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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

BBC News - Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict

BBC News - Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict:

Azov battalion volunteers (file pic)The Azov volunteer battalion is run by an extremist group and sports a modified neo-Nazi Wolf's Hook
Ever since Ukraine's February revolution, the Kremlin has characterised the new leaders in Kiev as a "fascist junta" made up of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, set on persecuting, if not eradicating, the Russian-speaking population.
This is demonstrably false. Far-right parties failed to pass a 5% percent barrier to enter parliament, although if they had banded together, and not split their vote, they would have probably slipped past the threshold.
Only one government minister has links to nationalist parties - though he is in no way a neo-Nazi or fascist. And the speaker of parliament, Volodymyr Groysman, is Jewish. He has the third most powerful position in the country after the president and prime minister.
But Ukrainian officials and many in the media err to the other extreme. They claim that Ukrainian politics are completely fascist-free. This, too, is plain wrong.
As a result, the question of the presence of the far-right in Ukraine remains a highly sensitive issue, one which top officials and the media shy away from. No-one wants to provide fuel to the Russian propaganda machine.
President Poroshenko (R) congratulates Sergiy Korotkykh (5 Dec)Mr Poroshenko (R) was pictured on his website clasping Serhiy Korotkykh on the shoulder
But this blanket denial also has its dangers, since it allows the ultra-nationalists to fly under the radar. Many Ukrainians are unaware that they exist, or even what a neo-Nazi or fascist actually is, or what they stand for.
Controversial 'patriot'

This hyper-sensitivity and stonewalling were on full display after President Petro Poroshenko presented a Ukrainian passport to someone who, according to human rights activists, is a "Belarusian neo-Nazi".
The Ukrainian leader handed out medals on 5 December to fighters who had tenaciously defended the main airport in the eastern region of Donetsk from being taken over by Russian-backed separatists.
Among the recipients was Serhiy Korotkykh, a Belarusian national, to whom Mr Poroshenko awarded Ukrainian citizenship, praising his "courageous and selfless service".
The president's website showed a photo of Mr Poroshenko patting the shoulder of the Belarusian, who was clad in military fatigues.
Donetsk airport terminal (7 Dec 2014)Serhiy Korotkykh was among the fighters surrounded inside the wreck of Donetsk airport terminal
Experts who follow the far right have strongly objected to President Poroshenko's decision.
They say Mr Korotkykh was a member of the far-right Russian National Unity party and also a founding member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Society (NSS) in Russia.
According to Ukrainian academic Anton Shekhovtsov, the NSS's main goal "is to prepare for a race war".
Mr Shekhovtsov said the Belarusian had been charged for involvement in a bombing in central Moscow in 2007, and was detained in 2013 in the Belarusian capital Minsk for allegedly stabbing an anti-fascist activist. He was later released for lack of evidence.
Even though the details involved accusations rather than facts, if true they were damning, said human rights activist Halya Coynash.
Top Ukrainian officials then rejected as defamatory any claims that Mr Korotkykh had neo-Nazi ties.
"Counter-intelligence has no information that could prevent him from receiving Ukrainian citizenship," said Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of Ukraine's security services.
Nevertheless, the fact is, neo-Nazis are indeed a fixture in Ukraine's new political landscape, albeit in small numbers.
Azov Battalion

