that under the new law “even one fine would be lethal”.
Russian parliament has recently approved the draft law raising the fines for violations at street protests to 300,000 rubles (about $9,000) from the current 2,000 rubles (under $70) for ordinary citizens and from the current 50,000 to 600,000 rubles ($1300 – $20,000) for officials.
In 2011, Poland introduced visa-free entry for permanent residents of the Kaliningrad Region. Polish officials have not so far reacted at the plans to use their country’s territory for political protests.
The bill on the imposition of new fines for illegal rallies has yet to be signed into force by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has promised to give the mater his full consideration.

Oligarch Evolution

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : Michel Platini-EURO 2012 in Ukraine, New Tycoons, Oligarch Evolution, Pakistan-Russia, People, Russia is optimistic, Russia Likes Yemen Plan For Syria, Russia sends, Russia to Cancel Oil Export Tax, Russian Central Bank, Russian Hackers Spill LinkedIn Passwords

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Fridman’s Maneuvers Symbolize Oligarch Evolution.

Mikhail Fridman once seemed omnipotent as one of the elite group of Russian businessmen who amassed vast fortunes and huge political influence under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.
More than a decade after Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin and started reining in the oligarchs, Fridman is on the defensive as a new generation of businessmen snatch up assets and the Kremlin reasserts control over the economy.
His call for a divorce from BP, his partner in Russia’s No. 3 oil firm TNK-BP, and the $5 billion sale of his stake in mobile firm MegaFon are widely seen as evidence that he is following other oligarchs by cutting his exposure in Russia.
“There’s a new generation of oligarchs — their horizon is longer — and then there’s the earlier generation that are tired or see the writing on the wall,” said one senior source in the Moscow business community. “I don’t think that the Fridmans of this world will be living in Russia in 10 years.”
Fridman, 48, usually avoids publicity but rebutted suggestions that he is ready to throw in the towel in a rare newspaper interview after he quit last week as chief executive of TNK-BP.
“Why do I need cash? So I can sit by the seaside or go for a sail?” he told Kommersant daily. “I’ve got nothing against sailing — it’s an excellent activity — it’s just not for me.”
BP’s subsequent announcement that it may sell its stake in the 50-50 joint venture triggers a lengthy sale procedure that gives a Fridman-led quartet of billionaire shareholders an initial chance to offer to buy the British oil major’s stake.
But with ex-Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin — last month named chief executive of state oil major Rosneft — waiting in the wings as a potential buyer, industry watchers do not rule out an exit by the oligarchs, who own their stake through the AAR group.
A gradual withdrawal by BP from TNK-BP was one option, Fridman said in the Kommersant interview, while a sale by AAR that included partial payment in BP stock was another.

Empire Building

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : Empire Building, EU ambassador, Ex-Defense Chief in Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine, Kiev, Kremlin, Kremlin2, Michel Platini-EURO 2012 in Ukraine

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Empire Building

Fridman started out with a window-cleaning business as the Soviet Union collapsed, ushering in the rampant capitalism in which a few people were able to quickly build business empires.

He went on to amass a wide range of assets from the oil, banking, retail and telecoms sectors, buying up Soviet energy assets on the cheap and staking a string of wagers on the emergence of a free-spending Russian middle class.

With a fortune estimated by Forbes at $13 billion, Fridman’s Alfa Group owns a 25 percent stake in TNK-BP, a near 25 percent voting stake in mobile firm VimpelCom and just under 50 percent in leading food retailer X5. Fridman also owns 36 percent of Alfa Bank.

Fridman’s empire has become increasingly international, which some observers say reflects a desire to spread risk out of Russia. Capital flight out of Russia has been high, blamed in part on a lack of confidence in the country’s respect for property rights and on persistent, rampant corruption.

Fridman is described as intelligent, ruthless and cynical. During his tenure as CEO, TNK-BP entered Vietnam, Venezuela and Brazil. He backed VimpelCom’s costly and controversial expansion into markets such as Africa, to the chagrin of Norwegian partner Telenor, which favored a Russian-focused strategy.

In April, he agreed on a deal to sell out of MegaFon, Russia’s No. 2 phone company, which is eyeing a London IPO. Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov won control in the deal and later sold an interest to a state-linked company.

Observers say Fridman may also at some point seek a sale of X5, which has struggled since the firm’s chief executive, Lev Khasis, left last year to join U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart.

“There is a general view that he seems to be looking to divest out of Russia and internationalize his business more,” said another source in the Moscow financial community. “I think he’s always wanted to do that.”

Fridman was not available to comment for this article.

Corporate Fights

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : Corporate Fights

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Corporate Fights

Ukraine-born Fridman’s success has not come without picking fights or making enemies. He has placed himself on the other side of the battlefield with two of the largest investors in Russia — Telenor and, more significantly, BP.
The BP saga pitted Fridman against Sechin, who personally masterminded an Arctic exploration pact and $16 billion share swap between BP and Rosneft announced at the start of 2011.
The AAR consortium, made up of Fridman, German Khan, Viktor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik, blocked the deal in the courts, arguing that it violated the TNK-BP shareholders agreement requiring BP to do business in Russia through the venture.
“AAR embarrassed Sechin and Putin when that didn’t work out. And revenge is best served cold,” said a further source in the Moscow business community who declined to be named.
But insiders caution against underestimating Fridman’s ability to manipulate outcomes in his favor.
“Fridman has plenty of his own connections in the government,” said a source who has worked with him on several projects. “It will not be easy for Sechin to go against him. Putin is not all-powerful.”
Others praise Fridman for political diplomacy.
“I think he’s been good at being apolitical; he has systemically important businesses in all sectors, and he’s a good corporate citizen,” said a senior financial source in Moscow.

New Tycoons

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : New Tycoons

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Among oligarchs from the Yeltsin years, former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in a Russian jail, while Boris Berezovsky fled to London in 2001 after falling out with Putin.

Vladimir Potanin remains extremely powerful, with his Interros investment company holding about 30 percent of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest palladium and nickel producer.
Among those who rose later, Mikhail Prokhorov, who amassed his wealth during Putin’s years, holds vast aluminum, gold and banking assets.
In recent years, however, a new breed of tycoons with closer ties to Russia’s current leaders has emerged, like construction tycoon and former Putin judo partner Arkady Rotenberg, oil trader Gennady Timchenko, and more recently, Summa Group, the trading group founded by Ziyavudin Magomedov.
Summa has been particularly aggressive in striking deals. In the last month alone, it has approved deals to buy a stake in Russia’s state grain trader and control of transportation group FESCO.
Summa’s telecoms arm also emerged Wednesday as a potential bidder in Russia’s forthcoming round of fourth-generation mobile licenses, posing a challenge to a group of incumbents that includes Fridman’s VimpelCom.

EU

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : EU, TNK-BP Ukraine, Tourism Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine associate membership, Ukraine faces, Ukraine oligarch, Ukrainian City of Lviv, Ukrainian Parliament Backs Bill, Uncategorized, Unconventional Russian trainer, US and Russian, World Bank

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EU: Russia Breaking WTO Rules Ahead of Entry.
Russia will probably be in breach of global trade rules when it joins the World Trade Organization this year, the EU executive body said Wednesday.
The comment signals that Brussels would feel justified in filing a case against the club’s newest member.
Russia is set to join the WTO once the State Duma rubber-stamps its application. But the European Commission said in a report that Moscow will be in breach of its obligations in several areas if it does not take steps to dismantle the trade barriers it has put up.
“Russia, as an imminent WTO member, still deserves close scrutiny as one of the most frequent users of trade-restrictive measures,” the commission said. “Russia is not currently fully living up to its future obligations, as it has undertaken and extended numerous potentially trade-restrictive measures.”
These include safety regulations on alcoholic drinks, a ban on the importation of live animals from the European Union, and pending legislation that contains preferences for domestic car producers in public procurement, the report said.
Russia and the EU are deeply intertwined. Europe relies heavily on Russian energy exports, and Russians are hungry for EU products and access to its 500 million consumers.
But the two sides argue over issues as varied as energy supplies, trade and market access and human rights.
Bilateral corporate ties have also frayed in places. BP is embroiled in a row over its plans to sell a stake in its Russian venture, TNK-BP.
The British oil giant’s billionaire partners are threatening to block a deal that would help the Kremlin tighten its grip on the country’s vast energy sector.
Negotiations between Russia and the EU toward a comprehensive economic and political agreement have also stalled, and Brussels is wary of President Vladimir Putin’s plan to develop a “Eurasian union” of ex-Soviet states, including Kazakhstan and Belarus.
At a summit with EU leaders in St. Petersburg on Monday, Putin told them that they would have to deal with this new economic alliance.
Wednesday’s report, one of a series launched by the commission to monitor trade protectionism, said other governments are also resorting to protectionism.
Worldwide, only 89 protectionist measures have been removed since October 2008, whereas 534 new ones are in place, according to the commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the EU’s 27 countries.

LinkedIn

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : Russia sends, Russia to Cancel Oil Export Tax, Russian Central Bank, Russian Hackers Spill LinkedIn Passwords, Russian officials, Russian spy agency, Syria

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Russian hackers leaked 6.5 million passwords from the business networking site LinkedIn this week, prompting the site to deactivate accounts to protect users.
The passwords were posted Monday to a Russian forum, Insidepro.com, a website specializing in recovering passwords from an outdated format used to store encoded passwords in a database, RIA-Novosti reported.
LinkedIn confirmed the password leak with comments in an official blog post late Wednesday, but didn’t say how the hackers got access to them.
The passwords were posted in a simple cryptographic code, suggesting the networking site had been using outdated security precautions, CNNMoney reported. The format is considered to offer weak security protection if not supplemented with additional protections.
Half of the passwords have already been decoded and posted online.
Users of one hacker forum reported finding passwords including “linkedout,” “recruiter,” “googlerecruiter,” “toprecruiter,” “superrecruiter,” “humanresources” and “hiring,” CNNMoney said.
The extent of the damage was not immediately clear, and it was unknown whether or not the hackers knew the user accounts associated with the passwords.
LinkedIn says it is investigating the breach. The company said affected accounts would be deactivated, and users would receive emails with instructions on how to restore the accounts.

