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CRS — Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (updated)

March 28, 2014 Comments off

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service

After a failed effort to violently disperse pro-European Union protests, the government of President Viktor Yanukovych collapsed on February 21, 2014. He fled from Kyiv, as did many of his supporters, and protestors took over Kyiv. The Ukrainian parliament approved a new proreform, pro-Western government on February 27. The parliament has scheduled new presidential elections for May 25, 2014. Russia has condemned the new government in Kyiv as illegitimate and responded by sending troops to seize Ukraine’s Crimea region. Ignoring U.S. and international condemnation, Russia annexed Crimea on March 18. Ukrainian officials charge that Russia is also trying to stir unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine, where many Russian-speakers live, perhaps in order to provide a pretext for an invasion of those regions.

Ukraine’s new government faces serious economic problems. Ukraine has long-standing problems in attracting foreign investment, in part due to rampant corruption and other shortcomings in the rule of law. In the near term, the government’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves have raised the prospect of a default on sovereign debt later this year, unless the government can secure new loans quickly.

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United Nations Research Guide — Peace & Security: The Situation in Ukraine

March 26, 2014 Comments off

Peace & Security: The Situation in Ukraine
Source: United Nations

This guide provides Security Council documentation, news, and other resources related to the situation in Ukraine.

Categories: Ukraine, United Nations

EU — March 2014 Think Tank Review

March 24, 2014 Comments off

March 2014 Think Tank Review (PDF)
Source: European University Institute Library

Welcome to issue 11 of the Think Tank Review compiled by the EU Council Library. It references papers published in February 2014. As usual, we provide the link to the full text and a short abstract.

Time and again, developments on the ground in Ukraine catch the world off-guard. While the EU Council and – in this very days – EU Heads of State and Government keep Ukraine at the centre of their deliberations, and despite the risk of offering something obsolete, the TTR this month has a Special focus on Ukraine. A number of papers are (logically) a few weeks behind the times, but we kept those that offered background on, for example, the opposition movements in the country, its track record of integration with the EU, the energy policy implications of the crisis.

Predictably, an alysing the Ukrainian crisis led think tanks to direct some attention to EU – Russia relations, to the Eastern Partnership and indeed to the EU’s political engagement in Central Asia. Still in external relations, we highlight papers ranging from broad geopolitical notions (Eurasia) to micro analyses such as the one on Chinese investment in Greece. Readers interested in specific regions will find references to publications on Switzerland and Syria, the Arab countries and Afghanistan, the Asian Development Bank and the EU – Africa summit.

The papers on energy policy, energy security, nuclear and renewables resonate with climate and energy being on the agenda of the March European Council .

Ukrainian crisis—a quick guide to key resources

March 14, 2014 Comments off

Ukrainian crisis—a quick guide to key resources
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This Quick Guide provides Parliamentarians with a list of key resources and commentary about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Backgrounder: Ukraine in Crisis

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: >Ukraine in Crisis
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Ukraine’s most prolonged and deadly crisis since its post-Soviet independence began as a protest against the government dropping plans to forge closer trade ties with the European Union and has since spurred a global standoff between Russia and Western powers. The crisis stems from more than twenty years of weak governance, a lopsided economy dominated by oligarchs, heavy reliance on Russia, and sharp differences between Ukraine’s linguistically, religiously, and ethnically distinct eastern and western halves. After the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in Feburary 2014, Russian moves to take control of the Crimean Peninsula signaled Moscow’s intent to retain its sphere of influence and raised serious questions about the ability of the state’s new leaders to provide stability and a path to meaningful reforms.

CRS — Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Many observers have expressed concern about Ukraine’s democratic development, including the government’s use of the courts to neutralize opposition leaders, most notably former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in 2011. The government’s effort in November 2013 to violently disperse pro-European Union protests backfired, resulted in mass demonstrations in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine. For over two months, the government has alternated between attempted crackdowns against the protestors and conciliatory gestures. The most serious violence has occurred during and after a massive government crackdown on February 18, resulting in scores of deaths, mainly among protestors but also including some police officers.

