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Interfax Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, August 28, 2009

Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sat, August 29, 2009 

Western lenders should not tolerate leaders who refuse to stop gas subsidies
Editorial: Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, August 28, 2009

Shakhtar Donetsk Football Club Opens Donbas Arena Stadium 
Ukrainian News - on-line, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, August 30, 2009 

Agence France Presse (AFP), Zhovtneve, Ukraine, Monday, Aug 31, 2009

American and Canadians Companies Experience Severe Difficulty in Ukraine and Romania
Commentary & Analysis: By Roman Kupchinsky
Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 6, Issue 160
Jamestown Foundation, Wash, D.C., Wed, August 19, 2009 

Reuters, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Tue, 25 August, 2009  

Reuters, Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, August 27, 2009 

Interfax Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, August 28, 2009

KYIV - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has transferred SDR 1.017 billion ($1.59 billion) to Ukraine as part of allocating 161.18 billion special drawing rights (SDR) (around $252.08 billion at the current exchange rate), the fund said in a press release.

According to the document, the allocation is based on a long-term global need to supplement IMF members' existing reserve assets and it provides
liquidity to the global economic system. The IMF says that there are no notes or coins denominated in SDRs, nonetheless the SDR does play a role as an interest-bearing international reserve asset.

The allocation of SDRs by the IMF boosts member countries' reserves, because SDRs can be turned into usable currencies. Once the SDRs have been added to a member country's official reserves, the country can voluntarily exchange its SDRs for hard currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, euro, yen, or pound
sterling, through voluntary trading arrangements with other IMF member countries.

The IMF also says that Ukraine, along with other countries that joined the fund after 1981 and have never received SDRs, will get an additional SDR 292
million ($457 million) as part of another allocation of SDR 21.45 billion ($33.4 billion).

General allocations of SDRs are made as a percentage of a member's quota with all participants receiving the same percentage. Each member of the SDR

Department gets an amount of SDRs that is equivalent to 74.13% of their quota. With the two allocations totaling roughly $283 billion, the outstanding stock of SDRs would increase nearly ten-fold to total about $316 billion, reads the statement.

The SDR was created by the IMF in 1969 to support the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system. However, only a few years later, the Bretton Woods
system collapsed and the major currencies shifted to a floating exchange rate regime. In addition, the growth in international capital markets facilitated borrowing by creditworthy governments.

Both of these developments lessened the need for SDRs. After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1973, however, the SDR was redefined as a basket of currencies, today consisting of the euro, Japanese yen, pound sterling, and U.S. dollar.

Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sat, August 29, 2009 

KYIV - The International Monetary Fund may provide Ukraine will loans exceeding the USD 16.5 billion stipulated in its Standby loan program. The International Monetary Funds Resident Representative in Ukraine Max Alier announced this in an interview in the Kontrakty newspaper.

We have not yet held talks on increasing funding, but the IMF is ready to seriously consider Ukraines application if additional resources are necessary and the government comes to us with an economically justified program, Alier said. He stressed that the current Standby loan program is intended for the period ending in October 2010.

The International Monetary Fund has already disbursed USD 10.5 billion to Ukraine under this Standby loan program and could disburse an additional USD 6 billion (including USD 3.8 billion before the end of this year). According to our estimates, the program is presently being financed adequately, Alier said.

At the same time, he did not rule out the possibility of the International Monetary Fund suspending disbursement of money if the Ukrainian authorities violate the requirements of the Standby loan program. If the adopted indicators are not fulfilled, we will analyze the reason for their non-fulfillment... We will end cooperation if such deviations are the result of a deliberate policy that violated the spirit and the goals of the program, Alier said.

According to him, the Cabinet of Ministers will provide the International Monetary Fund with exhaustive information about the use of the money already disbursed by the fund.  Ukraine is using the third tranche of the Standby loan (USD 3.3 billion) to make payments on its foreign loans, normalize the operations of its financial system, and finance social expenditures.

According to Alier, the terms of disbursement of the fourth tranche of the Standby loan are progress on the issue of improvement of the health of the Ukrainian banking industry, staying within the limit of the state budget deficit for 2009, and drafting a realistic state budget for 2010 with a deficit not exceeding 3% of GDP (4% of GDP, including the deficit of the Naftohaz Ukrainy national joint-stock company.

Alier warned the Ukrainian authorities against excessive financing of the state budget deficit through issuance of domestic loan bonds by the National Bank of Ukraine. Any monetarization of the budget deficit should be conducted very carefully because the consequences could be unpredictable and negative, for example, a jump in the currency exchange rate and uncontrollable inflation, Alier said.

