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Focus on Ukraine, February 16-22, 2009

February 23, 2009

Overview of political events of the week

February 16

Leader of the Party of Regions faction Viktor Yanukovych is demanding that the parliament urgently review the national budget for the current year.
He stressed that this must be done before the end of the first quarter of 2009 when amendments will be made based on results.
Yanukovych also feels the Verkhovna Rada must review the issue of fulfilling the budget in the regions. Demonstrations in Kyiv organized by employees on the national budget payroll prove the situation has reached critical mass.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, former VR speaker and leader of the Front of Changes party, turned down the position of head of the National Bank of Ukraine offered by the Presidential Secretariat.
Yatsenyuk said anybody involved in politics should not assume responsibility for the country’s monetary and credit system.
The leader of Front of Change feels that such proposals are an attempt on the part of political forces to sideswipe rivals that put forth their ideas and garner a measure of support from citizens.
Recall that on January 26 the Verkhovna Rada dismissed Volodymyr Stelmakh as the governor of the NBU, while a new governor has yet to be appointed.

February 17

The Verkhovna Rada accepted the resignation of Minister of Finance Viktor Pynzenyk. 238 of the 439 deputies registered in the parliamentary session hall voted in favor of this decision.
As a reminder, on February 12 Pynzenyk tendered his resignation as minister of finance. President Viktor Yushchenko describe Pynzenyk’s move as a “civilian act of a person of principle”.
In the president’s opinion, “not a single, even most professional minister is capable of applying their knowledge.”
Among the candidates for the position of minister of finance are Vitaliy Haiduk, Serhiy Tihipko, Ihor Yushko and Petro Poroshenko.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially forewarned Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin that he may be designated a persona non-grata in Ukraine.
According to Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko, “un-diplomatic assessments and harsh criticism of Ukraine and its government” are grounds for such a move".
The minister explained that the ambassador’s actions contradict the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and are not compatible with the status of the head of the diplomatic corps in Ukraine.
Recall that on several occasions Chernomyrdin recently denigrated Ukrainian government officials in the press.

Director of the Employment Center Volodymyr Halytskiy informed that more than 3 million citizens or nearly 9% of the able-bodied population of Ukraine will lose their jobs by the year’s end.
Today, the most impressive sectors for jobs are light industry, construction and transport. There are currently nearly 932,000 unemployed people in Ukraine, though the director of the Employment Center said this figure represents only those that have turned to state employment agencies.
In truth, nearly 1.4 million Ukrainians are currently looking for work.

February 18

Deputy leader of the Party of Regions faction Hanna Herman said the party will demand the resignation of Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko for his words addressed towards Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin.
She said Ohryzko’s statement is tactless and detrimental to Ukrainian-Russian relations.

President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Tomas Miros said the bank will grant nearly US $ 3 billion to Ukraine to help the country develop its energy system and refinance its banks.
Miros said the EBRD wants to support the real sector of Ukraine’s economy. The loans for the energy and energy-saving sectors are intended to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine’s atomic energy stations.
As for the banking system, money will be allocated in accordance with the rules of the EBRD, specifically, directly to those banks that are in need of refinancing.

The parliament of Crimea appealed to the president, premier and speaker of the Ukrainian parliament with a request to refrain from opening a U.S. diplomatic representative office in Simferopol.
In the appeal this decision approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is perceived by the majority of Crimean residents as a provocation.

February 19

The Party of Regions is demanding that the spokesperson of Naftogaz Ukrainy be summoned to the parliament to explain the reason for the widespread cut-off of heating in entire cities.
People’s deputy Oleksandr Yefremov named a number of cities that are still without heating. Among them are Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk and Crimea.

February 20

President Viktor Yushchenko said at a convention of the Association of Ukrainian Cities that the IMF did not grant Ukraine the second tranche of the promised loan for the government’s failure to make amendments to the national budget.
Without amendments to the budget and anti-crisis measures, Ukraine will not be able to cooperate with international financial organizations.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged Ukraine to conduct reform of its army in order for the country to join the Alliance. He stated this in Krakow after a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission within the framework of meetings of NATO defense ministers. Scheffer said the Alliance is prepared to assist Ukraine in implementing reform of its defense and security sphere as a prerequisite for integration into NATO.
At the same time, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates underscored that the strengthening of relations between Ukraine and NATO will depend on the unity of the Ukrainian government.


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