Issue Guide: Crisis in Ukraine

February 21, 2014 Comments off

Issue Guide: Crisis in Ukraine
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The latest eruption of violence in Ukraine has brought its protracted political unrest—rooted in a dispute over strengthening ties with the European Union—to its bloodiest phase yet. Some analysts are concerned that further bloodshed will end the chance for crucial power-sharing compromises seen as the best path for resolving the dispute and restoring stability. This roundup of expert analysis examines the conflict and consequences for regional stability.

State Department — Ukraine Travel Alert

February 19, 2014 Comments off

Ukraine Travel Alert
Source: U.S. Department of State

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the increased risks of travel to Ukraine because of the ongoing political unrest and violent clashes between police and protesters. Since February 18, there has been a sharp escalation in violence between protesters and police. The Ukrainian Security Services have announced that they may take extraordinary measures beginning the evening of February 18. U.S. citizens are urged to maintain a low profile and to remain indoors at night while clashes continue. As of February 18, the Kyiv Metro (subway) has been shut down and access into Kyiv by road has, according to credible reports, been restricted. The situation is currently very fluid and U.S. citizens in Kyiv should follow media reports closely as events develop. This Travel Alert dated February 18, 2014, replaces the Travel Alert dated January 24, 2014, and updates specific information on violent protests and transportation systems. This Travel Alert expires May 17, 2014.

See also:

Psychiatry as a Tool for Coercion in Post-Soviet Countries

August 29, 2013 Comments off

Psychiatry as a Tool for Coercion in Post-Soviet Countries
Source: European Parliament

During the 1960-1980s in the USSR, psychiatry was turned into a tool of repression. Soviet psychiatry was cut off from world psychiatry and developed its own – highly institutional and biologically oriented – course, providing at the same time a “scientific justification” for declaring dissidents mentally ill. Since the collapse of the USSR there have been frequent reports of persons hospitalized for non-medical reasons, mostly in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The abuses are caused by an underdeveloped mental health profession with little knowledge of medical ethics and professional responsibilities of physicians; by a system that is highly abusive and not able to guarantee the rights of patients; because of corrupt societies where also psychiatric diagnoses are for sale; because of lack of financing and interest by the authorities and in some cases because of a deteriorating political climate in which local authorities feel safe to use psychiatry again as a tool of repression. Through targeted interventions from outside the situation could be considerably ameliorated and a clear break with the past could be made possible. In this respect the European Parliament can play a crucial role in empowering those who wish to make a clear break with the Soviet past.

Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl

August 14, 2013 Comments off

Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Radiation cataracts develop as a consequence of the effects of ionizing radiation on the development of the lens of the eye with an opaque lens reducing or eliminating the ability to see. Therefore, we would expect cataracts to be associated with reduced fitness in free-living animals.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the incidence of lens opacities typical of cataracts in more than 1100 free-living birds in the Chernobyl region in relation to background radiation. The incidence of cataracts increased with level of background radiation both in analyses based on a dichotomous score and in analyses of continuous scores of intensity of cataracts. The odds ratio per unit change in the regressor was 0.722 (95% CI 0.648, 0.804), which was less than odds ratios from investigations of radiation cataracts in humans. The relatively small odds ratio may be due to increased mortality in birds with cataracts. We found a stronger negative relationship between bird abundance and background radiation when the frequency of cataracts was higher, but also a direct effect of radiation on abundance, suggesting that radiation indirectly affects abundance negatively through an increase in the frequency of cataracts in bird populations, but also through direct effects of radiation on other diseases, food abundance and interactions with other species. There was no increase in incidence of cataracts with increasing age, suggesting that yearlings and older individuals were similarly affected as is typical of radiation cataract.

Conclusions/Significance
These findings suggest that cataracts are an under-estimated cause of morbidity in free-living birds and, by inference, other vertebrates in areas contaminated with radioactive materials.

Radiation and the Risk of Chronic Lymphocytic and Other Leukemias among Chornobyl Cleanup Workers

November 15, 2012 Comments off

Radiation and the Risk of Chronic Lymphocytic and Other Leukemias among Chornobyl Cleanup Workers

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Background: Risks of most types of leukemia from exposure to acute high doses of ionizing radiation are well known, but risks associated with protracted exposures, and associations between radiation and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are not clear.

