Welcome to UKRAINE
By its territory, Ukraine is one of the largest countries in South-East Europe. Its overall area is 603.7 ths sq. km, its extension from the West to East - 1300 kilometers, from the North to South - 900 kilometers. In the South Ukraine is washed by waters of the Black and Azov Seas; intensive contacts with foreign countries are effected through ports of these seas. A gateway to Danube provides communication with 7 countries of Western Europe. Developed railway, automobile and aviation networks connect the country almost with all the corners of the earth. Ukraine is bounded on the east by Russia, on the north by Byeloruss, on the west by Poland and Slovakia, on the south-east by Hungary, Romania and Moldova. The conventional point of European geographical center is situated nearby Rakhiv, Transcarpathian region.
The climate of Ukraine is mostly temperate continental. The Black Sea coast is subject to freezing. Precipitation generally decreases from north to south; it is greatest in the Carpathians, where it exceeds more than 1500 mm (58.5 in) per year, and least in the coastal lowlands of the Black Sea, where it averages less than 300 mm (11.7 in) per year.
Climate of Ukraine is of moderate continental type with certain peculiarities in Crimean mountains and Carpathians, as well as in the southern coastline of Crimea, where it has features of subtropical one. The largest mountain system - Ukrainian Carpathians - lies in the form of a range, 260 km long and 100 - 110 km wide. The highest peak of Ukraine - Goverla Mountain (2061 m) - is situated in Chornogirya massif of Ukrainian Carpathians.
Over 70 ths rivers run through the territory of Ukraine; the largest of those are Dnipro, Dniester, Pivdenny Bug, Sivers'ky Donets' and Danube. There are over 3 ths of natural lakes and 22 ths of artificial water reservoirs. The largest river of the country - Dnipro (the third longest in Europe) with the length of 2285 km, from which 1205 kilometers are within the territory of Ukraine, flows into Black Sea. Dnipro basin covers almost a half of the territory of the country.
Ukraine officially starts partial mobilization
"Today, Ukraine has officially started a partial mobilization, which will be held in three waves for a total duration of 210 days throughout the territory of 24 regions of Ukraine and Kyiv," he said.
"New servicemen will replace soldiers who have served since the spring of 2014. The mobilized Ukrainians who have to serve in the Donbas conflict zone will receive a 100% bonus on their salary," Lysenko said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, today, January 20, the parliament’s official newspaper Holos Ukrainy published the Law "On approval of the Presidential Decree of January 14, 2015, No. 15 "On partial mobilization."
New round of peace talks on Ukraine set for Wednesday
A new round of peace talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine will be held in Berlin on Wednesday evening with the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Francetaking part, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said.
A ministry spokeswoman confirmed a report to appear in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily. It said that this time Ukraine andRussia had requested the meeting. They are eager to discuss ways to defuse a recent upturn in violence in the region, it said.
After a similar meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin last Monday, the contact group of the four countries called off plans to hold a summit on the conflict because of a lack of progress in implementing the Minsk agreement.
The war between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels broke out soon after Russia annexed Crimea last year, creating the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War. Western governments accuse Russia of backing the rebels, including by sending in troops, a charge it denies.
Lithuania urges united front on Russia, talks tough on Greece
The euro zone's newest member Lithuania fanned the debate surrounding Greece on Tuesday, saying countries needed to stick to their promises, and called for Europe to show a united front against Russia.
Finance minister Rimantas Sadzius told Reuters that he expected a further fall in the euro as the European Central Bank delivers what he expects will be "efficient, but sufficiently cautious" action this week.
He also said that in Lithuania there was room for new measures to support growth.
Sadzius will take part in his first meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday after Lithuania became the bloc's 19th member at the start of the year, and it is expected to be a baptism of fire.
Greece will be top of the agenda a day after its cliffhanger elections which are being fought over growing public disillusionment with the euro and austerity.
On top of that, the ECB is expected to have laid out plans for a large scale government bond buying programme that could effectively put the bloc's governments on the hook for hundreds of billions of euros of other countries' debt.
Sadzius said there was no talk of Greece leaving the euro but showed that Lithuania shared the firm views of other northern, more conservative European countries, includingGermany.
"I believe there are two principles that we (the euro zone)should follow strictly," said Sadzius. "First of all, we in Europe are united in our diversity and each country could and should choose its own destiny by democratically electing its government."
"And the second principle is that commitments that we took earlier should be complied with."
Sadzius also called for the bloc to "speak one voice" over Russian aggression in Ukraine, from which Lithuania is separated by just Belarus.
"We are proponents of sanctions because we ... are strong believers that there should be nobody that can violate international law without revenge," Sadzius said.
The European Union's foreign policy chief said on Monday that any easing of EU sanctions against Russia will only happen if there are improvements on the ground in Ukraine, where peace talks have stalled.
