BBG Watch Commentary

Russia’s state-funded international media outlet RT (Russia Today), The Wall Street Journal, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and other U.S. and international media are reporting that U.S. Senator McCain met with Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich on Sunday.

RT also reports that Senator McCain also met with imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s daughter.

The Voice of Russia (VOR) reported that “at a meeting between Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovich and US Senators John McCain and Christopher Murphy, Mr. Yanukovich confirmed that his policy concerning Ukraine’s integration into Europe will remain the same.”

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The Voice of America (VOA) English website, which was hours late behind BBC, RT and other media in reporting Sunday on Senator McCain’s and Senator Chris Murphy’s day in Kyiv, has not reported on their meeting with Yanukoych and McCain’s meeting with Tymoshenko’s daughter. Most VOA foreign language services are also not reporting on these meetings.

This is what RT is reporting on its English-language website in a report titled: “Rival rallies continue in Kiev as Western meddling increases,” RT, December 16, 2013.

McCain and Murphy met with Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich on Sunday. During the talks, the president “emphasized the invariability of the European integration course of Ukraine and the faithfulness to national interests of the state,” according to a statement on the leader’s website.

Yanukovich assured that the government will do everything in its power to make certain that citizens’ rights for peaceful demonstrations are protected, and confirmed that there will be an investigation into the events of November 30 on Independence Square – the day security forces launched a crackdown on protesters. The two sides have agreed to continue negotiations.

McCain also met with imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s daughter and said he supported sanctions against specific officials in the Ukrainian government, Tymoshenko’s Batkyvschina party said in a Sunday statement on its website.

“This morning the daughter of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, Yevgenia…held a meeting with US Senator John McCain,” the statement reads. McCain talked about “the possibility of bringing in personal sanctions against senior officials in [President Viktor] Yanukovych’s regime, including those implicated in the politically motivated persecution and jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko,” it continues.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the meeting with President Yanukovych: “EU, U.S. Senators Press Ukrainian President,” The Wall Street Journal, by Paul Sonne and James Marson in Kiev and Laurence Norman in Brussels. Updated Dec. 15, 2013 7:49 p.m. ET.

A report by a VOA correspondent James Brooke visiting Kyiv, “Ukraine Protesters Warn Against Trade Pact with Moscow” may have been filed before Senator McCain’s and Senator Murphy’s meeting with President Yanukovych.

The otherwise good news report from Kyiv by VOA’s James Brooke has not been updated with the latest information, which should have been added by the VOA central newsroom or the VOA website team. The VOA English website is often many hours late in posting and updating news reports. Judging by VOA’s past performance, it may very well take hours for this report to be updated or it may not be updated at all.

The VOA Russian Service website and most other VOA language services are also not reporting on the McCain-Murphy-Yanukovych meeting since they rely for such news on VOA central news output which has been in a state of complete disarray due to poor leadership and poor management by top VOA executives.

One bright spot is that the VOA Ukrainian Service has been reporting promptly and extensively on its own in recent days on news developments either completely ignored or reported late by VOA English News.

Another bright spot is that Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Ukrainian and Russian services have also reported on the meeting of U.S. senators with President Yanukovych.

Янукович запевнив сенаторів США, що розслідує події 30 листопада, RFE/RL Ukrainian Service.

Янукович встретился с американскими сенаторами, RFE/RL Russian Service.

When it comes to the Voice of America, the news about U.S. senators meeting with the president of Ukraine should come from VOA and it should be reported quickly and comprehensively. International audiences should not be forced to learn about such U.S. foreign policy related news events from RT (Russia Today) and the Voice of Russia.


Ukraine Protesters Warn Against Trade Pact with Moscow, Voice of America

James Brooke

December 15, 2013

KYIV — Ahead of a visit to Moscow by Ukraine’s president, protesters filled central Kyiv, warning him not to sign a trade pact with Russia.

Ruslana Lyzhychko, the pop singer who is the muse of the pro-Europe movement here, gave the core message: “Ukraine wants to be part of Europe.”

President Viktor Yanukovych says on Tuesday in Moscow he will only sign economic agreements that restore normal trading relations with Russia, Ukraine’s largest trading partner. But Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told a pro-government rally on Saturday the government is finalizing negotiations with the Kremlin on a new strategic partnership agreement.

Protesters worry Yanukovych will sign a secret treaty that will bind Ukraine to joining President Vladimir Putin’s new Moscow-centered Customs Union.

On Sunday, Stanislav, a 56-year-old businessman from Poltava, was on the edge of a sea of protesters estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.

“It is the restoration of the Soviet Union, the same Soviet Union that I lived through,” he said of President Putin’s economic group, formally called the Eurasian Union.

At every entrance to the barricaded encampment, volunteers handed out flyers, urging people to keep up protest numbers during the president’s Moscow visit. The flyer warned: “On the 17th Yanukovych flies to Moscow to sell out Ukraine and to ask Putin for money to save his skin.”

US senators lend voice

U.S. Senator John McCain (C) waves to pro-European intergration protesters during a mass rally at Independence Square in Kyiv December 15, 2013. Flanking hi, are U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (L) and one of Ukraine's opposition leaders, Oleh Tyahnybok.
U.S. Senator John McCain (C) waves to pro-European intergration protesters during a mass rally at Independence Square in Kyiv December 15, 2013. Flanking hi, are U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (L) and one of Ukraine’s opposition leaders, Oleh Tyahnybok.

Moral support came from two visiting American senators, one a Democrat and the other Republican. Senator Chris Murphy, the Democrat, told the crowd: “Ukraine’s future stands with Europe, and the United States stands with Ukraine.”

Senator John McCain, the Republican, also spoke from the stage. “To all Ukrainians, America stands with you,” the senator said, pausing for the translation into Ukrainian. “We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe.”

In return, the crowd chanted English: “Thank you, USA. Thank you, USA.”

George Woloshyn, a Ukrainian-American from Virginia, was walking through the crowd at the time, carrying an American flag on a long pole.

“Everyone was very enthusiastic,” he said of Senator McCain’s reception. “People were greeting him. They were thanking him. Everybody was saying ‘thank you, thank you.’ So I think you have an enormously impressive response on the part of Ukrainians to Senator McCain.”

Europe frustrated too

Adding to the American pressure, the European Union said Sunday that it was indefinitely suspending talks on association pacts with the Yanukovych government.

European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele tweeted: “Words & deeds of President & government regarding the Association Agreement are further & further apart. Their arguments have no grounds in reality.”

Last week, as protests mounted here, Yanukovych sent a negotiating team to Brussels. But Fuele tweeted Sunday that he saw no commitment by Ukraine’s president to sign a deal.

Ukraine’s ruling Regions Party had intended to stage a mass rally on Sunday to compete with the pro-Europe rally. But plans were cancelled after turnout was thin at a warm-up rally on Saturday.

That rally was composed largely of groups of workers sent by bus or train from eastern Ukraine, where the economy depends heavily on Russia. One man told VOA that he was paid 200 Ukrainian hryvnia – about $25 – to attend.

Another protester, Andrei, a fur-hatted retired coal miner, said he came to support Ukraine’s unity.

“We are for one, unified nation,” he said. “Not East, not West. We are Ukrainians, Belorussians, Russians – we should all live together in a friendly way.”

But only 500 meters away, barriers of snow and steel protected the pro-Europe encampment. Volunteers served sandwiches and hot tea for thousands. And one of Ukraine’s top rock bands was about to take the stage for another free concert. The pro-Europe protesters showed every sign of camping out for the long haul.