Objectives: To estimate relative risks of CLL and non-CLL from protracted exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation.

Methods: A nested case-control study was conducted in a cohort of 110,645 Ukrainian cleanup workers of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident. Cases of incident leukemia diagnosed in 1986-2006 were confirmed by a panel of expert hematologists/hematopathologists. Controls were matched to cases on place of residence and year of birth. Individual bone marrow radiation doses were estimated by the Realistic Analytical Dose Reconstruction with Uncertainty Estimation (RADRUE) method. A conditional logistic regression model was used to estimate excess relative risk of leukemia per gray (ERR/Gy) of radiation dose.

Results:A significant linear dose-response was found for all leukemia (137 cases, ERR/Gy=1.26 (95% confidence interval 0.03, 3.58)). There were non-significant positive dose-responses for both CLL and non-CLL (ERR/Gy=0.76 and 1.87, respectively). In our primary analysis excluding 20 cases with direct in-person interviews

Conclusions: Exposure to low doses and low dose-rates of radiation from post-Chornobyl cleanup work was associated with a significant increase in risk of leukemia, which was statistically consistent with estimates for the Japanese atomic bomb survivors. Based on the primary analysis, we conclude that CLL and non-CLL are both radiosensitive.

See: Chernobyl Cleanup Workers Had Significantly Increased Risk of Leukemiahttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121108073635.htm (Science Daily)

Current Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Women of Reproductive Age — 14 Countries, 2008–2010

November 2, 2012 Comments off

Current Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Women of Reproductive Age — 14 Countries, 2008–2010

Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Tobacco use and secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure in reproductive-aged women can cause adverse reproductive health outcomes, such as pregnancy complications, fetal growth restriction, preterm delivery, stillbirths, and infant death (1–3). Data on tobacco use and SHS exposure among reproductive-aged women in low- and middle-income countries are scarce. To examine current tobacco use and SHS exposure in women aged 15–49 years, data were analyzed from the 2008–2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) from 14 low- and middle-income countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Vietnam. The results of this analysis indicated that, among reproductive-aged women, current tobacco smoking ranged from 0.4% in Egypt to 30.8% in Russia, current smokeless tobacco use was <1% in most countries, but common in Bangladesh (20.1%) and India (14.9%), and SHS exposure at home was common in all countries, ranging from 17.8% in Mexico to 72.3% in Vietnam. High tobacco smoking prevalence in some countries suggests that strategies promoting cessation should be a priority, whereas low prevalence in other countries suggests that strategies should focus on preventing smoking initiation. Promoting cessation and preventing initiation among both men and women would help to reduce the exposure of reproductive-aged women to SHS.

Adult Awareness of Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship — 14 Countries

May 28, 2012 Comments off

Adult Awareness of Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship — 14 Countries
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

According to the 2012 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) is associated with the initiation and continuation of smoking among young persons. The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires countries to prohibit all forms of TAPS (2); the United States signed the agreement in 2004, but the action has not yet been ratified. Many countries have adopted partial bans covering direct advertising in traditional media channels; however, few countries have adopted comprehensive bans on all types of direct and indirect marketing. To assess progress toward elimination of TAPS and the level of awareness of TAPS among persons aged ≥15 years, CDC used data from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) collected in 14 countries during 2008–2010. Awareness of any TAPS ranged from 12.4% in Turkey to 70.4% in the Philippines. In the four countries where awareness of TAPs was ≤15%, three of the countries had comprehensive bans covering all nine channels assessed by GATS, and the fourth country banned seven of the nine channels. In 12 countries, more persons were aware of advertising in stores than advertising via any other channel. Reducing exposure to TAPS is important to prevent initiation of tobacco use by youths and young adults and to help smokers quit.

CRS — Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

May 17, 2012 Comments off

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On February 7, 2010, Viktor Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to win Ukraine’s presidency. International monitors praised the conduct of the election, although Tymoshenko charged that the election had been fraudulent. Yanukovych was able to quickly to form a new parliamentary majority in the current parliament by inducing scores of supporters of the previous government to change sides. Government opponents charged that bribery and threats to the business interests of members were used to effect the change.