Kremlin2

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : Kiev, Kremlin, Kremlin2, Michel Platini-EURO 2012 in Ukraine, Pakistan-Russia, People, Russia is optimistic, Russia Likes Yemen Plan For Syria

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The bill would jack up fines from the current 2,000 rubles to 300,000 rubles ($9,000).
Sergei Lisovsky, one of the few upper chamber members to express concern about the bill, said it imposes disproportionally high fines on protesters but does not provide for higher penalties for police brutality.
“We’re talking about citizens of our country here, and we must listen to them,” said Lisovsky. “Where is the liability for the police who can potentially do more harm to our society?”
The Kremlin wants the new bill to become law by next Tuesday when the opposition plans a major protest in Moscow.
Alexei Kudrin, a former deputy prime minister who expressed sympathy with the opposition movement last winter, said in a statement on Wednesday that the bill violates the constitutional right of assembly. He urged a review.
Along with higher fines, the new bill would punish organizers of “large-scale public gatherings” if they disrupt public order. Kudrin, who is believed to maintain strong ties to Putin, said that this provision was so open to interpretation that it would allow authorities to fine a bride and groom if some of their guests started a fight.
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Opposition activists have not yet received official permission for Tuesday’s planned protest.
Rally organizer Alexei Navalny, a key opposition figure, said in his blog on Wednesday that Moscow authorities have rejected their proposal to march on the central Tverskaya street. City Hall claimed that the street as well as many other central locations would be booked for Russia Day, a national holiday.
Navalny said that Moscow authorities and police “are doing their best to provoke a conflict” by rejecting the rally application. Navalny said that the opposition would agree to any location inside the central Garden Ring road, but he said that with or without permission the rally would go ahead.

Russia Likes Yemen Plan For Syria

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : 2022 Winter Olympics, Cooperation, Criminal Procedure Code, Despite Russian criticism, DTEK, EU ambassador, Ex-Defense Chief in Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine, Russia Likes Yemen Plan For Syria

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Russia would accept a Yemen-style power transition in Syria if it were decided by the people, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday.
It was the latest in a series of statements seemingly aimed at distancing the Kremlin from President Bashar Assad.
The diplomat tried to deflect pressure on Moscow to help engineer Assad’s exit from power, however, saying his fate is “not a question for us” but is up to Syrians themselves.
“Application of the so-called Yemen scenario to resolve the conflict in Syria is possible only if the Syrians themselves agree to it,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said, Interfax reported. “The Yemen scenario was discussed by the Yemenis themselves. If this scenario is discussed by Syrians themselves and is adopted by them, we are not against it.”
The statement essentially repeats the position Moscow has maintained throughout.
Street protests against Assad that began 15 months ago have evolved into armed insurgency as he stepped up efforts to crush dissent by military might.
Two reported massacres of civilians by pro-Assad forces since May 25 have heightened Western calls for Assad to make way for a democratic transition.
The idea of using the Yemen template in Syria is the latest attempt to break a stalemate in the UN Security Council.
After a year of mass protests against his autocratic rule and increasing armed anarchy, longtime Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh ceded power in February to a transitional administration led by his vice president.
In a sign of increasing pressure on Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a senior State Department official who works on Syria, Fred Hof, to Moscow on Thursday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow declined immediate comment on the visit.
Clinton told Western and Arab nations at a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday that a transition strategy in Syria must include Assad’s full transfer of power, a senior State Department official said.
In a statement during a visit to Beijing by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a regional security alliance led by Russia and China said it opposes military interference, forced power handovers and unilateral sanctions in dealings with Middle East states.
But Moscow has criticized Assad at times and courted his opponents, suggesting it is hedging its bets.
Analysts say Putin could be lured by or seek an orchestrated exit by Assad that could be presented as the work of the people, particularly if he doubts Assad can hang on to power for long and sees a chance of maintaining Russia’s influence.

Cooperation

Posted on : 07-06-2012 | By : admin | In : 2022 Winter Olympics, Cooperation, Criminal Procedure Code, Despite Russian criticism, DTEK

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Russia ready to broaden cooperation with Afghanistan.

With the US-led war in Afghanistan hitting the rails, Russia is ready to lend a helping hand on the economic and security fronts, President Vladimir Putin told Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Beijing on Thursday.
Given Russia’s own lengthy experience in Afghanistan, a country that has been dubbed ‘the graveyard of empires,’ Putin sees an opportunity for mutually beneficial cooperation.
“I am talking about the possibility of rebuilding what was done by the former Soviet Union, as well as new projects,” the Russian leader said. Russia is willing to continue to provide security assistance to Afghanistan, he added.
“Afghan servicemen undergo training in Russia, and we are ready to assist in every possible way in the process of forming and strengthening the Afghan security and armed forces,” Putin said.
The Russian President also mentioned other areas of cooperation between the two states.
“Our humanitarian cooperation is proceeding well,” he said. “Afghan students study in Russia, and whenever there is a particularly critical situation our Emergencies Situations Ministry steps in.”
Russia also assists Afghanistan through an air-supply corridor that NATO forces use to deliver non-military supplies into the war-torn Central Asian country.
Meanwhile, Putin extended his congratulations to Karzai on Afghanistan receiving observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) during the course of a two-day session of the SCO Council of the heads of state, which closed in the Chinese capital on Thursday.
Moscow has good reason to be concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. Aside from the obvious export of terrorism, the country is also notorious for its export of opium, the raw material of heroin, which is increasingly finding its way into Russia’s inner cities.
There are 5 million drug addicts in Russia and up to 100,000 Russian citizens die of drug-related illnesses each year, according to the Federal Drug Control Service.
Afghanistan has been the theater of war for Coalition forces, as well as the Taliban and al-Qaeda since October 7, 2001 when the United States a military offensive in retaliation for the events of Sept. 11.
The War in Afghanistan, which is United States’ longest running war, has resulted in an estimated 15,000 civilian deaths.

TNK-BP Ukraine

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : TNK-BP Ukraine

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TNK-BP says Ukraine refinery to stay idle.

Russian oil firm TNK-BP said it was preparing to mothball its loss-making Lysychansk refinery in eastern Ukraine, which it had shut in March, after Kiev refused to curb competing gasoline imports.

Lysychansk cannot compete with Russian and Belarussian refineries, which receive Russian crude without the hefty duties imposed on exports to Ukraine.

TNK-BP, a joint venture between BP and a group of Russian billionaire businessmen, has long lobbied for the introduction of import duties on gasoline and for stricter quality standards in Ukraine, which could curb imports.

But the government, which is preparing for October parliamentary elections, is unwilling to take steps that would trigger increases in gasoline prices.

“So far, we have unfortunately been unable to find a balanced compromise solution,” TNK-BP Executive Vice President German Khan told reporters in Kiev after meeting senior Ukrainian government officials.

“Because of this, we had to halt oil supplies to … Lysychansk in March and are now preparing it for conservation.”

Lysychansk has the capacity to refine about 7 million tonnes of oil a year and is one of the most technologically advanced refineries in Ukraine.

Russia levies duty tied to global prices on all oil exports except those to Belarus and Kazakhstan, which are members of a Moscow-led customs union.

The Kremlin has long urged Ukraine to join the union, but Kiev has chosen to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union instead. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Jane Baird).

2022 Winter Olympics

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : 2022 Winter Olympics

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Ukraine eyes hosting 2022 Winter Olympics.

Ukraine, which in less than two months will co-host the 2012 European football championships, also wants to hold the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, President Viktor Yanukovych announced on Thursday.

Yanukovych told reporters that feasibility studies are being conducted in the west of the country by an Austrian company “with great experience of Winter Olympics projects”.

Ukraine’s west is home to the Carpathian Mountains which reach up to 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) and already has a handful of Alpine skiing resorts, although infrastructure is still quite limited.

“This company will deliver the feasibility study at the end of the second quarter and we will be able to understand how much work we need to do (to officially launch Ukraine’s candidacy),” he added.

Ukraine’s ambitious plan comes despite a troubled preparation for its hosting of Euro 2012 which was repeatedly criticised for being behind schedule.

“We understand that the success of Euro 2012 will be of great importance for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when it makes its decision,” said Yanukovych.

Yanukovych was speaking in western Ukraine’s largest city of Lviv where he opened a new airport terminal in time for European championships which start in June.

Ukraine’s best known winter sports resort is Bukovel outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk which was built up by private investors and now boasts 50 kilometres of ski pistes.

Ukrainian City of Lviv

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Ukrainian City of Lviv

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Ukrainian City of Lviv Affirmed At ‘CCC+/uaBB’ On Expected Ability To Meet 2012 Bond Maturities; Outlook Stable

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it had affirmed its ‘CCC+’ long-term issuer credit and ‘uaBB’ Ukraine national scale ratings on the Ukrainian city of Lviv. The outlook is stable.

At the same time, we affirmed the ‘CCC+’ and ‘uaBB’ issue ratings on Lviv’s senior unsecured bonds. The recovery rating on those bonds is unchanged at ’4′, indicating our expectation of average (30%-50%) recovery in the event of a payment default.

We also assigned our ‘CCC+’ and ‘uaBB’ issue ratings to the city’s proposed Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH) 90 million three-year bond that it plans to place in 2012 to refinance its 2014 bond. The coupon on the proposed bond is limited to 16%. The recovery rating on the proposed bond is also ’4′.

The affirmation reflects our base-case expectation that the city will accumulate sufficient cash in advance in a special fund to repay the UAH50 million ($6.2 million) bond due in July and UAH42 million bond due in December 2012. To do so, the city is preparing to sell assets, including smaller land plots that better fit market demand.