As Mr Korotkykh's case demonstrates, the ultra-nationalists have proven to be effective and dedicated fighters in the brutal war in the east against Russian-backed separatists and Russian forces, whose numbers also include a large contingent from Russia's far right.
As a result, they have achieved a level of acceptance, even though most Ukrainians are unfamiliar with their actual beliefs.
The volunteer Azov Battalion is a case in point.
Azov battalion volunteers in Kiev (file pic Oct 2014)The Azov battalion seems to enjoy the support of several top officials
Run by the extremist Patriot of Ukraine organisation, which considers Jews and other minorities "sub-human" and calls for a white, Christian crusade against them, it sports threeNazi symbols on its insignia: a modified Wolf's Hook, a black sun (or "Hakensonne") and the title Black Corps, which was used by the Waffen SS.
Azov is just one of more than 50 volunteer groups fighting in the east, the vast majority of which are not extremist, yet it seems to enjoy special backing from some top officials:
  • Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and his deputy Anton Gerashchenko actively supported the parliament candidacy of Andriy Biletsky, the Azov and Patriot of Ukraine commander
  • Vadim Troyan, another top Azov official and Patriot of Ukraine member, was recently named police chief for the Kiev region
  • Mr Korotkykh is also an Azov member
Ukraine's media have been noticeably silent on this subject.
Recently, prominent newspaper and online publication Left Bank published an extensive interview with Mr Troyan, in which the journalists asked no questions at all about his neo-Nazi past or political views.
And after the Unian news agency reported the presidential ceremony under the headline, "Poroshenko awarded Belarusian neo-Nazi with Ukrainian passport", it was soon replaced with an article that air-brushed out the accusations of extremism.
Unian's editors have declined to comment on the two pieces.
There are significant risks to this silence. Experts say the Azov Battalion, which has been widely reported on in the West, has damaged Ukraine's image and bolsters Russia's information campaign.
And although Ukraine is emphatically not run by fascists, far-right extremists seem to be making inroads by other means, as in the country's police department.
Ukraine's public is grossly under-informed about this. The question is, why doesn't anyone want to tell them?
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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Hello 2015: the tide turns against Vladimir Putin in Ukraine | beyondbrics

Hello 2015: the tide turns against Vladimir Putin in Ukraine | beyondbrics:

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta
In a Slovyansk cafĂ© bar this month I received a rude wake-up call about the weakness of western support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its aggression in the Donbas. A soldier on a neighbouring table listened in to my conversation in English with a humanitarian aid worker and, when he got up to leave, delivered the comment: “You useless fuckers”. Many more Ukrainians have been dismayed at the weak response from the US, Canada and Europe.
The Ukrainian soldier would have less cause to use such language after December 11, when the UK House of Commons held a major debate on Ukraine and, a day later, both houses of the US Congress adopted the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014. The Act lays out its aims as the “provision of military capabilities to the Government of Ukraine that will enhance the ability of that Government to defend itself and to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unlawful actions by the Government of the Russian Federation.”
The Act authorises the supply of new anti-tank and anti-armour weapons, radar, tactical troop operated surveillance drones and communications equipment. (Last month, the US delivered 20 anti-mortar radar systems to Ukraine.) In addition, the Act increases sanctions against Russian military and energy companies and provides support for Ukraine’s drive to become energy independent, for increased Russian language broadcasting to Russia, and for civil society and independent media in that country.
The Ukraine Freedom Support Act should be seen in conjunction with five other factors that have turned the tide against Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
First, Putin missed a window in the spring to invade when the Ukrainian state had in some cases disintegrated in the east and south and there was post-revolutionary chaos in Kiev after President Viktor Yanukovych fled. Since then, Ukrainian army and volunteer battalions of the newly formed National Guard have been established and re-equipped and by August were on the verge of defeating the separatists, forcing Putin to accept defeat or to invade (he chose the latter).
Although an admirer of the Soviet Union, Putin forgot two of its key moments. The first is that Ukraine had a large military industrial economy that has been kick-started to produce weapons for its forces. The second is that Ukrainians were prized as good soldiers and made up the majority of middle-ranking officers and sergeants in the Soviet army (similar to the role of Scots in the British army).
Putin’s project to establish a ‘New Russia’ in Russian-speaking eastern and southern Ukraine was overcome by Ukrainian military forces on the ground and by local pro-Ukrainian patriots, who defeated pro-Russian separatists on the streets in cities such as Kharkiv and Odesa. Russian proxies only managed to take control of a third of the territory of the Donbas.
Second, Russia is a petro-state that is reliant for two thirds of its budget on the export of energy. While the state budget was based on an assumption of $95 a barrel, the price of oil has slumped below $60, with some predictions saying it could fall as low as $40.
Third, western sanctions are having an impact on the Russian economy and tougher sanctions would be imposed if Russia were to move from hybrid to full war in Ukraine. Such a step would be fatal for the Russian economy, possibly akin to the late 1980s for the Soviet economy.
Fourth, the local population has turned against the separatists in Luhansk, who control the industrial half of the region, where the Russian army has been forced to intervene to evict Cossacks who have been accused of imposing a chaotic administration and corruption of humanitarian relief. Media reports of some older people dying of hunger in Luhansk were confirmed to me by the international humanitarian worker I talked to in Slovyansk.
Fifth, Russian actions have turned away influential European countries such as Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has become a vocal critic of Putin. Years of Russian investment in lobbying western European leaders has been undermined and Putin’s only allies today are anti-EU forces such as France’s Le Pen and Hungary’s Jobbik.
Taken together, the adoption of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act and these five factors make it unlikely that Russia will move from denial of its presence under the cover of a hybrid war to an all-out invasion of Ukraine, which has a far larger territory than Georgia or Moldova, which also have frozen conflicts. An invasion of Ukraine would require the use of at least half of Russia’s three quarters of a million armed forces personnel, leaving a strategic vacuum on the Chinese border and in the northern Caucasus. In the latter case, this would be used as an opportunity by Chechens to launch an uprising, as we witnessed this month in Grozny. An invasion would mean far higher Russian army losses, already in the thousands, increasing popular opposition in Russia to the war.
An invasion to create a land corridor to the Crimea, the scenario most often touted in the west, would have to cover a huge area and Russian troops would have to fight for control of the port of Mariupol, heavily defended by the nationalistic Azov National Guard battalion, and cross two pro-Ukrainian regions of Mykolayiv and Zaporizhhya where separatism is non-existent. At the same time, without a land corridor Crimea will continue to stagnate as it is reliant on Ukraine for tourists (70 per cent of pre-annexation visitors were from Ukraine), foodstuffs, water and gas supplies.
The tide has turned against Putin and it is little wonder that he is far less cocky than earlier in the year. Ukraine will have a tough year ahead in 2015 but so too will Russia.
Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for Political and Regional Studies, Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta and non-resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, School of Advanced International Relations, Johns Hopkins University.
This is the seventh in a series of guest posts on the outlook for emerging markets in 2015.
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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Economy minister: Every single judge in Ukraine is corrupt | EurActiv