Sadzius said the increased security of being a euro zone member was one of the main reasons the Lithuanian public supported adopting the currency.
Like other ex-Soviet Baltic states, Lithuania's government has been an advocate of tough action on Russia. Sadzius said the country's entry into the euro area was the final step in a transition into the Western world, following its declaration of independence in 1990 and its accession to NATO and the EU in 2004.
"The geopolitical situation that we have around our borders is felt much more clearly in Lithuania than in old democracies in the middle of Europe," he said.
The finance minister said that a 3.4 percent domestic growth forecast for 2015 made in September, which had already been revised down from over 4 percent as trading partner Russia's economy went into reverse last year, could be trimmed again.
"I think we have already had almost the full blow of the deteriorating Russian economy," he said. "I think growth of 3 percent, or something like that, and faster growth in 2016 is attainable."
Sadzius, who is serving his second term as finance minister after a brief stint in 2007-08 before the country plunged into a deep financial crisis, said balancing the budget by 2017 was still a target but there was some room for new stimulus.
"I think we should take measures to further increase growth and I think there is space for action," he said, adding that a stronger economy was the best way to bring down overall debt.
French police arrest five Chechens, find explosives
Police in southern France have arrested five Chechens on suspicion of preparing an attack. They found a cache of explosives during their search. The five were arrested on Tuesday in southern France, according to Robert Menard, mayor of the town of Belziers. It's understood that four were arrested in Montpellier or nearby, and a fifth in Belziers. Menard said the man arrested in Belziers had been a resident "for some time."
Prosecutor Yvon Calvet told a local newspaper that it wasn't yet clear if the group was preparing a terrorist attack. The cable channel LCI reported that score settling between Chechen gangs motivated the group's actions.
France has been on high alert for almost two weeks after three days of violence in the Paris region - beginning with killings at Charlie Hebdo magazine - that left 20 people dead, including three gunmen.
U.S. Army commander in Europe heads to Ukraine
The U.S. Army’s commander in Europe will meet with Ukrainian defense officials to the discuss their military-to-military relationship just as the war-torn country wrestling with Russian supporters for control over a key airport in Donetsk. Lt. Gen. Frederick “Ben” Hodges will travel to the country this week and take part in a series of high-level meetings with the officials, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warrensaid. The group will discuss upcoming exercises and the U.S. military’s efforts to train and mentor the Ukrainian national guard, he said. His visit comes at a time when Ukraine is seeing an uptick in violence near Donetsk international airport, said Alina Frolova, a Ukrainian resistance activist. “Fighting has drastically intensified,” she said. “Starting from Jan. 15, we have [had] really tough battles, especially in Donetsk airport and nearby towns. We have massive bombing of small towns every night. And victims among civil population.” Over the past few weeks, Russia has increased its attempt to gain territory region. Constant fighting over the airport has reduced parts of it into rubble and turned it mostly into a symbol of strategic power, according to the Kyiv Post. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern that the escalation in violence could unravel “a hard-won September 2014 cease-fire,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a Jan. 18 statement. “The Secretary-General stresses that further deterioration of a situation that has led to heavy loss of life and civilian suffering must be avoided at all costs,”Mr. Dujarric said. “The United Nations stands ready to support all efforts toward de-escalation and the resumption of a genuine peace process to restore Ukraine’s stability and territorial integrity.”
View of war in Ukraine: maintain the pressure on Russia
The fighting and dying in Ukraine goes on but diplomacy is at a standstill.
Donetsk airport, its runways cratered by shelling, its buildings battered and its control tower decapitated, is a modern ruin that has long ceased to function. To lose lives over it seems senseless. Yet such is its symbolism for both sides that the fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists there goes on unabated, with the Ukrainians now claiming to have recaptured ground they had earlier lost. Meanwhile, diplomacy has all but stalled. As the shells and missiles flew on Monday in eastern Ukraine, Europe’s foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, determined that there were no grounds for any relaxation of sanctions.
The strategic plan developed by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, for a graduated reduction in sanctions in return for Russian concessions and cooperation in Ukraine and elsewhere has been set aside, as most people expected it would be, until the situation changes in a fundamental way.
This situation isn’t just a nasty little shootout between local militias and the underequipped and inexperienced battalions of the Ukrainian army. It illustrates how the geopolitical calculus of President Vladimir Putin, as he continues to furbish his anti-western narrative while crushing dissent within Russia, has led to some of the worst crimes perpetrated on European soil since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Indeed, it takes a twisted conspiratorial mindset, or brainwashing by Russian propaganda, to even attempt to deny that Russia’s armed forces have been deeply engaged in backing the rebel separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk, and making sure Ukraine’s sovereignty over its internationally recognised territory is not restored. It is precisely because of this involvement that the war has gone on for so long. Each time the rebels begin to lose, as in August 2014, more troops and weaponry funnel in from Russia. Civilians are at risk. In the worst recent incident, a rebel shell struck a bus near the locality of Volnovakha, on 13 January, killing 12 people and wounding 17. Local people posted a picture on social media showing inhabitants holding up the sign “Je suis Volnovakha”. The conflict in Ukraine has caused over 4,800 deaths since its outbreak in the spring of 2014, according to the World Health Organisation.
