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  • Evaluating Ukraine: How Many Medals Can Ukraine Expect at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games
    VOXUKRAINE January 13, 2016

    Strategy 2020 includes a lot of ambitious goals. Among them winning 35 medals at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Japan. Increases like Ukraine hopes to achieve are unlikely but not impossible. Home advantage, investments and even size of GDP increase the medal count.

    At the beginning of 2015, the Ukrainian president approved the Strategy 2020 program, a strategy which includes 25 key performance indicators (KPI) which can be used to assess Ukraine’s progress in implementing the strategy program. In a series of upcoming posts we will evaluate how likely it is that Ukraine will reach some of these KPIs by 2020 [1]. The first KPI we will evaluate is ‘winning 35 medals at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Japan’.
    Ambitious plans

    Looking at Ukraine’s performance in the Summer Olympics so far, one can observe that Ukraine’s medal count varies around 24 medals, with a high of 27 medals in 2008 and a low of 20 medals in 2012.

    Fig. 1. Ukraine’s medal count over the years
    http://voxukraine.org/wp-content/upl...-1-768x457.png
    Similarly, the share of Ukraine in the total medal counts varies around 2.5%.

    Fig. 2. Ukraine’s medal share over the years (in percentages)
    http://voxukraine.org/wp-content/upl...-1-768x458.png
    The goal of Ukraine to reach 35 medals in 2020 thus means Ukraine wants to increase its medal count by 15 medals and its medal share by 1.5 percentage points as compared to the most recent Olympics, the 2012 Olympic Games in the UK.

    Progress so far

    The next Olympic Games are only in 2016 so it is hard to measure progress so far. Still, the forecast for the 2016 Olympic Games by Infostrada Sports shows again 20 medals for Ukraine. The same number is predicted by Luciano Barro, former sports managing director of the Italian National Olympic Committee. Finally, Noland and Stahler (2015) predict Ukraine will drop from place 11 (2012) to place 14 in the 2016 medal count. These forecasts, most likely, have been made before the announcement of the Ukraine’s goal to reach 35 medals, however.

    Is it likely that Ukraine will reach this goal?

    There are several ways to evaluate how likely it is Ukraine will reach this goal. First, we can do an evaluation based on Ukraine’s historical performance. From the graph above, one can see that in the past Ukraine increased at most 7 medals over a period of 8 years (from 20 in 2000 to 27 in 2008). Hence, based on its own past performance, an increase by 15 medals seems, to put it mildly, rather ambitious.

    Second, we can do an evaluation based on a comparison with other countries. If one looks at 8 year periods since 1996 [2] (i.e. 2004 versus 1996, 2008 versus 2000 and 2012 versus 2004), one can see that out of the about 200 countries participating, only 4 countries increased their tally by at least 15 medals, the UK (organizers in 2012), China (organizer in 2008), Russia and Japan. 4 out of 201 makes 2%, a low likelihood indeed. If one looks at 4 year periods, also Australia (organizer in 2000) succeeded in such increase. Looking over 12 year periods, however, only China, the UK and Russia succeeded in such increase suggesting that a 15 medal increase is not only exceptional, but also hard to sustain.

    Of course, one could argue one should compare Ukraine to its peer group rather than to all participating countries. This peer group could consist of similar countries in terms of wealth, population size or even goals set. To do this, one can use regression analysis. Regression analysis allows to compute a country’s potential, where potential is defined as the number of medals a country can expect given certain parameters like its population, wealth, and other variables that potentially can influence a country’s medal count. The papers mentioned above use regression analysis and do not predict a huge increase for Ukraine [3].

    Moreover, from looking at past statistical predictions of medal counts, Ukraine typically gets more or less the number of medals these statistical models predict. The Wall Street Journal forecasted Ukraine to get 19 medals in 2012, while Ukraine got 20. A model by researchers from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany predicted more medals in 2012 (28 versus 20) suggesting Ukraine underperformed there but their model also suggested Ukraine over-performed in 2004 and 2008. Hence, the overall picture we get suggests that Ukraine more or less gets the medals it can expect to get, given its characteristics.

    Based on the three different ways to evaluate Ukraine’s Olympic performance, we would conclude that past data suggest that Ukraine is unlikely to gain 35 medals in the Olympic Games of 2020 in Japan.
    Is it possible for Ukraine to reach this goal?

    Yes, of course. Increases like Ukraine hopes to achieve are unlikely but not impossible. As shown above, some countries have achieved this level of progress.

    Having the Games in one’s country substantially increases the medal count: the UK, China and Australia benefited from this home advantage and are among the countries making the kind of progress Ukraine wants to achieve. The advantage of organizing the Games might well be temporary, however: Greece, organizer in 2004, lost 14 medals by 2012.

    For the UK, not only the home advantage effect played a role. The UK increased its medal count from 30 in 2004 to 47 in 2008 to 65 in 2012, because they substantially increased funding for Olympic sports many years before the organization of the 2012 Games, starting as far as 1994. Hence a sustainable progress in the medal count requires both a lot of money (organizing the games is expensive) and a long time horizon.

    As far as Ukraine is concerned, Ukraine’s budgetary situation is unlikely to allow the kind of investments in sports needed to replicate the success of the UK or China. Moreover, Ukraine has probably bigger needs to spend money on than on Olympic medals. That being said, a regression analysis by Bernard and Busse (2004) suggests that if a country doubles its GDP, it could expect its medal share to increase by 1 to 1.5 percentage points. Interestingly, another Strategy 2020 goal for Ukraine is to double GDP per capita by 2020. So if Ukraine succeeds in that ambitious goal (obviously, doubling a country’s GDP in 8 year is rare too), it also might well reach its medal goal.

    Finally, there are of course a number of cheap ways to improve one’s medal count: some of China’s progress is sometimes credited to doping or strategically choosing sports to excel in. Other countries have ‘imported’ Olympic athletes, by granting citizenship to high-performers. We can only hope Ukraine does not intend to resort to those practices, however.
    Is this measure the best way to stimulate national pride?

    Assuming Ukraine should try to ‘stimulate national pride’ (something which is debatable in itself), could there be easier or better ways to achieve the Strategy 2020 goal of increasing national pride, something the increased medal count is assumed to achieve?

    To quote from the strategy:

    ’At the 2020 Olympiad Ukraine will win 35 medals. To attain this goal the country will systemically invest in the development of sports during the upcoming years, thus enabling our athletes to demonstrate best possible scores and become the symbols of the new nation.‘

    Choosing Olympics does not seem to be the best sport to achieve this goal. First, the marginal value of an extra medal for national pride is likely to be small – whether Ukraine wins 35 rather than 25 medals probably does not make that much of a difference – as long as a somewhat bigger number of medals will be won, the Ukraine press is likely to report a success. In this sense, doing as good as in 2008 (27 medals) might be a more reasonable target.