Economy minister: Every single judge in Ukraine is corrupt | EurActiv:

Aivaras Abromavicius [Georgi Gotev]
Aivaras Abromavicius [Georgi Gotev]
First and foremost, Ukraine needs a rule of law, so judicial reforms need to be passed. Everybody knows that every single judge in Ukraine is corrupt, and most of them need to be changed, Aivaras Abromavicius, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Aivaras Abromavicius is a Lituanian-born manager and investment banker who became Ukraine’s Minister of economy on 2 December 2014.
He was speaking to EurActiv’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.
Minister, can you first introduce yourself? Your name indicates that you are originally from Lithuania, but you are the minister of the economy of Ukraine.
That’s correct. My name is Aivaras Abromavicius and I am now the 25th minister of the economy of Ukraine. I was born in Lithuania, which I left when I was 17 years old. I lived 6 or 7 years in Estonia, a little while in the USA, 6 or 7 years in Sweden and 3 years in Moscow, in Russia. The last 6 years I have been living in Ukraine. I am from investment management. I have never been in administration, but I have been managing assets on behalf of clients from continental Europe, the USA, the Middle East, and investing them in Eastern Europe for the last 18 years. I am very new to public administration, but I have been investing in businesses in the region long enough to understand what business needs in terms of improvement in governance, so I think we have a lot of interesting times ahead.
Interesting and challenging... How would you describe Ukraine’s economy, starting from the fact that unfortunately Crimea is under Russian occupation and the government cannot control part of the territory in the eastern part of Ukraine?
Indeed, myself and the other ministers come into government at a very challenging time for Ukraine. We have two major challenges and threats lying ahead of us. First is Russian aggression in the east and in Crimea, and second is the weak economic conditions that Ukraine is experiencing right now. But our team is very much pro-reform and ready to act fast. It understands that it has a unique opportunity to do radical reforms now. Ukraine has been talking about it for 23 years and not much has been done, but now that the international community strongly supports Ukraine, that the local population and businesses are keen for more action rather than talk, and are ready to take more hardship in exchange for real results, we have a composition in the cabinet of ministers that is allowing us to carry out reforms, and we hope that we have a good parliament that will accept the new changes and new laws that we will push through the parliament.
I read that Ukraine has lost 20% of its economy because of this war that has not been declared, but is still ongoing. Is this assessment correct?
Well, the numbers still need to be finalised, but it is clear that the part of Ukraine that is temporarily occupied is very heavily industrialised. However, I think the numbers you mentioned are not entirely correct because parts of Donetsk and Luhansk are under the control of the Ukrainian army. Mariupol for example is a major port with two large steel plants and a number of other heavy machine-building plants that account for some of the largest industrial bases in Donestk.
What are the key reforms that the economy needs? Now you are in Brussels and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has appealed for massive economic help, which always comes with some conditions, and the promise of reform.