He expressed the hope that the government will recapitalize the Nadra bank and Ukrprombank as promised after the banks reach agreements with their creditors on restructuring their foreign loans.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, the executive board of the International Monetary Fund approved on July 28 disbursement of USD 3.3 billion to
Ukraine as the third tranche of the Standby loan.  The first three tranches disbursed to Ukraine amounted to SDR 7 billion (more than USD 10.5 billion).
Western lenders should not tolerate leaders who refuse to stop gas subsidies

Editorial: Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, August 28, 2009

Western lenders should not tolerate populist rhetoric from Ukrainian leaders who refuse to stop gas subsidies for the population.

With its precarious finances, Ukraine has become dependent on international life support. The countries Western lenders, led by the International Monetary Fund, were right to step in with a $16.4 billion bailout last fall to keep Kyiv afloat and strong enough to withstand the hungry Russian bear. 

The IMF and its Western bankrollers have been too easy on Kyiv, issuing thus far more than $11 billion in loans without tough conditions, just to keep Kyiv stable for geopolitical reasons. There is a fine line between keeping a country afloat in the short run and sacrificing its long-term prospects.

Western lenders should get tougher with Kyivs populist leaders, particularly ahead of the presidential election. Forcing Ukraine to clean up its energy sector is the obvious place to start.

This week, presidential candidate and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko backed out of a pledge made this summer to gradually increase natural gas prices on households to market levels, starting in September.

The increases are crucial to removing structural deficits in the chronically broke  Naftogaz Ukraine. Forced to sell energy at prices for less than it pays, Naftogaz will never become solvent. Households consume domestic gas, paying several-fold less for it than industry pays for increasingly expensive Russian imports.

Lower household utility prices have long been kept in place by populist Ukrainian leaders to win votes. Yet they are destroying Ukraine's economy.  Hiking domestically-produced gas prices could also help diversify Ukraine's sources of natural gas, breaking down dependence on Russian imports. This would help Ukraine get more investment into its energy sector, cutting costly imports.

This is why the IMF demanded that Ukraine increase gas prices for households to market levels in return for a third tranche of $3.3 billion. Unfortunately, the countrys political elite failed to explain the logic to voters, fear a backlash and now are trying to back out. There will be no increases on gas for the population, Tymoshenko said on Aug. 25. This contradicts what Tymoshenko said earlier this summer, when she approved the increases.

Tymoshenko is not alone to blame. For Ukraines utility price regulator to increase prices, it needs approval from the countrys Federation of Labor Unions. It is headed by a lawmaker with the Regions Party led by presidential candidate Victor Yanukovyvch.

Regrettably, they have joined Tymoshenko in this wave of populist nonsense, insisting that the utility hike is not justified. With domestic leadership lacking, the IMF and Western lenders need to step in and threaten to cut off the lifeline unless policymakers find a way to ensure Naftogaz's solvency.

LINK: http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/editorial/47623
Shakhtar Donetsk Football Club Opens Donbas Arena Stadium 

Ukrainian News-on-line, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, August 30, 2009 

DONETSK - Shakhtar Donetsk football club has opened the Donbas Arena football stadium in Donetsk.  The ceremonial opening of the stadium took place in the evening on August 29.

The opening ceremony was attended by President Viktor Yuschenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Party of the Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych, and other politicians. Yuschenko and Lytvyn delivered addresses at the opening ceremony, but Tymoshenko did not.

About 3,000 honorary guests also attended the opening ceremony, including politicians, international football functionaries, athletes, and entertainers.
About 1,500 volunteers participated in the opening ceremony.

The presentation of the stadium was prepared by K-Events, the Italian company that organized the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin (Italy) in 2006. K-Events President Marco Balich did not disclose the cost of the stadiums opening ceremony, but he did say that it cost several million euros.

The Donbas Arena football stadium has a capacity of 50,000 and fully meets the UEFAs requirements for elite football stadiums and can host the finals of European club football tournaments.

The stadium has an oval shape and a glass facade. Its roof is inclined in the north-south direction to correspond to the slope of the landscape, thus increasing natural lighting and ventilation of the football pitch.  A park with a pond is being build around the stadium.

Three restaurants, four bars, a lounge bar, scores of fast-food restaurants, a fitness center, a proprietary shop, a museum, and a Shakhtar Donetsk fan cafe will be located inside the stadium. Construction of the stadium began in July 2006. The general contractor for its construction was the ENKA company (Turkey).