    Second, the Olympics only happen once every 4 year and many Olympic sports are followed by only a small number of dedicated fans. Hence, if one really wants to spend money on sports, one might well be better off by investing scarce resources in stimulating young boys and, especially, girls to play football. Not only will this increase the health situation in Ukraine, but any success in becoming better at football will increase national pride much more regularly than once every 4 year. International soccer matches featuring Ukraine’s national team, Ukraine’s soccer clubs or Ukrainian players take place almost every month and hence can be an almost continuous source of national pride for a vast number of Ukrainians.

    Notes

    [1] An early appreciation of this strategy document can be found here – Presentation of Strategy-2020 for Ukraine. Impressions and reflections – VoxUkraine

    [2] 1996 is the year in which independent Ukraine first participated in the Summer Olympic Games.

    [3] In fact, simply regressing the medal count at a given Olympic Games on the medal count at the previous Olympic Games shows that about 95% of variation in the medal count can be explained by the results of the previous Olympic Games. That is, in general, medal counts tend to be very stable over time.
    Evaluating Ukraine: How Many Medals Can Ukraine Expect at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games – VoxUkraine

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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    • Putin ends Russian German hopes for full rehabilitation
      EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/02/02

      Although in the case of occupied Crimea, Vladimir Putin has talked about the need for the full rehabilitation of the peoples of that peninsula who suffered under Soviet rule, the Kremlin leader on Sunday quietly took a step that deprives the ethnic Germans of the Russian Federation of their hopes that they will ever get such treatment.

      On the one hand, the timing of this action is a reflection of deteriorating relations between Moscow and Berlin. But on the other, it is completely consistent with Putin’s actions if not his words about non-Russian minorities and about respecting their rights regardless of the Russian Constitution or measures adopted under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

      What has happened, the Nazaccent.ru portal reports, is that “Vladimir Putin has finally deprived the Russian Germans of the right to the restoration of statehood inside the Russian Federation. On January 31 [he] introduced changes” in Yeltsin’s February 1992 decree about that right.

      Putin excluded the words in the Yeltsin decree about the restoration of statehood “as one of the means of the rehabilitation of the people. In another paragraph, ‘the restoration of statehood’ was replaced by ‘the social-economic and ethno-cultural development of the Russian Germans.”

      In addition, by his actions, Putin “changed the name of the inter-governmental commission overseeing Russian German issues. It had been called “the Russian-German Commission for the Preparation of a Joint Program of Measures for Securing the Gradual Restoration of the Statehood of Russian Germans.”

      Now that body will be called “the Russian-German Commission for Russian German Issues.”

      Between 1918 and 1941, the Russian Germans had their own ethnic autonomy. But on August 28, 1941, following Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, Stalin disbanded that political entity, accused the roughly 400,000 ethnic Germans of being spies and diversionists, and deported them en masse as forced labor to the Urals, Kazakhstan, and Siberia.

      As part of Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign, Moscow on August 28, 1964, declared that the charges against the Russian Germans were without foundation and thus “rehabilitated them.” But a few weeks later, Khrushchev was overthrown and the Russian Germans had to wait until the end of the Soviet Union to renew their quest for justice.

      In February 1992, many of them – who then numbered approximately as many as had been deported 51 years earlier – believed they were close to achieving their goal with Yeltsin’s decree. But they made little progress in the intervening years, and now Putin has slammed the door to progress, at least as long as he is in office. Putin ends Russian German hopes for full rehabilitation -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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      • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Anders Åslund February 1, 2016
        Putin Gets It Wrong Again: Eurasian Economic Union Hurts Russia

        In June 2009, Vladimir Putin unexpectedly launched the idea of a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Soon it was named the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). In September 2013, Armenia agreed to join, and Kyrgyzstan joined in 2015.

        This is a Russian initiative, dominated by Russia in all regards. Its secretariat is located in Moscow. Yet this organization does not appear to benefit Russia's interests.

        The EEU mimics the European Union (EU), but it is very different. Its declared purpose is economic integration—that is, freer trade—but its proclaimed customs union is not even a free-trade area. Plenty of agricultural goods are blocked from entry into Russia because of Russian sanitary regulations (which seem mainly inspired by certain Russian agricultural producers), and Russian consumers do not benefit from cheaper food. Kazakh officials complain bitterly that they are not allowed to transport oil or gas through Gazprom or Transneft's state-owned pipelines. Import tariffs have been harmonized, but not export tariffs.

        In order to become more competitive, economies need to open up to competition from the outside world. The EEU has done the opposite. As the dominant power, Russia forced the other countries to raise their tariffs to the higher Russian level. Kazakhstan produces no cars, but it has been compelled to hike its car tariffs to Russia's level, so that the Kazakh middle class now pays more for cars produced in Russia than for the South Korean or Japanese cars they previously bought. Russia has gained captive markets, but its competitiveness will ultimately be hurt.

        Even if the EEU was an open market, its members would not necessarily benefit. It is small—only 1.6 percent of global GDP at the current exchange rate, less than one-tenth that of the EU. Its members are too different in terms of economic development and structure for it to make sense as a customs union. Econometric calculations suggest that the EEU causes more trade diversion than trade generation; that is, it reduces the common value added.

        The eleven Eastern European countries that have joined the European Union have benefitted greatly from adopting EU rules and standards, which have modernized their administrations and legislation. The EEU, on the contrary, has reinforced obsolete Soviet standards through an intergovernmental treaty that impedes modernization.

        European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed closer ties between the EU and the EEU. The Kremlin responded instantly that his proposal was unrealistic. That was probably true: the EU and the EEU are not likely to be compatible partners. While the EU is a truly multilateral organization, Russia dominates the EEU completely. Usually Putin makes its main decisions impulsively, such as admitting Armenia or imposing trade sanctions against Ukraine or Turkey, without even mentioning it to the other EEU leaders. This treatment of its closest allies is damaging its relations with them. Belarus and Kazakhstan firmly oppose trade sanctions against Ukraine and Turkey. Kazakhstan has insisted on the EEU being purely economic and not political, vetoing Russian attempts to rename it the Eurasian Union.

        Because of the EEU, Russia has been unable to benefit from the trade liberalization that its 2012 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) should have catalyzed. Hence, the EEU is blocking Russia's external economic integration, which is far more important to the country than anything the EEU could produce. Moreover, the creation of the EEU delayed Russia's entry into the WTO by about two years, and Kazakhstan's by roughly four years.

        On top of everything, the EEU substantially costs the Russian treasury. Belarus has extracted implicit subsidies of up to $10 billion a year from Russia, primarily of cheap oil and natural gas, which are to a considerable extent conditioned on the EEU. Armenia accepted the invitation to join the EEU when Russia promised it similarly low gas prices. Russia had to commit to various investment projects to persuade Kyrgyzstan to join, and has agreed to give up a disproportionate share of common custom revenues to other EEU members.

        The EEU isolates the country from the rest of the world, prevents Russia's economy from modernizing, and aggravates relations with its closest neighbors, while costing billions of dollars every year. In Russia's national interest, such a harmful policy should be ended.