Abromavicius: Ukraine needs to reform its Achilles heel, Naftogaz

Absolutely. First and foremost, Ukraine needs a rule of law. So judicial reforms need to be passed. Everybody knows that every single judge in Ukraine is corrupt and most of them need to be changed. Judicial reform comes first. Then obviously we have other reforms like police reform, we need electoral reform, and when it comes to my part, related to the economy, Ukraine has a lot to do here. First and foremost we need to reform the biggest Achilles heel of the Ukrainian economy: Naftogaz Ukraine.
The Naftogaz deficit is equal to 9% of Ukrainian GDP, so we are committed to raising tariffs to market levels and then compensating the poorer half with about 2% of GDP. Second, when it comes to the economy, we have been seeing a situation where big businesses have been benefiting from unfounded preferential treatment for their activities for years, so we have to de-monopolise our economy.
We are committed to making level playing fields for all businesses. In exchange we will deregulate as much as possible. All kinds of agencies regulate things that it is not necessary to regulate – licencing which does not conform to European standards etc. so we are committed as a first step to submit a good amount of laws to the government and the parliament, starting this year, with regards to regulation. Deregulation is where government and businesses come together. As a great reformer, Kakha Bendukidze [the late Georgian statesmen] said once, “whenever business and government come together, there is some room for corruption”.
There is rarely corruption between two private entities, so we need to decrease the state’s involvement in the Ukrainian economy by cutting a lot of regulating agencies, liquidating them, merging some of them to make sure business has some breathing space. So what we say to business is that you have to play by the rules, you have to be honest and pay taxes, but we will make sure that government intervention in your business is minimised, and eventually your asset prices will go up. Also what is important under my ministry is state procurement.
Almost 10 billion dollars worth of tenders are organised every year. If we make the system more transparent and more efficient and more competitive, we estimate that savings could reach 20%, which is 2 billion dollars. The draft law will be submitted either late this year or early next year, to make things work in the direction of electronic tenders. Also, state-owned enterprise reform is under my ministry. In Ukraine, we have approximately 3,300 state-owned enterprises. They run at huge losses for the country. We have a huge amount of debt, which is also a risk to the banking sector. Many of them are run as private companies, and a lot of money is being siphoned away from them, so here we are also planning major reforms in how these companies are run: massively improving corporate governance standards, independent board members, and obviously auditing all the biggest companies as soon as possible.
In several countries in Europe, governments say that they have suffered losses because of the EU embargo on Russia. This must be even truer of Ukraine. How do you estimate the losses to your country because of the current state of relations with Russia?
Yes, again the numbers have not been finalised, but it is very obvious that Russia has been a very important export destination for a number of Ukrainian goods. Russia, however, has always been very protectionist, so there was always a risk of Ukrainian goods being stopped at the border for whatever reason. And now we see that the Russian economy is also very weak. The Rouble had a historic drop yesterday, and later in the evening, interest rates hit 17%. Russia is obviously in a very turbulent economic situation. So it is very timely that Ukraine has devoted more exports to the EU. We do expect more help from the EU, to make the best out of our comprehensive trade agreement so that more Ukrainian goods can flow this way and we can teach Ukrainian companies about things like certification and so on so that they find markets in EU countries.
But in the long run, do you hope to recover your normal economic relations with Russia?
Absolutely. We all want to live in a peaceful world, so we would hope that one day we would be able to trade with all the partners around the world, including Russia. Right now we face military aggression from them and the situation is much more complicated
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Monday, 15 December 2014

