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Ukraine's richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov weighs in to crisis - FT.com

Ukraine's richest oligarch on Friday weighed in to the country's political crisis, calling for a compromise between thousands of pro-EU protesters and the president to be reached at a "table of peace".

Breaking his silence for the first time since demonstrations erupted in late November, Rinat Akhmetov, a long-time ally of President Viktor Yanukovich, in a carefully worded statement appeared to be voicing solidarity with the anti-government protesters on Kiev's streets.

Hours after Mr Akhmetov's statement, opposition politicians leading the protests announced that they would take part in a first round of talks with Mr Yanukovich later on Friday. The breakthrough came after more than a dozen demonstrators were released from custody, one of their preconditions for negotiations.

Mr Akhmetov, the owner of a diversified business empire valued by Forbes at $15.4bn and with assets spanning Ukraine, Europe and the US, questioned why the government backed out of a historic agreement with the EU in favour of pursuing closer economic ties with Russia.

"Ukraine and the president have been going along the European road for three and a half years and much has been achieved over this time," Mr Akhmetov said. "The agreement was not signed" as scheduled at an EU summit held late last month "in Vilnius. And everybody asked, what happened? Did Ukraine take a pause? Did Ukraine stop? Or did Ukraine take another road? Everyone wants clarity."

Coming two days after Ukraine's second richest man, Victor Pinchuk, backed the protests, Mr Akhmetov's statement added to speculation that the country's influential oligarchs are on the brink of turning against Mr Yanukovich, whom they have backed in the past.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:50:53 PM EST
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EUobserver.com / Foreign Affairs / EU and Ukraine drift further apart despite new talks

BRUSSELS - The EU has said it will give Ukraine more money if it signs a trade pact, but its list of political conditions is getting longer.

EU commissioner Stefan Fuele promised the extra funds at a press briefing in Brussels on Thursday (12 December) with Ukraine's deputy PM Serhiy Arbuzov.

He said the EU is ready to "step up" financial aid for implementing EU laws, to "top up" International Monetary Fund loans, and to "help bring on board other international partners," such as the World Bank, if Ukraine says Yes.

He noted that "the ... backdrop for our efforts is the looming financial crisis in Ukraine."

He did not give figures, but he added that EU aid "will only get bigger and bigger" after the treaty is signed.

For his part, Arbuzov said pro-EU protesters in Kiev should not expect good news any time soon.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:59:32 PM EST
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BBC News - Ukraine court frees protesters held after Kiev clashes

A Ukrainian court has freed nine people arrested during clashes between pro-EU protesters and riot police, a key demand of the protest movement.

The nine were arrested during a violent crackdown on 30 November to drive protesters away from the presidential administration in the capital Kiev.

The first round of talks between protesters and President Viktor Yanukovych have made little progress.

Demonstrators are arriving in Kiev ahead of a mass rally on Sunday.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:03:33 PM EST
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Ukraine to offer amnesty to protesters - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian president, has said that he would propose an amnesty for those detained during recent mass protests against a government decision to reject a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Yanukovich made few concessions in crisis talks he held with the opposition on Friday, his first direct attempt to defuse weeks of unrest over a policy swerve to Russia away from Europe.

He promised an amnesty for those arrested during the protests and said he would consider sacking officials responsible for working on the Association Agreement proposed by the EU - but he made no indication of sacking Mykola Azarov, the Ukrainian prime minister, as demanded by the opposition.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:09:49 PM EST
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Provocations, EU's financial interests behind Ukraine protests - Lavrov

Russia 'has no doubt' that 'provocateurs with a long-prepared script' lurk behind the mass protests in Ukraine. This position was voiced by Russian RM Sergey Lavrov in a TV interview, in which he criticized the EU's greed and interventionism.

The scale of the ongoing protest is "incomprehensible" the Russian minister said on Saturday on the Rossiya 24 TV channel. Such a reaction would be understandable, for example, if Ukraine's government had declared war on a peaceful foreign nation against the wishes of the people. But merely delaying signing the EU trade deal does not give good cause for it, Lavrov believes.

"There is no doubt that provocateurs are behind it," he said.

Lavrov defended the Ukrainian government's right to take decisions on its national policy and criticized Western officials who have sided with the protesters demanding the government's resignation.



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 05:39:09 AM EST
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Kiev Tug-of-War: Merkel Still Open to Ukraine Cooperation

(Spiegel Online) - Lithuanian President Dalia Grysbauskaite accused the Kremlin of blackmail. "The actions of Russia towards countries like Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia show that this country still employs uncivilized methods," Grysbaukaite told the German newspaper Die Zeit. It is inconceivable "that a country in the 21st century would still blackmail other countries in this way."

'We Underestimated the Drama'

European Parliament President Martin Schulz admitted EU officials made mistakes in their negotiations with Ukraine. "I think we underestimated the drama of the domestic political situation in Ukraine," he told German public radio station Deutschlandfunk. Ukraine, he said, "has been in a deep economic and financial crisis" since the introduction of democracy. "They desperately need money and they desperately need a reliable gas supply," he added.

Schulz said he understood why Ukraine moved towards Russia. "It is not especially popular in Europe to help states which are in a crisis ... and if you look at Moscow's proposals, they would offer Ukraine short-term assistance that we, as Europeans, cannot and do not want to afford."



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 09:24:27 AM EST
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