NATO General Believes Poroshenko Will Bring Stability to Ukraine


Newly elect-President Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has congratulated the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on his inauguration on Saturday.

Mr. Poroshenko, 45, won the presidential election on May 25.  His inauguration brings much needed hope for the restoration of peace and stability in Ukraine after months of internal turmoil has torn the country apart and devastated numerous lives.

In late February, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which resulted in over 100 people dead.  An interim president, and government, took over until a democratically elected president was elected.

The new president brings hope of peace not just to the people of Ukraine, but leaders, organizations and officials across Europe and the West.

After months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and independence fighters–also labeled as separatists, pro-Russians, and “terrorists” by Kiev authorities–President Poroshenko has said he has a plan to bring peace.

Mr. Rasmussen welcomed Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday and wished him “success in carrying forward this new position of responsibility at a defining time in Ukraine’s history.

“The presidential elections were an important milestone for Ukraine,” Mr. Rasmussen said.  “In holding transparent and democratic elections despite significant challenges, the people of Ukraine showed their commitment to a united, independent and sovereign country.”

During the elections in May, separatists in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions disrupted voting.  Out of the twelve poling districts in Donetsk, 10 did not take place.  In Luhansk, fourteen out of the 22 polling districts did not take place either.  Only eight-hundred out of 3,908 polling stations were open.

Reasons for the disruption ranged from fear, to direct threats against voters by separatists.

But despite these problems, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated that the elections were largely successful.  Voting took place normally in other parts of Ukraine, with voting assessed positively in 98% of polling stations independently observed.

Secretary Gen. Rasmussen stated that he is confident that Mr. Poroshenko’s “leadership will contribute to the stabilization of the country, building on the inclusive political dialogue launched ahead of the elections.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Moscow will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and work with the newly elected president to help bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

NATO remains committed to supporting Ukraine within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Mr. Rasmussen said.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is a decision-making body that is responsible for developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship.  Talks include a number of things such as strengthening defense following the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

NATO is finalizing “further comprehensive measures to assist Ukraine and support reforms in the country’s security and defense sector,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Ruasmussen concluded his statement with the promise of further support for Ukraine, saying: “Ukraine is a long-standing and active NATO partner, and we look forward to working with President Poroshenko.  NATO Allies stand firm in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

In other Developments in Ukraine:

  • OSCE SMM Observers observed anti-government rallies in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.  Both rallies were small and non-violent.
  • Self-declared Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donestk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin survived an attempted assassination on Saturday.  A passing car reportedly fired at Mr. Pushilin, who was not hit.  His assistant, Maxim Petruhin, was, however, killed.



Compromise for Ukrainian $2.237 Billion Gas Debt


In a Trilateral consultation between Russia, the EU and Ukraine on May 26, a compromise was made to allow Naftogaz to divide a $2.237 billion debt payment into two, Russia’s Energy Minister and Gazprom told the Russian President during a meeting on Wednesday.

Naftogaz, Ukraine’s oil and gas company, will be allowed to pay the first $2 billion to Russian state owned gas company Gazprom by May 30, and then the second payment of $500 million by June 7.

The payment is for a debt that accumulated from November 2013 to April 2014.

The $500 million will also be a partial advance payment since the deadline for the May payment falls on June 7, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said.

Gazprom and Mr. Novak have agreed to hold continued talks with Naftogaz after the first payment is received.  Mr. Novak said that they plan to meet on May 30 to discuss further steps, including possible options for future gas payments, with the possibility of a discount, “but not a revision of the terms and conditions of the 2009 contract [Kharkiv Pact].”

The Kharkiv Pact was a 2010 agreement between Moscow and Kiev that allowed Russia to continue to use Naval facilities in Crimea for an additional 25 years in exchange for a discount on natural gas for Ukraine.

The treaty was later used by Moscow to legitimize its invasion of Crimea in March of this year.

Chairman of Gazprom Management Committee Alexei Miller told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Naftogaz had been given the preliminary bill for gas supplies for June, and that if Ukraine did not pay the money, then on June 3, at 10 a.m., gas supplies to Ukraine will be restricted.

“Ukraine has been taking maximum daily volumes allowed by the contract throughout May,” Mr. Miller said.  He added that by June 7, Ukraine’s gas debt will have accumulated to over $5.2 billion.