Construction of the stadium cost USD 400 million (financed by Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, owner of the local team Shakhtar that won the UEFA Cup last season). The owner of the stadium is the Shakhtar Stadium limited liability company. As Ukrainian News earlier reported, the Donbas Arena football stadium intends to bid to host the final match of the Champions League or the Europa League in 2012.

Agence France Presse (AFP), Zhovtneve, Ukraine, Monday, Aug 31, 2009
ZHOVTNEVE, Ukraine - Combine harvesters buzz across sunny fields of golden wheat - a picture of rural bliss in Ukraine, a fertile former Soviet republic once known as the bread basket of Europe.

But while Ukraine has seen its farming sector grow this year despite its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a legacy of social ills and under-funding in the countryside is proving hard to overcome.

“Villages are dying, young people have all gone to the towns. We’ve leased some land and bought harvesters but the manpower is missing,” said Grygori Kovalenko, an agronomist at Ukrainian-Austrian farming company Zernyatko.

The people harvesting Zernyatko’s fields in Zhovtneve, a village some 220km north of the capital Kiev, are mostly seasonal workers brought in for short periods of time - not year-round farmers.

Fedir Goncharuk, co-owner of another company, Dibrivka-Agroservice, based 170 kilometres south of the capital, paints an even bleaker picture. “I bus in people from 18 places nearby, otherwise I wouldn’t have any workers. There’s a distillery in the village. It’s worse than a nuclear bomb - most of the people here are alcoholics,” he said.

Despite these difficulties, the farming sector still managed to grow 3.8% in the first seven months of the year on a 12-month comparison, while industrial output plunged 31.1% in the first half of 2009.

Agriculture’s share in Ukrainian exports, traditionally dominated by metals and chemicals, has also risen. Grain made up 9.4 % of total exports in the first
half of the year compared to 3.1% at the same time last year.

“Agriculture is the economy’s main hope for its balance of payments,” said Mykhailo Salnykov, an expert from investment fund Sokrat Capital. “It is preventing an even more severe devaluation of the national currency,” the hryvnia, which has fallen some 40% against the dollar, he said.

Weekly business news magazine Kontrakty put it more succinctly. “Agriculture was the only sector to grow in Ukraine this year,” it said in a recent issue.
Farming has also managed to recover in the past few years to make Ukraine the fifth biggest grain exporter in the world and the country in 2008 had its biggest harvest since the Soviet collapse of 1991 - 53.3mn tons.

Experts however say the agriculture sector should be doing far better. Ukraine has 42mn hectares of agricultural land, making up 22% of Europe’s total. The climate is suited to farming and two-thirds of Ukraine is covered in “black earth” considered among the most fertile in the world.

Apart from the problems with manpower, producers also complain about the predominantly poor Soviet-era equipment and a lack of grain storage capacity, as well as broader inefficiencies in the grain market.

“We can’t make forecasts, policy is changing all the time and prices too. We can never achieve what we’ve planned in our business plan,” Goncharuk said.
“If the harvest is good, prices plunge. We buy barley seed for 3,000 hryvnias ($360) per ton and after the harvest we can only sell it at 600 hryvnias. So what’s the point of growing it?” he said.  “In the West, the state subsidises agriculture and controls the grain market. Here, not at all,” he added.

The lack of silos for storing grain forces producers to accept any price offered by intermediaries and banks are reluctant to give companies credit to build new silos because of the economic crisis, Goncharuk said. Ukraine has 650 to 700 silos with a total capacity of just 30mn tons.

The crippling economic crisis has also hit other aspects of farming. “Last year we were using 150kg of manure per hectare and this year only 50kg because of a lack of money,” Kovalenko said.

Still the fertile soil appears to compensate for these problems. The average grain yield in Ukraine rose to 3.5 tons per hectare in 2008 compared to 4.5 tons per hectare in the European Union and is still going up. Experts say the harvest in the next few years could reach 95mn tons.

Pointing to his luxury offroad Lexus car, Goncharuk smiled and said: “I won’t tell you about our profits but look at my car and our American tractors and draw your own conclusions.”
American and Canadians Companies Experience Severe Difficulty in Ukraine and Romania

Commentary & Analysis: By Roman Kupchinsky
Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 6, Issue 160
Jamestown Foundation, Wash, D.C., Wed, August 19, 2009 

While the European Union frets over Russian efforts to impose its energy diktat by building gas and oil pipelines on the bottom of the Black Sea, new conflicts are emerging - not over transit routes, but over rich hydrocarbon resources beneath its ancient waters.