Recent attempts to get peace talks going have failed. The so-called Minsk ceasefire, agreed in September 2014, has been violated from the start, by both sides. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, rightly cancelled a meeting due to be held in Kazakhstan with Mr Putin because there were no real prospects of progress.
Russia still hasn’t implemented its side of the 12-point ceasefire accord: in particular, it must withdraw its forces from Ukraine, pull its army away from the border and accept the deployment of international monitors on that same border. Without such steps, any diplomatic opening to Mr Putin would be useless, and a show of European weakness. The same logic surely applies to the lifting of European sanctions. There is, after all, no other European leverage available. It would be foolish and dangerous to let go of that leverage before peace has returned.
Ukraine forces come under attack from Russian troops
Ukrainian soldiers came under attack from Russian regular forces in the north of the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, a Ukrainian military spokesman said."Heavy fighting is continuing near the (Ukrainian army) checkpoints 29 and 31," the spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said, referring to a part of Luhansk region near the border with Russia."Ukrainian forces have stopped the advance of Russian troops ... The situation in the conflict zone is serious but under our control," he said at a special news briefing.
Russia's illegal prisoners of war
At his news conference in Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to recognize that my client, pilot Nadiya Savchenko, and 30 other Ukrainian service members being held in Russian jails are prisoners of war. This challenge to yet another universal norm demands a strong response from other nations. Savchenko was captured on June 18 by pro-Russian separatists near Luhansk while on a mission to rescue wounded Ukrainian soldiers. She was dressed in a Ukrainian military uniform and carried a firearm, clearly making her subject to Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention, which delineates criteria for POW status. On June 19, a video of her interrogation appeared on the Internet; she was not mistreated but was handcuffed to a metal pipe and questioned on military subjects such as the deployment of Ukrainian forces. Then she was transferred to separatist headquarters in Donetsk, and the chief of rebel counterintelligence confirmed that she had been taken prisoner. On June 20, the rebels handed Savchenko over to Russian intelligence officers, who put a sack on her head and secretly transferred her to Russia. Russian authorities insist that she crossed the border voluntarily, without documents, in the guise of a refugee — which is a lie. Savchenko is being held in a civilian prison in Moscow, where she has begun a hunger strike to protest her illegal detention. As Putin confirmed at his news conference, she is accused under the Russian criminal code of complicity in the June 17 killing of two Russian journalists, who died during a mortar attack on separatist positions outside Luhansk. Russian propaganda portrays her as a murderer and a terrorist. Savchenko’s innocence of this charge can be easily established: Telephone logs show that she was captured an hour before the attack that killed the journalists. But that is not the point. Under the Geneva Conventions, she cannot be charged with a criminal offense at all. If she did anything wrong, she is answerable only to international justice under the laws of war. Putin’s reluctance to recognize that the Ukrainian captives are POWs is understandable. Russia says that it is not a party to the Ukrainian conflict, even though by the standards of the Geneva Conventions, it unquestionably is. The separatists are armed, trained, supplied and directed by Moscow. In Crimea, Russia occupied and annexed a part of Ukrainian territory. If this does not make Russia a participant in a war, what would? And if it does, my client is Russia’s POW. But even if the war were solely between the Ukrainian government and the rebels, it is still governed by the Geneva Conventions as an “internal armed conflict” — in which case, Savchenko is a POW of the rebels who has been illegally transferred to Russia. Russia has no business trying foreign combatants under its internal criminal code. If it is not at war with Ukraine, it should release Savchenko immediately. Whosever prisoner my client is, she is undoubtedly a POW — and has been from the moment of her capture. The Geneva Conventions say that in doubtful cases, the presumption of POW status applies until the uncertainty is resolved by a “competent tribunal.” If Putin respected the law, he would have left the decision on POW status to an independent court before which the Russian state would have the burden of proof. The international community stops short of naming Russia a party to this war. But sometimes the pursuit of an individual legal case can break through policy constraints and succeed in securing justice. My client has rights under international law, rights that the nations are obligated to enforce regardless of their reluctance to push Putin too far. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations should demand the immediate release of Nadiya Savchenko and the other Ukrainian POWs — or else Russia should be held in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Oil falls again as IMF cuts forecast; Iran hints at $25 oil