        Russia has a better alternative: the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Free Trade Agreement of October 2011. Nine countries have signed it, and since eight countries, including Ukraine, have ratified it, it is formally in force. It is based on the principles of the WTO and would generate rather than divert trade. It would allow the present EEU members to develop bilateral cooperation with the EU to mutual benefit, rather than fencing themselves off from the EU.

        But unsurprisingly, Putin has gotten it wrong once again. Just before the new year, he signed into law the suspension of Ukraine from the CIS Free Trade Agreement that the Federation Council adopted on December 25 (excluding Russia's gas exports to Ukraine, as Gazprom is becoming desperate to sell), failing to realize that he is not legally entitled to do so without the agreement of Russia's EEU partners, who refused to join in this sudden action against Ukraine.

        The Eurasian Economic Union has been tried. It does not work. Russia and all the other EEU members would be better off without it.
        Putin Gets It Wrong Again: Eurasian Economic Union Hurts Russia

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        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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        • The missing: what have they done with our sons?

          To lose a child in war is a nightmare. But when your quest to find them is met with lies, it’s a nightmare that never ends. Lily Hyde travels with the Ukrainian mothers seeking their sons
          THE GUARDIAN Lily Hyde 3 February 2016 01.00 EST
          ---------------------------------------------------
          In the early evening of 28 August 2014, Andrey Lozinsky phoned his mother.

          Andrey, a 21-year-old conscript in the Ukrainian army’s 93rd Mechanised Brigade, was calling from just outside the eastern town of Ilovaisk, where Ukrainian forces were fighting to reclaim territory taken by pro-Russian insurgents. His mother, Yadviga, was at her office in Dnipropetrovsk, 350km to the west. The conversation was short: in the background, Yadviga heard another soldier say “They’ll get a fix on us,” and she cut off the call almost immediately. Everyone knew mobile phone calls at the frontline could give away a position to the enemy.

          “If I’d known what the situation really was, I would have asked him more,” she told me 10 months later. But in their brief call, Andrey had time to tell her, as he always did, that everything was fine.

          Earlier that day, another soldier in the 93rd Mechanised Brigade called home from the front lines. Artyom Kalyberda spoke to his mother, Svetlana, and his sister Lena. Everything was not fine – he told his sister that Ukrainian forces around Ilovaisk were completely surrounded. “We’ve had nothing to eat for three days. We’re supposed to break out tomorrow. I don’t know what to do.” Artyom was 24, but he was still Lena’s little brother. Breaking out of the rows of encirclement sounded like madness. “Stay where you are,” she begged him.

          The next morning, 29 August, brought another baking end-of-summer day in eastern Ukraine: the maize past ready for harvesting in the great, flat fields; the sunflowers drooping their withered heads. The war was four months old. Officially it was – and still is – not a war but an anti-terrorist operation, intended to suppress a Russian-fomented separatist uprising that had taken control of much of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. By late August, Ukrainian armed forces had been boosted by two waves of conscripts, many of them dispatched to the area around Ilovaisk.

          At 9am on 29 August, the Ukrainian soldiers began to retreat, having been promised safe passage out of their entrapment through a “green corridor” that was agreed upon in the early hours of the morning. There is still no definite consensus about what happened next. As Yadviga and Svetlana waited through that long hot day with increasing panic, news began to arrive from Ilovaisk, which had become the scene of the worst military disaster in the history of modern Ukraine.

          It took 12 months for a Ukrainian parliamentary commission to produce a report that declared that separatist and Russian army units had reneged on the agreement. The commission’s casualty figures, released in August 2015, were 366 Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer fighters killed, 429 wounded, 128 taken prisoner, and 158 missing in action.

          Andrey Lozinsky and Artyom Kalyberda, who were in the same GAZ-66 military lorry in the retreating convoy, were among those 158 missing in action. Over the next year, Yadviga and Svetlana worked tirelessly to determine what happened to their sons, along with other missing men of the 93rd. In the face of official indifference and incompetence, the two women became close friends at the centre of a network of mothers, wives, and daughters battling to find out the truth.

          “If everything had been all right, we would never have met each other. But as it was, thank God we did,” Svetlana Kalyberda told me. It was almost a year since she and Yadviga had heard their sons’ voices. In all that time, Ukrainian authorities had not decided who should be responsible for investigating the fate of their children: the police, the military prosecutor, or the security service (SBU).

          No centralised database of missing troops had been established. The SBU published one list, the Ministry of Internal Affairs another. Both set up a hotline for families of missing soldiers, but if relatives managed to get an answer from one, they were often just told to call the other. Soldiers who had been buried by their families remained listed as missing in action months later, others who were still actually missing ended up on memorial plaques for the dead. One soldier who went missing in August 2014 was sent his call-up papers in May 2015.

          “It has just been searching, suffering, promises, excuses, evasions,” Svetlana said. “And, I think, there’s maybe some unspoken order not to reveal what really happened, because anything we parents have found out, we have found out by ourselves.”

          “I thought it wasn’t my war,” Yadviga told me. “But it came into my home uninvited and became mine.” Yadviga was a tall, strong-minded woman, used to making her own decisions. If the state would not find her son, then she would.

          After years of corruption, a revolution in 2014 and the subsequent armed conflict, the Ukrainian state was unable or unwilling to fulfil some of its basic duties. Over the last year, Yadviga’s search had involved her in a massive volunteer movement that did everything from supplying the armed forces with boots and bulletproof vests to negotiating prisoner exchanges and recovering the dead. She had given much of Andrey’s salary – still being paid to relatives of missing soldiers in the 93rd, thanks to lobbying by families – to help treat the wounded or bury those who had been killed. In a military hospital she had met Sergey, an army instructor. Perhaps some day they would get married.

          But not yet. Yadviga was unable to move forward from her present nightmare. She had been thrown into a bewildering, all-consuming search for a son who was officially neither alive nor dead, in a war that is not officially a war. “To be an unknown soldier in the 21st century is simply impossible,” she said. “Either Andrey comes back, or I’ll have to bury him.”

          Andrey’s father had died in 2012. Andrey was called up in April 2014. There was little sign of Andrey in the cramped one-room flat he had shared all his life with his parents. His girlfriend Lera had taken his aftershave, to remind her of him. The computer where he played games into the small hours, keeping his exasperated mother awake, was half hidden by a mound of papers. Above it his framed photograph looked down, unsmiling, in his marine’s uniform, his head tilted back, giving him the haughty air that Yadviga shared.

          The photograph was surrounded by scale models of aeroplanes. They belonged not to Andrey but to his mother. Before her only son was born, Yadviga had worked in an institute developing planes and rockets. She had hoped to become a fighter pilot, but few Soviet girls achieved such dreams. When doctors informed her that she was expecting a girl, she corrected them: it would be a boy and he would grow up to be an astronaut. “I wanted to make him extraordinary,” she told me.

          In early September 2014, Yadviga began to search through photographs of corpses, looking for her boy. Shortly after the Ilovaisk disaster, nearly 300 bodies had been brought in ambulances or open trucks to be unloaded at morgues in Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk, the two government-controlled cities nearest to Ilovaisk.