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Vanco Energy Company is one example in which resource nationalism and a large dose of alleged corruption combined to push out a legitimate American company from developing Prykerchynsky (a large underwater gas field in the Black Sea).

Assignments to develop the field were given by Viktor Yanukovych's government during its final days to Rinat Akhmetov, the major financial supporter of Yanukovich's Party of the Regions. Vanco was caught up in a scandal when the new government led by Yulia Tymoshenko decided to unilaterally withdraw the licenses and break the contract with Vanco. Tymoshenko's main argument was that corruption during the assignment and the licensing process had nullified the deal.

No-one is currently developing the Prykerchynsky field, and the loser appears to be Ukraine. However, Vanco's fate was soon to be experienced by another Western company, this time from Canada - the difference being that the nemesis of the Canadians was the Romanian government.

In 2004, Romania brought a case against Ukraine to the International Court of Justice in a dispute concerning the maritime borders between the two states - more specifically about Snake Island, a tiny rock in the Black Sea. However, the real issue was not who owned Snake Island, but the 12-nautical-mile arc of its territorial sea, which contains significant oil and gas deposits.

It reportedly has "an estimated 70 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas - enough to supply Romania's entire gas needs for five years - and 12 million tons of oil, a massive amount of money rides on what signpost goes up over this bit of seabed" (www.businessneweurope.eu, February 7).

The license to develop a potentially large gas field in the waters off Snake Island is fully held by Sterling Resources, a publicly-traded company on the TSX (Toronto) Venture Stock Exchange. Sterling has pending assignments with well-known and respected partners, such as the Italian Gas Plus International, British Melrose Resources plc, and the Australian Petro Ventures International. Indeed, Petro Ventures is backed by the major Australian investment bank Macquarie.

Unlike Vanco, here there are no Austrian-based companies, no alleged ties to Russia, Gazprom or RUE, and no allegations of involvement by foreign oligarchs, organized crime or unnamed investors. In November 2008, hard-fought parliamentary elections brought a new Romanian government into power led by Prime Minister Emil Boc. On February 3, 2009, the ICJ ruled in Romania's favor in the border dispute, giving the country even more oil and gas holdings on the Black Sea shelf.

This court decision made Sterling's license significantly more valuable and set in motion a series of unexplained, murky events. Sterling had held its license through four previous governments and two presidential elections. However, suddenly after the ICJ ruling on the issue of Snake Island, the new Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) government began making unspecified allegations of corruption against the previous government for their supposed opaque dealings with Sterling and its license.

An investigation into Sterling's license is currently being conducted by the Romanian Parliament's Committee for Industries and Services, headed by Iulian Iancu. Separately, Sterling is being investigated by the Romanian Directorate for Investigation of International Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) on accusations made by Gelu Maracineanu, the President of the National Agency of Minerals and Resources (NAMR).

Parliamentary committees with nebulous "findings" and committees with executive authority have been formed to investigate the alleged wrongdoings. Meanwhile, as part of the Sterling investigation, several members of the new government have called for Romania to take a direct stake in Sterling's license through Romgaz, the state-owned natural gas company.

The government's stake in Romgaz is controlled by the Economy Minister Adriean Videanu. Videanu was responsible for initiating the investigation into Sterling, and he and Iancu are both pushing NAMR President Maracineanu to review Sterling's license and for Romgaz to receive a large stake.

As of 2004, the Romanian government held 100 percent of Romgaz's shares. In 2005, it began discussing the possible sale of a 10 percent stake. The discussions continued in 2006, but the privatization of the company was pushed back another three years, and the government has yet to announce a definitive schedule. The media has identified some of the following potential bidders, if the company were to privatize: Mol, Gaz de France, Gazprom, Lukoil, Ruhrgas and Wintershall.

Founded in 1909, Romgaz is one of the largest natural gas producers in Romania and Eastern Europe, with 3,600 wells in production and an annual output of 5 bcm. The company has six underground deposits with a total storage capacity of 2.75 bcm. Reportedly, Romgaz is ready to exploit the Black Sea's oil and gas resources without Sterling (www.actmedia.eu).

On the losing side you have the Romanian people, the future development of a national oil and gas industry and yet another internal obstacle to developing E.U. energy policy. If this is the state of the E.U. frontier, facing a perpetual frontal assault from Gazprom, there is little hope in Brussels of orchestrating something meaningful.

At a time of limited capital and in the face of daunting natural resource requirements - why would any government, especially one of the poorest in the E.U., attempt to drive out these types of quality investors?