In conclusion to the meeting, President Putin said: “I think it is clear to any objective observer that Russia’s position with regard to our energy contracts and energy cooperation with Ukraine is not just that of a partner but more than friendly.”  He added that he hopes the gas situation does not end up with Russia being forced “to move over to advance payments.”

On Tuesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk challenged Gazprom’s claims, saying that Russia actually owed Ukraine $1 billion in compensation for natural gas seized in the annexation of Crimea.

The next round of consultations between Russia, the EU and Ukraine are scheduled to take place on May 30. 

A Civil War

“It’s war, it’s civil war.”  That’s what an agonized, middle-aged man and resident of Donetsk described the situation in his home city as to BBC.

And his claims appear to be at least partially true.

Recent fighting at Donetsk International Airport has left over 100 pro-Russian gunmen dead, separatists say.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Military said that they had gained control of the airport, but sporadic gunfire was reported by journalists.

Scores more have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and anti-Kiev gunmen in recent months.

Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has promised to intensify the military operations being conducted against separatists in eastern and southern Ukraine, a promise which may very well lead to even bloodier violence in an already tormented country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday called on the Kiev authorities to end its military operations.

“The number one task for the Kiev authorities, and the test of their strength given the result of the [presidential] election, is to bring an immediate end to the use of the army against the public, and an end to any violence on all sides,” he said.

In Donetsk, barricades and road blocks have been set up throughout the city as gunmen and residents prepare for a highly possible invasion by Ukrainian military forces.

“History is repeating itself,” another resident of Donetsk compared the current crisis to the invasion of Ukraine by Nazi German during WWII.

Meanwhile, more members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SSM) were detained on Wednesday.

Four other SSM members went missing on Monday and have not been heard from since.

In April, a group of International observers were detained by pro-Russian activists in Slovyansk, the separatists strong hold, for a week before being released.

As the violence continues to tear apart Ukraine, citizens have cried out in anger, frustration and fear.  While some believe the Kiev government is doing all they can to bring an end to this alleged “civil war”, some have lashed out against them.

One woman expressed her fear and frustration of the Ukrainian government and military’s recent actions to RT News Agency, saying: “We are simply horrified – you see? Horrified that our ‘brave army,’ which we pay taxes to maintain, is [doing] nothing else but destroying us. And our president, who must protect the civilian population – he is determined to exterminate us.”


Election in Ukraine Largely Successful, says Observers


Members of the election commission empty ballot boxes in a polling station in Kiev May 25, 2014. Photo by Reuters

The presidential elections on Sunday were largely successful and inline with international standards, despite recent violence and threats towards the Ukrainian people and authorities, said international observers.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, heads of the organizations apart of the observation mission of the presidential election in Ukraine stated that despite “numerous difficulties”, the presidential elections were highly successful and inline with international standards.

Joaos Soars, the Special Co-ordinator appointed to lead the short term observer mission, said that the people and of authorities of Ukraine had showed great “courage” in going through with the voting, despite threats from separatists.

Head of the NATO PA delegation, Karl Lamers, said: “I am glad to say that the Ukraine people and authorities have made this election a success.”  He said that people had said before the election, that “it would be important and difficult”, but he was proud of the vote’s turnout.

“Voting in large numbers have demonstrated once again that they [the Ukrainian people] want to be the masters of their own destiny… and want a united Ukraine,” Mr. Lamers said.

Andreas Gross, Head of the PACE delegation, said that the elections were “high quality”, as well as the “best answers to all aggression and those harmed in recent weeks.” 

Illkka Kanerva, head OSCE PA delegation, said: “The Ukrainian authorities carried out the election in line with international standards.”  And that the “people and authorities of Ukraine were very open” to the OSCE observers monitoring the election.

The heads stressed that dialogue between the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, and the pro-Russian separatists is vital for a “Democratic state” as well as a solution for the internal turmoil that is tearing the country apart.

“Those who belong together can only come together through dialogue, mutual understanding, social reforms and greater fairness,” Mr. Gross said.

Mr. Gross believes that the Mr. Poroshenko knows what is required to restore order to Ukraine, and “that’s why he was elected.”

Mr. Kanerva promised “continued support” from OSCE for dialogue.

There was an “impressive turnout” with over 60% of eligible voters casting their ballots.  

This statistic is significantly higher than the turnout in the simultaneous EU parliament vote that took place in 25 of 27 countries throughout Europe.