          Some of the bodies were almost undamaged. Others were swollen like balloons. Many were in pieces. Nothing had prepared staff to deal with such an influx of the dead, or their desperate relatives. When the Kalyberda family arrived in Dnipropetrovsk to look for Artyom, they were initially sent to the wrong morgue. Relatives from further afield slept at the railway station. No one had thought to arrange accommodation for them.

          Ukraine had not been ready for armed conflict, and the Ilovaisk disaster revealed the inadequacy of its military and forensic identification systems. Following a long Soviet tradition, soldiers had been sent to the front without dogtags. There was no centralised database of medical records to aid identification in case of death. Unidentified bodies were assigned a number and buried in cemeteries where hundreds of unknown soldiers from the conflict have been interred.

          The war in eastern Ukraine – fought primarily with Soviet-era artillery, such as Grad rockets – is particularly brutal. In 40% of combat deaths, the entire body is destroyed, according to Olha Bohomolets, a doctor and adviser for humanitarian affairs to the Ukrainian president.

          “In 12 years work I thought I’d seen a lot of bodily damage,” Andrey Golubovich, the acting director of the Zaporizhia region medical legal bureau, told me. “But when I saw the result of a Grad bombardment, I realised I’d seen nothing.” He held out a palm cupped round an invisible handful. “Sometimes just 150g left from a body.”

          Where possible, morgue workers recorded postmortem data: height, body shape, hair colour and length, teeth, distinguishing marks, clothing and personal items. The men were robbed of individuality; the majority of the descriptions read simply: male aged 25-35.

          “They’re practically all dressed the same, they’re all young, tall, handsome boys,” forensic expert Olena Yaschenko said when I visited the Zaporizhia morgue last summer. She told me how hard it was to explain to relatives the effects of death on the human body. Staff showed me the form for postmortem data, which included a rough diagram to mark dental details. They had developed the form themselves. In the dingy forensics department, where pieces of scalp and bone lay in mismatching plastic trays, Yaschenko said: “Sometimes I look back and think we should have done better. I can’t believe what we did.”

          continue read: The missing: what have they done with our sons? | Lily Hyde | World news | The Guardian

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          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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          • Games of populists
            03.02.2016 UNIAN Tatiana Urbanskaya
            ------------------------------------
            The MPs have been mulling the issue of “kamikaze” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s dismissal for quite some time. No one seems to be happy with his performance, but no one can name a potential nominee of Yatsenyuk’s potential successor. Actually, this was the reason while we didn’t witness the expected dismissal after the Cabinet’s informal report late 2015..

            The new year marked a new round of the struggle “for reform,” but rather for the chairs in the executive branch and the cash flows, respectively. During the first plenary week, the Verkhovna Rada mired in political bargaining, ultimately striking a deal that the Cabinet will submit its report to Parliament before February 5. The thing is that on December 11, 2015, the “report” of the Government can’t be named as such, according to Rada Speaker Volodymyr Hroisman: "It was the government's information. And now we come to the Government report the way the law stipulates it,” he said.

            The pro-presidential BPP faction claims that it’s not about getting a basis for expressing non-confidence in the Government. "We just want to separate the black and the white sheep in the Cabinet’s herd. Those who can continue to fulfill their functions for the implementation of the coalition agreement, imposed by parliament, will remain on posts; while those who appeared to be unable to work or those who personally wrote the letters of resignation must go," said faction leader Yuriy Lutsenko, adding that "we are not talking about war with the prime minister," but about the need to assess the work of the Cabinet in the past year.

            Whether it’s war or just a drill maneuvers, the Cabinet report has been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada. For preliminary consideration. Then, the Cabinet will address the Rada on February 5.

            Ukraine's political elite seems to have totally floated away from reality. Putting the word “reform” on an indefinite loop, which has long become annoying, the authorities stepped on a quicksand of “reformatting” the Coalition and the Cabinet.

            The expendables
            While the government is preparing to come into the spotlight, the pro-presidential faction on Monday decided to discuss the dismissal of the prime minister anyway (according to the BPP deputies, they have enough votes in parliament to pass the motion) and the possibility of appointing a technical prime minister (as there are no candidates for this position, as mentioned above, and not enough votes for its approval). In addition, complete reformatting of the Cabinet was discussed, with the eternal "kamikaze" remaining in office.

            The faction also approved a list of potential candidates for moving to the executive branch.

            "They are not candidates for ministerial posts... These are the candidates to be discussed within the coalition," Yuriy Lutsenko said during the faction meeting.

            Anyway, the list has caused a public outcry. Yevhen Nishchuk nominated for Minister of Culture caused the least discussions, as he has already held this chair in one of the former compositions of Yatsenyuk’s "kamikaze government," with some success. Nomination of Oleksiy Honcharenko for Health Minister was a real information blast, resulting in heated popular reaction. That is because the faction’s youngest MP (earlier, a deputy of pro-Yanukovych Party of Regions) has nothing to do with health care despite all his possible "talents."

            A whirlpool of public outrage in relation to the "list" forced the faction to find excuses. "The faction has taken no decisions on the nomination of certain individuals from the BPP for ministerial posts, neither has the faction taken decisions on the dismissal of certain ministers... Public reaction indicates that yesterday's discussion was superficial and frivolous... Once again, I am asking my colleagues to consider that we are not talking about employment, it’s about enhancing the Cabinet’s capacity," Lutsenko wrote on Facebook.

            Thus, the leader of the BPP only confirmed speculation that this whole story with a list of candidates for positions in the Cabinet is “probing the soil,” while the candidates themselves are just expandables in yet another bargaining.

            "Preparations for the Cabinet report in the Verkhovna Rada is not intended to reformat the composition of the government," said political strategist, a director of Berta Communications Taras Berezovets.

            According to him, neither it’s about the dismissal of Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Besides, the "list" of candidates was most likely not agreed wth the President’s Administration and may be fully revised. "Out of all the candidates mentioned, only Vitaly Kovalchuk has chances to be submitted as nominee," he said.

            Director of the Ukrainian Barometer sociological service Viktor Nebozhenko agrees, saying that the BPP intends to introduce Kovalchuk to the government as an expert in "major political intrigue and conflict." "If the parliament and the prime minister allow Vitaly Kovalchuk to become first deputy prime minister, it will be possible to say that both the Presidential Administration and President Poroshenko himself chose to walk in the footsteps of Yushchenko instead of a direct conflict with the prime minister... In order to wear Yatsenyuk down in heavy tactical battles by May," he said.

            This is necessary, including in the context of possible early elections in the autumn.

            The Cabinet with or without Yatsenyuk
            By the way, the other coalition factions have not yet put forward their nominees to the Cabinet, although they have been talking about it for weeks. Moreover, it seems that the coalition members have not decided what they actually want: the change the entire structure of the government along with the dismissal of the prime minister, or a change of individual ministers with Yatsenyuk retaining his post, but also (with a high probability) with "strengthening" of the government with the President’s confidants. For example, the BPP and the Popular Front both shift toward the second option. "The idea of reformatting the government is not new. Back in autumn, the prime minister has already called on coalition factions to submit their nominations for the vacant positions in the government. I think this is one of the main issues that the coalition must resolve in the nearest future," said Maksym Burbak, the leader of the Popular Front faction.