The ratings reflect Lviv’s low financial flexibility within Ukraine’s system of interbudgetary relations and ongoing expenditure pressures. The city’s “very negative” liquidity and what we see as a weak credit culture, reflected in nonpayment on guarantees, also constrain the ratings, as do its low wealth levels in an international context.

Lviv’s modest debt service and debt, and its importance as one of western Ukraine’s commercial centers, with a diversified economic structure, help offset these negatives.

The stable outlook reflects our expectation that Lviv will accumulate enough cash in its special fund to make debt repayments in July and December 2012. We also expect the city to borrow only modestly, keeping direct debt within 15% of operating revenues until 2014, and that liquidity for interest payments to be available via treasury loans.

We could lower the long-term rating to ‘CC’ if the city fails to accumulate enough cash before the July or December 2012 bond repayments. Otherwise, we could lower the rating by one notch to ‘CCC’ in the next 12 months if the city accumulates debt faster, leading to debt service higher than 6%-8%, and if performance is weaker than we currently expect, with operating deficits.

After Lviv accumulates enough liquidity for its 2012 bond repayments, we could take positive rating actions if we also saw a stronger, more predictable liquidity position, with cash structurally above next 12 months’ debt service, which would likely be thanks to higher revenues, as well as progress with outstanding payments on guarantees.

Ukraine oligarch

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Ukraine oligarch

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Ukraine oligarch pulls development plan after protests.

Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, has been forced to scrap plans to build a glitzy business centre at a historic tourist site in Kiev after a public outcry in which he was accused of “spitting on the soul” of the capital.

Protests by several hundred people brought a rare dose of bad publicity for the 45-year-old steel and coal tycoon who normally shuns the public limelight but is one of the most influential political players in the ex-Soviet republic.

Several hundred protesters, alerted by the social networking site Facebook, turned out to rally on Wednesday night against plans by the billionaire’s System Capital Management (SCM) company to build a multi-storey business centre on “Andriyivsky Descent”, a picturesque cobbled street and one of Ukraine’s best-known tourist spots.

But the protests came too late to stop bulldozers from destroying at least one 19th century building and wrecking another built 40 years ago in mock 19th century style, cultural officials said.
Chanting “(Put) Akhmetov down a mine shaft !” and “Get Akhmetov out of town”, several protesters dumped building material near SCM headquarters to signify their disgust.

“They have come here and brutally turned things into a pig-sty,” said Olexander Serhiyenko, a member of a Kiev civic organisation. “They have spat on the soul of Kiev with their ‘Andriyivsky Plaza’”, he said.

“The ESTA company (a subsidiary of SCM), having examined the opinions of Kiev people, decided back in March to cancel the construction of the business centre,” said Akhmetov in a statement issued by his press service.

“Unfortunately, after this decision, there were two bad errors. Firstly, the actions of the company were not coordinated. Secondly, they were not explained to the public,” Akhmetov said.
Akhmetov, whose net worth Forbes puts at $16 billion, added: “I promise that SCM will return the original look to the destroyed facades. We will also help the town restore Andriyivsky Descent.”

Akhmetov, whose power base is in the eastern city of Donetsk, made his fortune in steel and coal in the 1990s after a turbulent period in post-Soviet history marked by gangland-style shootings and bombings.

A big soccer enthusiast, he is the owner of Shakhtar Donetsk, one of Ukraine’s most successful football clubs, and also has interests in construction, banking, media and property.
According to British media, he bought a penthouse at One Hyde Park in London a year ago for a price of about $220 million.

KING-MAKER

As a financial backer of President Viktor Yanukovich’s election campaign in 2009 he is seen as a ‘king-maker’ in politics, but he is notoriously publicity-shy and rarely meets journalists.
In his power base of Donetsk he is revered as a benefactor and his critics say the protests in Kiev have clearly shaken him.
“They called the Berkut (Ukrainian special forces) to their headquarters as soon as they heard about the protest. They were afraid of a peaceful protest. But without this protest they would have just gone ahead with their plans,” said Anna Putova, an archivist at Ukraine’s national archives.
“I don’t believe a word of his promises. I don’t believe him and I don’t think anyone in Kiev believes him,” she said.
Andriyivsky Descent, a half-mile winding drop down from the administrative centre of Kiev to a riverside quarter, is a top tourist spot in season, with chic restaurants, street-side arts and crafts studios and souvenir stalls.
With Ukraine co-hosting the Euro-2012 soccer championships in June, the street would normally be heaving with traders preparing for a busy season ahead.
But eve-of-Euro reconstruction work to install new drainage and upgrade the quarter’s infrastructure has reduced the cobbled street to a sea of building sand, bricks, mud and heavy machinery.
Most traders are sitting things out, hoping city authorities will complete the work by the target day of May 27.

DTEK

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : DTEK

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DTEK to Vie for Ukrainian Energy Distributor, State Fund Says.

Ukraine’s State Property Fund plans to auction a 50 percent stake in energy distributor PAT Dniprooblenerho next week.

The fund authorized DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private coal and power producer, and TOV Luhanske Energetychne obiednannya, to bid for the holding on April 17, according to a statement on the fund’s website today.

Bidding for the stake will start at 600 million hryvnia ($74.7 million), the fund said.

Kiev-based DTEK, owned by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, last month acquired 25 percent of energy producer PAT Dniproenergo (DNEN), marking its fourth purchase in a power company since December.

DTEK has also acquired 25 percent of PAT Kyivenergo (KIEN), a state-owned energy generating and distribution company, 40 percent of power distributor PAT Donetskoblenergo (DOON), and 45 percent of electricity producer PAT Zakhidenergo. (ZAEN)

Ukraine faces

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Ukraine faces

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Ukraine faces brain drain: expert.

is facing a significant brain drain as talented professionals leave the country to work abroad, a Ukrainian researcher said here Thursday.

“The number of highly skilled specialists with knowledge of foreign languages that are looking to move abroad has risen sharply in recent times,” Pavel Rosenko from the Kiev-based Razumkov Center said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

The average age of a potential emigrant from Ukraine was 30 years, he said.

According to studies conducted by local researchers, about a quarter of Ukrainians aged between 18 to 40 years consider going abroad.

“The USA, some European countries, Canada and Russia are the locations that attract thousands of Ukrainian professionals with wide employment opportunities,” Rosenko said.

According to the expert, IT specialists, programmers and scientists head the list of those seeking a better life abroad.

Rosenko said a growing trend of Ukrainian students drifting abroad for higher education was also a concern.

“There is a strong possibility that Ukrainian students will stay abroad after graduation, because of better professional opportunities,” he said.

The government needed to improve working conditions and to provide decent wages for young professionals to hold them, he said.

According to official figures, Ukraine’s unemployment among youth under 25 amounted is currently 20 percent. Some 40 percent of college graduates can not find a job in their profession.

To tackle this trend, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov instructed the Ministry of Social Policy early this month to develop a draft law on the labor market.

According to the Premier, the new law should create new jobs in the country and improve working conditions for professionals.

Ukrainian Parliament Backs Bill

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Ukrainian Parliament Backs Bill

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Ukrainian Parliament Backs Bill to Ban Sale of Gas Pipelines.

Ukraine’s parliament barred any sale of NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy after officials said Russia sought a stake in the state-run energy company’s natural-gas pipelines in exchange for cheaper supplies of the fuel.

A bill to boost the efficiency of Naftogaz’s pipeline system while maintaining state ownership was backed by 242 lawmakers in the 450-seat legislature, parliament said today on its website. Any reorganization of Naftogaz’s pipelines or storage facilities will now require Cabinet approval.

The former Soviet nation’s pipelines carry 80 percent of Russian gas shipments to Europe. The legislation was submitted by Yuriy Karmazin from the Our Ukraine block.

EU ambassador

Posted on : 14-04-2012 | By : admin | In : EU ambassador

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Yanukovych comes short of expectations, says EU ambassador to Ukraine.

ead of European Union Delegation to Ukraine Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira said that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has failed to live up to expectations.

In an interview with Korrespondent magazine, the European diplomat said that Yanukovych showed a lot of promise talking about reforms and bringing order to the country through creating a strong government.

“Both Ukraine and the EU believed in him. But, unfortunately, he fell short of expectations,” the EU ambassador said.

Teixeira said he hadn’t seen any results of the fight against corruption in Ukraine: “When they are evident, I will be the first to mention them. But for the moment the situation is much worse than it was during the so-called chaotic period after the Orange Revolution.”

When asked about the effect of the prison sentences for former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko on the EU-Ukraine relations, Teixeira said that “during the rule of the Orange team there was more freedom, more democracy, more confidence.”

“In those days, oligarchs supported various political players, so there was more room for pluralism. As for the legal system and reforms, little was done, yet the EU was ready to launch the assistance program,” he explained.

In addition, the diplomat said that he spoke to Economic Development and Trade Minister of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko about the EU program of assistance to the reforms in Ukraine worth EUR 500 million. Teixeira said that it was difficult to speak about this program yet. According to him, the European Union was willing to provide EUR 70 million for the administrative reform, but the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill which conflicts with the European standards in this area.

“Upon learning this, I met with Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych to ask him how this happened? He replied that the parliament made laws in Ukraine. Naturally, in every country parliaments pass laws. But the question is whether Ukraine is ready to adopt laws in compliance with the practice of the EU, or it will stick to its line?” the diplomat said.

Interfax-Ukraine

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Interfax-Ukraine

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Interfax-Ukraine to host press conference ‘Cancellation of 1.5% duty jeopardizes winemaking’.