Mr. Soars said that the large turnout was a “rebuke to those who would challenge Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

He berated efforts by pro-Russian separatist to disrupt the election, saying that the turnout showed the separatist that they “can not win by breaking the rules”.  

Mr. Kanerva said the election turnout shows the Ukrainian people’s “common goal to live in a free and populous Democracy,” and “clear determination of the Ukrainian people to choose their destiny.” 

He also said that Sunday “was critical and so is tomorrow,” and that efforts towards stabilizing Ukraine must continue.

Majority of citizens in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where pro-Russian separatists have declared a “People’s Republic”, were “prevented from voting”.

Mr. Lamers said that the residents of these regions had been “deprived” of their “constitutional rights to vote.”

Many citizens had been threatened–some, held at gunpoint–by masked gunmen.

Tana de Zulueta,head of the OSCE ODIHR long-term election observation mission, described the actions of these masked gunmen as “cowardly”.

The OSCE ODIHR “condemned” the voting violation.

Mr. Soars said the the separatists’ actions proved that their recent referendum on greater autonomy from Ukraine was “illegitimate”.

In Crimea, they was no voting at all.

The separatists had previously declared that they would prevent voting in Donetsk and Luhansk following their declaration of independence from Ukraine on May 11.

Mr. Soars stated that Russian observers had been invited to join in the mission but that they had declined.

However, he said that he had seen two Russian observers in Ukraine, which was a “positive” sign.

Ms. Zulueta said that OSCE observers will stay in Ukraine until the the procedures are over and will then leave sometime in June.

“These elections are a significant step forwards to a united Ukraine,” Mr Lamers said.  And “all Ukrainians should be proud.”




International Observers to Present Post-Election Statement


Members of the international observers monitoring the Ukrainian presidential election on May 25 will present their preliminary post-election statement in Kiev on Monday.

The international observation is made up of: the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR); the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA); the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); the European Parliament (EP); and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA).

“The statement will be delivered by Joao Soars, the Special Co-ordinator appointed to lead the short-term OSCE observer mission, followed by Andreas Gross, Head of the PACE delegation, Illka Kanerva, Head of the OSCE PA delegation, Goran Farm, Head of the EP delegation, Karl Lamers, Head of the NATO PA delegation, and Tana de Zulueta, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission,” the OSCE said on Saturday.

The upcoming presidential elections follows the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in late February which led to the annexation of the country’s peninsula region, Crimea, by Russia in March, and violent clashes between the Ukraine military and pro-Russian militants throughout eastern and southern Ukraine over the last two or so months.

In April, several members of the OSCE observation team in Ukraine were detained by pro-Russian separatists in Slovyansk, the stronghold of the separatists in the eastern party of the country, along with several Ukrainian military personnel.

The OSCE members were later released, reportedly unharmed.

Ukrainian Presidential Election Technically Illegal

At a meeting with heads of leading international news agencies in St. Petersburg on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his statement that the upcoming presidential election in Ukraine is technically illegal with the former president still legally being in office under the Constitution of Ukraine.

“Take the Ukrainian Constitution and read it.  It says there are four legitimate reasons when an incumbent president has to go.

“They are: death, a serious health condition, impeachment–and there was no constitution-based impeachment–and resignation, when the president hands in his resignation to the Parliament.”

Mr. Putin stated that the Ukraine and the international community “either stick to the [Ukrainian] constitution or dismiss it.”

He believes that the Kiev government “should have dealt with these issues first” but instead they “had a different plan.”

The president also expressed his beliefs that the political situation in Ukraine could be better resolved by first “hold[ing] a referendum, then adopt[ing] a constitution and then hold[ing] elections based on the new fundamental law.”

“However, the current authorities in Kiev and these people who control the power have decided to follow a different course,” President Putin said.  “They want to stage the election first and then deal with the constitutional amendments.”

Over the past couple weeks, Mr. Putin has seemed to have shifted from his previous position of political attacks against the interim government in Kiev and right to intervene in Ukraine to protect the rights of the Russian-speaking population, to a more peaceful stance, one that is willing to work towards establishing peace and stability in the divided Ukraine.

Moscow had previously accused the government in Kiev of being “fascist” and “neo-Nazis”, and illegitimate.  

But, Mr. Putin said on Saturday that it is possible the Ukrainian government is interested in the upcoming president being “completely legitimate.”

Ultimately, Russia “will by all means respect the choice of the Ukrainian people and will cooperate with the authorities that will come to power as a result of the election.”