            According to him, “weak” ministers must be replaced, while the vacancies must be filled.

            The fact that the pro-presidential faction agrees with this approach is rather strange. Criticizing in the recent past the inefficiency of the prime minister and collecting signatures in the Rada for his dismissal, the faction is now preparing to send its "best people" under Yatsenyuk’s rule on the other… In other words, if the team fails to do its work, the leader is also responsible. And if the team leaves, the leader can’t remain on post.

            At the same time, the BPP can’t fail to understand that the resignation of the prime minister, together with the Cabinet, in the absence of nominees for replacement and the votes for such candidates in the Verkhovna Rada will leave all the defendants in the government, but with the "Acting" note. International financial institutions, including the IMF, from which Ukraine expects to receive the next tranche this spring, will most likely not entrust the distribution of financial flows to the "acting" ministers. Even if they are renowned legionaries and technocrats.

            Other members of the coalition - the Batkivshchyna faction and the Samopomich favor the first option. "It is impossible to replace several ministers and retaing the rest of the government. This government leads the country to a collapse," said Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

            “The Samopomich faction decided that we express non-confidence in the government, we demand its full dismissal, including the resignation of the prime minister," said Samopomich MP Tatiana Ostrikova.

            The MP added that otherwise, the fraction can withdraw from coalition. "The question of quitting the coalition if the government is not completely reformatted, will be dealt with separately, depending on whether and how we are represented in this government," she said.

            It’s not the first day the faction has been voicing such threats. Considering the latest statements, the recent recall of earlier nominated Agrarian Minister Oleksiy Pavlenko (in general, one of the most effective members of the present Cabinet) looks completely illogical. However, rumor has it that Samopomich asks for three ministerial positions in exchange for continuing with the teamwork. Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party is reportedly ready to return to the coalition in exchange for the same amount of Cabinet seats, although such a return seems unlikely.

            Hybrid coalition war>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
            Games of populists : UNIAN news

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            • Putin, trapped between war and revolution, will choose war, Ikhlov says
              EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/02/03

              There are two possibilities in Russia today: either Vladimir Putin is in control of events or he is their prisoner, trapped between war and revolution. As bad as the first would be, the way the world has gone to war in the past suggests the second may be even worse. Tragically, that is the situation Putin has put himself in now, Yevgeny Ikhlov says.

              As history shows, the Moscow commentator says, “wars do not always begin with carefully prepared strikes.” They often happen because leaders have acted in ways that reduce their room for maneuver and leave them with no obvious or at least acceptable option but to go to war.

              That is exactly where the German general staff in the run up to 1914; and it is exactly the same one Putin is in now, “irreversibly sliding toward war because [the Kremlin leader] has consistently blocked all possibilities” for changing course that do not appear to him to be a worse option for himself.

              Putin’s first move toward a situation in which he would be confronted with a choice between war and revolution in fact occurred when he made war on the oligarchs and the bureaucracy and promoted “paternalistic” ideas about his rule which allowing “unprecedented growth of social stratification,” Ikhlov says.

              “The gap between the social divide, the expropriation of independent business by the Putin ‘oprichniki,’ the elimination of competitive politics on the one side and Bonapartist (in the spirit of Napoleon III, of course) and of demagogically constructed Putinism inevitably had to become the start of a major social-political split,” he continues.

              This split was very much in evidence in the demonstrations of December 2011, demonstrations that made a war in Ukraine an attractive option. But that war had the effect of prompting the West to declare “a second Cold War,” something that began small but has expanded over time.

              To descend the Donbas into chaos, Putin chose “crypto-intervention.” That and the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner made everything worse, the Moscow commentator says, and the Second Cold War was unleashed in earnest. The collapse of oil prices and sanctions forced Putin to play on xenophobia.

              But it also put in him a position where the only way he could get out of one war “was through another, the air blitzkrieg in Syria,” Ikhlov says. But the logic of that attack which involved Russia in a conflict without any “rational goals” led to confrontation with Turkey. And that too has followed its own “unfolding logic.”

              Putin can’t retreat in Syria without having his entire foreign policy called into question, something that could destroy his regime at home. If he could make domestic reforms, that might save him. “But when reforms replace foreign policy adventurism and then there follows collapse and defeat, it is difficult to imagine a better detonator for a revolution.”

              The Kremlin leader could compensate for a retreat in Syria by an escalation on the Ukrainian front – scrapping Minsk 2, recognizing the “DNR” and “LNR,” and “openly introducing forces there, as was done in Georgia in 2008. But that would have real and dangerous consequences, Ikhlov says.

              “It would convert Russia into “an outcast” and lead to “the appearance in Ukraine of American soldiers sent their by the next president of the US. And it is far from certain that such a foreign policy sharpening would prevent the growth of dissatisfaction within the country” because none of its domestic ills are being addressed.

              What will Putin do in this situation? He has “never decided to shift finally to the model of a besieged fortress,” as some of his advisors want “because it would involve not only the purge of a ‘fifth’ and ‘sixth’ ‘column’ but also the nationalization of the oligarchy, a forced credit amnesty and other left of center measures.”

              According to Ikhlov, “Putin will not decide on show purges of the ruling nomenklatura because he knows the lessons of history and above all that it is difficult to keep such anti-elite terror in bounds.” But that is only one of Putin’s dilemmas for which there is no obvious or at least acceptable answer.

              For example, “Putin cannot rein in Kadyrov” first and foremost because “this would be a moral victory of the liberal opposition, the most consistent opponents of his regime.” And he dare not do so lest Kadyrov in the event show himself unwilling to follow orders to leave and use his own resources to fight for himself.

              “The logic of the slide toward war is overwhelming” for Putin, Ikhlov says. Anything he would do at home to cover retreats abroad would put his regime at risk. “And so, only war remains,” not perhaps in Ukraine where “even a conventional one would be too much” as “the fate of Milosevic” shows.

              Putin would like to keep things bubbling right “at the edge of war,” but Ikhlov suggests that he does not have the ability to control events that well. Instead, the commentator suggests, “Putin has created a situation in which in principle he cannot win.” Therefore he will seek a war elsewhere and at present that means Turkey.

              “In the best case, “this will be limited to military hysteria. In the worst,” to the use of Russian forces. But that will give Turkey the possibility of appealing to NATO under Article 5 and also to close the straits [between the Mediterranean and Black seas – Ed.]. Thus, Putin will discover that “Russia will be able to fight with Turkey only with nuclear weapons.”

              Any threat of that will bring the UN Security Council into play, Ikhlov says; and Putin will stand finally between war and revolution. The Kremlin leader already “understands perfectly how he has run away from revolution to Crimea and the Donbas, and from the Donbas to Syria, and that he will be able to avoid a new protest upsurge only with a Turkish war.”