On Tuesday, April 17, at 12.30, the press centre of the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency will host a press conference “Cancellation of 1.5% duty jeopardizes winemaking.” Participating will be Head of the Department of Horticulture, Viticulture and Wine of the Agricultural Policy and Food Ministry of Ukraine Viktor Kostenko; Acting Director General of the Ukrainian Bureau of Grapes and Wine Association Ihor Nikolin, Director General of Ukrainian Corporation for Wine Growing and Wine Industry Ukrvynprom Oleksandr Matsko; Deputy General Director of Ukrvynprom Volodymyr Kucherenko; Director of Kachynsky+ LLC (Inkerman International A.B.) Mykhailo Khosh, Director of Public joint-stock company Vintage Cognac House Tavria Vitaliy Koshelev; Marketing Director of joint-stock company Alef-Vinal Anatoliy Kokhan, Executive Director of PJSC Odesavynprom Volodymyr Maslenkov; Chairman of the Board of PJSC Koblevo Vira Kozlivska; and representative of the Masandra National Production Agrarian Association (8/5A Reitarska Street). Registration requires press Accreditation.

People power in Ukraine

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : People

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Even as Ukraine drifts towards ever-more authoritarian government, the people’s ability to challenge the authorities was illustrated recently by protests against the demolition of a historic squarter in Kyiv, says Roman Rukomeda.

Roman Rukomeda is a political analyst for the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy ‘People First’.

“The Ukrainian authorities continue to test the limits of patience of their own people. A first example is the destruction of ancient buildings in a historic part of Kyiv, Andriyivskyy Descent, while another is the change of rules for the parliamentary elections due for October of this year.

In first case we have Andriyivskyy Descent, a short, ancient street in the centre of Kyiv where tourists could buy souvenirs and paintings and feel the spirit of traditional Ukrainian culture. It is now completely under reconstruction with several old buildings destroyed. Apologies to the tourists Ukraine is expecting for the Euro 2012 Football cup in June: they will not see it.

In a second case, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine has forbidden simultaneous balloting of parliamentary candidates on party lists and in first-past-the-post districts. It means that the opposition henceforth has even less chances of getting a majority in the new Parliament.

The reactions of two participants in the Ukrainian political process – civil society and the opposition – to the authorities’ actions are demonstrative.

First we have the community of Kyiv’s people. The very day when three ancient buildings at the Andriyivskyi Descent were demolished, protest groups were organised through the internet and people gathered to offices of the builders and organisers of the destruction of that historic part of Kyiv. They brought construction garbage and left it in front of the offices of the self-styled ‘modernisers of the capital’.

The reaction of the authorities was telling. All TV channels aired speeches of officials who assured that everything would be renewed in a short time frame. They recognised that the wrecking of historical buildings was a big mistake and said that those guilty would be punished.

The proactive actions of the public frightened the authorities and forced them to start a dialogue and seek compromise. Or else the bricks could fly through the windows of offices of builders and state and city officials. Kyiv’s civil society has demonstrated its capacity to protect the city and its way of life.

Regarding the second case, when the authorities took away the right of the opposition to double balloting by party lists and majority districts by means of the Constitutional Court, the opposition-minded forces and their leaders became confused and didn’t know what to do.

The opposition has once again shown its own impotence. A joint strong-willed decision on boycotting parliamentary elections by all opposition forces could become a way out of the situation. The authorities would be compelled to make concessions in the face of the threat of delegitimisation in the eyes of society and the opposition. But it seems that the current Ukrainian opposition establishment, unlike civil society, is unfortunately incapable of displaying maturity.

If we look at the future development of Ukraine, considering tendencies predominating now, the following picture emerges: Viktor Yanukovych’s regime will continue the process of growing authoritarianism of power.

This will be achieved through the conclusion of non-public arrangements on cooperation with a part of the opposition parties and their leaders. And in case someone won’t be cooperative, the state machinery of pressure in the form of law enforcement bodies, tax and control services will be applied to them.

It will deal a considerable blow to the possibilities of financing any mass oppositional or anti-government activities. The authorities will definitively monopolise their grip on any big and medium-sized businesses in Ukraine. There won’t be any foreign investment coming, as political risks will be too high.

At the same time there will be a large-scale backslide in the area of freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly and free movement. This will lead to intimidation of the population and strengthen the manipulation of public opinion. The authorities will be happy to introduce rigid control over the internet.

The authorities hope that the society will degrade to poverty, social apathy and to the basic level of survival. But without any doubt, radical anti-authority resistance will also amplify and it will be headed by the present public activists and leaders. This image of Ukraine in the near future has high chances of becoming reality.

In two to three years Ukraine could turn into a classic sample of an authoritarian state on the model of Belarus or the Central Asian post-Soviet regimes. But this is provided that external players, first of all, Russia and the EU, won’t influence the situation. And this is highly improbable.

Russia already now is actively developing variants of deepening cooperation with Ukraine. A latest example is provided by the plans of the Russian Federation to create a new advisory council which would deal with the promotion of Russian interests in the post-Soviet territories. The European Union is also trying to “not freeze” relations with Kyiv.

The only thing which can transform today’s Ukraine into a democratic country which will care about interests of its citizens, and not about officials and big business, is the Ukrainian people, and more precisely, its most active and most conscious representatives.

Those public activists who are now rescuing historical Kyiv from destruction, tomorrow will go out to rescue the whole state, and not only its capital. They won’t be deceived by politicians any more, as it was the case in 2004-2005. External players who would like Ukraine to be democratic and not authoritarian will bet on them.

As long as the majority of Ukrainians don’t realise that they have influence, changes won’t come about.  But look at what public activists did at the Andriyivskyy Descent – they proved that their anger matters. Let’s not let our hope die! There is enough will for this.”

Ukraine associate membership

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Ukraine associate membership

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Ukraine’s gaining associate membership of CERN to help European integration, says premier.

Ukraine’s eventual obtaining associate membership of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will be an important step towards joining the European Union, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said during a meeting with an ad hoc working group of CERN in Kyiv on Friday.

“We view [gaining] the status of an associate member of CERN as an opportunity to engage not only science, but also high-tech manufacturing in cooperation,” he said.

According to Azarov, Ukraine has been working with the organization for nearly 20 years. A total of 47 Ukrainian scientists are currently involved in three of its projects. In addition, large industrial enterprises, in particular the Novokramatorsky Mashinostroitelny Zavod (NKMZ, engineering plant, Donetsk region) are taking part in the projects.

Head of the State Committee on Science, Innovation and Information Volodymyr Semynozhenko said earlier that Ukraine could become an associate member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 2011. However, this has yet to happen so far.

Ukrainian Parliament Adopts EU-Style Criminal Procedure Code

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Criminal Procedure Code

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The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) on Friday, opens a new chapter in the handling of criminal proceedings in Ukraine.

The new Code, which replaces the Soviet-era CPC (introduced in 1961), gives practical effect to the requests made by European bodies for improvements in the way criminal proceedings are handled in Ukraine. It is a further symbol of the democratic development of Ukraine, its respect for the rule of law and its adherence to European values, and was carried out with the particular support and encouragement of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The new CPC was proposed to the Verkhovna Rada by the President of Ukraine and features many important new elements. Most notably, the new Code equalises the powers of the defence and prosecution, whereas the previous Code had granted too much power to State prosecution and law enforcement bodies.

The concepts of house arrest and electronic tagging for limited periods, as well as clear bail conditions, have been introduced by the new CPC. Jury trial is also introduced: two judges and three jury members (chosen automatically from a panel of seven people elected by local authorities) hear cases of those alleged to have committed a crime in their area.

In addition, the new Code creates an exhaustive list of crimes and details the bodies that will be responsible for investigation of these crimes. The powers of the National Security Service of Ukraine will be limited to the solution of crimes against the State, terrorism, espionage, illegal drug trafficking, crimes related to radioactive materials and weapons, and war crimes. The State Tax Service of Ukraine will be responsible for investigation of only six crimes, all of which can be punished only with a fine, and for which bail can be used only as a preventive measure. This reform has already been accepted and entered into force on 17 January 2012.

The Prosecutor’s Office will no longer be responsible for the investigation of crimes. However, as a transitional measure (for five years), it will be entitled to investigate crimes allegedly committed by law enforcement officers, judges and senior civil servants. A State Anti-Corruption Bureau of Investigation will be created and will take on responsibility for investigation of these crimes, in line with the recommendation of European experts regarding limitation of the powers of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Following a resolution adopted by PACE, new measures have been introduced regarding the investigation of crimes allegedly committed by high-ranking officials. Such cases will be heard in the court of the first instance by a panel of three judges, each of whom must have at least five years’ experience as a judge and be permanently appointed to that role. Appeals will be heard by a panel of five judges, and cases in the court of cassation by a panel of seven judges, each of whom must have at least ten years’ experience as a judge. By introducing these measures, the Verkhovna Rada has ensured that these sensitive cases are handled by judges whose professionalism and independence is beyond question.

Michel Platini-EURO 2012 in Ukraine

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Michel Platini-EURO 2012 in Ukraine

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Michel Platini: EURO 2012 in Ukraine – True Holiday for Football Fans.

The UEFA President Michel Platini expressed his admiration for Ukraine’s preparation to host EURO 2012 championship. Platini, together with the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych participated in the opening ceremony of the new international terminal at the Lviv Danylo Halytskyi airport.

“It is astounding what a small football can do. What has been done in Ukraine is amazing,” said UEFA President in Lviv. He stressed that no matter how people might feel about football, modern infrastructure was introduced in Ukraine thanks to the sports. “I am sure that in three weeks’ time the atmosphere in Lviv will be wonderful. You [Ukraine] have managed to reach most of the goals. It wasn’t easy, but it will be wonderful,” said Platini. The president of Ukraine expressed his hopes that the European football championship EURO 2012 would be held in Ukraine on a high level, and that Ukraine’s national football team would demonstrate good football.

The new up-to-date international terminal at the Lviv airport boasts the capacity of about 2,100 passengers per hour. The lighting of the terminal was provided by the global leader in lighting solutions Philips: a total of 58 types of lighting technology, including advanced LED devices, illuminate the facade, the interior and the surrounding area of the terminal. Currently, the main task Lviv city administration is facing prior to hosting the championship is building modern infrastructure around the airport. Ukraine’s biggest and most up-to-date airports were modernized in the four host cities for EURO 2012: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Lviv. All the four airports will become fully operational in the current year.