The global economic crisis hit Ukraine hard. Ukraine’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15% in 2009. The economy began to recover in 2010, and GDP increased by 4.7% in 2011, due in part to a surge in demand for Ukrainian steel exports. However, living standards for many Ukrainians remain low, leading to a rapid drop in Yanukovych’s popularity when compared to the period soon after his inauguration. Expected slow growth in western Europe will likely result in slower growth in 2012 for Ukraine as well.

President Yanukovych has pursued closer ties with Russia, especially in the economic sphere. A major focus of his policy has been to seek reduced prices for natural gas supplies from Moscow. In April 2010, he agreed to extend the lease of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine for 25 years in exchange for a reduction in gas prices. However, the impact of the deal on gas prices has been less than anticipated, as oil prices (on which Ukraine’s gas price is calculated) have soared due to unrest in the Middle East. As a result, Ukraine has sought additional gas price cuts from Moscow, so far without success.

Yanukovych has said that EU integration is a key priority for Ukraine, but U.S. and European criticism of what is widely viewed as the politically motivated conviction and imprisonment of Tymoshenko in October 2011 on charges of abuse of power, has called into question whether a long-awaited association agreement with the EU (including a free trade agreement) will be signed and enter into force. Ukraine continues to reject Russian proposals that it join a customs union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Yanukovych has made clear that his country is not seeking NATO membership, but wants to continue cooperation with NATO, including the holding of joint military exercises.

The Obama Administration has worked to “reset” relations with Russia, but has warned that it will not accept any country’s assertion of a sphere of influence, a reminder of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Administration has not publicly expressed concern about what some observers view as the pro-Russian tilt of Ukraine’s foreign policy under Yanukovych.

The Administration has focused on helping Ukraine rid itself of its supplies of highly enriched uranium, assisting Ukraine with the clean-up of the Chornobyl nuclear site, and diversifying Ukraine’s sources of energy, including advice on developing Ukraine’s shale gas reserves. Administration officials have expressed concerns about regression in Ukraine’s democratic development since Yanukovych took power, including in such areas as media freedoms, election laws and the conduct of elections, and selective prosecution of the government’s political opponents.

Ukraine must act to deal with endemic police criminality

December 17, 2011 Comments off

Ukraine must act to deal with endemic police criminality
Source: Amnesty International

The Ukrainian authorities must act immediately to deal with endemic police criminality, Amnesty International said today in a new report that reveals widespread torture, extortion, and arbitrary detention.

No evidence of a crime: Paying the price for police impunity in Ukraine, reveals how police are rarely punished for these crimes because of high levels of corruption, non-existent or flawed investigations, harassment and intimidation of complainants, and a low level of prosecutions for such crimes.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Stopping the Mortality Crisis in Ukraine

July 31, 2011 Comments off

Stopping the Mortality Crisis in Ukraine
Source: World Bank

Ukrainians have a high risk of dying prematurely. Nearly half of the adult population, many of them young, suffers from one or more chronic disease, say the World Bank and the Ukrainian Medical Union (UMU) in a new study “What Underlies Ukraine’s Mortality Crisis.” Rich and poor alike suffer from these conditions, according to the study. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and contributes to over half of the disease burden. Why is the Ukrainian population so careless about its health?

“Taking care of your health is one of the elements of our people’s culture. That is the first factor. The second factor is a trust towards doctors, the trust towards the quality of services provided by the state healthcare system. Both factors are very important. Patients should take care of their health. For example, they should immediately visit doctors to be diagnosed when they have pain in their chest, or they get winded, or have an abnormal heart rate,” says Vitaliy Averchuk, a Lviv cardiac surgeon who has saved a lot of people’s lives.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Country Specific Information: Ukraine

June 19, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Ukraine
Source: U.S. Department of State

June 08, 2011

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ukraine continues to experience significant political and economic changes. In recent years, the amount and types of goods and services available in Ukraine have increased, and facilities for travelers have improved. Nonetheless, the existence and quality of travel and tourist services remains uneven throughout the country, and it can still be difficult to find some of the goods and services commonly available in the United States. Please see the Department of State Background Notes on Ukraine for additional information.

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