Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as they leave the presidential palace after a news conference in Kiev, Sept. 22. Source: ReutersReuters
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is concluding his visit to Ukraine, reports the business daily Kommersant. According to Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ihor Dolhov, the authorities hope that the negotiations will "officially give impetus to two new programs of cooperation between Ukraine and the alliance."
These are a project in the field of mine clearance and a program in the field of strategic communications, while the Ukrainian authorities also plan to bring the army in line with the alliance's standards by 2020.
"NATO has also assessed this term as quite realistic," said Acting Head of Mission of Ukraine to NATO Yehor Bozhok.
Stoltenberg, in turn, said that Ukraine would be able to apply for membership after the completion of reforms in the country. He also said that NATO countries would not recognize elections in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which have been arranged for November in contravention of the Minsk peace agreements, which stipulate they should be held on Oct. 25, the same day as the rest of the country.
"Any election that takes place in Eastern Ukraine that is not in accordance with Ukrainian law will be a violation of the Minsk agreement," Stoltenberg said.
"They will be fake elections. They won't be recognized by any NATO allies."
The center of gravity of mass protests in Moldova is being transferred from the central square of Chisinau to the parliament; the largest parliamentary faction – the Socialist Party – has launched an impeachment inquiry into President Nicolae Timofti, writes the centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing the leader of the party, Deputy Igor Dodon.
"For early elections to parliament to take place, we must first dismiss the president. And also change the CEC [Central Election Commission]. And next – authority in general," said Dodon.
Earlier, the Socialist Party and Our Party announced the beginning of indefinite mass protests in front of parliament starting Sept. 27. Protesters will demand the restoration of direct presidential elections, the re-election of parliament, the dismissal of Timofti as well as the heads of the National Bank and General Prosecutor's Office.
Mass protests demanding the resignation of the authorities have been taking place in Chisinau since Sept. 6.
Mihai Ghimpu, chairman of the Liberal Party, says that the left-wingers want to bring a pro-Russian president to power.
"They [the protesters – NG] want to elect the president. But who would become one? I'd rather cut off my hands than vote for us to have a pro-Russian president and pro-Russian parliament. I will not allow it. The previous generations fought for this, including myself. We won't allow Moldova to fall into the hands of the Russian Federation overnight and in a democratic way," said Ghimpu.
Meanwhile, protests have spread beyond the capital. On Sept. 21, anti-government slogans were heard in the city of Soroca. Protesters said they could no longer tolerate theft at the highest level and wanted to see an honest government.
Ukrainian confectioners are protesting: Belarus is closing its market to them. Sales of Ukrainian candies in Russia have already fallen, and now they are losing the opportunity for deliveries to another Customs Union country, the news website Vzglyad reports.
The Ukrkondprom association of confectionery manufacturers, which includes Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's company Roshen, Nestle Ukraine and others, has accused Belarus of discrimination due to the introduction by Minsk on Aug. 27 of obligatory sanitary examinations for Ukrainian goods.
"Belarus has effectively stopped the export of food products,” said Alexander Baldynyuk, head of the Ukrkondprom association. "It's actually discriminatory. The import peak season is starting, and they block our deliveries to sell their remainder," he added.
Belarus requires examination of any exported goods other than goods from the member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, i.e. Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
"Countries can always require compliance with phytosanitary standards, it does not violate the freedom of trade," said Alexei Portansky, a senior researcher for the Institute of World Economy and International Relations at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"The other thing is how the question is put. There are times when it looks artificial. In this case, the Belarusian side has to prove that its concern is justified, that the results of the tests and examination show violations, 'so the export is suspended, but we’ll give you the time to somehow correct the situation.'"
Ukrainian exports to Russia fell by almost 60 percent in the first half of 2015, though Russia was the largest trading partner of Ukraine for all 24 years of its independence. Sales of Ukrainian sugar and confectionery products in Russia have fallen more than fourfold, while Belarus has shown growth of 105 percent.
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