Along with new airports, Ukraine has built and modernized four football stadiums. Kyiv’s Olimpiyskyi, second largest stadium in Eastern Europe, can host up to 70,050 fans. The newly build Arena Lviv was named “the most comfortable stadium for fans among EURO 2012 venues” by UEFA officials. Kharkiv’s Metalist became known as a “spider”: the roof of the stadium is supported by 24 towers resembling the tentacles of a spider. Thanks to massive support the roof can withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0. Opened in 2009, Donetsk’s Donbass Arena became known as the first elite stadium in Eastern Europe.

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Ex-Defense Chief in Ukraine

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Ex-Defense Chief in Ukraine

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U.S. Condemns Prison Term for Ex-Defense Chief in Ukraine.

The United States Embassy in Ukraine on Friday condemned as politically motivated the imprisonment of a former defense minister allied with Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the former prime minister whose own imprisonment has provoked an international outcry.

The defense minister, Valery Ivashchenko, was found guilty on Thursday of abuse of office for his role in the sale of a government-owned shipbuilding plant in 2009. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Mr. Ivashchenko has denied the charges, accusing the Ukrainian authorities of pursuing a campaign of persecution against the opponents of President Viktor F. Yanukovich.

That accusation has been echoed frequently in Western capitals. Officials in the United States and in the European Union have pressed Mr. Yanukovich to free several of his imprisoned opponents, especially Ms. Tymoshenko, 51, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last fall for abuse of office while prime minister.

In a statement on Friday, the embassy called for Mr. Ivashchenko’s release from prison.

“We are deeply disappointed in this latest example of selective justice in Ukraine,” the statement said.

Mr. Yanukovich and his allies have denied accusations that the prosecutions of his opponents have been politically motivated. Rather, they have said the campaign is part of an effort to clean up corruption in the wake of Ms. Tymoshenko’s term as prime minister. The charges against her stem from a gas deal with Russia in 2009, which a court found to have hurt Ukraine’s national interests.

Still, in an apparent effort to blunt Western criticism, the authorities have granted Ms. Tymoshenko permission to receive medical treatment outside of the prison camp about 300 miles east of the capital, Kiev, where she has been imprisoned since December.

On Friday, a team of doctors from Germany arrived to examine Ms. Tymoshenko, who has complained of debilitating back pain.

US and Russian

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : US and Russian

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US and Russian scientists launch ice seal survey.

A team of US and Russian scientists has launched the biggest population survey to date of Bering Sea ice s e als as federal authorities consider endangered species protections for the marine mammals, a US government spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

As part of the project, which began this week, scientists are flying by plane at low altitude – just 800 to 1,000 feet (240-300 metres) above the surface – across 20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km) of U.S. and Russian waters, tracking the seals with infrared and digital cameras.

The survey is not required for the US government to make a finding that any species of seals is endangered, but officials have expressed hope the study could provide more insight into how the loss of sea ice, attributed to global climate change, is harming the animals.

The study will cover four species – ringed, spotted, bearded and the ribbon seals – according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

All those seal species are characterized by their dependence on floating sea ice for resting, nursing their young, foraging for food and other important life functions.

The last time US and Russian scientists collaborated on an ice seal study in the waters separating the two nations was in 1976, said Julie Speegle, a NOAA spokeswoman in Alaska.

NOAA in December 2010 proposed listing bearded and ringed seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, which could give the animals and their habitats stronger safeguards than they already receive under laws protecting marine mammals in general.

Final decisions on those two species are expected in June, Speegle said.

The agency in 2008 rejected a petition to list ribbon seals under the Endangered Species Act. Those seals are known for their distinctive black-and-white striped fur. But last year, NOAA reversed itself and opened a new review on the species.

NOAA declined in 2010 to list the US population of spotted seals, but invoked Endangered Species Act protections for those seals living in waters off Russia and China.
Lack of population information has been cited by NOAA as a reason for delays in listing decisions for some of the seals.

Obtaining accurate numbers for those animals, which dwell in a remote and frigid part of the world, has long been a challenge, Speegle said.

“It’s a wide geographic area. Sometimes the weather conditions are pretty harsh,” she said.

The scientists will use infrared technology to detect the heat of seals’ bodies and digital imaging to distinguish between species, she said.

The survey flights started this week in remote Nome, Alaska, Speegle said. Flights will be conducted from other coastal locations as well, she said. The current survey will last into May, and a second survey is planned for next year, NOAA said.

Russian Central Bank

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Russian Central Bank

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Russian Central Bank Selling Catalyst for Gold’s Stagnation: Gartman.

Gold’s decade-long bull run is retracting and Russia central Bank selling may have to do with it, according to newsletter writer Dennis Gartman.

The editor of the Gartman Letter came under attack by gold bugs earlier this week for his statement that gold has been in bear territory since the summer of 2011 when it peaked above $1,900.

“I guess in retrospect it does appear that it was the Russians who were selling about a month and a half ago,” said Gartman about the catalyst for his realization. “Having been great buyers of gold for two and half years now, the Russian central bank has turned into a seller. That may well be the seminal or the tectonic plate shifting circumstance. One of the great buyers is no longer a buyer,” he told Kitco News in a phone interview.

In February, Russian central bank reduced gold holdings by 3.8 tons worth about $200m as per data released by the International Monetary Fund. This was the country’s first gold sale in five years. Russia holds the world’s fourth-largest gold and foreign-exchange reserves, after China, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

“First of all the final arbiter of any discussion is price itself. [Gold] is $250 an ounce lower than where it was back then [2011] it had just barely got up to over $1900 an ounce in dollar terms, it is now trading as we speak at $1660 an ounce in dollar terms, that’s clearly no longer a bullish move, “he said.

Gartman said good bull markets are defined by a very simple notion where each new high is higher and each new low is higher. “From 2006 to 2011 that was absolutely the truth, each interim high was higher and each interim low was higher it was a well defined bull market. Since the late summer you can no longer say that.”

He added, “I think it’s very hard to deny the facts, the facts are the facts; numbers are numbers. For anybody who is demonstrably bullish about gold and wants to be that way they have a very strong argument that is made against them.”

Gartman explained that if gold goes below the $1520-$1550 level even the most ardent gold bull bugs will have to admit there is a problem.

In terms of forecasting where the price of gold is headed, Gartman said making predictions can make one look “foolish”. However, he said that if the gold breaks $1550, it could go some good distance down.

“Fundamentally one wants to be bullish of the market because of the amount of monetary stimulus that has been thrown at the global capital markets by the ECB, by the bank of Japan and obviously by the Fed, and that should sponsor stronger gold prices but it’s not going up. So the proper place to be I think is not bullish nor bearish but hard upon the sidelines,” he said.

As to whether the appearance of a QE3 post U.S. election could help gold prices, Gartman said he thinks it’s possible, but highly unlikely.

“Unless and if Obama were to win a demonstrative election and the House were to swing to the Democrats and the Senate were to remain Democratic that would be mortifyingly bullish to the gold bull market but I have my doubts as to whether that can in fact happen,” he said.

Russian spy agency

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Russian spy agency

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Revealed: Russian spy agency linked to dead lawyer.

Russia’s spy agency authorised a raid on a British investment firm in Moscow that led to a massive tax scam by allegedly corrupt officials and the death of a lawyer who tried to expose the fraud, new papers show. Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow-based lawyer, died in November 2009 during pre-trial detention after he was arrested by a group of officials who were being investigated for tax fraud. No one has been imprisoned for his death.

Instead prosecutors have begun a posthumous investigation against Mr Magnitsky and Bill Browder, the British founder of the London-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital, which has campaigned to bring to justice those responsible for the lawyer’s death. Mr Browder said the government’s investigation against him for an alleged 2001 tax evasion, which he denies, has resulted in a series of previously undisclosed criminal case files being released to the public for the first time.

Among the 70 evidence files that have been handed to his lawyers are at least three bundles containing memos from the FSB, Russia’s spy agency. Mr Browder says the files show how the agency’s anti-fraud department – known as Department K – played a key role in beginning the investigation into Hermitage, as a result of which the company became the victim of a $230m tax fraud.

Mr Browder told The Independent: “The FSB always operated in a closed system and they never anticipated that giving us access to the criminal case files would open up a Pandora’s box and allow everybody to take a look at the criminality that pervades the entire Russian government.”

Mr Browder claims that the documents show how on 22 May 2007 the head of Department K, General Viktor Voronin, signed off on a raid by Ministry of Interior officials against the offices of Hermitage and its law firm in Moscow. During that raid, two vans full of documents and company seals were seized as evidence. Unbeknown to Hermitage these were later used to transfer three subsidiary companies out of their possession. The new owner of the companies then applied for a tax rebate worth $230m.

The new documents also shed light on the whereabouts of those seals during the period in between when the raid and the fraud took place. One memo, dated 23 October 2007, states that the company seals had been transferred to Department K for “analysis”. The seals were used to fraudulently transfer the three companies away from Hermitage just two months later, although there is no evidence in the documents that FSB officials from Department K took part in the fraud.

Before his arrest Sergei Magnitsky had blamed a network of allegedly corrupt Ministry of Interior officials for the scam, many of whom had relatives who had suddenly grown inexplicably rich. These officials had him arrested and he died one year later.

Russia to Cancel Oil Export Tax

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Russia to Cancel Oil Export Tax for New Arctic Projects.

Moving to harness Russia’s vast Arctic oil and gas reserves, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised to scrap taxes on exports from new offshore fields and to consider letting private companies secure licenses to develop them.

The shift is expected to make two Arctic exploration projects—in which Exxon Mobil Corp., Norway’s Statoil ASA and France’s Total SA hold minority stakes—more feasible, analysts said. But Mr. Putin said most such projects would remain under Russian control.