Ukraine needs tough, not unconditional, love -

Ukraine needs tough, not unconditional, love -

The west should make its support dependent on corruption being ended, writes Victor Pinchuk
People light candles to form the shape of Ukraine's national coat of arms as thousands gathered in Kiev's Independence Square on November 21, 2014 to mark the first anniversary of protests which unleashed a year of turmoil. A crowd of several thousand gathered in Kiev's Independence Square, known as Maidan, to remember the more than 100 protestors who died in demonstrations that started on November 21 last year. AFP PHOTO/GENYA SAVILOVGENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images©AFP
Thousands gather in Kiev’s Independence Square in November to mark the first anniversary of protests that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich
kraine passed two milestones this month. The first, promisingly, was the inauguration of a new government; a reformist, pro-European administration that aims to reverse the war-torn country’s fortunes, unlocking billions of dollars in international support. The second, depressingly, was being named the most corrupt country in Europe.
The International Monetary Fund, which announced a $17bn rescue package for Kiev in April, now reckons $15bn more will be needed to shore up the government. Support from the EU, the US and other donors is planned. Western citizens ask: should we give our tax money to a corrupt country? I understand them.
My answer is: yes they should. But they should be hard-headed about it. Ukraine needs tough — not unconditional — love. The west should make its support dependent on corruption and oligarchy being brought to an end. That would amplify the voices of those in Ukraine who insist on change. Only together can they save our country.
It may seem strange for someone who is often identified in the west as an oligarch to call for an end to oligarchy. But oligarchy is not the same thing as big business. Oligarchy is when big business assumes the power to govern, or exerts influence on political power in opaque ways.
Western leaders are giving Ukraine the benefit of the doubt. They ask for reforms but for now are content with declarations of goodwill. Friends of Ukraine — diplomats and politicians and experts in America and the EU — say: “Don’t be too strict. The general direction is right.”
After the disappointment of the Orange revolution, western leaders are generous to extend their trust a second time. Ukrainians have surely earned it, though, after shedding their blood for European values on Maidan Square in February, and shedding it now for freedom in the east. And some in the new government and parliament come from the best parts of civil society and business.
However, this second chance is Ukraine’s last. And we are in danger of squandering it because wheels within wheels are turning in the other direction. Billions, still, are being taken out of the state budget. Many politicians are in the pocket of oligarchs. Still, people practised in the art of corruption hold senior positions in the ministries and in parliament. And, while right-minded laws have been adopted, it is a Ukrainian tradition that the strictness of laws is in inverse proportion to the stringency with which they are enforced.

In depth

Pro-Russian separatist
Despite a truce, violence has persisted in eastern Ukraine as the conflict, with no resolution in sight, continues to cast a cloud over the global economy

Further reading
These practices put us all in danger. They are not a part of Ukrainian folklore that our western friends should tolerate, while more important issues are resolved. The EU is brutally strict with Greece, which takes 69th place on Transparency International’s ranking of government probity. But Ukraine, placed 142nd, is indulged with talk of a path towards European integration.
Three forces are acting on Ukraine and its leadership. Two of them — a critical mass of enlightened Ukrainians, and western partners — pull it ahead. The other holds it back. It consists of parts of Ukraine’s business, political and bureaucratic elites that have an interest in resisting change. Nobody can reform an old order that still profits from it, as Machiavelli said.
The country’s leadership can and will take on the most ruthless and powerful actors only if a strategic alliance of western partners and the critical mass of Ukrainian society works together.
I have made my share of misjudgments, but in the early 2000s I understood business and politics must be separate. I left politics, and see myself as a businessman for whom it is important to be a part of civil society. Ten years ago I started investing to empower Ukrainian citizens to become agents of change.
Today the government and parliament includes more than a dozen alumni of the Aspen-Ukraine programme, which my foundation founded in 2006 and which has since become financially self-sufficient. Alongside them are people who received scholarships to study abroad in exchange for a commitment to come back to Ukraine and apply their knowledge at home. I am proud of this because it is transparent. They are independent. Their commitment is to our country, not to me.
Ukrainian society has surprised the world, and me too, since November 2013. I did not think it would grow so strong so soon. I am sure we are ready for tough love.
The writer is a Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist

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Monday, 8 December 2014

BBC News - Foreign-born ministers in Ukraine's new cabinet

BBC News - Foreign-born ministers in Ukraine's new cabinet:

Ukraine's newly-appointed Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili, a Georgian national attends parliament session in Kiev, 2 Dec 2014The new ministers face the turmoil of Ukrainian crisis politics
In an unusual development, three foreigners were appointed to Ukraine's new government this week.
US-born Natalie Jaresko became finance minister, Lithuania's Aivaras Abromavicius economy minister and Aleksandre Kvitashvili - from Georgia - health minister. Hours before the vote in the parliament that installed them, all three were granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko.
The move is part of a fresh anti-corruption drive in Kiev. Politicians and other officials supportive of the idea say outsiders in the cabinet will have fewer vested interests, or links to local lobbyists. President Poroshenko also said Ukraine should make use of "the best international experience".
But his opponents argue that Ukrainians should run their own country. Nationality is politically sensitive, as pro-Russian rebels in the east refuse to recognise the Kiev leadership.
Appointing foreigners as cabinet ministers is rare, but not unprecedented in the former Soviet Union.
In Georgia, French-born Salome Zurabishvili - ethnically Georgian - served as foreign minister in ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's pro-Western government in 2004-05.
In 2012 in Ukraine, former Russian citizen Dmitriy Salamatin was appointed defence minister under President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in the wake of massive pro-EU demonstrations two years later.
line break
Natalie Jaresko, finance minister

Natalie Jaresko has more than two decades of experience in investment, finance and business strategy. She was born in the US, but is ethnically Ukrainian. Ms Jaresko received a masters degree in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in 1989, then served in various economic positions at the US Department of State.
New Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko at parliament session in Kiev 2 Dec 2014
Shortly after Ukraine gained independence in 1992, she relocated to Kiev, where she joined the economic section of the newly-opened US embassy. In 1995, she joined the Western NIS Enterprise Fund, a private equity firm which distributed US government funds, and rose to be its CEO. In 2004, she co-founded the Horizon Capital investment fund in Kiev and worked as its CEO.
Ms Jaresko won high praise from two former Ukrainian presidents, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko. In 2003, Mr Kuchma awarded her the Order of Princess Olha for her contribution to the Ukrainian economy. In 2005-10, she served in Mr Yushchenko's Foreign Investors Advisory Council.
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Aivaras Abromavicius, economic development and trade minister

Aivaras Abromavicius is a Lithuanian-born specialist in emerging markets investment. He graduated from Concordia University in Wisconsin, USA, with a BA in international business.
Lithuanian investment banker Aivaras Abromavicius and new Economic Development and Trade Minister in Ukrainian parliament, 2 Dec 2014
In 1996, Mr Abromavicius started his career at Hansabank, a major bank operating in the Baltic states, which then became part of the Swedbank group, where he was appointed head of equities in 1998. He then worked for three years as head of trading at Brunswick Emerging Markets, a consultancy.
In 2002, he joined East Capital, a global investment fund which specialises in emerging markets. There, he was part of a portfolio management team for Eastern Europe.
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Aleksandre Kvitashvili, health minister

Aleksandre Kvitashvili is an experienced health official from Georgia. He studied history at Tbilisi State University and in 1993 received a masters degree in public management from the Robert Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in New York. After briefly working in the US, he returned to Georgia. There, he worked for the UN Development Programme and several healthcare-related organisations.
Ukraine's newly-appointed Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili, a Georgian national, in parliament in Kiev, 2 Dec 2014
In 2008-10, he was minister of labour, health and social protection under President Saakashvili. In August 2010, Mr Kvitashvili resigned to become rector of Tbilisi State University, a post which he held until August 2013.
"I've been working on reforms in Ukraine for the past three months, but my love for this country has a much longer history," he said after his appointment on 2 December.
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Mixed reaction

The appointments caused a stir in the Ukrainian media. "The authorities seem to say that there is a dearth of professionals in our country - this is not the case," said Den, an analytical daily.
Speaking to the paper, political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko questioned the new ministers' suitability for their roles. "The downside is that these people do not have any experience of how our government system works, and yet they will have to quickly decide how to reform it," he said.
Another commentator, Vadym Karasyov, called the three ministers "pigs in a poke", in an interview with Segodnya daily.
But Ukrayinska Pravda, a popular news website, welcomed the appointment of foreign professionals to the Ukrainian cabinet. "It is not clear why this should insult the national pride of some commentators," it said. "To implement reforms, we need the best professionals we can find, and their nationality does not matter."
To pro-Kremlin commentators on Russian TV, the ministers' appointment was yet more proof that Ukraine was run by "outsiders" controlled by the West. Much was made of the fact that Natalie Jaresko used to work for the US Department of State. One commentator, Mikhail Pogrebinskiy, told state-controlled Channel One that she was likely to have "dual loyalty".
BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.
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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'? OSCE lashes out at Kiev’s new ministry amid journalists’ outcry — RT News

Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'? OSCE lashes out at Kiev’s new ministry amid journalists’ outcry — RT News:

Published time: December 03, 2014 21:18
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R, front) and Parliament Speaker Oleksander Turchinov (R, back) attend a session of the parliament in Kiev.(Reuters / Anastasia Sirotkina)
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R, front) and Parliament Speaker Oleksander Turchinov (R, back) attend a session of the parliament in Kiev.(Reuters / Anastasia Sirotkina)
Kiev’s decision to create a Ministry of Information is a clear threat to media freedom in Ukraine, said OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic. The government’s plans have also sparked a wave of fury from journalists.
“Ukraine’s initiative to create a Ministry of Information is a clear threat to media freedom, this is not the way to counter propaganda,” said Dunja Mijatovic on her Twitter account on Wednesday.
Mijatovic also tweeted a link to an article called “Ukraine just created its own version of Orwell's 'Ministry of Truth’” citing the classic dystopian novel 1984.
Dunja Mijatovic.(AFP Photo / Balint Porneczi)
Dunja Mijatovic.(AFP Photo / Balint Porneczi)

“In democracy, a ministry of information can never be an answer for anything related to media, free expression and safety of journos,” she wrote.
The media watchdog of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe added that she will bring up the issue at the meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin in Basel on Thursday.

The creation of a new so-called Ministry of Information Policy was approved by Ukraine’s Parliament on Tuesday. The parliament appointed Yury Stets - head of the Information Security Department of the National Guard of Ukraine, close ally of President Petro Poroshenko and former chief producer of the TV “Channel 5” owned by Poroshenko - to head the ministry.

A number of MPs - mostly former journalists - did not vote as they opposed the creation of the new government authority.
The proposal has prompted an international outcry from journalists alarmed by the move. On Wednesday, The European Federation of Journalists and International Federation of Journalists warned that these plans will further stifle media freedom in Ukraine.

The federations have called on Kiev to respect the rights of journalists and revoke its decision to create the new ministry.
No further action should be taken without full consultation of the Ukraine media community and journalists unions,” said IFJ/EFJ.
Following the announcement of plans to create such an authority, Ukrainian journalists and activists staged protests outside the parliament building in Kiev. Protesters carried placards citing Orwell’s ‘1984’ that read “Hello, Big Brother."

Former journalist turned MP Sergey Leshchenko present at the vote protested in the parliament’s walls holding a poster that read: “Stop censorship! Journalists against the Ministry of Truth."

Media and social networks filled with criticism, while some posted tweets with the famous ‘1984’ quote “Big Brother is watching you”.

Some called Poroshenko’s move fascist-like.
"Dear team Poroshenko, the pursuit of absolute power in this country means a final career," Tatyana Nikolaenko, chief editor at Ukraine's Insider magazine, wrote on Facebook. "If you create this 'Ministry of Truth' the president's rating will collapse as quickly as it rose in the winter of this year."
“You cannot win the information war with it, because with the creation of the Ministry you'll give Russian propaganda endless references to [Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph] Goebbels and Orwell."

Many are alarmed, including the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders which said it firmly opposes the planned creation of a Ukrainian information ministry.
“Putting the government in charge of ‘information policy’ would be major retrograde step that would open the way to grave excesses,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said on Tuesday.
In a democratic society, the media should not be regulated by the government. The creation of an information ministry is the worst of all possible responses to the serious challenges that the government is facing.
Journalist organizations and individual journalists have also voiced deep concern that this decision was taken without a public debate.

In response to wide criticism, on Wednesday, Stets assured that the ministry will neither introduce censorship nor influence freedom of speech in Ukraine. Reportedly Stets also promised to refrain from introducing registration for online media.
He outlined the ministry’s objectives as “promoting Ukraine’s international image” and “opposing Russia’s media aggression”, as well as “preventing external influence” on Ukraine’s media sphere.
"I see it this way: different states with different historical and cultural experiences in times of crisis came to a point where they needed to create a body of executive power that would control and manage the information security of the country," Stets wrote on his Facebook on Monday arguing that none of present state structures could deal with the tasks.
On Wednesday Stets also promised a public debate and “talks with our international partners” before introducing a draft on the ministry’s activities to the government.
'via Blog this'