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Focus on Ukraine, February 2 – 8, 2009

February 9, 2009

Overview of political events of the week

February 2

The 4th session of the Verkhovna Rada will open on February 3. The deputies set the agenda of top priority issues to be raised at a meeting of the conciliatory council of the leaders of parliamentary factions.
The main issue is staff changes in the government. After the formation of the new coalition there was no redistribution of ministerial positions in the Cabinet of Ministers. So far, there are no representatives of the Lytvyn Bloc in the Cabinet.
Besides that, the parliamentary majority wants to have influence over the position of the head of the SBU, which is why it must propose a bill for consideration by the parliament that envisages the right of the VR to appoint an acting director of the SBU should the president fail to nominate a candidate for this position.

February 3

Representatives of the Party of Regions blocked the rostrum of the parliament at the opening of its 4th session demanding reports from the president, the premier, the governor of the NBU and local governors.
VR Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn closed the 3rd session and opened the 4th session of the parliament under such circumstances.
Premier Yulia Tymoshenko said at the opening of the session of the Verkhovna Rada accompanied by members of the government and the heads of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court said she does not object to reporting to the parliament.
Despite this, members of the Party of Regions refused to hear out the reports of the government and demanded that the premier show up in the parliament on Thursday.
Leader of the Party of Regions faction Viktor Yanukovych said the president and oblast governors must be present in the VR session hall in order to express their point of view concerning the economic situation in the country.

UN International Court recognizes Zmiyniy Island. Such was the conclusion of the UN International Court in The Hague concerning the dispute between Ukraine and Romania over the island and the rightful owner of the Black Sea shelf.
The court drew the line of the shelf’s demarcation and the economic zones of Ukraine and Romania. The first reaction of the two parties was positive. Bucharest says the court satisfied almost 80% of the demands of Romania. Ukrainian diplomats also assure that Ukraine received more than it had anticipated.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine promises to soon publish a detailed report on the ruling of the court in The Hague.
As a reminder, this case has been under review of the international court for the past five years. More than 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas and more than 10 million tonnes of oil were discovered on the continental shelf that Kyiv and Bucharest could not divvy up.
Romania was the first to file a claim demanding that the line of the maritime border be demarcated lower to the southern part of the Black Sea.
Ukraine, on the other hand, felt the border should run more westward as the Zmiyniy Island gives it additional territorial waters.
In the end, the court’s ruling was a compromise.

February 4

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated that the ruling of the UN International Court concerning the demarcation of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones in the Black Sea favor the Romanian side.
The line of demarcation in the Blacks Sea between Ukraine and Romania is practically the same as that which the Soviet Union earlier proposed to Romania. At the same time, diplomats say Ukraine inherited the majority of explored oil and gas deposits in the controversial parts of the Black Sea.

Presidential Chief-of-staff Iryna Vannikova said the president will not report on his activity to the parliament. Instead, the head of state reminded that in compliance with the Constitution the government and the Verkhovna Rada are responsible for the economic situation in the country.
As the chief of staff informed, the president is prepared to give his annual address on the internal and external state of affairs of Ukraine in lieu of the report.
The Party of Regions is demanding that the president and the premier report to the parliament.

February 5

The Verkhovna Rada heard out the report of Premier Yulia Tymoshenko. She said the global economic crisis did not bypass Ukraine and dealt a serious blow to its domestic economy. However, the premier said this did not hamper the successful fulfilment of the budget in January (101%).
As the premier informed, pensions are being paid out on time, wages will be increased over the course of the year, a stabilization fund has been established and the statutory capital of state-run banks has been increased.
Tymoshenko expressed her hope that her report will stimulate the consolidation of the government and the parliament.
In addition to that, the premier promised that the government would be reformatted and new members of the coalition will be hired if the parliamentarians do not dismiss the Cabinet.

The Verkhovna Rada did not support the resolution of no-confidence in the government of Yulia Tymoshenko within the framework of reviewing the socio-economic situation in the country and the anti-crisis actions of the government.
Only 203 of the required 226 deputies voted in favor of this initiative put forth by the leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych (172 – Party of Regions, 1 – YTB, 10 – OU-PSD, 20 – CPU).
As a reminder, this was the second attempt at expressing no-confidence in the government. The first time only 174 deputies voted in favor of this decision.
After the unsuccessful attempt to sack the government the Party of Regions announced that it will try to immobilize the parliament.
The Party of Regions can muster some 150 votes for holding early elections. The party plans to adopt a final decision on this matter in March.

February 6

The Verkhovna Rada did not approve the report of the ad hoc committee chaired by Party of Regions member Inna Bohoslovska, which investigated the signing of gas agreements between Ukraine and Russia.
The committee concluded that the Ukrainian side is to blame for the disruption in talks with Russia concerning the supply and transit of Russian gas.
Speaking on the committee’s conclusions Bohoslovska informed that the Ukrainian government was unprofessional and provoked a conflict. The deputies refused to submit the report to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

February 7

Premier Yulia Tymoshenko proposed Europe to unify the system of setting the prices of gas and its transit.
As UNIAN informed, the premier announced this today in her address at the International Conference on Security Issues in Munich.
Tymoshenko noted that the latest gas crisis demonstrated the absence of a unified European energy policy. Besides that, the premier expressed her hope that after the latest gas conflict the issue of diversification of gas supply systems will be more actively resolved.
The premier noted that the construction of new gas pipelines should not be done on the principle of bypassing a certain country, but simply to increase the volumes of gas transit. Tymoshenko underscored that Ukraine was and remains a reliable transit country.


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