Mr. Putin’s announcement Thursday indicated that new energy exploration will be a top priority of his third presidential term, which starts May 7. Russia, the world’s top crude oil producer, needs to tap new deposits in the Arctic and eastern Siberia to offset declining output in its western Siberian fields.

Under a 2008 investment law, all private companies, Russian and foreign, must team up with OAO Rosneft or OAO Gazprom, the state oil and gas companies, in order to participate in an offshore project and are limited to minority control.

This week the heads of Russia’s top private energy companies, which have been effectively shut out of the Arctic, sent Mr. Putin an open letter seeking access to such projects.

Mr. Putin acknowledged that the law had hampered investment in offshore energy and signaled an imminent change, instructing the cabinet to “think about ways of more effectively inviting purely Russian companies into these projects.”

The Russian leader outlined a package of tax incentives aimed at drawing $500 billion in investment in offshore energy projects over the next 30 years. Export duties for offshore oil that now stand as high as $460 per ton would be abolished for five to 15 years, depending on a project’s profitability.

Other taxes would be low and remain fixed for 15 years after production starts. Mineral extraction tax in the most complex Arctic projects would be as low as 5% of the realized price, Mr. Putin said, and value added tax on imported equipment Russia doesn’t manufacture would be abolished.

Mr. Putin’s guidelines would require at least 70% of offshore projects to remain under Russian ownership. But he said the tax breaks, for which foreign companies had lobbied, should encourage investment.

“We expect the world’s largest corporations to partner with our Russian companies on the shelf,” he said, without mentioning any firms by name.

Changes in tax rules will be submitted to Parliament by October, officials said Friday.

Energy analysts said Mr. Putin’s pledges sent an encouraging signal to foreign and private Russian companies, even though they may take months or years to enact.

“While the Arctic playing field is still tilted in favor of Russian companies, at least the government will be more open to foreign participation,” said Andrew Neff, a consultant at IHS Global Insight.

Mr. Putin didn’t name specific projects that would get tax breaks. Ron Smith, an analyst at Citibank, said participants in the giant Shtokman gas project in the Barents Sea—Gazprom, Total and Statoil—were likely to benefit. The partners decided last month to postpone the project, partly due to uncertainty over taxes.

A Statoil spokesman, Baard Glad Pedersen, said Mr. Putin’s announcement “is obviously a positive sign that the Russian authorities are ready to make complex offshore projects possible.”

Such capital intensive projects are risky because they depend heavily on tax relief to turn a profit. Exxon Mobil has been seeking a long-term tax break from the Russian government since teaming up with Rosneft last August in a deal to explore three Kara Sea oil fields in the Arctic.

Russian officials

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Russian officials

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Russian officials won’t address local election fraud claims.

The Russian State Duma has opted not to discuss hunger strikers in Astrakhan protesting the official results of the city’s recent mayoral elections.

The Just Russia party proposed including a discussion on the findings of a special group of deputies who visited the Astrakhan hunger strikers in March to the agenda for Friday, RIA Novosti reported.

On March 23, four Duma deputies went to Astrakhan to investigate alleged fraud in the mayoral election March 4.

United Russia’s candidate Mikhail Stolyarov was officially declared the winner of the race, taking 60 percent of the votes, but Just Russia officials claimed their party’s candidate, Oleg Shein, won the election, despite official data showing he only received about 30 percent of the vote.

In protests following the official announcement of the winner of the election, some representatives of the party, including Shein, declared a hunger strike. Later, some Moscow opposition activists joined them.

State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Thursday legislators would consider the topic for discussion.

“The State Duma at the meeting will give the final document of the working group that some time ago was sent to Astrakhan to attentively study the situation. One of the working group members will speak,” he said.

However, the issue was not included officially in the agenda, despite Just Russia members saying discussion was necessary.

Pakistan-Russia

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Pakistan-Russia

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Pakistan, Russia Make Nice.

Lingering Cold War animosities between Russia and Pakistan seem to be residing, with both regional heavyweights looking to improve bilateral relations.

A sign of the warming ties came in the form of a landmark announcement this week by Pakistan’s National Security Committee, which, for the first time, named the strengthening of the country’s relations with Russia as one of its top foreign policy recommendations.

The recommendation, which was swiftly approved by the Pakistani parliament, signified growing support for closer ties between Moscow and Islamabad.

But it did not stop there. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit confirmed that Vladimir Putin, early in his third term as president, plans to travel to Islamabad for high-level talks in September — a first for a Russian head of state.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari paved the road for Putin’s visit, which has not been confirmed by Russian officials, last year when he made the first official visit of a Pakistani head of state to Moscow in almost 40 years.

Not long ago, such occasions would have been unthinkable. Russia’s staunch support for Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, was a thorn in relations. So, too, was Pakistan’s support for Afghan mujahedin rebel groups who fought the Soviet Union during its 10-year occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But much has changed since then in South Asian politics.

Relations between long-term allies Pakistan and the United States have hit a low. The U.S.’s decision in May 2010 to enter Pakistan to conduct a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound without informing that country’s authorities caused outrage, as did the deaths of over 28 soldiers in a U.S. drone attack in November that led Pakistan to close all its Afghan supply routes to NATO.

Some observers have been quick to point out a strategic shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy toward the United States, while others insist that ties between Moscow and Islamabad have deepened as a result of Pakistan’s widening rifts with Washington.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, however, does not read too much into the situation.

“Possibly relations with Russia will strengthen a [little bit] after Putin’s visit. [Pakistan] should have strengthened its relations with Russia long ago,” Mohmand says. “This visit will likely increase trade, political contacts, but it does not mean that it can bring about change to Pakistan’s foreign policy vis-a-vis the United States.”

One particular source of concern for Pakistan has been the burgeoning relationship between India, Pakistan’s neighbor and main rival, and the United States.

In recent years, India and the United States have held joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean, while a multibillion-dollar defense deal is on the cards as part of the new booming strategic relationship.

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, says Russia may be forging stronger ties with Pakistan in order to capitalize on the rift in U.S.-Pakistan ties.

“As you know, India’s relations had expanded with the United States, although it [India] had good ties with Russia,” Aziz says. “It is no longer like the Cold War, obviously Russia is watching the Pakistan-U.S. tension and [might be thinking of restoring] some balance.”

Whether or not Russia and Pakistan might become strategic partners is open to debate. But what is certain is that the two countries are aiming to forge greater economic ties, especially in the field of energy.

Russia has indicated its willingness to get involved in the proposed TAPI pipeline project that is envisioned to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and on to Pakistan and India.

The pipeline, if built, could bring much needed gas to energy-starved India and Pakistan.

Russian investors are also interested in the Thar coal project in Sindh Province, which would involve developing a large energy complex with a capacity of producing 6,000 megawatts of coal-based electricity.

Russia sends

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Russia sends

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Russia sends conflicting signals on Syria ships.

A Russian news agency reported on Friday that Moscow had decided to keep a warship on patrol off Syria for the foreseeable future, but a military source said Russia’s naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean had “nothing to do” with Syria.

The conflicting signals came during a fragile ceasefire in Syria, which buys Russian weapons and has been shielded from U.N. Security Council condemnation over its bloody clampdown on its opponents by Russian vetoes.

Syria hosts a maintenance and supply facility that is Russia’s sole naval base outside the ex-Soviet Union, but warships call there only occasionally and Russian naval activity near Syria has been seen as a show of support for the government.

The destroyer Smetlivy is plying waters off Syria now and will be replaced by another Russian warship next month, the state-run RIA news agency reported on Friday, citing an unidentified Defence Ministry source.

“A decision has been made to have Russia navy ships close to Syria’s shores on a permanent basis,” it quoted the source as saying.

However, a Russian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters by telephone that Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean had “nothing to do with” Syria.

A Defence Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the RIA report. He said Russian warships conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden are sometimes in the eastern Mediterranean and call in at the Tartus facility.

Russia has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Syria for its crackdown, that has lasted for more than a year, but has vocally supported U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace efforts, which have led to a fragile ceasefire that began on Thursday. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Andrew Osborn).

Unconventional Russian trainer

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Unconventional Russian trainer

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John Clay: Unconventional Russian trainer puts two to the test in Blue Grass.

The diminutive Russian horse trainer is looking at the man beside him as if he is crazy, or clueless, or both, or maybe he just needs to have his rear end kicked.”If I didn’t think he could win,” Gennadi Dorochenko, in a thick Russian accent, tells the visitor, “why would I have entered him?”

Good question. Better answer.Less than two weeks ago, April 1 to be exact, Dorochenko’s 3-year-old Hero of Order went off at odds of 109-1 in the $1 million Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds and hit the finish line first.

It was the colt’s second victory in 14 career starts. It surprised everyone. Except Dorochenko.

“Why would I have entered him?” the Russian trainer repeats, then takes a drag off his cigarette.

Next question.It’s Friday morning, the day before the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and Dorochenko has entered Hero of Order in Saturday’s $750,000 Grade I Derby prep at Keeneland, even though the 3-year-old isn’t even nominated for the Triple Crown.

The supplemental fee for the Kentucky Derby is $200,000. Even then, fewer than 20 qualifying entries from nominated horses would have to enter to make way for a supplemental. That’s not going to happen.So why enter Hero of Order in a race so soon after the Louisiana Derby?

“We’ll see how good he is,” answers Dorochenko. “We’ll see.”

The 53-year-old former jockey is a shade over 5 feet tall. His hair is gray, his demeanor is tough, confident, maybe a bit defiant.He said he got his start in the horse business at age 3. He was a jockey in Russia. He came to the United States in 1993 “with nothing,” he said. When his riding career failed to fire, he took up training.

Asked about the quality of horses in Russia, he grunts. Plenty of horses have been bought in Kentucky and shipped to Russia, he says. And, he points out, Thoroughbreds came to America from Europe first.