              It wasn’t what he planned; but it is the only way, Ikhlov says, that the Kremlin leader believes he can save himself – and that is his most important task. Putin, trapped between war and revolution, will choose war, Ikhlov says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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              • Ukraine now has anti-tank trenches running from Kharkiv and Chernihiv, along the border with Russia
                MEDUZA 09:01, 3 February 2016 Unian.net

                The Ukrainian military says in 2015 it fortified Ukraine's border with Russia between the cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv with 230 kilometers (143 miles) of anti-tank trenches. This statistic was cited in a report on various measures ordered by the Ukrainian government to be fulfilled in 2015. The report has been sent to the Ukrainian parliament.

                The report says the fortified border areas with Russia have been equipped with 72 kilometers (45 miles) of metal barrier fences, 5 way-stations, 9 firing positions accommodating ten men each, and 32 observation towers.

                The report says $15.7 million (400 million hryvnia) of state funds were allocated to the trench-building project. These funds were used in full.
                → Unian.net

                In late May 2015, Russian border police reported more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) of barriers and about 100 kilometers (62 miles) of trenches had been installed in Russia's Rostov region along its border with Ukraine.

                In 2014, Ukraine began “The Wall” project to fortify its border with Russia. The wall covers 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of border territory with Russia, including areas under the control of separatists. In mid-2015, it was reported $155 million had been allocated to the project from Ukraine's state budget. https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/02/03...er-with-russia

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                • Tula’s new interim governor organized Yanukovych’s escape from Kiev
                  MEDUZA 08:41, 3 February 2016 Kommersant

                  Alex Dyumin—the recently appointed interim governor for Tula, which lies just south of Moscow—coordinated the evacuation of toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, after the start of the revolution in Kiev in early 2014. Dyumin both devised the plan and participated in the operation to extract Yanukovich to Russia, sources close to Russia's Armed Forces told the newspaper Kommersant.

                  All available options by land, sea, and air were considered for Yanukovych's evacuation, reports Kommersant.

                  President Vladimir Putin has “praised” both the operation and actions of Dyumin's team. Dyumin was recently promoted for these achievements to Joint Staff chief and to first deputy commander of Russia's Ground Forces under Oleg Salyukov.

                  Until 2014, Dyumin worked for the Federal Security Guard Service (FSO), which ensures the safety of the Russian president. Dyumin became acquainted with members of Putin's inner circle—in particular, those who often play hockey with the Russian leader, reports Kommersant.

                  [Dyumin's] work at the FSO brought him into contact “with many people from Vladimir Putin's entourage,” particularly after Russia's head of state developed an interest in playing hockey.
                  → Kommersant

                  In 2011, Dyumin participated with SKA Ice Hockey Team vice president Roman Rotenberg in a charity friendly ice hockey game for the SKA Legends. In 2012, Dyumin became an advisor to the SKA's chairman of the board, Gennady Timchenko.
                  Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was secretly evacuated to Russia on the night of February 23, 2014, after weeks of protests by Ukrainian citizens.

                  In 2014, Alex Dyumin was placed in charge of Russia's Special Operations Forces. This covert unit, reports Kommersant, played an important role in the occupation of Crimea. What role Dyumin may have played in the operation is still unclear.

                  In Tula, Dyumin replaces Vladimir Gruzdev. Vladimir Putin says Gruzdev resigned for personal reasons. (Gruzdev's family recently had another child, and he reportedly asked to be reassigned to a post closer to Moscow.)
                  https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/02/03...cape-from-kiev

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                  • Ambassadors to Ukraine 'deeply disappointed' by Abromavicius' resignation, urge true fight 'endemic corruption'
                    KYIV POST Feb. 03, 2016 22:24

                    Editor's Note: The following is a statement by 10 ambassadors to Ukraine on the Feb. 3 resignation of Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius.
                    ==================================

                    Statement on the Resignation of Minister of Economic Development and Trade Aivaras Abromavicius

                    We are deeply disappointed by the resignation of Minister for Economic Development and Trade, Aivaras Abromavicius, who has delivered real reform results for Ukraine. During the past year, Abromavicius and his professional team have made important strides — implementing tough but necessary economic reforms to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy, root out endemic corruption, bring Ukraine into compliance with its IMF program obligations, and promote more openness and transparency in government.

                    Ukraine’s stable, secure and prosperous future will require the sustained efforts of a broad and inclusive team of dedicated professionals who put the Ukrainian peoples’ interests above their own.

                    It is important that Ukraine’s leaders set aside their parochial differences, put the vested interests that have hindered the country’s progress for decades squarely in the past, and press forward on vital reforms.

                    Ambassador of Canada Roman Waschuk

                    Ambassador of the Republic of France Isabelle Dumont

                    Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany Christof Weil

                    Ambassador of Italy Fabrizio Romano

                    Ambassador of Japan Shigeki Sumi

                    Ambassador of Lithuania Marius Janukonis

                    Ambassador of Sweden Andreas von Beckerath

                    Ambassador of Switzerland Guillaume Scheurer

                    Ambassador of the United Kingdom Judith Gough

                    Ambassador of the United States of America Geoffrey R. Pyatt
                    Ambassadors to Ukraine 'deeply disappointed' by Abromavicius' resignation, urge true fight 'endemic corruption'

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                    • Western ambassadors regret economy minister's resignation
                      UT UKRAINE TODAY Feb. 3, 2016

                      Abromavičius is one of three foreign-born Ukrainian cabinet minister appointed in 2014

                      Ten ambassadors have expressed disappointment in the resignation of Ukraine's economy minister Aivaras Abromavičius. Envoys signed a statement posted by the Swedish Embassy.

                      The letter praises the Lithuanian national and his team for implementing ‘tough but necessary economic reforms'. It later urges Ukraine's leaders to set aside, what they describe as ‘parochial differences' and ‘vested interests' that have hindered the country for decades. As you see, it's signed by Ambassadors of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Sweden, Switzerland, the US and the UK.

                      Abromavičius tender of resignation could send negative signals to investors. The ex- investment banker has become a popular figure with governments, businesses and donors abroad. In his resignation speech, he appeared to have several main complaints. Firstly, he says his reforms were being paralyzed. This includes the appointment of questionable individuals in his team or in key positions in state-owned enterprises. NaftoGaz and the defence industry were singled out. Abromavičius also says his team didn't have any desire to serve as a cover-up for covert corruption or become puppets for those who try to control the flow of public funds. He then praised his team – describing them as young, educated abroad, open-minded and most importantly, committed.

                      Aivaras Abromavičius, Ukraine's economy minister: "I am a patriot of Ukraine. I live here, and so does my family. I deeply care about our country. We have done a lot, but the point of no return is yet ahead of us. Evil forces still want to wind things back. Let us get rid of all those who shamelessly siphon billions off the Ukrainian economy. These people have no place in the Ukrainian politics or the Ukrainian government"

                      In his speech, Abromavičius pointed most of the blame on one man - Igor Kononenko. He is a Ukrainian MP and leading figure in the 'Bloc of Petro Poroshenko'. After news broke of the economy minister's resignation, he had this to say:

                      Ihor Kononeko, first deputy chairman in 'Bloc of Petro Poroshenko': "It's kind of a weird statement for me because I haven't seen Abromavičius since before the New Year. Then, he personally thanked me for our faction's position when voting for transparency in public procurement. We've had positive developments during last year in state procurement and other draft laws from the doing business project but we still have problems and issues which are not resolved."