Oil fell as much as 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast on lower fuel demand and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action. Genscape, an analytics firm that monitors U.S. oil stocks, reported a 2.6 million-barrel build last week in Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the U.S. crude futures contract, adding to the market's bearish sentiment, traders said. Trade group American Petroleum Institute will issue its data onU.S. crude inventories for last week on Wednesday while the government's Energy Information Administration will release its stockpile tally on Thursday, both delayed a day by a holiday on Monday. Benchmark Brent crude was down 39 cents at $48.45 a barrel by 1656 GMT, after touching a session low at $47.78. U.S. crude traded down $1.95 at $46.74, after an intraday bottom at $46.23. The premium for Brent crude over U.S. crude futures widened after Genscape's reported build in Cushing stocks. The arbitrage was up 20 percent to around $1.30 a barrel by 1652 GMT, after widening to as much as to $1.58 earlier. Oil prices are hovering near six-year lows after a seven-month long selloff on worries of a glut caused primarily by unexpectedly high production of U.S. shale crude. An expected slide in the U.S. oil rig count in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter of last year also failed to boost sentiment on Tuesday as traders and investors remain glued on concerns of oil oversupply. "Because we have record oil production now, the falling rig numbers are not creating an immediate positive impact in bolstering prices," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "In fact, they may be creating just the opposite impact; reminding us how poor demand is." U.S. oil services firm Baker Hughes Inc said in its conference call presentation on Tuesday the U.S. average rig count was expected to decline 15 percent in the first quarter from a quarter ago, and it expected to lay off some 7,000 staff. Earlier data from Baker Hughes showed the number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States fell by 55 last week, the second-sharpest weekly drop in 24 years. The IMF, in its latest World Economic Outlook report, reduced its forecast by 0.3 percentage points for this year and next, projecting a 3.5 percent growth in 2015 and 3.7 percent for 2016. Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Tehran saw no signs of a shift within OPEC toward action to support oil prices, and that the industry could ride out a further slump toward $25.
No need for Russian gas in two years
In 2014, Ukraine reduced the volume of gas consumption from 70 billion to 40 billion cubic meters. In two years Ukraine will need no Russian natural gas at all, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said, delivering a speech at the Europa Institute at the University of Zurich on Monday, an Ukrinform correspondent reported.
"Can you imagine that my country supplied 70 billion cubic meters of gas six years ago? Today we supply forty [billion cubic meters]. This achievement was made this year. I am fully convinced that in two years we will need no Russian gas at all. This is a very important factor in the energy independence of my country," the President said.
Gas prices for population may be raised again
National JSC Naftogaz Ukrainy has calculated the cost of gas produced by its subsidiary, PJSC Ukrgazvydobuvannia, and determined it to account for UAH 5.430 per thousand cubic meters in 2015.
The publication notes that calculation of the economic cost was based on operating costs (UAH 208 per 1,000 cubic meters without amortization and royalties included), administrative expenses (UAH 19.4 per 1,000) and other costs, in particular expenditures on seismic and scientific research, which amount to UAH 21.9 UAH per 1,000 cubic meters.
In addition, Naftogaz took into account amortization costs of fixed assets (UAH 302.9 per 1,000 cubic meters) and amortized expenditures on the right to use subsoil (UAH 311 per 1,000 cubic meters), as well as the cost of capital, which according to its calculations is UAH 2,854.2 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Gazprom Says Ukraine To Pay Full Gas Price As Of April 1
The chief of Russian gas giant Gazprom says Ukraine's discount "winter price" for natural gas will end on April 1. Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller said in a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on January 20 that the gas price on April 1 for Kyiv would be set in accordance with a longstanding contract. He did not specify a price, but Gazprom previously charged Ukraine $485 per 1,000 cubic meters under a 2009 contract that Kyiv long sought to change. Russia lowered the price from that level late in 2013 as part of a reward to Kyiv for scrapping a landmark pact with the EU, then raised again after he outster of Viktor Yanukovych as president last February. On October 30, Russia and Ukraine agreeed to a an EU-brokered deal under which Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Kyiv would pay Gazprom $378 per 1,000 cubic meters until the end of 2014 and $365 per 1,000 cubic meters in the first quarter of 2015. Miller also said that Ukraine's debt to Russia for previous gas shipments is $2.44 billion.
Ex-finance minister Kolobov, ex-PM Azarov arrested in absentia
The Pechersky district court of Kyiv has delivered a judgment on taking former Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov and former finance minister Yuri Kolobov into custody.
This has been announced by the press service of the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine, an Ukrinform correspondent reports."January 19, 2015, upon the motion of the Prosecutor General's Office, the Pechersky district court of Kyiv ruled to apply the measure of restraint in the form of detention to former Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov and former finance minister Yuri Kolobov," reads the statement.
According to the press service, the choice of this measure allows investigators of the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine to demand the extradition of ex-officials from the Russian Federation.