He has more than 100 horses in training here, including 40 at Keeneland. He would have more here if they would give him more stalls. He leases a farm in Paris. He has others in Ocala, Fla. His home base is at Arlington Park in Chicago.

His reputation is that of being a bit unorthodox. He doesn’t believe in giving horses drugs. Bute, Lasix, that’s it. He didn’t give horses in Russia drugs, he’s not about to do it here. Plus, he doesn’t believe in workouts.

“I believe in workouts,” he corrects. “When the horse needs to work.”

He doesn’t believe in timed workouts just for the sake of timed workouts. He doesn’t believe in appeasing owners for no reason. They don’t pay you for workouts. They pay you when you win races.”I work the horse to condition,” he said. “Condition.”

Most of what he believes goes back to his days as a jockey. He likes to work his horses himself, he said.

“If I look at that car over there and say how it is; it’s better if I drive it and see how it is,” he said.

There have been problems in his past. The Daily Racing Form reported that in 2007 Dorochenko spent 77 days in jail and 210 days under home electronic detention for protecting his son, who had allegedly fled the U.S. to avoid prosecution for a murder. Gennadi Dorochenko was placed on probation for three years before his training license was reinstated in 2010.

Unable to train, he became a buyer for Raut LLC. He started with cheaper horses but has inched up the economic ladder. He purchased North Stream for Ramzan Kadyrov, the controversial president of Chechnya. North Stream won the 2010 Russian Derby.According to the Racing Form, since 2009, Dorochenko has purchased more horses at Keeneland auctions than any other buyer.He would like to win the Kentucky Derby and is running a second horse, California Derby winner Russian Greek, in the Blue Grass, for just that purpose.Russian Greek may not be ready, he admitted, but you never know. The horse has talent. The trainer will take a chance.After all, who thought Hero of Order would win the Louisiana Derby?Dorochenko did.Can he win the Blue Grass?”We’ll see,” said the trainer, this time his blue eyes twinkling. “We’ll see.”

Russia is optimistic

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Russia is optimistic

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Russia is optimistic about Istanbul talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that he is optimistic about the Istanbul talks between Iran and the six major powers.

“We with (U.S. Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton talked about the situation around Iran’s nuclear program. We place certain hopes on the meeting of the six parties and Iranian representatives, which will be held in Istanbul on April 14,” Lavrov told reporters aboard the plane on the flight from Washington to Moscow, according to Russia and India Report.
“We, as well as the United States, have concrete ideas on how to move stage by stage and on condition of mutuality that is on the action for action basis. Iran makes a step and the Group of Six meets halfway to the Iranian concerns,” the Russian foreign minister Lavrov noted.
He also said, “The Iranian negotiators stated before the meeting in Istanbul that they would come with new initiatives on the situation settlement. I think it is not a bad approach.”
The Syrian Arab news agency also quoted Lavrov as saying on Friday that the participants in the negotiations should resort to diplomacy to gradually remove concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.
He added that the Russian delegation will take part in the meeting with the ultimate goal of removing concerns over the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program and will exercise the arts of diplomacy to coordinate the structure and the process toward reaching this goal.
China wishes for good start for Iran-5+1 talks
Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Ma Zhaoxu, Beijing’s representative to the renewed talks on Iran’s nuclear program, expressed hope on Thursday that the negotiations will be re-launched with a good start, the NAM News Network reported.
Speaking upon arrival at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport for the talks, he said that China played a constructive role in reconciling concerned parties and persuading them into reviving the talks.
He added that China had three expectations for the upcoming event, the first being that the talks would be re-launched with a good start and proceed in a constructive and sustainable way.
Secondly, Ma explained, China expected all sides to respect one another, tolerate the other sides’ concerns and make efforts to create a conducive environment for the talks.
Lastly, all parties should be rational, flexible, and pragmatic, and try to achieve positive results by seeking common ground in spite of their differences, he stated.
However, the Iran nuclear issue is complicated and cannot be resolved in a short time, he noted, and hence all parties should be optimistic and patient no matter what complication occurs during the process.
Ma said that China would maintain an active and constructive attitude towards the new round of talks and do its part to promote the effort.
5+1 will study Iran’s demands: Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that the six major powers will take into consideration assurances or actions that Iran will demand during the Istanbul talks.
“We are looking for concrete results. And of course, in a negotiation, we understand that the Iranians will be asking for assurances or actions from us and we will certainly take those under consideration,” Clinton said, without providing details, according to Reuters.
“We want to get started this weekend and we will certainly proceed in a very expeditious, diligent manner (and in) a sustained way to determine whether there is the potential for an agreement,” she added.

Kremlin

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Kremlin

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Russia ‘needs deficit to boost growth’.

Russia will need to run a budget deficit over several years to boost its economic growth rate, according to a long-term economic development plan drawn up by its Economy Ministry.

“Every economist always says that it’s better to have a deficit-free budget … but that’s a banality,” Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach said in remarks released for publication on Friday.

A limited deficit was needed “to make a breakthrough from the point of view of the rate of growth, its quality, and how to finance it,” he told a briefing on his department’s latest scenario planning for Russia’s economy through to 2010.Klepach, the government’s chief economic forecaster, put the size of the desirable deficit at 1.5-2.0 percent of gross domestic product.

The remarks highlight policy differences between the Economy Ministry, which advocates higher government spending to improve infrastructure and human capital, and the Finance Ministry, which is seeking to impose a tight limit on government borrowing and cut overall spending.The ministry’s forecasts, requested by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, are intended to provide the basis for Russia’s long-term economic development strategy.

The plan will be considered by the Cabinet later this month, just before Putin’s inauguration as president on May 7 marks the start of his new six-year term in the Kremlin — during which he will seek to boost flagging economic growth and reduce Russia’s worrying dependence on commodity exports.A year ago, Putin told the Economy Ministry to redraft its original forecasts, after Russia’s then-Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, launched a withering attack on them.

Kudrin said that the previous forecasts had “no right to life”, after the Economy Ministry proposed running an average budget deficit of 2-3 percent until 2025, and raising government debt above 30 percent of GDP.

Kudrin’s successor as Finance Minister, Anton Siluanov, has also vowed to maintain a tight grip on government finances.

In the revised forecasts, the Economy Ministry has scaled back the size of the government borrowing that it believes is necessary to finance economic modernization to show total government debt not rising above 25 percent of GDP.

But the plans still appear to conflict with the position of the Finance Ministry, which is lobbying for new budget rules that would limit annual borrowing to 1 percent of GDP, and cut federal expenditures by 2.5 percent of GDP by 2016.In contrast, the Economy Ministry’s preferred development scenario envisages total government spending rising from 37.1 percent of GDP in 2011 to 38.4 percent of GDP in 2015, and 37.8 percent of GDP in 2020.

Even if Russia succeeds in diversifying its economy, the boost to economic growth would be modest, the Economy Ministry’s forecasts showed.

Under its preferred innovation-based scenario, the Ministry forecasts average annual economic growth of 4.4 percent until 2030 — similar to the 4.3 percent growth achieved in 2011, and below growth rates of 7-8 percent that Russia achieved before the 2008 global financial crisis.

“We have reached a new stage where we don’t forecast significant growth in the extraction and export of hydrocarbons,” Klepach said.

“Growth will be formed through a significant rise in accumulation of capital — investments in science, education and health.”Under a more pessimistic scenario, in which Russia fails to diversify its economy away from energy, growth would slow further, averaging 3.5 percent until 2030, the forecasts showed.

Publication of the forecasts comes a few days after the Economy Ministry downgraded its 2012 economic growth forecast to 3.4 percent from 3.7 percent, reinforcing fears that Russia’s economy is losing momentum.

Despite Russian criticism

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Despite Russian criticism

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West pushes U.N. Syria vote despite Russian criticism

Western powers brushed aside Russian criticism of a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution authorizing an advance team of U.N. observers to monitor Syria’s fragile ceasefire and said on Friday they hoped to put it to a vote this weekend.

The U.N. missions of Britain, France and Germany said the U.S.-drafted resolution was co-sponsored by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Morocco, the sole Arab nation on the council.

The draft, obtained by Reuters, calls for the initial deployment of up to 30 unarmed U.N. observers to Syria in line with a request by U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who had criticized an earlier version of the U.S. text, presented the 15-nation council with his own draft that Moscow would prefer to vote on.

“We have put together a shorter version of (the U.S.) text,” Churkin told reporters after closed-door discussions on Syria. “We had this understanding yesterday that it should be to the point, pragmatic, specific about putting in boots on the ground, (an) advance party of the monitoring team.”

Several diplomats said negotiations with Russia to find mutually acceptable language were slow and difficult. They said the council was unlikely to reach an agreement on Friday and they would likely reconvene on Saturday after delegations have had a chance to receive instructions from their capitals.

U.N. diplomats say Syrian ally Russia supports Annan’s peace efforts but is working hard to shield Damascus from what it sees as a Western push for Libya-style “regime change.” Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad’s 13-month assault on anti-government protesters.

The competing draft resolutions are a response to Annan’s request that the council move quickly to get the first members of an observer force, which will ultimately have up to 250 monitors, in Syria to lock in the fragile ceasefire.

Several Western diplomats said negotiations were focusing on the U.S. draft, not the Russian one.

Syria

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Syria

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U.N. OBSERVERS ON STAND-BY

Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the U.N.-Arab League envoy hoped the council would pass the resolution on Friday.
“The (U.N.) Department of Peacekeeping Operations is working around the clock to find the necessary number of troops for the full observer mission eventually,” he said.
“At the moment we have the advance team standing by to board planes and to get there, to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible,” he said.

A U.N.-backed ceasefire aimed at halting more than a year of bloodshed in Syria appeared to be holding on Thursday, but forces loyal to Assad fought rebels near the border with Turkey on Friday, threatening the truce.

The latest U.S. draft would have the council say Damascus should “ensure full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access throughout Syria for all (observer) mission personnel as deemed necessary by the mission.” Russia’s draft, seen by Reuters, has deleted that paragraph.