                      Parliament is widely expected to soon vote on the resignation of Abromavičius. Only time will tell what sort of wider impact this will have on Ukraine's future. Western ambassadors regret economy minister's resignation - read on - uatoday.tv

                      ============================
                      This is the headline of the day across UA.

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                      • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Anders Åslund February 3, 2016
                        Why Do Ukraine’s Reform Ministers Keep Quitting?

                        February 3, Ukraine's Minister of Economic Development and Trade Aivaras Abromavicius announced his resignation at a press briefing with a big bang that may unleash a political crisis and shake the country's fragile finances.

                        Abromavicius, a 40-year-old investment banker of Lithuanian origin, who has lived in Kyiv for many years as a fund manager, was one of the three foreigners recruited as a minister in December 2014. He has stood out as a strong reformer, taking pride in having introduced electronic state procurement on a large scale, carried out substantial deregulation, reformed his ministry, and improved management at state corporations. Together with Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, he has been the top Ukrainian representative at international events.

                        He offered a candid statement about the reasons for his resignation: "My team and I have no desire to be a cover for open corruption or puppets for those who want to establish control over state funds in the old fashion." He continued: "These people have names. And one of these names I am going to mention. It is Igor Kononenko. As a representative of the political force that nominated me a minister, he has done a great deal recently to block the work of my team and me."

                        Kononenko is a big businessman and deputy faction leader of the Poroshenko Bloc in Ukraine's parliament. Journalists have identified him as the "gray cardinal" of his party. According to Abromavicius, Kononenko tried to install his own deputy minister in the Ministry of Economy with responsibility for Naftogaz and other state enterprises.

                        The minister's statement provoked an explosion of public reactions. Since investigative journalists have already revealed Kononenko's activities, no independent voice seems to question the accusations. Odesa Oblast Governor Mikheil Saakashvili called Abromavicius "courageous" and urged parliament to hold a public hearing with Abromavicius and Kononeko. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that he respected ministers who "were forced to write declarations under political pressure" and he would fight and defend all ministers, without mentioning Abromavicius by name.

                        "Abromavicius' declaration changes the status from corridor conversations to official accusations," said Svitlana Zalishchuk, an MP from Poroshenko's Bloc and anticorruption activist.

                        Indeed, Ukraine's new independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau registered a criminal case against Kononenko on the basis of the minister's statement.

                        In effect, Abromavicius has turned the table on Kononenko, who publicly called for Abromavicius' resignation two days earlier. Commentator Ivan Primachenko called the situation the most significant crisis of President Petro Poroshenko's administration because Kononeko is seen as Poroshenko's right-hand man. Anticorruption activist Vitaliy Shabunin reckoned that Poroshenko's people had crossed the Rubicon by trying to oust Abromavicius. Nine prominent Western ambassadors issued a statement expressing their displeasure. They wrote, "We are deeply disappointed with the resignation of Minister of Economic Development and Trade Aivaras Abromavicius, who has delivered real reform results for Ukraine."

                        But Kononenko is not easily embarrassed. He responded to the furor by suggesting that he could step down tomorrow if his faction so decided. Next he proposed that one of his closest collaborators, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Vitaliy Kovalchuk, replace Abromavicius and become first deputy prime minister.

                        Poroshenko holds the key in this drama. He called in Abromavicius for a meeting that lasted for several hours. Then he made two statements: Abromavicius should stay in the government, and the National Anticorruption Bureau should investigate all of Abromavicius' claims. So far, Abromavicius has not commented.

                        Regardless of whether Abromavicius stays or goes, this domestic political crisis is likely to have major repercussions. Recently, Kononenko has been trying to oust the most reform-minded ministers and replace them with his own people. This scandal could stop his advance or even break the coalition in parliament. Ukrainian media report that the major parties are preparing for new parliamentary elections in September.

                        Can Poroshenko really keep Kononenko after this scandal? He has disappointed the Ukrainian public and Western funders by sticking with Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who has failed to arrest any major culprit not only of the current administration, but also of the Yanukovych regime.

                        The confidence of Western governments in the current Ukrainian administration is running low. Abromavicius is the fourth reform minister to have offered his resignation, leaving Jaresko as the single survivor. Ukraine is highly dependent on Western financial assistance, and its international reserves remain insufficient. The International Monetary Fund, the United States, and the European Union had been expected to provide a total of $4 billion in credits later this month, but none are likely to contribute unless the Ukrainian government shows real commitment to fight corruption. Why Do Ukraine’s Reform Ministers Keep Quitting?

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                        • The Minister of economic development of Ukraine resigned, not to be a «cover for blatant corruption»
                          Feb 3 2016 16:40

                          Excerpt:

                          «The forces of evil want to rewind it back»

                          According to Abromavicius, Kononenko throughout the year, lobbied for his people for the position of Director of the company «ukrhimtransammiak», which had its own interests. As the official said, in addition, at the direction Kononenko MP from the PPO lobbied for his people in «Ukrzovnishinvest», powder metallurgy company, the Agency of accreditation of Ukraine and several other companies.

                          The culmination of the «human of lawlessness and the desire of complete submission streams» was the desire to have his Deputy in the Ministry of economy, responsible for Naftogaz and other state-owned enterprises, said Abromavicius. According to the Minister, this candidate has recently brought the full package of documents and has declared himself the new Deputy team Kononenko.

                          As told by the Minister, after he was contacted from the President’s office and asked to approve of this man, and take another applicant for the post of Deputy Minister for defense, he took the decision to resign. According to him, he doesn’t want to be «part of this carve-up» (in Ukrainian political slang notion, equivalent to «cutting» tools». — Approx. NEWSru.com).

                          «The forces of evil want to rewind it all back. Let’s get rid of «looking» that milked the Ukrainian economy. Such people should not be in politics and in public administration,» concluded Abromavicius, emphasizing that his decision to resign — «not emotional». Under the current system, according to the Minister, he can’t work effectively because of the attempts of external interference in the work of the Ministry.

                          Ukrainian press calls Deputy of the PPB faction Ihor Kononenko «grey Eminence» and one of the most influential Ukrainian politicians. Mass media wrote earlier that it binds a 30-year friendship with President Petro Poroshenko.

                          In March 2015, former Governor of Dnipropetrovsk oblast Igor Kolomoisky accused the newspaper of involvement in the «raider capture» of the state company «Ukrtransnafta».