NOTE: Roman Kupchinsky was born in Vienna, Austria and immigrated to the United States in 1949. He graduated with a degree in Political Science from Long Island University; served in the US Army as a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam. From 1978-1988 was President of Prolog Research Corp., a Ukrainian language publishing house and research company. From 1990-2002 was Director of the Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

From 2002-2008 was a senior analyst at RFE/RL. He is the author of numerous articles on Ukrainian affairs, Russian energy and international politics. He edited RFE’s Organized Crime and Corruption Watch as well as two collections of samizdat articles “The Nationality Problem in the USSR” and “Pogrom in Ukraine”. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

LINK: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35428

Reuters, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Tue, 25 August, 2009  
ASHGABAT - Ukraine wants to bypass Russia in its natural gas supplies from Central Asia and hopes to start talks with Turkmenistan soon on direct purchases, Ukraine's envoy to the Central Asian state said in an interview.

"Turkmenistan, a key exporter, and Ukraine, a key importer, could initiate talks on direct purchases," Viktor Maiko, Ukraine's ambassador to the Caspian nation, told Reuters. "That would be fair and logical."

Most of Ukraine's gas imports come from Russia which buys the commodity from Turkmenistan -- Central Asia's biggest exporter. Kiev, which has often rowed with Moscow over gas prices and supplies, has long sought to change the arrangement.

"We are ready to start three-way talks (including Russia) on the possibility of starting direct purchases of Turkmen gas. ... Perhaps that could involve 10-15 billion cubic metres of gas (a year)," Maiko said. He did not elaborate on the details and did not say how it would be technically possible to supply gas directly to Ukraine since Russian gas monopoly

Gazprom buys most of Turkmen gas production and controls its exports routes. Turkmenistan itself has said before it remains committed to its earlier gas delivery agreement with Russia until 2025.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev are both expected to visit Turkmenistan next month for talks certain to focus on natural gas supplies.

Turkmenistan itself, its budget dependent on Russian gas purchases, has sought to diversify exports away from its former Soviet overlord and forge closer ties with Western buyers.  Its pro-Western rhetoric has intensified since an explosion in April on a key Turkmen-Russia gas pipeline which Turkmenistan has blamed on Russia -- a charge Moscow denied.

The pipeline has since been repaired but the two sides still cannot agree on new terms of sales as Russia's Gazprom needs less gas than in the past.
Maiko said it could take up to a year to finalise a new arrangement for direct Turkmen purchases but gave no details. Turkmenistan's government could not be reached for comment.

Ukraine plays a key role in EU energy supply security, with about a fifth of Europe's gas coming from Russia via its territory, and Europe supports ways of securing steadier gas supplies.

Ukraine's latest dispute with Russia in January led to gas supplies to Europe being severed for more than two weeks. In a blow to Gazprom, already struggling with lower prices and depressed exports to western Europe, Ukraine has cut gas imports from Russia due to a slowdown in its economy. Maiko said however that a fall in imports was temporary.

"Things are picking up already," he said. "The recession may continue for some time ... but Ukraine's main energy consuming industries such as metals and chemicals are picking up again." (Writing by Maria Golovnina)

Reuters, Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, August 27, 2009 

KIEV -- Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz said on Thursday it held initial talks with creditors on restructuring its $500 million Eurobond due by the end of September and wants an "investor-friendly" solution.

The ailing energy firm, often at the centre of disputes with Russia of gas prices and supplies, has until Sept. 30 to repay the debt or agree a change to its terms. Some bondholders have already said they would refuse any changes.

"We are exploring ways which will work best for all parties, both investors and for the company. We are focused on finding a solution that is investor-friendly and welcome dialogue with all investors in terms of realising the most effective structure," Naftogaz chief Oleh Dubyna said in a statement.

Analysts have said any forced restructuring of the quasi-sovereign debt -- amounting to technical default -- would have a devastating impact on Ukrainian state and corporate bonds at a time when Kiev would like to borrow more from abroad.

But so far, neither the government nor Naftogaz have indicated they would force a solution, while the International Monetary Fund has given tacit support to agreed changes to the terms.

Russian investors, including the former head of a Gazprom affiliate, have said they plan to block any attempts at restructuring. Corlblow, a Belize-registered company, said investors holding 20 percent of the issue have taken that stance.

Some analysts have questioned why Ukraine would want to restructure the bond after it had received a $3.3 billion tranche from the IMF, which could be used for debt repayment. (Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki; editing by Chris Pizzey)

LINK: http://in.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idINLR8563220090827