The first U.S. draft had made a number of demands on the Syrian government and did not explicitly demand anything of the opposition. That, council diplomats said, annoyed Russia.

The new U.S. draft includes proposed Russian language about the rebels, saying the council “demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms.”
It also has the council “condemning the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities, recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable.”
It ends with a vague threat of “further steps” by the council if Syria does not comply with the resolution.

World Bank

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : admin | In : World Bank

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Russia backs U.S. nominee to head World Bank.

Russia will back Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. nominee for the next World Bank head, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Friday after meeting the candidate, who is in Moscow on his world tour to drum up support.

“Taking into account Mr. Kim’s considerable professional qualities as well as his experience and knowledge, the Russian Federation will support the candidacy of Jim Yong Kim during the voting by the bank’s board of directors,” the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement.

The statement added that Kim had gained extensive experience working in Russia when he served in the World Health Organisation (WHO).

While there, he led a WHO initiative that is credited with providing access to HIV treatment to millions of people in developing countries.

Kim served in various roles at the WHO from 2003-2005 according to a copy of his CV posted on the Darmouth College website.

Kim, a public-health expert and former president of Dartmouth, already has been in Asia and parts of Latin and Central America to meet finance chiefs. On Wednesday, he was interviewed by World Bank directors.

Russia is the first of the BRIC countries — an acronym that refers to the four rapidly growing economic powers Brazil, Russia, India and China — to come out in support of Kim.

Two other candidates also are vying to succeed the current World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, when he steps down. They are Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo.

However, sources said earlier on Friday that Ocampo is set to withdraw his nomination as emerging and developing countries agree to coalesce around a single nominee.

The job traditionally has gone to an American.

A decision on Zoellick’s successor is expected to be made public by the time the bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, hold semi-annual meetings in Washington April 20-22.

Kiev Culture

Posted on : 11-08-2011 | By : admin | In : Kiev

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Kiev was the historic cultural centre of the East Slavic civilization and a major cradle for the Christianization for Rus’, Kiev retained through centuries its cultural importance and even at times of relative decay, it remained the centre of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity of the primary importance. Its sacred sites, which include the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (the Monastery of the Caves) and the Saint Sophia Cathedral are probably the most famous, attracted pilgrims for centuries and now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site remain the primary religious centres as well as the major tourist attraction. The above mentioned sites are also part of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine collection.

Kiev’s theatres include: Kiev Opera House, Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theatre, Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Theater of Russian Drama, the Kiev Puppet Theater, October Palace, National Philharmonic of Ukraine and others. In 1946 Kiev had four theatres, one opera house and one concert hall.But most tickets then where allocated to “privileged groups”.

Other significant cultural centres include the Dovzhenko Film Studios, and the Kiev Circus. The most important of the city’s many museums are the Kiev State Historical Museum, Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the National Art Museum, the Museum of Western and Oriental Art, the Pinchuk Art Centre and the National Museum of Russian art.

In 2005 Kiev hosted the 50th annual Eurovision Song Contest as a result of Ruslana’s “Wild Dances” victory in 2004.

  • There are numerous songs, paintings, photos dedicated to the city. Among them there is an extensive Russian, Ukrainian, Polish folklore, less known are German and Jewish. One of the better songs are called “Without Podil, Kiev is impossible” (poet L.Dukhovny), “How not to love you, Kiev of mine?” (poet Dmytro Lutsenko), Khreschatyk (poet Yuri Rybchynsky), and many others.

Tourism in Ukraine

Posted on : 11-08-2011 | By : admin | In : Tourism Ukraine

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Ukraine occupies 8th place in the world by the number of tourists visiting, according to the World Tourism Organisation rankings.

Ukraine is a destination on the crossroads between central and eastern Europe, between north and south. It borders Russia and is not far from Turkey. It has mountain ranges – the Carpathian Mountains suitable for skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting. The coastline on the Black Sea is a popular summer destination for vacationers. Ukraine has vineyards where they produce native wines, ruins of ancient castles, historical parks, Orthodox and Catholic churches as well as a few mosques and synagogues. Kiev, the country’s capital city has many unique structures such as Saint Sophia Cathedral and broad boulevards. There are other cities well-known to tourists such as the harbour town Odessa and the old city of Lviv in the west. The Crimea, a little “continent” of its own, is a popular vacation destination for tourists for swimming or suntaning on the Black Sea with its warm climate, rugged mountains, plateaus and ancient ruins. Cities there include: Sevastopol and Yalta – location of the peace conference at the end of World War II. Visitors can also take cruise tours by ship on Dnieper River from Kiev to the Black Sea coastline. Ukrainian cuisine has a long history and offers a wide variety of original dishes.

The Seven Wonders of Ukraine are the seven historical and cultural monuments of Ukraine; the sites were chosen by the general public through an internet-based vote.

Economy of Ukraine

Posted on : 11-08-2011 | By : admin | In : Ukraine

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In Soviet times, the economy of Ukraine was the second largest in the Soviet Union, being an important industrial and agricultural component of the country’s planned economy.With the dissolution of the Soviet system, the country moved from a planned economy to a market economy. The transition process was difficult for the majority of the population which plunged into poverty.Ukraine’s economy contracted severely following the years after the Soviet dissolution. Day to day life for the average person living in Ukraine was a struggle. A significant number of citizens in rural Ukraine survived by growing their own food, often working two or more jobs and buying the basic necessities through the barter economy.

In 1991, the government liberalized most prices to combat widespread product shortages, and was successful in overcoming the problem. At the same time, the government continued to subsidize state-run industries and agriculture by uncovered monetary emission. The loose monetary policies of the early 1990s pushed inflation to hyperinflationary levels. For the year 1993, Ukraine holds the world record for inflation in one calendar year.Those living on fixed incomes suffered the most.

The building of the National Bank of Ukraine

Prices stabilized only after the introduction of new currency, the hryvnia, in 1996.

The country was also slow in implementing structural reforms. Following independence, the government formed a legal framework for privatization. However, widespread resistance to reforms within the government and from a significant part of the population soon stalled the reform efforts. A large number of state-owned enterprises were exempt from the privatization process.

In the meantime, by 1999, the GDP had fallen to less than 40 percent of the 1991 level,but recovered to slightly above the 100 percent mark by the end of 2006.In the early 2000s, the economy showed strong export-based growth of 5 to 10 percent, with industrial production growing more than 10 percent per year.Ukraine was hit by the economic crisis of 2008 and in November 2008, the IMF approved a stand-by loan of $16.5 billion for the country.

The Ukrainian-made Antonov An-225 is the largest aircraft ever built.

Ukraine’s 2007 GDP (PPP), as calculated by the CIA, is ranked 29th in the world and estimated at $359.9 billion.Its GDP per capita in 2008 according to the CIA was $7,800 (in PPP terms), ranked 83rd in the world.Nominal GDP (in U.S. dollars, calculated at market exchange rate) was $198 billion, ranked 41st in the world.By July 2008 the average nominal salary in Ukraine reached 1,930 hryvnias per month.[130] Despite remaining lower than in neighboring central European countries, the salary income growth in 2008 stood at 36.8 percent According to the UNDP in 2003 4.9 percent of the Ukrainian population lived under 2 US dollar a day and 19.5 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line that same year.

Ukrainian administrative divisions by monthly salary

Ukraine produces nearly all types of transportation vehicles and spacecraft. Antonov airplanes and KrAZ trucks are exported to many countries. The majority of Ukrainian exports are marketed to the European Union and CIS.Since independence, Ukraine has maintained its own space agency, the National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU). Ukraine became an active participant in scientific space exploration and remote sensing missions. Between 1991 and 2007, Ukraine has launched six self made satellites and 101 launch vehicles, and continues to design spacecraft.

Dnipropetrovsk’s central business district

The country imports most energy supplies, especially oil and natural gas, and to a large extent depends on Russia as its energy supplier. While 25 percent of the natural gas in Ukraine comes from internal sources, about 35 percent comes from Russia and the remaining 40 percent from Central Asia through transit routes that Russia controls. At the same time, 85 percent of the Russian gas is delivered to Western Europe through Ukraine.

The World Bank classifies Ukraine as a middle-income state.Significant issues include underdeveloped infrastructure and transportation, corruption and bureaucracy. In 2007 the Ukrainian stock market recorded the second highest growth in the world of 130 percent.According to the CIA, in 2006 the market capitalization of the Ukrainian stock market was $111.8 billion.Growing sectors of the Ukrainian economy include the information technology (IT) market, which topped all other Central and Eastern European countries in 2007, growing some 40 percent.

Kiev is home to most of Ukraine’s largest private businesses

Ukraine has a very large heavy-industry base and is one of the largest refiners of metallurgical products in Eastern Europe.However, the country is also well known for its production of high-technological goods and transport products, such as Antonov aircraft and various private and commercial vehicles.The country’s largest and most competitive firms are components of the PFTS index which is traded on the PFTS Ukraine Stock Exchange.

Well known Ukrainian brands include, amongst others, Antonov, Naftogaz Ukrainy, AvtoZAZ, PrivatBank, Roshen, Yuzhmash, Nemiroff, Motor Sich, Khortytsa, Kyivstar, and Aerosvit.

Ukraine is regarded as being a developing economy with high potential for future success, however such a development is thought to be likely only with new all-encompassing economic and legal reforms.Although Foreign Direct Investment in Ukraine has remained relatively strong ever since recession of the early 1990s, the country has had trouble maintaining stable economic growth. Issues relating to current corporate governance in Ukraine are primarily linked to the large scale monopolisation of traditional heavy industries by wealthy individuals such as Rinat Akhmetov, the enduring failure to broaden the nation’s economic base and a lack of effective legal protection for investors and their products.Despite all this, Ukraine’s economy is still expected to grow by around 3.5% in 2010.

Hello world!

Posted on : 01-08-2011 | By : admin | In : Uncategorized

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Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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