                          Kononenko successfully leading multiple business projects. Management Kononenko, he claims, controls «Ukrtransnafta», «Centrenergo» and the scheme of supply of coal to the power company. The Minister of economic development of Ukraine resigned, not to be a «cover for blatant corruption» | Last news from Russia

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                          • Ukrainian Official Resigns, Says Reform Efforts Blocked
                            NY TIMES - ASSOCIATED PRESS FEB. 3, 2016, 10:13 A.M. E.S.T.

                            MOSCOW — Ukraine's government, already under strain from political infighting, a frozen conflict in the country's east and a sagging economy, fell under scrutiny again on Wednesday when its economy minister handed in his resignation, saying the leadership routinely blocked his reform efforts.

                            The country's minister of economy Aivaras Abromavicius said he and his team could no longer drive forward much-needed reforms and received pushback on their efforts from government leaders including members of President Petro Poroshenko's party.

                            "My team and I have no desire to be a front for blatant corruption or puppets for people who want to take control over state funds as they did in the old government," Abromavicius told reporters at a press conference in Kiev. "It wasn't just a lack of political will. (They were) actively seeking to paralyze our work in the government."

                            Abromavicius, a Lithuanian native and former investment banker, advocated deregulation and wide-scale privatization in Ukraine. He was appointed as the finance minister 14 months ago along with a cadre of other political-newcomers from the private sector including finance minister Natalia Jaresko, an American. Their appointments were cautiously viewed as indicators that the new government would go through with long-overdue economic reforms.

                            However, the changes to Ukraine's government remain largely cosmetic and oligarchs still maintain huge sway in its decisions.

                            As he announced his resignation, Abromavicius said Ukraine needed a total reset of power.

                            "We know how Ukraine ended up in the condition that it's in today. It's not just Yanukovych, it's the total lack of reform over 20 years," he said in a reference to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

                            A group of 10 ambassadors, including those from the United States, Britain and Canada, expressed their disappointment at Abromavicius' resignation in an open letter.

                            "During the past year, Abromavicius and his professional team have made important strides -- implementing tough but necessary economic reforms to help stabilize Ukraine's economy, root out endemic corruption, bring Ukraine into compliance with its IMF program obligations, and promote more openness and transparency in government," the ambassadors wrote.

                            U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Abromavicius had delivered real reform results and made a difference in Ukraine on many fronts.

                            "Ukraine's stable, secure and prosperous future is going to require the sustained efforts of a broad and inclusive team going forward of dedicated professionals like him, who put the Ukrainian people's interest above their own," he said.

                            Abromavicius said that Igor Kononenko, a Poroshenko-ally in Ukraine's parliament, put pressure on the economy ministry to appoint his allies.

                            Kononenko told Ukrainian TV channel Espreso that Abromavicius' comments were false and his resignation "emotional."

                            Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau said they would investigate Abromavicius' accusations against Kononenko.

                            Abromavicius' predecessor, Pavlo Sheremeta, resigned after spending under a year in office over frustrations with the slow pace of reforms. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016...ref=world&_r=0

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                            • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Adrian Karatnycky February 3, 2016
                              Only Presidential Leadership Can Avert Ukraine's Perfect Storm

                              The February 3 resignation of Ukraine's Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius is a signal that the country's efforts to dramatically reduce corruption and rent-seeking are meeting with serious resistance.

                              The resignation also exposes how Ukraine's political system works. Just as in established democracies, technocrats and experts have to make common cause with politicians and ideologues. And just as in established democracies, politicians expect to wield influence when their parties win. The "Plum Book" that lists thousands of political posts in the US government reflects this reality.

                              Ukraine is now witnessing the rise of politicians who fought alongside civil society activists on the Maidan, campaigned for office, and won in the 2015 parliamentary elections. They have a reasonable expectation of political reward in the form of influential government posts, as winners in the United States and the EU would.

                              The problem is that the framework of politics in Ukraine is broken. Its major politicians and political parties are not only dependent on the financial support of entrenched business interests, but these interests have overarching control over a wide range of parties and politicians. Moreover, these interests lobby for economically damaging rents. Some also corrupt individual politicians and officials.

                              In addition, many members of parliament who are elected in single-mandate districts (half the parliament) finance their own campaigns. As a result, they are either members of the business elite themselves or proxies of important business interests.

                              It is this longstanding system which technocratic reformers like Abromavicius and Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko have collided with as they work to advance reforms.

                              At the same time, some ambitious anticorruption reformers have mistakenly allied themselves with the populist anticorruption hype of former President of Georgia and Governor of Odesa Oblast Mikheil Saakashvili. These reformers see the popular but erratic Saakashvili as an easy ticket to political ascendancy and are allying with him to form a political party. Apparently Abromavicius, who dined with Saakashvili on the eve of his resignation, may be considering throwing in his lot with this political project.

                              The Saakashvili-led anticorruption politicians aim to force new elections in the hope of jump-starting stalled reforms. But their enthusiasm for new elections is not justified by polling data, which shows the fragmentation of political preferences and rising electoral populism.

                              Europe, the United States, and other allies rightly view new elections as undesirable for two reasons: First, they are likely to elect a larger number of populists to parliament, threatening macroeconomic stabilization. Second, those who oppose a constitutional reform that would allow for special status of the Russian-occupied part of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are likely to do well in new elections. Western leaders regard passage of the constitutional language as a sine qua non for meeting the terms of the Minsk Accords and an eventual settlement of the Russia-backed war against Ukraine.

                              Ukraine is heading toward a perfect storm at a time when its politics and geopolitical interests would be better served by continuity—but continuity linked to deep reform.

                              The only way to satisfy both the anticorruption reformers and the need for stability is for the President to take the lead in the fight against corruption, thereby forestalling new elections. The ball is in his court.
                              Only Presidential Leadership Can Avert Ukraine's Perfect Storm

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                              • Politics
                                Poroshenko asks Economy Minister Abromavicius not to resign
                                03.02.2016 | 19:41 UNIAN

                                Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko informs he has met with Ukraine's Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Aivaras Abromavicius, to ask him not to resign.

                                "I've met and talked to [formerly a Lithuanian citizen] Aivaras Abromavicius, who I once invited to join the team, granted Ukrainian citizenship and asked the Solidarity faction to nominate as economy minister," Poroshenko wrote on Facebook on Wednesday after Abromavicius had announced his plans to quit.

                                Poroshenko added that Abromavicius had confirmed he had enjoyed the full support of the president –"both directly and through the National Reforms Council" – in his reform-oriented initiatives during the entire period of his work for the Ukrainian government.

                                "From my side, I guarantee further support. I believe that Aivaras [Abromavicius] should remain in office and continue reform. He's left to think it over," the president wrote.

                                Poroshenko also noted that all the facts mentioned by Abromavicius during his announcement of resignation should be investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

                                "[First Deputy Head of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc's parliamentary faction] Ihor Kononenko [who is accused by Abromavicius of possible interference in the ministry's work] has got into contact with the NABU and informed he was ready to cooperate with it. This was confirmed by the Bureau's heads. And the sooner the public gets answers to the raised questions, the better it is," the president concluded. Poroshenko asks Economy Minister Abromavicius not to resign : UNIAN news

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